By Amanda Rodriguez 

Baltimore is home to numerous family friendly attractions: a state-of-the-art aquarium, interesting museums, and various other places families can visit to get to know and enjoy Baltimore. I speak from experience when I say that taking a family of five out for a day trip to the aquarium can cost a pretty penny!  And then inevitably the kids want to go back in a few weeks to check out the new exhibit, right? As a mom who hates to pass up a day out with my brood, I have begun to explore ways to save dough on our days out so we can afford to do more without breaking the bank.  Things like packing a lunch to eat on the harbor, using public transportation to save on gas and organizing events with my mommy group to take advantage of group rates immediately come to mind.

But what about a membership plans?

So many attractions offer memberships that allow you to save money the more you come.  Initially I was hesitant, but after looking more closely (and doing a little mom research of course!), I’m beginning to see the benefit! But they’re not all created equal.  Here are some of my faves.

Photo Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

The National Aquarium In Baltimore

501 East Pratt Street
Baltimore, Md., 21202
(410) 576-3800
Hours: Monday to Thursday- 9 a.m.- 5 p.m; Friday to Saturday- 9 a.m.- 8 p.m; Sunday- 9 a.m.- 6 p.m.
Price: Adult $24.95, Senior $23.95, Child (3-11) $19.95
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Is it worth it?  You bet! Regular admission for a family of five is $109 and the membership rate is $159.  Which means you should see your savings by the second visit. 

Member benefits: Includes 12 months of daily admission to both the Baltimore aquarium and the D.C. one as well.  You also get special discounts in the gift shops and restaurants and the use of a members only entrance that comes in handy during high traffic tourist seasons!

Photo Credit: Ian Gavan/ Getty Images

Port Discovery

35 Market Place
Baltimore, Md. 21202
(410) 727-8120
Hours: Monday to Saturday – 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday- noon-5 p.m.
Price: Ages 2 and up: $13.95
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Is it worth it? Regular admission for a family of five is about $69.  The best value museum membership will cost you $134.  That means it will take my family about three visits to the museum to realize the savings.  As the museum is continuously offering special programs and revamping the exhibits, we love to visit multiple times during the year to take advantage of all of the newest programming. Plus, your membership has cred at other area museums. 

Member benefits: Reciprocal membership at over 165 Maryland museums, half price admission to the Maryland Zoo (limited time offer), birthday party discounts, and free access to numerous Member-Only events.

(Photo credit: EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

Maryland Science Center

601 Light Street
Baltimore, Md. 21230
(410) 685-2370
Hours: Sunday to Thursday – 10 a.m. -6 p.m.
Friday to Saturday:  10 a.m.- 8 p.m.
Price:  Adult $14.95; Senior $13.95, Child (3-12) $11.95.  IMAX Theater requires an additional charge.

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Is it worth it?  The Science Center is home to an IMAX theater, but because it’s a discounted feature of your membership, I’m only comparing the basic entrance fee to the membership price.  That being said, a family of six (for some reason they don’t offer membership for a family of five; you can buy it for four or six only!) can enjoy the Science Center for just about $92.  With a family of six, membership can be had for $150, two visits and it has more than paid for itself!

Member benefits: Free admission to the Science Center, the planetarium, and the observatory are included in the price.  Members also get discounted admission to the IMAX Theater, the cafe and the gift shop.  Plus they offer members invites to a number of VIP, members-only events during the year.

(Photo credit:ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Maryland Zoo In Baltimore

Druid Hill Park
Baltimore, Md. 21217
(410) 396-7102
Hours: 10 a.m.- 4 p.m.
Price: Fri to Sun: adults, $16.50; seniors, $13.50; children (2-11) $11.50.  Mon to Thurs.: adults, $14.50; seniors, $12.50; children (2-11) $10.50
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Is it worth it?  The basic family membership will run you $99, which means your membership will pay for itself in just two visits.  Purchase the Family Plus membership for $115 and you can bring along a guest every time you take a trip to the zoo! Perfect for bringing along play dates and visiting family members like Grandma.

Member benefits: Twelve months of unlimited zoo admission with free or reduced admission to a number of other zoos around the nation.  Also enjoy discounts to all of the zoo’s exciting programs including Brew at the Zoo and Wine Too and the Breakfasts with the Animals.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

B&O Railroad Museum

901 West Pratt St.
Baltimore, Md. 21223
(410) 752-2490
Hours: Monday to Saturday– 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sunday– 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Price: adults, $14; seniors, $12, children (2-12), $8
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Is it worth it? Regular admission to the museum would cost $52.  Visit twice and your $100 family membership is already covered.  Plus membership to the B&O Railroad museum includes an annual membership to the Ellicott City Station as well.  For families who count a train lover or two among their ranks, this membership could easily pay for itself.  And, with discounts and freebies on everything from train rides to birthday parties included, it seems like a great deal.

Member benefits:  Annual membership to two train museums on the B&O line, free train rides, discounts to the museum store, gift shop, and the on-site Dr. CouplersPhototorium, not to mention free parking!  If you know what parking in Baltimore costs, you’d know how awesome this tidbit is!

And many of these attractions offer a spot to hold your child’s birthday party.  Here are a few other “top spots” we’ve found to throw a bash they’ll always remember. 

Amanda Rodriguez is a professional photographer and humor-parenting blogger.  You can find her humorous stories of life with her three Dudes on her site parentingBYdummies.