The Ultimate Guide to Free & Cheap Summer Fun

(Last Updated On: September 7, 2018)

It’s the season for sunshine and splashing, so of course everyone is looking for affordable summer fun! From $1 movies to free books to free museum passes, we’ve compiled the ultimate list of free and cheap summer fun ideas for your family. We’ve found ideas in every US state, so be sure to read this list to the end!

Enjoy free admission to exciting destinations in your city!

Take advantage of a free museum day. In Seattle, the first Thursday of every month is free museum day. In Tacoma, it’s the third Thursday. We’ve been developing lists for cities all over the United States! See what we’ve covered here.

Got an EBT card? We’ve found hundreds of museums that offer discounted admission to families who receive food stamps benefits. Our list is organized alphabetically by state so you can easily find the freebies that you qualify for.

Got a library card? Library cards are free and easy to obtain. They also unlock some serious adventure! Libraries across the US offer free movie streaming services, free museum passes, and even free Makerspaces! We’ve got the scoop on what’s happening at libraries all over the US. Ready to see what your library offers?

Got a military ID? If you have a military ID or Common Access Card (CAC), you can get free admission to 2,000 museums around the country. The Blue Star Museum program helps military families enjoy their summers for free!

Go bowling, skating or catch a movie for $1 or less!

Kids Bowl Free is an incredible program that allows children to play two free bowling games per day throughout the summer. Parents can purchase an affordable season pass so that they can bowl every day, too! Bowling alleys across the United States are participating in this program. The cost of shoe rental is not included.

Kids Skate Free is an offshoot of Kids Bowl Free. It isn’t as widely available yet, but there are skating centers across the US participating in this program. Kids can skate free every day of the summer at participating locations!

AMC Theaters has a Summer Movie Camp. The tickets are $4 per person, but include a KidsPack! The KidsPack includes popcorn, FrootiTooti fruit snacks and a beverage.

Cinemark offers a Summer Movie Clubhouse, which shows 10 PG-rated movies throughout the summer. The cost is just $1 per person per movie… or $5 per person for all 10 movies!

Regal Cinemas shows $1 movies all summer long! Their Summer Movie Express program offers different films each year. The movies are a little older, but it’s still fun to escape the heat and watch them on the big screen!

Go outside and have an adventure.

State Parks are a fantastic source for summer fun! These parks often feature educational programming and some even have special events throughout the summer. Can’t afford admission? We may be able to help with that! Chloe dug in and found every low income deal and discount in every state!

National Parks are even better! Some of my favorite places in this world are tucked inside National Parks. Can’t afford the hefty price to enter the park? Here’s a list of all the ways you can save money on a National Parks pass. 

Of course, local community parks are awesome, too! Many city parks include splashpads and host free family concerts throughout the summer. To see what’s available in your area, contact your local city hall!

While you’re out and about, search for a Geocache and find some hidden treasures! Be sure to have a small trinket or something on hand that you can leave in the cache for someone else to find!

free cheap summer fun

Cool off and have some fun at your local community rec center!

YMCA may offer discounts to low income households. The details vary by location, so you’ll need to contact your local YMCA and ask about their financial aid programs.

City recreation centers often offer discounts to low income households, also. For example, low income Tucson residents can enjoy half-price swim lessons, kids’ summer camps and more! These programs vary by city and county, but don’t hesitate to contact your local community recreation center and ask about any financial assistance, Access programs or low income scholarships they may have available.

Get perks from summer reading programs!

Barnes and Noble provides a free summer reading program for kids! Just fill out their forms and bring them into your local Barnes & Noble to pick out your free book!

Libraries often offer summer reading programs, too! While reading might not be your favorite idea of summer fun, it helps them be prepared for the next school year and they can usually win fun prizes!

Scholastic offers a Summer Reading Challenge, also. Children must be registered by a teacher, public librarian or community organization leader. The Challenge lets readers unlock digital prizes by reading books!

TD Bank offers kids $10 for reading 10 books throughout the summer! You’ll need to have a TD bank nearby to redeem your earnings. They have 1,300 locations, but they are mostly arranged along the East Coast.

Stay nourished with free food all summer long!

Get free produce from the Farmer’s MarketMy kids’ favorite place for summer fun is the local Farmer’s Market. Ours participates in the POP Kids Program, which provides free tokens that the kids can redeem for fresh fruit or veggies. Every Tuesday, they walk away with a bag full of cherries. Sometimes they pick something else… but ti’s usually cherries.

Find free summer meal sites. Fuel up for free summer fun with free meals in your community! Families who qualify for free school meals often struggle to afford their increased grocery bills during the summer months. Food stamps don’t adjust for the increased demand. This leaves many families struggling. Fortunately, there is help. Just text FOOD to 877877 to find the summer meal site closest to you.

Attend a Back-to-School Bash and get free school supplies!

Be prepared for next year! Not only are Back to School Bash events fun for the whole family, many of these events distribute backpacks full of free school supplies. Some of these events even provide free hair cuts, free clothing and more for low income students! We’ve been investigating Back-to-School events across the US. Here’s what we’ve found so far. 

Turn your backyard into the ultimate affordable amusement park.

This section contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

The Internet is full of ideas about how to create summer fun in your own backyard. From slip ‘n’ slides made from simple plastic sheeting to a sprinkler made from an empty, perforated two liter bottle of your favorite soda, the ideas are truly endless. Many are very affordable, if not free!

Here are some of my favorite ideas:

Share your favorites in the comments below!

Of course, there may be even more summer fun available in your state!

As usual, the best information is always state-specific. We’re always on the lookout for great summer fun ideas! If we find any in your state, we’ll put them in the list below. If you know of any we missed, please let me know in the comments!


Foster families may be able to get free event tickets, free museum admission and more through these incredible community programs!

Tucson invites you to Go downtown on 2nd Saturdays! Enjoy live music, street vendors, performers and more. The 2nd Saturdays Downtown is a family-friendly event for guests of all ages. Learn more at

Also in Tucson, you can enjoy a free trip to Mission San Xavier del Bac, also known as known as the “Sistine Chapel of North America” because of its detailed paintings on the walls and ceiling. You can also Attend a free concert or event! The Tucson Premium Outlets feature a free concert each week and Tucson Happenings keeps a great calendar of upcoming events!


Teens can use a free STAMP Pass to visit venues all around Philadelphia! The pass is free for teens between the ages of 14 and 19. You’ll get free admission to the zoo and tons of other fun places!

Washington State

Museum of Flight offers an awesome Connections membership for children between the ages of 5 and 18. This program provides free admission for your child until their 18th birthday. Each child can bring an adult to the museum for free!


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