Dilemma: It’s Friday night. No sitter. Everyone is a bit strir-crazy from the steaming bake-brownies-on-the-sidewalk heat that prevents afternoon treks to the playground. Pay day is NEXT week.

Solution: Free Friday outdoor films at Johns Hopkins University!

Did we mention it was free?

Last Friday, the three of us headed to the upper quad at JHU for their family-friendly showing of “Up.”. Although we own the DVD, there was something a bit magical about seeing it outside on the big “blow up” screen. Bottled water, picnic blanket and toddler in tow.

I won’t lie. We were a bit skeptical about bringing Lila to a movie. Not only did the film start after her usually-scheduled bedtime, but we’d never attempted to watch a full-length movie with her at home, let alone in public. We figured al fresco was a good entre into the fine art of movie appreciation, and also were banking that she’d drift to sleep outside under the stars as the opening credits rolled.

We were half right. She LOVED the movie. The bug happily babbled and bounced around our picnic – – the entire night. No – – no sleeping whatsoever. She didn’t even think to close her eyes until we popped her back into the stroller for the quiet walk home. Yes, we let our one year old stay up until 10:30.

Thankfully, there were no meltdowns or exhaustion tantrums. Regrettably, she didn’t sleep any later than usual the next morning.

Despite the rather large crowd and their outdoor movie watching essentials (eager kids and parents descended on the quad, toting picnic blankets, fold-up chairs, foam floor chairs with cup holders, wagons, strollers, coolers, baskets, bubbles and more), we didn’t feel cramped. There was a comfortable distance between our blanket and those of our neighbors, and everyone was really sensitive to the viewing paths of everyone else. Most importantly, had there been a meltdown, we could have easily escaped with minimal disruption and attention.

It wasn’t just about seeing a movie. It was a whole outdoor entertainment experience. The evening festivities kicked off with an acapella performance by The Tone Rangers, roaming balloon artists and a magician. Those wanting a ‘complete’ movie watching experience could purchase fresh-popped popcorn and snacks, too.

We had a really great time! Next time, we’ll probably sample the popcorn. Or at least remember to bring our own!

Check out the line-up for Hopkins’ Outdoor Summer Films. Looks like they are taking a break next weekend for the holiday, but will be back with a showing of “The Princess Bride” on July 9th.