Sunday, August 2, 2009

Cheap Summer Fun (continued)


Free Family Films

Select Regal theaters offer a Free Family Film Festival each summer, screening PG and G-rated movies at 10 a.m. every Tuesday and Wednesday. Go to regmovies.com for a schedule. AMC runs a similar program, Summer MovieCamp, on Wednesdays, with $1 tickets; check out amctheaters.com for more details.

Regal theater offers

AMC theater offers

Happy Unbirthday Party

Do it for real: Send out invites ahead of time. Then on the day of, make a big Happy Unbirthday sign, blow up balloons, hang streamers, bake an unbirthday cake, and sing "Happy Unbirthday to You." (Since it's nobody's birthday, the guests can blow out the candles together!)

Play Ball

It doesn't have to be expensive MLB action to be entertaining; whether it's Single-, Double-, or Triple-A, minor-league matches can inspire the same enthusiastic root, root, rooting for the home team. Plus, tickets go for just $7 a pop at most stadiums, and many clubs charge even less than that for kids. (Other amenities come cheap too; the average cost of parking is less than $4 and hot dogs cost under $3.) Get a list of teams and schedules from milb.com.

More about Minor League Baseball

Play Hometown Tourists

For historic locations, local trivia, and under-the-radar spots to explore, hit up virtualtourist.com.

Find out more

Free Bowling

Hundreds of alleys across the country participate in the summerlong Kids Bowl Free program, which allows children to play two games a day on the house. To register for a pass, roll on over to kidsbowlfree.com.

Register for a pass

Toy Swap

Invite kids to come over with toys (in good condition) that they no longer want. Then, let them draw numbers to see who gets to pick a "new" toy first.

Volunteer Your Time

Volunteering teaches compassion and responsibility -- it also keeps kids busy. There's plenty little ones can do, like cleaning up a green space or collecting canned goods. Get the scoop on giving back at kidscare.org.

Look into volunteering

Visit Wildlife Refuges

Lace up your boots; pack a bottle of bug spray, lunch, and a pair of binoculars; and play naturalist for the day at one of the nation's 550 wildlife refuges -- public lands and waters set aside to conserve animals and plants. You can hike through lush forests, swim in pristine rivers and lakes, and identify hundreds of native species (including endangered ones). With more than 150 million acres to explore across the country, getting into the wild is easier than you might think; visit fws.gov/refuges to find a refuge near you.

Find a refuge close by

Culinary Classes

Little-known secret: Many grocery stores offer inexpensive culinary classes for kids ages 5 and up -- seek out your store's manager for details.

Outdoor Family Films

Every Friday and Saturday at twilight, parks across the country sponsor free outdoor family film nights. Visit your parks department Website to find screenings near you.

Story Time

Barnes & Noble, Borders, and most independent book shops, as well as libraries, host story hours for kids. Find schedules and other information at bn.com, borders.com, or by phoning your local library or bookstore.

Find schedules for Barnes & Nobles

Look up schedules for Borders

Museum Discounts

Some 120 museums across the country will admit you and your kids for free the first full weekend of every month if you flash your Bank of America debit, credit, or ATM card. Visit bankofamerica.com/museums for info. Not a cardholder? Not to worry: Many museums, big and small, offer free (or heavily discounted) admission for families one day a week. Put in a call to your local museum to inquire about dates and fees.

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