12 Summer Activities That Won’t Break the Bank

When school is out of session, kids of all ages are looking for fun and stimulating things to do to fill their time.

But instead of splurging on an elaborate summer vacation or relying on smartphones and TVs to capture the attention of restless youngsters, there are plenty of ways to keep kids occupied that don’t require a ton of cash.

If you’re looking for kid-friendly activities this summer, here are some fun and educational ideas that won’t break your budget.


1. Go To A Museum

Many museums offer free admission, including the Smithsonian Institute in the District of Columbia, which has more than a dozen free museums as well as gardens, galleries and a zoo to keep youngsters occupied. In other parts of the country, there’s the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle, a free part of the Seattle Art Museum, the Bronx Museum of the Arts in New York City, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami and the Cleveland Museum of Art. Also, make sure to check out the Smithsonian’s Museum Day page to learn more about Museum Day on Sept. 21, 2019, when participating institutions and museums around the country will offer free entry for those who present Museum Day tickets.

What’s more, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch and U.S. Trust credit and debit cardholders can enjoy free general admission (additional visitors must pay for admission) on the first full weekend of every month to a variety of museums across the country. Many museums participate in the program, including the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, Michigan, the Discovery Children’s Museum in Las Vegas and the Center of Science and Industry in Columbus, Ohio.

2. Head to the Library

“It’s free, and they often have summer programs you can do with the children,” says Nancy Butler, a professional motivational speaker in Waterford, Connecticut. She says she’s found ways to be creative when finding activities for her young grandchildren. “They also typically have a children’s area with toys and of course books and sometimes live small animals,” she adds.

Plus, if you encourage kids to borrow books from the library, they’ll develop a long-term reading habit and be able to do something free and fun throughout the summer.

3. Visit Playgrounds

Aside from visiting the playgrounds in your local parks, there’s another free and often-overlooked venue available at this time of year, Butler says. “When schools are closed in the summer you may have access to the playgrounds there,” she says. While watching her grandchildren one summer, she says she went to a different school playground every week.

4. Host A Sleepover

Instead of spending a lot of energy entertaining your kids, enlist some children to do it for you. You shouldn’t have to spend a dime, unless you want to shell out a little cash for a pizza delivery or some snacks. “Have each child pick a friend to come to sleep over at your house. Popcorn and a good kids’ movie is a great addition,” Butler says.

5. Take a Tour

“Large-operation landmarks like airports, urban libraries and factories often give guided tours to the public at little or no cost. Even toddlers – who love to see planes, trains or tractors in motion – love these,” says Jenny Grant Rankin, an education expert who serves as coordinator of the Mensa Gifted Youth Program in Orange County, California. And if you don’t live near Orange County, don’t despair. Check out the website FactoryToursUSA.com for information on factory tours in your area.

6. Volunteer

“Volunteer at a rescue center or natural habitat, such as by removing invasive weeds and planting endangered organisms. Such projects are typically led by someone who will teach you about the environment and wildlife while giving you an exclusive tour with something to offer every age group,” Rankin says. Discover volunteering opportunities on websites such as AllForGood.org, VolunteerMatch.org and NetworkForGood.org.

7. Investigate Free Events Hosted at Local Universities

“Universities open many of their offerings to the public, such as arboretum tours, art exhibits, cultural demonstrations and films,” Rankin says. The best way to find these activities is to read your local newspaper or check out your paper’s website. Many communities also have their own webpages, which generally will have information about ongoing activities.

8. Check Out Local Nature Parks or Preserves

“Nature parks and greenbelts are great for exploring. Though you can hike on your own, they frequently schedule hiking tours where a guide teaches families about the geological history of the area and identifies flora and fauna,” Rankin says.

9. Check Out Community Park Events

“More and more towns are offering free concerts in the park, often on late afternoons or early evenings. Many encourage you to bring beach chairs and a picnic, which some towns allow you to accompany with wine,” Rankin says. Look up community park events to discover local activities and browse your local newspaper or visitors bureau website to stay attuned to upcoming events.

10. Visit a State or National Park

“I’m always on the lookout for healthy outdoor summer options. And as a financial planner, I prefer activities that are affordable for everyone,” says Allison Grebe Lee, the director of financial planning at Allen Trust Company in Portland, Oregon. She is also a Cub Scout and Boy Scout leader and parent. “The best value I’ve found are through the federal and state park systems. On the federal level the (Every Kid in a Park) Annual 4th Grade Pass is an unbelievable deal – free admission for up to a family of four to every national park that charges fees.”

“The America the Beautiful Pass is also a great value at $80 per year. It provides free access to parks managed by the federal government for a full year. Kids under 16 are free,” Lee says.

11. Attend a Free Workshop

Some stores offer free workshops to incentivize prospective consumers to stick around and buy their products. Shannon Cairns, a Dallas-based frugal living blogger who writes TheFreckledFootDoc.com, says, “Our family attends the Home Depot Kids Workshop every month! It is free, and is held on the first Saturday of each month. Our kids love it, and get to use real tools to build fun projects.” A variety of stores offer free family-friendly workshops. For instance, the arts and crafts chain Michaels offers a variety of cost-effective and free arts and crafts classes and events for kids, from birdhouse painting to cookie decorating.

12. Explore Your Backyard

It may not sound exciting, but planning an evening in the backyard can be fun for the whole family. “Set up tents and camp in the backyard for a staycation,” Cairns suggests. “Roast marshmallows, star gaze and enjoy the outdoors with the whole family.”

She says that she also has planted a backyard garden. “This is fun to do with kids and the family, and you can save money on fruits, vegetables and herbs if you stick with it.”


Source: U.S. News & World Report