May 16, 2012

Where to Find Summer Sanity Savers

If you're looking for more great FREE things to do with your children this summer, you can also check out my previous blog posts labeled SSSS (summer sanity savers series.)  Be sure to click read older posts to see all of them.

 For me, the best part of summer is all the great trips you can take.  Sure, there are grand, two week vacations in the Bahamas or going off to Disney World or the beach or a cabin in the woods.  Many times those are unattainable for many different reasons.

When I have the kids home for the summer, we often do 2-5 small "field trips" throughout the week.  These can be as simple as going to the library, park, or even a little nature hike around our neighborhood, or we can go as a family to a festival a tank of gas away.  I'm making this a more general focus, because I put up a lot of free local activities in my calendar on the right side of the blog.

Where to find your adventures
I used to travel for a living, visiting many large cities and small towns locally and throughout the country.  It's amazing to me when I meet a person from somewhere and mention that I love something in their town, only to hear that they have never heard of it.  One of the first things I do when I get to any city or town is find the Chamber of Commerce or visitor's center and start looking for something fun.  Nearly every town, regardless of size, has a museum or attraction of some sort.  You just have to know where to look.  Make it your mission to discover all that your own town has to offer.

Free or low-cost everyday activities:

  • Local city parks are free, fun entertainment.  Walk to the park, and you've extended your fun.  Pack a picnic snack or lunch.  Even the most basic lunch is more fun when you're eating it outside.  Some have free or low-cost wading pools for extending the fun even more.

  • State parks have more wildlife, and often swimming or fishing opportunities.  Have you tried Geocaching yet?  It combines some modern technology with hiking and exploring, and can be the perfect outdoor adventure.
  • Local farms are so much fun!  We have many small farms in the area that allow people to come and take tours.  I've posted before about the awesome small farms that do Sample Sundays where they have free samples and fun activities for all ages.  Our local berry farm allows people to come in and pick their own fruits.
  • Zoos, petting zoos, and aquariums.  This doesn't have to be your giant metropolitan zoo to be fun.  Hand feeding a few goats or sheep can still be fun for young adventurers.

  • Local city or county museums can be great fun for children and adults alike.  Take a look around your own community and the ones surrounding it--I live in a town of 6000, and we have several museums.  I've been to smaller towns that have some incredible historical places.  Even better--most are either free or such a low cost as to be negligible.
  • Take a bus tour of your town.  If you have bus service, make a plan to get on the bus and ride somewhere with the kids, even if it's just to do some shopping or another necessary errand.
  • Go to the fire or police station.  Be sure to call ahead and ask, but many will take kids on an impromptu tour.  Join together with a few other families to make it more like a real field trip.
  • "Tour" a local pet store.  We have Earl May, and when I need anything for the garden we go and visit all the pets.  It's like a small, free zoo.  They even give the kids popcorn in some garden stores in our area.
  • Work on a garden.  Even if it's a small container garden on your porch, what better fun?  They get to dig in the dirt, play with a watering can, and watch something transform from day to day.

  • Tour a garden.  We have wonderful botanical gardens with indoor and outdoor facilities, perfect for rainy or sunny days.  Many cities have interesting gardens for tours.

  • Free bowling!  Even if your own local bowling alley isn't on the list of free ones HERE, a day of bowling is a pretty inexpensive outing.  Many places now have bumpers and automatic scoring, so all you have to concentrate on is having fun.  Call ahead and ask about what time they have leagues or free days.
  • Free movies!  Again, there are a few different places offering free movie days for kids.  Ask at your own local theater.  Also, I've posted about it before, but Family Video has free kids' movie rentals all the time.  Our library has free movie showings on certain nights, and your local library usually has movies that can be checked out. 
  • Roller skating or ice skating.  If you still have that sort of thing in your area, or just put on your own skates and skate around the park.
  • Community theater.  In our area, there is a children's theater group that does productions a few times a year.  It's very inexpensive admission, and very fun for everyone attending.  Come home and encourage the kids to put on their own production.  A few empty boxes and some markers make the sets, then raid the dress-up box or closets for costumes.
  • Small town fairs and festivals.  This is our absolute favorite thing to do.  We try to find at least one festival every weekend.  Most of these are free to enter, with lots of free activities.  Eating the fair food is a fun change for us, but you can also pack a picnic lunch for a free (except for the gas) fun day.  Where else could you watch people haul big cheese wheels or have tractor rodeos?
 Next post will be how to make the most of your experiences, preserve memories, and add some educational value to the fun.

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