5 Tips to Throw a Fun & Easy Party

blog july 10


5 Tips to Throw a Fun and Easy At-Home Birthday Party on a Budget


One of the challenges of parenting in the digital age is the worry about making everything “Pinterest perfect.” Kids’ birthday parties are no exception, but the reality is that our children just want a fun time to celebrate with their friends. When you get back to the basics with an easy at-home party, it’s not only budget-friendly, but it’s also less stress and more fun for everyone.


Start with a Theme
Planning around a theme gives you a focal point and serves as a springboard for other ideas. For younger children, loose themes that are gender neutral work well, such as fairytale characters or bugs and butterflies. Older children may already know what theme they’d like, or you can brainstorm possibilities together based on their interests. If you’re still looking for inspiration, we like these theme ideas that are broken down for different age groups.


Another option is to have an activity-based party, so you have the theme, activity, and sometimes even the food all rolled into one, making party planning even easier. Two activity themes we love from HuffPost are chocolate-making and scavenger hunt parties.


Make Low or No-Cost Invitations

Printing invitations can really bust your budget, but digital options are free or inexpensive and are more eco-friendly too. Going digital can give you the option to manage RSVPs online with services like Evite. If you’re tech-savvy (or have a design-savvy child), sites like Canva give you plenty of creative freedom to make your own special invitation.


If you decide to go the paper route, let your child help make homemade invitations. Use craft supplies you already have lying around, or grab some blank cards from a dollar store and let your child decorate them to their heart’s content.


Set the Scene


Decorations transform your home from the everyday into a world of wonder, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune on them. One budget-friendly way to decorate is to keep store-bought decorations general and spruce them up yourself. A couple of DIY decorating ideas we like from Babble are confetti balloons and using printed washi tape to decorate plain cups. Try to get the best bang for your buck with inexpensive decorations that really pack a punch. Decorating with string lights is a great way to spice up your party, both indoors and outdoors, without spending much since they are inexpensive and kids usually love them. And when you’re finished with your party, you can use the string lights to add comfort and warmth to a space in your home!


Focus Refreshments on What Kids Want Most


Instead of setting out an expensive spread of food, focus on what kids really want, such as fun snacks like popcorn and, of course, the best part: cake and ice cream. You can get away with this by timing your party to start mid-morning or mid-afternoon when no one expects a meal. Most children would agree that the cake is pretty important, so consider making it yourself and starting a tradition by letting the birthday child help.


Play Classic Games and DIY New Ones


Planning a few activities is an absolute must because downtime leads to boredom and kids running wild. Classic games are just as fun as ever, so pick a few like freeze dance, hot potato, or red rover to keep kids entertained at no cost.


For something more current, one of the more popular party activities these days is to set up a photo booth. Scour the internet for photo prop templates that fit your theme, and print them yourself on heavy paper. To up the fun even more, use large cardboard boxes to make an actual “booth,” and let your children get involved by decorating it themselves.


The reality of modern party planning is that when you get back to basics, it’s easier to let go of stress and focus on what matters most. Children won’t remember (or even know) how much you spent on their party, but they will remember how much fun they had. Use these tips and your own creativity to pull off a memorable, fabulous shindig at home without breaking the bank.


Photo credit: Unsplash

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Family-Friendly St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations

Family-Friendly St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations


St. Patrick’s Day is traditionally associated with green beers and an ever-elusive pot of gold. But your Irish heritage celebration doesn’t have to be boozy to be interesting and fun for the entire family.

Here are ways to enjoy the luck of the Irish with your littlest lad or lass.


Dinner party

Few meals conjure up images of hungry Irishmen after a day of hard labor more than a traditional dinner of bangers and mash. By plating plump sausages with creamy mashed potatoes and gravy, you have yourself an Irish meal that most everyone will agree is delicious. Here’s an interesting fact: Bangers – the sausage – get their nickname from linked sausages that tend to pop when exposed to heat. Bang! Of course, if you don’t have time to cook or aren’t handy in the kitchen, you can always make it a breakfast night and let the kids enjoy a bowl of Lucky Charms.


Brush up on your Celtic

There are few people in the U.S. who actually understand many of the most popular old Irish sayings. You and your family can research Celtic language and idioms and compare similarities to English. Business Insider’s list of 15 Irish expressions is a great place to start. Also, Google’s translate feature is a really fun way to share the language with your entire family. Bain sult as féin!


House hop

You don’t have to stop with just your house to enjoy a Celtic dinner. Talk to the neighbors and get everyone involved. One house can provide appetizers, another the main course and another still an enjoyable Irish dessert.


A family vacation

If you would like to really immerse yourself in Irish culture, a trip to the Emerald Isle is an excellent way to celebrate the holiday. Ireland is not only known for its looming castles and grandest estates, it also has some of the best beaches you’ll ever have the honor of relaxing on. If you don’t have an extra $10,000 lying around for an international vacation, you can also find family-friendly activities in Irish heritage-rich areas such as St. Louis, Missouri, and Charlotte, North Carolina, on FamilyLivingToday.com.



Movie marathon

If the weather’s bad or you simply don’t want to leave the house to celebrate, there are plenty of Irish films that will satisfy your cinematic senses this St. Patrick’s Day. The youngest in your crew may enjoy the animated classic The Secret of Kells or Disney’s Luck of the Irish, which chronicles the life of an everyday American teenager who finds out he’s actually not ordinary at all but half leprechaun.


Understand the holiday

St. Patrick’s Day is a traditional holiday that celebrates life of the eponymous Saint Patrick. As the Patron Saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick is celebrated each March 17 and has been since the 17th century. What first started as a religious feast has evolved into a secular day of fun featuring festivals, parades, and special events in most major cities in the US and UK. The History Channel offers more information about St. Patrick’s Day.

Another great way to learn about this Irish day of honor is to visit your local cathedral and partake in a Catholic mass. Most parishes are happy to host guests but be sure to talk to children about Catholic traditions before attending as they may be wildly different than your own place of worship’s weekly service

As you can see, there are plenty of ways to honor good St. Paddy as well as your Irish heritage without a hangover on March 18. And by forgoing the libations, you and your family can enjoy the day – or week – together making memories that you’ll cherish for years to come and relive each St. Patrick’s Day.



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Top Summer Toys for Kids with Special Needs

Some of the biggest challenges of summertime for parents are keeping children entertained and developmentally stimulated. You probably want to add fun activities, exciting adventures and a couple of new toys to the mix to keep things interesting. Below are a few hot toy ideas that are fun and focused on your child with special needs–and just may give you an edge on the summertime blues!

Fidget Spinners, Puzzles & Tangles

If you’ve witnessed the latest toy craze, fidget spinners, then you know these tactile-type products are a hot item for kids of all ages and stages; however, they can be quite beneficial for children with sensory issues. They provide a pleasing, hands-on sensory experience that requires concentration from your child, making them a perfect stress-, anxiety- and boredom-buster for those restless moments on summer days!

Fat Brain Toys Squigz

Another hands-on toy – the visually unique and sense-stimulating Squigz by Fat Brain Toys – is described as “fun little suckers” according to the packaging. By the use of suction, they can connect to each other and any solid, nonporous surface, encouraging creativity, fine motor skills and playful experimentation – a fun addition to any toy collection!

Hedstrom Sensory Products

Hedstrom offers exceptional, quality products for kids, most notably their Sensory Stepperz that kids can balance, hop and step on. Features include different patterns and textures that help develop balance, coordination and gross motor skills. These can go outside or inside of your home, making them a great summer toy option!

Sand and Water Discovery Tables

Let’s not forget the classics! Sand and water tables – like this one – have been around for many years, but there’s a reason for that! A favorite for many, they not only provide hours of entertainment, but give your child a multisensory experience. And instead of using just sand and water, consider adding dry beans, shaving cream and other items of different textures, stimulating different sensory input.

SkyCurve Platform Swing

And finally, when you think of summer, long afternoons of swinging in the sunshine always cross the mind. Parent’s Choice and Creative Child Award winner, the SkyCurve Platform Swing by Hearthsong is a longer swing that allows your child to comfortably lay down if necessary, or it can hold multiple children sitting up. Nothing beats the great outdoors for stimulating all of the senses, and relaxing on a swing can be icing on the cake after a full day of play!

Summer certainly doesn’t have to be a bore! With a few new items in the repertoire, you’re sure to keep your child entertained, while giving them developmental tools to grow and have fun all at the same time!

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Pool Noodles: Cheap Crafts for Kids

Crafts comprise a good portion of many parties for kids these days. Whether the activity is decorating cupcakes, making tissue paper flowers, or simply gluing macaroni to construction paper in fun or random patterns, crafts keep kids engaged and entertained during get-togethers.


While it’s a bit easier to keep children entertained at a pool party, a related craft can certainly add to the fun. If you’re on a budget, a trip to the craft store may not be in the cards. Instead, think about buying a bunch of inexpensive pool noodles, which can be transformed into a variety of unique craft projects with ease. Here are a few ways you can use pool noodles for inexpensive, pool party crafts.

Pool Noodle Sail Boats

Pool noodles are a cheap toy with many uses. They can be a great asset as floaties, safe weapons for pool jousting, or you can turn them into something else. By cutting the noodles into sections then splitting them in half, you have created a base for foam sailboats.

Flip the noodle half so that the rounded side faces up. Use the end of a pair of scissors to poke a hole through and thread a straw, popsicle stick, or any straight, sturdy item into it. Then take a foam sheet (also very cheap) and use the scissors to create two holes on each side of the sheet. By weaving the straw or popsicle stick through the holes, you create a sail for your pool noodle sail boat.

Pool Noodle Steed

Plenty of kids enjoy riding pool noodles like floating horses, possibly smacking friends with a second noodle. But what if you helped them turn the noodle into a real horse for extra pool fun? You will need string, foam sheets, and googly eyes.

First, you need to fold about a foot of the end of the noodle flat against the “body” of the noodle and secure it with a string. This will become the horse’s face. From there, you will need to cut enough ears and manes for each child to have a noodle horse. These are best secured with hot glue. Give them just a bit of time to dry, and they are ready to ride in a short time.

Pool Noodle Ring Toss

For this craft, you allow the kids to create their own game. Have each child tape a pool noodle in a circle. Allow kids to decorate their noodles with markers or other supplies if you choose (or if you simply need to kill a little more time). Then supply the kids with a bucket of ping pong balls, toss the rings in the water and you have a game.

Ring toss can lead into a competition to see which child is able to get the ball in their ring first. Or, have the kids try to dive through the center of their hoops. Once you have the supplies, the possibilities for games become endless.

Coming up with activities and crafts for kids to do at a pool party is not hard once you put your mind to it. While fancy inflatables or commercial pool games can offer tons of fun, you may not always have the budget to invest in these supplies. Instead, you can use pool noodles, a cheap, multi-use tool for endless craft ideas. If you are on a budget and feel you can’t afford to have a pool party, remember there is always an inexpensive option, even when you are entertaining a group of rambunctious children.

Aimee Lyons, a native to colorful Austin, Texas, is a creative Jack of All Trades. It makes sense that a young creator from a city like Austin would want to form a supportive community for other innovative minds. That is why Aimee started DIYDarlin.com, a place for artists, crafters, and the like to share ideas and inspiration. A painter and vintage stylist, her work is her life, and Aimee continues spread that same passion.

Image via Pixabay by stevepb

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Ritzy Resale Shop and Lunch Veranda

My children closely inspect the outside of the Ritzy Resale Shop.

My children closely inspect the outside of the Ritzy Resale Shop.

I love when my children surprise me for the better.  I also enjoy finding hidden, local gems.  It was not in my original plan to write a story this week on the Ritzy Resale Shop and Lunch Veranda in Brownsville, but I am so thankful I had the privilege of visiting.

It had been years since I had last made its acquaintance, when my mother-in-law treated me to a lovely birthday brunch.  Curious to know if it was still there, I decided to treat my children to a small lunch.

This was the dining room my son chose.  He and his sister enjoyed looking around at the different items and parts of the shop.

This was the dining room my son chose. He and his sister enjoyed looking around at the different items and parts of the shop.

As soon as I walked in, my initial thought was, “What was I thinking?”  An antique store, consignment shop and lunch veranda in one, it holds many of my favorite things.  With my four-year old on one side of me, and my 22-month old on the other, I glanced around at fragile items that stood at their eye level.  “Please be careful and don’t touch anything,” I gently reminded them.

We were warmly greeted by one of the co-owners, Amy Garces, and told to choose a room to dine in.  My children were happy to pick one.

Cindy Gulley poses with a couple of nutcrackers.

Cindy Gulley poses with a couple of nutcrackers.

A couple vacationing on South Padre Island from Illinois perused the room.  Jerry and Cindy Gulley were on their way to the zoo when they googled resale shops and found Ritzy Resale.  “It was on our way, so we thought we’d stop and check it out.  It’s definitely a different shop.  I like the way they’ve got their rooms laid out for dining,” remarked Jerry.

Cindy was on a mission to find a nutcracker for her son, who collects them.  She picked a good time to visit, as all of Ritzy’s Christmas items are currently 75% off.

My favorite part of the visit, outside of eating my delicious meal, was talking with Amy and her co-owner and mother, Diana Masso.  Ritzy Resale has been in existence for five years, with loyal, committed customers and newbies that did not know they existed until stumbling across them.


Diana Masso, one of the co-owners of the Ritzy Resale Shop.

Located at 814 Boca Chica Blvd, the warm shop was originally a home built by the Barnard family.  With larger rooms, windows and hardwood floors, it has all the charms to make a person feel nostalgic.  “People tell us [coming here] is like walking into [their] aunt’s house or grandma’s house,” added Masso.

A lifelong lover of antiques, cooking and baking, Masso wanted to find a way to combine them all.  “I was turning 50, and decided if I don’t do it now [open a shop], I’m not gonna do it.  I decided to go out on a limb,”  remembered Masso.

The littles play with safe, unbreakable beads.  It was good to talk antique shop and tea time etiquette with them.

The littles play with safe, unbreakable beads. It was good to talk antique shop and tea time etiquette with them.

While I was having a conversation with Amy and Diana, my children found some safe beads I agreed they could look at.  Every now and then, they would each chime in, “Look at this, mama!” like it was the coolest thing they had ever seen.

With a variety of menu items, Ritzy Resale offers everything from Mediterranean foods to sweets.  “We try and cook healthy.  We have a different special everyday,” added Masso.  As I sat there enjoying my lunch and the company of my children, I couldn’t help but envision future mother-daughter tea dates and celebrations.  “This is a good mom retreat place,” said Masso.  I couldn’t agree more.

I highly recommend their famous chicken salad and house salad.  This was my delicious lunch.

I highly recommend their famous chicken salad and house salad. This was my delicious lunch.

For more information on the Ritzy Resale Shop and Lunch Veranda, please visit their Facebook page.  If you decide to check it out, take me with you.

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Monster Jam Liners 2016

Monster Jam Liners

State Farm Arena

January 15-17, 2016


What: Monster Jam

When: January 15-17, 2016- 5 HUGE shows

            Friday- 7:30pm

            Saturday- 2:00pm   Pit Party (11:30am-1:00pm)

Saturday- 7:30 pm

Sunday- 2:00pm / 7:30pm

Where: State Farm Arena

How to get tickets: State Farm Arena box office, www.ticketmaster.com or charge by phone at 800-745-3000.

TICKET PURCHASE LINK: http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/475863/1542376

2016 Monster Jam logo


  • Kids seats start at just $10! Tickets increase $2 on day of show- so buy your tickets early.
  • Opening night supervalue adults are just $15!       Opening night discount valid for the Friday night show only.
  • Pit party is 11:30am-1:00pm on Saturday, February 6! Pit passes are available at participating Metro PCS locations starting December 28th or for purchase through the State Farm Arena box office.
  • Want more value? Pick up your discount coupon at participating Pueblo Tires locations starting December 28th!
  • Trucks scheduled to appear include: Grave Digger, Team Hot Wheels, El Toro Loco, Monster Mutt Dalmatian, Zombie Hunter, Captain’s Curse, Doom’s Day and Mad Scientist.


Event Description:


Welcome to Monster Jam, an incredible family-friendly experience starring the biggest performers on four wheels: Monster Jam monster trucks.  These twelve-feet-tall, ten-thousand-pound machines will bring you to your feet, racing and ripping up a custom-designed track full of obstacles to soar over – OR smash through.  Monster Jam provides a massive night’s entertainment tailored perfectly for your family’s budget, and these colorful, larger-than-life beasts are sure to capture the hearts of both young and old.


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McAllen Public Library

The McAllen Public Library is located at 4001 N. 23rd St.

The McAllen Public Library is located at 4001 N. 23rd St.


Small tables and chairs adorn part of the children’s section.

McAllen, Texas, has the reputation of being the most modern and progressive city in the Rio Grande Valley.  Now, it also boasts the title of having the largest single-floor public library in the United States.

Originally a Wal-Mart, the library has many features that make it unique.  Outside of the popular adult and children’s sections, it also has an area specifically for teens.  “We have a teen department that caters to kids between 13 and 18, and there is all kinds of stuff that draws them in, [like our] Teen Theater,” said Bobby Guevara, Reference Assistant.

The McAllen Public Library is the perfect place for any book lover to visit.  It features an expansive collection of literature.

This library is the perfect place for any book lover to visit. It features an expansive collection of literature.

The children’s section is colorful and has a computer lab and story room designed with little ones in mind.  The library also hosts a regular story time for toddlers.

Guevara continued, “We have [members] from all over the US.  Our Winter Texans have their library cards when they come here.”  Interested residents can start the process online and then come in with a valid ID and proof of address.  When they become members, they also have access to an online catalog and eBooks.

The non-fiction section of the library.

The non-fiction section of the library.

The McAllen Library also has a cafe, a bookstore run by volunteers, meeting rooms that can be rented out, a state of the art computer lab, and an auditorium that seats over 100 people.  Visitors are allowed to enjoy drinks in the library as long as they are covered.  In addition to the main location, there are also two branch libraries.  Interested parties can schedule tours.

With areas that cater specifically to children, teens and adults, the library is a popular family destination.  To find out more about the McAllen Public Library, please visit their website or their Facebook page.

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Sharkey’s Hair It Is

Sharkey's Hair It Is specializes in parties for little girls.

Sharkey’s Hair It Is specializes in parties for little girls.

The main floor of Sharkey's.

The main floor of Sharkey’s.

Walking into Sharkey’s Hair It Is is a visually stimulating experience.  With Hollywood lights lining the stylists’ mirrors, bold colors on the walls, a couple of televisions playing popular shows with options to play the Xbox, and pop culture music—both old and new—playing on the speaker, your attention is captured.

Originally based  in Connecticut as “Sharkey’s Cuts for Kids”, Sharkey’s Hair It Is was created to cater to the whole family.  With locations mostly in the East Coast US, and as far away as Ireland and Egypt , it is the first of its kind to show up in South Texas.  Owner of the local franchise, Marcos Saldivar, says, “My vision is to have one in each city here in South Texas.  We’re all about customer service.  When you come in, we treat you like you’re walking into somebody’s house.  We offer water and want people to feel comfortable.”


This pink room is a popular party venue for little girls.

When asked what the secret of their three years of success has been, manager Mary Valdez commented, “We have good customer service for the kids.  A lot of parents tell us their children are requesting to come and get their hair cut here.  We treat the whole family.  They leave very happy.”  The aforementioned Xboxes, she notes, are there for whoever wants to play them, whether it be a child or an adult.

A popular venue among little girls, Sharkey’s offers two different birthday party packages.  One is for 12 girls for two hours at $375, and includes a hairstyle, make-up and nails.  They also get to dress up and play planned games in between.  Sharkey’s provides drinks and pizza, and parents have the option of bringing a cake.  The smaller package is for 6 girls for an hour and a half and includes all the same perks for $275.


Two examples of the cars children can choose to sit in while getting their hair done.

Party Coordinator and stylist Karie Recio noted, “[Parents] like the space because they don’t have to do everything.  We have enough people to take care of the kids; it’s adapted for them, especially little girls.  They enjoy dressing up and being with the ladies.”

Haircuts for adults are $18, and $15 for children.  All haircuts come with a shampoo, and girls can get their nails done for no extra charge.  Children receive a balloon and a lollipop when they are done, and have the choice of sitting in a special car of their choice while being treated.

With great customer service and clientele, it looks like Sharkey’s Hair It Is is here to stay.

For more information on Sharkey’s, please visit their website or Facebook page.

Local Sharkey's manager, Mary Valdez, is very helpful and committed to her clients.

Local Sharkey’s manager, Mary Valdez, is very helpful and committed to her clients.


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Holiday Village Brownsville

The Holiday Village is sure to get visitors in the Christmas spirit.

The Holiday Village is sure to get visitors in the Christmas spirit.

With a crisp, wet breeze in the air, and Josh Groban singing, “O Holy Night,” on the loudspeaker, the Holiday Village in Brownsville is excitedly ushering in the Christmas season.

The, "Find Fritter the Elf," Challenge.

The, “Find Fritter the Elf,” Challenge.

Nestled in between the Camille Playhouse and The Children’s Museum of Brownsville, the village is lined with cottages sporting various themes and adorned with lights.

New cottages are added each year, and the events schedule is full of local elementary school, dance studio and middle school choir performances.  Admission is free.  Every Friday and Saturday evening, children are invited to visit with and take pictures with Santa Claus in the photo booth at no cost.

The Home Sweet Home Cottage, sponsored by Parra Furniture (2014).

The Home Sweet Home Cottage, sponsored by Parra Furniture (2014).

Most recently, the village added a “Find Fritter the Elf,” adventure, with Fritter hiding in a different house each evening. Participants are encouraged to find Fritter, take a picture in front of the host cottage, and post the photo on the Holiday Village Facebook page.  They are then entered into a drawing to win prizes from Krispy Kreme.

“I like taking my grandchildren because they add a new display every year.  It’s like a parade of lights, and the miniature homes spark their imaginations,” says Brownsville native Rosie Hatley.  “It’s nice to take a stroll with your family and enjoy the scenery and entertainment,” added Hatley.

The village is also a fun place to visit during the day, as it sits in Dean Porter Park and in close proximity to the Gladys Porter Zoo.  Holiday Village Hours are Sunday –Thursday, from 8:00 am–10:00 pm, and Friday and Saturday, from 8:00 am–11:00 pm.  For more information, please visit their website or their Facebook page.

A schedule of December's musical performances is on display at the Holiday Village.

A schedule of December’s musical performances is on display at the Holiday Village.

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The Brownsville Museum of Fine Art

The Brownsville Museum of Fine Art is a gateway of opportunities.  Rounding out the Mitte Cultural District and located next door to Gladys Porter Zoo, it is an ideal place to visit for residents and tourists alike.  “A lot of people don’t know we’re here in the Mitte Cultural District,” remarked Brianda Manrique, BMFA Administrative Assistant and IT Coordinator.


Mr. Lieck instructs two of his art students.

The museum features pieces done by different local and international artists in its permanent collection, and also offers art classes, community events and poetry talks.  Throughout the year, the museum hosts a number of exhibits and educational tours, with the most recent and successful one being King Tut.  Art teacher and director, Karl Lieck, observed, “Many of the students in Brownsville [that visit] have never been to a museum.  In turn, they bring their parents.”

“We are trying to promote art here in our community,” added Manrique.  During the month of October, the museum’s goal was to create the largest a de los muertos altar in the history of south Texas.  Día de los muertos is celebrated on November 2nd, and is a day to remember the lives of loved ones who have passed on.  “We live on the border and have lots of Mexican people,” shared Manrique, “and for us, the altar is to honor and remember our loved ones.”  Altars typically include pictures, decorations like flowers and skulls, and food.  Visitors to the museum this last month, received two sugar skulls to decorate, one to leave at the large altar, and the other to take home.

An example of an altar.  This one was made for Selena Quintanilla, a Tejano legend.

An example of an altar. This one was made for Selena Quintanilla, a Tejano legend.

In the summer months of June – August, the museum offers 10-week art and music classes.  The music classes include instruction in violin, guitar and piano.  The hours are  Monday–Friday, 10–4, with the camp providing supplies and lunch for the children.  Since the Brownsville Farmers’ Market is held right outside the museum year round on Saturdays, entrance to the museum on Saturday mornings from 9–12 is free.

They are open later than usual on Wednesdays (until 8) and offer 50% off the regular entrance price on those days.  To commemorate día de los muertos, the museum will have free admission on November 1st and 2nd.  To learn more about BMFA, please visit their Facebook page or website.

Giana Gallardo Hesterberg is passionate about many things, including being a wife, mother, teacher, speaker, blogger, gardener and friend. You can follow some of her adventures on her blog storiesbytheseashore.blogspot.com


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