Four Free Entertainment Tips for Families

Sometimes cheaper is better; check out these free, fun entertainment ideas for frugal families.

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The Boomerater™ Report, our weekly collaboration with online baby boomer resource Boomerater, this week explores totally free, fun things to do with your family.  “A couple of weeks ago you had ideas for no or low cost entertainment for singles," a member asks. "I’d like to learn suggestions for free entertainment for families on a tight budget. Our family plays board games and cards and we go to area parks, but would like to try some different free activities out of the house. My daughter is 13 and my nephew is 8.” Here are some Boomerater replies:

[See Grandparents Looking for Disney Discounts.]

Oh, Go Fly a Kite!. My grandfather and I made kites out of newspapers and balsa wood with tails made from torn cloth strips. Now, my son Brandon will give up TV and video games to spend time with me building and flying homemade kites. But times have changed. We make kites, some pretty elaborate, from patterns on the Internet, which Brandon is excited to find for us. We have discovered free instructions on the Web. Two great sites are How to Make and Fly Kites and My Best Kite. We build the kites together and he decorates them so his kites stand out from the rest. We fly them on the beach without interference from trees or wires. I’m proud I could introduce him to an activity that is powered only by his imagination and his ability to run fast enough to get his kite into the air. The engineering aspects of the hobby and the value of his seeing a project through from start to completion are other pluses. But the real joy is seeing him go wild when the kite he made himself is flying high in the sky. Maybe someday Brandon will show his son or grandson how to make kites and tell them about how we had this much fun without spending a penny. Will there still be pennies then?

Free Movies. Find out if your cable system offers a rewards card. In my town if you sign up for cable, phone and Internet through the same service you get a card that gets you free passes to see new movies at certain theaters every Tuesday. The card also gets you discounts at all other showings. This has been a great way for my wife and me to see movies free—saving us nearly $20 a pop. [See Tips for Finding Low or No-Cost Entertainment.]

Go Fish. Fishing is my choice for inexpensive outdoor entertainment the whole family can enjoy. My wife, sons and grandchildren often join me to fly fish for trout in the beautiful streams of Vermont, and fish for bass in our crystal clear lakes. The cost is minimal. A license is only $20 for the year, and it's free for young kids. Sometimes, your catch pays for dinner. I’ve met fishing buddies and other fishing families through local bait shops and activities listed on Take Me Fishing. This summer my wife and I drove up to Canada with two other couples for a week of salmon fishing. We rented a cabin together, so the price was reasonable. We fished every morning and afternoon and played cards most every night. We've already planned our trip for next year.

No Cost Cruises. New York City offers lots of cool free things to do. But my favorite is a free "cruise" on the Staten Island Ferry. Yes, it's absolutely free! My granddaughter Emily and I take the 30-minute trip from Staten Island to see amazing views of the Statue of Liberty, lower Manhattan and New Jersey. We've never had to wait more than 30 minutes for a ferry. Air conditioning and heating make for a comfortable ride inside, but go out on the deck for the best views. There is an inexpensive snack bar, but the "cruise" is really free if you pack a lunch. We call it our special Hudson River Picnic. We've made it a breakfast cruise when dawn is breaking and a dinner cruise in the early evening when the lights of the statue and Manhattan are breathtaking. She has a whole album of pictures from our trips—memories she will always have of our special times together.

Read other member ideas for fun, free family entertainment or add your own. Boomerater is an online resource for baby boomers, with local directories to help you find everything from an Atlanta financial advisor to Texas assisted living. The site also contains forums where boomers can post questions and swap first-hand experiences. If there are questions on your mind that you would like answered by other people who have faced similar situations, or you have advice of your own to share, go to Boomerater.com and participate in the forums. Say that The Best Life sent you.