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Old 05-12-2011, 08:27 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm trying to compile a list of places/things to do for cheap(free is better) that we can do on weekends as a family (me, DH, DS)

 

We rarely ever get out the house, so I want to be able to schedule 1 day per week to go somewhere/do something that means we get out of the house AND spend a great time together as a family.

 

I already have a pretty long list so far and "volunteering" is one of the things on the list, but I don't know of anything(except maybe meals on wheels?) that is toddler-friendly.

 

I'm particularly lacking in indoor or cold/rainly weather activities on the cheap(and less crowded). 


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Old 05-12-2011, 10:30 AM
 
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We have family memberships to our local Zoo, science center, and natural history museum.  All three are great for toddlers.  The Zoo is a warm-weather activity, the other 2 are cold or rainy-day activities. 

 

We typically ask for memberships for holiday/birthday gifts, and our family has been very generous.  So they're often "free" for us because someone else has bought the membership, but memberships are not expensive if you consider the amount of use you can get out of them.  We have found that we do well with 2 memberships a year: one indoor activity, one outdoor activity.  Any more than that, and they don't tend to be as good of a value because we're trying to split our weekends up among too many things.  Sometimes you can get discounted memberships or admissions through Groupon or other coupon services/books, and some places have deals where you can get memberships to a number of places for a reduced rate (like Zoo + museum, for example). 

 

If your local institutions have really expensive memberships, check online for other institutions that have reciprocal agreements with them and might have cheaper memberships.  You can still get into your local place for free because of the reciprocity program, but without paying the higher membership price.  (This is getting more complicated as some institutions get wise to people doing this, so check the fine print before spending any money.  We choose to pay the higher price for memberships because we want to support our local programs.) 

 

I've found a wealth of free activities in our city by subscribing to a huge number of local-events email newsletters, and by reading our local entertainment paper (most cities have some kind of free weekly paper that lists upcoming events in the area).  When we hear about an event, we put it on our calendar, and if we need an activity that day, we go to that. 

 

Some examples of good events to watch for:

- home tours, block parties, and other neighborhood-based events (sign up for local neighborhood newsletters, not just for your neighborhood, but other neighborhoods near you).  Community development organizations frequently have community newsletters like this, as do large institutions like hospitals, universities, etc. 

- children's events (watch especially for things like public health fairs, safety events, church-based activities, etc. - these are often well-funded and have plenty of child-friendly things to do)  

- farmer's markets (in our area, we have one almost every day of the week in the summer, and usually an indoor one somewhere on winter Saturdays)

- free outdoor music, theatre and dance presentations (there's tons of this in the summer in our area)

- indoor music/theatre/dance can often be free or cheap, too, if you're willing to attend school events -- check local high schools, colleges and arts schools for programming. 

- live music at local coffee shops, bookstores, bars or restaurants (we take our toddler to bars for the music, if it's not too late at night -- she loves it!  But, we also have a no-smoking law for public places.  We wouldn't take her to bars, obviously, if they were full of smoke or rowdy.) 

- ethnic festivals - check colleges and churches for these, as well as neighborhoods and larger venues like fairgrounds, etc. 

- seasonal or food-based events (i.e., Strawberry or Wine-making or pie-eating festivals)

- church festivals/carnivals

- county fairs

- Renaissance fairs or other re-enactment events

 

These aren't all free, of course, but an Entertainment Book is a good resource for discounted tickets to bigger events, or watch your email/websites/Groupon for discounts or volunteer opportunities.  If you're willing to show up early and blow up balloons or something, sometimes you can get in to the whole event for free -- you just have to know how to sign up.  We often do this. 

 

Besides events, other things we do frequently on nice summer weekends:

- take long walks or bike rides in the park (sometimes parks in our neighborhood, or sometimes we drive to other local parks if we want a change of scenery) -- DD does great in a bike trailer

- go shopping at our local market for bread & cheese and have a picnic at the waterfront

- take DD to the playground or somewhere else she can run freely (and fall down safely)

 

Things we do frequently on rainy/cold weekends:

- go walking at the mall and let DD play in all the kid-centered areas (we don't shop, though; just walk -- otherwise this would be way too expensive of an idea)

- go to the library and let DD play in the toy area while we sit nearby and read books or magazines

- go to the library and check out a fun DVD and watch it together

- go grocery shopping (this is actually a good family activity for us if we stay focused on having fun rather than doing a lot of shopping very quickly.  Better early in the day before the crowd hits.) 

 

DH and I both used to volunteer a lot, before DD arrived, and we've had to cut back a lot because most of our volunteer work was at a local homeless drop-in center where the environment is a bit too volatile for us to feel comfortable having our toddler there.  However, we've been able to stay committed to a local Books-to-Prisoners program -- DD comes with us and helps us pack up books to send to folks in prison.  If we're lucky, she naps on the couch while we're there, because her book-packing can get pretty haphazard and mess up the library quite a lot.  :)  Something like this might work for you.  You could also call organizations you'd like to support and ask if they have family-friendly volunteer opportunities.  You might be surprised by what's available. 


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Old 05-12-2011, 10:32 AM
 
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Is there an entertainment book for your area? Ours has great 2 for 1's for all the areas zoos, play places, and other great fun places, also 2 for 1s for sooooo many resturants.

it makes going out very affordable. And right now you can buy them for $15.

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Old 05-12-2011, 10:51 AM
 
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One of my toddler's favorite things to do right now is to go to the produce section and name all the fruit and veggies (well I name them, he points).  I don't have the patience for this when I am actually shopping so we do it as an activity lol.

 

If I still lived in Michigan (I grew up there) I would totally pull family gift strings to get a membership to both the Detroit Zoo and Greenfield Village.  Those were my two favorite places to go as a child.  Greenfield Village especially...and they have some great toddler stuff in both places.  Plus, have you ever gone to the Mi. Renaissance Festival?  It is one of the best in the country!  Seriously amazing, and though not free maybe you can start planning now (starts in Sept.).  Oh, and cider mills!  I miss them so freaking much..sniff..sniff..  When I was a kid we went to Yates Cider Mill and hung out by the river and took nature walks.  Crazy busy on the weekends though, still, very fun for not much money (or free if you don't buy the cider).

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Old 05-12-2011, 11:52 AM
 
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I've also been trying to find volunteer activities that will work with a toddler, but so far no luck. greensad.gif

Some things on my mental list:

Outdoor:
picnic in the park
fly kites
nature trails (hike, scavenger hunt, etc.)
playgrounds
bike path or walk along the river, around the neighborhood, etc.
beach
canoe/kayaking
camping
farmer's market
festivals

Indoor:
children's museum (we received a membership as a gift!)
other museums (some are free the first Sat. or last Sun. of the month or whatever, or the library has discount passes)
carousel - one not far from us is only 25 cents/ride!
run errands together, with a stop to walk around the pet store and push the toddler shopping carts or the thrift store to play with the toys
get together at a friend's house, with one or multiple families (movie night, make-your-own pizza night, potluck, etc.)
library
swimming - check universities, gyms, etc. for open family swim times
indoor play spaces at the mall, ride the escalators & elevators, etc.

There are lots of websites that compile local "what's happening" calendars, i.e. http://national.macaronikid.com/ -- I check several calendars throughout the week & almost always find at least a couple of free/cheap events nearby.

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Old 05-12-2011, 11:59 AM
 
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When DD1 was a toddler, we volunteered at a nursing home.  It was within walking distance, and we went there once a week to visit with a few elderly men and women that loved kids yet didn't have family who visited a lot.  We called around and found a nursing home with a volunteer/activity coordinator that was on board, and she told us which residents to visit and which ones may not appreciate a toddler in their room.  DD loved the attention (and the nursing home was big so she could run down the hallways), and the residents she visited got a kick out of seeing her change and grow every week. 

 

Just an idea that worked for us.

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Old 05-12-2011, 12:10 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I've been reading, so I should start responding, before I forget LOL

Quote:
Originally Posted by Comtessa View Post

We have family memberships to our local Zoo, science center, and natural history museum.  All three are great for toddlers.  The Zoo is a warm-weather activity, the other 2 are cold or rainy-day activities. 

 

We typically ask for memberships for holiday/birthday gifts, and our family has been very generous.  So they're often "free" for us because someone else has bought the membership, but memberships are not expensive if you consider the amount of use you can get out of them.  We have found that we do well with 2 memberships a year: one indoor activity, one outdoor activity.  Any more than that, and they don't tend to be as good of a value because we're trying to split our weekends up among too many things.  Sometimes you can get discounted memberships or admissions through Groupon or other coupon services/books, and some places have deals where you can get memberships to a number of places for a reduced rate (like Zoo + museum, for example). 

 

If your local institutions have really expensive memberships, check online for other institutions that have reciprocal agreements with them and might have cheaper memberships.  You can still get into your local place for free because of the reciprocity program, but without paying the higher membership price.  (This is getting more complicated as some institutions get wise to people doing this, so check the fine print before spending any money.  We choose to pay the higher price for memberships because we want to support our local programs.) 

 

I've found a wealth of free activities in our city by subscribing to a huge number of local-events email newsletters, and by reading our local entertainment paper (most cities have some kind of free weekly paper that lists upcoming events in the area).  When we hear about an event, we put it on our calendar, and if we need an activity that day, we go to that. 

 

Some examples of good events to watch for:

- home tours, block parties, and other neighborhood-based events (sign up for local neighborhood newsletters, not just for your neighborhood, but other neighborhoods near you).  Community development organizations frequently have community newsletters like this, as do large institutions like hospitals, universities, etc. 

- children's events (watch especially for things like public health fairs, safety events, church-based activities, etc. - these are often well-funded and have plenty of child-friendly things to do)  

- farmer's markets (in our area, we have one almost every day of the week in the summer, and usually an indoor one somewhere on winter Saturdays)

- free outdoor music, theatre and dance presentations (there's tons of this in the summer in our area)

- indoor music/theatre/dance can often be free or cheap, too, if you're willing to attend school events -- check local high schools, colleges and arts schools for programming. 

- live music at local coffee shops, bookstores, bars or restaurants (we take our toddler to bars for the music, if it's not too late at night -- she loves it!  But, we also have a no-smoking law for public places.  We wouldn't take her to bars, obviously, if they were full of smoke or rowdy.) 

- ethnic festivals - check colleges and churches for these, as well as neighborhoods and larger venues like fairgrounds, etc. 

- seasonal or food-based events (i.e., Strawberry or Wine-making or pie-eating festivals)

- church festivals/carnivals

- county fairs

- Renaissance fairs or other re-enactment events

 

These aren't all free, of course, but an Entertainment Book is a good resource for discounted tickets to bigger events, or watch your email/websites/Groupon for discounts or volunteer opportunities.  If you're willing to show up early and blow up balloons or something, sometimes you can get in to the whole event for free -- you just have to know how to sign up.  We often do this. 

 

Besides events, other things we do frequently on nice summer weekends:

- take long walks or bike rides in the park (sometimes parks in our neighborhood, or sometimes we drive to other local parks if we want a change of scenery) -- DD does great in a bike trailer

- go shopping at our local market for bread & cheese and have a picnic at the waterfront

- take DD to the playground or somewhere else she can run freely (and fall down safely)

 

Things we do frequently on rainy/cold weekends:

- go walking at the mall and let DD play in all the kid-centered areas (we don't shop, though; just walk -- otherwise this would be way too expensive of an idea)

- go to the library and let DD play in the toy area while we sit nearby and read books or magazines

- go to the library and check out a fun DVD and watch it together

- go grocery shopping (this is actually a good family activity for us if we stay focused on having fun rather than doing a lot of shopping very quickly.  Better early in the day before the crowd hits.) 

 

DH and I both used to volunteer a lot, before DD arrived, and we've had to cut back a lot because most of our volunteer work was at a local homeless drop-in center where the environment is a bit too volatile for us to feel comfortable having our toddler there.  However, we've been able to stay committed to a local Books-to-Prisoners program -- DD comes with us and helps us pack up books to send to folks in prison.  If we're lucky, she naps on the couch while we're there, because her book-packing can get pretty haphazard and mess up the library quite a lot.  :)  Something like this might work for you.  You could also call organizations you'd like to support and ask if they have family-friendly volunteer opportunities.  You might be surprised by what's available. 



Thank you for that awesomely detailed list! A lot of the things were already on my list, but I got a few extra ideas to add.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Amanda1 View Post

Is there an entertainment book for your area? Ours has great 2 for 1's for all the areas zoos, play places, and other great fun places, also 2 for 1s for sooooo many resturants.

it makes going out very affordable. And right now you can buy them for $15.


 

No idea. Probably, though. Where do you get them from? Through the city?


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chamomile Girl View Post

One of my toddler's favorite things to do right now is to go to the produce section and name all the fruit and veggies (well I name them, he points).  I don't have the patience for this when I am actually shopping so we do it as an activity lol.

 

If I still lived in Michigan (I grew up there) I would totally pull family gift strings to get a membership to both the Detroit Zoo and Greenfield Village.  Those were my two favorite places to go as a child.  Greenfield Village especially...and they have some great toddler stuff in both places.  Plus, have you ever gone to the Mi. Renaissance Festival?  It is one of the best in the country!  Seriously amazing, and though not free maybe you can start planning now (starts in Sept.).  Oh, and cider mills!  I miss them so freaking much..sniff..sniff..  When I was a kid we went to Yates Cider Mill and hung out by the river and took nature walks.  Crazy busy on the weekends though, still, very fun for not much money (or free if you don't buy the cider).



LOL, what a great activity! I'm sure DS would just make a mess, or want to eat the foods, but maybe when he's older. 

 

We're considering zoo and maybe museum memberships. Especially ones with reciprocal programs, since we like to go to other places for day trips a few times per year (like ohio and chicago)

 

I actually used to hate greenfield village. It was ok the first time. actually, it was a really cool place, and I liked it. But after being dragged there for so many school field trips, and being dragged around while people read signs that I had already finished reading, and losing interest, I've not exactly been stoked to go there. I haven't gone as an adult. DH hasn't been though, so I tried to get us to go last year. It's on our list though. I didn't know they had toddler stuff there though. Is there actually "toddler stuff" or just that the place is, in general, toddler-friendly?

 

I've been to the renaissance festival! it was so cool! But I went as a kid, and doing anything with my parents tended to be made boring. It IS on my list, along with a few other heritage-type festivals. I'm not too into crowded places though, so thanks for reminding me about places tending to be crowded on weekends. 


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Old 05-12-2011, 12:19 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Amatullah0 View Post


I've been reading, so I should start responding, before I forget LOL



Thank you for that awesomely detailed list! A lot of the things were already on my list, but I got a few extra ideas to add.




 

No idea. Probably, though. Where do you get them from? Through the city?


 



LOL, what a great activity! I'm sure DS would just make a mess, or want to eat the foods, but maybe when he's older. 

 

Haha, actually I think my kid is the exact same age as yours (06/09) but all kids are different!

 

We're considering zoo and maybe museum memberships. Especially ones with reciprocal programs, since we like to go to other places for day trips a few times per year (like ohio and chicago)

 

I actually used to hate greenfield village. It was ok the first time. actually, it was a really cool place, and I liked it. But after being dragged there for so many school field trips, and being dragged around while people read signs that I had already finished reading, and losing interest, I've not exactly been stoked to go there. I haven't gone as an adult. DH hasn't been though, so I tried to get us to go last year. It's on our list though. I didn't know they had toddler stuff there though. Is there actually "toddler stuff" or just that the place is, in general, toddler-friendly?

 

It depends on what your kid is into.  They have a carasol and a pond with ducks, lots of paths to run down and lots of cool old machines (trucks and anything that looks like one is my kid's passion).  I'm visiting the area in about three weeks and I think I'm going to try to take DS to GV

(more for me than him lol) and I'll let you know how it goes. 

 

I've been to the renaissance festival! it was so cool! But I went as a kid, and doing anything with my parents tended to be made boring. It IS on my list, along with a few other heritage-type festivals. I'm not too into crowded places though, so thanks for reminding me about places tending to be crowded on weekends. 

 

The coupon book for the Detroit area is called the Entertainment Book. My dad has bought one every year since like 1980 lol.

 


 

 

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Old 05-12-2011, 12:24 PM
 
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go to entertainment.com to get the books. They go on sale in the fall for about $45 and are good from nov- dec the following year. This time of year they are $15 and last untill end dec 2011

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Old 05-13-2011, 01:45 PM
 
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just a warning about the entertainment books. i bought one this year and about half the coupons i've tried to use so far the place has already gone out of business. i don't know if it's just because the economy is bad or if putting a coupon in the book is a last ditch effort for a lot of places, but i've learned to always make sure i call before i run out to use a coupon at a place i've never been.


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