Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Museum Disappointments

Today I took X-man to the Children's Discovery Museum in Normal, IL. We've visited every 6-12 months since X-man was 15 months old. In a way the museum has kind of grown with him. It was heavy in building materials when he was Bob the Builder Crazy. We used to have to tear him away from the train table when he was a toddler. They built an Avanti's pizza shop exhibit when he got into cooking when he was 3. And at 4, he suddenly was interested in farming and physics. Now at 5, he enjoyed playing in every exhibit that was open to him. They're replacing the water table, which is nice to see. And he will always be totally into the grocery store concept.

But the main humdinger came when we checked in at the desk. The Association for Science and Technology Centers Reciprocal membership, which is one of the main perks for purchasing an Orpheum Science Museum in town, has changed their radius rules for free entrance into other museums. The way the Association works is that members of certain children's museums can pay more for their memberships, but they can use them at other science and children's museums around North America. We've used them all over Illinois, California, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Ontario. It saves a heap of money in the big cities where getting in is often well over $15 per person, and where parents usually follow their toddlers or pre-schoolers while they run from exhibit to exhibit in overexcited glee. The old rule was that you could get free access to any museum over 50 miles away. Therefore, we could get in free in Normal and in Decatur. The new rule is that the museum has to be over 90 miles away. By shear luck, the person at the desk didn't seem to care and just checked us in, even when she checked my photo ID. But next to the check in was a flyer. I saw the 90 miles in bold and flipped out. I picked up the flyer and double checked at the ASTC web site when I got home. And sure enough... the membership rules had changed.

When X-man was smaller, we visited the other cities enough that it was definitely a worthwhile purchase to get a Super Family Membership at the Orpheum. Now that he's bigger, he's outgrowing some of the exhibits in the children's museums downstate. He was the perfect age for a lot of the exhibits up at the Chicago Museum when we were there in March, however. I guess when we go to make our membership purchase next spring, we'll have to really consider how many museums we'll visit over 90 miles away. Now that X-man is in school, we'll obviously be doing less traveling. So, it's likely paying the $125 won't be worth it. Then we have to ask ourselves how often we use the Orpheum and if paying the $60 family membership is worth it for club and camp discounts. Mmmmmm...

All I know is that if I still had a child under 4 and was prone to needing to get him out of the house to somewhere new and different during the very long winter, I'd be disappointed that I had to pay in Decatur and Bloomington after not having to pay previously.

1 comment:

The Fearless Freak said...

That is disappointing, since we got the membership mostly for Decatur and Bloomington, since my kids outgrew the Orpheum a long time ago.

It does cover the Science and Industry Museum, the Field Museum and the Children's Museum in Chicago, as well as the Magic House in STL, all of which are more fun for older kids (in fact, the Magic House is just about right for my kids now and even MF might be a little young for it). I know we got our money's worth for our pass at Magic House and the Children's Museum at Navy Pier and it only took a few trips to do that.

If you are planning a trip, it might be worth it to pick it up but we ended up letting ours go because of the lack of traveling problem you pointed out.