Editor’s note: This article ran in Flagstaff Live! June 20-July 5, 1996. While many of the items and experiences listed are no longer in existence or cost more than what it says, we thought it would be interesting to highlight life in Flagstaff in the ‘90s. We no longer have a 99-cent store and we strongly advise you do not fly a kite in the rain. This article has been altered for space and style.
OK, let’s start out with a trip to our favorite fast food joint. A burger or two each, a couple of orders of large fries to share and large drinks all around. Then we’ll get ice cream for dessert, go shopping at the mall and do a movie. Gee, for a family of four that should run about 35, 40 bucks. And that’s window shopping only at the mall.
OK, instead, let’s go for a hike. Yeah, that’s it. We’ll roast wieners over the campfire and… oh, no fires, right. I guess we could just stay home and watch Ace Ventura Pet Detective for the sixth time.
Stop right there. You say you don’t know what to do? You think everything is expensive or too much trouble? Think again, my friend. There’s plenty to do in this town on the cheap. I’ll give you 10 ideas right now for having fun on 10 bucks or less with the kids.
1) Picnic: We have some great parks in this town. Make Kool-Aid and put it in your water bottles. Black cherry is the best! Here’s my famous pasta salad recipe that costs about six dollars to make: Prepare one box of pasta (ziti or bow ties), drain. In a large bowl, add to the pasta: one diced tomato, one head of chopped broccoli, small package crumbled blue cheese and eight crumbled strips of crisp bacon. Mix it all together with some ranch dressing and olive oil, and chill. For dessert, a Hershey candy bar for everyone. Take a Frisbee or a football and your afternoon is set. Cost: $10
2) Family Swim Night at Flagstaff High School Pool: Wednesday nights from 8-9 p.m. Saturday nights from 5:30-7 p.m. Free kids ages 3-10, and adults $1. Bring your inner-tube and settle in for a good swim. Afterward, go get an ice cream cone. Cost: $10
3) The Arboretum: Some 200 acres of ponderosa pine forest, various gardens including a children’s garden, and tours daily at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Experience a fascinating diversity of plant materials native to alpine tundra, coniferous forest and high desert. You might even learn something, although it isn’t required. Adults $3. On the way there, stop by a drive-thru and get everyone a soda. Cost: $10.
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4) Walnut Canyon National Monument: Another possible learning experience, and exercise, too! Take a walk into the canyon and experience the incredible cliff dwellings there. The visitor center museum displays artifacts and pottery that help you imagine how the Sinagua lived and farmed. Only four dollars a carload. After the walk, buy sodas and relax at one of the picnic tables. Cost: $10
5) Lowell Observatory: Monday through Saturday at 8 and 8:45 p.m. You can take the family to learn about the starry skies of northern Arizona. You even get to take a peek through the 100-year-old Clark telescope! Cost: $8.
6) Fiesta Night at Home: It’s a theme party! Each family member is responsible for a different section of the evening. Dad makes the enchiladas, mom picks through the clothes in the closets to find appropriate dinner-wear, kid number one finds the facts about Mexico and kid number two decorates with a little imagination and a role of crepe paper. This one might need mom’s help in getting to the library for the research, but hey, who can complain about a trip to the library.
7) 99-Cent Store: You’d be amazed at what fun there is to have at the 99-cent store. Give each kid three bucks, adults get two, and go for it. Afterward, have show-and-tell. It will be fun listening to why your 7-year-old wanted a combination tape measure/level or a hot pink feather duster. And the kids will have fun hearing why dad bought bubbles. Cost: $10
8) Fishing: Dig a coffee can full of worms and head down to City Pond next to Thorpe Park. No fishing license required and it’s probably not too far from home. Make brownies to take along and toss in some white grapes or apples. Fill the water bottles with Kool-Aid—this time go for the tropical punch. Have everyone tell their favorites fishing story. Cost: $10
9) Fly a Kite: How did this kind of thing end up so underrated? The only problem will be finding a kite and kite string for under $10. But I’ve seen that it is possible at some of our trusty department stores. So find an empty ball park or open field and let her soar. Depending on the condition of the wind, this can also be a good lesson in patience. Cost: $10
10) Take a Drive: A specific drive. Pile in the car and head out I-40 west to Seligman. This is a pretty nice drive on its own merit, but once you get to Seligman stop at Delgadillos Snow Cap (301 E. Chino Ave.). This place is incredible. It’s a museum, circus and ice cream shop all rolled into one. I’m not going to tell you anything else about it. Put it on the top of your list and just take a risk. You’ll love it. After you get your order, sit on the hood of your car and enjoy. Cost: $10.