10 Cheap Summer Activities for Families


Summer is just about here – that time of year when the days are long and your kids have no school to soak up their time and excess energy. What to do? So many activities are quite expensive, especially when you’re talking about paying for the entire family. But there are activities and pastimes you can participate in that will cost you little money – and some are even free.

1. Find free summer movies.

Some movie theaters run free (or very inexpensive) movies during the summer months. These are primarily youth-oriented movies, and they are rarely first runs. But they do provide an entertaining outlet for your children. They’re usually held in the morning or the afternoon, and while admission may be free, you’ll have to pay for concessions. With a little research, you can save money on movies.

2. Start a neighborhood block party.

Chances are, there are other families in your neighborhood that have children and are also looking for inexpensive family-related activities. If that is the case, you may be able to get together with a few families and have a neighborhood block party.

It doesn’t have to be anything formal. You can get together and grill hot dogs and hamburgers in one family’s backyard, and have everyone bring a side dish or dessert. In that way, the gathering will not be expensive for any one family. You can also plan group activities, but people usually find their own fun just as a result of being in a group.

3. Hike in a public park.

Many public parks have hiking trails that can make an ideal outdoor activity for your family. You can plan on spending a morning or afternoon hiking the trails, and maybe have a picnic along the way.

This is a welcome break from the electronic entertainment that so many kids are riveted to these days. You’ll not only be bringing them out to nature, but you’ll be getting them involved in a physical activity which has obvious health benefits.

Since most public parks have free admission, your only expense here will be the picnic lunch.

4. Swim at the local community pool.

Many cities and towns have a community swimming pool, where you can swim for little or no cost. In my own community, the local community pool charges $3 per person to swim for the day. That’s just $12 for a family of four, and you can bring your own lunch.

5. Have a fight – with water balloons.

If you don’t have a pool available in your area, or the beach or the lake are either too expensive or too far away, you can have some water related fun right in your own backyard.

There’s probably no water related activity that’s more fun – and less expensive – than having a water balloon fight. The whole family can participate, and your kids can invite their friends. No one will get hurt, and everyone can keep cool in the summer heat. For well under $10 you can buy large enough supply of balloons to keep you and the kids busy for a few hours.

6. Take free tours.

There are probably a good deal of free tours available in your area, especially if you live in a large city. Even if you have to pay a small fee for the tour, it’s an activity that is both interesting and out of the ordinary.

7. Attend retail workshops.

Retail stores often have workshops that will allow you to participate for free, or for a small fee. They do this with an orientation toward children, probably because they are trying to train them to become future customers. Whatever the reason for doing this, it is an excellent opportunity for a low-cost activity.

We’ve done this with our children several times at stores such as Home Depot, Michael’s, and even some of the grocery stores (these obviously have an orientation toward cooking). The kids enjoyed it and so did we.

Check with your favorite retailers and see what they have available. There are workshops out there in nearly any retail outlet that suits your interests.

8. Discover free (or low cost) bowling.

When I was a kid, bowling was considered a low-cost activity – but not anymore. However, in an attempt to promote the sport among families and especially children, some bowling alleys will offer either free or low-cost bowling at certain times and on certain days of the week.

You may have to pay a small fee for shoe rental, but this will be small in comparison to what you have to pay for full retail bowling. It’s also an activity that both children and parents can participate in.

9. Have get-togethers with family and friends.

In this day and time when eating in restaurants seems almost routine, the idea of having get-togethers with family and friends seems almost novel. But if you’re looking to get together with people – and that is one of the very best forms of entertainment – you can save a lot of money by just having a get-together in your home or their’s. You can do it “potluck style” where everyone brings a dish, and that will keep the cost to a minimum.

10. Grow a family garden.

One of the best group experiences for a family is to somehow bond with nature. A hike in a park or trip to the mountains can get the job done, but you can also do it in your own backyard by growing a garden.

You can think of this as an ongoing activity, since you can be doing it all summer long. Everyone in the family can participate, from tilling the soil in late spring/early summer, to harvesting food in late summer and early fall. And there’ll be plenty of watering and weeding to be done in the meantime.

In a world of electronic gadgets, growing a family garden is truly a way of getting back to basics. You are growing food, and teaching your children how to do it as well. It may not represent high adventure, but it can be a real bonding experience for a family – you grow, clean, cook, and finally eat what you’ve grown.

That’s a chance to experience the miracle of God’s provision – right in your own backyard.

Have you ever tried any of these activities? Can you think of others that families can participate in without spending a lot of money? Leave a comment!

  1. jerrylewis

    I was not thinking of these things in relation to summer outing until now that I have read your article. It is true that summer outings could cost more that what you have budgeted but there are simple things to enjoy summer with kids just like the ones you have shared

  2. Jake Erickson

    I love all of these ideas, especially going for a walk in a public park and growing a family garden. Summer can be a time to save a lot of money if you look into finding fun activities for very cheap or free. The nicer weather opens up a lot of opportunities.

  3. jim

    Ha! Loving it! We’ve got a 5 year old grand daughter and every summer she spends her Saturdays with us. First we “garden” and then do the slip n slide and/or kiddie pool. More fun than a gazillion dollars could ever buy. Plus, her parents get a break and we laugh and laugh and laugh! Great article.