The cost of gas and food this summer will price many families out of a typical go-away-for-a-week vacation. But you can still enjoy a variety of activities while on a staycation. In fact, you may discover your family actually prefers the opportunity to simply be at home with a light agenda rather than racing from new place to new place every day.
From your base at home, you can search out inexpensive and memorable fun for your family. Here are some ideas for having a good time without breaking the bank. With this list of ideas in hand, you can plan a fun staycation that incorporates many free and almost free activities.
Start With A Local Map
To get started, look at a map of your home area. Look in various directions and see where you haven’t taken the time to go. Maybe you always head in a certain direction toward a particular destination area in your state. What if instead of heading south, for example, you head north? What opportunities have you been missing nearby?
Can you identify some small towns or destinations that you’ve often discussed, but never taken the time to explore? That might be where to start.
Almost Always Free Events
Keep in mind there are places that are almost always free. Not only do these places offer free admission, they often also host free events. These will include:
- State Capitol Buildings
- Farmer’s Markets
- Public Parks
- Public Beaches
- Public Libraries
- Public Town-Sponsored Activities
Donations Only Attractions
There are numerous attractions, especially smaller historical ones, that are free to the public and operate on a donations-only basis. These are a good opportunity to learn something new while perhaps donating just a few dollars. See if your state has a list of smaller attractions on its website. Ask around and see what others have done.
Hint: You might be more apt to find these gems on a printed copy of your state map.
Many churches offer free concerts that include an optional offering for the musicians. These can include organ concerts, choirs, traveling singing groups, and instrumental ensembles.
Some churches offer tours if the building is particularly noteworthy or has impressive architectural features such as stained glass windows. Even if the church doesn’t offer a formal tour, many will probably be more than happy to provide a short personal tour and share about the history of their church building.
Colleges and Universities
Places of higher education frequently offer free events. These can include concerts, speakers, travelogues, and theater performances. Many campuses have tours that include important historical locations, buildings, etc. See if there are some new-to-you colleges and universities nearby that offer free opportunities or free printed materials that allow you to do a do-it-yourself walking tour.
Coffee houses can be an excellent source of free music. This can be especially fun if you can find coffeehouses that offer a particular type of music that might be new to your family.
If you have a membership at a garden, zoo, or other venue, you may discover that your membership entitles you to free admission at many other similar attractions. Sometimes the reciprocal membership is limited to one admission and other organizations may allow two or an entire family. See what is available near your home. Always be sure to call ahead and find out the exact benefits.
We already know restaurants offer special days like “Kids Eat Free on Tuesdays”. Likewise, many attractions also offer non-publicized free days. For example, city museums may be free to city residents on a particular day of the week (often Monday). Or they may offer a special promotion with free admission on a certain day to increase awareness of their venue. If there is someplace you haven’t taken the time to visit, call and see what kinds of special discounts they offer.
Local Publications and People
Start looking around for local magazines, especially the free ones offered in coffee shops and similar places. Stop and look at the public bulletin boards when you are at the grocery store. They are an excellent source of information regarding current happenings.
Fellow locals are also a great source of information. Don’t be shy about asking a waitress or the coffee shop barista about what might be going on. Most people are more than happy to direct others to the gems in their area.
Whatever you choose to do, enjoy your family and have a great staycation!