Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Affordable Summer Events In Your Neighborhood

I don't know about you but with summer in full swing and school out of session I seem to enjoy checking out the local free events and cost-effective activities in my neighborhood more and more with an opportunity to experience so much fun especially with my daughter for little to no money.
 You may be surprised at what and how many events are going on in your own home town this summer that are many times free to participate in or have a reasonable cost for entrance that are really neat to check out.  
Because many families travel during the summer months and kids are in camp businesses sometimes experience a decline in attendance and therefore try to build in promotions to drive traffic and crowds.
What is especially great is that a lot of these activities cater to parents who work full-time and who may not be able to participate in day time events.  For example, some towns conduct local fairs and carnivals, big and small, that take place on nights and weekends and include rides for the kids where you can purchase tickets per ride or pay one price for a wrist band for unlimited rides. 
We have been to a couple of parking lot carnivals already this summer, all on a whim, deciding pretty much at the last minute to check them out.  I especially like that you don't have to commit to anything in advance. Depending on your mood and that of your children along with the weather forecast are all factors in whether participation in an event is going to be worth it.
The best part of summer is that for families who are on a tight budget and don't necessarily have memberships to places they would like to visit, local museums and zoos many times provide reduced rates in the late afternoon and/or evening hours to lure in people, especially with the hope of making them possible future members. You are never committed to anything in these instances. No contracts have to be signed.  
This is an excellent way to learn about the offerings in your neighborhood without the sometimes costly membership fees, and just looking for something inexpensive to do this summer without any commitments.
Local museums, for example, such as the Garden State Discovery Museum in South New Jersey host lots of summer evening hour activities including an initiative called $5 after 5pm, where non-members can benefit from the 1/2 price discount to participate.  The museum also instituted a new program this year that includes a 9-week free concert series called Groovin' & Grubbin', which takes place every Wednesday through July and August. Attendees are also able to enjoy popular local food trucks with various menus that are a fraction of the cost of going out to dinner, and another option for a fun night out and way to experience local fare.
Recently, I was offered the opportunity to check out this museum, and received a stipend of up to $50 to use towards the food trucks. We got to try food from Philadelphia's Mary's Mobile Diner, a family run business with mother Mary and daughter Rebecca on site to attend to customers.  We also had the fortunate pleasure of some sweets from Lil Trents Treats, based in Camden, NJ. Other vendors included J-Dogs: The Original Carnival Theme Caterers, the museum's premier food supplier.

According to Jordan Blau, Director of Marketing for the museum, "we are help encourage new visitors and members."
Kelly Lyons, the veteran Museum Director said, "Food trucks are hot right now. So is dinner and a show...we are serving the needs of the community." By combining these two approaches gives families a chance to enjoy these activities together.

David and his son Ethan, playing
hockey with Sarah
While on site I spoke with a dad David and his son Ethan (11 years old) pictured left. They enjoy the $5 for 5 option as they can decide last minute to attend and can come for a short visit and get a lot out of it as the weekdays are much less crowded than the weekends.

Many parks around the country also have free concerts where local bands play and community vendors of all different types can generate exposure and new client interest. All of this sounds like a win/win to me.  Not only can we find some great things to do with our families not far from home but we are also doing so with our neighbors and supporting the local community.

Have fun exploring this summer without having to get on the highway or driving miles and paying for extra gas to get to a fun, cool destination.

Happy Summer!

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