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I was just checking out the price for a one day pass to Six Flags here in Texas and was blown away. By the time you add the price of a ticket and parking, along with the fact that you can't bring in outside food, it definitely isn't cheap. I can't imagine how much money a family spends there in a single day. WOW!

What are some low cost ways you have found to have fun during the summer months that won't break the bank?
 

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Well, it doesn't seem frugal, up front, but we joined the pool for the summer. It was $370 for the summer. The pool opens for weekends only this weekend, and then opens for good at the end of June. (Here in northern Jersey, the last day of school isn't until June 23rd.) The kids and I generally go to the pool every sunny day. So, if you figure we will go five days a week in July and August, except for the week we are away in August with my parents, it comes to about $2 a day for each of us (that's not including the weekends in June or the days that Dh goes with us). Not terrible, and will eat up a lot of down time and keep them from wanting to do something big. I pack lunch and snacks to avoid the snack bar, and we spend the entire afternoon there.

Also, we hit the library once a week for books and movies. Cheaper than rentals, and the kids also like to play on the computers they have there. So, again, keeps them busy and it's totally free.

The local bowling alley also has a Summer Striker's program where kids bowl for a dollar.
 

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This is a list I had put together of ideas for activities a long while back. I think it still applies.

- Bowling - If you go on Sunday mornings before noon, the games are usually $1-2 each in my area. Sometimes special rates are available at other times as well.

- Park - during warmer weather, go to the park and play frisbee or swing on the swings! Pack a picnic lunch and bring a nice tablecloth/blanket to sit on, a thermos of cold lemonade, etc. During crisper days, make it a thermos of hot cocoa.

- Library - many libraries offer free movies (theater in library as well as dvd rentals). They may also have collections on display, book readings, author signings, lectures and more.

- Village outings - My current town offers free family movies in the park on Wednesday nights during the summer. My prior town offers free concerts in the park during the week (Thursday nights there) in the summer.

- Historical theaters - another source for free movies - our historical theater (renovated) offers one evening of free movies about once a month and during the summer they do morning free movies for the kids

- Museum - many museums have a donation-free day during the week for those feeling a bit of a financial bite

- Coupons - I get the entertainment book ($25) and am easily able to recoup my expenses with the 2-for-1 coupons during the year. This lets me get some less expensive outings and encourages me to try new places.

- Miniature Golf - check for coupons for 2-for-1 admission and also check for reduced fee times (similar to matinees at movies).

- High tea - hold high tea at your home with special sandwiches (cucumber, tuna fish, etc. with the crusts cut off and cut with cookie cutters into cute shapes), hot cocoa, small homemade cookies, etc. In the warmer weather hold it outside in your yard. Depending on the age of your children, invite teddy bears or dolls! Wear crazy hats and lace gloves.

- Cooking lesson - bake a batch of cookies together and use it as an educational time as well as being fun.

- Game night – Get together with friends for a game night – Pictionary, scrabble, monopoly, charades, whatever sounds fun. Can be customized depending on the ages of the participants. Create puppets from old socks and put on a show (use a clothesline and a curtain for a stage) for the family or neighborhood.

- Botanic Garden or Arboretum - I happen to belong to an arboretum and consider the expense worthwhile for myself. They have LOTS of activities for members during the year - including special concerts, bike riding for members only on Friday and Saturday evenings during the summer, plays, and more. Many of the member events are free, some cost money but you get reduced admission fees. Even just going and sitting in the grounds or walking the trails can be fun and relaxing. It also comes with reciprocal admission to other parks and gardens. This has proven wonderful.

- Tourism - check out the convention and visitor's bureau for your town or the chamber of commerce for hidden gems - you might be surprised to discover state parks, historical plaques and buildings, and more that you didn't even know were there in your town!

- Craft activity - have a private craft hour with your child, making some special item (could be artistic or functional, such as stepping stones). Could just use recycled items like toilet paper tubes and egg cartons with leftover paint and glitter. Heck even a potato can be cut to be a rubber stamp!

- Zoo - check to see if your local zoo has reduced admission days. Also look for smaller zoos that may be less expensive or wildlife rehabilitation centers.

- Rental movie with a theme - you could do 2-3 movies with a theme, like baseball day or movies set in the orient and then match the food to the movie theme (such as hot dogs or stir fry), maybe decorate the room a little bit along the same lines (baseball penants with the kids names on them from construction paper; paper lanterns from construction paper)

- Philanthropic - spend the day doing something special for others - participate in a river clean up, help an elderly person with household chores like painting or raking leaves, help at the canned food pantry - this can raise an appreciation in your kids to remind them that the best things in life don't come in boxes with bows and that you are truly always blessed because things COULD be worse!

- Gardening - plant seeds and tend them together in your own vegetable or flower garden. If your kids are really young, easy plants would include marigolds, sunflowers, lettuce, radishes, etc.

-Schools (Grammar/High School/Community Colleges/Colleges) – a lot of schools offer wonderful plays, choral concerts, poetry readings and more and they are often open to the public for free or reduced entrance fees.

- In the winter, go to watch local carolers, go to the town tree lighting ceremony, the town parade, etc. Build an igloo or snowman if you get enough snow. Watch for your park district's winter fest event - many times they have free hay rides, hot cocoa or cider, ice sculpture contests, etc. Drive (or walk) around and check out the light displays at houses in your neighborhood.

- In the spring, visit the flowers - go looking for the best display of daffodils, tulips and other spring flowers, watch for Easter festivities (if you celebrate it) from the park district or stage your own Easter egg hunt in the park or your backyard. See if one of the local park districts offer maple syrup days and taps their own trees.

- In the summer, go strawberry picking, visit local gardens (many offer free admission days), visit the forest preserve or lakefront beach. Go camping (in your own backyard if you can’t get away). Visit local wineries and participate in a tasting. Watch the fireworks (and keep an eye out – sometimes they have them at carnivals or minor league baseball games throughout the summer). Go cloud watching or star gazing (try to identify the constellations).

- In the fall, go for a drive to find the most beautiful fall leaves. Make a scarecrow, make homemade apple cider. Find a place that crushes it's own apples and learn about the process. Pick apples and make a homemade apple pie or can homemade applesauce or apple butter for Christmas gifts.

- Check for local factory tours - many of these are free and some of them are really neat. I went to a glassblowing factory once and not too far from us is a jelly belly jellybean factory.

- Watch for the hometown carnival events. Often times they have free events running concurrent - jugglers, mimes, children's craft tents, etc.


Read the newspaper carefully for free events in your town. You might be surprised, when you actually start looking for them, how many are offered! Most common places to watch are libraries, park districts, museums, historical societies, hospitals (safety fairs, community education, etc.), forest preserves, etc.
 

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Things we are doing this summer, instead of taking a vacation:

http://carillon-rees.org/ they have free concerts a couple times a week. we pack a lunch, sit on the grass and enjoy the bells

Municipal Band Park Concerts - Springfield, IL - Jun 02, 2015 again, free concerts and taking our meal and enjoying the music. at least one concert has fireworks afterward

free swimming at the local lake

our drive - in movie theater is $3/ car and we take our own drinks/snacks
 

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There's a local newspaper that's published weekly which includes a list of events over a pretty substantial area around where I live. Some of the events can be expensive but those are usually charity events or business events. A lot of the events are usually fairly inexpensive or free, which is nice. There are a couple little parks around my area which are free as well as a couple of historical parks (also mostly free) a bit of a drive away but worth drive for the history.

I seem to recall free concerts near a Panera's in one of the strip malls, sponsored by the local chamber of arts.
 

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When it comes to keeping kids busy during the summer months, I think often times we forget that they just want to spend time with us. It doesn't have to cost money.

With younger kids it can be as simple as feeding the ducks at the park, or finding a container to let them grow some vegetable in.

Older kids might love going on a hike with you, even if it is just an afternoon day hike at a local park.
 

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There were tons when my kids were little. Now they are High school/college age. Here are some they enjoy.

My teens just "earned" 5 free movies or video game rental from the local movie rental place. The place give free movies for every A up to 5. in the month of June. So that is 10 free movies for us this month.

The library has free books, cd and movies. ( we checked out 3 of them on my birthday including the new season of Downton Abby Happy me)
Our also has activities, concerts, game nights, movie nights that are teen focused all free.

There are generally activities around town that are free. Like an antique car show or the bike race (not free if you were racing but free to watch and join in the free other activities)


Our zoo is always free
The fitness trail is always free
Tennis courts always free

Local art museum is always free. They have rotating exhibits.

Swimming pool ( it is called a water park as it has more than just a pool) is $3 for a day of my teen. They has family nights where a family can get in for $5.

Bowling alley in town has a free bowling kids program for kids 15 and under. so I still have one that can do that. it is certain times on certain days of the week.

Band in the park concerts free. Traditional band and electrical bands.

Orchestra concerts in the air conditioning are a $1 per group ( group labeled as any group from 1 to 100)

Free lectures form guest speakers at the university.

open house/department days at the university are always fun.

Free events at the Planetarium on the University.

Summer theater performance (4 a summer) are free although they recently started quietly putting out a donation box to support the program.

So many free things to do on the campus. My son has an app that tells him what is happening. It also tells us if it is open to the public. all the ones I mentioned before are generally open for free or very low cost to the public.
 

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My local radio station every Friday mentions several of the free events around the city...there are usually several.
 
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my library has a ton of activities for kids of all ages, even kid book groups

Over the past 5 yrs or so there has been a program called Kids Bowl Free. Just google it and see if your town alley participates
 
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