Looking for ways to keep the kiddies entertained on their summer break? Before shelling out the dough for an expensive summer camp or planning another family vacation, there’s plenty of affordable fun for kids right in your own backyard! Local stores, cinemas, libraries, and more are offering plenty of free or inexpensive activities, arts and crafts, movies, and more for families to enjoy on the cheap.
Check out our list of over 20 free and frugal local events and activities, then grab the kids and the car keys and head out for your super affordable summertime fun!
A.C. Moore Make & Take
Join A.C. Moore every Wednesday for Summer Fun Wednesdays. Kids can make crafts for free, then take them home with them. Activities begin at 1pm and end at 3pm.
Kids ages 8-12 are invited to join Apple Retail stores for a free 3-day film making workshop titled “Apple Camp.” Kids will begin by learning how to create their own mini-film using Apple electronics, then create and present their completed movies to friends and family at the Apple Camp Film Festival.
Barnes and Noble Events
Barnes and Noble stores frequently offer free activities for kids, including story time, toy themed events, and book clubs. Enter your zip code to find a list of upcoming events that are being held at your local store location.
AMF Summer Bowling Unplugged
All summer long, AMF Bowling Centers is offering free bowling for kids at all of their 284 nationwide locations. Just use the form to sign up and to find the location nearest you.
Bass Pro Shop Family Summer Camp
Now through July 15, everyone in the whole family is invited to Bass Pro Shops to enjoy free activities, including a shooting arcade, carousel rides, free food, and more. While you’re there, be sure to drop by their photo stations to get a free snapshot of you and the kids!
Cinemark Summer Movie Clubhouse
Cost: $1 Per Movie or 10 Movies for $5
All summer long, Cinemark Theaters will be showing children’s movies like Despicable Me, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Happy Feet 2 and more for just $1! Purchase tickets in advance, and the price is reduced to just $5 for 10 movies.
Disney Store Events
Beginning July 2, kids ages 3 and up will learn how to draw Spider-Man when they visit the store. New events are added frequently so be sure to check their upcoming events for the latest.
Fairs and Festivals
A variety of fairs and festivals will be rolling into local parks and fairgrounds this summer, giving you and your family an opportunity to enjoy arts, crafts, music, food, and fun at little to no cost to you. Simply input your zip code in the “Find Festivals” form to find the locations and dates near you.
Family Video Report Card A Program
Take your child’s final report card that you have proudly displayed on your refrigerator to Family Video stores and they’ll reward your student (grades kindergarten through college) with a free movie or video game rental for every final A.
Kids can participate in a real (and totally free!) treasure hunt when they Geocache. To get started, log on to the Geocache site to find the coordinates of any one of over a million “hidden treasures.” Then, using a GPS-enabled mobile phone or device, kids can scour the neighborhood to locate the items. They can even leave behind a special item of their own.
Home Depot Kids Workshop
Every 1st Saturday of the month, kids ages 5-12 can partake in Home Depot’s Kid’s Workshop. They’ll build a craft for free, plus receive a free apron, pin, and certificate to boot.
Kids Bowl Free
Register your child at KidsBowlFree.com and they’ll receive 2 free bowling games at participating bowling alleys nationwide.
Lakeshore Free Crafts for Kids
Every Saturday from 11am-3pm, kids can participate in a free craft activity when they visit a Lakeshore store. Crafts include making a Star-Spangled Shaker, Sunny-Day Visor, Keep Cool Summer Fan, and lots more.
LEGO Store Events
Every month, kids ages 6-14 can build and keep a free LEGO mini model. A new model is offered each month, so be sure to check the event information for a peek at what’s next, along with the dates and times to attend.
Local Library Activities
Your local library offers a variety of free summer youth activities, including book clubs, arts and crafts, story time, and much more. Just locate your branch and view their calendar of events for more details.
Lowe’s Build and Grow
Kids will receive a free apron, goggles, patch and wooden project when they visit the Build and Grow Kids Clinic at Lowes. You’ll need to register before you visit, though, so be sure to sign up if you’d like your children to participate.
Michaels Store Events
Every Tuesday, Thursday, and weekend day, Michaels hosts a free demo and art project. Aimed at children ages 3 and up, kids can make and keep a variety of crafts.
Movie & Video Game Kiosks
With thousands of locations nationwide, chances are, you’ve got a Redbox or Blockbuster Express tucked inside your local grocery or convenience store. These kiosks are loaded with a variety of current movies (on both DVD format and Blu-ray) and a selection of video games that cost just $1 to rent!
While select museums, like the Smithsonian Museums, offer free admission every day, you’ll also gain free general admission to 150 other museums, zoos, science centers, and more when you present your Bank of America or Merrill Lynch card at participating nationwide locations.
There are 397 national parks in the U.S., with 264 of them offering free admission. Use the link to locate any one of these national parks near you!
Pottery Barn Kids Store Events
Join your local Pottery Barn Kids every Tuesday for free story time. Children wil also receive a free gift on their first and fifth story visit. PBK is also supplying kids with a free book to keep when they participate in their Summer Reading Challenge.
Regal Summer Movie Express
Hop aboard Regal’s Summer Movie Express and kids will view G and PG-rated movies like Rango and Puss in Boots for just $1. Kids can screen these movies every Tuesday and Wednesday morning at 10:00am at participating Regal Cinemas, United Artists and Edwards Theatres. A portion of every movie ticket sold will be donated to the Will Rogers Institute.
Target Store Events
All month long, Target is providing free and inexpensive events and activities, like free admission to local museums, live theaters, and more on select dates.
Toys R Us Store Events
Visit a Toys R Us store on select dates for special in-store events, like free LEGO builds and more!
Which free or inexpensive summer activities do your children participate in?
Let us know in the comments below!