I’m an unashamed homebody. But my kids? They need some out of the house time.
So while I’ve created an environment in which I’m comfortable and thriving, sometimes I have to push myself out of my comfort zone to make sure they are fulfilled. Often, the thought of going out in public with my three- and five-year-old boys can be daunting: where can I go that they’ll both be happy, safe, and I can keep an eye on both of them simultaneously? What can we do that’s budget friendly?
At the beginning of the summer I sat down and made a list and a resolution. My list included free, low-cost, and pricier experiences. My resolution? To step out of my comfortable bubble weekly to try something on the list. Here’s what we’ve been trying:
Fun and Free
Knox County libraries: With story times as well as numerous events, such as magicians, chemistry demonstrations, craft events, and more! Check out their website for schedules and details.
Visiting a park: Knoxville has an incredible park system! With playgrounds, beautiful lakes, and trails to explore, there’s always something new to experience.
Knoxville Museum of Art: With a special kids’ area, numerous galleries, and beautiful outside areas to take in the Sunsphere and some beautiful Knoxville views, the local art museum is a great way to work on teaching kids how to behave in museums while learning about art and creating something special to take home with you. A visit to Fort Kid, across the street, is sure to get the wiggles out before or after your visit!
Cool off at a splash pad: Summer is hot, and if you’re outside you may as well be near water! Knoxville has several splash pads summed up in this KMB post. Wear your swimsuit too and be a kid with your kids — it’ll be a day they’ll never forget.
Pack a picnic: A fun treat to any of the above or other mentioned activities is a picnic. My kids love the experience of eating somewhere unexpected. Whether we’re at a park, up in the Smoky Mountains, or just in the backyard, any excuse to sit on the ground while they’re eating is a plus! Many parks have picnic areas, and the Cove at Concord Park even has a beach area if you want to get sand in your sandwich.
Fast food playgrounds: For the cost of a lunch out, a drink, or a snack, your kids can play and get that energy out if it’s too hot or too rainy to be outside. Chick-fil-A and a couple of area McDonald’s offer play areas. If you have the Chick-fil-A app, you can earn free drinks and food items to help offset your cost. Sometimes they even send you bonus goodies, just for having the app!
Bowling: Whether you head to Strike and Spare or Main Event, an afternoon bowling with your kids is sure to be hilarious. We recently took our boys bowling for the first time, and they had a blast. With the gutter guards and little ramp, much younger kids can get in on the bowling action.
Visiting a bounce house or trampoline park: We like All Bounce Events in Powell, where you can often buy a multi-visit pass for a discount. Parents are free, so you can bounce and slide to your heart’s content!
Beach Bums Shaved Ice: Located on Oak Ridge Highway in Knoxville, this little shaved ice shop offers a myriad of flavors for a great price! With a giant sandbox and toys for kids, you can bask in the sun and enjoy the treat while they play, dig, and get their energy out!
Variable Cost Experiences
These experiences vary depending on your family’s annual pass status, additional purchases such as food or souvenirs, and gas costs.
Zoo Knoxville: With a splash pad and new animal exhibits, a visit to the zoo is sure to entertain and educate.
The Muse: Learning is a hands-on activity here! My kids love the play garden and doctor’s office, as well as experimenting with the wind tunnel.
Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge: A life size dollhouse and trains galore are just two of the amazing options at this fun children’s museum. Just a short drive away in Oak Ridge, the children’s museum is sure to delight and may even encourage a nap on the car ride home.
Dollywood/Dollywood’s Splash Country: Whether you’re searching for thrills or just want to cool off, the Dollywood properties offer something for every age group. There are a wide variety of options and my kids always get worn out — a definite plus!
Although I’m still a homebody, I’ve learned quite a lot from my resolution to get my kiddos out and about more. Now we go out more, and it’s been great. I’ve learned more about Knoxville, and my fearless kids have made new friends everywhere we go. It hasn’t been perfect; I’ve found I still need to only go to fenced parks (thank you, Karns Lions Club park!). But overall, I’m so glad I challenged myself to step out of my comfort zone.