12/6/2012 - I attended Hollis Yoga’s community class on Wednesday because it cost $6 — more than half off the regular price.
“Have you practiced yoga before?” owner Doris Grillo asked me while helping me find the yoga accessories I’d need: a mat, a blanket, a pillow, two blocks, and what looked like a bathrobe belt.
I had, but never with these fancy tools. My yoga resume included paddleboard yoga, laughter yoga, and the yoga channels you find on Comcast. So I wasn’t doing the handstands that one of the more practiced yoga students did during the hour-and-a-half class, but I did leave feeling much more relaxed — and did I mention it only cost $6?
As I left, grabbing a Dove dark chocolate candy and a Lifesaver mint on my way out the door, I couldn’t help thinking that I was being cheap, attending this class having never been to Hollis Yoga class before. I wouldn’t have gone if it were full price.
But in a state known for its penny-pinching, I’m more inclined to think I was just being a sensible, deal-seeking victim of a tough economy, someone looking for a little amusement without emptying my wallet. Throughout my search for good, cheap fun, I found out one thing for certain: I’m much more likely to try something new if I don’t have to pay a lot. Ballroom dancing for free, anyone?
Check out all the fun you can have in one day or one weekend without having to sell a sibling on eBay.
A money-conscious weekend
Saturday for less than $10:
I spent about two hours on a recent Saturday morning at the Currier Museum of Art (150 Ash St., Manchester, 669-6144). The museum offers free admission for children during all hours, but if you arrive on Saturday between 10 a.m. and noon, adults can bypass the regular admission, too ($10 for adults, $9 for seniors, $8 for students during all other hours).
Saturday morning crowds are thicker than usual (probably because it’s the only time you can get in for free), but this almost adds a warmer, more community-like feel to the gallery. I actually talked with a woman I didn’t know about “White Mountain Breakfront,” a remarkable collaboration between furniture maker David Lamb and James Aponovich. “Wouldn’t this be nice to have in your living room?” she asked me.
Part of the fun in an art museum like this are the interactive elements between or within exhibits. Before you walk into the printmaking exhibit, for instance, there’s a room tucked to the side of the entrance where you can create your own self-portrait. Once you walk through the exhibit, you can use the magnifying glasses hanging on the wall to inspect the miniscule prints. If you stick around until 1 p.m., you can catch a free guided tour.
After your trip to the museum, you can mosey on over to the Wild Rover, just a few minutes away. On Saturday and Sunday, from noon to 4 p.m., appetizers are half off. You can get spinach and cheese dip served with warm tortilla chips, for example, and enjoy the regular portion size for half the price.
After walking around a museum all morning and grabbing a light bite, spend the rest of your afternoon at a movie. Choose Regal Hooksett 8 (100 Technology Drive, Hooksett), and you’ll spend much less than you would at an IMax theater. Sure, the movies are a little older, but what does that matter when you’re paying $3.50 to see a movie on the big screen? And they’re popular movies, too: the lineup recently included Brave, The Campaign, and Madagascar 3. I saw The Campaign. With fewer crowds, less popcorn throwing and less talking, Regal Hooksett 8 also offered a more peaceful movie experience all around.
Sunday for less than $20:
What better way to avoid the crowds and stress of Saturday night bowling than to do it on Sunday morning instead?
Leda Lanes (340 Amherst St., Nashua) offers an “all you can bowl” Sunday mornings, 9 a.m. to noon, for $9 per person. If you go online and join its VIP Bowlers club, Spare Time Manchester (stadiumtenpin.net, 216 Maple St., Manchester, 625-9656) offers a buy-one-get-one-free discount. Lots of local bowling recreation centers offer discounts like these (see box).
If there’s snow on the ground and you’re not into bowling, take your cross-country skis or snowshoes to the trails at the Massabesic Audubon Center (16 Audubon Way, Auburn) instead. Snowshoes are available for rental at the center if you don’t have any: $7 for members, $9 for nonmembers.
However you spend your morning, you can catch some football at the Farm Bar & Grille (1181 Elm St., 641-2922) on Sunday. During games, they offer a $5 tailgate menu and $2.25 Bud products.
Still not ready to go home? Follow up your high-calorie lunch with a free dance lesson — seriously. I recently attended a complimentary dance lesson at Queen City Ballroom (21 Dow St., Manchester, queencityballroomnh.com), sporting Toms and a pair of worn jeans.
These lessons occur every Sunday from 4 to 4:45 p.m., taught by the lovely Karen Shackleford. I was nervous for the first lesson, but Shackleford made the class incredibly easy. We learned basic steps from the Fox Trot after a brief description of the style and musical accompaniment that go with it. The Fox Trot is usually danced to Big Band, peppy music, while swing, which we danced to after, has a bit more tempo.
She starts beginners off slow, she said, giving them just enough information about the dance itself while not overwhelming newcomers in this brief lesson. The first lesson is free, and the subsequent Beginner Ballroom Sampler classes are $5 each visit. If you can’t make this 4 p.m. sampler class, newbies are offered a complimentary dance lesson by appointment.
You won’t even break the bank if you find that you really love dancing and can’t wait to come back for more. You can stay for the weekly Sunday Dance Party, from 6 to 9 p.m., where singles and couples of all ages are welcome to dance Latin, swing, ballroom and specialty dances. The lights are dimmed, the turnout is usually around 20 to 40 people, and it’s a “great way to socialize,” Shackleford said. Your first party is free, and after that, they’re $9 for the three hours of dancing.
If you’re not into dancing, you might want to try another kind of too-fun-to-be-exercise class. Every Sunday at 4 p.m., Sharing Yoga (3 Pleasant St., Concord, 630-5576) offers a free community yoga class at 4 p.m. It’s an ongoing class that the yoga center has organized for about a year, said owner David Breen.
“It’s by donation. We decided to have it for folks who might not be able to pay for yoga, and they’re welcome to come free of charge,” Breen said.
The class lasts about an hour, and it’s something that beginners can do, he said. Every three months, the donations that they do receive in this class are donated to a local charity. Past donations went to the Brain Injury Association of New Hampshire and Charitable Giving.
If you’re closer to southern New Hampshire, you may want to try Amherst Yoga (10 Northern Blvd., Amherst) instead. They also hold a free yoga class on the first Sunday of each month, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.
Money-conscious all week long
It’s a shame that weekdays are usually so busy for most people; some of the best deals can be found Monday through Friday.
In keeping with my do-something-new-for-cheap project, I attended an event I’d only ever read about in our Hippo listings: Slam Free or Die. Milly’s Tavern (500 N. Commercial St., Manchester) hosts the popular poetry event weekly and requests $3 from all attendees to help fund the group. It is The Place for slam poetry in New Hampshire, with members who have competed in the National Poetry Slam.
Doors open at 7 p.m., so I arrived at 6:45 (too early). I was immediately greeted by some of the Slam Free or Die crew. One member was Sam Teitel. “Are you new?” he asked when I came in. Slam Free or Die-hards love fresh meat; they like to use newcomers as judges in the Poetry Slam competition. This way, there’s less possibility for bias, and Teitel said you need not have experience with poetry.
They recruit judges throughout the night, but the actual slam doesn’t get going until later. Each Thursday (except for Thanksgiving) features at least a poetry open mikeand one feature performer. Slams are usually held every other Thursday night; sign up at the door and visit their Facebook page under SlamFree OrDie.
Attending a poetry slam is like attending a party where you already know everyone. Except that you don’t. It just feels that way because everyone is friendly, especially if you’re new. If you stand up to read and announce that you’re new, you get an extra loud clap, whoop, or a “Yeah you are!” The majority of the crowd are regulars (you might be able to tell who’s new based on how they respond to the word “waitlist;” if they wave their arms or shriek in protest, then they’re probably regulars).
Southern New Hampshire University (2500 N. River Road, Manchester) has a new creative arts series, with 50 events that are open to the public. Almost all of them are free. This Friday, Dec. 7, at 7 p.m., for instance, is the SNHU Orchestra and Wind Ensemble concert at the St. Joseph Cathedral, 145 Lowell St., Manchester. Also look for these free events coming up soon: the film Gloria on Wednesday, Dec. 12, at 7 p.m.; A Classic Holiday Story, on Thursday, Dec. 13, where British Literature students will perform a dramatic reading of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, followed by a performance by the SNHU chorus; and on Thursday, Dec. 20, at 6 p.m., SNHU music majors perform.
Let’s Dance studio in Concord (5 Main St., Concord, 228-2800) hosts Open Dance Parties every Thursday, 8 to 10 p.m., free for Let’s Dance students, $5 for non-students. It’s ballroom dancing for any skill level. Not into ballroom? You could try something a bit more informal: World Dance is on the second and fourth Thursday of each month from 7 to 9 p.m., at the Unitarian Universalist Church (20 Elm St., Milford). Each night, all of the dances are taught by the participants, who bring moves from all over the world, said Mary Koon, a member since the group’s inception 20 years ago. Each dance is learned the night of. There’s a Winter Solstice Dance on Thursday, Dec. 13, which will be a big dancing event, Koon said. Each participant is requested to donate $5, which contributes to the church rental space. “It’s contagious. Once you get the bug, you want to keep coming out,” Koon said of World Dance. Call her at 487-2732 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For some weekday yoga, Sharing Yoga also offers a free class for veterans on Mondays at 7:30 p.m. Registration is required for this class, and spots fill up fast. If you’re into something really chipper, attend a Laughter Yoga class. Marcia Wyman holds three free classes each week: Mondays, 7:15 to 7:45 a.m., at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 174 Pleasant St., Concord; Tuesdays, 7 to 7:45 p.m., at the Racquet Club, Gavin Falls Road, Concord; and Wednesdays, 12:15 to 12:45 p.m., at Health Promotions SMILE Building, 49 S. Main St., Concord. Email email@example.com. The perks of being a first-time yoga student is that at most places, your first class is free. This is true at Yoga Sanctuary (25 Indian Roack Road, The Commons, Suit 21, Windham, 537-0588, yogasanctuary.com; reduced rate for newbies, too); and at OM Yoga Studio (atomyoga.com, 40 N. Main St., Concord, 545-7380).
Come for “Monday Madness” at Spare Time Manchester (stadiumtenpin.net, 216 Maple St., Manchester, 625-9656), which offers unlimited bowling with shoes, 9 p.m. to midnight, for just $9, or unlimited bowling with pizza slices on Thursdays, 9 p.m. to midnight, for $13. Merrimack Ten Pin (698 Daniel Webster Highway, Merrimack, 419-0989) is $3.25 per game, and shoes coast $3.50 to rent, but if you play during the week, you can get three games and rent a pair of shoes for $11, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. Visit merrimacktenpin.com.
If $3.50 for a movie is too much, see a free flick at your local library; most show films weekly. Coming up: Manchester’s library shows Men in Black 3 at the West Branch (76 N. Main St., Manchester) on Friday, Dec. 7, from 3 to 5:15 p.m.; The Hunger Games on Tuesday, Dec. 11, at 6 p.m., and on Wednesday, Dec. 12, at 1 p.m., in the Main Branch Auditorium (405 Pine St., Manchester); and Paranorman Friday, Dec. 14, from 3 to 5:15 p.m., at the West Branch. The Nashua Public Library (2 Court St., Nashua) shows The Odd Life of Timothy Green on Saturday, Dec. 8, at 2 p.m., in the library theater, and Saturday, Dec. 15, features Ice Age. Visit nashualibrary.org for upcoming movies and times.
The Walker Lecture series (walkerlecture.org) offers free courses of lectures on history, literature, art or science at the Concord City Auditorium (2 Prince St., Concord). The next lecture is on Wednesday, Feb. 20, at 7:30 p.m., featuring Monty Brown. He’ll present “England’s West Country,” taking listeners on a journey through Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall.
For the kids’ holiday vacation
One of the most important things to learn when it comes to saving money: Never go to a museum without checking with your local library first. A large number of museums in the region offer library partnerships, allowing you to check out museum passes like you take out books, returning them when you’re done.
At the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center (2 Institute Drive, Concord, starhop.com), up to four locals may enter the exhibit galleries for free with a library museum pass. (Regular admission is $9 for adults, $7 for kids.) This museum boasts rotating exhibits, an observatory, and some Super Stellar Fridays. If you want to see a Planetarium show, it’ll cost $4 on top of the $0 you’ve spent. These too rotate; right now, you can see “Tonight’s Sky,” “Black Holes,” “Our Place in Space,” and “2012 Mayan Prophecies.”
The Discovery Center is always changing, so you can visit it a few times a year and still see something different with each day. The stars, for instance, are different with each observatory visit, which is available for viewing Thursday through Sunday, from 1 to 4 p.m., and the first and second Friday evenings each month, 6:30 to 9 p.m.
The SEE Science Museum (200 Bedford St., Manchester) is open seven days a week, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Regular admission is $8 per person for ages 3 and older; however, local libraries such as the Manchester City Library are part of the museum’s library membership program and offer free passes for library members.
The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire (6 Washington St., Dover, childrens-museum.org, 742-2002) offers a Dollar Deal Night on the first Friday evening of each month, October through June, 5:30 to 8 p.m. During these nights, admission is $1 for all attending, and with this, you have access to the entire museum.You may also reserve a half-price pass at a local library, and active-duty military families get a 10-percent discount all year long. If you’re a AAA member or are a donor with NH Public TV or NH Public Radio, you get a “buy one get one free” deal off the regular $9 admission.
Also keep an eye on the Millyard Museum (manchesterhistoric.org, 200 Bedford St., Manchester, 622-7531). Every so often, you’ll come across an event that includes free admission, such as Manchester Open Doors, which happens three times a year (keep tabs on majestictheatre.net), or last week’s Holiday Open House. Even if you’re not typically a history connoisseur, it’s worth a visit to see what Manchester looked like years ago.Regular admission is $8 for adults, $4 for children ages 12-18, and free for children. If you’re a member of the SEE Science Center, you can get in here for free.
In the state’s only working museum devoted to aviation history, you can learn a whole lot for little money. Folks at the New Hampshire Aviation Museum (13 S. Perimeter Road, Londonderry) welcome everyone with an interest in learning about the people, places and events related to flight in New Hampshire. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, $2.50 for kids ages 12-16 and free for kids under 12.
Amoskeag Fishways Family Friday Night (6 Fletcher St., Manchester, amoskeagfishways.org) events are usually once or twice a month, with the next one, “Winter Hawks and Owls,” on Friday, Dec. 14, 7-8 p.m. ($5 per family). There are also Fishway Fundays, also about once a month. The next event is on Wednesday, Dec. 12, from 9:30 to 11 a.m. or 12:30 to 2 p.m., “Eco-Art with Evergreens,” where kids will learn the beauty and special traits of local evergreen trees by using them to create natural art projects ($5 per family, for children ages 4 to 5, accompanied by an adult). One of Amoskeag’s biggest events is the open house, Thursday, Dec. 27, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., an afternoon of free fun that includes live animal shows.