It’s summertime and the livin’ is … expensive.
The cost of summer fun can quickly add up, especially for Utah’s big families. For the first few weeks of summer, parents may be able to get away with sending kids outside to play all day. But as the mercury rises, everyone in the house starts looking for a place to get out of the house and the heat without breaking the bank. That’s when a season pass (or two) comes in handy.
Season passes (often referred to as “memberships”) require a larger outlay of cash initially, but most quickly pay for themselves after one or two repeat visits. Plus, there are unseen benefits to that little piece of plastic in your wallet. When you pay full admission price you may feel like you need to stay for hours to make your excursion worthwhile; it’s hard to fork over $66 for a 45-minute trip to the museum. With a membership, you feel like you can come and go as you please. A short trip before naptime or hour-long stop on your way to the family reunion? No problem.
Of course, you want to make sure you only buy passes to places you want to visit many times over. You may even want to rotate the memberships you buy from year to year. And if you buy all the passes your pocketbook certainly won’t thank you. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most popular memberships that make sense and cents for Utah families:
Utah’s Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City
Cost of one visit: Admission is $14.95 for adults, $10.95 for children ages 3-12. The cost for a family with two parents and three grade school-aged kids is $62.75
Cost of membership: Basic membership is $129 and includes admission for two adults plus all dependents under age 18.
Breakeven point: The membership cost is basically the price of two visits for a family of five. If you have a bigger family and plan to go more than once, a zoo membership is the cheapest way to go. The basic membership also includes discounted ZooLights! admission and discounts on food and trinkets.
Utah Natural History Museum in Salt Lake City
Cost of one visit: Admission is $13 for adults, $11 for young adults as 13-24 and $9 for kids ages 3-12. The cost for a family with two parents and three grade school-aged kids is $53.
Cost of membership: A family membership is $109 and includes admission for two adults in the same household and up to six children in a household or up to six grandchildren under age 18.
Breakeven point: It will take more than two visits to break even on this membership for a family of five. However, it will definitely take at least that many trips to absorb all of the information here, plus special exhibits at the Utah Natural History Museum can make a trip to the museum new again. Price also includes discounts at museum store, cafe and workshops, plus other “members only” perks.
Living Planet Aquarium in Sandy
Cost of one visit: Admission is $17.95 for adults, $14.95 for teens ages 14-17 and $12.95 for kids ages 3 to 12. The cost for a family with two parents and three grade school-aged kids is $74.75.
Cost of membership: Family memberships for two adults and up to four children under 18 cost $179.95.
Breakeven point: If you make three trips or more to the aquarium every year the family membership is a good value. Additional children can be added for $34.95. This pass includes the typical gift shop and cafe discounts but also includes free access to the play center in Tuki’s Island — a plus for families with young children.
Thanksgiving Point in Lehi
Cost of one visit: The cost of admission at Thanksgiving Point’s Museum of Ancient Life, Museum of Natural Curiosity and Ashton Gardens is $15 for adults, $12 for kids ages 3-12. The cost for a family with two parents and three grade school-aged kids is $66. Farm Country admission is $7 for kids 3 and up. The cost for a family with two parents and three grade school-aged kids is $35.
Cost of membership: Thanksgiving Point Property Memberships are $220 for a family, which includes two adults at the same address and all their dependent children.
Breakeven point: Thanksgiving Point memberships includes unlimited admission to all four Thanksgiving Point venues: Farm Country, Museum of Ancient Life, Ashton Gardens and the Museum of Natural Curiosity. One visit for a family of five to each those venues is a combined $233, so with a membership you save money with just one trip. If you live within reasonable driving distance and can afford it, this membership is a no-brainer. There are activities inside and outside, plus discounts and special events.
Cowabunga Bay in Draper
Cost of one visit: Admission is $19.99 for anyone 48 inches and taller and $14.99 for under 48 inches. Kids under 2 are free. The cost for a family with two parents and three grade school-aged kids is $99.95.
Cost of membership: A season pass is $84.99 per person. A flex pass that can be shared between two designated people (with only one admission allowed per day) is $134.99.
Breakeven point: Season passes for a family of five — assuming all are above 48 inches — is $424.95. Gulp. So it would take five visits to recover your season pass cost. But there is another way! You could find a “twin” family to share flex passes with; that would lower each family’s cost to around $212 and you’d only have to go three times to get your money’s worth. If you live close by, Cowabunga Bay is tons of fun, especially for younger children. If you only want to go once consider purchasing their online 4 for $75 deal: four admissions, one large cheese or pepperoni pizza and one pitcher of soda for $75. The deal saves you $5 and gives you free lunch to boot.
Pass of all Passes
Cost of one visit: The Pass of All Passes includes access to so many venues it’s tricky to calculate a one-time cost. But for Seven Peaks Waterpark, one of the most popular destinations on the pass, admission is $24.99 for visitors over 48 inches and $19.99 for under 48 inches. The cost for a family with two parents and three grade school-aged kids is $109.95.
Cost of membership: A Pass of all Passes for ages 3 and up is $24.99 per person and annual renewals are $19.99. But there are deals to be had on Pass of All Passes at Costco and occasionally through CityDeals.com, Living Social and the like. The cost for a family of five would be no more than $124.95.
Breakeven point: If you plan to go to Seven Peaks Waterparks in Provo or Salt Lake even once, the Pass of All Passes is the way to go. After all, a yearlong pass is the same price as one day’s admission. There are so many events and deals included in the Pass of All Passes that it’s easy to recoup your investment. One caveat: The pass is a hit with Utah’s big families so be prepared for crowds.
Discovery Gateway in Salt Lake City
Cost of one visit: General admission is $9. Children under 2 are free. The cost for a family with two parents and three grade school-aged kids is $45.
Cost of membership: A five-person, one-year membership is $135. Additional people are $20.
Breakeven point: Three visits is the breakeven point on a Discovery Gateway five-person membership. Little kids spend hours at just one area of this museum, so if you have a membership you’ll easily go the requisite three times. Membership includes guest passes, discounts on birthday parties, special discounts on events like Breakfast with Santa and other perks.
This is the Place in Salt Lake City
Cost of one visit: Admission is $12.95 for adults, $8.95 for kids ages 3-11 and free for 2 and under. The cost for a family with two parents and three grade school-aged kids is $52.75.
Cost of membership: A basic family membership is $100 for two name adults plus dependent children under age 18 or up to six grandchildren under age 18. A basic plus membership is $110 and includes a free guest at every visit.
Breakeven point: Visit twice and you’ll be more than even with a membership to This is the Place. This membership is more of a bargain if you have a larger family — a family with five kids (three younger, two teenagers) could pay close to $80 for one visit. In addition to discount on stores and food at the grill, memberships also include unlimited free pony and mini train rides — a huge plus for families with little ones who may want to ride over and over again. It also includes free admission to Mountain Man Camp, Liberty Days, Pioneer Days and Little Haunts.
Red Butte Garden
Cost for one visit: Admission is $12 for adults, $7 for kids ages 3-17. The cost for a family with two parents and three grade school-aged kids is $45.
Cost of membership: A family membership is $75 and includes member benefits for two individuals plus garden admission for up to six kids age 17 and younger.
Breakeven point: You’ll save money after just two visits, which would cost $90 without a $75 family pass. Plus, membership includes free admission at events and programs like Monday Family Nights, orchid and bonsai exhibits and guided garden tours. And a family level membership can purchase four discounted tickets per concert at the beautiful Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre.
Cost of one visit: Admission for park visitors 48 inches to 65 years is $53.95. The cost for a family with two parents and three grade school-aged kids is $269.75.
Cost of season pass: A season passport is $125.95. Group season passports (more than four purchased at a time) are $115.95. Season passports for a family of five are $599.75. Plus, a season parking pass is $55.
Breakeven point: Visit Lagoon three times for the rides, Lagoon-A-Beach, Pioneer Village and other special events like Frightmares and a season passport is worth it. The breakeven point is about 2.2 trips. If you don’t live close enough for season passports to make sense, consider purchasing discounted day passports at Costco or through various promotions with brands like Coca-Cola. Another smart move is taking advantage of Lagoon’s Bounce Back; validate your single day passport during your visit to Lagoon and you can get an additional day for only $16.
I would love to see an update on this article. Especially since so many of the prices have gone up.