The best museum memberships for children and families
Does your heart sink when your child's birthday comes around and they unwrap a pile of presents that you know will be gathering dust within weeks? Or do you despair when the grandparents ask what they should buy for Christmas, and promptly pinch all your carefully considered gift ideas? If so, a membership or season ticket to a family-friendly museum can be a great present solution, providing your child with educational entertainment all year round.
We've picked out 18 of the best museum membership packages for children and families around the UK. Whether your child is a budding history buff or a scientist in the making, there's sure to be a season ticket that suits them.
Natural History Museum, London
The world-famous Natural History Museum is free to visit, but becoming a member entitles you and your child to special benefits including priority access, free entry to special exhibitions and exclusive member events.
If you take out a family membership, you’ll also receive a subscription to the children’s magazine Wild World, and discounted entry to the popular family sleepovers, Dino Snores.
From £85 for a family membership for two adults and up to four children.
The Historic Dockyard, Chatham
There’s lots for children to discover and explore at Chatham’s Historic Dockyard, including warships from the Victorian era, World War II and the Cold War, submarines and the RNLI historic lifeboat collection.
The museum also runs family-friendly events during the school holidays, such as Halloween-themed pumpkin carving and slime workshops for October half-term. A single ticket entitles you to visit as many times as you like for 12 months.
Children aged five to 15, from £13.
Imperial War Museums
Membership to the IWM collection gives you unlimited free entry to its five sites nationwide, including HMS Belfast on the Thames and the thrilling historic airfield and museum at IWM Duxford.
Family membership for two adults and up to three children from £90.
British Museum, London
If your child is passionate about history and geography, they’ll find plenty to excite them at the British Museum, with collections covering everything from Ancient Egypt to the history of money.
A Young Friends membership entitles your child to a membership bag packed with goodies, three magazines a year, a birthday card and exclusive access to the museum’s six annual sleepovers.
Young Friends membership for children aged eight to 15 from £25.
Perfect for fans of Thomas the Tank Engine and all things locomotive, STEAM museum of the Great Western Railway has historic engines to explore, along with a reconstructed station platform and workshop.
A season ticket includes unlimited visits (usually £8.50 for a single child ticket) plus discounted admission to special events including the Swindon Railway Festival and the hugely popular annual LEGO exhibition, the Great Western Brick Show.
Child season tickets (age three to 16 years) £13.
Royal Museums Greenwich, London
If you’re looking for a museum membership that gives plenty of diversity, joining the Royal Museums Greenwich could tick all the boxes. Membership covers access to its four different sites, all of which have lots to stimulate young minds: the National Maritime Museum, the 19th-century tea clipper the Cutty Sark, the Queen’s House and the Royal Observatory.
Family membership also includes free entry to all of the year-round family exhibitions and events, including the brilliant live planetarium shows at the Observatory, designed especially to appeal to kids.
Family membership from £60 for one adult and up to four children, or £75 for two adults and up to four children.
We The Curious, Bristol
One of the UK’s most popular museums for kids, We The Curious - formerly At-Bristol - is packed with hands-on exhibits alongside live science shows, planetarium shows, theme days and workshops, all with a science, technology and engineering slant.
Members can take advantage of unlimited fast-track entry, 50 per cent off planetarium shows, exclusive events and competitions and a 10 per cent discount in the gift shop.
Child membership costs £32 for children aged three to 15.
Eureka!, the National Children’s Museum, is the UK’s only museum dedicated purely to under-11s. Its six galleries each have a different theme, ranging from the human body to sound, all packed with interactive exhibits and opportunities to learn through play.
When you buy a standard admission ticket, you can upgrade for free to an annual pass on the same day, giving you 12 months’ unlimited free entry.
Child annual passes (age three plus) £12.95.
National Trust, nationwide
There’s so much more to the National Trust than stuffy country houses, although if your child enjoys travelling back in time, there are period properties throughout the UK to indulge their interest.
Members can take advantage of countryside walks, ancient monuments, gardens and parks, art collections and more, with over 500 places to visit. Many of the locations also run family events during school holidays, from nature trails to Easter egg hunts.
Family membership for two adults and up to five children under 18, £111.
Discover Children’s Story Centre, London
A museum devoted to the art of storytelling in London’s East End, Discover has a two-storey indoor Story World, a brilliant outdoor Story Garden with interactive features like giant musical instruments, and regular special events celebrating some of our best-loved authors, from Michael Rosen to Dr Seuss.
The annual pass includes unlimited entry to the centre and special events, priority booking, exclusive member events and discounts on birthday parties.
From £36 per person.
York Museums Trust
The city of York boasts some of the UK’s best museums, including York Art Gallery: the winner of the Kids in Museums Family Friendly Museums Award 2016. There’s also York Castle Museum, the Yorkshire Museum with its champion trees and dinosaur fossils, and the brilliant JORVIK Viking exhibition at York St Mary’s.
The York Museums Trust doesn’t offer child memberships, but children under 17 are admitted free to all sites when they visit with an adult member.
Adult YMT cards cost from £11 per person (residents of York).
National Maritime Museum, Falmouth
Popular with locals and tourists alike, Falmouth’s seafaring museum is packed with things for families to do. Kids can jump aboard a Viking ship, explore under the sea without getting wet and get up close to Olympic boats, and there’s always a packed programme during the school hols.
Membership also includes out-of-season entry to some of Cornwall’s other famous attractions, including the Eden Project and Newquay Zoo.
Family membership £50 for two adults and up to three children.
Life Science Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne
Life, the North East’s science centre has plenty to keep inquisitive minds and restless hands busy: there’s a Young Explorers’ Zone for under-sevens, an Experiment Zone staffed by real scientists, the Curiosity Zone, which encourages kids to think like scientists, and lots more, including the Science Theatre and 4D motion ride.
Annual passes include unlimited free entry and other perks including discounted ice skating and birthday parties, fast-track entry and discounts on special events.
Child annual passes (age five to 17) £19.
If your child learns best by doing, they’ll get big benefits from a season ticket to W5, Belfast’s science and discovery centre. Attractions include an under-eights Discovery area with virtual rockpool and Formula One-themed soft play, hands-on activities ranging from K’nex challenges to robots, and Climbit, a huge multi-storey climbing structure.
Child annual passes (age three to 16) £32.50.
English Heritage looks after some of the country’s most iconic places, including Stonehenge, Dover Castle, Hadrian’s Wall and Cromwell’s Castle. Whatever your child’s primary school history project, chances are there’s an English Heritage location to visit for inspiration.
Children’s memberships are not available, but up to six children under 19 are admitted free with every adult member.
Adult membership from £52.
Located in Cardiff Bay, Techniquest is an educational charity and interactive museum that supports the primary school science and technology curriculum. Children can take part in LEGO workshops, learn about robotics, experiment with electricity, sound and motion, and lots more.
Friends of Techniquest are entitled to free entry, a free planetarium show on every visit, discounts on ticketed events and free entry to a further 250 science museums around the world.
Child membership £15 (age four to 16).
National Museums Scotland
Scotland’s four national museums all have plenty to appeal to primary school children. The National Museum covers nature, art and design, science and technology and fashion; the National Museum of Flight offers the chance to view a Concorde up close; the National Museum of Rural Life features a historic working farm and a tractor exhibition; and the National War Museum at Edinburgh Castle gives children a taste of what Scottish life was like in war times.
Members benefit from free entry, exclusive events, discounts in the shops and three magazines a year.
Family membership from £58.
Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, Buckinghamshire
A small but perfectly formed museum dedicated to the life and work of one of the UK’s best loved authors, the Roald Dahl Museum is aimed at six- to 12-year-olds, with three interactive galleries and regular events including drop-in craft sessions, storytelling and workshops.
A family ticket, priced at £22.60, gives you a year’s unlimited entry, advance notice of special events and discounts in the shop and café.
The museum can also send out gift tickets: call 01494 892192.