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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Super Awesome Things To Do With Your Kids This Summer

Even though I think a little boredom is healthy and helps foster creativity and independence, I'm always looking for fun activities to occupy my time together with the littles. I want them to be self-sufficient, but I also don't want to be driven round the bend more than two or three times per day because they are squabbling over some inane toy that neither of them really cares about, just because they don't have anything else to do.

So last weekend we spent a very enjoyable several hours at the Bass Pro Shops, practicing archery,

shooting the laser rifles at the target range,

watching the giant fish in the pond, and marveling at the taxidermy.

What? You've never marveled at taxidermy? Then you've never been to a place with a giant bear at the entranceway,

badgers hanging out atop clothing racks, and enormous bucks, deer, fox, ducks, and who knows what else, arranged in a huge waterfall scenario. (If you think I'm exaggerating, watch the slideshow here. You will be amazed and horrified all at the same time.)

Admittedly, it's not a store for the faint of heart. There was a point at which Husband noted with a wry smile that we looked like "the poster family for the NRA," which, if you knew us, would make you howl with laughter.

I'm pretty sure that point was right after this photo was taken:

Want to know the best part? This was all free. That's right, all the fake shootin' you can handle is at your fingertips, if you can stomach the hundreds of antlers suspended from the archway over the entrance, and the sign that tells you that all rifles and cross-bows must be checked before you proceed into the store (and they aren't kidding either; there's actually a staffed gate you have to walk through; these hunters don't mess around with safety).

If imagining yourself cozied up with a laser rifle isn't your idea of a fun Saturday afternoon, I don't know what is. But just in case it isn't, may I suggest another fun free activity we recently discovered?


There's a great program called, conveniently, Kids Bowl Free that gives kids under 18 two free games per day every day all summer long. One game of bowling is ten frames times two balls per frame = twenty throws of a very heavy ball if you are three years old = one very happy mama with tired children at the end of the day. Two games would probably take my two kids nearly two hours to complete, if they ever had enough energy to do that much bowling at a stretch. I still had to pay for shoe rental (discounted from the regular rates), and our local alley limits the free-game coupon use to noon-midnight on the weekends and noon-6pm on weekdays. Those aren't exactly very restrictive hours.

Want to know the best part? You too can have this for your nearly-free entertainment. All you have to do is sign up, and they email you coupons on Sunday to print out for the week. Couldn't be easier. There are participating alleys in multiple cities in 41 states. Check here to see if an alley near you is participating.

How did I find out about these fabulous activities involved giant moose heads and heavy balls? Through my all-time favorite site for kid activities: Go City Kids. This site, through some miracle of interneticity, compiles activities for hundreds of metro areas, big and small, across the country. If you live in Michigan, for example, everything gets listed from weekly story times at Border's Bookstore to the Detroit Jazz Walk to the Target sponsored book festival (which is a completely free carnival with a bouncy house and rock-climbing wall at a giant local park). Entries contain links to the theater, festival schedule, or venue website. Listings tell you about special exhibits at museums and all the places that it might occur to you to take your children, but they also give you all sorts of great ideas for things you never knew existed. If you live in New York or some other more cosmopolitan place, I'm guessing there's not a whole lot of Family Summer Camp at the Bass Pros Shops to wade through before you get to the cool independent art gallery kids days or the free lunchtime concerts in the park. (But if you live in Michigan, you get to choose! Lunchtime concerts or Hunter Safety Classes, take your pick!)

So, if you're starting to feel the burn of the long long days of summer stretching out in front of you, take a gander at Go City Kids. I swear it will become your new favorite one-stop shop online for fun activities.

To be clear: No one at any of these places even knows I exist, let alone approached me to write a post. I just know that the level of whining over "what can we do today?" plummeted dramatically after I discovered Go City Kids, so I thought I'd spread the word. Not all activities listed there are free, but I have yet to hear about a gallery, theater, book reading, street festival, store craft project, or any other fun thing to do with the kids that was NOT listed there.

Happy Summer Exploring!


TeacherMommy said...

I very much need to check that one out! Hey, you live in Ann Arbor--have you been to the Hands On Kids Museum there? So awesome. And their family membership is actually worth it. I'll be visiting Ann Arbor far more than I usually do. Maybe even this Friday, if the weather continues to be crappy for outdoorsy sorts of things.

Danielle said...

I just looked up the site. It is awesome. Thanks so much for that.

calicobebop said...

We have a Bass Pro Shop and anytime my parents visit we make the trip. My daughter LOVES the huge fish tank and I like daydreaming about a fancy tent. Ah, to camp in style!

Audubon Ron said...

Why no pics of Mommy Martini?

Ree said...

Now I want to borrow kids to go have fun with.

Mr Lady said...

Goddamn it, you're awesome.

BusyDad said...

I LOVE Bass Pro Shops!!! It is my favorite store. And Fury loves it as well. He is ready for his own fishing equipment and I am so excited to go with him to get it. BPS has a special place in my heart. My second post ever was about BPS.

Daisy said...

Bass Pro is fun, hunters or non-hunters. My animal-loving children enjoyed the one in Springfield, MO as well as the wildlife museum next door. Bowling? I made my teen get the free bowling card. He didn't fuss!

Jaina said...

What a neat site! I'm definitely bookmarking that for future use. Sounds like you've found yourself a gem. :)


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