Summer Fun (for Free!)

It’s Summertime!  It’s a time of long and hot days, of pools and swimming, of barbecues and ice cream, and of being free for a few short weeks until school starts up again.  As a kid, I remember spending my days at my grandmother’s house, helping out with her garden and playing with her German Shepherds, and of going to the pool and the parks with my friends, and of celebrating the 4th of July and the National Basque Festival with my family. When I was a kid, summer seemed to go on forever!

As a parent, especially a SAHM, summer now seems like a bill-collector that won’t go away, no matter how much money you toss its way.  There are water park admission fees, vacations and family reunion travel expenses, event packages, and the list goes on.  It’s tough to want to do anything when the price of everything goes up all the time!  But there’s good news: some events can cost little to nothing to do.

In our house, we created a summer bucket list of 10 activities to do with our son.  Some of the events-like “visit the zoo” or “family reunion at Davis Lake” may cost us money, but several tasks cost us almost nothing to do, and they are almost more fun than some of the paid events.  Here’s what our list looks like:

  1. Visit the Rancho San Rafael Park and the Wilbur May Arboretum done
  2. Visit the Zoo  done, twice
  3. Go on a picnic (now a weekly occurrence)
  4. Go to Artown.
  5. Check out Hot August Nights.
  6. Go to Lake Tahoe/Heavenly Village.
  7. Go to the Farmer’s Market.  done
  8. Go to the library (now a weekly occurrence)
  9. Go to Apple Hill (moved to the Fall).
  10. Family Reunion at Davis Lake.  coming up
  11. Visit the Nevada Museum of Art.
  12. Visit the Automobile Museum.
  13. Visit Virginia City/Take the V&T Train.
  14. Go to the park.  (now a weekly occurrence with picnics)
  15. Go swimming.  done, three times

As you can see, some of the events will cost money because of their purpose-such as the V&T train in Virginia City, Nevada, which travels between the city and Truckee, California. But others cost us nothing at all, like the parks, the library, and swimming (we live in an apartment at the moment).  Other events may cost very little money, if any at all, such as Artown (a local event that celebrates local artists), Hot August Nights (an annual event with classic cars), the Farmer’s Market, and Lake Tahoe/Heavenly Village.  This is partly because we did our research together beforehand.

We live in Reno, Nevada, and our “biggest little city” has tons of free events all summer long that most people don’t know about (not to mention our proximity to many tourist towns and sites like Virginia City, the state capital of Carson City, Lake Tahoe and its surrounding towns, the rich community of Genoa, and Pyramid Lake).  But my husband and I met years ago through our previous employer–Enterprise Rent a Car–and we regularly referred to the local events website, Reno Tahoe USA, in order to let customers know of our local events in case they were looking for something to do or to let tourists know of events in the area.

Even though we both have left our previous employer and no longer need to check on local events, we still refer to the calendar of local events for our own personal reasons because they list all kinds of events going on year round.  For example, my husband and I have been wanting to do the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival together for years (I attended The Taming of the Shrew event during my college days, but he has never been before), and the website has links to the event, as well as the dates on which it runs, listed on its site.

Also, we have done our research and have looked into the various places around our area for prices in order to budget for our weekend trips.  As such, we have discovered that on the second Saturday of every month, our local museum (the Nevada Museum of Art) has free admission for all.  Our local zoo, the Sierra Safari Zoo, has a couple’s pass that costs $40 per year (an adult ticket is $10 per visit, per person) and since children under 2 are free, we opted to purchase the pass and saved us potentially $20 or more.  While it may seem like a waste of money to purchase such a package (the zoo is run by a local volunteer organization), we have already made our money’s worth in visits and have plans to go at least a couple more times.

As can be seen by our list of summertime activities, a couple of our events are now weekly occurrences, such as our library visits and picnics.  At least once a week, I take our son to see my husband for lunch and we have a picnic in a nearby park, typically on days that my husband works the longest hours.  Since he works so long and spends very little time with our son on these days, we do these picnics to get some quality family time in an otherwise busy day.  And we get to enjoy the outdoors a little more by having these weekly picnics, taking advantage of the warmer weather before Fall and Winter arrive.

So, dear readers, I encourage you to check out your local events calendars, which is usually compiled by your local visitor’s center, your local tourist center, or your local city site.  You can find out about special events, tourist destinations, and nearby events from these calendars, as well as ticketing information and prices.  Let me know what family events are going on in your area or what you do with your kids for free summer fun!

Until next time,




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