I still remember my surprise and delight. "We're going where?"
My mother laughed, "We're going to Burns for Dinner. The Pineroom."
Now, this statement would not have been so surprising had Burns, Oregon not been about 125 miles away. The food was delicious and the drive was lovely. But the most precious memory was the way my parents surprised me with unexpected time spent together.
A gift that doesn't take batteries
Family days are a gift we give to our children. No matter why we do it, because they are fun, or educational or even because we are looking to break up the routine a bit, your children will remember the happy togetherness. As a homeschooling mom I try to plan a family day with husband included at least once a month. The children and I go on field trips far more often.
Family days can be as simple as a trip to a park or as elaborate as a weekend at a bird festival but, most fall somewhere in between. For many of us stay at home moms one of the concerns we have when planning an activity is economical. Family days don't have to be expensive. Some of the most rewarding field trips we've had were absolutely free. The trick is know where and when to look.
One of the best places to find information about economical and unusual family activities is your local library. Not only do they often offer their own classes and workshops but they generally have a bulletin board where you can glean more information. My children and I found a clipping on the board once and ended up spending the afternoon with an African story teller and musician absolutely free.
Tripping through the seasons
Seasonal field trips are wonderful, heralding a new beginning. In the winter we head to the mountains to play in the snow, finishing with butterhorns and hot chocolate, a delicious tradition.
The first new buds in spring tell us it is time for trips to the tulip farms. Most areas have some type of gardens to explore, no matter what the climate. A good place to check for information on public gardens is at your local nursery. If they don't know of any they can put you in touch with a nearby gardening club and believe me they will know!
Summer is a good time to contact your district's parks and recreation or fish and wild life offices. Both places often have free kid's activity days. A local fish hatchery puts on children's fishing days and our parks and rec. has a bike fair every year.
Autumn is one of our favorite times of the year. Produce farms often go out of their way to cater to families, augmenting their income with fall decorations, pumpkin patches, hay mazes and more. Generally, your local county exstention office will publish a list of farms offering services or will know where to direct you for more information.
More sources for family day ideas
Historical societies are another good place to look for family friendly activities. Many put on annual events offering discounts for several different museums in a single day. You drive to each museum and the price often includes a coupon for lunch at a local restaurant.
The foremost experts on interesting places and things to do in your state would be a regional magazine. The price of the subscription is well worth it, considering the wealth of information it contains. I promise you will use it frequently. Some wonderful family days originated from our local regional magazine.
It has been years since my parents took me to Burns for dinner, but I tell the story to my kids often, generally when my husband and I have conspired to whisk them off to an unusual and exciting destination. I only hope that they will remember them with as much fondness and warmth as I remember that night drive across the desert so long ago.
Teri Brown is a freelance writer and the homeschooling mother of two. Her book, Christian Unschooling: growing your child in the freedom of Christ, is now available.