OK, I'll admit it—despite the popularity of minimalist living I tend to be a "stuff" person when it comes to holiday gift-giving.
Books? Yes, please.
Crazy socks? Love them.
Candy? Yes. All.the.candy. (I guess that's minimalist, right? I mean, it's a consumable!)
But since having children I've appreciated more than ever the gift of experiences—passes and memberships to cool spots for me and the kids—which other parents have wisely given me. Cold winter days (and even those unbearably hot ones in summer) have been made easier by being free to go somewhere where we'll all have an enjoyable time, sans admission fees, and get an educational and activity boost.
There are at least nine spots in Rutherford County that offer great membership packages for individuals and families (aside from fitness gyms), so whether you're looking ahead at the year for your own family, or are wanting to give a meaningful gift to someone else, these are some great places to start.
1. The Discovery Center at Murfree Spring 502 SE Broad St. Murfreesboro. 615-890-2300.
I thought it was funny when I became a mom and other moms frequently asked me, "Do you have a Discovery Center membership?" when planning playdates, but after a few visits it was easy to understand why the DC is kind of indispensable to local parents. From fun and educational exhibits, to safe play areas for littles in Tiny Town, to the beautiful and imaginative train tracks (my kids' favorite), DC offers a hands-on haven for imaginative play and interactive learning for children.
Not to mention, it offers helpful amenities for parents—nursing stations, lunchroom, and clean bathrooms—great when you're caring for busy young children on the go. While day passes are $8, memberships for one parent and child start at $65 with benefits including unlimited admission, free admission to special events, discounts on birthdays and camps, along with free admission to more than 350 museum nation-wide through the Association of Science and Technology Center's Travel Passport Program.
2. Smyrna Outdoor Adventure Center 100 Sam Ridley Pkwy E. Smyrna. 615-459-9710.
A new gem in Smyrna that opened barely two years ago, the SOAC offers indoor and outdoor fun at a great value for families. Tuesday-Sunday you can find art and educational exhibits in the gallery along with creative themed workshops and classes for children of all ages. Adults and children looking for a workout will love the indoor climbing walls, and families can get in on plenty of outdoor educational workshops offered throughout the year by Smyrna Parks and Recreation staff. Aside from creative programming, the SOAC is definitely one of the best deals in town: an all-inclusive annual family membership runs $200 for the year and includes SOAC admission, Splash Town pool admission in the summer, a gift shop discount, members-only events, and early priority reservations.
3. SportsCom 2310 Memorial Blvd. Murfreesboro. 615-895-5040
Athletes, swimmers, and those dedicated to fitness will love taking their health to the next level at this signature community resource. Group classes for all ages, including homeschool PE, after-school programs, are held in the exercise studios, while a full range of state-of-the-art workout equipment is available in the weight room. A 25-yard indoor pool is the site of water aerobics as well as laps. Daily passes are $4, and family memberships start at $450 for the year.
4. Patterson Park Community Center 521 Mercury Blvd. 615-893-7439
Arts, education, fitness, water fun, and outreach converge at this quietly remarkable spot in the heart of Murfreesboro. Families will enjoy the indoor zero-depth pool with play equipment all year long as well as the game room with pool, air hockey, foosball, checkers, chess and cards, as well as the quality all-ages fitness programs during the week.
Check out books or just hang out in the MGL Library (pictured above) where computers and games for all ages are available. Catch one of the many high quality theater performances held at The Washington Theater. Parents and older siblings can take advantage of the weight rooms and walking/running track as well as the downstairs racquetball and basketball courts. While a mere $4/person grants a day pass, households can become members with unlimited access starting at $450 for the year.
5. The Ascent 831 Park Ave. Murfreesboro. 615-796-6545
For the family dedicated to fitness (or who just has some really busy kids), investing in a membership at this popular rock climb locale quickly pays off. Daily passes begin at $14/person, but a month-to-month family membership starts at $118 for unlimited climbing, member-only hours, special event admissions, access to selected classes, and even classes at Crossfit Murfreesboro, Fortified Warrior, and Barre 11. Membership add-ons are available for special programming, such as the Kids Rock classes and Wee Rock course for parents and their preschoolers. Scholarships are also available based on need, so if you're thinking climbing is an important addition to your family's health this year, don't hesitate to ask about payment options.
6. Adams Tennis Complex 925 Golf Lane Murfreesboro. 615-546-4000
For the city's dedicated tennis players the Adams Complex is essential, providing instruction, programs, and court times for athletes with indoor and outdoor courts, along with a great pro shop and lounges. Gift a student or family fee-free court time and other benefits like guest passes and discounts, starting at $250/year for youth ages 18 and under, and up to $600 for a family for the year.
7. Climb Murfreesboro 1660 Memorial Blvd. Murfreesboro. 615-280-8460
Yes, it's climbing, but it's also fitness and yoga classes, along with a wealth of special clinics and climb-for-a-cause opportunities for the whole family. Parents will also appreciate cool after-school drop-off programs for kiddos! Get individual day passes starting at $17, or go in for the whole family ($75 for the first member, $60, for the second, and $30 for each additional member). You'll also get discounted tickets and complimentary guest passes, so play dates just got simpler and a whole lot more interesting.
8. Lucky Ladd Farms 4374 Rocky Glade Road, Eagleville. 615-274-3786
Most family passes at this top-rated attraction pay for themselves by the third visit, and yet families will more than likely see that benefit many times over before the season is gone. From Easter to the first of November, Lucky Ladd in Eagleville (pictured above) features more than 60 acres of family fun, including the state's largest (and arguably most adorable) petting zoo, mega-slides, jungle gyms, tire climbing courses, splash pad, and trike tracks, along with special events throughout the year. Tickets for adults and teens are $13.99 plus tax, and children 2-12 are $11.99 plus tax, but you can save with season passes starting at $79.99 for one parent and one child, and enjoy perks like gift shop and concessions discounts as well as free guest passes for friends.
9. North Rutherford YMCA 2001 Motlow College Blvd. Smyrna. 615-220-9622
I never knew that and indoor pool could make or break my interest in a membership, but as a parent, there it is. Smyrna's Y facility offers youth and adult programs, and yes, an indoor lap and recreational pool (along with youth swim lessons!) Of course there's the awesome childcare available when mom and dad work out, as well as creative fitness programs for children and teens including yoga, Zumba, and water cardo. The Y is known for its ability to offer sliding scale membership options based on income and need, but in general a family of four can get it on a "Two Plus" program which starts at $107/month. You can also register for a free guest past to check it out before you commit.
Laura Beth Payne is a writer mama living in the Blackman Community of Murfreesboro with her husband Nathan and their two children. Follow @murfreesboromama on Facebook and Instagram for more family fun in and around the city.