Finding fun activities for the entire family can get expensive. Heading to the movies, going out to eat, or taking the crew to the local theme park can have costs adding up in a hurry. And the more kids you add to the event, the higher costs can go.
With another child on the way, our family is getting better and better at finding things to do together that are not only fun and enjoyable for all involved, but that that help stretch our family's entertainment budget. Here are a few of our favorite fun and free spots.
I love a good walk by the river or through the local forest preserve. Such trips make for nice getaways - especially for us urban dwellers - and best of all, they're free! We have several great spots including a nearby river park (complete with dam and beach area), several parks and forest preserves, as well as an old grist mill, again with a dam and an actual functioning mill.
Feeding the Ducks/Geese
At that same old mill area I just mentioned, there are often a good gathering of ducks and geese. Therefore, rather than throw out our old bread, crackers, and similar food stuffs that water fowl typically enjoy - since we don't have the opportunity to compost such food in the condo in which we live - we've instead learned to use such items for family entertainment and avoid wasting them in the process. By taking such leftovers to the nearby park area of the old grist mill, we get to enjoy a free and fun family activity, while getting outdoors and seeing some wildlife as well.
Heading out to the zoo isn't exactly free since we have to purchase annual guest passes for the family at about $100 total, but once we have our passes, each trip out doesn't cost us a dime. Buying the annual passes actually works out quite well since the gate price for our family (plus parking) would total $100 for just two trips, so anything after the first two trips makes the annual pass worthwhile.
We are also allowed to take food, drinks and similar treats inside the zoo with us for a nice picnic, while enjoying the animals, various exhibits and events that take place there.
Train Station/Train Yard
This might seem an odd addition to my list of fun free spots, but for a father of a five-year-old boy, who definitely loves his trains, it can make for the perfect way to get some free entertainment. Whether it's watching the express commuter trains roar by the local train station, seeing the passengers climb aboard an outbound Amtrak or heading down to the train yard to watch the freight trains rumble past, we don't have to ride the rails for my son to get a real kick out of watching the train traffic. He loves it when the engineers toot the whistle at him and give him a wave, and I would be hard pressed to find many more pay-to-participate activities he takes more enjoyment in.
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