Adventures do not have to be expensive. In fact, some of the BEST adventures and our most enjoyable ones have been completely free. And there are SO MANY adventures to be had where you can spend ZERO, ZILCH, NO MONEY WHATSOEVER! Not only are these free adventures just fantastically fun for the family BUT they are really good for your mental, physical, and spiritual health. So are you looking for something free to do with the family this weekend? Here is a list of ideas that our family LOVES to do.
Just a walk in your neighborhood or your area can be so much fun. Or looking at the stars in your backyard. Adventure is not where you are but how you make it. Last night, I went on a walk with Brother. Just him and me as the sun was setting but before it got dark. Anytime we got to an intersection I asked him which way he wanted to go. He had a lot of fun picking the direction. In fact, after choosing roads that we haven’t walked down as often he was able to find his way home very easily. But we love going on our walks to explore. We really enjoy comparing how different trees and the wildlife nearby change during the seasons and we are always looking for birds. Sometimes, however, we like to just get out of the neighborhood and spend a day or a few hours exploring other areas. Here is a list of other places to go outside
State and National Parks
Oh my goodness, there are SO MANY PLACES TO EXPLORE WITH STATE AND NATIONAL PARKS. And each park is RICH with history and nature. For New Years Day, our family went to one of our favorite places in East Tennessee. Cades Coves in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. We explored so many nature trails, found evidence of animals including deer prints and owl pellets with the bones in it (REALLY REALLY COOL.) We saw tons of deer (sometimes you can see bears too but not much luck in January even if it was unseasonably warm.) In fact, one of our first sights was about 5 or 6 young stags all together just chilling in a field. It was a majestic site.
There is so much history at Cades Cove just like any park. I always recommend researching the park you are visiting just a little bit so you know what the area was before it was a park. Why are those buildings there? What about the graveyards?(Yes, a lot of parks have graveyards there.) You can read more about how the history of Cades Cove enriches our homeschooling in That Time We Fell In Love with Cades Cove.
Speaking of Graveyards. Those are Big Sisters favorite places to visit. She finds them very spiritual. To her, it makes the history that we read and the structures we visited at the parks more authentic. The old tombstones amaze her. She will remember a particular person that we read about and find their, or their family members, tombstone. She will practice her math to see how long a person’s life was. It shows her how harsh the living situation may have been for the people that lived there. It may sound kind of gothic to you but to her, it makes the history more than just history. It is the fact that it was actually a person’s life.
One of the REALLY COOL features about the Tennessee State Parks that I really really REALLY want to do is the Story Book Trails. A few of the Tennessee Parks have Story Book Trails with signs up along the trail that are reproductions of pages of a children’s book. The idea is to read the book from start to finish as you complete the trail. It sounds like so much fun! I wish the parks would advertise these more because it’s hard to find information on them and where you can find them. I do know Cumberland Mountain State Park recently opened one during Fall 2018. (We went camping there right before it opened and I’m sad I missed it.) So these Story Book Trails are definitely on my bucket list.
But don’t just go to the popular tourist parks. Find those hidden gems. Pack a picnic and explore! There are so many wonderful places to visit. Most states have a wonderful website to help you learn as much as you want to know about the parks near you. Tennessee’s State Parks website is a favorite of mine to visit. Their Facebook page has a lot of great information as well.
Finally, before we moved here we had an amazing book, Florida State Parks, A Complete Recreation Guide. It covered all the state parks in Florida by region. We tried to visit as many of those parks as we could before we moved and had a lot of great adventures. I haven’t found a book equal to that for Tennessee yet but I do love the Tennessee Park Passport. It really does show you a lot of the State parks that you can visit but I find myself visiting the website as well so I know more what to expect. You can find information on Park Passports for all the states here.
Every Thursday, when I drop Big Sister off at her homeschool co-op I take Brother and Baby Sister to a playground. We try to visit a new one each time but sometimes Brother asks to visit one that he already likes and that is fine with me. It’s about having fun right? Wherever you live, there are so many playgrounds that you can visit and explore and each one seems to have a different theme. One of my favorite ones that we have visited recently had a really awesome outdoor musical area to play with and explore. When I moved to Knoxville, I had a hard time finding playgrounds for the kiddos. I learned about most of them through word of mouth on local Mom Facebook Groups.
These places are so amazing and offer so much to the community. You can visit these centers usually for free OR you can participate in one of their programs for a very small fee.
Urban Nature Centers
In the Knoxville Area, we absolutely LOVE Ijams Nature Center. We are members and try to take advantage of ALL it has to offer. Brother goes to a Nature Preschool there that I would recommend to anyone and everyone. Sister and Brother go to summer camps there as well. They have so many hiking trails, a playground, a quarry to swim in, caves to see. It is amazing to explore and see the wildlife. You can definitely pack a picnic and spend an ENTIRE day for free at Ijams. They also have plenty of affordable services as well.
As I was researching for this blog, I found an event on Facebook that just popped up on my feed due to algorithm magic and I added yet another thing to my bucket list. The University of Tennessee Arboretum is hosting a Third Saturday Hike that is guided by volunteers AND it’s FREE! My bucket list just keeps growing but this an adventure my family will definitely be trying out.
Of course we can’t forget our furry family members. While we sometimes go places that either don’t welcome dogs or we just don’t feel comfortable taking them to, we love taking the dogs to the dog park. Watching our puppies at heart have an adventure of their own creates lots of memorable adventures for us as well. Face it, sometimes the most fun we have is by watching our loved ones, including the furry loved ones, having fun and exploring themselves.
GO ON THE ROAD
This is another item on The Adventurous Allen Bucket List. I got the idea from The Tennessee Vacation Guide. And then found more information on the AMAZING Tennessee Vacation website. Seriously though, Tennessee Vacation has a beaucoup of resources and it is ONE OF MY FAVORITES!! It’s the site that helped me fall back in love with Tennessee all over again when we first moved back.
Any who…GO ON A ROAD TRIP. If you live in Tennessee you’ve probably seen brown signs peppered around the area that says “Discover Tennessee. Trails and Byways.” There are approximately 18 different trails and they all cover the beautiful history and culture of this amazing state. You have the Top Secret Trail with 110 stops. It starts in Knoxville and ends at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. And you stop in spots like the American Museum of Science and Energy, The Friendship Bell, and The Oak Ridge Welcome Center. I doubt you can stop at all of them but it would be fun to make a day of it. You can totally do this for free (minus gas money of course) but there are plenty of sweet wonderful spots where you may want to spend your money.
Also, if you haven’t been on The Missing Link on the Foothills parkway, I highly recommend going. We went the week it opened and the view is absolutely breath taking. Seriously, it is incredibly gorgeous. There are plenty of spots to stop and just take in the view. We want to see it with each season. (BE CAREFUL THOUGH-part of the Foothills Parkway that many love to travel is called the Dragon. Plenty of motorcyclists go on it. That route TERRIFIES me. Part of it is around a lake and it’s pretty but once you get closer to the North Carolina border it’s not so fun. I’m adventurous but it just wasn’t for me. Lots of switchbacks and very high drop offs.)
Some days you might want to get out of the house but it’s just too cold, or windy, or rainy, or whatever to head outdoors. There are so many places to go for fun that is INDOORS and free. Today, we went to the library. We go to the library one Sunday a month. We go to the big one downtown because it is actually open on Sunday and because we don’t have to pay for parking. We love exploring the downtown area while we are there before we check out all our books (seriously, I checked out about 40 books today for our homeschooling plans the next three weeks.) Sometimes downtown Knoxville has certain scavenger hunts around the area that Big Sister and Brother love to participate in. In the summer, they have “Where’s Waldo” and you can find several Waldo cut outs in participating locations. During Christmas, it’s Elf on The Shelf. We also like looking at some of the sculptures and artwork.
But I digress…I’m supposed to be talking about indoor activities. The library has many! Any homeschooling mom will love to tell you how many amazing activities the library provides. They have classes, clubs, story times, craft times. In Knoxville, the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra is even traveling to the libraries for performances for the children. This winter, Big Sister and I are planning to visit a different library every Tuesday afternoon after we drop Brother off for his afternoon at his nature preschool. I do know that this may be hard for some families that don’t have as flexible of a schedule as we do. In fact, a few of my friends were very disappointed when they thought they could participate in a really covetous class during school break only to learn that the library was closed for the holiday. We, on the other hand, can go to almost any of their enriching programs.
Also, museums. So many museums just want to have you there to see all they have to offer. Sure, most of the days you have to pay admission but look at their calendars. There may be a Family Fun Day or Second Sunday or First Friday in which admission is free for you and the family to enjoy the museum for a limited time! There may even be free centers for you to explore. I know that Knoxville’s East Tennessee History Museum is free every Sunday. This is another thing on our bucket list and I’m sure we will visit it one day before we go to the library.
Really, you don’t need lots of money to go on adventures. Sure we sometimes shell out the dough to explore something and have fun but honestly, it’s not needed. There are plenty of things to do for free wherever you are. What are some of your favorite free adventures?