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I’m Bored! There’s Nothing To Do!
This happens all too often. Unless you keep your kiddies busy with different activities, they get restless during summer vacation once the monotony of swimming and being at home set into them. Even with all the toys in the world, crafty activities and friends at their house, sometimes they just need to get out of the house. With more families staycationing in order to save money, I’ve complied a list of free outings for your family (yes, you heard me, free, not cheap) besides going to the park. There are many outlets, I’ve tried with my son this summer. This must be the magical summer when he’s more willing to try going to new places.

Butterfly Found at Hickory Run State

Butterfly Found at Hickory Run State

State Parks – My favorite free summer activity is to take my family to all the state parks within an hour of where we live. We hike the trails and compare them to other parks we visited. Many parks offer a wide range of natural history (fire towers, boulder fields, etc..) that you can explore on your own or even partake in the free environmental classes, walks, talks, and activities (for the whole family to enjoy). We always take our swim suits and towels, many state park have a “beach” set up at one of their large lakes. It’s the perfect way to end the day!

Movies –  Movie theaters often have free children’s summer film festivals, offering free admission to older movies. Some theaters offer free crafts too! So what if you’ve already rented Charlotte’s Web or Kung Fu Panda? Have you seen it on the big screen recently? Movie Theaters have these movies laying around, and try to make some money off of the concession stand. Trick: These film festivals are usually in the morning so eat a large breakfast, pack a juice box and tell your kids ahead of time that you’re not going to be purchasing snacks. Or you could take the whole neighborhood and purchase the large tub of popcorn with free refills. I keep a bookmark of theaters within 25 minutes so I can keep tabs on the different movies and times they offer, sometimes going to three different movies in one week!

Library – Besides taking your child to pick out new books, every public library has a variety of summer programs for children of all ages. My local library has crafts, story-telling, read to a buddy (child reads to a dog), movie nights, family activities, nature walks and more, not just during the summer, but year round!!! Plus instead of renting a DVD, check one out at the library (and if you’re late, the fines aren’t as expensive).

National Night Out – I believe one day during the first week of August is the usual time for National Night Out. America’s Night Out Against Crime is a great event happening in a community near you, they’re filled with free food/drinks, games, contents, activities, DJs, information for parents and lot’s of giveaways. Last time we received free bicycle helmets, frisbees, balls, crayons, pencils, keychains and more, while wandering around, eating dinner, watching entertainment and enjoying the activities.

Nature Center – Most nature centers have a free display/activity room or exhibit where children can explore and learn about local nature. Check out your local nature center to see what upcoming events and activities they offer for free, whether a family walk, snake talk or a large event keep up to date on these fun activities.

Craft Store – Once a week during the summer, my local A.C. Moore has a free kids make and take craft available in the afternoon. Michaels offers a free back-to-school family night kid craft in mid-August. You can check both their websites, for your local events. These are my only local craft stores, but you may have more (if you’re less rural) options.

Professional Theatre – Some local theaters (professional and community) offer a free children’s show during the summer. Sometimes, not only is admission free (usually on a preview night), but if your child is interested in the theatre, they can audition in the spring to be part of it or even work behind the scenes! However you must be willing to stick with running them to all rehearsals, no exceptions. Call your local theatre to find out what their summer has in store. Also check to see if a nearby university/college has a summer children’s show?

Music in the Park – Many towns have a weekly, biweekly or monthly concert in the park, from dixie to salsa, from classical to kids music, there’s something for everyone. Look in your newspaper or on your community website for local listings. Don’t just limit your search to your town, check out other towns nearby.

Concert at Fair –  Community fairs, firemen’s carnivals, whatever your community and surrounding community has, there are often free concerts, magic shows, fireworks and more at these locations. Bring your own drinks and snacks and you won’t have to shell out for overpriced ones at the food stands.

Free Bowling – Local bowling allies often have “bowl a free game” passes at supermarket checkouts, don’t be afraid to take more than one! I grabbed a few and on several occasions the family went bowling for free and only had to pay a minuscule fee for shoe rentals. Even though I don’t normally buy them, sometimes I’ve seen coupons on frozen dinners at the supper market for bowling at larger chain bowling allies, keep an eye open there.

Free Ball Game – Hot dogs, baseball and summer, these three go together better than you may think. If you purchase the right pack of hot dogs at the supermarket, you can often get free baseball tickets to your local major league and/or minor league teams’  home games (look on the package for information). Okay, so the tickets may be in the nose-bleed section, but it’s about the experience and chances are your children don’t care. But if you do, you can usually upgrade your tickets for a teeny fee.

Museums – We don’t all have access to big city art and science museums (well worth the trip though). However every community has some type of local museum. With a little googling I found so many museums nearby that I never knew about (auto museum, farm museum, candy museum, etc.) , often with free admission. Google your own local museums and/or contact your own local historical society.

Free Kids Meal – Last summer, my local Applebee’s, Damon’s Grill, etc. offered free kids dinners with a paid adult on certain nights. This summer their specials are a bit different. Call your favorite local restaurants and ask about their kid night or family night special. Get two small separate (but nearby) tables, one for adults and one for children, and have a date night without the need for a sitter. Many restaurants are offering free meals on birthdays, all you need is proof of birthday, so bring a copy of your child (or spouse’s) birth certificate. Call and ask your favorite restaurants.

Free Rita’s Water Ice – Okay, so you have to pay a little up front. But Rita’s Water Ice offers stamp cards where after you buy 10 water ices or gelatis, the 11th is free. Unless – you go on the double stamp days (my local one is Tuesday, but call yours to see when theirs is)… then after 5 water ices, the 6th on is free. The first time I went on a Tuesday, I thought the young man was flirting with me by doubling my 3 punches to 6… then I saw the sign. Take the kids once a week as a special treat, and enjoy the sweet (I prefer Mango) rewards. Also, if the kids have a spring, summer or early fall birthday, sign them up for the birthday club to get a free treat. SUMMER 2013 UPDATE: Rita’s no longer offers a punch card, but it has a similar app for smart phone users!

Soda Cans – Soda Cans often offer Amusement Park Ticket Discounts, sometimes buy one get one free, or 50% off admission. You have to shell out a little to cash in on this one, but it might just be worth it.

With so much to do in your own community, your children might just have a better appreciation of your hometown. What other free children’s events do you have it your community? Leave a comment and let me know what you do for free with your kids. Have fun and try a new activity today!

Young Wifey