Looking back at a so-called "simpler time" when I was growing up, I can't say I ever walked 10 miles to school, but I do remember when kids could see a matinee movie for 50 cents.

Recently, I had $65 in my wallet, figuring it would be enough to take three children to see a 3-D movie, including their popcorn and drinks. I should have caught the clue when one of my charges suggested going to the candy store first. Instead, I told him not to worry; we'd get whatever they wanted at the theater. Besides, since I'm a rule follower, I didn't want to get caught with candy contraband.

At the snacks counter, my young friends began to make their selections. The first child ordered hers but when the other two made their choices, I soon realized I didn't have enough money. In a near panic, I tried to figure out what I could afford while the crowd behind me grew.

Since one child had already received her treats - a small popcorn and drink - she got to keep them. But when the other two realized they weren't going to be so lucky, they suggested a medium drink for each since it could be refilled without charge. To my embarrassment, the three of them shared the small bag of popcorn between them and two refilled their drinks. They never complained and I kept wishing I had gone to the candy store.

My husband and I normally watch DVDs and usually go to the movies only when we take our 11-year-old grandson. Unfortunately, we don't take him often since he lives two hours away. Besides, with just one child to pay for, I never noticed the cost before.

This latest movie experience, however, made me think of other family pursuits and their costs, so I Googled a few.

A trip to an Orioles game, according to one website, can cost $11 per ticket if you're willing to sit in the nosebleed section of the stadium. The price increases as your elevation decreases, hitting somewhere between $20 a ticket, and continuing upward to $96, depending on where you sit and who's playing whom.

Two adults and two children can pay $89.80 for basic admission to Baltimore's National Aquarium. If you want to see the dolphins, it's $101.80 and a "Total Experience Package" will cost $109.80

By comparison, a bargain is found at the Port Discovery Children's Museum, in Baltimore, charging $13.95 general admission for everyone 2 years old and older.

"Disney On Ice," appearing at the 1st Mariner Arena this month, costs $65.35 per premium seat through one ticket agency. Depending on location, other tickets are from $20.60, on up.

Should you attend any of the above, remember to bring extra cash for food and drinks.

One more thing: don't forget the cost of parking at all those places.

I guess a trip to the movies is a bargain, after all. The next time I go, I'm going to work up the courage to bring a large purse to haul my contraband. I hope candy spies won't be hiding in the aisles.

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