There are 15 weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day; 30 bright and balmy days to spend bonding with your family in the sun or in a comfortably air-conditioned location. However, those summer break outings can quickly add up (and the kids eating at home all day, every day will likely put a damper on your grocery budget, as well!).
Fortunately, there are loads of fun and free things to do with your kiddos during their summer vacation from school. Whether you want to entertain them while you work during the week or get out of the house as a family on Saturdays and Sundays, here are 30 ways to enjoy summertime without breaking the bank.
1. Home Depot Kids’ Workshops
Home Depot stores regularly host Kids’ DIY Workshops that incorporate creativity, skill building and safety in a lively environment. Check out your local store or visit Home Depot online.
2. Lego Mini-Model Builds
If you live near a Lego store, you’re in luck. The retailer offers a monthly mini-model build where kids get to make, and take, a different mini model for free.
3. Free Fishing Days
Fishing is generally an affordable sport, but it can be even less expensive if you go on free fishing days. Most states offer free fishing days during National Fishing and Boating Week, which means anyone can fish on public bodies of water without a fishing license. Find your state’s free days here.
4. Skate For Free
Roller skating rinks across the United States partner with a service called Kids Skate Free to encourage children to be active and healthy. Once you locate a participating rink in your area, you can register your kids for two free roller skating passes every week (and not just during the summer, but all year long).
5. Free Bowling
Bowling centers around the country are participating in a program called Kids Bowl Free. Register your kiddos for two free games of bowling every day, all summer long.
6. Catch A Free Movie
Loads of movie theater chains offer free kids’ movies throughout the summer, so check with your neighborhood cinema. Even if they don’t, chances are good they do offer super cheap tickets for family movies on weekdays.
7. Hear A Story
Pottery Barn retail locations hold weekly story times (in most cases, it’s Tuesday mornings at 11, but check your location for more details). Kids receive an official Book Club Passport at their first story time and after five visits, they get a special gift.
8. Earn Free Books
From libraries, to book stores, to pizza restaurants — summer reading programs abound, and most of them give participants free books and other great goodies. Encourage a love of reading while building your home library. Find a comprehensive list of free summer reading programs here.
RELATED: Here are some great tips to encourage reading and creativity all summer long!
9. Craft Classes
A little digging will likely unearth free kids’ craft classes in your local area. Lake Shore Learning hosts them every Saturday, and, on occasion, Michael’s does as well. Other places to check include your local library, parks and recreation department or churches in your neighborhood.
10. Bass Pro Shops Summer Camps
Bass Pro Shops frequently holds kid-friendly, free activities including its Family Summer Camp, which typically runs through June and July. The free workshops are different every week and run about 20 minutes each on Saturdays, Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12-2 p.m.
11. Visit Museums
Museums can be entertaining, engaging and educational — not to mention nicely air conditioned in the summer months. If you’re a Bank of America card holder, you can get in free to hundreds of museums every month. If not, check with area museums to see if they have any free admission offers for which you might qualify. For instance, some offer free admission to military families or teachers while others have certain dates and times with free admission.
12. Learn How Things Are Made
What child hasn’t asked, “Mom, how do they make (fill-in-the-blank)?” A factory tour can be a free way to learn about anything from how sandwich bread is baked and packaged to how paper currency is printed. Visit Factory Tours USA to find factories near you that offer tours.
13. Splash Around
Splash pads continue to crop up around the nation, providing a free way for kids to cool off and get some social interaction. Check with your local parks and rec department to find splash pads in your town or ask for recommendations on local social media pages.
14. Visit A National Park With Your Fourth Grader
Whether it’s close to home or as part of a summer road trip, a national park visit is well worth the effort. It’s even better when you can visit for free. Thanks to the National Park Foundation’s Every Kid in a Park program, fourth graders and their families can do just that.
15. Take A Hike
Family hikes are wonderful ways to exercise, teach kids about safety, discover nature facts and so much more… plus, hiking is free! Find the perfect trail near you by visiting the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Trail Link website.
16. Go On A Walking Tour
Explore your city or one near you by taking a free, self-guided walking tour. While there are several options for self-guided tours, you can download the free Sidewalk app for Android or iOS and start exploring right away.
17. Do Your Shopping At A Farmers’ Market
Okay, so technically grocery shopping isn’t free, but you have to do it anyway, right? Turn it into a fun outdoor family experience by visiting a local farmers’ market. Not sure where to go? Check out the LocalHarvest website for markets near you.
18. Dine Somewhere That Kids Eat Free
Obviously, eating out is not free either — but it can be for kids! When it’s just too hot to cook, head out with the whole brood to a restaurant where kids eat free. You can find a massive list of locations here.
19. Have A Disney Store Experience
Obviously, visiting the Magic Kingdom is far from free, but your kids can enjoy some summer Disney fun at no charge if you have a Disney store nearby. Check your location for events, such as movie-inspired games and activities, sing-alongs or story times.
20. Catch A Concert
Concerts in the park or the town square pop up all summer long. Inquire with your local chamber of commerce, parks and rec department or library about upcoming free outdoor concerts.
21. Act Like A Tourist
Your local visitor’s center can be a treasure trove of free things to do with your kids. You might discover places you never knew of or rediscover events and activities you had forgotten.
22. Visit The Library
Of course, reading over the summer months is important, but public libraries have so much more to offer than just books. You might be pleased to learn that yours offers classes, story times, clubs and much more, at no charge. And, you can likely rent movies for free all summer long from your local library!
23. Learn How To Cook Together
Impart essential life skills by preparing meals or sweet treats as a family. YouTube is a wealth of information if you want to watch and learn recipes. Alternatively, check out Daily Table for lessons with parents and kids in mind.
24. Visit A Fire Station
Contact your local fire department to see if you can schedule a visit. Young kids will especially enjoy this experience, but even older siblings will likely learn something new. Pro tip: bring a case of water or Gatorade as a way to say, “Thanks!” to your neighborhood first responders.
25. Visit A Nature Center
Nature centers and wildlife preserves are peaceful, educational and often free to visit. Check with your local Audubon society or ask your local parks department for recommendations and details.
26. Volunteer At An Animal Shelter
If your kids are begging for a new pet this summer, show them what taking care of animals entails (no pun intended) while making a difference at your local pet shelter or rescue. Walking dogs, cleaning litter boxes and scooping poop might make them rethink their request (or you just might end up with a new furry family member, so consider yourself warned!). It can also teach them responsibility and animal shelters almost always need volunteers!
27. Free STEM Classes
Microsoft Stores offer free YouthSpark Summer Camps for kids ages six and up. Participants learn about coding, 3D drawing, digital filmmaking and other fascinating STEM-related activities. Who knows? Maybe they’ll discover their dream career early!
28. Apple Camp
Apple also offers free camps at its brick-and-mortar stores, for kids ages 8 to 12. In the three, 90-minute sessions, campers will learn about coding and robotics, movie making or musical storytelling.
29. Play At Chuck E. Cheese’s
Encourage your kids to mind their Ps and Qs by downloading and printing rewards calendars from Chuck E. Cheese’s. The wide array of calendars cover everything from brushing their teeth each day to practicing good table manners and getting their chores done! Every kid who brings in a completed calendar earns 10 free game tokens.