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8 family activities you’ve never tried before

Is it time to mix up your weekend routine by doing something fun and different for a change?

If you've watched all the good Redbox movies, visited all the nearby parks, and memorized the floor plan of the mall it's time to try something new. Here are eight ideas of fun activities your family can try out this year:

1. Eat something exotic

If you tend to eat out at the same places consistently, consider visiting somewhere with an exotic menu you've never tried before. Do some research ahead of time and share with your children the culture behind the cuisine they'll be eating. Arrive before the dinner hour to be seated quickly and give your kids time to observe their surroundings and notice how this restaurant is different from others they've visited. If you're not sure how they'll react to the new tastes, get a sampler tray to share.

2. Tour a local fire station

It might surprise you, but many local fire stations offer tours or programs for kids so they can see what the life of a firefighter is like. Youngsters may especially enjoy getting up close and personal with the big trucks and examining the uniforms the firemen wear. If there aren't any stations in your area that offer such programs, consider seeing if they'd allow you to drop by some treats instead to show your kids the importance of expressing gratitude to the service men and women in their lives.

3. Make a time capsule

This is a fun way to preserve family memories for future generations. Get an archival box and fill it with things that represent each member of the family. Include artwork, newspaper clippings, photographs, school reports, a printout of a Facebook page, etc. You might also have each person write a note to his or her future self.

When the box is full, seal it up and stow it somewhere dark and cool. Don't bury it, said Paul Hudson, cofounder of the International Time Capsule Society, because “when it's unearrthed, if ever, it's usually a soggy mess.” Write a note on the outside indicating what year the capsule should be opened and take turns guessing what life will be like so many years from now.

4. Go geo-caching

This is a fun treasure hunting activity where you don't have to do the hiding. Geo-caching requires some sort of GPS device that allows you to enter the coordinates of a geo cache site. Then you follow the directions to the site and search until you find the cache, which is usually contained in a small box. There are tons of sites people set up, just look up their locations online. For the best results, you may want to visit a couple sites ahead of time to make sure the cache is there and can actually be found.

5. Play capture the flag

This can be a good activity for getting a sedentary family on its feet. You may want to include other friends or nearby families if yours is too small or too young to form two teams on its own. School playgrounds, soccer fields, or parks make for good capture the flag locations. Just keep in mind that some places close when it gets dark, so start early so you have plenty of daylight to play in.

6. Volunteer together

It's fun to volunteer as a family, and there are usually plenty of local options if you know where to look. You might help out at a soup kitchen serving food to the homeless or go to a humane society and volunteer your time playing with and exercising the dogs. If you can't find any volunteer opportunities, come up with your own service ideas, like raking leaves or taking a meal to an elderly or sick neighbor.

7. Plant an garden

You can do this even if you don't have much space for planting. If you're in an apartment, get a hanging tomato plant. If you have a small backyard, pick just one or two types of seeds to plant. Your kids will enjoy watching their seeds grow and appreciate the fruit of their labors even more when it comes time to harvest it.

8. Take a staycation

Sometimes you can't get out of town on vacation, but that doesn't mean you can't take a staycation instead. Plan ahead so that you can treat it like a real vacation, which means no chores and no homework. Your local visitor's bureau is a good resource for ideas of day trips from your town, or you might just try visiting museums or stores you've never been to before. Another idea: set up a tent in the backyard to do some stay-camping (which means you get to enjoy the outdoors without having to leave your bathroom behind).

Katie Nielsen received her bachelor’s in English with an emphasis in technical writing from BYU-I. She loves being a mother, cooking, writing, and traveling. Contact her at nielsen.katiec@gmail.com