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Spend Less, Explore More

fun things to do with kids near me

Making the most of life’s in-between moments

fun things to do with kids near me

I’m already dreaming of warmer weather—Punxsutawney Phil promised me it’s coming. That means more time on the road with our kids, enjoying life. While I would love to pack up the car and head to the airport, being a one-income family means life often interferes with our dreams of traveling abroad.

Accepting this reality can be tough at first but, I’ll admit, a family staycation has its appeal. The maid service is MIA and we have to cook our own meals, but we get to sleep in our own bed every night and we never have trouble staying busy. Over the years I have discovered that, with a little planning and imagination, the entire family can stay entertained all summer long without breaking the bank.

Cheap is good, free is better

No one in my family likes to sit idle. In a perfect world, we would spend the entire summer backpacking across Europe. But as a stay-at-home mom, I’m all too aware of the extravagant costs associated with long-distance travel — transportation, lodging, meals, entertainment, paying someone to care for our fur-babies.

Does that mean we never go on vacation? Of course not! But my plans to win the lottery don’t appear to be panning out. That means we have to find other ways to get out and explore, in between those bigger family adventures.

Every spring the kids help me create a summer bucket list, filled with fun day trips to nearby attractions—typically no more than a couple of hours from home. Turning the planning phase into a hands-on activity gets them excited but, more important, it gives them a say in where we go and what we do.

fun things to do with kids near me
The Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, CT

There’s always a cost whether it’s transportation or food, but we try to offset the cost of every road trip with an activity that offers free admission. These opportunities abound in every state, you just have to know where to look:

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  • Our local library is a great resource, hosting free events all summer long for families with young children. And most libraries offer free and discounted passes to dozens of local museums.
fun things to do with kids near me
Enjoying the Brimfield Antiques Show
  • Speaking of museums, many of them participate in Free Fun Fridays here in Massachusetts, offering one free admission day during the summer to increase access to enrichment opportunities. You can hit one, or several, new museums every week!
  • Hiking is almost always free, or you might consider taking advantage of the many discounts offered through the National Parks Service. An annual pass is only $80—a small price to pay for an entire year filled with new experiences (if you’re a military family there’s no cost at all).
  • Beaches are a no brainer. We try to visit at least one or two new destinations each year and have found recreation.gov to be a great resource. If there’s water and sand, count us in! Plus, we can get into many of these parks for free with our National Parks Pass.
  • Flea markets never go out of style. Hunting for treasure at the Brimfield Antiques Show has become an annual tradition for us. We could wander for hours without spending a dime, but I’ll be honest—giving the kids $10 each to find the “perfect” treasure is way more fun.

Break from the glow

We LOVE to travel. Sometimes we splurge on that resort vacation, but we never sit around waiting for the next big trip. Those little moments in between are every bit as important—maybe more so. A few hours spent with my family doing something new is enough to scratch the itch, and these moments force us all to break from the glow of screens, staying active and engaged with each other. After all, isn’t that what travel is really about?

So my advice to you—spend less and explore more, because there is no greater gift you can give your children than an appreciation for life and the people in it.

fun things to do with kids near me

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