Confession: My favorite kind of fun is the free kind

Don’t get me wrong; hubby and I are absolutely guilty of dropping some major coin to impress our little ones, but some of our best times and best memories come from days we spent next to nothing at all, just our time, our energy and our focus.

Like today, the BFF and I had time on our hands and no rain in the sky, which, strangely, is a rare thing in San Diego lately, so we decided on a picnic at Balboa Park. When you have a 2 year old, an 8 year old and a 12 year old, finding something to adequately entertain all 3 can be difficult, but this was perfect..and did I mention FREE? Fill up the HydroFlask, grab a blanket, shove some snacks and PB&Js inside the family backpack and we are good to go.

In all honesty, my kids could probably spend the entire day just running around “the fountain” (Balboa Park has probably 100 fountains, but everyone knows this is THE FOUNTAIN) and chasing birds…but it is not this mommy’s favorite thing. Most visits to the fountain involve me wincing in fear that one or both will fall in while simultaneously taking pictures of their joy and adorableness. Luckily, “Chu” was the only casualty today when Baby Belle threw him in to take a bath.

The fountain is right outside two of the park’s hot spots: Reuben H. Fleet Science Center and the Natural History Museum. All 3 of our children LOVE these places. But today’s agenda involved free, and the museums were not free (today, at least. Check back later for a future post about Residents Free Tuesdays) so we distracted them with bubbles. No, we did not bring these. Some kind human has this setup for children to play with. Bless you, kind human, whoever you are.

After bubbles, we wandered around for a spot to eat lunch (read: me and BFF ate the food we carefully chose and packed while the girls nibbled at half of it, refused the other half, gave it all to Bubba, and then ran off).

Balboa Park is huge. Enormous. And it’s an absolute hot spot for Pokemon – there are Poke stops and gyms at every turn and there’s rare and special Pokemon we don’t have “way out” in the inland city of Mira Mesa where we live. Plus, with all the walking, it’s great for egg hatching. So, basically, Bubba is in heaven. BFF and I get to chat while Baby Belle and LiLi Boo run and giggle their little butts off and Bubba gets to be a Pokemon master for the afternoon. The girls are happy and tiring themselves out. The boy is content and not complaining and is outdoors and moving (with no Xbox or YouTube channel in sight…whaaaaat, mom win!). Seriously, best.day.ever.

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, Balboa Park is riddled with entertainment at every turn: face painting, magicians, musicians, artists, human statues…and balloon artists. Okay, so this is where the free ends. The artists typically work on tips and donations so it doesn’t cost a fortune, but it ain’t free. Still, a $5 bill for this Chinese dragon they requested to “challenge” the balloon artist was worth its weight in gold as they ran around laughing and growling at each other.

We’ll be back again many, many times. With as much as we roamed around today, we had so much left unexplored. In the summer, they have food trucks on Fridays. Sometimes there’s shows over in the organ pavilion. In the spring when everything blooms, it’s even more beautiful. On Tuesdays, certain museums are free (and did I mention I love free?). In December, there’s a giant Christmas tree and carolers. I have a scavenger hunt I’ve been dying to do with the husbands and the older kids and even more of my nieces and nephews in tow. Every visit is a little different, but every visit is fantastic.

Today, it was colder and damper than usual, the rose gardens aren’t in bloom yet and the botanical garden was closed, but still, we went home with smiling, happy, tired kiddos. And full wallets. Sure, the days with bells and whistles and dollar signs are impressive, but sometimes you just need a day where the shiniest thing you see are the eyes of your children and the gifts you shower them with are simply your love and attention.

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