Free or Inexpensive Local Outings - Cheap Entertainment, especially for families!
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  1. #1
    Registered User MsMarieH's Avatar
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    Default Free or Inexpensive Local Outings - Cheap Entertainment, especially for families!

    Don't have the money or want to spend the money traveling for a vacation? There's lots of free and frugal entertainment to be found in many places!!! Investigate your local options.

    - Bowling - If you go on Sunday mornings before noon, the games are usually $1-2 each in my area. Sometimes special rates are available at other times as well.

    - Park - during warmer weather, go to the park and play frisbee or swing on the swings! Pack a picnic lunch and bring a nice tablecloth/blanket to sit on, a thermos of cold lemonade, etc. During crisper days, make it a thermos of hot cocoa.

    - Library - many libraries offer free movies (theater in library as well as dvd rentals). They may also have collections on display, book readings, author signings, lectures and more.

    - Village outings - My town offers free family movies in the park on Wednesday nights during the summer. Another town offers free concerts in the park during the week (Thursday nights there) in the summer.

    - Historical theaters - another source for free movies - our historical theater (renovated) offers one evening of free movies about once a month and during the summer they do morning free movies for the kids

    - Museum - many museums have a donation-free day during the week for those feeling a bit of a financial bite

    - Coupons - I get the entertainment book ($20-25) and am easily able to recoup my expenses with the 2-for-1 coupons during the year. This lets me get some less expensive outings and encourages me to try new places.

    - Miniature Golf - check for coupons for 2-for-1 admission and also check for reduced fee times (similar to matinees at movies).

    - High tea - hold high tea at your home with special sandwiches (cucumber, tuna fish, etc. with the crusts cut off and cut with cookie cutters into cute shapes), hot cocoa, small homemade cookies, etc. In the warmer weather hold it outside in your yard. Depending on the age of your children, invite teddy bears or dolls! Wear crazy hats and lace gloves.

    - Cooking lesson - bake a batch of cookies together and use it as an educational time as well as being fun.

    - Game night – Get together with friends for a game night – Pictionary, scrabble, monopoly, charades, whatever sounds fun. Can be customized depending on the ages of the participants. Create puppets from old socks and put on a show (use a clothesline and a curtain for a stage) for the family or neighborhood.

    - Botanic Garden or Arboretum - I happen to belong to an arboretum and consider the expense worthwhile for myself. They have LOTS of activities for members during the year - including special concerts, bike riding for members only on Friday and Saturday evenings during the summer, plays, and more. Many of the member events are free, some cost money but you get reduced admission fees. Even just going and sitting in the grounds or walking the trails can be fun and relaxing. It also comes with reciprocal admission to other parks and gardens. This has proven wonderful.

    - Tourism - check out the convention and visitor's bureau for your town or the chamber of commerce for hidden gems - you might be surprised to discover state parks, historical plaques and buildings, and more that you didn't even know were there in your town!

    - Craft activity - have a private craft hour with your child, making some special item (could be artistic or functional, such as stepping stones). Could just use recycled items like toilet paper tubes and egg cartons with leftover paint and glitter. Heck even a potato can be cut to be a rubber stamp!

    - Zoo - check to see if your local zoo has reduced admission days. Also look for smaller zoos that may be less expensive or wildlife rehabilitation centers.

    - Rental movie with a theme - you could do 2-3 movies with a theme, like baseball day or movies set in the orient and then match the food to the movie theme (such as hot dogs or stir fry), maybe decorate the room a little bit along the same lines (baseball penants with the kids names on them from construction paper; paper lanterns from construction paper)

    - Philanthropic - spend the day doing something special for others - participate in a river clean up, help an elderly person with household chores like painting or raking leaves, help at the canned food pantry - this can raise an appreciation in your kids to remind them that the best things in life don't come in boxes with bows and that you are truly always blessed because things COULD be worse!

    - Gardening - plant seeds and tend them together in your own vegetable or flower garden. If your kids are really young, easy plants would include marigolds, sunflowers, lettuce, radishes, etc.

    -Schools (Grammar/High School/Community Colleges/Colleges) – a lot of schools offer wonderful plays, choral concerts, poetry readings and more and they are often open to the public for free or reduced entrance fees.

    - In the winter, go to watch local carolers, go to the town tree lighting ceremony, the town parade, etc. Build an igloo or snowman if you get enough snow. Watch for your park district's winter fest event - many times they have free hay rides, hot cocoa or cider, ice sculpture contests, etc. Drive (or walk) around and check out the light displays at houses in your neighborhood.

    - In the spring, visit the flowers - go looking for the best display of daffodils, tulips and other spring flowers, watch for Easter festivities (if you celebrate it) from the park district or stage your own Easter egg hunt in the park or your backyard. See if one of the local park districts offer maple syrup days and taps their own trees.

    - In the summer, go strawberry picking, visit local gardens (many offer free admission days), visit the forest preserve or lakefront beach. Go camping (in your own backyard if you can’t get away). Visit local wineries and participate in a tasting. Watch the fireworks (and keep an eye out – sometimes they have them at carnivals or minor league baseball games throughout the summer). Go cloud watching or star gazing (try to identify the constellations).

    - In the fall, go for a drive to find the most beautiful fall leaves. Make a scarecrow, make homemade apple cider. Find a place that crushes it's own apples and learn about the process. Pick apples and make a homemade apple pie or can homemade applesauce or apple butter for Christmas gifts.

    - Check for local factory tours - many of these are free and some of them are really neat. I went to a glassblowing factory once and not too far from us is a jelly belly jellybean factory.

    - Watch for the hometown carnival events. Often times they have free events running concurrent - jugglers, mimes, children's craft tents, etc.

    Read the newspaper carefully for free events in your town. You might be surprised, when you actually start looking for them, how many are offered! Most common places to watch are libraries, park districts, museums, historical societies, hospitals (safety fairs, community education, etc.), forest preserves, etc.
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  2. #2
    Registered User moneydummyz's Avatar
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    I think these were all really great ideas. I often hear people complain about the fact that it cost to much to go out, when in fact you can go out on the cheap or even cheap as your article describes. One of my favorite things to go do is go on nature hikes, that or when I want to have some drinks and enjoy the company of others I will stop by the store gets some drinks and have my friends over for a night of cards/board games.

    Great post, good stuff I will have to make sure to mention some of these great ideas on my next blog post!

  3. #3
    Registered User larabelle's Avatar
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    WOW Great ideas...I especially like the high tea

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  5. #4
    Registered User Spirit Deer's Avatar
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    We have a free tour of the neutrino lab in an old iron mine near here coming up on Saturday. Not sure we'll make it, but it's been years since we were down in the "bat cave" so it would be interesting to take the tour again.

    Our state parks offer lots of free or inexpensive programs, such as programs that teach winter camping, snowshoeing, fishing, canoeing, etc. There is a cost for either a day use fee, or an annual park pass, but beyond that is good for twelve months and allows admittance to all state parks and state recreation areas at an average cost of just over $2/month ($25/yr.) I've done free programs at one of our local parks myself, demonstrating how to cook outdoors with Dutch ovens. Some of our parks lend GPS units free of charge and also offer interpretive programs to teach how to use the units, and how to find geocaches in our state parks.

    A new, completely free program just started last week. Every state park has a unique card depicting a Minnesota wildflower with facts and pictures of each flower. The cards are in a cache in each park for people to find. There are 81 cards in total, and the quest lasts for the next year and a half. There are prizes at different levels of the quest, too.

    Minnesota parks also offer a hiking club kit for sale at a cost of $15. Each participating park has a designated trail participants must hike until they find a sign with a password on it. The mileage of each trail is already figured out, and there are rewards for reaching certain levels. This does not expire, so the $15 investment can provide years of hiking experiences.

    Our state parks also offer a passport club, also $15 IIRC, which again offers rewards for visiting certain numbers of state parks. All state parks and SRAs have their own rubber stamp, and stamps are collected in the passport books, so it's fun to visit new state parks and explore those.

    Our parks offer a lot of bang for the buck when it comes to enjoying the outdoors. Other states may offer similar inexpensive programs.

  6. #5
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    Most of the museums and zoos in our area offer free days that we take advantage of. Looking though the local monthly mailing also provides a lot of different things going on in our area.

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    In our area there are a lot of towns with art festivals in the summer. It takes a little gas to get to some of the mountain towns, but it is free to browse the art displays. One can plan a picnic lunch at a park and not even have to spend money on food...

    There are other "festivals" that do cost a little but some of them can be inexpensive fun. For example there is a "bacon festival" going on this weekend right where my condo is located - free to walk around - but then you can buy $4 tickets for sampling.

    One of the fun things that we do periodically is to go to an animal shelter and look at the pets up for adoption. Free unless you take one of the furry critters home....


    Along with factory tours, look for agriculture tours. These are great for city kids!
    Some include chances to do things like "feed the chickens" or "pet the horses" which kids love. Go to a pick your own pumpkin place in the fall or get lost in a corn maze for a while.

    State or county fairs - some charge admission and some don't. I can spend hours browsing the 4H displays and often there is a local artists show as well. Sometimes the rodeos or horse shows are even free. (just don't spent to much on the midway at the rides or food vendors!)

    Look for cheap seats at local sporting events. The MLB stadium here sells seats for as cheap a $1 - take your own peanuts and cracker jacks along.

    Sometimes you can get giveaway tickets from local radio stations or stores for sports events as well.

    College sports can be fun too and the tickets aren't as pricey as professional sports. Same thing with minor leagues.

    One of the the things here that costs a little bit but is a blast is Air Force Academy games. Sometimes you even get to see the Thunderbirds - the halftime show is always great!

    Speak of Air Force - we love to watch the student glider pilots flying - there is a pull out right on the hiway that is just perfect for that. Again a tail gate picnic to accompany is a fun way to waste as hour or two!

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