Wise Bread inspired me to revise my $5 Fun list from 2007. Since we have been living on one income for a year and a half now, I’ve been compiling a list of fun things to do in western Massachusetts that cost $5 or less (for a couple and a toddler). You may notice that the list now includes activities for both a mom and dad who love to eat yummy foods and a toddler who loves any interaction with animals available.
Cheap Eats and Treats
- Creamy Delights, Hadley, MA: At first glance, you might be a bit puzzled by this ice-cream wagon tucked away between a used car dealership and a cornfield. Don’t let appearances fool you. The owner used to make the rounds on the festival circuit, but decided to park her stand at her husband’s business to be closer to home, a decision for which we are all grateful! $5 will buy you two waffle cones of the best soft serve around, and you get free rainbow or chocolate sprinkles, peanuts, or crushed Oreos on top. It’s like the carnival without the long lines or the exorbitant prices.
- Kay’s Bakery, Holyoke, MA: Otherwise known in our family as “the happy place.” Kay’s bakery is filled with the wonderful, yeasty, sweet smell of bread and pastries, and row upon row of pies, rolls, breads, and cupcakes. What are most amazing though are the prices. You can get a dozen of the best rolls for $1.44. Pies are $3.50. Donuts are 30 cents each. (I highly recommend the chocolate frosted or glazed raised donuts and the cheese Danish.) Everything comes in a white bakery box tied up with string. Charming! The only down-side is that it is only open on Saturdays and Sundays from 6 am -1pm. That’s why Saturdays have officially become “SaturKay’s” in our house, when we pick up our weekly donut treats.
- Williamsburg General Store, Williamsburg, MA: A nice drive to a quaint New England town where you can find wonderful deals on spices and pay $1.89 for a lovely apple pastry called a Wrapple and eat them on the porch.
- Costco, West Springfield, MA: If you're really in a pinch for a dinner out, this is the best deal in town. Free appetizers on the floor and $1.50 for a giant hot dog and soda with free refills, $1.25 for a large frozen yogurt the family can share.
- Dominoes Pizza + Red Box at Stop and Shop, Holyoke, MA: While on the cheap take-out subject, on Wednesdays, Dominoes has a special deal, $3.99 for a medium one-topping pizza. Pair that with a $1 dvd rental from the Red Box at your local Stop and Shop and you have a fun pizza and movie night.
- Bean burritos at Taco Bell followed by a trip to Bob's Discount Furniture, West Springfield: Eating at Taco Bell always brings back fond memories of college. On your way home, you can stop by "the pit" at Bob's where they sell very cheap furniture. They also have free candy and ice cream upstairs. Beware, though, we once went to pick up some tacos for B's family and came back with a $200 couch, which really skews the price of a fun night out
- Slurpees at Cumberland Farms, South Hadley, MA: You can get any size Slurpee (or their equivalent) at Cumberland Farms gas stations for 79 cents. They're so big, we often share one. As Slurpees go, B and I think they have a very good ice to syrup ratio. A great summer treat. This Cumby’s also has just about the cheapest gas around, if you’re looking.
- Wild Blueberry Picking: Fun foraging in the woods for free! While I can’t actually disclose the site of this, I will give you these tips: Find an aspiring entomologist who works at a large university research lab. Get in his good graces. Follow him into the woods.
- Breakfast at Valentine Hall, Amherst College: This one is also a little complicated because you must first get yourself hired by Amherst College in order to receive their employee discount. But after that, you can get an awesome breakfast buffet with coffee and drinks for $2 each. If only I had ever woken up in time for breakfast in college, I might have known this much sooner!
The World’s a Petting Zoo: (Ella’s list)
- David’s Soda and Pet Food City, Hadley or Northampton, MA: This is our favorite all-season spot for animal viewing, and usually gets included on our grocery shopping circuit. Colorful Cockatiels, funny parrot fish, and bunnies, guinea pigs and hamsters. Also, usually a few dogs visiting the store.
- Food Bank Farm, Hadley, MA: Our toddler loves going to the farm. She usually sheds her shoes half-way through and comes back covered in dirt from head to foot. There are also chickens to feed. Okay, so technically the farm share we split at our local CSA farm is around $11.75 a week. But I like to think of that as the price of the several bags of organic produce we receive, and all the entertainment is free. Our favorite perks are the acres of beautiful zinnias and snapdragons, u-pick strawberries, peas, tomatoes, green beans, and herbs. The picking is actually a lot of fun and our freezer is full of strawberries and pesto by the end of the season.
- DAR Lake, Goshen, MA: Drive a little beyond Williamsburg and you’ll come to the DAR State Park. For a $5 per car entrance fee, you can swim in a beautiful lake surrounded by evergreens and picnic at the tables surrounding. I’ve heard there are also some great hiking trails. There were quite a few Canadian Geese who were happy to eat the bread we threw to them and also puppies!
- Look Park, Northampton, MA: $4 per car entrance fee gets you access to a free petting zoo, playgrounds, and sprinkler park. The other attractions like train and bumper boats are an additional fee, but I saw on the Internet that they are half-price on Wednesdays.
- McCray’s Farm, South Hadley: I haven’t been here yet, but it’s on my to-do list. A free petting zoo, ice-cream made on the farm, and wagon rides to the pumpkin fields in the fall.
- Forbes Library, Northampton, MA: The children’s librarian often brings her two yellow labs to work with her or if they’re at home, you can visit Paco, the giant fish.
- Grandma’s House, Southampton, MA: Grandma’s foresty backyard is the perfect place to spot squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, blue jays, and yes, even bears. Ella’s become quite the pro at tossing peanuts to the friendly wildlife.
- Holyoke Children’s Museum and Merry-Go-Round: I recently discovered the wonders of the library museum pass. You can check out passes to lots of the local museums and zoos like the Holyoke Children’s Museum, Eric Carle Museum, Springfield science museum, and Forest Park Zoo. On our recent trip to the Children’s museum, we got in five people for free with the pass. The museum itself is a little dinged-up but very toddler-friendly. Right next door under a pavilion is the historic Merry-Go-Round that used to reside at Mountain Park Amusement Park. Rides are just a $1 a piece or you can get a pass for this attraction too. Okay, so they’re not real animals, but you can ride horsies.