It's great to spend quality time with friends, family and loved ones, provided, of course, it doesn't cost much to do so. After all, these are tough economic times we live in. Below is a list of local activities that won't set you back an arm and/or a leg.
GERALD FORD BIRTHSITE AND GARDENS
This is a great destination to take the kids for a little history trip. Yes, I know, the words “history trip” have the same connotation to children as “projectile vomit” to you and me.
But this is one of those places where long-term Omahans suddenly look up and say, “I can't believe I've never been here.” The house where Ford was born is gone, but until the day someone builds a Walgreens on the site, I'm always down to visit.
JOSLYN ART MUSEUM
Price: Free, between 10 a.m. and noon Saturdays.
There's nothing like an art museum with an early-bird special. An added attraction is that around 11:50 a.m. the parking lot turns into a demolition derby, which is also free.
TOUR OF THE JOHN GOTTSCHALK FREEDOM CENTER
This is the downtown, state-of-the-art production facility where The World-Herald is printed.
Lest I be accused of playing favorites, I have never taken the tour myself. And maybe hearing lots of catchy statistics (“75,000 newspapers per hour can be printed,” “the presses weigh 1,661 U.S. tons”) or possibly even catching a glimpse of the person who selects the letters for the Public Pulse isn't your idea of a thrilling getaway.
But for the Warren Buffett in many of us, the tour sounds like a deal at zero bucks.
STROLL THE OLD MARKET
Price: Free, so long as you don't walk inside any of the buildings.
I dare you to name one other place where you can check out a classical street musician, a rock guitarist, a juggler, a carriage ride, see a guy with 60 tattoos and a fortuneteller with pierced eyebrows. And that's just in the first half-block.
THE COLLEGE WORLD SERIES FAN FEST
Everybody knows about the College World Series, but the Fan Fest might trump it.
Yeah, sure, the CWS competition is keen, and it was great that a couple of teams actually scored a run this year. But I hate dealing with the traffic, relative high prices and parking hassles.
So instead I check out the TD Ameritrade Park open house/Fan Fest the day before the CWS begins. There are batting cages, games and former Major League baseball players. There's just one little thing missing — competitive baseball.
Price: $6 from November to March, $7 the rest of the year.
On the Lauritzen Gardens website, visitors are encouraged to “Escape to an urban oasis for beauty and tranquility ...” Since you're getting away from traffic jams, orange construction cones, ringing cellphones and TV for a couple of hours, at seven bucks this place is underpriced by roughly $493.
MALLORY KOUNTZE PLANETARIUM
The planetarium is located on the University of Nebraska at Omaha campus and offers educational shows on astronomical events.
The kids learn about celestial occurrences, and dads learn something much more important: That it's possible to take a family of four to a show for $12.
WESTWOOD CINEMA 8 MOVIE THEATERS
Price: $2.50 for a matinee, $3 in the evening.
One could argue that at $2.50 movies today are still grossly overpriced, but compared to most Omaha theaters, it's a grand bargain.
Granted, some say that the ambience here is reminiscent of a turn-of-the-century Russian sausage factory, but the theater has what's called character. And so what if the movies have been out for a while, it's not like they're showing “Jaws” now or anything … hold on … no, they're not showing “Jaws” now.
WILDLIFE SAFARI PARK
Price: Adults, $6.50, children, $4.50.
The drive-through animal park is located just outside town in Ashland, Neb.
Sure, the kids are bound to be disappointed when they hear “drive through” and realize it involves wild elk and not cheeseburgers. But the price is right, and there's a section where “your kids can interact with goat kids.”
Ignore the fact that “goat kids” sounds like something you'd read about in the Weekly World News, and have a blast.
SAY HELLO TO FIREWORKS
Price: Typically free.
One of the few things Omahans love even more than farmers markets are fireworks displays. Men have been known to miss the birth of their first child when they rush out of the hospital to check out a fireworks show down the street, and not regret it later. Of course we are selective and shoot off fireworks only on special occasions, like, say, to mark the 162nd anniversary of President Millard Fillmore's inauguration.
Price: Free to ?
Eastern Nebraska is approaching a tipping point where there are more farmers markets than actual farmers.
Still, these are great places to buy affordable produce so long as you don't think about all the strangers who've handled the stuff earlier.