I love going out as a family to experience new things. I love taking our kids to museums and other activities. However, with 4 kids it can get expensive. We quickly figured out that even with just 2 kids it could get expensive. So, my goal is for my children to be able to get great experiences but do it in such a way that we don’t break the bank! Here are some of our favorite ways to have family fun.
Explore Local/State/National Parks: Many parks are free or very cheap to get into for the day. If you will be going to a lot of national parks getting an annual pass is well worth the cost. It’s $80 for a family pass. However, there have several different kinds and specials. If you are a military family you can get a free one. With 58 national parks there is something for everyone. Go here to search and see what parks are near you or near your vacation spot. State parks are also a great place to visit. It’s easy to find these with a quick google. Same for local parks.
Museum Passes: For our family it is almost always a better value to buy a yearly family pass to local museums, aquariums and zoos. Most of the times they pay for themselves in 2-3 visits. Also, many of them have great reciprocal programs that can be used if you travel often to visit out of state family. The three best values that I have found (that get you access to the most museums/zoos/sciences centers are the following two. Boonshaft Museum of Discovery and CuriOdyssey. I always suggest that if you are buying a membership (especially if it isn’t local) and planning to use the reciprocal program on a regular basis that you call the places you are interested in using it at and make sure they are still part of the program.
Groupon: This is a great place to get discounts for local places. You can also find off the wall places that you might not normally have found. Two years ago when we visited Oklahoma for our Godson’s baptism I was able to get a groupon to The Museum of Osteology in OKC. This is a totally unique off the wall museum and my kids loved it. They wish it was close to us so we could go back on a regular basis. I always encourage people to check out lesser known museums. There are some real gems out there. This summer on our way home from a family reunion we are planning to make a slight detour and take our kids to see The Unofficial Lego Museum.
Blue Star Museums: This is specific to military families. From Memorial Day to Labor Day many museums across the USA take part of the blue star program and give free admission to military members and their families. You can find a list here. The list for the upcoming summer will be available in May.
Tents for Troops: Another program specific to military families. This program is a collaboration of camping sites across the USA that allow military members and their families to camp for free. Info on this program can be found here.
Free Bowling for Kids: This is a great program that families can take advantage of during the summer. Info can be found here.
Free Skating for Kids: Another great program for families to take advantage of. This one is all year. Info can be found here.
Community Programs: A great place to find things to do is to check your local town or nearby towns websites. Often you can find things like concerts in the parks, theater performances, farmer markets, parades, festivals and other free/low cost activities. Not only do you get to spend some good quality time with your family but you also help teach your kids the importance of community.
Local Library: A great place to find things like story time and other fun activities. Our current local library shows new kids movies on a big projection screen every couple of months. It’s free to go. My kids get the experience of going to the movie theater without the price tag.
$1 Movies and Movie Nights at Home: Some communities have dollar theaters which is a great way to take your kids to movies without it costing an arm and a leg. Regal Cinemas offers a program called Summer Movie Express where they play family friendly movies for $1 a piece. Info can be found here. We like to do movie nights at home on a regular basis. We will either borrow a new movie from the library (libraries are a great free way to enjoy new movies) or rent one from Redbox. We’ll have popcorn and sometimes I’ll buy a couple $1 boxes of candy for the kids. Everyone will get into their pjs and we’ll all hang out in the living room and watch the movie together. Here are some other ideas from interest to make movie nights at home more special: Drive in Movie at home, backyard movie night, Dinner Themes to go with Disney Movies and Concession boxes.
So, what is your favorite way to have family fun on the cheap?