I am always on the lookout for fun places to visit and play that won’t drain my wallet. Last time, I provided a list of free venues for your small children. But since free isn’t always an option, here’s a list of low-cost places that I’ve found in or near my neighborhood.
Gymnastics facilities. Where were these places when I was a kid? They have foam pits to dive into and trampolines to jump on, and when they open their facilities for toddler play times they also set up more age-appropriate equipment for your bouncing baby boys and girls. These are great places not only to hold birthdayparties, but also to take your little ones for open gym times. The gym near me has what they call “Little Tykes Time.” For $5 a kid, you get an hour of free play for children in kindergarten or younger. There are also open gym times for older kids.
Indoor amusement/play centers. I really don’t know how else to describe these places, but here are a couple of examples: Monkey Bizness/Little Monkey Bizness and Jump!Zone Party Play Centers. They’re essentially indoor playgrounds for small children to safely jump around, climb, bounce and more. Prices vary by location, but adults are free. Let me tell you how much I love these play centers: A Little Monkey Bizness that was located five minutes from me closed due to the landlord not wanting to renew the lease. I was devastated! I even emailed my city’s economic development committee to see if they could lure the franchise owner to our city (at the time, they were recruiting businesses to open in a new shopping center). They said they would look into it, but that was the last I heard from them. I still miss that place.
“Train” restaurants. There are a few kid-friendly eateries by me, where the food is cheap and a train delivers your order. My eldest was about to turn three when we first took him to one of these restaurants, and he was thrilled. I’ve heard of train restaurants before I had kids, but had never visited one until last summer. Now I am always on the hunt for a fun, themed restaurant for kids that won’t bust my budget.
Train rides. My kids had a blast at the train restaurant, but they really had a ball riding an actual train! If there are commuter trains near you, why not purchase a round-trip ticket to the next stop or town? I don’t always have to dish out money, either. My kids also enjoy watching the trains come and go, as well as being pushed in their stroller over the bumpy train tracks—when it’s safe to cross, of course!
Zoos and nature centers. Since I live near a zoo, I’ve found that an annual membership is well worth my money ($125, in case you were wondering). Because we go there often, I also don’t feel the need to see every inch of the place during each visit—which means we can relax and just enjoy the moment. Even if you do not have a large zoo near you, you may find that there are smaller wildlife or petting zoos, or a nature center (usually located in a forest preserve), in your area. Admission prices for those smaller venues are usually pretty cheap, if not free.
Where do you go for an inexpensive yet fun time with your toddler? Let me know!