Friday, June 22, 2012

Budget-Friendly Summer Fun!

Although Tuesday was the 'offical' start of summer, we've been sweating our patooties off here for well over a month - whew!  But school is out and swim team is almost over (hooray!) so I thought I'd better put together a list of Summer Fun activities that will wear them out keep them engaged without breaking the bank!  And although this list is somewhat 'local' I hope it will inspire you to check out what sorts of low-cost/no-cost fun might be going on in your community too!

1.  Hit the Beach . . . or lake or river - whatever you have handy!  When the weather heats up, a large body of water is a great way to cool off.  You can get up early and make a day of it at a State or city park facility (with access to actual restrooms) for less than 10 bucks, or just find a place to park somewhere along the 27 miles of coastline that we call Galveston for free!  So pack your toys and your sunscreen for a fun-filled and relaxing day!

2. Vacation Bible School! Our CCE program follows the school year calendar, so VBS is like a summer refresher and a week of fun all rolled into one! We are lucky enough to have more than one VBS curriculum going on at local churches in the area, so we can potentially hit TWO this summer and go with different friends each time! Sheep has been going to VBS since she was 4 years old and grows so much spiritually each time - even though all she knows is that she's having fun!! Most churches also offer financial assistance for those having trouble with the registration fee so don't hesitate to check it out!

3.  Visit the Museum!  We are lucky enough to have three major museums, including a recently renovated (and totally awesome) Children's Museum, only 30 minutes away!  The Houston Museum of Natural Science just opened an all-new Paleontology Hall so my little dinosaur fan can get his fix!  Museums are a great indoor option on those sweltering summer afternoons, and family pass options make them affordable too - RAWR!!

4. Check out Community Education! Another great low-cost alternative in our area are the summer programs offered through our Community Education Office. Local teachers, coaches, scientists and artists host summer classes on everything from basketball to cupcake decorating. These 2-hour, daily classes usually last all week and cost less than $50 - a real bargain! In the past, Sheep has taken art, cheerleading, and a class on fairies!! The YMCA also offers many of these same programs, but our community education office is able to offer them at a much reduced rate - yippee!!

5.  Stroll though the ZOO!  This has always been a family favorite, so we grab season passes for the Houston Zoo each year.  If you're not up for a season pass, then try visiting in evenings.  The zoo crowds have thinned and the difference in shade is appreciable!  Even the animals seem to enjoy the evenings and are moving around more!

6. Volunteer! Volunteering is a great opportunity to teach children about the reward and the FUN that comes with helping others! Volunteer Houston is an organization that helps match volunteers with their interests across the city and has activities for youth as young as 5 years old. Some activities even say 'no age limit' when accompanied by an adult - so check it out and get out into your community this summer! You won't regret it . . . and all it costs is your time!

7. Ride the Train! Did you know that The Galveston Railroad Museum offers FREE rides on the Harborside Express from 11 AM - 2 PM every Saturday on a first-come, first serve basis? Entry into the museum itself is only $6 for adults and $4 for kids, making this a very affordable excursion! You could even combine it with a wander down the strand or a stop at the beach too while you're there. So what are you waiting for . . . . All Aboard!!

8.  Head to the Farm or Orchard for some pick-your-own fun!  We LOVE picking strawberries in the Spring, but peaches, blackberries, blueberries and more are all within an hour's drive.  It's amazing that such a simple activity can be so much fun for everyone - perhaps because you get to eat your way through!  You can find pick-you-own farms and orchards anywhere in the U.S. by heading to and it's a great way to support your local farm businesses too!

9. Loiter Around Your Local Library! In addition to it's usually toddler storytime offerings, our library has a great list of summer activities, many suitable for kids of all ages. You generally have to get there plenty of time in advance, as participation is sometimes limited, but it's also usually free! Now how's that for budget-friendly?!

10. Sign-Up for the Reading Club! While you're visiting the library, sign up for the Texas Summer Reading Club, which encourages young readers (and pre-readers) to pick up a book with certificates, fun prizes and coupons for more discounted or free summer fun! Our coupon pack included vouchers for a FREE burger, a FREE Sonic drink, a FREE TCBY yogurt, a FREE admission to a local water park, 2 FREE tickets to a professional baseball game, FREE dinner at a local restaurant AND discounted indoor bounce house fun - amazing!! Sheep has plans to read enough to earn another trophy this year and I must say reading has always been one of my favorite ways to spend a summer afternoon! A trip to the library is also another great indoor option for those hot afternoons - no sunscreen required!

11.  Make Your Own . . . Ice Cream, Popsicles, or other frozen treats!  Wondering what to do with all that fresh produce?  Then spend some time in the kitchen making your own summer treats.  As I've mentioned before, the kids and I love making and baking things, so it's always a go-to activity for us.  And making frozen goodies usually doesn't require heating up the oven (or the house!).  It's also a great way to keep those math facts from slipping away during the dog-days of summer!

12.  Catch a Movie!  Cinemark Theaters has a Summer Movie Clubhouse that offers 10 shows for only 5 dollars!  All shows start at 10 AM on Tuesday around here and the place is full of little ones, so you won't be the only one following Snacks your toddler up and down the steps during Winnie the Pooh or Dolphin Tale.  See you at the show!

13.  Splash at Your City Pool!  Even if you have a pool in your backyard, sometimes you need a chance of scenery and the city pool is a very low-cost alternative.  And don't forget to look beyond your own borders!  One of the best city pools I've visited recently was two towns (about 30 minutes) away, but had two water slides, a wade-in section, a mushroom waterfall and a splash pad - all for only $1.50 per person!  Some city pools are also offering covered cabanas for rent as well - what a great place to meet with friends without having to clean up the house - ha!  Even better, our city pool offers one or two 'Dive In Movies' on Friday nights during the summer months and they are FREE, so don't forget to check out your local Chamber of Commerce website to see what they have planned!

14. Go to Camp! Both the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts of America offer all kinds of low-cost day, twilight and resident camps for kids, and many times these camps are open to the public or those 'considering' joining the organization. Sheep has already had fun at a three-day Girl Scout day camp in our area that included a t-shirt, activities (archery was her favorite) and a reusable water bottle for only $20! These organizations also have financial assistance programs available so that no one is turned away from camp for inability to pay.

15.  Feed the Animals?!  Usually you're not allowed, right?  Not so at the neighborhood lakes, where ducks abound and are usually so tame that they've been waiting for you to get there!  We also have a local pond close by that is teeming with turtles!  Here's a tip -  they LOVE Cheerios!!  Your leftover hamburger or hot dog buns from the backyard cookout will work well too!  And again, this easy entertainment doesn't require lots of preparation and is a great way to break up the day!  We like to head out in the evenings when it's a little less hot and humid!

16.  Spend Time Stargazing . . . either in the backyard on a quilt, or you can drag that quilt in to town to check out the stars of a different kind!  Theater Under the Stars puts on AWESOME outdoor symphonies, plays and musicals that you can see for FREE on the hill all summer long!  So pack a picnic and some mosquito spray and remind yourself that bedtimes are more guidelines than rules in the summer!

Swim team wraps up at the end of this month and after that, we plan to hit the road with our activity list handy!  Won't you join us?!

Happy Summer Y'all!

Sharing this Sassy Idea at Creative Me, Mop it Up Mondays,

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