Top 10 kid-friendly activities for kids in the Helena, AL area

Published: June 11, 2014

As a stay-at-home mother of three kids, ages 5, 7 and 9, I am always looking for something new to try at low expense.  Some places my kids are happy to go many times and others are a once-in-a-while event.

  1. McWane Science Center

    This is a great place for many ages.  There is a seperate room called "Just Mice Size" for ages 0-5.  It is a safe place for us older ones to catch our breath and give the little ones who aren't too keen on learning about science a chance to expend some energy.  The exhibits cover dinosaurs, weather, space, physics and even an aquatic center with all kinds of fish, sharks and skates.  Leave yourself a few extra minutes to relax at the jellyfish exhibit so you can just watch them float in the color lights.

    Open weekdays from 9 a.m. - 6:00 p.m., Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. and Sundays from noon - 6:00 p.m.  

     

    Prices don't include a 10% tax fee.  Be sure to check the Calendar & Events for some awesome events.  Keep in mind if your kids aren't in school, most of the other kids won't be in school either and it can get packed.  

    Check out www.mcwane.org for more details.

     

     

  2. Birmingham Zoo

    Another place for kids of all ages.  Every time we go, there is a new or updated exhibit.  We each have our favorites, but we always go to the predator house (for my feline friends) and the primate house (for our distant family relatives).  For Memorial Day, we were excited to see the new bear cubs and how much the lions had grown.  If it gets too hot, be sure to pack a swimsuit and a towel for the kids and they can play in the splash pads (one for the younger kids and one for the older, rowdier kids) while mom and dad sit in the shade.

    The zoo is open daily from 9-5 (except Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day).

    Admission is:  

    Adults  $15*

    Children 2-12 $10*

    Senior Citizens 65+ $10*

    Active Duty Military (must show military ID) $12.75*

    Tuesdays are half price admission for individuals.

     

    Extra activities are available for an additional fee:

    Train ride: $2.50*

    Carousel Ride: $2.50*

    Unlimited wristband (includes unlimited rides on the train, carousel and foam zone): $7.00*

    *10% tax not included

    http://www.birminghamzoo.com

     

  3. The Peanut Depot

    This is a fun trip for a group (like a playgroup looking to get the kids out of the house).  If you call ahead with a group, the owner/manager will show you around the back area and give the history of the business and location.  I don't think he charges, but you'll have to buy a bag once you smell them cooking.  

    ***Please note there are nuts all around this place, so this is not a good idea for anyone with peanut allergies***

     

    http://www.peanutdepot.com

  4. Swim at Buck Creek Park in Helena, AL

    This is located on Highway 261 in Old Town Helena between the two sets of railroad tracks (turn across the street from The Depot restaurant).  There is a playground back in the trees, but wear a swimsuit, bring a towel, some drinks and snacks so you can wade in the water under the waterfall.  Don't forget an inner tube so you can ride "the rapids" as Buck Creek flows beyond the waterfall.

    Oh, and the cost?  FREE!!!!

     

  5. Oak Mountain State Park

    Fun for fishing, hiking, swimming for the whole family.  We love to spend the day starting with the Petting Zoo (feed is $1 per bag), then a hike down and up the Treetop Trail (or around the lake, which is longer than you think).  Then lunch and maybe some fishing for the guys.  We also love to check in on the injured birds at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.  If you catch them at the right time, you might even get to see an owl.

    There are some fun family events on some weekends for the older kids (some are stargazing at night or a bug search during a hike).

    Day Use Fees:
    Everyday: $3 for Adults
    Children 6 to 11 years of age: $1
    Senior Citizens 62 years of age and older: $1

    http://www.alapark.com/oakmountain/

  6. Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park

    Iron and Steel Museum

    A great way to learn about the history of the ironworks and how it gave birth to Birmingham.  If the little ones aren't into the history, there are always trails to hike and food to try (make a stop at the Tannehill Sweet Shop for a treat before you go).  You can also fish.

    We love to come to Tannehill for their Labor Day Festival.  You pay the regular fee to get in and there will be food, drinks and items for sale, but you can still hike and explore.  The craft huts are open and you can watch the basket maker, candle maker and quilt maker.

    The park is open sunrise to sunset each day, 365 days a year, but the visitor center and museum is open weekdays from 8:30-4:30, Saturday from 10-3 and Sunday 12:30-4:30.

    Adults (12+): $3

    Seniors (62+): $2

    Children 6-12: $1

    5 and under are free

     

    http://www.tannehill.org/

  7. Joe Tucker Park

    Hwy 52 East and Tucker Road in Helena, AL (Turn off of Highway 52 East at the library and follow Tucker Road around the lake to the left). The Boundless Playground is across the parking lot from the baseball fields.

    We love this local park because it has a "Boundless Playground."  This playground is handicap accessible, but it was great when I had three small ones since there is an area in which each could be comfortable to play.  Even with a 9-year-old, it is great to let the kids run and play; a must in the early morning or late afternoon for Mom's sanity.

    Cost:  FREE!!!

     

  8. Steak 'N Shake in Alabaster (or Hoover by the Galleria)

    Fast Food Franchise

    From 2-4 p.m. (or 2-4 a.m. if your kids are awake then), shakes are half price.  The food is yummy, especially since the kids eat for free on the weekends (it's something like for every $8 you spend, a kids' meal, but not drink, is free).  If we order water to drink with dinner, we can all five eat for about $15.

    http://www.steaknshake.com/

  9. For another treat, try Top It Off frozen yogurt in Helena

    Top It Off Yogurt and Smoothies

    4746 Hwy 52, Helena AL  35080
    205.663.9480

    We love to visit Top It Off for a sweet treat after a long day surviving summer (or the first day of school or after a great baseball season).  You pay for the frozen yogurt by the pound, which includes as many toppings as you like.  The ladies who work there are very sweet and understanding about kids wanting to help themselves.

    Price:  varies, but just go easy on the toppings

    Hours:

    Sunday-Thursday: 12 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

    Friday:  12:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.

    Saturday: 11 a.m.-10:00 p.m.

     

    https://www.facebook.com/topitoffyogurtandsmoothies

  10. For those rainy, hot or cold days, the dollar movies!

    We love the Carmike 10 Theater on Lorna Road.  All 2D movies are $1.50 and the 3D (when available) are 

    They usually show movies that have already run in regular theaters or those that are about to come out on DVD (or have recently gone to DVD).  The admission is a lot less, but the concessions are even a little bit more than the usual theater fare.  My kids know we'll get a large popcorn and large drink to share with as many refills as we need.  They also have the booster seats for the little ones that struggle to keep the seat open.

     

    http://www.carmike.com/ShowTimes/Theater/198

With all these choices, there are many choices to entertain the little ones (or yourself if you're still young at heart).  Some are free, some are a bit more, but we consider each option to be economical.