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Ask DSM Readers: What Are Your Favorite Summertime Activities on a Budget?

by Tara Kuczykowski on June 3, 2010 · 27 comments

Summertime Activities Photo by Dhammika Heenpella

Every week I'll pose a question for you to share your experiences and tips. If you have a question that you'd like me to post, I'd love to hear from you!

Summertime is almost here, and it won't be long until the kids are out of school. I'm always on the lookout for boredom busters to keep my kids busy throughout the summer without breaking the budget.

A few things our family has planned are "camping out" in the backyard, making our own bubbles, and making homemade ice cream, as well as having the kids help me in our garden. I hope to share some of these activities with you over the summer!

So tell me...what are your favorite summer activities on a budget? What special deals do you take advantage of? What activities do you do at home? In your community?

Join the discussion -- add your two cents to previous Ask DSM Readers questions too!

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

1 rahlquist June 3, 2010 at 12:19 pm

Feeding ducks with bread from the day old bread store. Sometimes they will even give you the stuff thats no longer fit to sell.


2 TBOMom June 3, 2010 at 12:19 pm

I put together a list of 50+ free and cheap things to do for the Tampa area, but a lot of them - like free wood projects at Lowe's, storytimes at bookstores and more - could be done anywhere. It's at keyword: Family Fun if you want to take a look ang get some ideas.


3 deb June 3, 2010 at 12:25 pm

We live close to an amusement park and each summer we get season passes. We visit it weekly and on weekends in the spring and fall. It more than pays for itself and we do not feel as if we need to see everything each time we go or rush through the park to experience everything. We enjoy our leisurely time together and usually visit between lunch and dinner so as not to spend money on park food.


4 Kandace June 3, 2010 at 12:35 pm

A kiddie pool in the backyard with a friend. A great playdate for kid and mom!


5 Cindy June 3, 2010 at 12:50 pm

We have tons of spray parks in our area which are free. The kids love them, we usually pack a lunch and invite friends!


6 Julie Zuber June 3, 2010 at 12:53 pm

we love to go to the free summer series movies then hit the park for a picnic afterwards and maybe the local splash pad (free). They we buy a bowling pass from a PTA fundraiser that is $10/child and allows for 2 free games of bowling and shoe rental every day for the summer. I also see some areas have free bowling but we don't here. We also buy a season pass for our local children's museum. We spend time there and then use it when we go on vacation or go to a relatives house out of town. It gives us free admissions around the country. The kids look forward to going to a neat new children's museum and it is free with our membership. They also have activities going on all summer. We also head to the library for their free events. Hope these ideas help someone.


7 sharon k June 3, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Barnes and Noble. Drive-in. Yes, we still have one and Thursday eves. carload nights. $13.00 for as many people can fit in your car. Camping. Local parks. Biking. Local lakes. Fishing.


8 Maxine June 3, 2010 at 1:40 pm

We have a pool that satisfied my kids water obsession (thank goodness). The library does a wide variety of FREE events. We are near the Cincinnati area and they have tons of freebies in the summer (google:free events in (your area), even free admission to the museum center on certain days. We also do Lowes and Home Depot events. Lastly, we purchase a zoo pass each year and go to the "special" event days and even through the holiday season we go there. Not bad for only $120 for a family of 6.


9 jess June 3, 2010 at 1:56 pm

1. Kiddie pool in the back yard.
2. Library activities.
3.Free park concerts.


10 Naomi June 3, 2010 at 2:02 pm

The local bowling alley gives school-aged kids a punch card for one free bowling game & shoe rental per weekday, there is a three-hole free kids' golf course nearby, the library offers free reading incentives and events, the parks are all free of course ( two have free water splash parks,) and the park district offers many inexpensive activities including a M-F all-afternoon program of crafts, games, and field trips for a total cost of $57 for the months of June and July. They also sponsor some free family events with food, games, and crafts.


11 Maggie June 3, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Summer Reading Club at our library! Also, we belong to our local zoo, which costs about $89, but we definitely use it.


12 Bobbi June 3, 2010 at 2:26 pm

We like to mix equal parts of cornstarch and water. Add some food coloring, and paint the sidewalk. As it dries, it looks like chalk. :)


13 Kelly June 3, 2010 at 2:37 pm

Visit National parks. Most are free and others are offering free days this summer.


14 Angie W June 3, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Our local Arboretum is free once a month so we make sure to make a day of it. It's great walking around and seeing and learning about all the different plants and trees. There is also a free zoo in our city and our suburb does free movie night each week outdoors. Should be fun this summer!


15 Chrissy June 3, 2010 at 3:46 pm

I take my kids to the free lunch program at the park near us. They get to play and eat and I save a bunch on groceries! Plus, if I bike them in the trailer, I get a workout! Plus we do our summer reading program at the local library. I just posted a bunch of mostly free summer activities last week if you're interested:


16 Marilyn Fuller June 3, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Park Playhouse Plays in Washington Park,
Free outside movie nite at local park
Drive-In (although it's not as cheap as it used to be)


17 Stacy June 3, 2010 at 6:07 pm

I live in Texas where it really HOT so we visit Muesuems like the railroad musuem and fire station museum for free. We also enjoy picnics in the parks and swimming at our local pool.
Our library has many activities for kids like crafts and other fun activities. We had someone at our library that educated kids on different snakes, vernomous and non vernomous, that he brought in cages. Then there was another person with a pet pig. It was definitly interesting at our library. Another bonus, my kids love getting prizes for reading books during the summer reading program.


18 Jill O June 3, 2010 at 7:28 pm

We live in Delaware and are close to both the bay-side beaches and the ocean-side beaches. (We can be at the beach within an hour.) A group of us get together once a week and go to a beach with the kids and a picnic lunch. It's nice because even though we have quite a few kids between all of us, with all of us working together, there are always plenty of adults in the water with the kids and on the beach with the ones in the sand. And someone to do the all important bathroom runs! We also do the summer reading programs at the library. We usually do a park day also, with a picnic lunch. It always amazes me how much the kids don't want a PB&J sandwich at home, but if you take it somewhere else and call it a picnic...they can't get enough of it.


19 Dee Dee June 3, 2010 at 7:54 pm

About 30 minutes from us, here in central FL is a natural spring park. I like to pack a picnic lunch and for a couple dollars admission each, spend the day. The water is always 72 and guaranteed to give everyone a very early bedtime. So worth it!


20 Jessica June 3, 2010 at 8:43 pm

Our local zoo has free admission on the first Saturday of each month for the city residents - which is awesome. And then we get a resident beach pass and go as much as we can to pay for it. And packing our own lunch/dinner/snacks depending on what time we get down there.


21 Jillian June 3, 2010 at 9:10 pm

We are big fans of the zoo as well! SO CHEAP! Its only $4.25 if you go after 2pm on Fridays too! Great Deal!


22 Erika June 3, 2010 at 9:17 pm

Library Summer Reading programs! I like to seek out fun parks all summer long.


23 Meredith June 3, 2010 at 9:45 pm

We live in Maine and try to take advantage the unique local sites. When you do your taxes in Maine you can buy a park pass which gets you into every state park or beach all year for as many as you can fit in your car for (I believe it was) $75. We spend a lot of time at the beach. There are also a lot of great local museums. There is weekend each summer when you can visit all the local farms for free and they have interesting things to do set up for the kids. There are a lot of summer fairs and street fairs that are free to get into and only cost if you choose to purchase something. When the cooler weather starts to come, it's time to go apple picking and then later pumpkin picking.


24 madmommy June 3, 2010 at 11:57 pm

We have a mommy group from our church with a standing lunch/free waters-sprayer park date every Thursday in the summer. Last year we also did some visits to our town zoo (also free). If the weather is bad, we meet at church and let the kids run in the fellowship hall. We're kicking off this summer with the library's summer reading program celebration day. The chance for the moms and kids to meet and relax is the best part of my summer!


25 amee June 10, 2010 at 6:25 pm

We go to the free movies. We also to the park in the morning and take advantage of swimming in the lake. We have also had camp in and set up a tent in our house.


26 Cindy June 25, 2010 at 6:04 pm

How about BOGO bowling? AMF just put out a great BOGO coupon - see my post at


27 sarah June 27, 2011 at 6:50 pm

Ok, so I am alwyas trying to find good, family friend TV shows that I can watch with my hubby and kids. The selection is somewhat limiting because shows are being very inappropriate now a days.

But I heard of this new show coming out called iKid and I am pretty sure the basis of the show is the host puts kids in really funny situations and the kids respond very humorously. The show is supposed to be really funny and something the whole family can enjoy. I personally love shows where I see kids doing really funny things because I can relate alot of it to things my kid does.

Has anyone else heard of this show? I saw it on when I was updating my celeb fix! Check it out and let me know if you agree and think it would be a good show!!


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