FREE and Cheap After School Programs in Hartford County, CT

Back to school is creeping up on us. Before we know it the yellow buses and kids lugging their backpacks will be filling the streets. Unfortunately for the working parents with the 9-5 schedule the 3 o’clock school day ending will just not cut it. Luckily there are many free after school programs available in the Hartford area. For more after school programs check out our After School Classes Guide.

Family Fun at the Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington

It is never too early to introduce your child to art. In the Hartford area, one tends to think of the grandiose Wadsworth, or perhaps the sleek New Britain Museum of American Art, but don’t overlook the Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington. There, in the 1901 Colonial Revival house turned museum, both art and history come alive. The Hill-stead, however, is not just for grown-ups and art buffs: family-friendly events like First Sundays and seasonal community events on the estate’s magnificent grounds invite families and children to enjoy and learn from this cultural landmark right up the road. (Check out our Museum Guide for ideas of other CT museums to try with kids by county.)

Highland Orchards in Chester County: 5 Reasons to Make a Family Day Trip

Undoubtedly, the simplest of activities can often make the best memories for our young children. Visiting an area orchard or farm is an easy, low-cost outing and a great way to bring the little ones closer to nature. Highland Orchards, a Chester County farm market and pick-your-own field, provides fresh air, fresh food, and fun times for families all year round. During the warmer weather, families can take advantage of its outdoor activities, including pick-your-own strawberries, a playground, and a spot to feed animals. Fall is the height of apple picking and hayride season, and in the cold months, Highland Orchards continues its open hours in the farm market, where kids and grownups can enjoy the freshly baked pies and other baked goods (and other tasty free samples!)

This summer, don’t miss an opportunity to go to Highland Orchards for eating, playing, or even taking a structured tour of the grounds. Check out the top 5 reasons why it’s worth a drive to the Chester County countryside for a visit.

4th of July Fireworks and Festivities in Lower Hudson Valley

The 4th of July is almost here! We've already filled you in on the best places to catch stunning Independence Day fireworks in Westchester. Now we are heading across the county line to round up the top spots for holiday sparklers throughout Lower Hudson Valley. Since many celebrations also include live music, ballgames, parades, magic shows and even a carnival, these festivities are definitely worth the drive if you're coming from Westchester.

Free Outdoor Family Movies Almost Every Night in July for NYC Kids

Every summer in NYC, there are a slew of no-cost outdoor movie screenings. So many in fact, you can probably find at least one FREE alfresco flick per evening being shown somewhere in the five boroughs. But here's the problem for families: A lot of these films aren't kid-friendly. If you don't plan ahead, you may end up accidentally dropping into Bryant Park when Die Hard is on, and you really don't want your preschooler repeating Bruce Willis' R-rated variation on yippee ki-yay, do you?

While there are a few series aimed specifically at children like RiverFlicks for Kids, most sandwich their family films in between the grown-up ones. But instead of you having to peruse all those different calendars, we've done the work for you. Behold: More than 40 FREE outdoor movies this July, most rated G or PG (with a couple of PG-13 titles for the tweens in your life), all organized by date. From recent blockbusters like Frozen and The Lego Movie, to '80s hits such as The Goonies and Back to the Future, to classics like Mary Poppins and The Wizard of Oz, here are the best, FREE, kid-friendly outdoor movies playing in NYC this July.

This Week: Free Summer Fun, Fireworks and Day Trips

The high temperatures and humidity we've been experiencing say summer arrived weeks ago, but for NYC public school kids, break is just beginning. And we're celebrating with a variety of fun-filled events, from a School's Out Celebration in Coney Island, to a slew of free fests and concerts.

Heading to Long Island's East End this summer? Here's a roundup of super cheap (yes, really) activities for kids. There's also a ton of free fun to be had in nearby New Jersey. Plan a day trip to the Garden State for entertainment like the NJ Barbecue Championship, blueberry festivals and beach outings. For dino-obsessed kids, we've got a list of places to find the prehistoric creatures in Connecticut that's sure to be a hit.

Our Travel site has details on a blissful family farm vacation in New Hampshire.

Here's what else we covered on the NYC site this week:

Swoop Into the Raptor Trust: A Hidden Treasure for Bird-Loving NJ Kids

During the summer, New Jersey parents are constantly on the lookout for day trips that are both entertaining and educational. The Garden State's great zoos and aquariums are always lots of fun, but if you're looking for a unique experience for your wildlife-loving kids, consider a trip to the Raptor Trust. Located in Millington, the Raptor Trust is primarily a medical facility for injured birds; however, it's also a permanent home for birds that cannot be safely returned to the wild. Visitors are given the opportunity observe these gorgeous creatures up close. I recently took my two children, ages 11 and 7, on a tour. Read on to see what this special destination has to offer.

Weekend Fun with LA Kids: Urban Nature, River Ride & BET Fan Fest , June 27 - 28

It's summertime (for reals this week!), and the fun is coming fast and furious. Time to indulge in your post-solstice favorites: Hollywood Bowl will have you singing all the way back to the future, or you can just bowl.  You can wherefore and wilt thou with the Shakespearean troupe in Griffith Park (free all summer long). Speaking of free, there are a ton of free movies and free concerts and, really, aren't the best things in life free?

Here are a few: Free fan fest. Free pirate invasion. Free bike ride. (Free bike expo). Free Chinatown Summer Nights. Free movie. Free movie. Free movie. Free concert. Free festival.

And our favorite free, the Land of the Free, has its special day coming up. Nothing says summer like the Fourth of July!  We've got the scoop on America's birthday and all the best fireworks next week, (and one display this weekend, if you want to get an early start).

Keep reading for our favorite picks for this weekend...

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