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Free and Cheap Kid-Friendly Things to Do in and around Forsyth County, GA

I am researching things to do that are low or no-cost in North Atlanta. I will share the places I find and hope it helps you add to your summer adventures. I live in Forsyth County, GA so this will focus on this area for the most part. I will also update this as I go. Happy trails! Update: As a result of this extremely popular post, I created Forsyth for Families, a local blog chronicling free and cheap things to do for families in and around Cumming, GA.

Forsyth County Parks – we are fortunate to have a wealth of parks available for our leisure. Here is a list with plenty of resources. Central Park is a favorite hangout. Coal Mountain Park has a great shaded playground. Poole’s Mill has a wonderful creek and shady playground. Fowler Park is Forsyth County’s newest park. It is located on the greenway and is about the size of Central Park.

Lake Lanier parks and campgrounds – Shady Grove campground opens March 28, signaling the new Spring season for camping, hiking, playing and visiting all of the wonderful parks on the lake. Here is a list of parks on Lake Lanier and what they offer.

Movies 400 – free summer movies in Cumming, GA on Tuesday and Thursdays at 10:00 am. The concession stand offers a special size $1.00 Popcorn and $1.00 Soda for these showings only. Join us this summer for free movies. Bring a can of food to support our can food drive and receive a free popcorn! (Free Family Film Festival Size only, Limit One Per Customer) See my post on the other movie theaters offering free and dollar movies.

Forsyth County Public Library – activities, puppet shows and a calendar for story time keep the library a fresh fun place to go. Plus checking out books keeps our reading library replenished at no cost!

Cumming City Park Pool and playground – Hours: May 30-Aug 6, Mon-Sun 1pm–5pm; Adult Lap Swim: Mon-Thu 5:30pm-7:30pm; Call for lesson schedule. Cost: $3; lesson prices separate.

Catch Air – a cool and spacious jumpy place with weekly specials. They have a new magic wall and a preschooler area. They are adding neat things and keep it fun for the kids. One of our favorite places to go. Follow on FB or sign up for the newsletter for deals.

Adventure Kids – the newest jumpy place with a sand area. Find refuge on a rainy day here.

Chick-Fil-A – Tuesday night is family night at The Avenues in Cumming, GA and also Lanier Crossing. Balloons, face painting and special meal deals. Sign up for email newsletter local events and deals. Check out their FB page and sign up for text alerts for special promotions!

Barnes & Noble at The Avenues – story time and other fun events at the B&N in Cumming, GA.

Monkey Joe’s – Cumming, GA – jumpy place. Follow on FB, sign up for newsletter for coupons. They have run a few Groupons and Living Social deals as well.

Michaels – arts and crafts classes are offered at the Michael’s in Cumming, GA off Market Place Blvd.

Lowe’s – offers kids classes to build all kinds of fun things. Lowe’s in Cumming, GA off Market Place Blvd.

Home Depot offers craft workshops on the first Saturday of each month. Located off of Market Place Boulevard.

Sawnee Mountain – pack a picnic and head for a hike at Sawnee Mountain Preserve. There is also a small playground and picnic tables.

Rainbow Ranch Trout Farm – try something new and take your children fishing in this trout farm next to the Chattahoochee River. There is also a picnic area and pavilion for group outings.

The Ice - New ice skating rink in Cumming, GA. Dress warmly and learn to skate a figure eight!

Slapshots – Family roller skating center – fun for everyone. Check their FB page for events and discounts.

Stars & Strikes - Bowling, laser tag, bumper cars, arcade, restaurant. See their FB page for specials.

Cumming Playhouse - offering plays, musicals, concerts, and catered fine dining on select performances.

Kinsey Family Farm – pumpkin season starts September 25, hay rides, nursery, apple cannon, fun!

Nearby Activities in Surrounding Counties

Waterparks around Atlanta – I just learned of the one, Bogan, near Mall of Georgia. Great list here and although there is a cost, some like Bogan are real deals.

Fountains of Atlanta – we love to pack a lunch and visit the fountains within 30 minutes of our house in the heat of summer for a cool treat.

Autrey Mill Nature Preserve and Heritage Center
Autrey Mill, located in Alpharetta, has miles of walking trails, a Heritage Village with original buildings and artifacts from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s, animal exhibits and replicas of Native American dwellings. All activities on the grounds are free.
9770 Autrey Mill Road, Johns Creek, GA 30022.

Chattahoochee Nature Center – walking trails and educational sessions with a low cost admission is fun for the whole family.

Wills Park Wacky World and Disc Golf is a 110-acre park featuring baseball fields, a disc golf course, lighted tennis courts, picnic pavilions, walking trails and two large playgrounds, including “Wacky World,” a unique kingdom that kids rave about. Situated at the edge of the park is the Alpharetta city pool, which has a diving well with three boards, a shaded kiddie, shaded and open deck areas and a concession stand.

Suwanee Town Center Park and Playtown Suwanee – a little bit further away but adventure awaits with an interactive fountain, lots of greenspace and a great playground.

North Georgia Premium Outlets – playground, food court and outdoor shops for window shopping and enjoying the outdoors.

i Shop Lollipop – toy store, jumpy place by North Georgia Premium Outlets. One of our favorites. Follow on FB, get email newsletter for coupons/sales.

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Historical Perspective of Marketing Expenditures During a Recession

Here are some historical facts of marketing during previous recessions. Although it is usually the first to go in some non marketing-centric companies, do not cut yourl marketing!

If anything, stay the course or increase marketing in areas where you can track results like online marketing and focus on your most successful markets. By doing so, you will gain more visibility and get more exposure for your money while your competition scales back.

Also, make sure your customers are taken care of and that you have established clear communication and feedback with them. Listen and engage customers using social media especially if they are complaining about your company.

Focus on your most successful markets and target those niches through industry associations and trade magazines with case studies and integrated marketing campaigns.

Industry Fast Fact
Historical Perspective of Marketing Expenditures During a Recession

· 1974-1975 recession years -
“Companies which did not cut marketing expenditures experienced higher sales and net income during those two years and the two years following than those companies which cut in either or both recession years.” - American Business Press, Inc., ABP/Meldrum & Fewsmith study, 1979

· 1981-1982 recession years -
“Business-to-business firms that maintained or increased their marketing expenditures during the 1981-1982 recession averaged significantly higher sales growth both during the recession and for the following three years than those which eliminated or decreased marketing.” - McGraw-Hill Research. Laboratory of Advertising Performance Report 5262 New York: McGraw-Hill, 1986

· 1990-1991 recession years -
“Firms that increased their budgets and took on new people were twice as likely to pick up market share.” - Greenburg, Eric Rolfe. “Fortune Follows the Brave,” Management Review, January 1993

“According to research by professors at Penn State’s Smeal College of Business and the University of Texas, for well-positioned companies experienced in successful marketing, an economic recession should not prompt marketing cutbacks, but rather an aggressive increase in marketing spending to achieve superior business performance both in the short and long term.”

Research: Companies Strong In Marketing Should Increase Efforts During Recession – Penn State Smeal College of Business

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Tips for Visiting Disney on a Budget

I married into a Disney family. My father in law is a member of the Disney Vacation Club and we have been fortunate to be able to stay at the Old Key West resort for many years. We like to visit Disney a few times a year if we are lucky. We have found ways to see some sights on a budget and I’d like to share some with you. I just sent this to a friend whose family member is going for the first time. I hope it helps!

Some tips:
1) Pick up Disney toys/stuffed animals/clothes at Wal-Mart before trip and hide them/bring out during trip.
2) Bring snacks into the parks – we brought cereal bars, raisins, etc. They check your bag but it’s allowed.
3) Take the monorail around to the Grand Floridian, Polynesian and Contemporary resorts and walk around each resort to see each theme.
4) Ask to ride the front of the monorail and kids get a monorail operator license!
5) Eat at Earl of Sandwich in Downtown Disney – great sandwich, low cost – they even have breakfast.
6) Walk on Disney’s boardwalk – it’s just like New Jersey and there are carnival games, etc. Restaurants, a bakery, ESPN zone, a boat ride, you name it! You can see the fireworks at Epcot here too.
7) Make a reservation for character dining and make it the end of the brunch time around 11 – 11:30 before it ends. You have more time for characters and less people by then. (our favorite place is at the Contemporary – Chef Mickey’s)
8) You can get a mini-fridge and stay at the Pop Century or All-Star resort and you can take the bus to the parks.
9) See the characters at the Epcot Character Spot – they are all lined up inside the building and if you go early, there is little wait time.

10) Go “around the world” at Epcot:
- we like to eat at the Rose & Crown in England – make advance reservations – good kids menu,
- pick out an oyster in Japan and get a pearl – under $20 – our girls LOVE this
- sample foods from different countries (cheese plate in France), watch shows
- log flume ride in Norway (a little dark/scary for younger kids – Vikings)
- so much more!

Happy trails!

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