Keeping the family entertained can cost a fortune! To the rescue: FIRST discovered the best ways to have a good time for a whole lot less.
1. Check out a visitor's center.
"Visit your Convention & Visitor's Bureau website for free or low-cost fun. At Visit Nebraska, I found several free art shows and concerts. I also learned about viewing a crane migration that only occurs in the spring, when more than 500,000 cranes stop off for a rest on the Platte River on their way up north. While some places charge $35 or more per person to view the birds, the website directed me to the Rowe Sanctuary, which costs $15 per person. I saved $80 taking my family to see it!" — Peggy Kaster, grandmother of three from Kearney, Nebraska.
2. Hit the college circuit.
"Many local colleges and universities have natural history or art museums that are open to the public and don't charge an admission fee. It's also a good idea to what plays, student concerts, or other events you can attend for free or a small fee. Just check out the college's website for details." — David Bakke, money-saving expert at Money Crashers.
3. "Like" to find deep discounts.
"If there's a local attraction you frequent, like the bowling alley or a trampoline park, follow their Facebook and Twitter pages, where many such places often post notices about free events, promotions, and giveaways. By becoming a fan or following them, you will be among the first to hear about discounted passes, 'buy one, get one free' days, and even free admission, so it's worth a few clicks." — David Bakke
4. Score special deals for being a local.
"Many recreation centers, museums, zoos, and more offer discounted or free admission to locals, but only on certain days of the week. You just have to call and ask, or check out their website to see which days are free. For example, the Art Institute of Chicago offers free admission to Illinois residents every Thursday night, and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science offers locals one free day each month." — Andrea Woroch, money-saving expert
5. Gather a group for cheaper tickets.
"If you're going to an amusement park, sporting event, or any venue that accommodates large groups, they almost always have a group discount, which can be 20 percent or more off the retail price for 10 or more tickets. It's not that hard to find 9 people to join you. Simply ask friends or family if they're interested, or post on your social media accounts. And you can usually get a group discount on food, too — just ask when you call to make the group reservation." — Marie Taylor, mother of four from Portland, Oregon.
6. See sporting events and shows for free.
"Volunteer to help out at college and professional sporting events. Sure, you miss the first part of the game when you're taking tickets or showing people to their eats, but the second half is the best part, and you can enjoy the game for free. Also, many cities have programs where you can be an usher for plays, concerts, or other events. Once you're done ushering, you can sit wherever there is an empty seat for free. To find out about these opportunities, contact the venue and ask about volunteering." — Erik Folgate, money-saving expert at Money Crashers.
7. Find no-cost fun while you shop.
"Check your local stores for free stuff to do. Our supermarket offers discounts to attractions (including movie theaters) at the customer service counter, and a lot of stores offer free classes: My local Hy-Vee has jazz nights in their café where they offer free wine tastings and small bites like cheese and crackers. Many stores at the mall also offer fun classes to get you in the door, like weekly story time at Barnes & Noble, where we just attended a Harry Potter event filled with fun activities and crafts. Sporting-goods stores also participate: Bass Pro Shops offer sponsored events featuring free demonstrations on everything from fishing to bull riding to campfire cooking." — Cathy Jones, mother of one from Oakdale, Minnesota.
8. Enjoy museums from afar.
"Why not 'tour' a museum from home? Several throughout the world offer virtual tours. You can see almost all the museum has to offer from your computer or TV — and it's absolutely free. You can choose from the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C., the Boston Children's Museum, even the Sistine Chapel in Rome." — Ruth Soukup, founder of Living Well, Spending Less.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.