10 free-to-cheap ideas to fight young children blues this winter

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A children's play area helps kids learn about habitats at the BYU Bean Museum. (Photo by Rebecca Lane)

A children’s play area helps kids learn about habitats at the BYU Monte L. Bean Museum. (Photo by Rebecca Lane)

It’s November, the first snow fell a few weeks ago, and already I can feel cabin fever setting in. Yesterday, for example, my 6-year-old broke a living room window by throwing his little sister’s purse in the air. How do you break a window with a purse? I don’t know. But it’s the kind of thing that’s bound to happen when you’ve got four young kids stuck indoors for hours on end.

When it’s snowing, you can bundle up and go sledding or build a snowman. But for days when it’s just plain cold and yucky outside, here’s a list of indoor Utah County locations where kids can get their wiggles out.

Free attractions:

1. BYU’s Smith Fieldhouse indoor track (Provo)

The indoor track at Brigham Young University’s Smith Fieldhouse is available for community use at various times during the day. Click here for a schedule of open track hours, and note that strollers are only allowed in the outside lane. (If you live in North County and don’t want to drive to Provo, you can use the indoor track at the Pleasant Grove Recreation Center for $1 per person.)

2. Cabelas (Lehi)

Located in Lehi, this giant outdoors retailer has an aquarium and several wildlife and game displays that customers can visit for free. Think of it as an opportunity to teach your children the difference between typical and non-typical deer while wandering a large, heated space.

3. Shopping mall play areas (Provo and Orem)

The Provo Towne Centre  has a free woodland-themed play area located on the lower level next to Sears. At University Mall  in Orem, children can play on a treehouse with a slide, and on pretend dinosaur bones. The play area is located in the northeast corner of the mall.

4. Monte L. Bean Museum (Provo)

The recently renovated Monte L. Bean Museum Life Science Museum at BYU has  has a collection of 2.8 million specimens, and plenty of square footage for children to explore.

While not free, many of the attractions listed below offer discounts through their websites or couponing sites:

5. Provo Beach Resort (Provo)

Located in the Shops at Riverwoods, Provo Beach Resort has an indoor FlowRider, laser tag, bowling, croquet, mini golf, a ropes course and good-sized play areas for kids.

6. Indoor swimming (Provo and Lehi)

Indoor swimming at one of the local city rec centers is a great way to tire out your kids in the winter. Depending on where in the valley you live, the Lehi Legacy Recreation Center (North County) and the Provo Rec Center are two great bets for family fun. Lehi’s Aquatic Center  is open year-round and has a lazy river, water slide, hot tub and lap and leisure pool. The Provo Recreation Center’s  leisure pool features an interactive water treehouse, and its deep water pool has a climbing wall and diving platform.

7. Trampolines and inflatables (Provo, Orem, Lindon, Pleasant Grove)

Local trampoline parks literally let children bounce all that extra energy away. In Provo, for example, there’s Lowes Xtreme Air Sports, with a trapeze, foam pit and good-sized play area for little ones. In Orem, Get Air Hang Time  has 3D dodge ball, foam pits and a basketball area. In Lindon, Jump on It has dodgeball, basketball and a bungee trampoline. And if your kids like inflatables, Kangaroo Zoo in Pleasant Grove has three-story inflatables for bigger kids, as well as smaller jumping areas for little ones.

8. Museums (Lehi)

Thanksgiving Point has two large museums with plenty of room to run and wander.

The new Museum of Natural Curiosity  can occupy children for hours, with its hands-on learning. The Museum of Ancient Life is a less-crowded, more manageable option if you’ve got multiple small children to keep track of.

9. Bowling and laser tag (Lehi and Orem)

Need more ideas? Jack and Jill bowling center in Lehi offers both laser tag and bowling. The Seven Peaks Fun Center in Orem has an indoor, glow-in-the-dark mini golf center, while its Lehi location has a climbing wall, laser tag, mini golf and a few small rides.

10. Skating and ice skating (Orem and Provo)

Classic Fun Center in Orem features a skating rink (you can rent skates or bring your own skates or scooters), inflatables, and lots of special deals. (Skating is $1 per person on Thursday nights, for example.) To help your kids channel their inner Olympian, the Provo Peaks Ice Arena offers indoor ice skating.

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Elyssa Andrus has worked as a journalist for 14 years, most recently as the lifestyle editor at the Daily Herald newspaper in Provo. She is a contributor to the KSL-TV show "Studio 5" and is co-author of the book "Happy Homemaking" (Cedar Fort, 2012) with Natalie Hollingshead. She lives with her husband and four young children in Utah Valley.

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