HOLIDAY GUIDE '11: Memberships as gifts 

Membership has its privileges: Joining local institutions can pay off all year long

By Kate Antoniades

To make sure that the gifts you give your kids this year won't be outgrown, forgotten, or broken by the time the holiday season rolls around again, consider presenting them with a family membership offered by a local museum or organization. With perks like free admission and discounted classes, family memberships keep on giving all year long. Listed below find several places around town that offer such memberships. If you know of others, submit them as comments at the bottom of this article on

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National Museum of Play at The Strong

The National Museum of Play offers several membership levels that start at $76 per year. The minimum benefits include unlimited free admission for family members (up to two adults plus kids under 18) for a year and a $1 discount on general admission for guests, in addition to discounts on tickets to the DancingWingsButterflyGarden, the Making American Music concert series, and museum-shop merchandise; six free carousel or train rides; and a newsletter. Families who pay $130 or more will also get free or discounted admission to more than 170 children's museums in the U.S. and Canada -- the perfect excuse for a road trip. The museum is located at 1 Manhattan Square. For more information, call 263-2700 or visit

New YorkMuseum of Transportation

The New York Museum of Transportation, which is run by volunteers and open only on Sundays, shares the history of getting from point A to point B, with exhibits and historical vehicles (like a 100-year-old trolley car). From mid-May through October, visitors can also explore the nearby Rochester & GeneseeValleyRailroadMuseum, which is connected to the Museum of Transportation by a two-mile railroad. A family membership to the NYMT costs $35 a year and includes free admission, a 10 percent discount on gift-shop items, and a subscription to the museum's quarterly journal. The NYMT is located at 6393 East River Road in Rush. For more information, visit

SenecaPark Zoo

The popularity of our local zoo can mean big crowds, but from April through October, members can visit the animals a half-hour earlier than everyone else: 9:30 a.m. rather than 10 a.m. Other benefits include free admission year-round; discounts on gift-shop merchandise, classes, events, birthday parties, and camps; coupons for the zoo's café; and a quarterly newsletter. You'll also get free or discounted entry to more than 170 other zoos and aquariums around the U.S. and Canada. Family membership levels begin at $75 per year. The zoo is located at 2222 St. Paul St. For more information call 336-7200 or visit

GeneseeCenter for the Arts & Education

Classes at the GeneseeCenter, which houses the Community Darkroom, Genesee Pottery, and the Printing and BookArtsCenter, are open to anyone in the community. However, only members can gain access to the building's facilities and equipment (like the darkroom, computer lab, kilns, and offset press). Members also receive discounts on classes. Recent course offerings included "Street Photography," "Smush and Smash" (a clay class for toddlers), "No Time for Squares: The Art of Precision Cut Mosaics," and many more. A household membership costs $80 per year. The center is located at 713 Monroe Ave. For more information, call 244-1730 or visit

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The historic site of Ganondagan covers 619 acres and contains five miles of hiking trails and a bark longhouse. Its visitor-center services, events, and programs -- which share the history of the Seneca and Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) people -- are offered from May through October, while the trails are accessible all year long from 8 a.m. to sunset. The $60 family membership offers free admission to the longhouse, admission to the summer Native American Dance and Music Festival, 10 percent off selected merchandise in the gift shop, and a quarterly newsletter. Ganondagan is located at 1488 State Route 444 in Victor. For more information, call 742-1690 or visit

RochesterMuseum & ScienceCenter

A membership to RMSC means that you won't have to pay a dime to enjoy the Museum & ScienceCenter, Strasenburgh Planetarium star shows and "giant-screen" films, the CummingNatureCenter, and more than 270 other science museums around the world. Members also receive invitations to special events, a $5 discount on classes for adults and kids, a 10 percent discount on gift-shop items and RMSC research publications, and a quarterly newsletter. Family membership costs $83 per year, and the "Family Plus" level ($108) lets kids celebrate birthday parties at the museum. RMSC is located at 657 East Ave. For more information, call 697-1942 or visit


The GWC, based at the Genesee Valley Park Boathouse and the Lock 32 Whitewater Park, offers classes and equipment rentals. (The whitewater park is only open to those under 18 if they are registered for a program.) A family membership costs $87.50 for the first adult, plus $65 for a second, plus $25 per child, with additional equipment fees. It includes rowing and canoeing access at the GWC facility, kayak or canoe rental, and other rowing and kayaking benefits. Members also receive a 10 percent discount on class fees. The boathouse is located at 149 Elmwood Avenue, and the whitewater park is at 2797 Clover Street in Pittsford. For more information, call 328-3960 or visit



Two kinds of family memberships are available at the MAG, and the additional benefits of the higher level are a nice perk for parents. The "supporter" level ($90/year) includes free tickets to opening parties for gallery exhibitions -- great opportunities for nights out without the kids. Both the supporter and "associate" ($70)levels include unlimited free general admission to the museum, along with two guest passes; and discounts on Creative Workshop classes, Clothesline Festival admission, gallery store merchandise, and meals at Max at the Gallery. Members can also borrow from the gallery's library and will receive a bimonthly newsletter. The MAG is located at 500 University Ave. For more information, call 276-8939 or visit

Rochester Orienteering Club

Orienteering is an outdoor activity based around navigation; participants use a map, and sometimes a compass, to find certain marked points in an outdoor area. The Rochester club, which welcomes newbies and the experienced alike, holds timed meets throughout the year (except during the winter) at local spots like EllisonPark and MendonPondsPark. The group has also set up permanent courses in area parks that can be enjoyed outside of scheduled events. Family membership benefits include $3 discounts at meets and a quarterly newsletter. A one-year term costs $25. For more information, e-mail [email protected] or visit the club's website at

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