Thursday, June 01, 2006

NBA Playoffs & Free Summer Fun

Last night at American Airlines Arena, I had my first taste of free summer fun. The Miami Heat opened up the arena for a free road rally for Miami Heat Fans and other basketball fanatics.

The road rally takes place when the team is playing a playoff game in another city. The arena then becomes the center of a huge sports party that is kid-friendly and free!!!

Here's the deal: Free parking, free admission to watch the Heat-Pistons playoff game inside the arena in the Dewars Club and in the actual arena seats on the big screen.

Great fun! The gymnastic team was there, the stadium announcer, the cheerleaders and the team mascot. They all handed out free team merchandise to Road Rally participants.

The freebies included cool playoff tee-shirts, D-Wade converse bracelets, Miami Heat magnets for the frig and lots of other cool stuff. And we had fun. You should have seen my boys doing smiling & dancing on the Big Screen TV. (The arena used its normal close circuit arena camera to scan the crowd during time-outs and half time.) Of course, we were sooo bummed that the Miami Heat lost. But we still have a 3 to 2 edge in the playoff series against Detroit.

So here's my point: Sporting arenas, bookstores, libraries and municipal parks have an assortment of low-cost or no-cost activities during the summer. Even malls have free activities for kids during the summer. Don't shop; just have fun. Do your homework and enjoy a great summer without spending a bundle.

Here's my round-up of free things in my neighborhood. And even if you're not from South Florida, my list can be an example of the types of activities that you can hunt down in your neighborhood.

Free and Cheap Camps

Day camps are free through the City of Miami offers at over 30 locations. Likewise, the City of Fort Lauderdale's eight-week day camps are only $37.50 per week.

If you can't afford lofty fees for sports lessons, don't worry. The Miami Beach Sports Specialty Camps program at Polo Park creates an even playing field. The selection includes: basketball camp: ages 7-13, $125/week; soccer: ages 5-13, $125/week; tennis camp: ages 7-13, $125/week; volleyball: ages 7-13, $100/week; baseball camp: ages 7-13, $125/week; flag football: ages 7-13, $125/week. Rates are higher for non-Miami Beach residents.

Polo Park and the Miami Beach Country Club are where young golfers, ages 7-13, can get putting and driving instruction from PGA members; $125 a week. Polo Park, 4301 N. Michigan Ave., Miami Beach. For camp registration, call 305-861-3616.

At the Outdoor Water Polo Camp on Miami Beach, campers ages 8-16 can learn the ropes of one of South Florida's trendiest sports; $125 a week. Scott Rakow Youth Center, 2700 Sheridan Ave., Miami Beach; 305-673-7767.

The City of Miami also offers a variety of indoor/outdoor activities and other cultural programs for children ages 7-13 through its ''Super Camp'' program as various parks. After a one-time $25 registration fee, it's $60 a week for city residents, $90 a week for non-residents. Call 305-416-1341 or call 311 and ask for info on summer camp programs.

From field trips to crafts, the City of Fort Lauderdale also has a diverse range of summer camps. Fort Lauderdale's Summer Community Camps program includes fitness, art and crafts, games, field trips and swimming at seven community centers and parks for ages 5-11. An eighth center, Camp New River, is for children 10-13. $300 for eight weeks; call 954-828-7275.

Fort Lauderdale also has camps dedicated to specific interests or sports such as the Sports and Fitness Camp for ages 6-11 at Holiday Park Gym & Social Center; $340 per four-week session: Holiday Park Gym & Social Center, 1150 G. Harold Martin Dr., Fort Lauderdale. For specialty camp information, call 954-828-5383.

In Miami Beach, six parks and playgrounds are the sites for Miami Beach Recreation Summer Camps for ages 5-17; $500 for eight weeks; call North Shore Park, 501 72nd St.; 305-861-3616.

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