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Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center began offers carriage rides.

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'I'm Bored': Nip those whines with tips for summer fun

School's been out a month — just about the halfway point in summer vacation and the time when parents start hearing "I'm bored" from their kids. And there's still seven weeks left before Hamilton County Schools' first day of classes on Aug. 11.

But you can turn that summer funk into fun with a day-trip around the Tennessee Valley. Yes, there are numerous summer camps and day camps from which to choose, but maybe those aren't in the budget this year. Following are 20 tips for summer fun that can be done for $100 or less for a family of four — and some are even free.

BE A JUNIOR RANGER

Where: Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, 3370 LaFayette Road, Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.

When: 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. daily

Admission: Free

For more information: 423-752-5213

Chickamauga Battlefield offers a Junior Ranger program any day the Visitor Center is open, There's no preregistration required, just pick up the booklet at the Visitor Center and follow its instructions. "We have two versions: Grades K-2 and Grades 3-8," says Kim Coons, park chief of interpretation and resource education. "Our Junior Ranger adventure is one where kids are 'recruited' into the military during the Civil War period, and they pretend they are involved in the battle; they write letters home, etc." The best days to be a Junior Ranger would have to be Fridays through Sundays. A soldier program is offered at 11:30 a.m. on weekends, giving kids the chance to go through the process of pretending to load and fire a weapon.

- July 2: Watch a real artillery demonstration at Point Park on Lookout Mountain. Demonstration times are 10:30 and 11:30 a.m., 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. There is a $5 charge for ages 16 and older.

- July 16: A two-hour bike ride through Chickamauga Battlefield will start at 9:30 a.m. It's free family fun, just bring your bike and helmet.

GET OUTSIDE

Where: Audubon Acres, 900 N. Sanctuary Road

When: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday- Saturday, 1-5 p.m. Sunday

Admission: $6 adults, $5 ages 55 and older and students ages 12 and older with ID, $3 ages 5-12

For more information: 423-892-1499

What says summer in the South more than swimming, tubing or canoeing in a creek? Bring your own inner tube and float along the wildlife sanctuary's one-mile frontage on South Chickamauga Creek. Kayak or canoe participants must wear a personal flotation device. Tube and kayak rentals will be offered on-site in July. There are no lifeguards on duty; parents and caregivers are responsible for their children's safety.

Where: Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center, 400 Garden Road

When: 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, noon-4 p.m. Sundays for visitor center; carriage rides scheduled Thursday-Sunday during visitor center hours.

Admission to Nature Center: $10 adults, $7 senior adults and ages 4-11; carriage rides $15 ages 13 and older, $10 ages 6-12, plus gate admission. For example, total cost for an adult carriage ride will be $25.

For more information: 423-821-1160

Visitors to this wildlife sanctuary at the foot of Lookout Mountain have two choices to see the property: the Nature Center's drive-through loop open Tuesdays and Wednesdays or go old-school in a horse-drawn carriage ride through Reflection Riding offered Thursdays through Sundays. "We started the carriage rides three weeks ago," says Corey Hagen, Reflection Riding director of education. "'Riding' is an old English term for taking a carriage through a garden. It's an interesting way for people to see the plants and animals in the riding."

GREAT AMERICAN PASTIME

Where: Chattanooga Lookouts, AT&T Field, 201 Power Alley

When: Most games 7:15 p.m.

Admission: $4-$9 depending on seating

For more information: milb.com/index.jsp?sid=t498

The Chattanooga Lookouts have a variety of promotions to appeal to all ages. On deck: a bobblehead giveaway Saturday, June 25, at the Lookouts vs. Jackson Generals game at 7:15 p.m. The first 1,000 fans through the gate at AT&T Field get a free bobblehead. Giveaway dates and featured players on the bobbleheads are: Saturday, Adam Brett Walker; July 15, Miguel Sano; and July 30, Byron Buxton.

June 27: Lookouts vs. Jackson Generals, 7:15 p.m., Kids Eat Free Monday. Children ages 12 and under receive a voucher for a free hot dog and soft drink. More Kids Eat Free promotions will be offered July 18, Aug. 8 and Aug. 29.

July 29: Superhero Night and Lunch box giveaway, Lookouts vs. Tennessee Smokies, 7:15 p.m. Arrive early and pick up a collectible tin lunch box featuring Byron Buxton. Costumed characters from Chattooine will appear during the game; stay for the fireworks after.

IT'S A CAR! IT'S A BOAT! IT'S A DUCK!

Where: Chattanooga Ducks, 503 Market St.

When: 10 a.m., noon, 2 and 4 p.m. daily; 6 p.m. tour added on weekends

Admission: $22 adults, $20 senior adults and military, $11 ages 3-12, $5 under age 3

For more information: 423-756-3825

Take an hour-long tour of downtown and the riverfront in a World War II amphibious landing craft that rolls right off the pavement into the Tennessee River to continue your ride on the water. Kids will love the splashdown, plus children are often chosen to "drive" the Duck while on the water. Parents are advised to call for current tour times and seating availability; only same-day reservations will be accepted by phone. All other reservations must be made online at chattanoogaducks.com.

MOVIES UNDER THE STARS

Where: Coolidge Park, 150 River St.

When: 9 p.m. Saturdays, July 9, 16, 23 and 30

Admission: Free

For more information: 423-267-5383

Bring a picnic dinner, blanket or camp chairs and enjoy outdoor movies shown on a big screen under the stars in Coolidge Park. First Things First sponsors these family-friendly movies.

NATURE NUTS

Where: Tennessee Aquarium, 1 Broad St.

When: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily Aquarium hours, 5-7 pm. Nature Nuts

Aquarium admission: $29.95 adults, $18.95 ages 3-12

Nature Nuts admission: $12 Aquarium member adults, $17 nonmember adults; $7 member's child, $10 nonmember's child

For more information: 800-262-0695

Nature Nuts is the aquarium's program for ages 5-12 to learn about nature's diversity in their own neighborhoods. Tickets for these evening excursions are sold separately from regular aquarium admission, according to the attraction's ticketing staff. Preregistration is required for Nature Nuts programs.

June 23: What kid doesn't like stomping and splashing in a creek on a hot summer day? Wade right in with Dr. Bernie Kuhajda at the Nature Nuts' Creek Stomp at Wolftever Creek in Collegedale. Kids will use nets to collect specimens, do the Fish Dance and learn about aquatic insects.

July 21: Nature Nuts will join Aquarium Educator Bill Haley for a butterfly count in the fields and woods of Chattanooga Valley. Field guides and binoculars will be provided in order to identify and count these winged beauties.

Aug. 25: Nature Nuts will beat the heat with a treasure hunt along the shaded hiking trails of Enterprise South Nature Park. Each family will receive a map and a first clue that leads to the second clue to get them started.

Daily at the Tennessee Aquarium: Thom Benson, communications manager at the Tennessee Aquarium, says more than 20 free animal programs are held every day in the River Journey and Ocean Journey buildings. They start with playful penguins at 10:30 a.m. and conclude at 4 p.m. in the tropical habitat of the butterfly garden in Ocean Journey. A full schedule of programs, along with a suggested viewing plan for morning or afternoon visits, can be found at tnaqua.org/animals-exhibits/extraordinary-experiences.

REPTILE ROUNDUP

Where: Chattanooga Zoo, 301 N. Holtzclaw Ave.

When: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, June 25

Admission: $9.95 adults, $7.95 ages 65 and older, $6.95 ages 3-12

For more information: 423-697-1322

Children will learn about snakes and other reptiles through crafts, animal meet-and-greets and keeper chats. While at the zoo, children can ride a camel for an additional $5, but they must be at least 38 inches tall to do so.

' July 8: After Hours with the Animals, 5-8 p.m., included in regular zoo admission. Zoo extends hours to visit longer with the animals.

SID THE SCIENCE KID

Where: Creative Discovery Museum, 321 Chestnut St.

When: 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily; these extended hours last until Aug. 7

Admission: $13.95; free for local police and firefighters with ID, $9.95 for military with ID

For more information: cdmfun.org

The new summer exhibit at the children's museum includes every activity kids see Sid the Science Kid doing on the popular PBS television show. Every exhibition section has games and experiments for curious kids to try; museum folks say they're so much fun, children won't realize they are educational as well.

The sets are all scenes from a day in Sid's life, including his bedroom, where each episode starts, and the kitchen with baby brother Zeke in his high chair at the table. Kids can hop in Mom's car for the drive to school and push a button to hear Sid sing "I Love My Mom." Miss Susie's classroom has the Super Fab Lab, Rug Time and school playground, where a big-screen projection shows Sid singing his playground hit, "I'm Looking for Friends." The Fab Lab has weights-and-measurements experiments and a microscope that projects a variety of Lucite-encased bugs twice their normal size onto a screen for kids to examine. The kitchen refrigerator is filled with play groceries, including spices children can smell, and there are baking sheets depicting colorful cookies in a pattern that children figure how to repeat.

Tip to parents: Arrive early and go straight upstairs to Sid's exhibit for a few extra minutes without a crowd.

' June 25-26: Folk and Traditional Arts Festival, noon-4 p.m. each day, included in museum admission; art and music performances by local artists from many cultures.

July 1: Jam and Bread concert featuring Nick Lutsko, 6-8 p.m., $3 museum members, $5 nonmembers.

' July 4: Red, White and Blue Day, noon-4 p.m., included in museum admission. Children's Independence Day party with arts and crafts, bubble-wrap fireworks, 2 p.m. reading of the Declaration of Independence by costumed Uncle Sam and Thomas Jefferson characters.

' July 30-31: Honey Harvest, noon-4 p.m., included in museum admission.

Contact Susan Pierce at spierce@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6284.

Contact Susan Pierce at spierce@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6284.

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