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7 Cheap Things to Do This Summer

It doesn’t matter where you are in the nation, it’s official, summer is here! Kids are on summer break and parents are struggling to find a rhythm with the new summer schedule, including me. Summer is a great chance to take advantage of good weather and no school to really crank out the quality time with the kids.

Though a lot of summer activities can be a little painful on the wallet, there are plenty of things to do that won’t break the bank that you and your kids will love anyway. So, if you aren’t sending the kids to summer camp this year, here are seven cheap–and fun–things you can do with the kids this summer.

1. Neighborhood Parks – Your park trips don’t all have to be to the park nearest you. Visit your local parks & recreation website and print out a list of all the neighborhood parks in town (or neighboring towns as well if you want) and make it your goal to visit each park by the end of the summer. Take pictures (and let the kids take some as well) at each park and then purchase some cheap notebooks. Use the notebooks to have your kids write what they like and didn’t like about each park. At the end of the summer you can make a scrapbook of all the parks and let the kids decorate it with their notes and pictures. You can call yourself “park explorers” and make it a summer long escapade! It will be an adventure for the kids and a great way to help keep their writing and research skills sharp during the summer break.

2. Letterboxing – If the above project sounds fun to you, than maybe you can take it a step further and check out letterboxing. From the Letterboxing website:

Here’s the basic idea: Someone hides a waterproof box somewhere (in a beautiful, interesting, or remote location) containing at least a logbook and a carved rubber stamp, and perhaps other goodies. The hider then usually writes directions to the box (called “clues” or “the map”), which can be straightforward, cryptic, or any degree in between. Often the clues involve map coordinates or compass bearings from landmarks, but they don’t have to. Selecting a location and writing the clues is one aspect of the art.)

Many Letterboxes are hidden in neighborhood parks or similar areas and the website even has a letterboxing for kids section. The kids will love going on the adventure and following the clues to find the boxes. And after finding a few boxes, they may be interested in creating their own letterboxes to hide places.

3. Get a Season Pass – Go in with another friend and their family for a family season pass for the local zoo, regional park district, community pool or fun park. Many season packages include admission and parking which means you can go anytime you feel like it during the summer, even with an empty wallet! Split the pass and cost with a friend and you’ll have one heck of a deal that will give you and the kids plenty of stuff to keep you busy.

4. Visit the Library – Most libraries host a summer reading program for kids of all ages, which include fun weekly activities that are always free. This is a great weekly addition to your summer routine that is not only free, but air conditioned as well.

5. Summer Concerts in the Park – Check your city’s website for event listings. Many cities offer free weekly concerts somewhere in town. Pack yourself a picnic and go enjoy live music downtown, FREE.

6. Outdoor Movies – Finding a drive-in may not be very easy anymore, but you may be surprised. Visit and see if you can find one within driving distance from where you live. The cost for a family of four to hit the drive-in is still less than one first run movie ticket! If you can’t find one nearby, look at the websites of neighboring and your own city to see if there is a summer movie in park event happening during the summer in your town.

7. Picnics at the Park & Pool – The truth is you don’t have to go far or be super creative when it comes to spending quality tie with the kids. Hanging out at the local park or pool with some sandwiches and cold drinks is more than enough to give your kids the best summer day ever.

What are some of YOUR favorite inexpensive summer activities? We would love to hear your stories and see your photos! Email us at if you’d like an opportunity to have your adventures featured on the blog!

53 Responses to “7 Cheap Things to Do This Summer”

  1. Peter Schott

    I'd probably add movies in the park (or even pool in some areas) as a possible activity. Also, a lot of movie theaters have older movies showing some days for a pretty cheap price. Add in State Parks, and there are other nearby activities as well. Churches offer VBS programs if you're inclined that way and some churches put on an incredible program for VBS – more than what a lot of us may remember.

    I'll definitely second parks, libraries, and letterboxing. Those can be a lot of fun for kids.

  2. Katharina

    It’s been so long since my family has been to a drive-in! I’m not even sure if the local one (well, semi-local) we used to go to is still in operation. I should check on that.
    Katharina angelsandmusic[at]gmail[dot]com

  3. Debbie Rinaldi

    Outdoor Movies sounds like fun. I wish my grand kids could experience a drive – in once in their life time. Here is a great tool for finding Drive – Ins still in operation.

    • Meghan Harvey

      Thanks for resposting the link in the article! 🙂 You can sometimes look for local parks and stuff that also screen movies for free as well.

  4. Susan Smith

    Great ideas, we go to the parks a lot and have a season pass to our local pool.

  5. amanda h

    I've never been to a real drive in… would love to find one near me, thanks for the site!

  6. Lee

    I like the visit the parks idea; it’s fun to travel during the summer and see some new things. We do the library programs, and my daughter has earned tokens for prizes, including a swimming pool. Any of these ideas are good, to get everyone out of the house, so we don’t veg out in front of the t.v. and computer!

  7. Beth T.

    How about being a tourist in your own town, county, or region? Get handouts from the chamber of commerce and visit some sites you’ve never seen–there are often historic places that are more interesting than they sound. For example, a local historic house in a neighboring town near us has a hands-on room in which kids can play with period toys or try out old-timey tools.

  8. Cynthia C

    I used to send my kids outside with a small bucket of water and a paintbrush to "paint" pictures on the driveway. It kept them busy for a long time and didn't cost a thing.

  9. Jeff

    I enjoy walking in my local park. They have a porta potty if you need to go which is great.

  10. Tari Lawson

    We like making movies at a local park. We pretend we are survivalists and make mock/satyre type videos then watch them together later. It is really a lot of fun.

  11. Suzanne K

    Library (both books and videos), free concerts in the park (we actually have 2 sets here), arts and crafts, local botanic garden walks (they have puzzles/bingo games for kids where the kids have to spot certain things), trade with other families for 'kid days/kid free days'. I also used to let my daughter pick one new activity (like horse back riding lessons, piano lessons, guitar lesson, ice skating, gymnastics…) and then when she went back to school she could choose which activities (usually limited to 2) she wanted to continue. We can also take the train to the beach for a pretty cheap day (and no driving/parking)

  12. @TheyCallMeErica

    I would LOVE to visit the park in my town, but it's just so HOT! It's as if you'd get some pretty bad burn damage to yourself if you even go near a slide. 🙁

  13. Katharina

    Ah, the mystery is solved! I keep seeing "letterboxing" come up in conversations and never knew what it was. Thank you for explaining it… and I know now! Sounds like lots of fun! 🙂
    Katharina angelsandmusic[at]gmail[dot]com

  14. Natalie Higgs

    My daughter and I made a big batch of playdough this afternoon – coloured pink ! It was fun to make together and then she would have played with it for an hour easily. Plus we're big library fans and we visit local parks frequently. you're right, you don't need to spend loads of money to have fun with your kids.

  15. Sheila Hickmon

    Great list of ideas! It's been forever since we have been to the drive in, thinking we need to do that this weekend!

  16. Scarlett Lee

    We live right near the down town area of our city. There are many, many museums, art galleries and fun things to do, almost all are free. On the weekends, we go down to the farmer's market and buy an inexpensive snack and hang out in the park like atmosphere, then visit one of the museums or the library.

  17. Jeff Roney

    Summer normally means traveling, and sometimes that includes visiting relatives. I am a huge believer that the most important facet of family connection is compiling and saving stories. Digital video and or digital audio recording devices have really come down in price, and the best way to capture stories is digitally (If you are so inclined, you can even upload some and share them online for extended family members who could not attend the family reunion.). If you're family have lived in the same town for a number of years, you can even visit places where important events happened and create a 'it happened right here,' moment. The possibilities are endless for digitally capturing family members and family stories.

  18. Erica C.

    I've never heard of Letterboxing! That sounds like a really neat idea.

  19. Sarah Bastin

    I love to release BookCrossing books in public places for people to find! It's free, and it's always an adventure. You never know who's going to find your book and where they're going to take it next!

  20. MannaB

    A season pass to the zoo would be wonderful for my family and friends.

  21. Jamie

    Summer concerts are one of my favorite things to do! I want to try picnics, potlucks or cookouts this year as well. Karaoke is always fun and relatively cheap. I think drive in movies is a great idea for me now since I now have a baby. Also, what I like to do is go to fairs and random events going on in the city where there are tents and companies giving away free samples and such

  22. LAMusing

    Wow – I miss the drive in! I did a search and unfortunately there isn't one anywhere remotely close to me 🙁

  23. Norma

    Exploring local natural wonders is fun – be it beach, mountains, desert, caves, lake, or ? everyone lives near SOMETHING that is fun to explore. It can also be fun to be a tourist in your own town – check out some sites you've never visited! I had a friend who lived in NY for 6 years and had never gone to the Statue of Liberty! When he took me and my daughter as "visitors", he had as much fun as we did!

  24. LAMusing

    Farmers Markets and local craft shows can be fun and very cheap. Botanical gardens are nice too.

  25. fran

    The library because it's about 95 degrees here. Waaay to hot to be on the playground!

  26. Liz

    I love to go to the drive in. With a bunch of people and a car full of snacks, the savings are great compared to indoor movies!

  27. heather c

    I really miss the drive-ins! I went with my parents in my pjs. We had a huge bag of homemade popcorn in the car with us! Heaven!

  28. Joanne Schultz

    We live near some national parks – if you are over 62, you can get a Senior Pass – $10 for a lifetime – what a deal!!

  29. yummyfaerie

    We really love going to the beach & going swimming in the ocean & building sand sculptures…Collecting interesting shells & rocks to paint later on at home is also lots of fun.

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  31. Martha

    I think riding bikes is one of my favorite cheap things to do in the summer. (Well, I guess the bikes themselves are expensive, but after that cost…) If you don't live somewhere that's bike-friendly for kids, it can worth it to throw the bikes in the car and drive out to a bike trail somewhere. I'm a big fan of the Rails to Trails ( bike trails if you can find one near you.

  32. Melinda Dinsmore

    Our local library has some great programs during the summer and we take advantage of them. Concerts under the trees, reading programs, craft days, etc. Its just fun getting out of the house.

  33. kendra

    we love the park and the kids are into metal detecting with me , we live in rural area and have to make up our activities to do!

  34. Brian

    If you are looking for free summer movie tickets I found a good deal here
    It says that it is for Breaking Dawn, which I will not be taking my 10 and 7 year old too, but you get a free fandango gift card that you can use for any movies. Thought I would share!

  35. Jaimee

    Excellent tips! I hope more parents are inspired to find resourceful activities to do with their kids.

  36. Amy

    I know it sounds simple, but once the sun goes down I really enjoy just driving around with my window down. Nothing can beat cool wind in your hair after a hot summer day.


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