Got more time than money? No problem. You and your family can do so many fun things without spending money—next weekend or any time of the year. Consider these ideas to help get some plans in motion.
Not exactly a sporting event, geocaching (pronounced GEE-ō-cashing) is an outdoor treasure-hunting game in which participants of all ages use a handheld GPS or a GPS-enabled cell phone to hide and seek containers (caches). A typical cache is a small waterproof container concealing a logbook or “treasure,” usually toys or trinkets of little value.
More than 750,000 geocaches are registered on various websites devoted to this wholesome pastime. If you have a handheld GPS or a GPS-enabled cell phone, or you can borrow one, you’re ready to go. Go to Geocaching.com and read “Geocaching 101.” You’ll need to register to download the Geocaching app—and it’s all free. Once you’re ready, type in your zip code and start exploring!
Many websites are dedicated to beginning geocaching and family geocaching, so you may want to do additional research to get up and geocaching right away. You can even get a free printable notebook.
Visit a museum
Many museums throughout the U.S. offer free admission on special days or weekends, such as the California Science Center, home to Space Shuttle Endeavor. Admission to the Science Center’s permanent exhibition galleries is free (excluding IMAX and Special Exhibits). Check before you go as you may need reservations.
Both Chicago Children’s Museum and The Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, Calif., offer free admission on the first Sunday of every month. Contact the museums in your area to learn about their free admission days. Or pull up your favorite search engine (Google, DuckDuckGo, Bing, etc.) and type in “free museums.” You’ll discover free hours at museums near you.
Take in a local event
Most cities have free summer concerts, picnics, and festivals, so check around. Visit the websites of local colleges, churches, and your local chamber of commerce. Google the name of your city plus “tourist,” and prepare to be surprised by events and attractions you’d either forgotten about or didn’t know existed. Support your community and have a ball at the same time.
Every city, large and small across the nation, offers free attractions. Search “free attractions” to see what’s waiting where you live. Checking the Seattle area, you’ll find that Discovery Park offers breathtaking views of both the Cascade and the Olympic Mountain ranges, plus hiking trails and picnic areas. And admission is free. Keep in mind that things often change, so verify before you go.
Take a factory tour
It’s fun to see how things are made—especially when the tour concludes with free samples. Go to FactoryToursUSA.com to peruse 564 different tours, many of them free. You’re bound to find a tour of interest where you live or will be visiting. In the Denver area, Hammonds Candies is one of the best free factory tours in the world, according to a couple of boys I know and love who would go there every Fun Friday if they could.
You could spend a day at the library organizing periodicals or doing other tasks continually left undone for lack of personnel. Or get free room and board when you volunteer internationally. Want to visit one of America’s beautiful national parks but can’t quite come up with more than just the gasoline to get there? Volunteer your time and in many locations, you’ll be rewarded with free room and board. All the details here.
Other ideas that may pique your interest: Visit a women’s shelter or hospital (find out if the pediatric ward could use a storyteller). Call your church to discover projects just waiting for someone to help out. The possibilities are endless once you catch the vision.
Continue your education
Attend free lectures at local colleges or your alma mater. Check websites for details. Or search for video lectures online to learn in the comfort of your own home. A good place to start is MIT Open Courseware, where you can take college courses for free, albeit for no credit, without registering or taking exams.
Catch up with friends
Have a webcam on your computer? You’ll love Skype. Download the program at Skype.com and you can video chat with anyone who also has the program anywhere for free. No webcam? Make free long-distance Skype-to-Skype calls.
Attend a home-improvement clinic
Home Depot offers free in-store classes for teens and adults and free Workshops for Kids. Learn how to tile a floor, hang drywall, and paint. Watch the little ones build a birdhouse or other crafty things. Go to HomeDepot.com and input your zip code to discover what’s happening in the HD store near you.
Not to be outdone, Lowe’s Workshops are back and better than ever—now featuring in-store events, live streams, and on-demand content, all free for you.
Play games online
At AddictingGames.com you’ll find thousands of games—action, sports, puzzle and board, and more. Test your dexterity with Sketch a Match, do a jigsaw puzzle with Daily Jigsaw or relive your old Tetris days with a similar version called Phit. Find more at FreeArcade.com. You can even find a free MMO (massively multiplayer online) game at MapleStory.com that enables players to cooperate and compete over an Internet connection. If you’re unfamiliar, your kids will know about the MMO thing.