12 Free Family Fun Ideas for Summer

Summer fun can break your bank…or you can use the free resources in your community for an action-packed season on a budget. 

Here’s the thing about summer vacation: your kids will need some stuff to do. Camps are great, but expensive. Video games can kill a few hours, but don’t feed their minds. If you want a great family summer without going broke, you need to use some of these great resources available in most communities. 

1. The Library

If you’re not going to the library every week, you’re missing out on free books, movies and CDs for all your kids. Better yet, most libraries run a series of free activities all summer long. 

2. Parks and Recreation

Parks and rec offer for-pay programs all year long, but many communities have free functions for families during the summer. Check the program and website for opportunities in your area. 

3. Cultural Passes

This is a lesser-known library resource, but so great it deserves its own listing. Many libraries have season passes to local museums and other attractions for patrons to “check out” for free. 

4. Summer Concerts (and Drama)

Many communities offer a summer series of free concerts, movies and plays at local facilities. Even if they don’t have such a program, you might find free matinee performances of normally for-pay events. 

5. Volunteering

Service activities kill time while building self-esteem. Whether it’s a park clean-up or soup kitchen, getting your kids involved will be meaningful and free. 

6. Free Museum Days

Check with local attractions, zoos and museums. During summers, many offer free admission on a set day each week or month. 

7. Movie Series

Local theaters often run a series of free movie matinees throughout the summer. These are typically second-run films, but still a great adventure for the kids and break for the parents. 

8. Hiking Trails

The parks and trails of your community offer plenty of opportunities to stroll and explore…and for kids to burn off that excess energy.

9. Holiday Celebrations

Independence Day, Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day all include community events ranging from fairs to parades to festivals. Many communities also host a local festival during the summer, with free fun for all.

10. Home Improvement Centers

Big-box home improvement centers Lowe’s and Home Depot have started offering free workshops for kids to learn basic skills. Sometimes you’ll have to pay supply costs.

11. Picnics

You’ll eat anyway, so why not make an adventure of it? Combined with a free zoo day or trail exploration and you’ll have a memorable outing. 

12. Kick Them Out

Cut off the screen time and send your kids outside to explore. Toddlers can learn about the backyard, while older kids get a wider space to roam about. 


Some of the best free summer activities are unique to your community. What are some of the free resources your town offers during this season?