A Virginia Zoo Membership Review

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Catherine Verdier lives in Norfolk with her husband and daughter. She blogs about kid-friendly living in Hampton Roads at Where the Watermelons Grow.

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This July marked the end of our year-long membership to the Virginia Zoo, and I thought I might share some of our thoughts on our experience as zoo members in case anybody out there is considering membership and wondering if it is worth the cost.

The zoo offers several membership packages depending on your family size. When we bought our membership last year, we got the Friends and Family package for $150. This allows two adults and all of their children or grandchildren under 18 years of age, PLUS three additional guests, to get into the VA Zoo for free for a year. Our reasoning behind getting the extended membership for our small, two-parent, one-child family was that we would want to bring visitors and friends to the zoo with us.

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However, we soon discovered that pretty much everybody we met with kids the same age also had a zoo membership. All in all, we only ended up using our full membership a handful of times. Usually, it was just me and Anouk going -- and for most of that time period, Anouk was under age two, which meant she got in for free anyway.

Still, our membership paid for itself and then some. We averaged about three visits per month to the zoo over the 12-month period in which we were members. At full-price, non-military admission that would be $396 without membership; with membership, we ended up saving over $240. If we buy the $85 Family membership for next year (two adults children/grandchildren), and go the same amount, we'll save over $300.

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Some other things I liked about our membership: We got a discount on merchandise at the Zoo gift store and also saved on food and drink at the cafe and the refreshment stands, which added up each time my toddler demanded a juice cup or sno-cone. If Anouk had been a little older we would have also saved on the cost of the zoo summer camps.

We received copies of the Virginia Zoo Review, which is a wonderful publication that provides a behind the scenes look at what's going on at the zoo, and which I would have gladly paid money for. We also got mailings on zoo programs, which made it a little easier to keep track of upcoming events. We were able to take advantage of the wonderful zoo programs like Zoo Tales and Garden Tales, which gave us something fun to do on days when we found ourselves at loose ends.

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Some things I wish we'd taken advantage of: The special zoo membership events -- we planned to go to several, but were always either out of town or sick when they came about. I also wish we'd made the effort to use the zoo reciprocity program -- having a VA Zoo membership gets you discounted admission to over 125 zoos and aquariums around the country, including the wonderful North Carolina Aquarium in Manteo.

Overall, though, we're more than happy with our zoo membership experience and plan on renewing it for 2013-2014. We met some of our best friends in the area while strolling the paths -- and how can you put a price on that?

Check out some more of my posts about the Zoo on Where the Watermelons Grow below:

-Zoo Tales

-Garden Tales

-The Wonderful Reptile House


Looking for local family fun this summer? Be sure to check out our lists of Activities, Athletics, Resources and of course our Daily Calendar of FUN in Hampton Roads!

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