Rec & Sports » Rec Features

Cheap Thrills

No money, no problem


While most of us involuntarily cringe when we hear the term "staycation," the situation that had everyone looking for ways to cut back on travel costs while still having a little fun has only intensified.

This time around, it's not the price of gas that has everyone staying home. Now, it's the fear of an uncertain economy, reduced income or even job loss.

While that luxury cruise or Himalayan trek might be off the table, that doesn't mean there aren't still plenty of diversions to keep you busy, entertained, active or otherwise occupied for free or next to nothing.

One clearinghouse for affordable recreation is the City of Boise's Parks and Recreation Department, which runs community centers, oversees public parks and organizes community sports programs.

During the last year, Parks and Rec has seen a marked increase in the popularity of its free or low-cost programs, according to Amy Stahl, spokesperson for the department.

Libraries are busier than ever, with patrons taking advantage of free Internet access, free movie rentals, reference and periodicals collections and, of course, the books.

Families are also turning out for free programs ranging from story hours and arts-and-crafts projects to kids' parties, homework help and teen-oriented groups. Each library, including the branch libraries, has a full schedule of activities and offerings. Check out the details at

The Meridian, Garden City, Eagle and Ada County libraries also have packed schedules, and offerings at any public library are free.

The Foothills Learning Center offers programs with an environmental focus for all ages. Stahl said nearly every recent free, hands-on program has been standing room only. For a list of programs, check out

Stahl has also seen a marked increase in the demand for adult sports leagues, so much so that there's actually a waiting list to join adult volleyball. While sports leagues require a small fee for participation, Stahl said they're holding their own, and she expects March softball league signups to be busy.

While Parks and Rec hasn't added any programs because of increased participation, new offerings are added as opportunities arise. Among the most recent is an adult salsa dance class.

Many of the programs are held at the Fort Boise Community Center, which hosts an array of activities for all ages and includes a teen center. Fort Boise and other community centers will also offer free drop-in activities for kids during spring break, March 23-27, while other programs are just $2. Check the Web site for details.

Idaho IceWorld is getting in the spirit, offering free skate rental through the end of March with admission—$7 for adults during public skating time. Wednesdays are family night, and admission is only $5.

Of course, as long as you have a Frisbee, there's always free disc golf at two of Boise's landmark parks.

Thanks to the Gem State Disc Golfers, a permanent 18-hole course is set up in Ann Morrison Park, with the first hole at the southeastern corner of the park near the University Drive entrance. Course maps and scorecards are available to download by following the activities link at the Parks and Rec page of the city's Web site, A second, temporary course in Julia Davis Park is not as well marked, but check the Web site for details.

If you're looking for some real golf and happen to have a youngster you can tow along, check out family night at Warm Springs Golf Course. Greens fees are only $8 per person after 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays as long as there's a junior golfer in the group. See for details.

For more family friendly fun, Zoo Boise offers discounted admission on Thursdays—$3.75 for ages 12 to 61. Also, admission to the Boise Art Museum is always free on the first Thursday of every month.

Always free and always open, the Greenbelt is 22.5 miles of paved fun, and as temperatures continue to rise, the pathway will get increasingly busy. The extensive Ridge to Rivers Foothills trail system is also a local favorite, with trails of varying lengths and difficulty. Trails are more of a summer activity, and trail managers ask that users avoid the trails when the ground is wet or muddy to cut down on erosion and trail damage. A full trail map can be found by following the links on the Parks and Rec Web page.

Admission to the MK Nature Center is free, and visitors can stroll the walking paths and check out the underwater wildlife viewing windows along the stream that runs through the 4.6-acre site.

But it's not all about fun and games. Yoga instructors at Muse Studio are looking out for the mental and emotional health of those who have recently lost their jobs. Anyone who has been laid off can take advantage of two free yoga classes per week through the end of March.

Vouchers can be picked up at the studio, 1317 W. Jefferson St., or from any of the nine participating instructors. Classes can only be taken from those specific instructors. For more information and class schedules, check out

With the popularity of free and nearly so events, remember, they're bound to be crowded, so make plans to get there early and remember to RSVP whenever possible to reserve room.

If all else fails, or it's too cold to sit in the park, go for the old standby and fork out the cash for a cup of java in a local coffee shop offering free Wi-Fi, take your laptop and get lost in the ether of the Internet.