How my family saved hundreds with a zoo membership

  • I was wrong to think that an annual family zoo membership would leave us out.
  • It only took two visits to the Bronx Zoo to cover the cost of our discounted offer.
  • We also added parking to the membership, which cost us $35 for the year — instead of $20 per visit.

My daughter loves flamingos, my son is obsessed with ring-tailed lemurs, my husband has a thing for grizzly bears, and I’ve been a longtime fan of giraffes.

Living just a 30 minute drive from the Bronx Zoo in New York, we have seen our favorite animals there many times over the years.

But it wasn’t until last March, after spending hundreds of dollars on zoo visits, that we decided to join – and it’s one of the smartest ways to save money. with family.

Bobby, 11, is particularly fond of lemurs but was happy to pose with a herd of ibexes at the Bronx Zoo.

The author’s son Bobby, 11, is particularly fond of lemurs, but was happy to pose with a herd of ibexes at the Bronx Zoo.

Jane Riley

The Wildlife Conservation Society, the non-profit organization that runs the attraction, is certainly a worthy cause. But I shudder to think of how many dollars we’ve donated to the organization since we started going there regularly after our first child was born in 2008. As our family grew — my son was born two years later in 2010 — we continued to visit the zoo. And before we were members, as a family of four, it cost us up to $158 each time plus $20 parking fees.

We sometimes visited for free on Wednesdays (the only day there is no charge), but mostly paid full admission on weekends to avoid missing school or work.

But membership changed all that.

One year subscription costs my family less than what we usually pay to visit twice

The Bronx Zoo's gorilla enclosure is fascinating for children.

The Congo Gorilla Forest at the Bronx Zoo is fascinating for children.

Jane Riley

I’m a bit frugal and have always rejected the idea of ​​an annual zoo membership. I also suck at math.

But in March, I saw the light.

I rarely bother to look at promotional offers, but a recent email from the Wildlife Conservation Society offering a 15% discount on membership fees caught my eye. With the help of my ninth grader and a calculator, I realized what a godsend it was.

The best type of membership for the four of us was the Family Zoos Plus option which would not only allow us access to the Bronx Zoo, but also the Queens Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo and the New York Aquarium. The membership cost us a total of $191 with 15% off; without discount, it usually costs $225. It covers three adults – our daughter counts as one as she is over 12 – and up to four children. There are also great deals on a selection of membership types. (For the curious, the special offer we used to book our annual subscription is seasonal; the current 15% discount is valid until May 31, 2022.)

When we visited as non-members, we paid $20 to park our car each time. With a membership, I could add year-round parking at the zoo for an additional $35. The same 15% discount also applied to parking fees, which ended up costing $30 in our case.

My teenager and I figured out that the total discount price was $38.20 more expensive than just a regular family visit to the Bronx Zoo. Even if we only went twice before March 2023, we would save 40% on the cost of four tickets including parking.

The price of membership was also tax deductible. This entitled us to discounts on additional activities like the Treetop Adventure and Zoo Zipline as well as private wildlife encounters with species like the two-toed sloth. They even threw away a T-shirt.

Membership isn’t a bargain if you only visit the zoo once a year – and it won’t save you much on food

Visitors to the Bronx Zoo Petting Zoo can hand feed some of the animals, including the goats.

Visitors to the Bronx Zoo Petting Zoo can hand feed some of the animals, including the goats.

Jane Riley

I highly recommend checking out your local zoo’s membership options if your family is anything like mine. We’ve already made our money back by visiting the zoo twice since becoming members, and we still have 10 months to go back as often as we want.

However, the terms do not suit everyone. It is not worth it if, for example, your family visits you once a year.

One caveat for Bronx Zoo membership is that it won’t save you much on concessions. Members are entitled to a 10% discount on snacks and themed items such as souvenir cups. But on our first trip since becoming members, we were again shocked by the $9 hot dog with fries and the $5 ice cream – I made a mental note to pack a picnic there next time.

Yet I forgot the dent in my wallet as soon as we saw the giraffes, flamingos, lemurs and grizzly bears.

“Can we go to the zoo every week? my teenager asked his father.

It’s worth it.


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