Despite the fact that we sometimes get snow up until June, the summer season is finally here and I am so glad for it. While I love the beauty of winter and the clean and new feeling of spring, I also love the changing of the seasons and I’m already starting to make plans for our three warmest months. I try to find free or at least inexpensively-priced things to do as I like the challenge of finding cheaper summer activities and it always feels good to find a bargain. So here are a few ideas for some frugal summer activities!
1. Cultural/Adventure/Museum Passes
Many libraries offer a service where you can reserve free passes to local museums, parks, or similar places. Our local library here in Colorado offers free tickets and passes to state parks (for a week), the Butterfly Pavillion, an art museum, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, History Colorado Center, and a few other museums. All you have to do is reserve the tickets through your library’s website, print out the pass, and present it when you arrive at the destination. If you’re not sure if your library offers a pass program, just ask your librarians – they’re usually quite friendly!
2. Library Reading Programs
Another service libraries offer is summer reading programs. When I was in elementary school, we had a library within biking distance of my house that had a summer reading program every year. I’d load up my backpack with as many books as I could fit and ride home with it precariously perched on my back, probably more excited than I should’ve been at the prospect of spending my summer inside reading. 🙂 These days, our library also offers grown-up reading programs, so both kids and parents can be part of it, often earning prizes for how many books they read. A few years ago, our library had a contest for a free iPad for those who signed up and logged so many hours of reading.
3. National Forest Campgrounds
In terms of camping, you can’t get much cheaper than National Forests Campgrounds. Modern technology has made this little gem even more convenient and for many campgrounds, you can even make reservations online at some locations, allowing you to score prime camping spots without having to leave at the crack of dawn to make sure you arrive before anyone else. You generally won’t find flush toilets and showers, though a few do offer these amenities, but most of them have at least vault toilets and nice and remote locations.
4. Public Lands Free Days
Several of the federal land management agencies also offer free entrance days throughout the year, with a few falling in the summer months. Participating agencies for June 9th’s National Get Outdoors Day include the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. If you have some flexibility and want to wait until the cooler days of late summer/early autumn, the National Parks Service offers a free day on September 22nd. Though not all parks offer this opportunity, there are some big-name ones listed such as Rocky Mountain National Park, Yosemite, Grand Teton, and Yellowstone. Plan your location well and you could visit two in one day! (And don’t forget to check-out the free Junior Ranger program while you’re there!)
Summer is an excellent time to explore your own backyard. I discovered a few years ago that one of the best-rated hikes in Colorado is only about 5 minutes from our house and I was not disappointed. Do a basic search for “best hikes near *insert hometown here*” and you’re sure to find some kind of list. You can also use sites like AllTrails, Hiking Project, and Trails.com to find what’s near you, read reviews so you know what to expect, and sometimes even see pictures from the trail. (Also, if you’re in Colorado and have older kids, why not try and tackle a few 14ers? 😁)
6. Shakespeare in the Park
Quite a few cities (and small towns!) across the country offer Shakespeare in the Park programs, many of which are free. This is a great way to see tales from the bard performed in person while also not breaking the bank! Unfortunately, there isn’t a central online location containing information for all of the performances, but another search for “Shakespeare in the park” in your town should get you what you need to know!
7. Summer Concerts
Several years ago, we used to pack up a picnic and meet friends at Denver city park for free jazz concerts on Sunday nights and had a great time. There was even a small park not far from our house in the suburbs that offered a free summer concert series in the evenings. Impromptu Frisby games and hackysack sessions were known to happen and the kids enjoyed having a picnic and watching everything that was happening around them (as well as staying up a little past bedtime!). Many cities offer these free programs and often advertise either through city or parks and recreation websites or even on roadside signs.
Bowling is a great way to also stay cool in the hotter afternoons. Many bowling centers across both the US and Canada offer free bowling passes for kids during the summer. You can check out KidsBowlFree.com to find out if one near you participates!
We’ve been Geocaching off and on for about 15 years and the kids have enjoyed being part of this ritual. The idea is to hide a “cache” (usually an ammo box) filled with random things, then posting the coordinates of the cache on the Geocaching website so other people can try to find your cache. Some of these can get very creative, even so far as someone hollowing out a stump, putting a hinge on it, and expecting people to find it! All of the caches are on public lands (or private lands with permission), so finding them is completely free.
These are just a few ideas – what can you add to the list?