The heat is coming friends! It may not feel like it today, but the warm, lazy days of summer are just around the corner and with many families still feeling the stress of the current economy, it’s important to take a few minutes to learn about all of the wonderful fun and budget friendly (and even FREE!) things to do to make it a memory filled season. Without further adieu, I present to you the 2011 Thinking Blonde Guide to Summer Fun! Though many options listed below are Central Valley Specific, several offers are available in other cities across the nation.
1. Ride the Amtrak train from Fresno to Hanford and eat amazingly delicious ice cream at Superior Dairy cafe. For just $9 for adults and $5 for children (under 2 is free) families can take a 34 minute train ride to Hanford and enjoy some of the most delicious ice cream EVER. Superior Dairy (325 N. Douty Street, Hanford, CA 93230) is known all over the valley for it’s amazing ice cream, retro vibe, great prices and generous portion sizes (skip the spoon, bring a trowel!) This day trip is great for families with train obsessed tots, or skip the train and make the short 40 minute drive by car.
2. Enjoy a Grizzlies baseball game (especially on Mondays!). Grizzly games are a lot of fun for the whole family and on Mondays, local news station ABC 30 sponsors an AMAZING (no joke, I can’t believe it’s possible) deal. Monday Madness: Get 2 Field Level Reserve tickets, 2 hot dogs, 2 sodas, 2 Wild Water Adventure Park passes, 2 Blackbeard’s mini golf passes and 2 Storyland Playland Fantasy Day unlimited ride passes, all for just $32! (over $100 value) Normal ticket prices are quite reasonable as well and Friday night home games end with a 4th of July rivaling fireworks display everyone can enjoy. View the game schedule and purchase tickets here.
3. Make memories at Fresno’s own Storyland/Playland (located within Roeding park). Storyland offers a one of a kind interactive park walk through of a multitude of children’s most beloved stories and nursery rhymes and it’s neighbor, Playland boasts 12 fun rides with enjoyable options for all ages. Pricing options to fit any family budget with value pricing* available for families of 4. *Note entrance to Roeding park is $5 per vehicle.
Additionally, families can enjoy Splash Junction, a 3500 square foot splash park for FREE! (Please check the park’s website for hours and days)
4. Get your head soaked at Wild Water Adventures water park on a Friday night with a special family discount deal. For $64, a family of four gets admission, a specialty dinner and drinks anytime after 3pm all summer long (excluding July 1). This is a great deal considering the regular price would be well over $100!
5. Live in West Fresno? Try the Island Waterpark instead. Pre-season specials on season passes are still available for as low as $39.99 (M-Th) or $49.99 (any day) but will end soon. For additional savings on daily passes, consider going after 3 and buying tickets online- you’ll get in for $13.99 vs. $16.99 for pre-paying! Additional prices here.
6. Enjoy a free walking tour of amazing valley art twice monthly at Fresno’s own ArtHop. This fun, cultural and FREE experience is offered on the first and third Thursday of every month. Visit the website for information on venue locations and special exhibits.
7. Join to excitement and take in a NoTown Derby roller derby bout! Home bouts are typically held indoors at the Fresno Fairgrounds and tickets are $10, children 10 and under are free. Free scrimmages are also held at Carey Park and are a lot of fun to watch as well. If you’ve never been to a bout, prepare for fast paced fun and excitement and an electrified crowd. The local roller derby scene is highly entertaining and growing quickly!
8. Take a drive to Bravo Farms, located in Traver just south of Kingsburg off the 99, an ice cream parlor, petting farm and tree house awaits, as does locally made cheese and other goodies. A great stop en route to or from the Preferred Outlet Mall in Tulare, CA.
9. Escape the heat on ice, spend the afternoon skating at Gateway Ice Center. Weekday afternoon sessions from 2pm-6pm begin June 13th. For additional session times and ticket prices, check out their website here.
10. Take your kids bowling for FREE on AMF (locally, Sierra Lanes on Blackstone and Sierra) this summer! Simply register your children online and receive weekly coupons for up to two free games per child per day ALL summer long! To register, click here. Don’t have kids but still like to bowl? Don’t worry, AMF hasn’t forgotten about you! For $27.95, buy a summer bowling pass that allows you up to two games free daily too! Free bowling runs May 20-Sept 5th until 8pm daily.
11. Enjoy a movie for just $1 in a nice cool theater at participating Regal locations Tuesday and Wednesday mornings at 10am. For a list of the $1 movies playing at Edwards Cinema 21 or Signature at Manchester click here. For non-local locations, plug in your zip code here. Note: plan to arrive by 9:15 or so to get in, if you show up just before 10, you may find yourself out of a seat or paying full price for another movie (learned that one that hard way last year ).
12. Get down into the water on a guided canoe trip down the San Joaquin river with the River Parkway and Trust. Discounts are available for members, but pricing is reasonable for non-members as well. Click here for additional information. For other fun activities offered by River Parkway including nature walks, river camp and more, click here.
13. Visit your local library! If you live in the Fresno area, click here for a schedule of local library programs and services. This number of programs is so great, I couldn’t possibly list them all here, but a sampling includes infant and preschool reading theater, reading and craft time, computer classes, “read to dogs” program, chess classes, knitting classes and groups, Wii fit sessions, children’s self defense classes, Yu-Gi-Oh game sessions, homework help and tutoring (available year round) and more! Also, remember, you can rent movies as well as borrow books from the library for free!
14. Say hello to the animals at the Chaffee Zoo. Also located in Roeding Park, summer mornings at the zoo before it gets too hot are a great time to see animals active in their habitats. Enjoy the newer interactive exhibits such as the Dino Dig and Stingray Bay touch pool and feed a giraffe! Visit their website for hours and pricing.
15. Relax and enjoy some grown-up time with your spouse or friends on the Madera Wine Trail. Located just north are a treasure trove of local, family owned wineries with tasting rooms and a multitude of special events in the upcoming months. Visit the website for more information on the individual wineries and tasting events.
16. Take a dip in a local public pool or cool off at a splash park near you. Four public pools will be operating this summer (locations here) and in addition to Splash Junction in Playland, two valley parks built in recent years offer splash fun (Todd Beamer Park in NE Fresno and the Figarden Loop Park in NW Fresno). Water in the splash parks is user operated, so if you don’t see water running, that doesn’t mean it’s not functional. Hours are 9a-9p except Tuesdays, water is off for maintenance until 12pm.
17. Free movies in the park are shown outdoors on Friday nights in Eaton Plaza located in downtown Fresno (N and Fresno streets). Parking is free as is a bounce house for kids before the movie and vendors provide snacks and drinks (not free). For a schedule of flicks for this season, click here.
18. If all else fails, just go bounce off some walls! Bounce U located at 4638 N. Brawley in NW Fresno offers multiple open bounce sessions at their indoor bounce park. For $7 your child can bounce all of their pent up energy out indoors with crankin’ AC. You can bounce too! Bounce sessions for ages 7 and under Tuesday, Thursday and Friday mornings, all ages open bounce Wednesday afternoons and Family Bounce nights on Tuesday evenings. For more info, visit their website here.