Answers to Last Week’s Suprise Contest!

Last week I had a surprise contest where I asked you to email your answers to this question:

What are some good ideas for inexpensive or free family OUTINGS (not things to do at home) with younger children?

Here are all the wonderful ideas you submitted. At the end I will announce my top three picks and the winner! You know what I am going to do with this list? Print if off and keep it inside our glove compartment so we always have a list of places to go. Thank you so much, guys!

1. Go “hunting” for a different object (e.g., sticks, cats, pinecones, etc.). Use the things from nature to use in art projects later at home.

2. Try letterboxing. This is an outdoor hobby that combines elements of orienteering, art and puzzle solving. Letterboxers hide small, weatherproof boxes in publicly-accessible places (like parks) and distribute clues to finding the box in printed catalogs, on one of several websites, or by word of mouth. Individual letterboxes usually contain a notebook and a rubber stamp. Finders make an imprint of the letterbox’s stamp, either on their personal notebook or on a postcard, and leave an impression of their personal stamp on the letterbox’s “visitors’ book” or “logbook” — as proof of having found the box and letting subsequent letterboxers see who have visited. Many letterboxers keep careful track of their “find coun.”

3. Grab some snacks or lunch and head to the local train depot/station and sit and enjoy lunch while watching trains.

4. Park next to the local airport and watch the airplanes land, sit on a blanket and wait for the huge airplanes to come flying overhead. Great fun for the kids to run around outside at the park and get their energy out while waiting! I’ve never seen so many “big kids” (i.e., dads or men) who love this too!

5. Pack swimsuits or an extra change of clothes and bring the kids to a park or area with fountains or water that spurt out of the ground and let them run through the water.

6. Visit free museums, planetarium, arboretum, history museums. If you are lucky, in some states you can get FREE passes from your local library. Back in Massachusetts they did this but sadly not here in Utah. Some museums have certain days of the month that are free or discounted.

7. Figure out how to set off bottle rockets (kids can decorate or help build a ton of them ahead of time), make a potato gun, etc. and then go out into the middle of nowhere and set them off. Build a bonfire, bring hobo dinners or kebobs, and have a day making lots of noise when there is nobody around.

8. Cook a bunch of hot dogs and go on a quick “hot dog” picnic. Meet Dad at work so he can have a fun break during his day outside!

9. Have a fun BBQ at the park and let the kids help make Camp Peach Cobbler in a dutch oven. Here’s the recipe:

* 1 box yellow or white cake mix
* 1 lg can of peaches
* 1 stick of butter, cut into pats
* Cinnamon or apple pie spice


1. Open cake mix and pour into dutch oven.
2. Open can of peaches and pour over cake mix.
3. Put pats of butter over peaches and sprinkle with cinnamon.
4. Place on hot level coals for 45 minutes or in the oven for 40 to 45 minutes.

10. Go turtle hunting on a warm, summer afternoon. Go for a drive in the country and head for beautiful lake area. In the afternoon, the turtles tend to sun themselves on the road. Our kids LOVE watching out the windows and getting to be the one to “spot” a turtle.

11. Try geocaching–think hiking meets “treasure hunt.”  Basically you start out with coordinates to something hidden and use a handheld GPS to find the hidden stuff.  There’s more info on  It’s REALLY fun and can be really educational – some are just fun but some give info about the area and little “history or science lessons.”

12. Check out the events happening at your local library.

13. Do something active like laser tag, bowling, ice or roller skating.

14. Spend a morning or afternoon blueberry picking and then came home and make yummy scones.

15. Explore local farms and take tours (we log onto and call them up asking if they’ll give us a tour!) and learn about different ways of life.

16. Visit your local spray park.

17. Do a scavenger hunt and then take them ANYWHERE, including the mall, to find the things on their list.  Of course, they can’t TAKE the things, but they can try and find them.

18. Take your girls to the prom section and let them try on dresses or other fashions and take photos.  And, while you’re at it, you could let them stop at the makeup counter for a “makeover” depending on how old they are.

19. Head to a local park and let them run in the fountains.

20. Try to match the colors I put on a sheet for him to the colors he sees in nature.

21. Have fun with sidewalk chalk.

22. Finger paint with pudding.

23. Take a nice long walk.

24. Make movies! Write a script and go places and have your kids act it out. Chop up the video when you get home and finish your movie starring your family!

25. Host a lemonade stand.

26. Attend or put on a puppet show.

27. Go to the movies.

28. Visit a flea market. There are some great things you could get there and the kids will learn the process of a sale.

29. Go to an arts and crafts studio and have the kids make something nice for themselves or for friends/family.

30. Have the kids put on their rain boots and go down to the creek. Find some shiny, pretty rocks, dry them off and then paint them for presents for the ones they love.

31. Go bowling! Check out this site to see where your kids can bowl for free or for a discount during the summer!

32. Take a free class and do activities at the YMCA.

33. Visit your National Parks

34. Take part in a summer reading program.

35. Go to the mall for a scavenger hunt. This requires some preparation as you go in advance to scope it out and have a paper with the items to find. What kind of toys are displayed in a toy store?  Can she find the tie with Mickey Mouse in the tie store? Can she find the Dora slippers in Payless Shoes? After the child finds the item she can draw a smiley face on the paper next to the question. You could split up: Mom take a child, Dad take the other child, and meet back at the food court to get an ice cream or at the mall playground.

36. Hold scavenger hunts. You can do them any time and in any weather, even at night. Help the children compile a list of things to find. With young children it is good to form teams, Dad on one team and Mom on the other. Each team gets a list (use pictures if you want) of things to find. Whichever team is the first to see the item, they get the point and the other team has to still find the item. For extra hard things to find give extra points. You can sing songs while you look.

37. Do a Bubble Freeze: Make sure there’s room in your freezer. Get the kids to blow bubbles on a paper plate and then, before the bubbles pop, put them in the freezer and you’ll all be amazed at how “cool” they come out.

Local (Utah) Ideas

1. Regal Cinema: They have some rated G and PG movies for free on Tuesday and Wednesday. That could be a fun and very cheap outing with the kids!

2. Sweet Candy Company in SLC, You need reservations but it is FREE and you get to taste yummy candy fresh off the line.  It is the best factory tour I have been on; you get to walk right on the candy floor. You also get to leave with free bags of taffy!

3. Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake City: Water features, rides (or they did a while ago), and paddle boats. We would always take our roller skates there and go around and around the park. It is beautiful relaxing, and if you don’t feel like relaxing you could always roll down the ginorm hill they have there!

4. Liberty Park: Play in the little stream going through the park, have fun at the mini amusement park they have and pack a picnic and go to the bird zoo!

5. Clark Planetarium, Great Salt Lake Shorelands bird refuge, Hill Aerospace museum

6. Wheeler Farm: Check out the animals and feed the ducks.

7. Bounce houses like Kangaroo Zoo

8. Free tours at the Peppermint Place (reviews); buy some candy at the end!

9. The Monte L. Bean Life Museum: Fun, free and indoors!

10. Click on the link “Community Calander.” Make sure you enter in the zip code and how far you want to travel and bing bing bing you get a list of events for that day. This is a way for people to get public service announcments over the radio.

Ready for my TOP THREE PICKS? And out of those, the one listed first is the winner!!!

1. A “Noise Day”: I picked this because honestly, my girls would flip to go somewhere in the middle of nowhere and be allowed to make AS MUCH NOISE AS THEY WOULD LIKE! Figure out how to set off bottle rockets (and they can decorate or help build a ton of them ahead of time), make a potato gun, etc. and then go out into the middle of nowhere and set them off. Build a bonfire, bring hobo dinners or kebobs, and have a day making lots of noise when there is nobody around.

2. This is a local idea, but guys I have to tell you I have been using the site since it was emailed to me to see what is going on in the WHOLE STATE (Utah) on one site. It puts all the info on the site for you so you don’t have to jump from site to site. I am in love; check it out!

3. Watching the planes land or trains arriving (both ideas from the same person).

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