Museum Day 2008, and Other Frugal Activities for the Weekend

Photo courtesy of hoyasmeg

Fall is my favorite time of the year.  The summer heat is finally breaking, replaced by crisp days with a cool breeze and a crystal blue sky.  Backyard grills are busy cooking up tailgating meals on Saturday afternoons as friends and families gather to take in a college football game.  The milder temperatures make for a great time to be frugal because there are so many cheap activities to be enjoyed outside of the house.  I’ve included a few of them below, along with a very special frugal activity to mark Museum Day.

  • Visit a museum, for free!   Hundreds of museums across the country are celebrating Museum Day 2008 by offering free admission this Saturday, September 27th.  Museums offer a great frugal entertainment option.  We may visit a nearby arts and sciences museum where they have an area dedicated to children’s activities.  Check out this link to find a participating museum near you.
  • Plan a picnic.  With the weather finally cooling off around the country it is a great time to plan a picnic at your favorite spot.  Pack up a few homemade sandwiches, some bottled water, and your favorite fruits to enjoy a meal in the great outdoors.  Don’t forget to pack a blanket to sit on, and a frisbee, a kite, or maybe even a football for some post-meal entertainment.
  • Go for a bike ride, as a family.  Me and the kids all have our own bike, but my wife does not currently own one.  We would like to change that in the near future, but for now we may have to settle with renting her a bike at a park with a bike trail.  For just a few dollars you can rent a cruising bike all day and explore the trails and the park together as a family.  Don’t forget your helmets, Dads!  Remember, your kids will think they are cool only if you wear them (note, this is only applicable through the preteen years–after that, nothing you do is cool!).
  • Host a “Field Day” at home.  One of my kids’ favorite days of the school year is Field Day.  I remember enjoying events like the 100-yard dash and the softball toss.  Why not recreate some of those events at home?  Have a family relay race–kids against parents, or boys against girls.  Find some old potato sacks and have a sack race, or stop by a dollar store and pick up a few hula hoops for a hula hoop contest.
  • “Old school” game night.  Today’s kids do not know how to entertain themselves.  Without the help of a video game, a television, or a parent, most kids would be bored out of their minds.  Teach them some “old school” games and compete against them.  Start out with some classics like Simon Says, or Red Light/Green Light.  Then teach them a little Hide and Seek and Freeze Tag.  I remember playing games like these for hours in neighbor’s yards, and even inside on rainy days.

Spending a lot of money is not a requirement for having a lot of fun.  The two most important ingredients for family fun are creativity and togetherness.  As long as we can think up fun stuff to do together we can avoid expensive entertainment such as movies, arcades and amusement parks (which are a lot of fun, too, but in small doses).  Have a great frugal weekend!


  1. I think that even parents discount the entertainment value of today’s museums.
    They are certainly educational, but they really “upped the ante” as far as entertainment value is concerned – at least since I was a kid.

  2. Great ideas!

    But I’m thrilled about the notice about Museum Day for myself. There are several museums here in NYC that I’ve been meaning to visit, and to have the opportunity to do so for free is a great thing. Thanks, FrugalDad!

  3. If it’s warm out… the biggest treat of all used to be to walk to the community park and have Mom or Dad push us on the swings. If we were out with Dad, we never knew exactly what was going to happen, except that it would be fun, somewhat dangerous, and generally the sort of thing where we felt like we’d gotten away with something afterwards. I don’t know if this is a characteristic of all dads, or just mine.

    Until we were ten or eleven, my dad used to do the “under-duck”, which involved pushing one of us on the swing so high he followed through by running and ducking under the swing. That was impressive for a man six and a half feet tall. Sometimes the swing would go so high, my head would be above the crossbar where the swing was attached. If a parent wasn’t around, you could always under-duck a younger sibling or cousin, and in a pinch any adult would do, but somehow Dad’s under-ducks were the most satisfying because they sent you higher than anyone else’s.

    We also used to do the “launch” in which we let go of the swing at its topmost point, and went flying off, at which point it would be another kid’s turn on the swing. We often talked about combining a launch and an under-duck, but at the decision moment we always deemed it too dangerous.

    There were a lot of other fun things we did with my dad. Until we were about five years old, the “airplane” involved having your sleeve and pantleg grabbed, and being spun around and around, face down, with your arm out straight so you could pretend to be a jet plane. Centrifugal force would spin you out to about waist height. For the under-five set, walking or pretending to take a nap on the ceiling was always an option, but you need a very tall dad for that because somehow it’s not as much fun if he has to stand on a chair. Walking on the ceiling was something my dad came up with as an alternative to the re-enactment of the Dr. Seuss classic book “Hop On Pop”. Sometimes a small child is just itching to be tipped upside down, tickled, or otherwise scared spitless for a few seconds by an adult. Probably it builds trust.

    Later on, of course, there were experiments involving a magneto, some black powder, pieces of old engines, wooden swords, electronics components, Ninja throwing stars made out of discarded circular saw blades, and all other kinds of violent entertainment. Many things were blown up or set on fire, and we got to play with matches, gasoline, and various other chemicals in a (relatively) supervised way. We’d also go walking in the woods, or learn important things like how to tell direction or time by the position of the sun. Most of that didn’t cost anything, either, although the 35 mph go-cart, BB guns, and refurbished stunt motorcycles probably did. There weren’t any major accidents during this time and nobody got (badly) shot, burned, or blown up. So my kid brother and I grew up to be well rounded individuals and I (despite the handicap of being female) went on to earn a reasonably good living as an engineer.

    Somehow, if we’d grown up without a dad, our upbringing would have been… wussy. Mom’s a great lady but there’s no substitute for the airplane or the under-duck.

  4. My kids — twin girls — absolutely adore doing stuff with their dad — hiking in the woods looking for deer sheds (I have a whole collection on my mantle) — fishing — nothing better than having rainbow trout you caught yourself. Berry picking, all that stuff. None of this costs anything, and even saves us some cash by providing good exercise and sometimes dinner. In summer we bike alot — in the winter it is cross-country skiing. They always come home with an adventure story to tell.

  5. It might be tame but my little grandkids enjoy picking their own salad stuff from my garden, then getting to wash it themselves, and then to make their own salads. They are anxious to try new stuff, like ‘dinosaur kale’ and colorful nasturtium and chrysanthemum petals. I think they just like being in charge and getting to do it themselves.

    Our town is small enough that we do walking tours – ending up at the museum on free Saturdays – the first Sat. of every month 🙂

    And they love to play hopscotch and jumprope.
    Or walk to the school and play on the playground equipment without all the school crowd there.

    After dark, and during the winter, they are introduced to numerous card games – they’ve been playing since they were about 2, sitting in someone’s lap, but ‘getting’ to play the cards. And board games are a big hit – especially Chutes and Ladders, memory games, dominoes (kid’s version), checkers, and that game with the beans that I can never remember the name of, but they can! And let’s not forget Mr.Potato Head and Cooties!

    We also bake together, do the cookie decorations which they get to take home, and they pick out the menu on their stay overs and get to do the cooking (supervised, of course)I think they just love the personal attention! What are grammi’s for, after all!

  6. PS – I’m going to remember the “Field Days” for the next time I have all 8 of the grandkids together – that should be fun! Thanks for the memories!

  7. Awesome day today. We visited beautiful Bok Gardens in Lake Wales Fl and had a wonderfu day. The weather in FL is finely getting enjoyable and not so hot. 🙂
    Thanks for the tip!