Summer Fun without the Price

by Amy L. Thomas


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With the rising price of gas and maintaining a household, many families believe they will have to curtail their summer fun. Instead of believing the entire season is going down the tubes, rely on your own neighborhood, town and community to provide ample opportunities for free and/or low-cost things to do. The following is a list of activities and places to visit that will keep you and your family busy and entertained without using up your kids' college savings fund. Taking out your free community newspaper is usually all it takes to find these bargain-based kid and family friendly places to go that will not empty your gas tank. You can pose a challenge to your family and see who can come up with ideas that are fun and free.

  • Art museums - Most art museums have a free or reduced-priced day and/or evening during the month. Find out the date, and you and your family can enjoy both local and national artists of various mediums for as long as you care to browse in air-conditioned comfort. Many museums also offer free activities for children to participate in, or you can take a guided tour that will offer some education as well as beautiful art. It is never too soon to expose children to art and creative expression.

  • Free outdoor movies or concerts - Your local chamber or town or city hall will have listings of various activities, generally sponsored by local businesses. From free outdoor movies in a park or square to local concerts on lawns with blankets and picnic coolers, you cannot go wrong with these events that not only are free, but also give you a chance to enjoy them with family and friends. Shakespeare, puppeteers, plays, movies, folk artists, rock bands, etc. can all be found in various local locations that will be easy to access.

  • Beaches, beaches, beaches - Whether it is the ocean or a lovely lake, a beach is always the best bet for a summer day, and can be the best value for fun in the sun. Most locations have a public beach that can be accessed for little or no money, or for a small parking fee. The key to enjoying the sun, sand and surf is preparation beforehand, and bringing the essential items to keep everyone in the family happy, hydrated and healthy. Food, sunscreen and enough fluids should be packed and brought along as staples. With a few shovels and pails, balls, Frisbees and surf toys added to the mix, the beach and water become a large playground with hours of fun and relaxation.

  • Libraries - An often-overlooked building for summer recreation is the local library. Many of these institutions offer summer reading programs and contests that can stimulate and challenge in cool comfort. Spending a lazy morning or afternoon can broaden interests, motivate new and older readers to find exciting new books, and allow family members the opportunity to browse and play independently. Ask for a tour of your library if you have not already done so, and you and your family will be amazed at the variety of materials that are available for use and checking out. A weekly trip will soon become something that everyone looks forward to, and it is all free.

  • Playgrounds and mazes - This is another great way to spend time that is free and healthy. Many towns and schools have local playgrounds that are different and challenging for all ages. Check your local listings or call the town offices to find the ones nearest to you. Adults can also play or bring a wonderful book to read as the kids play. Once again, bring plenty of water to drink, as the heat and sun can dehydrate everyone very quickly.

  • Local baseball team - One of the best bargains in sporting events is the local semi-professional baseball team. Find the nearest to you, and make the trip. Parking, ticket prices and food and drinks are very reasonable, and a family can have fun cheering on their local team without taking out a loan to pay for the fun. You can also go online to find out if there are any bargain days or nights during the summer months that offer discounts. This is a great way to spend a day or evening without the crowds and traffic pile-ups of the major league teams in the larger cities.

  • Local summer festivals - These are held in many towns and are generally free to attend. Many have informational booths and low and no-cost games and activities for children. If you choose to buy food, you are most likely helping to support your local charities and civic groups as well. Fireworks at the end of the event are usually in order, so pick a great spot, spread your blanket and watch the sky light up.

Be creative, be safe, and have your best low-cost summer ever!

Take the Next Step:

  • For some fun summer craft ideas, please visit FamilyFun.com. Together you can celebrate the lazy, hazy days of summer with fun crafts that your kids will love.
  • For other summer fun ideas, please visit www.stretcher.com/menu/topic-d.htm#familysummer
  • Take control of your finances. Subscribe to our weekly "Surviving Tough Times" newsletter. This free html newsletter will provide ways to survive in this challenging economy. Each issue features nine articles to help you stretch your dollar!

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