Frugal Winter Fun

Are finances a bit tight after the holidays? If you’re looking for cheap ways to keep the kids from getting cabin fever over the long winter weeks ahead, here’s a list of fun activities that will keep kids entertained without breaking your budget.

Attend a Winter Festival
Many don’t charge admission and offer free outdoor activities and concerts (even in the chilly months of winter). Some carnivals will ask you to pay a small nominal fee for additional food and activities in which you participate such as face paining, wagon rides, or pony rides. Scout out the larger attractions who may be offering reduced admission rates during winter festivals.

Go Skating
Many arenas offer family or public skating times for a reasonable price -- and offer rentals for those who don't have their own equipment handy. To keep costs even lower, look for outdoor rinks at parks, schoolyards or neighborhood rinks. Free skating is available at City Hall, Mel Lastman Square, or at the Natrel Rink at Harbourfront. Rentals are also available at a nominal cost for those who don't have their own equipment.

Head for the Hills
Tobogganing a cheap and fun way to spend the day with the kids. Scout out your favourite hill.

Visit your Local Park or Conservation Authority
Check their websites to find local trails that are ideal for winter hikes. They will also keep you informed about special events and programs. Explore the trails: many local parks and conservation areas maintain winter trails for hiking, skiing, or snowshoeing, and you can even rent equipment for the day if you don't have your own. These activities don't require much instruction or lengthy lessons to enjoy, and they afford some sightseeing and photo opportunities. Pack a lunch and thermoses with hot chocolate. Find out if you can sign up for a winter bird watching tour and bring your binoculars. See lots of interesting birds in the winter like chickadees, cardinals, and snowy owls. It's a great chance to learn about the nature while staying active outside.

Visit a Museum or Gallery
Watch for special promotions such as family discount days, and free or reduced admission times. Some children's museums even offer free days for grandparents and group rates for families. Many museums, historic sites, and libraries offer low-cost or free children's activities. Activities aren't just for the little ones -- many places offer tween and teen activities such as crafts and workshops. Parents and grandparents can often tag along for free. A word of warning: many of these activities require pre-registration and spots fill up quickly.

Check out your Local Library
For a frugal way to beat the cold, go to your local library. Admission is free and libraries offer hours of perusing your favourite books and magazines. And you can take books, videos, CDs, or DVDs home with you at no cost. Most libraries now offer low-cost or free children's activities or educational workshops, as well as story-time for toddlers. Find out when these are posted and register as soon as you can as these sessions fill up rapidly.

Spend a Day at the Recreation Centre
Check out your local recreation centre for some inexpensive (even free) activities. Your city website will post admission rates and activities. Find out which pools are open for free family swims, which arenas have free family-skating days, and where to find the indoor walking tracks.

Winter activities don't need to be expensive. And with the right planning, it doesn’t have to be a long boring winter.

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