The opportunities to participate with free, summer activities has certainly improved since my kids were little. About the only summer program available in the 80’s and 90’s in my area was the summer reading program held by our local library. By accumulating reading points, my children were able to earn various coupons for different food vendors in the area. We all appreciated the yummy rewards for simply reading a lot of books.
Today, communities have a lot more to offer in the way of free, family entertainment. This is due to all the grant money available for designing and carrying out worthwhile programs that meet their lifestyle goals. There is still the tried and true summer reading program, but our city also offers free family movies and free family concerts in several parks throughout our community. These activities are also offered at our local outdoor shopping center, Victoria Gardens. I like how there is so much variety close to home so that there are ample opportunities to participate no matter what your summer schedule looks like. While these venues are loaded with young families, they are also a great alternative for cost-saving conscious, people-watching empty-nester types.
A fabulous free option that I discovered just this summer is offered by Bank of America called Museums on Us. This program enables the cardholder of a Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit card to get in FREE, on the first full weekend of each month, to a whole host of museums all over the country. All you have to do is show your card and a picture I.D. and wa-la, the museum gives you a free ticket to enter their doors. Pretty neat value for something you might very well be keeping in your wallet.
I tried this perk for the first time the first weekend in August. I just happened to be babysitting my grandson in San Diego while my daughter attended the Blogher11 Conference. Now, my grandson is just a little over a year old, but he is a smart little guy who appreciates a good cultural experience. He has already been to several museums in his new Seattle home. However, while he is exceptionally bright, his attention span is that of a one year old: very short. So, no matter how interesting and enlightening a museum might be, visits don’t last very long. All the more reason why a free ticket was appealing. I didn’t feel pressured to “get my money’s worth” when I knew that my ticket cost me nothing.
We had several museums to pick from in the San Diego area for that weekend. I finally decided on the Birch Aquarium at Scripps in La Jolla. I had never been to the University of San Diego campus before which made this choice even more appealing. I love visiting college campuses when I am on vacation. I so enjoy seeing firsthand their heritage, school spirit, and learning environment, not to mention their football stadiums.
As soon as we walked into the museum, my grandson went nuts at the gigantic sardine aquarium in the lobby. He could barely contain himself until I could release him from his stroller. From there, it was one giant aquarium after another in quick succession for our viewing pleasure. Jack loved nosing up to the huge windows and pointing out all the various types of sea creatures. We also saw a seahorse exhibit and played in the tide pools. The view to the ocean below was breathtaking. We spent some time in the energy exhibit, a hands-on look at how various types of energy is produced. Of course, Jack found the water energy table the most fun. He loved splashing around and changing the path of the moving water. We ended our visit eating a snack and crawling around the fountains at the entrance. All in all, a most enjoyable grandmother/ grandson activity for about two hours of free fun and learning.
There are tons of free possibilities to spend the lazy days of summer. What have you discovered?