Summer is all about fun, and in this year of tight budgets, a lot of that fun is going to have to be wallet-friendly.
"Free is the best way to go with four kids," says Medford mom Leah Miller. "You can plan your whole summer on the things we've got locally ... the lakes, the library, the spray parks "» we really have a lot to do around here that you won't go broke taking your kids to."
Sams Valley mom Sheri Barnes says her favorite free outings include the local library, free movies and concerts in local parks, as well as Cantrall-Buckley County Park, with water that is ideal for floating on tubes and swimming.
"It's easy to spend money and go to the movies, but it's more fun to go and spend time together," says Barnes.
Here are some of the hottest cost-free places to play in the Rogue Valley this summer.
Most cities offer a place to cool off in the spray. Seasons and hours vary slightly, but the general schedule is Memorial Day through Labor Day and sun up to sun down. Call the numbers listed for specific hours:
Hit the Books
Libraries are a no-brainer for free fun. Summer reading programs at Jackson County library branches offer endless possibilities. Dubbed "Be Creative" for grade-school students and "Express Yourself" for teens, the 2009 summer reading program offers special incentives, such as gift certificates and prizes for summer reading stand-outs. Details at www.jcls.org/summer.html.
In our region, hiking opportunities abound in every direction. In the Applegate, the infamous Bigfoot Trap is tucked back along the Collings Mountain Trail. The picturesque Upper and Lower Table Rocks, at Modoc and Wheeler roads, are must-see hikes. Restrooms and maps offer hiker assistance at the main trailheads. For more on the Bigfoot Trap, check out www.fs.fed.us/r6/rogue-siskiyou/recreation/trails/collings-mt.shtml. Details on the Table Rocks are at www.blm.gov/or/resources/recreation/tablerock/index.php
The Medford Railroad Park offers free rides on miniature trains for train fans of all ages, April through October on the second and fourth Sundays. Details, Medford Parks and Recreation, 774-2400.
The city of Medford's popular MAC-PAC mobile recreation program, (Medford Arts Commission-Public Art Cart) offers summer activities ranging from arts and crafts to jump houses and games at various city parks. MAC-PAC runs through Aug. 14:
Movies in the Park
Movies in the park are sponsored by the cities of Ashland, Central Point and Medford. Medford's sixth "movies in the park" season, featuring the likes of "American Graffiti" and "Madagascar 2," runs Saturday nights through Aug. 15 at the Bear Creek Park amphitheater. Call 774-2400.
In Ashland, movies run every other Friday, starting around 6:30 p.m., until Aug. 21. Before each movie, U.S. Cellular staff members offer games, face-painting and other activities for kids. Call 488-5340.
A new event in Medford, a free concert series is held every Wednesday night at the Bear Creek Park amphitheater. The series offers up everything from bluegrass and rock to New Age and jazz. Details online at www.playmedford.com or call 774-2400.
Ballet in the Park
Ballet in the Park returns to Ashland this summer, but it will be on Sundays instead of Mondays as in previous years. The free shows run from 6:30-8 p.m. July 19 and 26 and Aug. 2 and 9 at the Lithia Park band shell in Ashland. Ballet Rogue is a professional dance company in residence at the Ginger Rogers Craterian Theater in Medford. Details are at www.balletrogue.com.