We’re big fans of visiting our local parks, theaters, children’s museums and gardens. These are often the places where we get the best sense of how awesome our community really is. When we go on vacation, we like to see what other cities have to offer in these same attractions and we often get to do that for free thanks to reciprocal agreements! On a recent trip to Atlanta I shared some Instagram stories at Atlanta Botanical Garden and got a lot of surprised messages from people who didn’t know they could get in for free if they’re Leu Gardens members! I knew I had to write this post to explain how it works and how easy it is to take advantage of!
What are reciprocal agreements?
Basically it’s an agreement between two attractions that if you’re a member of one, you get into the other for free or a discounted rate. We absolutely love doing this because it’s like having built-in travel destinations. That’s really nice when you’re traveling with kids! We’ve visited Dallas Arboretum, the Frost Museum of Science in Miami, The Thinkery in Austin, and the Atlanta Botanical Garden for free with our memberships!
How does it work?
Look up your local botanical garden, zoo, aquarium, or science center to see if they’re members of the American Horticultural Society’s Reciprocal Admissions Program, the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) Passport Program, or the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Leu Gardens, the Orlando Science Center, SeaLife Aquarium, and the Central Florida Zoo are all members!
If you’re a member of a participating museum or garden, bring your membership card and photo ID with you when you visit and tell the admissions desk that you’d like to take advantage of the reciprocal agreements that they participate in. You’ll be granted admission for free or a deep discount! It’s that easy!
What are the benefits?
In addition to being easy to do, it’s a great way to support your local attractions by purchasing a membership that you’ll use several times. At current prices, it can actually offer quite the savings! For example, at the time I’m writing this post a family membership at Leu Gardens costs $50. One day’s admission at Atlanta Botanical Garden would have cost our family $62.85 plus tax and parking. It was a no brainer to get a Leu Gardens membership before we visited! Now we have the benefit of enjoying that membership throughout the year!
Since we get in free at the attractions around the country, we like to leave a small donation or make a purchase from the gift shop or cafe as a way to thank the participating attraction for having us. This is completely optional though, so do what works for your family!
What are the restrictions?
Each attraction can have its own requirements, so it’s important to know the rules before you visit. In general, if the attraction you’re a member of is within 90 miles as the crow flies of the reciprocal attraction, there is no reciprocity (though many gardens on the American Horticultural Society’s list don’t enforce the 90 mile exclusion!). There are also varying restrictions on how many people can get in for free/with the discount. You can call and check or read the rules on their website before you go!
Have you ever taken advantage of a reciprocal agreement while traveling? Share where it was in the comments!