THE SETUP: Some of you may know that my family and I will bid adieu to Baltimore in mid-August. Since our announcement, I’ve had a few requests from moms and dads to share my Baltimore parenting knowledge. More specifically, I’ve been asked to blog about Baltimore parenting on the cheap. You got it!
Check back for my favorite hacks in food deals, shopping and parenting in general. In this post, I am going to share info on family entertainment. Here are this frugal mom’s favorite places and deals.
Enoch Pratt Libraries: There is FREE programming galore! For all ages, too. Get yourself and your kids library cards. It’s likely that you can attend free programming every day of the week. They host live music, educational courses, demonstrations, dance classes and just about everything else. To find out what’s going on, simply pick up the monthly newsletter at any branch.
I highly recommend participating in reading challenges (both kids and adults), as it’s a sure easy way to earn FREE aquarium tickets, vouchers to local restaurants or to Barnes and Noble. The libraries offer so much, it’s ridiculous. Things to know: Children’s library cards are fine free, but can only be used to check out items for children and 30 books can be checked out at once.
Baltimore Museum of Art, Walters Art Museum, and the Creative Alliance are all FREE. They all occasionally offer free programs for kids and families, too.
KERPLUNK is by far my favorite free art program. Drop-in sessions are most Saturdays from 12-3 p.m. for all ages. I’ve met trained resident artists and several friendly folks attending these sessions. Ms. Alejandra is definitely our favorite person there. It always baffles my mind that more people don’t attend KERPLUNK. The projects are simple, amazing, and I love that my son gets this exposure because art is not my forte. Also, the art gallery itself is free and often has enjoyable exhibits. The boys saw Amy Sherald’s work there, before she became super famous.
Also, the Creative Alliance offers a variety of programs for people of all ages. Another thing to love about them is that their bathrooms are gender neutral, so I actually have access to a urinal for my son and can teach him how to use it. It’s the little things. Free street parking is available, too.
Memberships: Get ’em. My favorites are The Maryland Zoo, Port Discovery, Maryland Science Center and the Y in Central Maryland.
For the zoo, I highly recommend the Deluxe Membership. It admits up to four adults and six children (ages 2+). Take advantage of member mornings and holiday events — they’re FREE for members. If you like beverages other than water, buy a souvenir cup on your first visit and get $1 refills from then on out. Icee refills are $3. Food can be taken into the park though. So, if you’re into saving, pack your own lunch.
For Port Discovery, I suggest the Contributing Membership which allows up to six admits with each visit and three different cardholders may be named. When visiting this place or any place at the Inner Harbor, I recommend parking in Little Italy where three-hour parking is free. Need longer? Park along Pratt Street for close to unlimited free parking. Occasionally you’ll score a discount Port Discovery membership on Groupon or LivingSocial. Food and drink can also be taken into this museum.
For the Maryland Science Center, I suggest the Discoverer Membership, which allows six admissions with each visit. Food isn’t allowed here, but you can pack a lunch and have it outdoors. During the warmer months, I like to combine this visit with some play at the Sondheim Fountain. There’s also a gated playground in Battery Park at the top of the hill, which provides beautiful views of the city. I generally find free, three-hour street parking and Science Center membership also can be found on Groupon once a year, right around January/February.
A family membership at the Y in Central Maryland cost me $73/month and that included use of any YMCA in the entire country, unlimited use of the gym, childcare for up to 90 minutes, free programs and discounted programs. I was sold on childcare alone, but I also love that you can use the Y anywhere you go. This was my favorite membership due to cost, benefits and convenience. YAY for a healthy lifestyle!
Orioles: The cheapest way to visit the park as a family is by purchasing the Dugout Club Membership. Get it at its earliest and it’s about $20. The membership includes six games, free paraphernalia and a prize at each game. When redeeming a game voucher, you can purchase up to ten additional tickets at $6 each for upper level or $15 each for lower level. I go for the $6 tickets. Food and drink can be taken into the park. If you prefer not to schlep things, then visit the Kids Corner by the Kids Zone. Always take a stroller. I prefer using the stroller entrance at Gates F/G off of Camden Street. Your entire party can enter with you, even if there’s just one kid in the stroller. This is the best way to avoid any lines whatsoever; it’s my favorite parenting trick at Camden Yards.
Playgrounds: My favorite gated playgrounds are Latrobe, Hampstead Hill Academy on weekends and during the summer, Dypski, the Canton Tot Lot (for wee ones just finding their legs), and Thames Street. Other good ones are Patterson Park’s Linwood Playground and the Tire Playground at Patapsco State Park.
Green Space: There are so many parks and waterfront green space in Baltimore that it’s easy to enjoy a beautiful day. Keep an eye out for activities such as the Kinetic Sculpture Race, the Lantern parade, festivals, free concerts and free movies. Outdoor movies can be watched almost every day of the week throughout the city in the summer. Same with concerts. There’s live music all around the city, just check the different neighborhoods.
Get out and have fun!