That Toddlin’ Town (Museum Prices)

By Patrick Murphy

So, there I was, being Dad of the Year (pretty great, if I do say so myself), looking up museum prices so I could take my kids to experience all the things they’re supposed to see as privileged freaking kids in the world’s greatest democracy and such.

I was just going to drive them from Indianapolis, Indiana to Chicago. I was going to take them to the Art Institutes, Shedd’s Aquarium, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the Field  Museum. Like three days of freaking culture and adventure and art plus the obligatory goat cheeseburgers, Ed Debevic’s, or Hard Rock. (Or local, or cool, or diner; I’m not a monster.)

And then the ticket prices totally blindsided me.

I’m a twenty-first century guy. I order my razors online; my movie tickets (when I bother) online. Yeah, I pay my bills on my phone, talk to my ex on my phone, file my taxes on my phone.

And the ticket prices for Chicago’s finest, in my opinion, attractions were basically hair-raising and horrifying.

I’m going to say here: I don’t make minimum wage but if I did, these rates would be so far out of my galaxy I would name a star fleet after them.

I’m going to say here: I don’t make minimum wage but even so, these rates should suck Darth Vader’s biggest light saber, if you know what I mean. (You know what I mean.)

Not a one of these museum rates are appreciably under  twenty bucks for an adult (the kids aren’t adults but I am and I’m paying, so that’s the rate I look at first).

Shedd’s Aquarium is nearly double.

I believe- strongly, in fact- in paying people for their work.

But I also believe in all things being kinda proportional.

The minimum wage in Indiana is $7.25 per hour. The minimum wage in Illinois is $8.25 per hour.

Granted, the places I’ve mentioned, overall, offer slightly cheaper admission if you are a Chicago resident.

I’m not. My kids aren’t.

But I wanted to take them to some capital “c” culture.

Let’s say for a second that the average Chicago ticket price is $25.00. (It’s not, but whatever: the damn things run between $20 and $40.) If I make minimum wage in Indiana ($7.25), that’s 3.4 repeating hours of pay.

Movie tickets are bad; this is unaffordable.

Even if I make ten dollars an hour, working forty hours a week, well, that’s a bigger proportion of pay than I can justify.

I know the expenses of maintenance and staff and all the rest for the Field Museum, Shedd’s Aquarium, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the Art Institutes of Chicago are, individually and collectively, well, massive.

I also know that if you can’t make any of their exhibits matter to a six year old or a nine year old, then what’s the goddamn point?

All of these institutions offer lower prices if you’re actually from Chicago. All of these institutions offer a handful of free days. Beautiful, these things.

But as an average guy with average pay and average kids, well, I could take them to a beach for the week for less.

There’s got to be some room, some way for an average guy to take his average kids 182 miles away for a couple days to learn about the Egyptians, and types of rocks, beautiful oceanic life, and the history of art.

Yeah, the internet exists and I could google all of that.

But if googling were the same (and it, emphatically, is not), well, I wouldn’t be pricing museum admission prices, would I?

These experiences shouldn’t belong to just the well-to-do. They really shouldn’t.

Less for me and more for the so many others who make minimum wage, but these prices…

there has to be a better way to support these worthy institions than by charging it all on the backs of people who could benefit most from their existence.

But what do I know? I’m just a dad who wanted to help expand his kids’ sphere of knowledge. (And yeah, I know, the Chicago City Pass thing is cheaper. But at $100 per for nine days, it’s just not good enough. Not for, like, sixty percent of the populace and their kids.)

Thank god for google and Dairy Queen, I guess. It’s so very nearly (not nearly) the same damn thing.


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