Since she could stand, our daughter Eve has loved those large inflatable games, known as “bouncy things” in our house. All summer long we keep our eyes out for places she can bounce, and with a little planning have found plenty of free opportunities.
So many that once at an arts and crafts fest, where the fee was $1 per minute of bounce time, we passed despite our daughter’s pleas. We knew she’d get another chance soon enough.
My family’s frugal ways have led us to a lot of free summertime entertainment all around Fargo-Moorhead. Sure, you can enjoyably wile away summer days not spending a cent at neighborhood playgrounds and on long walks. But by knowing what free events happen when and where, it’s possible to do more this summer for a lot less.
You can count on the local public libraries and park districts to provide plenty of entertainment options throughout the summer.
Check out Fargo’s Community Block Parties, 5:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays through June 19 and July 10-31 at different city parks. Each event features karaoke, craft projects, face painting, free food and – yes – inflatable games.
The Fargo Park District also offers free community play dates at Rheault Farm on June 7, July 12 and Aug. 16. Its weekly art-centered Park It! events are free, too.
Moorhead has RiverArts at Memorial Park including a free outdoor concert, horse-drawn carriage rides, and games and activities for kids. RiverArts events are scheduled for 5:30 to 8 p.m. June 12 and 26, July 10 and 31, and Aug. 14. Each one also features an activity like pony rides (July 31), a fishing clinic (July 10), tae kwon do demonstrations (June 26), and – yes – inflatable games (June 12).
Admission to West Fargo’s Veterans Memorial Pool, which typically opens mid-June, is free for all. Moorhead’s municipal pool has free admission 2 to 4 p.m. June 21 for Summer Splash. Fargo’s five outdoor pools each take a turn offering free admission, hot dogs and pop for a day in mid-July during Pepsi Appreciation Days.
The libraries have free movies, crafts, story times and special visitors all season long, not to mention summer reading programs.
Even a day at the fair can be done frugally, if you time it right. The Red River Valley Fair in West Fargo, slated for July 10-15, offers free admission at the main gates from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays. Once in, you can check out the Zerebko Petting Zoo, Welde Big Bear Show, Swampmaster Gator Show, baby chicks hatching at the Ag Education Center, 4-H and other animal exhibits, a roving magician, strolling fairy-themed enchanted wagon, and other entertainment – all for free. To keep it cheap, you may need to skip the tempting fair foods and put a limit on midway rides. Look for food and vendor coupons on the fair’s website (www.redrivervalleyfair.com). All-day ride passes are discounted to $25 at local Stop-and-Go stores.
Any free event may hold temptations to spend in the form of vendors or gift shops. To avoid these costs, try to eat at home before going, or set a spending limit and bring only that much cash with you. Empower older kids to earn the money they want to spend this summer.
Here are more of my family’s favorite free events:
- College SAVE Zoo Day, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. today, Red River Zoo, Fargo. Free zoo admission, animal encounters and drawings for prizes, including $529 for college savings. There’s also free admission 3 to 7 p.m. June 7 for Safety Safari.
- Share a Story, 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 9, Rheault Farm, south Fargo. There’s face painting, music, snacks, storytelling, and appearances by every toddler’s idol, Elmo.
- Midwest KidFest, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. June 15, Island Park, downtown Fargo. Endless activity booths, a petting zoo, main stage entertainment by Penny and Pals at noon and 5 p.m., plus the Teddy Bear Parade at 10:30 a.m.
- Streets Alive!, noon to 5 p.m. July 15 and Aug. 26, downtown Fargo and Moorhead streets. Three miles of streets are closed to motorized traffic to make way for human movement. Along the route you’ll find activities like hula hooping, yoga and Zumba, interactive exhibits and demonstrations. West Fargo holds its own mini version Aug. 21.
As you can see, we’re looking forward to a summer filled with free fun, and plenty of bouncing.
Check out these websites for listings of family-friendly activities, many free: