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beach

Kids are so excited when school lets out for the summer, but it only takes a little while before the boredom sets in. Here are some great things to do with your kids this summer to keep them and your budget happy this summer, because your budget may be limited, but fun doesn’t have to be!

Movies

Regal Summer Movie Express $1 Movies
Cinemark Summer Movie Clubhouse, 10 Movie Tickets for $5

Bowling

Kids Bowl Free – 2 Free Games of Bowling Per Day
Free Brunswick Bowling – Free Game Every Day

Museums

National Air and Space Museum (Washington, DC)
Jacksonville Maritime Museum (Jacksonville, FL)
Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame (Aiken, SC)
Columbia Museum of Art (Columbia, SC) – free admission on Sundays
McKissick Museum at University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC – free admission always
Greenville County Museum of Art – (Greenville, SC) – free admission always
Mint Museum – free admission Tuesday 5-9 pm (Charlotte, North Carolina)
Greenville Museum of Art (Greenville, NC)  free admission always
Knoxville Museum of Art (Knoxville, TN) – free admission always
Tennessee State Museum (Nashville, TN) – free admission always
Imagine It!
(Atlanta, GA) – free admission on the second Tuesday of each month
Center for Puppetry Arts Museum (Atlanta, GA) – free admission on Thursday afternoons

Workshops

Lowe’s Build and Grow Clinic, Saturday Mornings
Home Depot Kids Workshop, First Saturday of every month
Apple Workshops or Summer Camp

Michaels Craft Workshops – The Knack
AC Moore Craft Classes for Kids – Wednesday from 3-5 pm

National Parks

Blue Ridge Parkway
Shenandoah (Virginia)
Kings Mountain (South Carolina)
Cape Hatteras (North Carolina)
Appalachian National Scenic Trail (Tennessee)
Chattahoochee River (Georgia)
Little River Canyon (Alabama)
Natchez Trace Parkway (Mississippi)
New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park (Louisiana)
Hot Springs (Arkansas)
Padre Island National Sea Shore (Texas)

Other Things

Volunteer at a local Organization
Go Geocaching
B1G1 Minor League Baseball Tickets w/ Kraft Singles Wrapper – Tuesday Nights
Georgia Residents – Free Family Pass to Zoo Atlanta from Library

    • Theaikenparrs

      There is also FREE Admission (always) at the Aiken County Historical Museum, which is WONDERFUL!!! The outside (yard) is gorgeous with beautiful landscaping and fountains, flowers for kids to explore–right near gorgeous historic houses (many with horses) and the inside has an upstairs with a kid's section–really, really amazing exhibits that children will LOVE.  The museum is HUGE, and really very interesting. Imagine–fire trucks (true to size!!) in one of the downstairs rooms, right near the “mayor's office”(you can sit behind the desk, use the phone) and a malt shop/drug store.  Guess you can tell I am impressed–and yes, we live in Aiken.  :  )

    • Is there away to separate the links on the bowling and movie ones…

    • Abpuckett

      Is the Atlanta Zoo deal still going on?

      • Jessmender

        Yes, my friend just did it last week.

    • Lab-15

      always check with your local library…they have serveral programs for kids of all ages in the summer

      • Bmktown

        I was about to post the same.  I have already signed mine up for Princess Tales, a farm tour, yoga and read to roover at my local library!

    • Jane

      I am pretty sure the Imagine It museum in Atlanta is not doing the free admission day any more. Bummer!

      • Learn22read

        I just checked.. It is still free on the second Tuesday in July

    • Mandy

      I just want to add that the Geocaching can actually be really fun. I had a dr visit one day and my mom and sister took my daughter and two nieces, 2-4 yr old girls and 1-2 yr old girl, and they had a blast.

      • Andrea

        my kids love geocaching too (and so do I lol)

    • Linda

      Kids bowl free is good IF you have your own shoes… otherwise our bowling center here in North Augusta, SC charges $2.75 per kid for shoes :( Add gas and a snack and its a $20 day.

      • Bauercandace

        I'm in Martinez, GA and have been looking for couponing buddies :)  Just sayin'….

      • Julie

        The shoes here are $4.65 with tax…definitely thought about getting my son his own shoes so we could go MORE often.

    • ayhendry

      Cobb Theaters (we have them in South Florida) offer FREE admission to movies during the week. They show two different movies on Tues, Wed, and Thurs at 9:30. The movies change each week!

    • colleen

      Bass Pro Outlet is also having free activities 2-6 Tuesdays and Thursdays for the next five weeks.

      • Carrie

        I was just going to mention the Bass Pro Shop “Free” summer camps.  I think my kids are a bit young, but anyone with schoolage kids would really benefit from a number of the sessions that have being offered!

      • Kyladyslipper

        I took my kids when we were visiting grandparents and they loved it! Lots to do for 4 hours! The shooting gallery with the laser guns is free and that entertained the 8 year olds for awhile.

    • Jessicagsmith

      Do not forget the local lakes!  I live in Acworth, Ga and go to Lake Acworth at least once a week.  Parking is free during the week(free all the time for residents within city limits like me!).  My kids are 5, 2, and 4 months.  This makes for a fun day out that cost nothing but the cost of gas to get there… of course we bring snacks but my kids would eat them anyway if we were at home :)

    • nicole

      Does anyone know of anything happening in the polk county fl, area

      • Mikeandmarcieblack

        Cobb in Lakeland and w.h. do free movies. Circle b on winter lake road has great hiking and an air conditioned nature center. Lots of library programs. Splash park and new playground in downtown lakeland. Auburdale's downtown park is probably the shadiest. Backyard adventures usually has bogo tickets on the tropicana rewards site. Lol-it's important to find cheap and cool things to do here!

    • Jess

      How young is too young to bowl would you say? My child is 3 and I'm wondering if he would be able to do it. I think so, but I wonder if I'm dreaming. :)

      • Kami

        Our 4yo girl has been bowling for a couple of years.  They have a ramp you can us to push the ball off of.  :-)

      • Bowling mom

        My 3 year old LOVES it.  Get the staff to put up the bumpers and request a ramp.  See post above on toddler bowling shoes at bowlingball.com :-)

      • Mom_4_Him

        Mine all started bumper bowling before they were 2.  Our 3yo loves to bowl!!!

    • carli21

      I cant seem to find out If we have the bowling in valdosta,Ga, Does anyone else know?

      • Cyndi P

        go to kidsbowlfree.com for a list of participating alleys

      • Cyndi P

        go to kidsbowlfree.com for a list of participating alleys

    • CouponNERD

      Some cities have free movies outdoors in parks in the evening….. Ours does! http://www.columbiamovies.org

    • HELP
      me WIN a TRIP to the OBX. I have a 1 in 144 chance if my picture gets
      the most votes. Go to the link and click like 10 times below the picture
      of Alex holding the red shovel on page 2. Click my name to go to the page.

      • Robin

        Oops–the picture of the baby. And there is not a link to my name, so, to get to the page, search for Outer Banks – Brindley Beach page on Facebook. Click the win a trip tab on the left of the page. Sorry–maybe Jenny will post my message with the link.

        • Rudydoescakes

          Voted for ya!  I just did the Kenmore contest and I know exciting it is to win these contests!  Good luck.  You need a lot more!

    • The bowling is not really free… you have to pay for the shoe rental, which in my case was $5/ per child… $15 is too steep when you don't have income… I was so disappointed. :-(

      • Bowling Mom

        Buy bowling shoes at bowlingball.com  They had small toddler sizes that I was looking for.  The shoes were about $35 each. No tax or shipping.  I even googled and found a $5 coupon code.  I am very pleased with the shoes.  I plan on selling the shoes at a kids consignment sell and recover some of my price.  I take my 2 kids about 4 times a week.  And it is really free for us… and cool on a hot summer day.

        • Mstarfish

          Also Ebay has them. I just found out that college students get 20% off on Tuesdays at Goodwill. I'm in grad school, so it works for us.

      • Cyndi P

        depends on the bowling alley.  ours includes shoe rental (orlando, fl).

      • Mstarfish

        I completely understand. Husband has been out of work 2 years – just got a job but also just learned he now has cancer. Lord Help!

        I went to the thrift store and got a pair of bowling shoes for $6. Also, Academy Sports (TX) has new bowling shoes for $25. And they occasionally have coupons, too. So, we bought our own shoes and they have paid for themselves rather quickly (esp. the thrift store ones)! Gotta keep smiling and keep praying…it's the only way!

    • Lmoore77

      Rave Theaters have free movies for the kids during the summer.  Check your location for each weeks listing.

    • Shopperrebecca

      The US Air Force Museum in Dayton, OH is free 365 days a year.  If you ask the volunteers at the front desk they will point out the more “hands-on” things on a map.

    • Bltuthill

      Don't forget the Gray Fossil Site in TN!  The museum is free.  You only have to pay for the special exhibts if you feel the need.  A great rainy day activity!

    • Kim S

      Great list!  Also, if you have a membership to your local science museum and/or zoo (we've gotten them as Christmas gifts), make sure you check out their website for any reciprocity agreement.   It might be worth a road trip to another town (1-2 hours) to see something different for free (plus gas $).  It's also a GREAT resource when you're traveling and a chance to do some things for free!!

    • Lisakathleen

      This is a great start to the list, hopefully someone can compose a longer list including the suggestions from below!  I also wanted to mention if you live in Virginia or plan on visiting, become a Time Traveler. Great program and it also provides discounts to some places. http://www.timetravelers.org Also for the Military members and families, The Blue Star Museums initiative is a partnership among Blue Star Families, the National Endowment for the Arts, and more than 1,000 museums across America. First launched in the summer of 2010, Blue Star Museums once again are offering free admission to active duty military personnel and their families from Memorial Day, May 30, 2011, through Labor Day, September 5, 2011. See the map for Blue Star Museums participating this summer in each state. The link is http://www.arts.gov/national/b

    • Fiveodom1016

      The Naval Aviation Museum (Pensacola, FL) is always free!!  And it also has a 'ship' playset inside for the little ones.

      • christynascouponing

        this is a place that my 2 little ones .. LOVED.. so I recomend this one!

    • Amy

      We love letterboxing.  Its very similar to geocaching except you follow clues to find the letterbox.  Its great fun and a great way to get outdoors and explore nature.  http://www.letterboxing.org/

    • Nolan

      Georgia residents can also check out a state Park Pass for free admission and parking to Georgia State Parks–available at any library!  Also, the Center for Puppetry Arts free entrance is just for their museum, not for performances, in case that's not totally clear.

    • Fiveodom1016

      Tuesdays and Wednesdays (weather permitting) at NAS Pensacola you can watch the Blue Angels practice at 830am.  It lasts for about an hour and its FREE!

    • Sampanes

      If you live in Tallahassee or are visiting, the Old Capital Museum is free.  They do ask for a donation though- any amount.  They have a scavenger hunt sheet for the kids to fill out and there is a lot to look at.  When you are done, go over the the new capital building and go up to the 22nd floor.  You can see all of Tallahassee.  This was my kids favorite part.

    • Mstarfish

      THANKS! I absolutely love this post! We've been bowling free for several weeks now.

      TEXAS people: HEB has a wonderful deal on Astros tickets. They call it “Price Matters”. You get a ticket and hot dog and Coke, and bag of chips…all for $10. You might want to check and see if they do it for the Rangers in DFW, too?

    • Mstarfish

      WASHINGTON D.C.- Best “free vacation”: We went in 2007. All the Smithsonian Museums were absolutely free. And, if you can plan ahead (say for next summer), you can contact your congressperson and have him/her arrange for your free tour of all the important government buildings – Library of Congress, Supreme Court, Capitol, etc.

      The most expensive thing in DC is the hotel. If you can swing that, get one right in the center of it all and walk. You'll get your exercise and save a bundle.

      MUSEUMS in GENERAL: It goes without saying that you may want to do a search for the free days at the museums where you live. I've lived in San Diego area, San Francisco area, and now Houston, TX. All of them have free days at the museums and some of the zoos.

      HOMESCHOOLERS: Back home in CA, there are fantastic deals on homeschool field trips. The Monterey Bay Aquarium, LegoLand, and Sea World all offer extremely inexpensive prices for prearranged homeschool field trips. Once, we even strung together a series of San Diego field trips and arranged a big road trip where many Northern California families drove down together to take advantage of the savings.