Friday, May 22, 2009

Cheap Family Thrills in New England This Summer

I was having a discussion with another mom about activities for our kids over the summer. We will both be stay at home moms with limited incomes, so we need inexpensive ideas. So, I set out on search of some cheap thrills that might keep us entertained for a few months.

Drum roll please...

#1 Regal Cinemas provides 9 weeks of free movies throughout the summer. The movies play at 10am Tuesday and Wednesday at select Regal movie theaters (in NH, it's Hooksett and Newington) Check out the site for theaters near you.

#2 Kids Bowl Free offers kids 2 free games of bowling every day during the summer. (Participating centers in NH are Keene and Manchester) This can be a great deal when you have a minivan full of kids like I do. Check out their website for centers near you.

#3 Probably my most favorite summer free event in New England is L.L.Bean’s 11th Annual Summer Concert Series in Freeport, Maine. There’s music for everyone–from jazz to folk and country to zydeco. Best of all, concerts are FREE FREE FREE. I have taken my girls to see Dan Zanes here in the past and I can tell you nothing beats watching your kids shake their bootie while the sun is shining in a nice park. This year you can catch Dar Williams, Dan Zanes, The Wallflowers, Blues Traveler and many more. I would advise to arrive early since Freeport is notorious for horrendous parking accommodations and the park is fairly small. Their website has a full concert listing.

#4 If you have a Bank of America ATM, credit or check card, you can get into hundreds of museums around the country absolutely free! (It includes The Currier Museum in Manchester and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston) If you have a Bank of America card, you really should check out their website to find a museum near you.

#4 Prescott Park Arts Festival offers lots of activities from June through October. Although it is all free, there is a $5-$8 suggested donation. They have everything from Kids Fests to Food Festivals to concerts to art shows. Here's the website for more info.

#5 If you plan on going to the seacoast beaches a lot over the summer, you might want to check out the state parks website that offers discounted parking passes for the summer.

#6 Did you know that local libraries offer passes for free admission to local attractions? You check out the passes just like you would a book and return it within 3 days. Our Concord Library has passes to Christa McAuliffe Planetarium, Currier Museum of Art, Canterbury Shaker Village, Aviation History Museum of NH, The Fells and more. The library usually only has a couple of sets of passes for each venue so you want to call first thing in the morning to see if they are available and reserve them.

#7 The Currier Museum in Manchester offers 'Family Saturdays' every second Saturday of the month, 11 am – 2 pm Spend some quality family time at the Currier, participate in hands-on art activities, go on a guided family gallery walk (11:30 am), visit the new Discovery Gallery, or use a family gallery guide. Each Family Saturday will focus on a different theme. Museum admission is free from 10 am to 12 pm.

#8 The Children's Museum & Theater in Portland, Maine has a program on the first Friday night of each month from 5-8pm. Admission on First Friday night is $1 per person (members and children under age one are free). I have not visited this museum yet, but we do plan on it this summer when we make a trip to Maine to visit Acadia's namesake. If you have older children, you can participate in Portland's First Friday Art Walk, which had free admission to dozens of art establishments throughout the city from 5-8pm.

#9 I know I am a complete dork, but Apple Camp sound like a blast to me. If you have 8-12 year olds, they can spend 3 hours learning to make a movie, a slideshow or a song at a local Apple store. It's free and you can have 3 hours to do with what you'd like. Here's the website.

Target is sponsoring some free museum admissions- although in New England they only have museums in Boston, Massachusetts: The Institute of Contemporary Art- Target Free Thursday Nights Free every Thursday, 5–9 p.m. Boston Children's Museum- Target $1 Friday Nights, $1 Admission every Friday, 5–9 p.m. More info here.

You will see in my comments that my friend, Kelly, suggested Strawbery Banke in Porstmouth. So I checked out their site and they have 2 great deals: July 4th 12pm-5pm An American Celebration.
Tickets are $15 for adults. Kids 17 and under are FREE. Active military and their families are FREE. Enjoy all the festivities, parades, crafts, garden tour, food and much more. Also, on Saturday, August 1st they have Community Day at Strawbery Banke Museum. Enjoy all the museum has to offer and help fight hunger. FREE admission to the museum with the donation of a nonperishable food item, per person, to be donated to a local food bank.
FREE NATIONAL PARK DAYS: For 3 weekends over the summer, 100's of national parks are waiving entrance fees. This includes Acadia NP in Maine and many others. That could be anywhere from a $20- $40 savings!

Hopefully this will help some families get out and have some fun... and not break the bank doing it. If you have any suggestions, please let me know so I can add to this list. I will do a post later about some great adventures in nature that are cheap or free, so check back.


  1. Great ideas. I have never been to the fine arts museum, but I bet Jo would love it. I want to take Zack to the science museum too, and Tay would like the art museum. Also Strawberry Bank is not very expensive and my kids love it there.

  2. Thanks for sharing these! You always do so much research to give us ideas----much appreciated...

  3. What super great ideas!

  4. This is a great list- I am in NH as well, and always looking for fun ideas!