Running a social media account where I showcase fun activities, programs, and kid-friendly eateries around Richmond has allowed me to connect with so many caregivers (and even with my RFM team!). I love being able to share ideas and personal feedback in a helpful way, but a recent message I received really got me thinking.
A mom wrote to me, and asked for some ideas of things to do with her kids this summer. She said her husband had lost his job, and funds were limited, but she hoped that she could still give her children a fun summer. She shared that she was feeling down and discouraged as she saw so many social media photos of her friends’ families going on cruises and traveling internationally. My heart was so heavy for her!
While kids are expensive (diapers, day care, camps, college tuition…), spending time with them, exploring your town, and making memories together doesn’t have to be. Sure, for this Mom going to Disney is out of the question for this summer, but having fun experiences as a family doesn’t require much money.
While I love adventuring with my children, we have a budget to follow. It’s taken time, but I’ve learned many tricks to save money while still providing my children enriching experiences, without being “rich.”
Tips for saving money while adventuring with your family:
Look at what’s already around you – libraries, schools, public parks – these places are free and accessible for you to use. The first plays my daughter saw were at our local high school. No – it was not a Broadway production, but she loved the show, and she got to hang with the cast afterward, getting autographs, and learning about how the sets were built.
During school breaks, we use the tracks, tennis courts, and playgrounds of local schools at no cost.
Libraries are full of high-quality programming. From Baby Story Time to LEGO Club, I encourage caregivers to check out their local library’s event calendar monthly and register for programs of interest for their children. The new Midlothian Public Library recently reopened and has a large children’s section and three outdoor areas!
While purchasing a family membership can be expensive, keep in mind that many museums have reciprocity with others. For example, my family has a Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden membership. Because of that, we were able to visit Norfolk Botanical Garden – an expansive garden with a splash pad,sand pit, and more! – for free.
State and National Parks for Free
You can visit Virginia State Parks for free by checking out a Nature Backpack at your local library. This saves you the parking fee, and includes several items to help you explore: Bird Identification Book, binoculars, bug catcher, etc.
There are several National Parks in Virginia, and you can visit those for free, as well. The first way is if you have a 4th grader, register that child for the Every Kid Outdoors Program. Your child will receive a voucher for free parking at all National Parks.
A second way to visit National Parks for free is to visit on one of the free entrance days. For 2024, those days are:
- January 15: Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
- April 20: First day of National Park Week
- June 19: Juneteenth National Independence Day
- August 4: Anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act
- September 28: National Public Lands Day
- November 11: Veterans Day
Free Admission Museums and Sites
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts offers free admission daily. We love to do a scavenger hunt and finish with a treat from Best Cafe on the first floor of the museum.
Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site is free to visit, and children can earn a Junior Ranger badge for completing activities and participating in the tour.
If your children love animals, consider heading to Maymont Park, which you can explore at no cost.
Check your Benefits
If you receive food assistance (SNAP), you are eligible for free or reduced admission to many museums through the Museums for All Program. In Richmond, there are several museums that participate in this program, including: Children’s Museum of Richmond, Science Museum of Virginia, and more. Be sure to check the venue’s website for any necessary documents to bring in advance.
Hopefully these tips will help you save money as you plan your family’s outings. If I’ve “influenced” you to do anything, I hope it’s to empower you to live within your means to create fun for your family. It might not always be “insta-worthy,” but it will be family album worthy – the ones you and your children will look at enjoy together for years to come – and isn’t that more important, anyway?
Here are some ideas from Karen to make the most of your school breaks by exploring Richmond.