Friday, July 15, 2011

Summer Fun That Doesn't Break the Bank

Today's post comes from Julie in West Des Moines, Iowa. Julia has been blogging since 2007 about multiple topics from Homeschooling ( to crafts, geocaching and nature ( and frugality (

A friend once told me that even if treasures abound locally, people tend to think that the grass is always greener on the other side – as in, the other side of the city boundary. Things might look more impressive and attractive if you sacrifice time and money to get out of town, but with the price of gas getting higher every day, I’m finding local stuff more attractive by the minute.

The great outdoors. For do-it-yourselfers, geocaching, letterboxing, camping, nature study in your back yard, and hikes are relatively easy picks for summer fun. For families desiring something more formal or needing direction, many nature programs are available through city parks and rec, county conservation boards, Izaak Walton leagues, Meetup groups, and your state DNR. You can also take the family watch athletic events in the community -- maybe to learn about sports you’re unfamiliar with such as cricket or rugby.

Caption: Exploring a local park can be free, easy, and eye-opening.

Free manufacturing tours. What’s the local industry where you live? Here in the Heartland where I live, there’s a lot of agriculture and food. Over the years, I’ve arranged for my family to tour a frozen noodle plant, a water treatment plant, an organic farm, a dairy, a pizzeria, and an earthworm farm.

Caption: Visiting local attractions is usually free and can bring the out-of-the-ordinary to life.

Government buildings. Great architecture and observing “community helpers” can be interesting and educational. The courthouse, capitol building, police station, fire station, public works department, etc. might make good field trips. My family has also visited a national wildlife refuge, a national grassland, and many government-owned parks for no admission charge.

Caption: Programming at nature centers can add a new frugal dimension to family entertainment.

Local historical societies. If your family has older kids, this can be pleasant, eye-opening, and educational. These groups usually have short museum hours and are run by volunteers. County museums in my neighboring county are large and free of charge.

This is Part 1 of a 2 part series. Head over to for Part 2.


  1. Great reminders. We recently decided to have a "staycation" this year and save South Dakota for the spring when things are a little less hectic. We'll be using some of your ideas I'm sure.

  2. Hi Sara, I tried emailing you through your contact form, but couldn't get it to work. We will be driving through Iowa soon and were looking for something to do to break up the drive and get out of the car for a couple of hours. This post gave me the idea to ask you! We are looking at either Des Moines or the Quad City area. Thanks!