It’s safe to say that you will never be able to afford a garden like Pierre du Pont established at Longwood, or an art collection like the one amassed by Dr. Albert Barnes. That’s mostly because these days, nobody really can. Even Mr. duPont and Dr. Barnes had to ultimately let Longwood Gardens and the Barnes Foundation go to non-profit public foundations. To this day, though, they’re both fabulous places to visit, especially around the holidays. The Christmas decorations at Longwood, for example, make it so popular during the holidays that visitors have to sign up for timed tickets – you have to first reserve a time to arrive, before you can pay $25 per person for admission.
That is, the non-members do. Members are special. Very special. When you’re a member, they make you feel like you’re one of Mr. du Pont’s close personal friends. The first thing is, you don’t need no stinking timed ticket; you go when YOU feel like it, even on Peak Days. Then, as soon as you get there, starting with the employees directing traffic into the parking lot, a casual wave of your Guest Pass gets you a smile and fast, direct access to everything. When you get inside the Visitors Center, you don’t have to wait in line with the masses to buy a ticket, you just show your Guest Pass again and get ushered right inside. And you can give out some of the candy yourself; you get two free guest tickets to give away, but sadly not during the Christmas Peak Days (although the place is a garden, after all; it’s maybe even more fabulous during the spring, summer and fall).
It’s pretty much the same deal at most museums, zoos and Old Time Rich Peoples’ Houses. The foundations love people they can count on to pay them a fixed amount of money every year so they can figure how to do their budgets without a lot of stress. Best of all, remember that museum memberships are tax-deductible, and if you get one now, you’ll still have the paperwork handy in a few months when you need it to do your taxes.
So maybe you can give museum memberships as holiday gifts – or use the that 10% discount Christmas shopping in the museum shop (MOMA, anyone?).