As you may have noticed I took a break from blogging this summer. Now that we are getting into our groove here in Oklahoma we have found our schedule increasingly busier. We have a local homeschool co-op, monthly art workshops, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, church, choir, and more!

But the main reason that I haven’t blogged is because we simply weren’t home. We took a 3-week, 3,000 mile road trip to visit family and have some free fun!

wisconsin barn

Enjoying rural Wisconsin

If you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw some of our adventures as they unfolded.

Before we left on our epic trip, the kids were able to take part in Cub Scout Day Camp. They had room for some Girl Scouts, so Denna joined a group of girls for the week-long activities. Raven helped run the bb-gun and archery ranges. The little guy got to hang out one day with me and try out all the fun stations.

Scout Day Camp activities

Their favorite stations, as you can see, were archery, bb-guns, and fishing. Other stations included a science learning time, learning to ride bikes safely with local police officers, water games, and of course lunch!

After a week in the heat, the kids were ready for cooler weather.

We planned our vacation so that we could save as much money as possible and see several states and family members along the way. We had gas money and enough saved up to have one weekend in a motel, but the rest was going to have to be very frugal.

We brought two boxes and two coolers of food along with us so that we would not have to eat out. And we planned our fun around several museums that were offering free admission for active duty military families from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

The history of Kool Aid at the Hastings museum

The history of Kool Aid at the Hastings museum

Blue Star Museums – free for active duty military families!

Thanks to the National Endowment for the Arts and the Department of Defense, over 2,000 museums are offering free admission to active duty military families this summer! The Blue Star Museum program has something to offer in every state, and families can enjoy art, history, science, children’s activities, and much more.

Before our road trip I made a list of every participating museum in the areas we would be staying. I also bookmarked them on my ipod so I could look up the business hours.

Our first stop was Nebraska where we spent a week with my family. The two museums we visited in Nebraska were the Hastings Museum of Natural and Cultural History and the Stuhr Museum in Grand Island.

Identifying birds common to Nebraska

Identifying birds common to Nebraska

The Hastings museum is an impressive mix of history, science, and culture. Our admission included free entrance to the planetarium so we took advantage of that and saw two presentations.

The exhibits range from animals, military history, Nebraska cultural history, a kid’s Snoopy section, and an entire area dedicated to Kool Aid. Why Kool Aid? Well, Hastings, Nebraska is the birthplace of Kool Aid! Edwin Perkins developed the soft drink in 1927.

general store in hastings museum

Entrance to the Kool Aid exhibit


The Stuhr museum in Grand Island was just as exciting. This “museum” consists of several large, outdoor sites that depict historical buildings. The main attraction is 2 city blocks of Victorian homes and shops – fully operational and staffed.

Stuhr museum buildings

This year the town was set up to show what life was like in 1895. We were able to see how the blacksmith made horseshoes, the carpenter used a belt system to run every piece of machinery in his shop, how the lady at the telephone exchange could listen in on conversations (if she were inclined to), and how the grain mill operated.

Learning about prairie life

After lots of fun with my family, we headed North again – this time to Minnesota! We split our time with family in half and spent one weekend in Minneapolis at a motel. Jay wanted to attend a card tournament and the kids and I wanted to visit the Mall of America!

The Lego store was our #1 stop in Minneapolis

The Lego store was our #1 stop in Minneapolis

I offered the kids the choice of buying tickets for the rides at Nickelodeon Universe (the new theme park inside the Mall of America) or money to spend in their favorite stores. They each chose the stores. Our favorites included the Disney store, J.M. Cremp’s, a small anime store, and of course the LEGO store!

Nickelodeon Universe - right before opening

Nickelodeon Universe – right before opening

Our Mall of America loot

Our Mall of America loot

The kids found a potato gun, slingshot, knot tying game, Dr. Who bracelet, Mixels, and various other trinkets. While we were in the Twin Cities I had hoped to visit the American Swedish Institute or one of the various art museums. But sometimes you have to put aside your agenda for learning opportunities and let the kids lead – and they wanted to spend their time at the mall or in the motel relaxing.

Our final vacation destination was Wisconsin where Jay’s parents live (and we used to live). Our free adventures took a fun direction with the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire.

Eau Claire Childrens Museum

We milked a cow, tried our hand at plumbing and construction, did some farming, built a campfire, bought and delivered groceries, built with blocks, and did some fun physics experiments in the water!

Our free fun also involved making a real campfire in grandma and grandpa’s back yard, building a makeshift tent to camp out, and attending VBS!

VBS, family bonfire, and camping out with grandpa!

VBS, family bonfire, and camping out with grandpa!

After almost a month of vacation (and cooler weather), we headed back to blazing hot Oklahoma. At times our trip was hectic, but we are thankful that we could do so much with such a small budget.

We were pleased that we didn’t have any trouble taking part in the blue star program. All of the museums were happy to have us and thanked us for choosing to visit. 

If you are a military family, I highly recommend taking advantage of the free admission to blue star museums.

Now that we are home, we have a few museums nearby that are free this summer. We plan on going to the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History next week. I also want to visit the Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum.

We are also taking advantage of our community pool and splash pad to cool off. And as we start back into our normal routine with church, scouts, and co-op, I am starting to gather resources for another great year of homeschooling.

What about you? What adventures have you taken this summer?

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One Response to Our Mostly Free Summer Adventure

  1. Patricia Riddle says:

    I really enjoyed reading about you and your family. I myself have a heart for the homeless, and wish I had more financial resources so I could do some of what you do. Am looking forward to reading your blog about your journey so far. Thanks for living your life in the way I think Jesus asks us to. I especially like that you want your children to be compassionate. So many people just don’t think about that, it seems. sincerely, Patricia

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