LHS membership: is it worth it?

I’m a big fan of the Lawrence Hall of Science, and science museums in general, but is the price of membership really worth it? I wanted to evaluate what’s included and excluded in the membership dues and compare it to how many times my family would need to attend to break even.

Perks of membership:

  • Admission for one year
  • Discounts and priority registration for LHS classes, workshops and camps
  • Invitations to members-only openings and family events
  • 10% Discount at the LHS Discovery Store
  • Discounts on LHS children’s birthday parties
  • Free or reduced admission to more than 300 ASTC science centers and museums worldwide! (reciprocal membership is one of my favorite reasons for joining a museum)

At the basic level, you get all of the above perks. For some reason, we got the “family premium” membership (so we could bring along visiting grandparents), so our membership includes a few more goodies:

  • Up to four personalized member cards
  • Two additional guests anytime
  • One single-use six person pass
  • Four digital theater passes (don’t call me a planetarium!)
  • Free or reduced admission to over 130 children’s museums through the Association of Children’s Museums Reciprocal Network! (the upgraded membership gives FREE admission to the Bay Area Discovery Museum)
    ($125 of this is tax-deductible)

What membership doesn’t get you:

  • Free classes, camps, parties, workshops
  • Free parking all the time

The break-even point:

Regular admission costs $12.00 Adults (ages 19–61), $10.00 Children (ages 3–18; 62 plus) with under 3 admitted FREE. Our fancy membership now costs $135 and none of my children is free or particularly cheap. Gulp. With two adults and three kids under age 10, a single visit would run us $54 plus parking so we would need to visit the museum somewhere between 2 and 3 times in a year to get our value out of it, even sooner if we bring visiting grandparents!

When it’s not worth it:

Membership might not be a great idea if you have a best friend with fancy membership since they can invite guests for free. Other times when you might want to skip it: you have a young toddler (who’s already FREE), you have a membership to another reciprocal museum, or you’re just not that into awesome science.

[Photos by me; rate information updated 12/1/14]

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  1. Anonymous says

    We got my five year old an individual membership for $50 (since my toddler doesn’t pay admission and my husband gets in free with UC Berkeley ID). My son can take one guest free each visit (ie me). And he got a discount ($20 off, I think) on LHOS summer camp. AND with reciprocal museum admission, four of us got free admission to the amazing Boston Science Museum this summer, which is usually $20 a head. So our $50 investment in LHOS has already paid us back generously.

    • Cara says

      Oh that is smart! I can’t believe I didn’t do that, since we have the exact same situation. We did the family plus one just a couple of weeks ago — that way the grandparents can come with us anytime, and since it came with 4 cards, I gave two to friends — each of those allows 2 guests at anytime, so they were thrilled as they can now get their families in free anytime as well.
      We also really liked the additional reciprocity that level gives (children’s museums as well), since we visit the children’s museum in Milwaukee when we are there visiting family.

    • Cara says

      But you can only check out one pass per calendar year, so if you’re going to go more often than annually, that option won’t work.
      I LOVE the Discover and Go system and loved it even more when it was new in El Cerrito and no one knew about it, and you could get a pass the day of your visit;) But now for some of the popular places you have to plan months in advance and there are restrictions of one pass annually for most of the popular spots like Lawrence and the zoo.

      • Cara says

        Oh, scratch part of that — looks like they must have more passes available now as popular spots like Lawrence and California Academy of Sciences have passes available every day this month. Good to know! It’s the only way we have ever visited California Academy of Sciences:)

        They are still restricting them to only getting one per year though.

  2. says

    I received this note from Brea Weinreb, Marketing Assistant at LHS

    Hi there!

    I am contacting on behalf of the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, CA. I noticed that you have the Hall’s admission prices listed here:


    However, our admission prices have recently changed due to the extra cost of our new Xtreme BUGS exhibit and I was hoping you could update your website to accurately reflect these new prices. Our new prices are as follows:

    $17 Adults (ages 19–61)
    $14 students/seniors/disabled (ages 7–18; 62-plus)
    $11 Children (ages 3–6; children under 3 are admitted free)
    $5 UC students and staff (with ID) and Guest pass holders
    $10 Family pass holders
    FREE visits for Members

    It would be greatly appreciated if you could update your site with this new information. We thank you for your site’s continued support for the Lawrence Hall of Science. We love 510 Families!

    Brea Weinreb

    Lawrence Hall of Science
    Marketing Assistant