Saturday, July 30, 2011

Penny Pinching Across the United States

The Search for Penny Pinchers
Across the United States!!!!

My sister recently returned from visiting family in San Diego, CA and told me how she had wished she had known of a site such as the Family Penny Pincher for people in the southern California area while she was there on vacation.  They were looking for fun, family oriented activities that were inexpensive to keep the kids busy.
In addition, we recently found out that we will be taking a family vacation in August to Williamsburg, VA.  My husband told me that this was just a vacation to get away and not to spend a lot of money. So, I am under strict orders to find free and nearly free activities for the family while we will be away.
So, these two events gave me the idea to put together a resource page on the Family Penny Pincher blog of fellow penny pinchers who list events and activities in their state geared towards families. It is my hope to have sites for all 50 states!  
Yup, that is a big undertaking and I am asking for your help! If you know of any folks across the US who are penny pinchers with websites, please email me at with the site's URL address. I would love to put together this resource but I will need the help of my followers. 
I have started listing sites for the states beginning with the letter you know which states they are? Check out the link at the top of the page to find out!

Thanks for your help!

Best Weekend Fun Events!

So much to do this weekend! Here are just a FEW of my favorites. Make sure to check the Family Penny Pincher calendar for event details and for additional events happening this weekend

Saturday, July 30th 
  • Gloucester County 4-H and Peach Festival (Mullica Hill, NJ): Visitors can watch our equestrians lead their horses in exercises in precision, place an auction bid on a hog, lamb or goat raised by a 4-Her, watch the judging of our rabbit or goat shows, learn all about cows from dairy and beef club members, cheer for their favorite in the dog obedience class, learn how to raise a pet bird from members of the exotic bird club, slither around to the reptile club exhibit, and enjoy the hog costume contest. FREE Admission.  $10 parking/per carload (Click on link for $1 off coupon) Runs Saturday and Sunday.
  • Mercer County 4-H Fair (Howell Living History Farm, Lambertville, NJ) The fair includes 4-H animal shows and exhibits; food and homemade ice cream; hay rides; pony rides; music; farm tours and demonstrations; milking demonstrations; spinning, felting, and fiber demonstrations; egg grading demonstrations; children’s crafts and activities; and displays by the Master Gardeners of Mercer County and the Mercer County Equestrian Center. FREE Admission/FREE Parking (Please bring a canned good donation in support of Rutgers Against Hunger.  Runs Saturday and Sunday.
  • Wildwood Surf Fest (Wildwood, NJ): FREE surf lessons ~ surf vendors and artists ~ bbq and luau ~ after hours admissions to Raging Waters Waterpark ~ FREE concert featuring The Following, The Dan Brown Duo and more!
  • Cooper River Fine Arts Festival (Cooper River Park, Cherry Hill, NJ):  New Jersey's Premier Fine Arts Festival is sponsored by the Philadelphia Inquirer and will take place along the scenic Cooper River. Cooper River Park (346.55 acres) runs through Pennsauken, Cherry Hill, Collingswood and Haddon Township. Runs Saturday 10am to 6pm and Sunday 10am to 5pm.

  • Philadelphia Dance Day 2011: All dance enthusiasts–regardless of experience or even coordination–are invited to take part in this citywide celebration of dance. There will be something for everyone, from creative movement for preschoolers to absolute beginner adult ballet to hip-hop for all ages. Participants can pick and choose as many workshops as they like. All the venues are located within three miles of each other; several within walking distance. ALL FREE
  • Kids in Center City Playdate: Come to the Comcast Center for some family-friendly fun. Join Music Monkey Jungle, a live interactive musical and movement educational class for little music monkeys and their parents who love them. Don't forget to bring sturdy shoes for participation as well as a camera to capture the fun.Market merchants will offer kid-friendly treats and crafts, including fun and educational activities from the Pennsylvania Ballet. FREE from 11:30am to 1:30pm
  • ART/GAGE by Magic Gardens (South Street, Philadelphia): The 1000 block of South Street will be closed off to traffic, with the festival spilling into the streets featuring more 30 art and food vendors. From noon to 6pm.  To attend the performances within Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, the cost is $15 for an all-day pass, $10 for a day (1:00-5:30) or evening (5:30-10:00) pass. Visitors can purchase a Family Pass that accommodates two adults and up to three children for $25, or tickets for kids are $5. Click here for more information:

Sunday, July 31st
  • Franklin Square's Birthday Party (Philadelphia): Celebrate five seasons of fun at Franklin Square this Sunday, July 31, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., at a special birthday celebration. Bring the whole family to sign a giant birthday card, eat Birthday Bonanza Sundaes at SquareBurger, enjoy face painting, birthday “craftivities” and more. The first 55 children get free rides on the carousel and free sundaes!

  •  2nd Street Festival (Northern Liberties, Philadelphia): The neighborhood is closing off N. 2nd Street between Germantown and Fairmount for a (free!) supersized block party filled with six blocks of beer gardens, workshops, art, food, music and other merchandise vendors. Noon to 10pm

  Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mann Music Center: Young People's Concert Series

Young People's Concert Series
2013 Season - "Capture the Culture"
  Mon. July 8:  Cirque Zuma Zuma
Mon. July 15: The Rock School for Dance Education
Mon. July 29: Rising Stars of Tomorrow
Mon. August 5: Black Violin 

Cost/Parking: Free

"From 2011". My family and I have visited the Mann several times for many free events, but we recently went to a performance called "Global Passages" which was part of the Young People's Concert Series. The performance was an hour and 15 minutes and my 3 and 4 yr old were glued to the stage for every minute!

This annual FREE series makes "high-quality and culturally diverse performing arts programs accessible to all children in an informal atmosphere. Performances by professional and emerging artists offer our young people a chance to experience and be inspired by the talents of others their age!"

Every week for 5 weeks the Mann presents a different cultural exploration through dance and music. On July 17th, the culture of South America was explored through "Inca Son" and on July 20th "The Rock School For Dance Education" presented a new fusion of dance.

The more recent program, "Global Passages" featured the music, songs, and dance of China from the Philadelphia Chinese Opera Society, Latin America from Saboricua: The Roots of Salsa Music and Dance, and Africa with the Universal African Dance and Drum Ensemble.  

My 3 year old son was dancing to the music, while my 4 year old daughter was fascinated by all of the colorful costumes!  It really was a very exciting and entertaining performance.  Not once did my kids whine for food, the potty, or to leave! For Moms of little ones, you know that is a sign of a successful show!

The Family Penny Pincher's Experiences, Tips, and Suggestions

  • Location: I love the location of the Mann because it is so easy for this suburban Mom to get there!  I simply get off the Philadelphia Zoo exit.  Turn right at the stop sign, go through the light at the zoo and continue going straight! It is very close to the Please Touch Museum. It is also not far from the Smith Kids Play Place so this is a great place for the kids to get out their energy before or after events at the Mann and nice place for lunch or snack.
  • Parking: For free events it has been the case that Parking is free as well and there always seem to be plenty of it!  If parking is full or there is a charge, you can find parking along Parkside Ave. directly parallel to the Mann.
  • Bathrooms/Food: The bathrooms are located right inside the entrance gates to the right and concession stands sell food and water right inside the gate as well.
  • Seating: Tickets are not required for free concerts. Seating is general admission and first come, first serve. You only need to register for free concerts if you are in a group of 30 or more. If you want good seats, get there EARLY!!
  • Weather: The Mann is an outdoor venue, but the concert area is covered.  So make sure to get a seat inside the covered area not on the lawn.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Franklin Institute: Target Community Nights

FREE ADMISSION from 5pm to 8pm

Once again, my family and I visited the Franklin Institute on its Target Community Nights and took advantage of its FREE admission from 5pm to 8pm. Thanks again to the folks at Target for sponsoring this night of free access to all of the Franklin Institute's exhibits.  Just another example of how you can still visit some of the area's best museums on a budget (see previous post on The Please Touch Museum).

If our family of four were to visit the Franklin Institute museum on a regular day BASIC admission (Science Museum exhibits, live show, and one planetarium show) it would cost us $15.50 per adult and $12.00 per child ( ages 4-11). The grand total: $55.00.  That again does not include food, parking, bridge toll, gift shop and any extra special exhibits. A trip to the Franklin Institute would be totally out of budget. 

Just like I stated in the Please Touch Museum post, you cannot expect to see the entire museum in those three hours. So pick certain exhibit areas and concentrate on those areas only.  Then, the following month, pick another area of museum to explore.  Every month, when we go back, the kids find a new area to discover.

Here is a hint about the Target Community Nights: some nights will gain you access to special areas of the museum! Once, we received FREE tickets to the IMAX theater, and on another visit we were able to see the Cleopatra exhibit for FREE!!!!! So of course, on those nights we took advantage of those special offers.

The Heart
  • GET THERE EARLY!!!  Our routine is to have an early dinner and eat before the museum or have a late lunch and grab a bite to eat after the museum
  • Parking: there are parking lots and metered street parking....but we have been finding great parking (if you get there early enough) on Winter St. This past visit, we didn't get there until 6pm and had to park on 21st and Arch at a meter.  So bring quarters!!
  • Sign In/Register When you first arrive they will direct you to the Target registration area and give you your admission stickers and the pamphlet to special activities and shows.Check the pamphlet for areas where freebies are being handed out.  This past time, we got a free Krispy Kreme doughnut!
  • Target Table  Check your pamphlet for the location of the Target table because they hand out some fun freebies for the kids. It differs all the time.  Once we got crayons and a picture to color, sometimes its a craft, or this time it was goldfish crackers. 
  • Attendance Is it busy? Last summer, it was not too crowded. This past visit, it was VERY crowded.  Hot and rainy days bring bigger crowds.
  • Take a Walk On a nice day, take a walk across to Logan Circle and check out the Swann Memorial Fountain and park area.  Great place to have a snack or picnic before or after the museum!
    Swann Memorial Fountain at Logan Circle
    What are your tips for a successful trip to the Franklin Institute? Have you attended the museum on its Target Community Nights? Please share in the comments below!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Lakeshore Learning Crafts

Lakeshore Learning Free Crafts
Every Saturday at 11am to 3pm at participating stores 

I nearly had a heart attack when I pulled up to the Lakeshore Learning store in Cherry Hill and saw that the craft that we had come to create was located right in the middle of the store just as you enter. You are probably asking yourself why this was of such concern...let me put it to you this way.  I had images of my three year old son repeating an event at a book store's storytime...pulling everything off the shelves, distracted by all the store toys, running around and destroying sale merchandise while the eyes of every mother were on me while their children sat like little angels at storytime.  Yes, it wasn't pretty and we have not gone to a storytime at that book store since. 

If you have never set foot into a Lakeshore Learning store, let me tell you it is a child's dream place! There are toys, books, crafts, a giant computer interactive screen, balls, trucks, pull baskets, and did I mention son's favorite toy? All of which are for sale, and all of which could be destroyed by my "energetic" three year old son. You can now see why I was very reluctant to get out of the car.  If it wasn't for my crafty daughter and her pure excitement to work with glue, sparkly things, and googly eyes, I would have probably just left.

However, what actually occurred was nothing I had imagined at all. In fact, when my kids saw the really cool jellyfish craft that was being created by the other kids, they instantly went to the table to start their craft.  My son didn't even notice the first.  

Kids exited to get started on their craft receive their instructions

The woman in charge of the table showed us a sample of the jellyfish craft and what materials we were going to need and directed us to the supplies at the child sized tables and chairs and the kids got to work.  All the supplies were readily available, in great abundance, and already pre-cut!!!!  YEAH!!!  You can tell these people know kids!  The jellyfish craft was very age appropriate for preschoolers and early elementary students.  They had easy to use glue sticks which my three year old used with ease and FAST DRYING thick glue for other parts of the they know parents or what?  Someone really thought about this crafting project!

My son proud to use the glue stick all by himself and working hard!

What I really liked about this particular craft was that it was a simple project suitable to my 3 and 4 year old, the pieces were provided for them and all pre-cut, but there was still tons of room for creativity! It wasn't just a template to cut and put together, they got to choose how their jellyfish would look.  My daughter of course added sparkles to hers, while my son argued that jellyfish don't sparkle.  My daughter chose tentacles that were pink and purple and green, while my son chose orange and blue. They both made the same craft but their jellyfishes were unique to them.  I also think my daughter was so involved in the project and it kept the attention of my son because they could do the project on their own with little assistance from me. It was totally age appropriate, kid centered, very impressive and eye catching! LOVE IT!

So the jellyfishes are hanging in our playroom and we will be going back to Lakeshore Learning. It just might be my new favorite place to make a craft.  

Did my son notice the toys in the store...absolutely! But my son was not the only one playing with the merchandise.  The folks at Lakeshore Learning didn't cast disapproving looks but seemed to be okay with it.  But, I guess that is what you get from a friendly child centered store like Lakeshore Learning....and the fact that we wound up purchasing the ball in the picture.  Just couldn't leave without it:)

My son showing his craft and new toy!

 Have a great day:)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Pennington Park

Location: Delanco
Bathrooms: Yes
Eating area: YES with pavilions (rentable for parties)
Open: 7am to Dusk
Attractions: Hiking/Biking Trails, playground, Wildlife observation piers, community gardens, dog parks
 Fee: FREE

The kids and I visited Pennington Park after hearing so many good things about it.  It is a pretty large park...140 acres big!  The kids had a lot of fun at its cool playground! There are your typical playground equipment but the giant climbing tower, the farm hide out, and the large animal sculptures were some of their favorites!

A view of one area of the playground

The Turtle was just one of the large animal sculptures.

There are benches to sit on and a large expanse of grass to bring a ball or a blanket.  There are also several covered pavilions and bathrooms nearby for snack and lunch breaks.  Check the website for information on renting the pavilions for speical events.

My only complaint about the playground is that it is right out in the sun. There is very little to no shade. Trees have been planted but they are not mature yet to provide shade.  So,  I would avoid this park on hot days.

In addition to a fun playground, there are several trails for walking, running, and biking that lead to wildlife observation piers. The kids loved running over the bridge to check out the wildlife and views of the Rancocas Creek. Again most of the trails, except the boardwalk areas, are out in the open with little shade, so make sure to bring hats, suntan lotion, and lots of water when out in the heat.

Trail to the overlook with views of Rancocas Creek

 I think you could definetly spend a morning at Pennington Park.  The kids could play forever at the playground, bring bikes and you could ride the trails, and walk to the observation areas for views of nature. Have a snack or lunch at one of the many covered pavilions and you could definetly look at spending several areas here.  Its a playground and nature preserve all rolled into one. Also, don't forget that there is also a fun dog park for fido, too!  We will definetly be visiting this park again soon!

Here are more pictures of the park:

Have fun at the park!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Michael's Passport to Fun Free Crafts

 Michael's Craft Supply Stores
( )
Part of The Knack
My kids and I have been enjoying attending the free craft sessions at our local Michael's Craft Store this summer.  I love this year's theme of "Passport to Fun" where the crafts are based on the culture of countries from around the world.  It fits so nicely with the library's summer reading program of "One World, Many Stories"    So, we are listening to stories, music, and now creating crafts with a cultural spin. As a teacher, I always loved themed based learning!
 They even have a really nice website (,default,pg.html)  dedicated to these free crafts this summer. You can click on the map for "all the destinations on our craft adventure around the world."  However, I don't see a place for a simple list of the countries and the dates that they are being offered.  I just clicked on Sweden, and saw that this craft was offered on June 21. Too late for that one. So, I went through it for you and added them to the Family Penny Pincher's Calendar and below:

July 9:India
July 12: Russia
July 14: France
July 16: United Kingdom
July 19: Japan
July 21: Greece
July 23: Mexico
July 26: China
July 28: South Africa
July 30: Brazil

The kids made a bead flag and a Native American shield when we visited the United States and when the theme was India, the kids made henna hands and decorated a felt elephant.

Some of our crafts made

Showing off her glitter glue elephant

 We are hoping to attend the Russian craft where they will make a jeweled egg and Nesting doll puppets and my daughter looked ahead and saw foam crowns being offered on July 16 for the United Kingdom. My little princess can't wait to make a crown!

Working hard!
  • The crafts are offered from 11am to 2pm while supplies last. So get there early. Some events have only a handful of people while other crafts will draw a large crowd.
  • The crafts are self-directed.  There is a Michael's facilitator there to help you, but the supplies and materials with directions are put on the table for you to make the craft with your kids
  • I think the crafts are appropriate for ages 3 and up. My 4 year old works pretty well independently while my 3 year old has some trouble with the crafts. If that happens, there is plenty of paper and markers or crayons for him to make pictures or cut.
  • You can plan on spending at least one hour at this event depending on the attention span of your children and whether you decide to complete all of the crafts offered.
Have you attended any of the free crafts? Do you have any tips to share? Please share on the comment section below:)

Happy Crafting!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Please Touch Museum: Target First Wednesdays

First Wednesday of the Month (April 3, May 1, June 5, etc. )
Reduced Admission: $2 from 4-7pm

I know, at first glance you were probably wondering how in the world The Please Touch Museum fits into a penny pinching blog site especially when admission to the museum is $16 for kids and adults (Free for children under 1).  For my family to go to the museum it would cost $60 just for admission  not including gift shop, food, etc.. That brings this museum trip totally out of budget.  

However, just because you are on a budget doesn't mean you can't visit some of the best children's museums and attractions.  Thanks to our favorite store, Target, they are supplementing the cost of admission to many great museums across the country and allowing families to engage in arts and culture. It's their way of giving back to the community. 

So, on specials days certain museums around the country are open free or at at reduced rate for certain hours (check here for the list of museums) One such museum is.......The Please Touch Museum! On the first Wednesday of every month from 5 pm to 7 pm, The Please Touch Museum offers admission for...(drum roll, please).....TWO DOLLARS!!!!  So, for my family to go to the museum it would cost us only 8 bucks .....a savings of $56 dollars!

I am always asked how can you see the entire Please Touch Museum in only two hours?  The answer can't!  What I do is pick 1 or 2 exhibit areas and concentrate on those areas only.  Then, the following month, pick two different exhibits.  Every month, when we go back, the kids find a new area to discover.

More tips....get there right at 5pm so you have a full two hours to explore! Some "First Wednesday" nights can be very crowded and other times we have had only a handful of people.  Another idea....have an early dinner so the kids don't get hungry and have to stop to eat.  Last idea, if you have to go over the bridge and pay the $5 toll, make the most of it and visit the Smith Park Play Place earlier in the day before the museum, break for dinner and then go to The Please Touch Museum.  This way we are already in the area, you will hit a lot less traffic, and you make the most of that $5 toll!

Have you taken advantage of this great deal? Please share your tips and suggestions in the comments sections below!
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