Leaving the house isn't always an option if you are sick or snowed in, BUT when you can leave the house, you need a few, affordable options! Here are some of my go-to activities when we are going stir-crazy & need to spend a few hours outside of the house. They are options that take less effort than a full day trip, & many of them are free (or at least pretty affordable!)
Arcades - We have a few different kid-friendly arcades near our house. My favorite ones are the ones where you don't need tokens, coins, or tickets - you simply get a card to swipe to play games, & the tickets automatically load back onto the card. Many of the arcades are empty during the day, which means that you can have a fun little outing with your young kids without worrying about the normal chaos of an arcade.
Libraries - Libraries are AMAZING & oftentimes under-utilized. There are so many libraries within an hour driving distance from our house & each one has something slightly different to offer. Most libraries have amazing kid play areas with touchscreen computers, board games, blocks, legos, puzzles, kitchen sets, & of course... books. Make it a point to check out libraries other than your local library & see what you can discover.
Pet Stores - We have an incredible pet store near us. There are lizards, snakes, turtles, fish, hamsters, bunnies, cats, birds, & more! It is like a mini zoo when we go there to visit & see all of the animals. Pro Tip: If your child realllllyyyy wants to go home with an animal, you can buy a couple goldfish ("feeder fish") for about a dollar.
Book Stores - Big book stores like Barnes & Noble offer fun activities - story times, special events, & even a kid play area. Smaller, neighborhood books stores are also really fun to explore & often offer unique family activities as well!
Mall Walking - This one is a really great activity if you have a baby (it gets a little trickier as the kids get older & want to walk around too). Strap the baby to your chest or push them in their stroller & get a little exercise with a favorite drink in hand :)
Free Trial Classes - Many local businesses offer free trial classes for kid activities. Find local places that offer music, gymnastics, dance, karate classes, etc & then see if they offer the first class for free. Just be aware that your child might fall in love with it & beg for you to sign them up ;)
Children's Museums - Some children's museums are huge & busy & overwhelming, but some of them are not. Our local children's museum is small & manageable & has very affordable year-long membership rates. It is a nice option to have when we need to get out of the house for a few hours without feeling like we need to stay there all day to make it worthwhile.
Fast Food Play Areas - I am certainly not above fast food play areas over the winter months. McDonald's, Burger King, & Chick-Fil-A are always big hits with my kids. They get to run around & play, & I can sip a coffee & use their free wifi.
Bounce House Places - We have a place near us that is basically a giant warehouse filled with various bounce houses. There are also Sky Zone trampoline parks in many areas. Either of these options are great for getting out allllll of that cooped up energy. Most of them also offer special bounce times for younger children so that they don't get smushed by bigger kids.
YMCAs & Rec Centers - YMCAs & Rec Centers are often under-utilized facilities in the community. You could buy a day pass & go swimming for the day. You could attend their special events, classes, & open gyms. Check your local locations to see what they have to offer.
For more on this topic, check out the full Winter Activities collection