Many families need to limit the money they spend on summer fun. Saving to buy a house or to fix up your home and yard to make it more appealing to a potential buyer are just two reasons why even one pricey summer vacation is impractical this year. If you just moved to a new area, you may be in the process of learning what there is to do with kids close to home that doesn’t “break the bank.” Even if you can afford to go once to a theme park or the beach, there are still all those other days when the kids are just staring at their devices or moaning “I’m bored!”
Google It! Even though the goal may be to get the family’s eyes off of their screens, the Internet is a great place to find ideas, locations and schedules for low-budget or even free activities. Just search on “Summer Fun on a Budget in _________ (add the name of your city or county) and you’ll get pages of results. Or you can search on specific activities like these:
Not Your Grandmother’s Library
Libraries aren’t just for books anymore, even though a challenge from the school, the library or parents to see how many books kids can read over the summer is a great idea. Many libraries also have music, videos, puzzles and games you can borrow. Check libraries near you for Story Time, exhibits, craft classes, performances, movies, exercise sessions and more. Just reading in a quiet, cool place away from home can be fun, too.
Family-Friendly Movies Under the Stars
Some theater chains have discount matinees with movies the whole family can enjoy. One even includes kids’ snacks in the low price. Your community might offer free movies or concerts in the park. Check to see if you need to bring your own chairs or blankets to sit on. You can usually bring your own picnic or snacks, and save even more. Or have a Movie Night right at home. What makes it special is getting the whole family together with snacks you made with them in the afternoon.
Water Fun Without the Beach
On a hot summer day, even parents enjoy playing in the sprinklers. You can run around and simply get wet, or you can play lawn games with the water on. Squirt gun battles are both exciting and refreshing. Even a warm rain storm can provide the water. Giant bubble makers can be purchased inexpensively, or make your own using straws and string with instructions you will find here. Community swimming pools are becoming more prevalent. Some include areas just for kids, and lifeguards will help you keep your kids safe. Remember the sunscreen!
Biking or Hiking for a Reward
Families with bikes can plan a safe destination, like an ice cream store, that will make the exertion worth the effort. Even a long walk can be dubbed a “hike.” Your community is likely to have hiking and biking trails that are safe and include beautiful scenery or great views. Desert or mountain locations may have plant or ever animal life to look at and learn from. Geocaching includes both walking and a treasure hunt, and it’s totally free. Check out the link to learn more about it.
A Rainy Day at the Museum
Get to know your local museums and watch for Free days. Most museums also offer free activities on certain days of the month. Admission might be affordable all of the time. A museum is the perfect place to spend a rainy day. In the same category, plan to visit science centers, aquariums, gardens, arboretums, zoos, and historical sites.
Pick a Park, Local or National
If you live in the western United States, it’s probably less than a day’s drive to some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. Admission to National Parks is a bargain, and guided tours by rangers can be educational and fun for the whole family. Local parks are also a great place to picnic, throw a Frisbie, kick a ball or play any number of outdoor games. Some parks offer playground equipment like swings and slides and even splash pads. Picnic tables and bathrooms make it possible to spend the whole day.
Camp Out or In
Pitch a tent and spend the night sleeping outside, either in your yard or in a bonafide campground. Some campgrounds require advance reservations and a small fee for maintaining the space and using the bathrooms. Or you could just blow up some mattresses and sleep under the stars—depending on how many bugs there are out at night where you live. Kids even like to make tents in the house out of tables, chairs and blankets, then read stories with flashlights—no electronics allowed.
Make a Bug Collection
Kids love bugs, unless they’re taught to be afraid of them. You can find some pretty impressive bugs that are already dead. But if they’re still crawling, catch them in a bottle and let them suffocate. Look for them on some of your other day trips or right in your own neighborhood. Then pin each one to a big square of Styrofoam, look up the proper name and label them. The kids will love to show off the collection to their friends, and it may even come in handy as a class science project when school starts again. Another alternative is to simply photograph the creatures, flowers and trees that you see when you’re out and about.
Give Back to Your Community
Bring your family together and keep them busy by helping others. Pick a place to volunteer for the afternoon! Maybe you already know an elderly neighbor who could use help with some yardwork, home maintenance or errands. If not, it’s easy to find volunteer opportunities for everyone with resources like VolunteerMatch or JustServe. You could plant trees, play with animals, clean up parks, help in a food bank, and much more. You’ll make a difference, and your kids will have fun as they learn how to change their community and possibly the world.
New to the Wasatch Front area? Check out these recreation opportunities:
- Timpanogos Cave
- Bridal Veil Waterfall
- Hike the Y
- Drive the Alpine Loop
- Stewarts Falls
- Float/Tube down the Provo River
- Alpine Falls Canyon
- Donut Falls
- Wheeler Farm
- Hogle Zoo
- Tracy Aviary
- Loveland Living Planet Aquarium.