Free {or inexpensive} ideas for summer activities!

Whether you school year round, take a short break, or spend the whole season curriculum-free; the summer offers an often irresistible pull to get out, move, do and experience all that this time of year has to offer. 

pink Slippers on wood floor

Our family strives to make the most of the short Montana summers, but we don’t want to have to spend a lot of money to do it. I’ve been brainstorming some of the best free or inexpensive summer activities and am sharing them with you here today!

Public Library – Hopefully we all spend a good amount of time here anyway but I find our family tends not to go as often when the weather’s warm…..which is a shame! Most libraries are air conditioned, comfortable, and quiet; a great place to beat the extreme heat in some parts of the country! Plus, how many of us moms need to be asked twice for an excuse to settle in and do some pleasure reading of our own?!? Not me!

Community Pool – Let’s face it, sometimes the only way to cool off is a dip in a pool. And not many of us have the luxury of having one in our own backyards. A community pool can be a great, inexpensive way to get that time in the water. I never went to a community pool until I lived in my first small town, it wasn’t just the water I appreciated but the social aspect for both myself and the kids. I now live in a different small town that doesn’t have a public pool and we really miss it! Check if the pool offers swim lessons or any water sports. I did water aerobics with a few other younger ladies in my last community and it was a real blast!

Caves – We’ve had the opportunity to explore a few different caves now and the experience is always the height of whatever kind of trip we’re taking! Underground caves are temperate and cool year-round, usually offer guided tours whether they’re on public or private lands, and are more than worth the (generally moderate) price of admission! I found an awesome state-by-state list of all the caves in the US, click HERE to check if there are any near you!

Camping – This obviously comes with an initial investment if you don’t already have the gear but on our family’s first camping trip we borrowed a tent, brought extremely simple foods (hot dogs over the fire, cereal, cold-cut sandwiches, etc.), packed card & board games, utilized the hiking trails, and came home after one night. You should take the time to find out if you’re the kind of family that enjoys camping before you start collecting all the stuff!

Hiking/Biking/Nature Walks – Whether you use sidewalks and parks or more back-country hiking trails, take advantage of the opportunities to get moving and exploring and enjoying all that’s around you!

Museums/Interpretive Centers –  Every city/county/geographical area is famous for something! Every town, big or small has it’s share of history and notoriety, and chances are there’s more than one museum or center nearby dedicated to celebrating that local heritage. I discounted these types of places for a number of years, but after moving to a place not teeming with readily-available activities our family has learned to work with what’s here. We’ve really enjoyed ourselves, and learned much more than I could have ever expected!

Visit the Local Lake/Ocean/River –  No matter where you live, I’d venture to guess you have some recreational body of water close by. Pack a picnic lunch, slather on the sunscreen, and splash around on one of those hot summer days. Buy cheapo inflatable inner tubes and loungers – don’t spend a lot of money on these, they get beat up whether you spend the bucks or not. It hurts much less when your kids pop a $3 floating turtle than a $25 fancy, something, I promise! Paddle boats are usually cheap to rent and a blast to use, bring the fishing poles and let the inner angler in your kids go nuts, build sandcastles, bring snorkels and goggles if you have them! Our family lives very close to a lake and our favorite moments this summer, be it an hour and a half before dinner or an entire afternoon, have been spent on that lake and have cost us nuthin’!

Service – Call the local retirement home and ask if you can give away a handmade craft or read with the residents, get in touch with the community food bank and ask for a tour and how you can help, serve a meal as a family at the church’s soup kitchen, lend a hand with (and let your kids attend) your favorite vacation bible school. Pick up trash at a public park, be on the look-out for local service projects and be open to pitching in whenever possible. There’s no better way to teach and embrace a grateful heart than to be willing to serve others with your time and energy!!

Wash the car, play in the sprinklers, camp in the front yard, make popsicles or frozen lemonade, throw water balloons, play baseball, but whatever you do……don’t let this summer season pass without taking full advantage of the long days and warm nights. There’s too much fun to be had and too many opportunities for sweet, lasting family memories!

These are a few of my family’s favorite ways to spend our short summer season…..what are yours?!?

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  1. What we love about the library is the great summer reading programs, that often contain coupon for free summer food like ice-cream. I would also add if camping for the first time try the back yard as a practice run of sorts, your kids will love it! That way you can easily go in the house if you forgot something, and then make a great list for the first time you actually head out to a real campsite.

  2. Another great thing about the local museums is that we have found the people who work at these places delighted to have visitors, especially children, and will gladly answer questions and go out of their way to make you feel welcome. That’s always nice!

  3. Great ideas. Oh how fun to be able to hike and explore caves – nothing fun like that around here but I guess we have the ocean so I should not complain. Great reminder to make the most of summer!

  4. Great suggestions that often get overlooked. Sadly, as time goes by, they often end up being some of the most meaningful. Thanks, Danielle! ;0)

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