By April Spray Newton Special to Published Aug 14, 2013 at 2:21 PM

There are only a few weeks left until the school year starts and I intend to fill whatʼs left of our free time with as many free (or nearly free) activities as we can muster. Do you sense the "free" theme in that sentence?

Several people made great suggestions for fun, cheap stuff through Facebook and Twitter after seeing my first post about this and we found/created a few of our own. Here are some of them:

  1. A free jazz concert during African World Festival at the Summerfest grounds (we didnʼt make it because of nap time but I heard it was great).
  2. Bike riding along the Lakefront to take in the Air and Water Show. This was actually a super-fun way to get through the crowds. The only things we paid for were treats at Alterra on the Lake. Unfortunately, my backside paid its own small price because I hadnʼt sat on a bike seat for a very long time.
  3. Performances, food and socializing at a couple of the neighborhood block party-style events around the city. Still on the calendar is Boulevard Bash in Washington Heights on Aug. 24 from 2 to 8 p.m.
  4. Any of the "Music in the Park" nights all over the area. We havenʼt done any of these yet this year but weʼve loved Jazz in the Park in Cathedral Square in Milwaukee in past years.
  5. A backyard camping night with sʼmores in a fire pit and sleeping bags in a tent. Surprisingly, everyone made it through the night fuss-free.
  6. Seven Bridges Trail in Grant Park in South Milwaukee. Weʼre headed there later this week, hopefully for what I hear is an easy hiking trip even young children can enjoy.
  7. The Chalk Art Festival at Bayshore Town Center mall. It looked terrific but we missed it for the Wisconsin State Fair.
  8. Havenwoods State Park is one Iʼd like to try as the leaves start to change color.
  9. Gardening at home. To be honest, this is more my project than anyone elseʼs but we all like finding worms in the dirt and eating things straight off the plants and vines. Also, choosing flowers for this one tiny vase the kids love has been big entertainment at times.
  10. A couple of different library events. The library events are particularly nice because they donʼt require preparation, they are totally free and thereʼs an educational component. The kids went to one storytime that included an art project, learning a song and dancing around to music related to the story. At another event, "Friends Underfoot," Nature in the Parks put together a fun presentation on animals and insects that live underground, organized the children into a quick play, let them touch real worms and showed them how to move like different animals. Weʼre headed to a different program about Wisconsin birds of prey this week, presented by The Schlitz Audobon Nature Center at Wauwatosaʼs library.

Let me know what youʼve tried, what you suggest and where you find or hear about other cheap and free stuff to do!

April Spray Newton Special to

April Spray Newton is a Milwaukee transplant, having set down roots here almost six years ago. She's an instructor at Marquette University, a freelance writer, a mother, a wife and lots of other things. In the Newton household, we all want to be President someday, or maybe an artist, or maybe a chef, or maybe an astronaut, or maybe a pop star, or maybe ....

Because April hails from the Midwest, Milwaukee has seemed deeply familiar at times but also revolutionary. To April, the friendly attitudes, do-it-yourself-iness, and love of the outdoors are recognizable and welcome. Milwaukeeans' accepting approach of so many kinds of people, devotion to education, passion for the arts and interest in creating a true sense of community is surprising but also very welcome.

April has worked in TV news and still freelances in print. Her stories have appeared in several local publications.