Author: Kristen De Deyn Kirk
Today's kids still love playing outside for hours, but they're pretty savvy: They know how much there is to do in Hampton Roads, and after a few weeks of vacation, they'll start saying, "I'm bored," and you'll want to offer special outings, but ones that'll keep your budget intact. Here are a few ideas for entertaining two kids for under $20 to get you started - and hopefully, keep you going for weeks:
D'art Center Some museums and art centers can be intimidating for kids, with their low-light rooms and hovering security guards. Children can come away feeling as if art is inaccessible, but not at d'art, downtown Norfolk's artist-in-action center. Dozens of artists both display work and create new beauty in their open studios, and you and your kids can watch them, maybe ask questions and be inspired to try your own efforts - all for free. Make the experience extra special by researching the artists first at http://www.d-artcenter.org/meet_the_artists.html, thinking of things to ask, and using your $20 to purchase paper and pencils so you can sketch your own art.
Norfolk Botanical Garden Flowers, ponds, meandering walkways, a tram ride, perfect access to planes taking off, and maybe best of all, a mini-water park? It'll be worth it to go just a bit over budget at this beautiful garden. With the online coupon (http://www.norfolkbotanicalgarden.org/plan-your-visit/tickets-and-tours/...), you and two kiddies can visit for $23. A better deal yet: Plan to go every few weeks this summer, and purchase the family membership (up to 6 people!) for $85. There's definitely enough there for six visits in a year (especially if you and your children love to take pictures of nature), and you'll be ahead of the game financially.
Chesapeake Planetarium The planetarium near City Hall welcomes school kids and the general public throughout the year to learn about the world above us, its history and its current-day changes. On Thursday nights, learn from area experts, view movies and sometimes see the night sky starting at 8 p.m. This summer's program will include the constellations of the season and some of the mythology related to the stars. Learn how to locate and identify parts of the sky with small telescopes and binoculars and so much more. Call 547-0153 for complete details, a schedule, and reservations. The price: Free, free, free. If you'd like to spend your money, there's a Dairy Queen right around the corner that's open late.
Saturday Summer Street Fest Series Head to Queensway in Hampton any Saturday night until Sept. 1 from 6 to 11 p.m. and the whole family can have fun for free. Adults will enjoy live music and the kids can have fun with face painting, inflatable bouncers and other fun activities from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Use your funds for a lemonade or two for the kids and an adult beverage for yourself - or just save it for another day's activities! Planners are helping you with your budget, too, by offering free rides on the BID bus between Peninsula Town Center and Downtown Hampton from 12 p.m. to 2 a.m. (Not that it's a great idea to keep the kids out that late - but you could plan a sans-kiddo evening at least one time.)
Mount Trashmore The name will make you giggle, and yes, there is some trash in Virginia Beach's highest natural point, but the kids will love this "mountain" just the same. They'll spend a ton of time running up and down it, and you can join them or just watch from the top as they wear themselves out! Walk the 1.4 mile trail, play on the playground, skateboard or fish, too, and you can spend your $20 on food, a kite and sunscreen. Learn more at http://www.virginia.org/Listings/OutdoorsAndSports/MountTrashmorePark.
Virginia Beach Amusement Park Think old-fashioned fun, by the beach, on the cheap. At 15th Street and Atlantic, you can enjoy your favorite fair rides every day this summer from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. (keep those late nights for special occasions!). The park has rides for all ages, and some are just a few dollars each. Discount tickets are available at Holiday Dept. Stores on 12th, 20th, 29th and Atlantic Ave. and at Harris Teeter on 28th and Arctic Ave. Phone 422-2307 for information.
Regent Reads Regent University embraces the theme "Everyday Heroes" with books, movies, readings and discussions in the school's main library, all free of charge. The summer-long event kicks off with Everyday Heroes from Judaism, July 12 and continues with Everyday Heroes from Latin America on July 19, Everyday Heroes from Africa on July 26, and Everyday Heroes from the Middle East and Asia on August 2. All activities taken place from 10 to 11:30 a.m. See www.regent.edu/events/regent_reads/
Cinema CafÃ© The sweltering heat of summer is great - at first. But by mid-summer, you're often looking for a break from the heat and something to take your mind off it. Cinema CafÃ© offers reduced-price movies at some locations (the most expensive at Greenbrier Mall is just $3.99) and the most comfortable seats, plus an extensive menu of meals so that Mom can get a break from making lunch or dinner.
Northwest River Park Head to Chesapeake for in-the-shade kayaking, canoeing or paddle boating in a small, calm lake (it leads to the much bigger river but isn't attached to it) and you'll stay well within your budget. Kayak and canoe rentals are just $6 an hour and paddle boats $5 for a half hour. Bring a picnic lunch; enjoy it after your time on the water, and then head over for a round of mini-golf for $2 a game. You can also walk the trails and play on several playgrounds, all for free. See http://www.cityofchesapeake.net/Government/City-Departments/Departments/...?
Free Bowling Kids in Newport News and Hampton can bowl free every day this summer - and even play two games each day. It's safe, fun and cool, and even if the ball goes in the gutter over and over again, you still have a good time laughing at yourself and each other. You'll need bowling shoes, but they're usually under $3 for rentals and that'll leave you with lots of money left over for a bite to eat. Details at www.kidsbowlfree.com.
Source: Tidewater Parent Magazine