TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - We're all familiar with our fantastic metroparks, the Toledo Zoo and the Toledo Museum of Art. We have our staples, but if you're up for an adventure this summer, and need to watch your wallet, you need ideas and advice.
"The more you can be out and about doing things, the less time they're spending in front of a tablet or a TV," said Jen Sherwin.
Between nieces and nephews, babysitting, and her own child, Sherwin has finding things to do down to a science.
"I'm a single mom and I have been since the beginning, so budget has always been a concern for me," she said.
Sherwin recommends Imagination Kingdom in Wauseon as a fun free park, but has another gem up her sleeve.
"One of my 'must-sees' is definitely 577 Foundation in Perrysburg. That's one of those places that entertains the little kids on up to the bigger kids, and it's a place where you can kind just let the kids go and figure out what entertains them -- let them explore."
There are no picnic grounds, so eat before you leave. Admission is free, so you're just paying for gas. From Toledo, that brings your grand total to likely less than five bucks.
Living in Northwest Ohio makes heading farther north into Michigan a viable day trip adventure.
"It's called Silver Lake Sand Dunes," Sarah Carter, a mom of four, said about her favorite family trip.
"It's about a 3 1/2 hour drive from here."It's kind of neat -- you have Lake Michigan on one side, which basically feels like an ocean when you're there. You can't see anything,you have waves rolling in, sandy beaches. And then from there, it's just mass sand dunes -- huge hills. You have to go up a bunch of hills to get there."
Admission to the park is free. After a long day at the dunes, stop at "The Southerner" for a lakeside meal that should only set you back about $40 for a family of four. Then, let the kids fall asleep on the way home. The round-trip gas cost, about a full tank, brings the grand total to about $100.
Now here's a place you might not have checked out yet, even though it's been around for decades.
This park has been giving visitors a safari experience for the past 50 years -- allowing for up close and personal interactions. You can find African Safari Wildlife Park in Port Clinton.
"Our interactive animal experiences really make us different from the other places out there," Elizabeth Hunt, in operations, said. "Obviously, we have a lot of different ways you can get hands on and learn so much about these animals, and really get to know them"
You can drive through the park or walk through another area. Check out the new bird exhibit while you're there.
Now, here's how much this will set you back, if you factor in potential savings:
Admission is $23.95 a person for the summer. So for a family of four, nearly $100. But if you're a zoo member, you can hack 50 percent off, bringing admission down to about $50. Roundtrip gas cost from Toledo to Port Clinton is about $15. Now you can pack a lunch to save on food costs, but you'll probably want to get ice cream while you're there -- that will cost about $16 -- bringing your grand total for the domestic safari to $81.
For any day trip, preparation is key to avoid impulse buys.
"I always try to have some basics in my car like sunscreen, bug spray, extra clothes, baby wipes," Sherwin said. "I pack snacks, even if I don't think we're going to be gone long enough to pack snacks. I always have the snacks with me, just in case."
Also, try not to set expectations.
"It seems like the more pressure you put on yourself to have it be this great awesome experience, the more likely it is that everything is going to go wrong," Sherwin said. "You're going to be stressed out, because you want everything to be perfect. And then you end up with kids crying, kids' tantrums. They're stressed out, because you're stressed out, and these big expectations that don't get met."
Here are the links to these attractions and even more ideas!
Imagination Kingdom (Wauseon)
Silver Lake Dunes (Holland, Michigan )
Jungle Junction (Bellevue)
Corner Park (Adrian, MI)