SALT LAKE CITY — We all like to have a good time, but for families with children the cost of fun can add up. In today's society, with so many entertainment options one might be fooled into thinking that entertainment for the family is bound to be expensive, but there are many options for Utah families that are inexpensive and very fun.
<span style="font-weight:bold;font-size:18px;color:#2354ac;">Saving money on movies</span>
According to the National Association of Theater Owners, the national average for a movie ticket reached an all-time high of $8.38 in 2013. For a family of four the cost of tickets, popcorn, and drinks can add up to an expensive night on the town. However, don't give up on seeing the newest movie at your local theater just yet.
Many movie theater chains offer discounts if you know where to look. A quick internet search will show weekend matinee discounts, family nights, special discount days, and combos on your favorite snacks.
Don't discount having a movie night at home either. Movie rental machines are available at most grocery stores and big-box retailers and web-streaming sites such as Netflix can bring movies right to your TV. If you or your children have an Xbox, you can even stream movies through Microsoft video or a Netflix app.
<span style="font-weight:bold;font-size:18px;color:#2354ac;">Universities are a great resource</span>
Here in Utah, and especially along the Wasatch Front, we have access to top-quality universities. These institutes of higher learning can be a great resource for family entertainment.
While taking a family of four to a Utah or BYU football game might be pricey, why not check out some of your favorite college's other athletic options? In many cases tickets to sports such as soccer, baseball, softball, and women's basketball are significantly lower than tickets to a football or men's basketball game. If your little ones love playing volleyball or soccer, head over to Weber State, UVU, Utah or BYU and take in a game.
Universities are also a great source of entertainment off the field as well.
Most universities have theater departments that host family-friendly productions. Music departments also host concerts that are entertaining as well as affordable and many local colleges host weekend and summer arts workshops for kids as well.
<span style="font-weight:bold;font-size:18px;color:#2354ac;">Keep an eye out for free days</span>
Some publicly-funded attractions offer free or discounted days for the general public. The Utah Museum of Natural History will host four free days in 2014 while Red Butte Garden, Hoggle Zoo and other attractions have free days and other discounts available.
<span style="font-weight:bold;font-size:18px;color:#2354ac;">The Great Outdoors</span>
One of the best ways to get exercise and have fun is to take advantage of Utah's natural beauty. The state is home to five National Parks and countless other natural wonders.
A day trip to one of Utah's parks can be a great way to introduce your kids to nature and an active lifestyle. Admission to Utah's National Parks can vary but shouldn't cost more than $25 per vehicle or $12 per person at most. There are many other public areas that are free and provide days of outdoor enjoyment.
<span style="font-weight:bold;font-size:18px;color:#2354ac;">Take advantage of season passes</span>
Do you like to visit the zoo? Is your family into skiing? Then take advantage of the discounts offered by season passes and memberships. Many season passes can pay for themselves in as little as two visits.
Entertainment is an important part of our lives. It relieves stress and can bring families closer together, but it doesn't have to put a hole in your pocket.
Sharon Cook is the senior vice president of Marketing and Public Relations for Mountain America Credit Union