It has been a long cold winter here in the Midwest so when the forecast hit a balmy 60° the other day we had to get out and enjoy the weather. One of the cheapest forms of entertainment and exercise is hiking. You really don’t need any special gear. This was our first hike with Frugal Boy and he grunted and slept the entire 2 miles.
Frugal Boy isn’t quite strong enough to hike in a backpack style carrier, so we carted him around in a Boba wrap. It is basically a 2 meter long strip of spandex/jersey fabric that you wrap around your body.
The trails were super muddy from all of the snow melt. That made it really easy to spot animal tracks. Can you identify what left these tracks?
The trail meandered through the prairie before going into the woods. As we walked along we came across what looked like some wind damage.
It wasn’t too much farther and we were back in the prairie looking at the nature center.
It was great getting out for a hike even if it was a little (okay, a lot) muddy. It won’t be long before Frugal Boy can hike on his own two feet and add to our collection of dirty clothes.
That’s okay! Laundry is cheap to do and little boys are meant to get dirty. We were all tuckered out after our short hike.
He won’t remember his first hike at all but we want to get him started early on a healthy and cheap form of entertainment. When was the last time you went on a hike?
This past Sunday we made a day trip up to Chicago to take in some sights. In particular we wanted to go to the Shedd Aquarium and Field Museum. The Shedd Aquarium was running a promotion for free general admission for Illinois residents over the weekend and extending into the start of this week. After seeing the extensive line the last time we were in Chicago, we figured that the best time to go would be on Sunday morning right when they opened.
Neither of us slept very well that Saturday night. I think our bodies knew that we had to be up early in order to make it by the 9am opening time. Watching the sunrise gave us some extra energy as we drove along the interstate. Parking in Chicago is a bit of a hassle and can be quite pricey. One of my uncles who lives in the Windy City knows all of the spots that you can park for free. Instead of trying to find one of those spots, we opted instead to pay to park at a lot on Wabash Street about 1/2 mile away. It was $11 for 10 hours of parking. Shae saw some closer and cheaper spots that we’ll have to use next time.
By the time we showed up to the aquarium the line wasn’t out of the pavilion yet and they hadn’t opened yet either. We didn’t have to wait too long and then we were inside and through admissions. Of course the aquarium tries to upsell you to their dolphin show and special exhibits. We stuck with the free general admission. The free ticket lets you see about 85% of the complex so it is a great deal!
This buck toothed puffer fish was a source of amusement.
The crab was quite imposing with its large size.
The sea dragons are always marvels to look at.
By 10:45am we were starting to feel a bit peckish so we headed down to the indoor picnic area so we could eat our packed lunches. We had made chicken salad the night before and used a cooler lunch box to keep it fresh. Food courts in touristy places such as the Aquarium are usually overpriced. Pack a lunch and snacks to save yourself money. Also, because we ate early on we had our choice of seating. The dolphin show was going on at the same time and the seating area looks into the underwater area of their pen, so in a way we got to see the dolphin show for free.
The line of parked strollers outside the dolphin show was quite impressive. Shae was able to rattle off the prices of each one as we walked by (hmm, I wonder why she can do that). I would feel a bit nervous about leaving a $500 stroller unattended. The $10 umbrella strollers out there seemed to have the right idea in mind.
Once the dolphin show finished around 11am a flood of people descended on the picnic area. It is a good idea to eat outside of the predefined lunch times (11-1). Our seats were snatched up about 10 seconds after we got up. Again, the people watching was superb. Of particular amusement was the mom who lysoled the table, her child’s hands, then put down a BPA-free tablecloth to keep the nasty, scary germs at bay. To each their own, right?
We left the aquarium around noon and the line had grown substantially. It seemed that our timing and estimates of peak visitation was spot on. The Field Museum was decidedly less busy. They were not having a free day, but we do have a membership with another museum that grants us reciprocal admissions to the Field (aka we get free admission at the Field). With this visit, we paid off the cost of the membership so there was no money wasted there. We had purchased the membership to motivate us to get out and see some other museums and to patronage a center of learning.
The Field Museum was enjoyable as always. We skipped a lot of the exhibits because we were getting tired and still had a long drive to get home. We did visit the dinosaurs because they are awesome.
The drive back was uneventful and the whole day’s outing only cost us around $40 for the two of us. $11 in parking and another $30 or so in gas.