Summer’s here, now what? The kids are out of school, they’re bored of course, vacation isn’t for another month or so (we don’t even have a vacation planned), what to do? Believe it or not, there are a lot of ways to have summer fun on a budget, some activities even being FREE. Here are some of the free, and almost free, fun things we do with our kids over the summer.
~This post contains referral links, in which I receive some type of perk for those who sign up using my link.~
Kids Bowl Free
For the last few years, there’s been one thing we’ve signed our kids up for each summer, and that’s Kids Bowl Free. Our kids love to bowl, so getting them involved in this program is pretty much a no-brainer. If you’re not familiar, Kids Bowl Free is a summer program that provides every child in the family (under age 15) 2 free games of bowling EVERY DAY.
It’s absolutely free to sign up and while not every bowling alley participates, a simple search makes it easy to find a participating bowling alley in/near your area. Making the deal even better is that the program also offers the option to purchase a highly discounted family package, which provides adults in the family the same 2 games every day. Full disclosure – you do still have to pay for shoe rental, unless you have you’re own, but for us that only runs $4 per kid.
I mean, 2 free games EVERY DAY? Even if we only go 3-4 times over the summer, it’s still an amazing deal and a great way to have some summer fun as a family.
Summer Movie Express
Another of my family’s favorite summer fun programs is the Regal Summer Movie Express. Every Tuesday and Wednesday over the summer, Regal movie theaters offer $1 tickets to see family-friendly movies. I love this program because we don’t often go to the movies, so when we do it’s a real treat. At just $5 for entry for my family of 5, there’s no question we’re going to go. Any other day we’d be paying upwards of $60 for our family just to get in.
Some of this summer’s lineup includes movies that were just released over the past year, ones that we haven’t even seen yet, including The LEGO Movie 2 and Small Foot. We will definitely be heading to our local Regal Cinema on the days those movies are being played. At the same time, the program also includes some of our favorites that we could sit and watch over and over, like Kung Fu Panda, The LEGO Batman Movie, and How to Train Your Dragon. You can check out the full lineup here. Just be sure to choose your local Regal Cinema location first.
Summer Reading Program
When I was a kid, I remember every summer my grandmother always signed me up for the summer reading program at our local library. To be honest, I wasn’t a big fan of reading and I’m still not today, but I always read my heart out over the summer because with every weekly visit to the library, I looked forward to the little prizes I’d get. And reading more and more books was the only way to get them. Prizes ranged from items like pencils, erasers, bookmarks, stickers, little things like that, all the way up to the good stuff like a free pizza or ice cream when I reached a major reading milestone.
It just so happens that today I signed up all 3 of my kids for our local library’s summer reading program and the prizes are very similar. My kids will be working towards free Dairy Queen treats this summer! Plus, when I signed them up, each kid was able to pick out their very own (new) book to add to their home library. On top of that, they’ve all been entered into a raffle for free Sky Zone jump passes and ongoing raffles throughout the whole summer. Needless to say, they’ve already gotten a head start on their summer reading and I see weekly trips to the library all summer.
I don’t know of any library that doesn’t have some kind of summer reading program, so just check your local library’s website for what kind of fun they have going on. If you’re in Fort Myers, FL, or the immediate surrounding area, you can get all the info you need on Lee County’s Summer Reading Program here.
And if you don’t have time to take your kids to the library (or even if you do), check out the Pizza Hut Camp BOOK IT! program. It is 100% online and your kids work towards earning free pizza by reading. For those parents who aren’t able to get their kids to the library, look into websites that offer online digital libraries, like Epic. Some local libraries even offer free online digital books.
For some, dining out may not be considered summer fun, but for my kids it is. We eat at home more often than not, so when we do actually eat out, the kids are overly excited. And with all of the restaurants that offer Kids Eat Free days or coupons for a free kids entree with the purchase of an adult entree, summertime is the perfect time to take advantage and get out of the house for a little while. Plus, I don’t have to cook, so win-win!
I certainly can’t list every single restaurant that offers kids perks like this, but some of our favorites include Chili’s, Perkins, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, Miller’s Ale House, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Pinchers Crab Shack, Ruby Tuesday, and Steak ‘N’ Shake. And some of our favorites who don’t offer Kids Eat Free, but do offer something like $1.99 kids meals, include Texas Roadhouse, Lozano’s Mexican Restaurant, and Applebee’s (my kids refer to Applebee’s as “the Apple”).
Local Sports Facilities
Summer camps are common no matter where you are, but let’s face it, they’re expensive. While I’d love to include my kids in a summer camp to keep them engaged, it’s just not in the budget. Luckily, we have a local sports facility that offers a free Learn to Skate program. The Skatium in Fort Myers, FL has a 2 session Learn to Skate (ice skate) program that is free for kids who have never skated there before.
We simply choose which session we want to participate in and get the kids signed up for free. Then they get ice skating lessons once a week over a 6 week period. My son has played indoor soccer at this same facility before, so we’ve seen the ice skating rink. The kids always ask to give it a try and now they can, at no cost to us!
Now, I know not everyone lives in my area and can participate in this exact program, but I suggest doing a simple online search for free programs in your own area. Some sports facilities have free play days every week or once a month, which can be just as fun. Even if you don’t find one that’s free, I’m sure you can find one that won’t break the bank.