For those in the 413 without backyard pools, there are plenty of FREE ways to swim this summer. Here is a list of our local state owned public pools, which traditionally offer FREE swim lessons each summer. **I have not yet heard back from the facilities regarding swim lessons for this year -- I will update this post as soon as I have solid information to share.**
Chicopee: Sara Jane Sherman Memorial Swimming Pool, Meadow Street, Chicopee, Public Swim Monday - Sunday, 11:15 a.m. - 6:45 p.m., Thursdays in July until 7:45 p.m., Thursdays in August until 7:30 p.m. Open June 22 - August 22. FREE.
If one of these programs is too far for you, check with your town's Parks & Recreation Department (this link will get you to your town's website, you can find the Parks & Rec link from there) or local YMCA. Many communities have clean and lovely town pools open for public swim for a small fee (our local pool charges $1/person per day). Also, many towns host YMCA sponsored swim lessons at their local pool for a fee (about $65).
Wishing you many cool afternoons at the pool this summer!
There are so many terrific kids entertainment series with scheduled performances this summer. Some are FREE. Others have a reasonable admission fee. Here's a rundown of the ones you don't want to miss. Use the links for performance information.
Franklin King Memorial Children's Series: Tuesday mornings, 10 a.m., June 25-August 6. Puppet shows, musicians, magic shows. Admission: $5/adults, $4/children, under 2 FREE. This park also has a daily parking fee of $7 on weekdays, 300 North Main Street, Florence.
Friday Mornings for Children: Fridays from 10-11 a.m., July 5 - August 9, Stanley Park, 400 Western Ave., Westfield. Some seating available, bring your own if you don't want to sit on the cement floor. FREE.
Jacob's Pillow Inside/Out performances: Wed. - Sat. evenings at 6:15 - 7 p.m., June 19-August 24. While not child-specific, these FREE dance performances at the outdoor stage are family friendly. An excellent opportunity to expose your child to different styles of dance. Claim a seat on the benches or bring a chair from home, BYO picnic dinner or purchase food on site.
KidsFest: July 10, July 24, August 14 at 11 a.m., Veteran's Green, corner of School and Main streets in Agawam, FREE. Bring your own chair or blanket.
Majestic Children's Theater: performances in July and August, morning, afternoon, and evening showtimes. Admission: $9.50/person. This year's lineup includes: Disney's Mulan, The Cat in the Hat and Charlotte's Web. See link for dates and times, 131 Elm St., West Springfield.
Paintbox Theater: performances in June, July, and August morning and afternoon. Admission: $10/person. This year's lineup includes: Mary Poppins, Everybody Wants to be a Pirate, and How Do Dinosaurs Go To School?. See link for dates and times, Williston, 18 Payson Ave., Easthampton.
*Don't forget -- we'll resurrect our "What to do with the kids tomorrow" posts beginning on June 24 to help you plan FREE and low cost summer fun all season long.*
Nothing ruins a playground date faster in the summer than having no place to escape the sun. In that light, here is a list of some of the best shady playgrounds in the 413 (park admission is FREE unless otherwise noted):
Agawam: Borgatti Field Playground, 257 River Road. This is a smallish playground but it does have a lot of baby swings. And a lot of shade. Very close to the Agawam Bike Trail along the Connecticut River, where you can also bike or take a stroll. Makes a nice afternoon. Picnic tables make lunch easy.
Belchertown: Jessica's Boundless Playground, 59 State St., Belchertown. Not only is this playground fully accessible, it also has nice shade canopies over the playscape. Lots of swings, unique climbing and play elements.
Longmeadow: Greenwood Park Playground, 231 Maple Street. A nicely shaded, two-playscape playground with elements for all ages. Nice paths for bikes or scooters. This park also has a pool available for use by non-residents, admission is $11/day.
Easthampton: Nonotuck Park, 1 Daley Field Road. This park also has a pool (non-resident admission $6/adult, $4/child) and splash pad, walking paths and bike trails. Lots of picnic tables. Leashed dogs welcome. Can definitely make an afternoon of it. $3 admission fee for park weekends only/FREE on weekdays.
Enfield, CT: Enfield Rotary Accessible Playground, 104 Middle Road, Enfield. Although this fully accessible playground does not have shade over the play structure it does offer a nice picnic pavilion where you can catch a break from the sun. This playground shares property with the Enfield Public Library which has a fun children's room with puzzles, toys and sometimes a drop-in craft going on. So you can break up the visit with some air conditioned play time.
Holyoke: Heritage State Park, 221 Appleton St., Holyoke. Brand new playground equipment installed for this season (suggested for ages 5-15) AND a new spray deck. Lots of shade trees surrounding the play areas. FREE with FREE parking on site at the Holyoke Merry Go Round parking lot.
Northampton: Look Park, 300 North Main Street, Florence. Look Park has several playgrounds scattered throughout the grounds, three of which have partial shade. Lots of swings, lots of different elements for all ages. FREE splashpad and zoo. Many other attractions available for additional fee including mini golf, train ride, bumper boats, paddle boats. Tons of bike and walking paths. Beautiful grounds to explore. Concessions available for purchase but can get pricey. Bring a good sized picnic if you plan to spend the day. Vehicle entry fee: $9/weekends, $7/weekdays. FREE vehicle entry with valid military ID.
Pittsfield:Common Park, First Street, Pittsfield. The playground on the Pittsfield Common has some shaded elements and is adjacent to a stand of trees so depending on which part of the day you're visiting you can catch a good amount of shade. There is also a new splash pad at this park and plenty of picnic space.
Springfield: Forest Park, 302 Sumner Avenue. Park includes beautiful grounds to explore, duck pond, zoo (separate admission fee), picnic spots, and two playgrounds. Both have some shade -- the one behind the zoo is the shadiest. $3 admission fee for park.
Westfield: Stanley Park Playground, 400 Western Avenue. Although this awesome playground itself is not shaded, it does have a shade-covered sand pit where you can get some relief from the sun. Playground is huge with tons of swings for big and little kids and several shaded picnic pavilions (available for public use unless reserved for a party). Stanley Park also offers many shaded walking paths through it's nature preserve as well as a lovely shaded duck/koi pond area. Bring a picnic, be prepared to stay the afternoon.
West Springfield: Mittenague Park Playground, 100 Churchill Road, (Main entrance is at 1695 Westfield Street, but the playground is on Churchill). Playground is nicely shaded, with two play scapes, and plenty of big kid and baby swings. Mittenague Park also has nice hiking spots and a lovely stream to splash in. Plenty of shaded, grassy lawn to enjoy a picnic on as well.
Windsor, CT: Northwest Park Playground, 145 Lang Road, has a mostly-shaded playground with two age specific playscapes, as well as a a nice set of 8 swings (two bucket swings). This park also has animals to visit, an indoor Nature Center play area with educational displays, indoor bathrooms, plenty of picnic tables and lots of hiking trails to explore. Worth the drive for those of us in the lower 413.
Hope you get out and explore a new-to-you playground this summer. We'll see you there!
*Don't forget -- we'll resurrect our "What to do with the kids tomorrow" posts beginning on June 24 to help you plan FREE and low cost summer fun all season long.*
No summer would be complete without visiting our local PYO farms. Strawberries, blueberries, and apples at the end of the season are some of our must-dos.
We've all read the studies showing that when kids are involved in harvesting or preparing their own healthy food they are more likely to eat it. Pick-your-own fruits and veggies are a great way to test that theory.
Here's a run down of some of the best pick-your-own farms right here in the 413:
Chester: Jameson's High Meadow Farm, 410 Skyline Trail, Chester. Blueberries in mid-July. Call 413-667-3640 for picking conditions.
South Deerfield: Atlas Farm, 218 Greenfield Road, organic strawberries available mid-late June, PYO 8 a.m. - 6 p.m., seven days a week . Call 413-397-3587 for conditions.
Feeding Hills: Brown's Provin Mountain Farm, 443 North West Street, strawberries now, blueberries in July, many other PYO fruits and veggies throughout the season. Tuesday - Sunday 8 a.m. - 3 p.m. Cash or check only. Call 413-786-0495 for crops and conditions.
Granby: Dickinson Farm, 309 East State Street. Strawberries at field on New Ludlow Road, $3/pound, cash or check only, blueberries Mid-July, Monday - Saturday 7 a.m. - 5 p.m., Call 413-467-3715 for picking conditions.
Lanesborough: Mountain View Farm, 45 Old Cheshire Road, PYO Strawberries begin soon, cash or credit only (no credit cards), weekdays 8 a.m. - 6 p.m., weekends, 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. PYO blueberries begin mid-July.
Westfield: Kosinksi Farms, PYO Strawberries soon at 639 Shaker Road location, weekends beginning at 8 a.m.; Blueberries mid-July at 336 Russellville Road location. Call 413-572-4344 for conditions.
You can find SO many more local farms with these links:
There are many FREE and inexpensive ways to indulge your little crafter this summer, while not making a mess at home:
Michael's stores Camp Creativity offers craft classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings from 10 a.m. to noon through July 26 for ages 3 and up in all their stores. This year the program has a different theme each week and participants can collect stickers and coloring sheets each time they visit. Cost: $3/child. Registration is required. For schedule and registration information, click here.
The Second Friday art program runs through the summer at the Smith College Museum of Art, July 12 and August 9, from 4-8 p.m. Kids get to make a FREE (and always very cool) art project.
Make It Springfield offers workshops for all ages. Every Sunday afternoon from 3:30-5:30 p.m. there is a Make It Together workshop where families are invited to create together -- projects may vary from drawing, to painting, to sewing, to crafts. Cost is $5/person, drop ins welcome. There are other workshops offered throughout the week, some are FREE. You can follow their schedule on their Facebook page.
All Barnes and Noble stores also offer weekly storytimes geared toward the younger set which always end with a simple craft project. They have lots of other hands-on events for all ages throughout the summer. Check the events page for your local store.
Jo-Ann Fabric & Craft stores offer the Learn with Jo-Annprogram where older children can sign up for more advanced crafting classes like sewing, knitting, and jewelry making. These classes cost around $30, but kids will learn more advanced techniques and leave with a functional product like a pillowcase or jewelry set. You can find a list of classes offered at the Holyoke store here.
The Home Depot Kids Workshop series will also be held throughout the summer, first Saturday of the month, 9 a.m. - noon, FREE. Register here.
Check with the children's department of your local library to find out what types of drop-in crafts programs are offered during the summer. There are usually a bunch of really cool projects kids can make for FREE.
More FREE ways to keep kids active during summer days. We are fortunate to have several local business participating in the Kids Skate Free and Kids Bowl Free summer initiatives. These freebies are great not only on rainy days but also during those heat waves when even the die-hard outdoor kids are grumbling.
Both of our local Interskate 91 locations are participating in the Kids Skate Free program. When you register your children (only children ages 12 and under are eligible) at the Kids Skate Free site, you will receive email coupons each Sunday evening during the summer. Those coupons may be printed and redeemed for a free skating session during these times:
Interskate North (367 Russell Street, Hadley -- passes accepted for children age 12 and under):
Thursday, 5-8 p.m.
Friday, 5-8 p.m.
Saturday, 11:30-6 p.m.
Interskate South (2043 Boston Road, Wilbraham -- passes accepted for children age 13 and under):
Friday, 5-9:30 p.m.
Sunday, 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.
There is a $4/child registration fee for this program.
Skate rental is not included with the coupon. If your child does not have skates, rental runs $4.71.
The Kids Bowl Free program is open to kids 15 and under, when accompanied by an adult. Similar to the skate program, you can registeryour child on the KidsBowlFree.com site to participate at one location. Email coupons will be sent to you each Sunday. You print and present the coupons during one of the Kids Bowl Free sessions at your local bowling center -- check each location link before you register to see which days would work for your family and your kids' ages (each location may vary participation requirements).
The following bowling centers are participating locally:
Spray parks are a hot item on our summer must do list. I love spray parks because they are usually free, don't require any special equipment, are usually open all day and into the evening, and kids of all ages can enjoy them with parents being able to relax and enjoy a low-risk way to cool off. They can provide a quick stop after a morning of errands or an all-day retreat. We are lucky to have several newer splash pads in the area. I also have some updates here on when parks are opening this season, and which ones are out of commission. Here's my summer list of the best spray parks in the 413:
Chicopee: Szot Park, Lincoln Grove, Wisniowski, Garrity, Rivers and Fairview, open noon - 7 p.m., open now (Szot Park and Williams currently under repair).
Easthampton: Nonotuck Park, Daley Field Road, open through early September, open 7 days weather permitting, $4 park entrance fee on weekends, FREE weekdays (except holidays).
Greenfield: Hillside Park Splash Pad, Grove Street. Spray Park is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend, 10 a.m. - 7 p.m., daily. Check link for updates.
Hampden: Hampden Memorial Spray Park, Main Street, opening for the season June 22, seven days a week 9 a.m. - 8 p.m. (From July 8-August 16 public hours are 3-8 p.m. Monday - Friday, Saturday & Sunday 9 a.m. - 8 p.m.)
Florence: Look Park Spray Park, North Main Street, parking fee required for park entry $7/weekdays, $9/weekends, FREE for those with military ID or handicap placard, open daily 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Holyoke: Pulaski Park, Lyman Street; Springdale Park, Main Street, Community Field, Community Field Road, brand new splash pad at Heritage State Park open daily 9:30 a.m. - 7 p.m., other parks will open daily after school is finished for the year.
Pittsfield: The Common, First Street. Spray park open for the season, 9 a.m. - 7 p.m., 7 days a week.
Springfield: Forest Park Splash Pad, Sumner Avenue ($3/in state, $5/out of state parking fee required for park entry), brand new splash pad at Riverfront Park at West Columbus Avenue and State Street, as of June 14 there is no set date for the spray parks to be open daily -- according to the Parks Department "hopefully by the end of the month."
West Springfield: Alice Corson Water Park, 373 Main St. & Memorial Pool Splash Pad, 51 Smyrna St., open June 24-August 11, 12:30-4:15 p.m. and 5:30-7:15 p.m. SwimSplash Time for Tots ONLY at Memorial Pool Splash Pad: T, W, Th, 9-11 a.m. (ages 5 and under), pool pass required, FREE for West Springfield residents. Daily rate for non-residents, $3/children, $4/adult.
As we count down the last few days of school it's time to plan our summer adventures. Here's a great list to help you find family-friendly hikes and nature explores this season. Hope these links are helpful for you too:
*Don't forget -- we'll resurrect our daily "What to do with the kids tomorrow" posts beginning on June 24 to help you plan FREE and low cost summer fun all season long. Follow us on Facebook or subscribe to receive blog posts in your inbox.*
Valerie Smart is a average mom trying to raise average kids. She is passionate about unplugged parenting and providing her girls with an old-fashioned childhood full of outdoor play, unstructured time, creative pursuits, and making family time a priority. She is attempting to swim against the tide of hyper competitive parenting that has become the norm today. Comments and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for visiting!