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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cheap Fall Fun

How do you kill time and have fun when you've already done *everything*? I've cleaned out the closet, baked a whole gross of cookies and watched every dvd about 3 times. It's like we're back to being children who are constantly "so bored we could die", only with bank accounts and cars.

While Dallas is still climbing the middle rungs on a list of "great destination" cities, we do have some well-known qualities: world-renowned shopping, wonderful restaurants, longer periods of warmer weather, shopping ... the 6th floor museum, shopping, Chase Crawford, oh! sports teams ... and that's about it.

However, with the weather doing its thing (rain, cold, heat, cold, rain, heat, etc.), Columbus Day hosting the last good sale weekend until Thanksgiving and restaurants being filled due to homecoming groups (HUGE deal here), we're going a little crazy with cabin fever and are racking our brains trying to think of new, different and fun things to do. (We're looking on the non-commitment, one-day-of-fun side; not that we're not opposed to volunteering or getting a part-time job, we're just trying to think of ways to blow off steam from outside the box.)

Enter the Internet and creativity.

~ Got $5? Take a friend and 20 minutes to the (insert favorite place that provides goods in exchange for money) and buy a present that represents said friend or the friendship that you share. Like, I might buy The Boy a baseball and a bag of Hershey Kisses (because he likes baseball, chocolate and makin' out) and he might get me a latte or a Target gift card. This could also work with a group of friends; each person could pull a name out of a hat and then later everyone has to guess which item(s) describes each friend, or even who bought the gift.

~ Host a game night! Tell everyone to come in pjs, pop some corn and bring out the classics (like Twister - remember how hard that was when we were 9? Imagine being drunk, enjoying the fact that its co-ed and laughing that everyone is slightly less flexible) OR make sure that the batteries are charged in your game-station and go rent a multi-player "party" title like Carnival or Mario Cart.

~ Head to a big box store and try (rather play with) everything you can; thinking Walmart (did you know it isn't hyphenated anymore) or Target? Create a fashion show or your perfect outfit in the apparel department - up the challenge by limiting yourself to what is only on the clearance racks. Head to a toy store and play the latest video game, try a bike, jump on a big stuffed animal or take a trip down memory lane by perusing your favorite aisle and thinking about the fun you had of yesteryear, and see how much those toys have changed now. (Take current Barbie - skank alert! But I still love her.) Head to a club wholesale store (Sam's, Costco, BJ's, etc.) on the weekend and not only will you see the latest and greatest new items, you'll also get stuffed on samples galore! (If you're not a member, you can easily get in by saying that you're thinking about getting a membership. Once you're in the door, you're golden. BUT, be careful! Should you decide to purchase that years supply of toilet paper or a full metric ton of cheese-balls you will be charged a non-member fee of up to 20% of your total purchase.)

~ Are you close to a professional or semi-professional sports team? Take a tour of the stadium! (Or field or park or arena. Whatever.) There are usually price breaks for students and if you visit during the teams off-season then you'll for-sure see more (say, a locker room) than you would if the team were due back later that day or week. No pro's nearby? Check out behind-the-scenes-tours of ice skating rinks, zoo's, bottling and distribution plants (soda, beer) or other local attractions, like a franchised McDonald's or Chick-Fil-A, the town/city newspaper or even a television station. (Granted some of these may require a minimum participation number and a few phone calls, but consider it an opportunity to learn about and see something new.)

~ Make a day trip! Pick an amount of time of which you feel comfortable sitting in a car, select a direction and then get a map. 90 minutes South of Dallas = Waco. Check out Baylor, visit the Dr. Pepper museum, get a kolache in West. Fun! Did you choose 2 Hours North? You'll be in an Indian Casino before you know it. Or hell, just get on a street of which you're somewhat familiar and start driving. If you usually drive that way to work, looking at the same path on a slower speed could open your eyes to your new favorite coffee place or after-hours bar. Does your area have a "loop" or stretch of road or highway that circles the city? Pack a cooler, load up some friends and see how long it takes you to go all the way around.

~ Do you like something enough to devote a whole day or weekend to it? Go over to and search by your desired noun - do you not care what you do but are only willing to drive 30 miles from the heart of Chicago? Would you like to hear a speech by a guy whose name starts with the letter "R"? Do you like Irish Jig Music so much your dream is to travel the country and see each states take on such a timeless art? You'll find it ALL and then some by taking a few minutes to plan it out ahead of time. You can even find out which vendors will be there ... well, you know, if they've given word and signed in and junk.

~ Take a cooking class - find out if your local grocery store, community college, PTA, place of worship or even speciality/gourmet food and or kitchen retailer (ie - Williams-Sonoma) sponsor such thing. This can usually be done by a quick web search or even phone call. (If the location you call doesn't do it, they may have information about other places in the area who do.) Usually grocery stores or retail outlets will do so free of charge or at a minimal cost, because cooking is one of those "scary" things for a lot of people and if they can get you confident, then you'll remember them and want to purchase things from them in the future.

~ Do you have a hobby, passion or love? Type it into Google (or yahoo or "ask") with your desired location (city and state) and see what you find. (There is also a website database called which helps you locate others in your area with whom you should be friends. Can't find anyone interested in the same thing? Not a problem - create a group!) Here's a site of Pug fans and owners in the Austin area; a remote controlled airplane club in Colorado; and really just for fun, a group of Pirate Enthusiasts in North Carolina.

~ Do something repeatedly and then blog about it! Like this family over at 52 Zoo's - they joined the Association of Zoo's and Aquariums where they paid a huge amount per person up front but that gave them unlimited access for a full year (from date joined) to any Zoo, Aquarium or Wildlife ... place? ... that also belonged to the AZA. They made the choice to fly and drive to a lot of the far-away renowned institutions - Like the Houston Zoo and all 5 Seaworlds (which, btw, if I was their kid, I'd be asking some serious questions as to how Shamu gets around and always ahead of us) - but if you live somewhere that you can access 8 or 9 places within a reasonable driving distance, like a few zoo's, aquariums and wildlife sanctuaries, then it might be a good investment. I've seen the same type of program for all types of educational and historical things - like Flight Museums or a State's "Society of Historic Homes". Or think smaller - what about visiting every McDonald's in your area and then rating them? Most are franchises and are owned by the same person/group - does the one on "South" street look like the one on "First" avenue? Who has the better play-place or seems to have a slower lunch rush?

What about you? How do you have fun whilst staying on a budget?


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