Guest Post: Free Things to Do With Little Ones In PWC

Free Things to Do With Little Ones In PWC

My oldest, Max, is 5 ½ now, but when he was about 1 we realized we REALLY had to tighten up our budget or else I wouldn’t be able to continue to stay home with him.   It really wasn’t much fun at all having to turn down adventures with other mom friends because it just wasn’t in the budget.  At that time,  I even had to make sure I didn’t use much gas because there wasn’t much for THAT in the budget either!  Anyway, I managed to find some things to do to get me out of the house as well as stick to our budget.  These might not be the kinds of things that get your heart racing with excitement as you picture your child’s  pure joy when you arrive at your destination, but trust me when I say that little ones have as much fun in these places as they do at some place like House of Bounce(which I loved and love, but can’t always afford). 

Chik-Fil-A:  My favorite is the one on Liberia in Manassas.  Max & I spent many mornings there in the  dead of winter or summer.  I would get a coffee and he’d play.  I couldn’t enjoy my coffee a lot since you can’t take food or drinks in the play place with you, but it was something other than our 4 walls.  And it was usually pretty quiet in the mornings.

Manassas Regional Airport:Always a fun thing to do!  I actually used to go over there before I had kids and just take a camping chair, a good book, a cup of coffee and read and watch the planes take off and land on pleasant-weather days.  WITH kids, we would go over and walk around outside the fence and just look at the parked planes & helicopters and if some were taking off and landing, all the more exciting!  They also have a museum in one of the buildings there.

The Mall:  I think Max was almost 2 or 3 before he realized that the ride-on toys at the mall served a purpose other than indoor playground equipment.  We’d go to Manassas Mall and he’d play on the ride-ons for a long time.  He was perfectly happy to do so, but once in a while, if I saw a dad or a grandparent, I could almost guarantee they were going to get schmoozed into paying for a ride and sometimes Max got the benefit of that on things like the carousal ride!  Most of us moms just claimed we didn’t have money to make the rides go.   Manassas & Potomac Mills have ride on toys.

Mall Play Area in Potomac Mills:   I’m so bummed this didn’t exist when I was in the stage of life I’m sharing here.  I would’ve gone there all the time!  Now Max is nearly too tall to go in, but it’s a great play area!  No shoes or coffee allowed (what’s with all these places not letting us get our coffee on??  I mean, REALLY!!  I know they could spill & make a mess, but still…..)

Prince William Forest Park: I can’t believe how many people I have run into who haven’t been here!  It’s so close and for just $5 per car per visit or $20 for a one year family pass, you get entry into the park and all it’s trails, including a stroller & wheelchair accessible trail AND it’s awesome playground!  If you’re military, you get in free.  This is one of our favorite places to go now - it’s almost always very quiet during the weekdays and we pretty much have the place to ourselves! Sometimes we hike to a creek and throw stones in for a while, other times we just play on the playground.   Last year I found that if you go during the week days in May & June, you might meet up with large groups of field-tripping kids.  They tend to head back to school around 1ish, so after that you’re golden!  They also have a quaint visitor’s center with a store and some displays.

Frying Pan Farm Park- This is actually a bit of a drive, it’s off of Route 28 in Fairfax.  However, they have great free programs in the spring & summer (get on their email list) and they have pigs, goats, cows and horses and there are often baby goats & pigs to be seen.  Again, if you get on their email list, they will let you know when new babies arrive.  They also have a farmers market during the week.  There is a playground, a country store, a wagon-ride tour of the property (last I checked it was $3 for adults and $2 for kids), and some kid-sized tractors for them to climb on.  Everything but the wagon ride and whatever you want from the store is free.

The Farm at Broad Run-  This place is a plant nursery, but they also have chickens, roosters, turkeys & donkeys you can walk around and view.  One area even has the feed dispensers where you can get a handful of feed for a quarter and feed it to the animals.   I like to walk around the whole place with the kids and then end up in the small store inside and buy a basket of organic berries and maybe pick up some grass-fed ground beef before leaving.   When we were there last time, they had about 14 baby chicks staying warm inside the store.  A torrential downpour began while we were inside, so we hung out eating our berries and playing with the chicks!  It is a hike from Eastern Prince William -  about 40ish minutes, but my kids love it more every time we go.

Sarah Meisenhelter is mom to two boys, ages 5 & 3 and resides in Montclair.  She has a passion for God, girls & women facing unexpected pregnancies and  natural living.  She blogs about these things over at www.TheWildRuby.com

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