Today’s Guest Post is from Amy Blevins who shares about fun summer activities to make memories with your family.
One day a few summers ago, my sister took our family on a hike within a nature preserve in my old hometown. We walked among beautiful trees, watched a Great Blue Heron skim the surface of a lake, climbed a challenging trail and found ourselves standing on the bank of beautiful, bright blue water looking across a lake at the surrounding forest. It was beautiful, but also surprising to me.
Growing up, I used to think my hometown was the most boring place on earth. If you have never seen a Great Blue Heron fish, let me tell you that is the farthest thing from boring! I just needed a change of perspective.
Opportunities for adventure are all around us. If you stay home day after day wishing you had money for a vacation escape, you will miss the opportunity to make fantastic memories with your children right in your hometown and home state.
Local and inexpensive or free treasures exist almost everywhere. You just need to know where to look. I would like to share with you some resources and activities you may not have considered when looking for a way to make memories with your family.
Ask the community college recruiting office or student activities office. When I was in college we had wonderful lists of things to do in the local area. They wanted to keep us cheerfully occupied and out of trouble.
Ask the realtors! It is a realtor’s job to know about the attractions available in the area. They’ve already done the work for you! I have had realtors give me envelopes full of discount coupons for local fun. A good realtor will be happy to share information.
Ask your minister. When we first moved to California a minister handed me a hand-drawn map of our town with 27 things to do with kids labeled clearly. Ministers usually love the town where they serve and that brings a certain level of awareness. Vacation Bible Schools are almost always free and may not be the only big family-friendly event happening at the churches in your area.
Ask the County Extension Office. According to the website for the Cooperative Extension System (in the United States), these offices are staffed by one or more experts who provide useful, practical, and research-based information to agricultural producers, small business owners, youth, consumers, and others in rural areas and communities of all sizes. The county extension office will be able to tell you how to best enjoy your local parks and will know about local hidden treasures.
Ask your neighbors! Find people with children the same age as yours and ask them what they do for fun. Some of our favorite playgrounds and hikes we would never have discovered without the help of our friends.
A quick internet search revealed national parks in Germany, England, France, Africa, Japan, and China to name a few. Twenty-seven of the United States have National Parks and 37 states have Nature Reserves. All 50 states have State Parks and local parks.
National and State parks often have free Junior Ranger programs for your children, free ranger presentations for children and adults, guided walks, self-guided tours, hiking trails, horse trails, driving trails with places to park and observe unique wildlife, picnic areas, even observation decks and lookout stations.
Local parks often have a free concert series, fishing ponds or lakes, amphitheater, playgrounds, hiking trails and nature centers. These parks often charge an entrance fee, but the fees are usually minimal and may be waived during certain times of the year. That Great Blue Heron I mentioned earlier – we were in a local nature preserve run by the county.
Invite other families into your home and celebrate the added freedom of summer vacation. This doesn’t have to be a one-time summer shindig.
I’ve known one family who built a fire in the fire pit every Friday night and invited the whole neighborhood to bring food and hang out.
You can keep this really low-key and still make memories that will last a lifetime. Not to mention you will connect with people and really build friendships.
In every community exists the opportunity to volunteer. You can help clean up roads and parks, feed the hungry, visit the elderly in the nursing home or senior center, help teach at vacation bible school or church camp, organize a clothing or food drive, read books to children in the hospital or mission, help elderly people care for their homes, or change the oil for single mothers. All of these ideas are ways you can spend time together as a family and have lots of fun while serving others.
I am convinced your family can have a fantastic summer without ever leaving your hometown or home state.
We once were friends with a family whose children wanted to swim and fish on a restricted lake near their home. You were not allowed to swim or fish in that lake unless you lived on the lake or had a boat. They took an old leaky wooden boat from a trash heap, patched it up with scraps, painted it and made it lake-worthy, and then spent the entire summer fishing and swimming out on the lake. They were able to have a full summer of fun for the cost of a fishing license ($20).
You can have fun in your hometown! It’s all about perspective.
Amy Blevins lives with her wonderful husband and six beautiful children in Southern California and enjoys hiking, reading, homeschooling and blogging about all of those things. You can find her blog at Bow of Bronze.