After taking a few weeks off to remodel our bathroom and livingroom in our 1890 Victorian (obviously cheaply, and with my own bare hands, so look for those posts in the near future), I’m baaaaack!
I wanted to share with you a few ways I’m entertaining the family this summer, for FREE. I also asked around through Facebook and Twitter, so this is a pretty intense list, no excuse for boredom here. 😉
These links are not affiliated links – I have not received compensation, they are just my honest opinion and peer feedback, with helpful links provided.
Local library – If you’re on a budget like us, definitely don’t count the library as being old-fashioned. During the summer, they usually have pretty incredible programs! Our little local library has a kid’s story time on Thursday mornings, but they aren’t just a story during the summer…they have special guests! Our favorites so far have been getting to pet a pony while listening to a book about ponies, and a Minnesota Opera singer reading a book about a dog being an opera star. Our library also belongs to a county network, so they have a calendar of what the other libraries in the area are doing. Between their children’s storytimes, stories and music in the parks, and special guests, we could easily be busy every day. Also, they have reading challenges…ours is giving out free books and sought-after tickets as prizes, even for toddlers!
Playground hop – We like to hop from playground to playground. Sometimes, we’ll visit a few the same day! Whether we’re out running errands or pass by a neighborhood we’ve never been to before, we stop at the playground. Burns energy, experience different equipment, makes memories, win win WIN!
Splash pads – These are starting to pop up everywhere, in Minnesota anyway. And since our unfrozen water season is short, we have to get out and make the most of it! These are particularly great for the younger kids, all the way down to sitting babies.
Walk/ride new areas – I love to park in a new neighborhood, take out the carrier/stroller and dog, and go for a walk. Mostly, I just love to stare at people’s landscaping, but the girls love the new sights and smells too. Usually, the toddler drifts to sleep, which is a bonus. With older kids, you could easily play a game of “I Spy”, have them name vehicle colors, or scavenger hunt.
Local free days – Many businesses around you have free nights, but you might have to do a little investigating. Have a place in mind you would love to visit, but can’t afford admission? Check and see if they have a free day a week or once a month! Every Wednesday, our local theater does a free recent kid’s movie. Many cities themselves have a free movie night, often once a week, check your town or city’s webpage. A local children’s museum, a zoo, arboretum, and nature center also have free days that we look out for, so it’s definitely worth a shot to take a look at your wish list and favorites!
Bowling and Skating – Check out kidsbowlfree.com and kidsskatefree.com, and see if local places in your area (USA only) participate! Sign your kids up and they receive two free games every summer day, and two free skates a week per child. By randomly looking at locations, it does look like most places cost a couple dollars for the shoe/skate rentals, but still, what a bargain. Many small-town bowling alleys have free summer programs for kids, too!
State Parks and local Parks & Recreation Dept – Whether it’s swimming, fishing, or hiking, find a location online that’s near you, because they’re free (well, from your tax dollars, anyway 😉 )! Often, they have an AWESOME playground, picnic area, and more too!
Geocaching/Letterboxing – We are a letterboxing family, which is much more popular in the UK, but here in the US, geocaching is very popular. Head over to www.geocaching.com or www.letterboxing.org for more information on how to do either. Basically, they’re both an awesome treasure hunt with different techniques to each in finding boxes hidden by others with some sort of goodie inside to swap out.
Big Stone Mini Golf of Minnetrista has an epic sculpture garden, petting zoo, and several free games like life-size chess for free. I’m not yet sure if mini golf has to be purchased and played in order to see the free areas, but I plan to find out soon!
The MN Children’s Museum the MN Landscape Arboretum have free days. The Arboretum’s is the 3rd Monday of the month (kids under 15 are always free year-round), and the Children’s Museum’s is the 3rd Sunday of the month (thanks to Target). Obviously, these are packed days, so plan accordingly, and probably leave strollers at home (hooray baby carriers!)
Como Zoo is a well-loved favorite of locals and tourists alike. There are donation boxes at the entrances, but you are able to skip them if unable to give anything. Be prepared to spend a little more on food and rides (there’s an awesome theme park alongside the zoo!), but we don’t mind it, since we go in for free and it supports great education and conservation. There’s a gorgeous conservatory, filled with domestic and international plants, which is a favorite of mine around January. 😉 There are numerous beautiful walking paths around Como as well.
Emagine Theaters hosts a free kid’s movie on Wednesday and Thursday mornings, there’s several locations across the metro. Check out the movie line up and the location closest to you!
Starling Lake Park in Eden Prairie and Sturges Park in Buffalo have epic free music nights. Check out your local city park calendar online, chances are they coordinate these too!
The Minneapolis/St Paul Airport has a viewing area to watch planes! Available from 7am-9pm, it’s located right in the heart of the airport runway, complete with benches and picnic tables. Here’s the map to drive there. So pack a picnic lunch or snacks and watch your kid’s eyes light right up, for free!
The Three Rivers Park District has many free events throughout their 25 network parks and reserves. Just check out their calendar (LINK TO CALENDAR) for the date you’re looking for something to do, click into the event and see if it’s free! I know many at their Lowry Nature Center in Victoria are!