50 Free (or nearly free) Summer Activities for Kids


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50 Free (or nearly free) Summer Activities for Kids

Summer is nearly here. The countdown calendar is slowly ticking down to 0.  Cue panicked and frantic last minute plans as parents everywhere realize they have to figure out what summer activities to do with their kids all summer long.

Some kids are great about hanging out and going with the flow, but my kids aren’t. I can’t blame them, it comes from my gene pool. So instead of chilling at home and the pool all summer long, we’ll be busy. It’s the only way we’ll all stay relatively sane. Enter this year’s summer list full of free or cheap (just like last year’s list)  to help you have a blast without destroying your bank account.

Get Outside

When the weather is nice it’s great to get outside and soak up some rays.

1. Go sliding. My kids love to use our Slip n’ Slide. It may not be as fancy as a pool, but it’s way more fun. You can even buy a Slip N’ Slide Triple!

2. Visit local parks. Whether it’s playgrounds, gardens, or trails there’s a lot to see. You can uncover hidden gems you haven’t visited before. You can even create a rating system for the kids so you can find the park everyone loves best.

3. Make a scavenger hunt and go for a nature walk to find the items on your list. For kids who aren’t reading make pictures.


4. Go on a photo walk. Give everyone a camera (old cell phones and old digital cameras are great for this). It’s fascinating to see the world through your child’s eyes.

5. Visit a National Park for free! Learn more on  National Park Service‘s website.

6. Use  Trail Link  to find local trails to go hiking, biking, etc.

7.  Try Geocaching. Per, geocaching is a “real-world treasure hunting outdoor game. Players try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using GPS enabled devices”such as your smart phone “and then share their experiences online.

8. Go fishing. Many states and counties offer free fishing days. For instance July 6th is free fishing in California, while Minnesota offers free fishing from June 7-9th.

Read All About It

Encouraging kids to read is a great way to keep them learning all summer long.

9. Book Club, StoryTime and more at  Pottery Barn Kids stores

10. Sign up for your local library book club.

11. Earn a  free book from Barnes and Noble.

12.  Free Story On-Line Story Time  at Barnes and Noble

Go Bowling

What’s better than soaking up a little AC while wearing someone else’s shoes?

13.  Kids Bowl If you sign up for this service, every week this site sends you free bowling passes for your kids to enjoy.

14.  Free Bowling from AMF-no coupons or vouchers needed.

Go to Camp or Class

Free camps and classes available nationwide.

15.  Apple Retail Store Camp

16.  Free Lowe’s Build & Grow Kids Clinics

17. Home Depot’s Free Kids Workshops-look for more info on your local workshop

18. Microsoft YouthSpark Summer Camps

19. Free Summer Camp: Free summer camps are available in metropolitan areas, particularly for at-risk youth. Here’s an example in NYC.

20. Low Cost Camps: Look at your local town, township, county, or region to find low-cost camps. These camps are sometimes subsidized by local government to help families keep kids active and busy during the summer.

Go To The Movies

Some days it’s way too hot to go outside, but you need to get out of the house. The movies are perfect for an afternoon of AC.

21.  Cinemark Summer Movie Clubhouse: Purchase tickets for all 10 films for $5, or $1 at the box office. Movies and days vary by location.

22.  Regal Summer Movie Express offers $1 films on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I recommend you arrive early as seats are limited.

23.  Classic Cinemas  – $1 Wednesdays showing PG or G rated films in June through August.

24.  Dickenson Theaters Summer Vacation Movie Series  â€“ 8 shows for $13 or $2.50 each in June through the beginning of August. Each location has a different schedule.

25.  Harkins Summer Movie Fun  â€“ At less than $1 per ticket Harkins is offering a great deal for young movie goers this summer.

26.  Malco Kid’s Summer Film Fest  – $2 tickets June through August

27.  Marquee Cinemas

28.  Muvico: Free Summer Film Fest

Art & Culture

Great ways to soak in art, culture, and history.

29. Free Museum Entry from Bank of America  Credit or Debit Card

30.  Free or Reduced Entry Fee to the Arts from Target (not currently available)

31. Free Walking Tours–This site is a goldmine with tours in a variety of locations including Philadelphia and NYC. Take a tour on foot, by bike, or even a food tour. All tours are pay as you go. According to the site, “Our guides work exclusively for your appreciation.”Reservations are required, and you can find information on low fee or paid group tours.

32. Walk in the footsteps of history:  Free history tours in Philadelphia  are available, and you can tour many national parks, like Valley Forge National Park, with self-guided tours or ranger-led tours.

33.  Check local museums for free hours or days. Many offer free admission on Sundays, and evening hours that are free or discounted.

Some examples:

34. Find museums with free admission–a list of NYC museums with no or suggested admission fee.

35. Look for free outdoor concerts in your area.

Foodie Fun

Sample new foods.

36.  Seek out local farmer’s markets to get samples of food, and buy from local farmers. You can find everything from produce and meats to ice cream and pickles.

37. Look at your local grocery store to find food tasting events. Wegmans  offers a variety of tasting events, events at their pubs, and more.

38. Trader Joe’s offers a hide and seek for kids (their prize is a lollipop), store tours for gluten-free customers, and often has samples.

39. Look for local food trucks to sample unique cuisine on a budget. There are a variety of apps and sites available,  Eat St.Roaming Hunger, and ChowSpotter are a few.

Family Fun

A few fun ways to have fun with the family on the cheap.

40. Visit a bounce house/jump zone to burn off some energy. Look for coupons or discounts online.

41. Try out a rock climbing gym during an open house.

42. Look for fairs in your area. Here’s a listing of fairs in the state of Pennsylvania. Many include samples.

43. Look for an introduction workshop at your local circus school, or other performing arts schools in your area.

Scour Deal Sites

Look for deals on all kinds of activities on daily deal sites. Keep an eye on locations you will be visiting and nationwide deals as well.

44.  Groupon offers excursions, activities, and memberships that are great for kids.

45. Concerts, zoos, and fairs were all available on LivingSocial in our area.

Spend More, Get More

In some cases it makes sense to spend a little more so you get more. These ideas are great for staycations in your local city or vacations in other areas.

46: Visiting a metropolitan area this summer? Check out CityPASS for a great deal on multiple attractions.

47: Buy a membership to a local museum or attraction. Many museums, gardens, and attractions often offer reciprocal membership  (an example from ASTC) that allows you free access to other museums in your local area or nationwide.

See Where it’s Made

48. Visit a local factory that makes your favorite snacks. Herr’s potato chips offers a free factory tour  an hour south of Philadelphia. The best part? It ends with fresh and free chips!

49. If you have a sweet tooth consider a tour of your favorite sweets. You can find chocolate tours and ice cream, but Jelly Belly offers a free tour  outside of San Francisco.

Free Admission for Active Military

50. The recently launched  Blue Star Museum  Program  offers free admission to active duty military members from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

What suggestions do you have for summer fun?  

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