By Nora Heston Tarte
What better way to maximize your family time than with family dates mid-week? While kids are off for summer, take advantage of the lull in responsibility and cash in on extra bonding hours.
Option 1: The Classic
Sometimes dating is as easy as dinner and a movie. Grab grub early, catch a family flick, and indulge in a post-family date night snack.
Dinner: Pick a family favorite, or try somewhere completely new! Many eateries have promotions where kids eat free one day during the week, so plan ahead to stretch the budget. El Torito in Stockton (2593 W. March Ln.) serves delicious, redefined Mexican grub in a setting that is both child-appropriate and adult-friendly, and kids eat free on Wednesdays.
Local to Lodi? Stop into Smack Pie (121 S. School St.) to take the worry out of ordering for picky eaters. Here, kids can pick their own ingredients for a 100 percent-personalized pie. Added bonus? Mom and dad can enjoy local wine.
Movie: Families clamor to the movies to catch summer blockbusters, ones they’ve been looking forward to all year! Check out the onslaught of family-friendly programming; July sees the openings of The Secret Life of Pets (animated), Ghostbusters, and Ice Age: Collision Course (animated). (Teens may prefer Nerve starring Emma Roberts and Dave Franco). In August, see Pete’s Dragon or Max Steel.
Ice cream: Finish your night with a sweet summer treat. Tony Segale’s Double Dip Gallery in Lodi (222 W. Pine St.) offers elevated flavors, while House of Ice Cream in Stockton (501 N. Sierra Nevada St.) is a family-owned gem.
Option 2: Stay in
Family date night doesn’t have to mean getting out of the house. Make it a fun night in! Put your cell phones away (and don’t sneak a peak!), put on some pajamas, and pull out the board games and movies for an evening of family fun.
Dinner: Get the whole family involved in cooking. There’s no limit to the recipes you can try, but why not indulge something local? The Asparagus Festival Cookbook (available on Amazon) was inspired by the famous Stockton festival, and holds recipes for tons of asparagus-centric dishes.
The most important part of this activity is to get everyone involved. Even the youngest kids can happily mix ingredients together, while older children can handle vegetable cutting, oven duty, and more. Have a toddler? Pick a meal that involves a little shaking. Seasoning potatoes in a Ziploc is one way to do this (just drop olive oil and desired spices in a bag, plop in cut potatoes, and seal). Let your youngest dance and shake until potatoes are properly coated.
Entertainment: Whether you have a closet full of board games and puzzles ready to go, or you need to stop by your local toy store to grab something new, the important part again is full family involvement. Pick games the youngest of your brood can enjoy (work in teams if necessary).
Dessert: Clear off the counter and host a make your own sundae bar. Put toppings in different containers, load up on ice cream flavors, and let kids get a little messy making their own dessert!
Movie: End your night with a family movie. Zootopia and Kung Fu Panda 3 were both released in June. If children are still awake by movie’s end, engage them in conversation about their favorite scenes and characters.
Option 3: Play at the Port
Ship Watch: Take the family down to the water for ship gazing. Catch glimpses of ships as they come in and out of the inland seaport from Turning Basin (off Fremont Street).
Weber Point Events Center: A covered patio makes this the perfect picnicking spot. Pack a basket of goodies and enjoy the shade on a summer evening. Don’t forget swimsuits! The interactive water feature runs until 7 p.m., which gives you just enough time to dry off and head to a ballgame! 221 N. Center St.
Hit it Out of the Park: Evening home games are aplenty for Stockton’s minor league baseball team. On Family Pack Tuesdays—July 5, 19; August 2, 30—get four Field Box tickets, four hot dogs, and four sodas for $40. 404 W. Fremont St.
Option 4: Educational Outing
Keep young minds fresh while school is out by providing a family date night that combines fun and learning.
The Haggin Museum: Museums offer a special opportunity for families to learn together. At Haggin (1201 N. Pershing Ave.), history and art are fused to expose children of all ages to an array of subjects. Stroll the halls of fine art and talk about the feelings each piece evokes (use questions to prompt responses from reluctant kids), or discuss the technical aspects of the picture—i.e. what materials and techniques did the artist use—with older children. On the first and third Thursday of each month, the museum is open until 9 p.m. July 12-15 and 19-22; kids ages six to 12 can participate in hands-on workshops.
World of Wonders Science Museum: On any given day, this Lodi museum (2 N. Sacramento St.) is open until 5 p.m., but on the first Wednesday of each month, families can take advantage of Science Night Live, an engaging science experience featuring a local scientist. Each night offers food and drinks, hands on activities, games, and more.