Entertaining yourself and your family isn’t always easy, and sometimes it is downright expensive. For example, we went to our local children’s museum last year and it cost $10 per adult to get in. We ended up paying $34 for the four of us to spend less than an hour in a rather boring children’s museum.
Last week, we went to the public museum and it cost us $50 for the four of us. While we were able to at least spend an hour and a half there before the kids were done, it was still really expensive.
The more frugal we become, the more we look for cheap things to do. Lucky for you, we’ve been doing this for a while now and have compiled a list. Of course, many of these places or attractions are local for us, but with some research, you can probably get access to similar ways to save money on your entertainment.
Here’s our list of the top ways to save money by doing cheap stuff:
Find Free Attractions
In our area, there is a free zoo. Yes, it’s one hundred percent free and it is awesome. Because it’s free, we don’t feel like we have to stay there all day each time we go so we end up going there about once every two weeks during the summer. While most areas don’t have a free zoo, they usually have zoos that have severely discounted rates at least once a month. Check with your local zoo.
Another great cheap or free thing to do is to go to a public garden. There is a beautiful public garden by us that covers several acres and has rock gardens, herb gardens, rose gardens and even tropical gardens. The entire area has paths and everything is labeled so you can learn about different plants. We spend a few hours there each month during the summer for free, and during the winter, they have an enclosed tropical garden that you can walk through for just a dollar a person.
Local beaches are also free, or at most, the cost of an annual county or state car pass. I can think of at least three beaches by our house. Even if the weather isn’t great, the kids still love playing in the sand.
State Parks and Nature Reserves
Most state parks charge about twenty dollars for an annual car pass that allows unlimited access during the year. Our state is filled with state parks that offer scenic views, wooded hiking trails and beaches. Some of them have all three in the same spot. Pack a picnic and visit a state park for a cheap thing to do.
There are also nature preserves by us. In particular, the local university owns an arboretuem that spans several miles and has outstanding paths. It includes nature reserves as well as large gardens to walk through. The area is filled with wildlife such as turkeys and deer.
There are all kinds of campgrounds available. While some are more like resorts, you can usually find a campground that is less than $20 per nite. A tent isn’t too expensive and you can make a good weekend trip out of camping. If you’re really into the outdoors, you can often hike in and camp in state parks too.
Most of the old railroads around us have been turned into bike trails. While you are supposed to buy a daily or annual trail pass to use these paths, they are very inexpensive. From our house, there are trails going over 100 miles in at least 3 directions. Furthermore, about 70 miles from us there is a bike trail that is very scenic and passes through two one mile long tunnels. We could literally try a new bike trail every day and never run out of trails.
This is a new one for us. Turns out our school has a deal with the bowling centers whereby just for signing up your kids, they get two free games of bowling every day of the summer! I guess it’s a way to keep kids out of trouble. For an extra $25 per adult, they can bowl for free the whole summer too. While they probably don’t offer this in most cities, check with your schools to see what kind of cheap entertainment you can find to save money.
Festivals and Farmers Markets
Summer festivals are cheap and provide pretty good entertainment. Well, they’re cheap if you don’t let your kids go on too many rides or play any games. However, if you plan ahead, you can often buy bracelets for unlimited rides for a reasonable price. If you want to go on the cheap, just show up and do some people watching. There is usually free live music to enjoy and you can pack your own lunch if you don’t want to pay festival prices for the food.
Farmers markets are also a form of entertainment. You don’t have to buy produce and flowers to enjoy them. Simply walk around and look at all the cool stuff and wierd people. These markets tend to bring out people you don’t normally see on a day to day basis.
Local Clubs and City Sports
There are often local clubs and city leagues that offer low priced sports, fishing, sailing and other forms of entertainment, whether its for kids or for adults. If there is a sport that you like, look for a specific club.
Discount Amusement Parks
A trip to Disneyland or Great America can cost several hundred dollars. Heck, going on rides at the county or state fair can cost nearly that much if you don’t get a bracelet. However, someplaces have discount amusement parks. By us, there is a place called Little Amerika (the opposite of Great America). Bands start at only $8 or $9 for unlimited rides and you can usually find a coupon to make it even more affordable. It has all of the rides of a fair and includes a train ride that goes for about 2-3 miles where you can see some country and even zebras roaming in the fields (yes they have zebras for some reason). Ask around your area to see if you can find a discount amusement park.
While fishing isn’t for everyone, if you enjoy it, you can spend a whole day at the lake or near some water for cheap. A fishing license costs about $25 a year and is free for kids. You can buy a cheap pole, bobber and hooks for about $15 and you’re good to go. Kids love playing around water and if your kids have enough patience to fish then this is a great way to save money on entertainment. Look for good fishing spots. For example, we have a fully stocked trout pond that is hidden away behind an industrial park that is free for physically challenged and children. It’s like catching fish in a barrel so the kids love it, and you don’t need a trout stamp to fish there.
Hopefully sharing these ideas can help you save some money by finding cheap things to do. Have any ideas you want to share? Please leave us a comment below.