Free Summer Fun for Kids

If you have kids, the summer can look like a looong stretch of time finding things to keep them occupied. If expensive vacations and outings are out of your reach, there are plenty of free entertainment options.


Your local library is likely a treasure trove of activities for kids, including not just free books and movies, but also story times, concerts, activities, supervised crafts and art, and well-equipped kids areas where you can keep an eye on them as they play. Some also let you check out free or discount passes to area attractions, such as parks and entertainment centers.

Get Outdoors

Playing outside never gets old, but if you’re looking for someplace more exciting than the backyard, check the state parks in your area—many offer free admission for hiking, picnicking, even swimming and beach access.

Once Upon a Time

Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million offer free story times every week, as do many local bookstores, and even kid-oriented retail stores such as Pottery Barn Kids and Land of Nod.

Watch it Grow

OK, you might have to spend a few dollars on seeds, but planting a garden with your kids will be a cost-effective summer-long adventure in learning how to grow your own food—and how delicious vegetables can taste.

Morning Movies

Many movie theater chains, including Bow Tie Cinemas, REI Cinemas, Phoenix Big Cinemas and Cobb Theatres offer free movie showings at specific times (usually midweek mornings) for the whole family.

Bowling for (Zero) Dollars

Register your kids at Kids Bowl Free and they’ll get two free games per day all summer long at your local bowling alley—more than 1,000 bowling alleys in the United States and Canada participate.

A Night at the Museum

Want to get some culture? Many museums offer free admission on certain days or times—check with the museums near you.

Read a Book, Get Free Stuff

Kids who read this summer can score more than a better vocabulary. Many libraries run summer reading programs that offer prizes to kids who read (free ice cream cones and other treats, sports tickets, free kids meals, etc.) Barnes & Noble’s Imagination’s Destination summer reading program gives kids a free book if they read eight books over the summer. The Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge lets kids log their reading online to earn rewards. Showcase Cinema’s Bookworm Wednesdays gives kids a free movie pass for Wednesday matinees in July for every book they read and do a brief book report on. Even Pizza Hut and Chuck E. Cheese run summer reading programs.

Sweet Music

Outdoor concerts are a summertime favorite, and many are free. Check local parks and gardens for information.

Fairs and Festivals

Summer is the start of fair season, and many don’t carry an admission cost (though you’ll have to pay for the rides and the fried dough). In addition to the usual carnivals and agricultural shows, which tend to charge for entry, there are typically free car shows, air shows, hot air balloon shows, parades, arts and crafts shows, food festivals, etc.

Get to Work

Have kids that like to build things? Home Depot offers free workshops for kids on the first Saturday of every month and Lowe’s offers Build and Grow kids clinics with a different theme each month. Both give kids a work apron and a craft to keep. Free Summer Fun for Kids

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Showing 7 comments
  • Monica Howard

    I am interested in this… What library should I go to for enrollment?

  • Ashley

    I knew about many of these free activities. The information I learned from this article is that you can go to movies for free, which is great! Thank you for putting this together.

  • melitha simonk

    I would like to enroll in the free summer camp program for my daughter

  • melitha simonk

    How could I register for the free summer program

  • constance moore

    Thanks for the tips. I love spending time with my grand children over the summer. I need all the free advice I can get to go places and save money this was a good idea. Looking forward to hearing from you again soon. Maybe you could add coupons and websites for free stuff to do next time. .Thanks for making our summer fun better!!!

  • Sequiel Cole

    What a lot of free summer fun for the children. The children are exposed to culture, arts and crafts, movies, sports, and more , and all for Free !!! Thank You so much.

  • Mary Johnson

    Thanks for your question Monica. The best place to start is to check with your own local library.