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the cost of outdoor fun

Posted by on Oct 20, 2011 in Blog Posts | 11 comments

A few weeks ago we had a blast canoeing at Taylor Falls area. It was a leisurely three hour paddle, with stops to play tag and even get in the water! (M only. I have little tolerance for cold anymore.)

I write about this because the cost of a canoe rental was $43. We are a family of 3. If you have 2 or more kids, this afternoon outing in the great outdoors would have cost $90+.  Just sayin’. Many of us who can afford these luxuries forget that others cannot. So, when I read a book recently on childhood obesity by a female MD who basically said, “If I can fit in pilates after work as a doctor and get back to my family, anyone should be able to.” Pilates, canoeing, even the $5 fee to get into the state park can put many of these activities out of reach. Even running, which she extolled the virues of for being cheap ,requires time, energy, safe areas to run, well-lit sidewalks if you have to run after dark, oh, and running in winter in Minnesota? For the die-hard…

One great resource are the local community centers. Lots of free gym and play time during the day. When I used to go though, it was pretty much populated by well-off stay at home moms…

Just musing. No school most of this week, so this is a quick post.

How do you get outside for cheap?

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  1. Tricia

    Oof. That doctor. I’m so glad she has $15-$100/class to spend on Pilates and someone to watch her kids for an hour or two while she does it.

    I get what she’s saying: Sometimes excuses are just excuses, and we’ll keep coming up with them until we’re out of tomorrows and very out of shape. But her attitude isn’t going to help any family stay healthy.

    For cheap/free exercise, our area has great playgrounds and parks and wading beaches. But older kids start to run out of things to do there. Open gym times at the Y are often subsidized.

    During the winter, indoor skate parks, trampoline parks, climbing gyms, skating rinks, and bouncy house gyms are all great — but they do cost money. Sledding is still free, though!

    • katja

      great points, Tricia, sledding in Minnesota is free, but when it is routinely below zero, that does require some significant gear. Cheap boots are a quick way to have a miserable kid and end any sledding session. i do love to sled though! Ice-skating too, lots of free rinks in many neighborhoods, but again, the gear…

  2. Jennifer Hansen

    I am extremely lucky to live in the heart of a genuine small town with free parks, free parking, free beaches, and wilderness literally a morning’s hike from my house. But in winter, or in stormy weather, the kids don’t want to be out there. Yes, the proper winter clothing can do wonders, but when the wind chill is in the frostbite danger zone–

    We used to have a Play Place at our McDonald’s, which is smack in the middle of town. The owner didn’t mind if you stayed all day as long as everyone had a place to sit and you bought something, even just a soda. So that was where we went when it was blowing 40 miles an hour or 20 below zero. Then the place changed hands. Management from the mainland noticed that the Play Place was only busy part of the time, not all the time, and ripped it out without notice. A local mothers’ club was bringing their kids there to blow off some steam the day it vanished. It took six months to put in tables and two video game machines (whee). The new manager also put signs up all over the interior, on the doors, and in the parking lot that state that you can only stay there for 30 minutes and you have to be eating the whole time.

    There is no place downtown where kids can run around and blow off steam when being outdoors is truly dangerous. I can’t wish one into existence. I can’t bootstrap it into being there. So we are just stuck.

  3. unscrambled

    “If I can fit in pilates after work as a doctor and get back to my family, anyone should be able to.”

    Chapter one bazillion in why people hate doctors. Attention: oblivious privilege is not a good look.

    Thank Maude that there are docs out there that actually work to think about why their own lives might be different than their patients, and who consider that when they don’t understand something, it’s a problem with their understanding, not with the people they don’t understand. Hard to find! Yeesh.

    Also: canoeing looks fun!

  4. ZaftigWendy

    Not only are there fees to get into even State parks, and even higher costs for other outdoor activities, but with the current gas prices, many families and individuals can’t afford to even drive to the park, or buy proper athletic shoes, or really do anything other than walk the same dirty boring streets over and over and over again.

  5. Camilla

    Shopping for shoes and boots is an aggravation – I simply abhor taking children shopping for them in person, so I rely on Zappo’s and LL Bean (because I can). Oh, and mine seem to wear through (not outgrow) their shoes every 4-6 months; my own shoes last a little longer, but not all that much, and that’s just walking the dog and puttering around town, not running for exercise. (And what’s up with not being able to buy kid’s winter boots at any time other than October? I’ve twice been caught out by a kid who learns to walk and suddenly needs boots, in mid winter.)

    I imagine if you’re trying to run for exercise, your shoe bill goes up fast, or else you are courting injuries from running in worn out shoes. I shudder to think of the amount of time I’d have to spend on the issue, if I needed to bargain hunt at the same time, or compromise comfort for durability.

    Park space is no problem in my town, and even spaces like the Audubon sanctuaries are mostly free, but public swimming holes are rather jealously guarded, so free swimming exists, but only in a few places.

  6. Carol Gwenn

    Don’t know what I’d do if I needed to provide exercise options for a family. For myself, I make it a point to walk part-way to work each day (just under a mile on foot) and at least the same distance toward home in the afternoon. Have also owned a stationary bike for eons & use it often.

    There’s a small city park/playground/soccer pitch/basketball court just up the street from me, and every day I see kids (all sizes & ages) playing, after school & on the weekends. Toward evening, it’s 20-somethings playing soccer & basketball after work.
    It’s not the greatest neighborhood, but lots of residents lobbied the city to get these facilities. It CAN be done.

  7. Ines

    What a timely topic and question, Katja. We have great weather here (mostly year round e.g we are still swimming) so parks and playgrounds are good options. It is not completely free, but cheap-er. Also, the Y here offers scholarships and family discounts for yearly memberships. And, of course, the backyard!

  8. Margaret

    Ah, we don’t? When it’s comfortable enough to be outside, we have to worry about bugs carrying horrible diseases, and the winter is cold and humid. The Y is as far out of town as we are on the the opposite side of town (also conveniently located near the industrial park not any of the housing areas).

    We do have parks close by but they are all fishing parks – not a great physical activity.

  9. erylin

    up until about 5 years ago i lived in horrible neighborhoods…. literally down the street from a notorious crank and prostitution area. The nearest community center was 3 miles away and cost money. People who say you can just go outside and run…or who say stay at home and do video have never ever been very poor. you cant do jumping jacks in a house with bad flooring. I have lived places (in a good neighbor hood in a college town no less) wehre there was 1-3 inches of give in the floor every step, let alone jogging/jumping/ANYTHING aerobic.

    That being said i am currently super lucky to live near one of the top 5 parks in my area with 2 playgrounds, a 1.25 mile trail with workout stations, a separate bike trail, football, soccer, baseball fields, and tennis and racquetball. But people assume that poor=fat because poor= stupid. its more like poor= fat because poor=stress=bad housing =no money for “leisure” fitness activities.

  10. AmandaL

    We gt a yearly pass for the state parks (we live in NY). For about $60 bucks, we can get into any state park in the state and have access to all the trails and scenery. In general, it’s still a wad of cash, but depending on how often you use it, it can work out to very little cost per diem. We’re also fortunate to live on the edge of the Adirondacks, s so we have tons of parks around us. Up this way, some golf courses allow people to use them for snowshoeing and other winter sports, for free. Just wander on and off you go.