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Budget-Friendly Summer Activities

Summertime is here. School is on break, and sunlight hours lengthen into the evening. Now is the time to think about things to do with your family—young children, teens, mature adults or even senior folks—in that short hiatus.

While cost is always a consideration, some of the best things to do are simple, easy activities that are fun or relaxing for everyone simply because they cost us only in time. After all, it’s the time spent together that we remember.

1. Plant a garden. Create something that’s alive while enjoying the flexibility that the term garden gives you. Gardens can be as small as a terrarium or as vast as a section of the backyard. It’s a project that lets you design a plan, prepare your space, select your plants and supplies, and care for them as they grow. Easy-to-do choices include container gardening, herb and vegetable gardening, or even pollinator-friendly gardening.

If you’re not up to planting and tending a garden yourself, you can tour a garden treasure like Longue Vue in New Orleans, for example. Garden admission is free to all Louisiana families on the first Sunday of every month from 1-5 p.m. On other days, ticket discounts are available for military families, seniors and students.
2. Take advantage of your local library programs. Most community libraries have summer activities for kids of various ages as well as adults. They may host storytellers or movie matinees, hold wildlife seminars, organize various arts and crafts sessions, or even offer instructional series on anything from genealogy to computer skills—all for minimal costs.

Summer reading programs are great ways to create lifelong readers. They typically cost nothing yet provide an incentive to visit your local library regularly.
3. Visit the public parks near you. Set a goal to visit each of the parks within easy walking or driving distance. Make a list, and check them off. Small or large, parks promise a chance to relax, explore and see something different. Take along a snack or a lunch—maybe a ball or frisbee—and even the simplest of recreational areas can become a favored destination. If you do an actual search, you may discover spots you hadn’t known about before.

In addition to local public parks, Louisiana has close to 40 state parks. The Louisiana State Arboretum is in Chicot State Park in Ville Platte. Our state also has Cane River Creole Historic National Park in Natchitoches and the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve, which includes six associated sites—the Barataria Preserve in Marrero, French Quarter Visitor Center, Chalmette Battlefield and Cemetery, Prairie Acadian Culture Center in Eunice, Acadian Culture Center in Lafayette and Wetlands Acadian Culture Center in Thibodaux.
4. Go swimming. Summer is the perfect time for swimming, whether you’re joining the local community pool, participating in the neighborhood swim team, putting up a backyard water slide, or spending time at the lake. If someone needs to learn how to swim, summertime provides plenty of opportunities. While swimming and water activities are fun, they’re also the perfect venue for teaching water safety and refreshing your swimming skills. Community pools often offer swimming, safety and life-saving courses as part of their summer programs.

If you want to take the water experience up a notch, a quick search yields plenty of natural lakes in Louisiana to swim in. Some choice picks include the Caney Lake Recreation Area, Lake Claiborne and Poverty Point Reservoir.
5. Make a summer backyard retreat. As the past several years have taught us all, learning how to be content at home is a life skill, so make it easy for everyone. Let the kids build their fort or pitch their tent. String up a hammock. Send the limp, flat pillows outdoors. Let them have the old red towel for a flag. Put a mini fridge in the carport, garage or breezeway to make drinks or cold treats accessible.

If you have teens, now is the perfect time to build a fire pit with plenty of seating. They will use it.
6. Let them make kabobs. Feed people, but turn it into a project for them. Put out the skewer sticks, and offer a varied selection of cleaned and sliced foods for custom-made kabobs savory or sweet. While we recommend skipping raw meats due to food safety issues, you have tons of other options. You can grill veggie kabobs or fruit kabobs. You can also let kids create cold kabobs using everything from cheeses, olives and pickles to grape tomatoes, fruit chunks or rolled deli slices. You can even make dessert kabobs.

You might be surprised by how much effort they put into their creations and how interested they might be in their friends’ choices. Remember the little finishing extras like dipping sauces, ranch dressing, a tasty brush-on marinade for grilled items or whipped cream for sweets.
7. Make a chilly treat. Why is the longest line at any summer festival the one for sweet cold treats? In summer, few things hit the spot like a frozen popsicle, sno-balls dressed in our favorite syrup flavor, or a scoop or two of ice cream. So, make your own, and let everyone help. A quick online search can yield hundreds of fruit smoothie recipes that you can drink or turn into frozen popsicles. Shaved ice machines are inexpensive yet will last for summers to come, and once you’ve made homemade ice cream, you won’t forget the taste.

Supplies needed are as simple as popsicle forms and handles, an ice shaving machine and syrups, or a vintage hand-cranked or electric ice cream maker. Some machines will even make milkshakes, sorbet and gelato.
8. Break out the bicycles. Find your nearest greenway or path so that you can enjoy a day pedaling safe from the worries and dangers of vehicular traffic. Communities are adding trailheads and miles all the time. Louisiana’s Bootlace Network, for example, seeks to create 100 miles of bike pathways that will loop and stretch from Baton Rouge to the Mississippi Gulf Coast region.

Louisiana’s Tammany Trace in St. Tammany Parish is a scenic 31-mile-long rails-to-trails paved bike and pedestrian trail that links five towns—Covington, Abita Springs, Mandeville, Lacombe and Slidell.
9. Visit a museum—or just a weird or interesting place. While some museums may be “museum-y” or dry, many others offer hands-on fun experiences or odd collections that are as entertaining as they are educational. As the owner of the Abita Mystery House in Abita Springs routinely points out, three of anything is a collection—and John Preble has amassed quite a fun collection that could fill a lazy afternoon.

Wherever you go, check for discounts for students, military families, seniors or financially challenged families. For example, the Knock Knock Children’s Museum in Baton Rouge offers $3 admission for low-income families.
10. Visit your local farmers’ markets. Enjoy fresh-food shopping straight from the growers and raisers. Let the kids pick what they’d like to prepare and eat—from farm-fresh organic eggs of every color to fresh veggies—and let them haul their picks in their own reusable market bags. Enjoy home-baked goods, or try one of every flavor of honey stick from your local beekeeper. Some of our Louisiana farmers' markets have become almost fairs complete with activities for kids, fresh flowers, plants, handmade soaps, crafts, entertainment and more. Many are even pet-friendly. It’s a great way to spend a morning.

In northern Louisiana, Shreveport, Bossier City, Ruston and Monroe all have farmers’ markets. In central Louisiana, try the ones at Alexandria or Natchitoches. In southern Louisiana, pick a town or city. Some better-known markets include the Red Stick Farmers Market in Baton Rouge, Crescent City Farmers Market in New Orleans, the German Coast Farmers' Market in Destrehan and the Moncus Park Farmers & Artisans Market in Lafayette, but there are plenty of others. Check your local listings for market days, locations and times.

Make Your Money Count at La Cap

Summertime is for making memories and enjoying time spent together. At La Cap, we always want to help you make every penny count for all the right things in life. Reach out, and let our financial experts show you how to save more money and—when you spend—how to spend it wisely.

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