41 Fun, Cheap and Free Things to Do in the Summer

Let’s have some fun!

Concerts, vacations, and kids’ activities can add up quickly, leaving you with an empty bank account. Even if you’re on a budget or saving up for a big expense, you can still have fun this summer for less.

Here are 41 fun, cheap, and free (minus the fuel costs) things you can do while it’s warm outside. There are plenty of ways to have fun without spending a lot.

Since I have a couple of kids, some of these may be slanted for folks with kids.

In addition, families with kids looking for childcare options can really feel the pinch during summer months. This is why I’ve also included ideas for cheap summer camps further down.

Free Things to Do in the Summer at Home

1. Play in the Sprinklers

Throw on your bathing suit and run through the sprinklers. You know you want to.

2. Play a Board Game

Enjoy the cool air conditioner and gather around the kitchen table for a fun family board game. Play an old favorite or borrow a new one from friends or family.

3. Learn a New Skill

Learn to play an instrument, knit, etc. Look for free or cheap classes from your local library. You can also check out the free classes they have at Home Depot. They teach everything from building a bird house to laying tile. At the end of the summer, you’ll have “mad skillz.”

4. Make Popsicles

Pour some of that Kool-Aid in the ice trays, or in some small cups (juice works well too!). Add a spoon for a holder and pop them in the freezer. In a few short hours, you can enjoy delicious popsicles.

5. Watch a Movie

You can check one out from from the library, watch it on an over-the-air channel, or go to a movie in the park event.

Related: 104 Ways to Save Money (includes ways to cut the cost of entertainment)

6. Read a Book

They have these things for free at your local library. Curl up next to the air conditioning vent and read to your heart’s content.

Many libraries also offer audiobooks and ebooks in addition to the paper kind. They can be great for reading on the go or listening in the car.

7. Play Online Games

Look up some free games on your computer, tablet, or smartphone. There are plenty of fun, free games. Angry Birds, anyone?

8. Learn to Cook Something New

Try out a new recipe. Summer is a great time to make something new such as gazpacho or Thai curry. Prefer spending time outdoors? Fire up the grill to cook a rare meat (i.e. ostrich burgers).

9. Start a Blog

WordPress.com is free. So is Blogger.com. Starting a blog is a blast. Use your creativity and build a following.

Related: How to Make Money Blogging

10. Write a Book

Don’t stop with a blog. Write your own book. Have you been putting off writing a novel or a book? Is writing a book something that has been on your bucket list? Self-publishing is easy these days. You could have your book on Amazon in a few days.

Related: Self Publishing Amazon Kindle Books

11. Blow Bubbles

Make some bubbles using dishwashing soap, water, and sugar (for consistency.) Here’s a great recipe for making bubble solution, and it includes a few science experiments for kids too.

12. Have a Garage Sale

Have fun (and make money) getting rid of all of your unwanted stuff. Your house will feel so much cleaner and better organized after all the excess items are out of it. A successful garage sale helps you meet your neighbors too.

Related: How to Have a Garage Sale and Price Your Items

13. Start a Garden

Find some scrap lumber to make a square foot garden in your back yard. Seeds are cheap.

Check the library for books and other information about gardening. Some libraries also offer classes on gardening and may even have a seed library where you can get seeds for free.

14. Build a Fort

Pillow and blanket forts are awesome. Or go big with a fort made of scraps of lumber.

15. Write with Sidewalk Chalk

Unleash your inner artists and show the neighbors what you got. You can even use the chalk to draw a game such as hopscotch for hours of entertainment for you and your kids.

After it rains, do it again.

16. Start a Collection

Summer is the perfect time to start a collection of stamps, coins, rocks, or other freebies.

17. Have a Cookout

Nothing screams summer like a cookout. It’s a fun way to hang out with friends and family, and enjoy the warm weather.

Free Summer Activities in the Community

Most of these ideas are free, but some may require paying a small fee. Try a few or do them all and have a fun-filled summer for less.

18. Go to the Park

Explore what your city has to offer and plan a frugal family outing. Research the best playgrounds in your area. Ask other parents for their recommendations on fun, free play areas, and parks. Make a goal to see all the parks in your area and swing on every swing set.

Related: Frugal Living Tips

19. Swim at Your Community Pool or Spray Park

Slather on the sunscreen and head out to the pool for a few hours. Many parks also have a water playground or splash pad for hours of fun in the sun. This is my favorite kind of summer fun.

20. Visit the Library

This place is awesome. The library can save you money. It is the perfect place to enjoy free air conditioning in the summer months. Many offer free lecture series or cheap classes where you can learn anything from pottery to genealogy.

Some libraries also have kids’ areas with free games and activities. Check out your library’s calendar to see what events are coming up.

Related: 5 Ways the Library Can Save You Money

21. Visit a Free Zoo or Museum

Find out if there are any free zoos or museums (or at least free days) in your area. Show up and have a blast. Don’t forget to pack food and drinks so you don’t get tempted to buy snacks.

22. Play a Sport

I like basketball. What about you? Find a free basketball court and organize a game with a few friends. If it’s too hot outside, plan an evening game or look for a basketball court at a church or recreation center.

Basketball not your thing? How about frisbee, volleyball, or tennis? Look for free facilities at local parks or recreation centers. Don’t have a tennis racket or a volleyball? Ask to borrow it from family and friends. Better yet–invite them to join you in the fun!

23. Attend a Free Workout Class

Many gyms, boot camps, etc.; will let you try their facility or program at least once for free to see if you like it. This may be the perfect time to take a pilates class or try out CrossFit.

Related: Get Fit this Summer for Less

24. Go to a Festival or County Fair

Check out your community calendar and find free events in your area. 

25. Volunteer

Find a local person or organization in need (it could be your older neighbor). Offer to help for an afternoon.

If you’re good in a sport, offer to coach a kids’ team. Many kids’ sports organizations rely on free coaching help from parents.

26. Have a Parade (or at Least See One)

Find a Memorial Day, Independence Day, or any other day parade to attend. Many homeowners’ associations (HOA) also put together free parades for the neighborhood.

Or, start one yourself and lead the way.

27. See the Sights

I grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, which is rich in history but my family and I took it for granted because we had lived there for so long.

One summer, my mother finally decided that we were going to “play tourist” in our own hometown. It was one of the best summers I can remember.

Are you taking your hometown for granted?

28. Watch a Baseball Game

There are many minor league baseball teams all across the country.

Even if your town doesn’t have one affiliated with a major league baseball (MLB) franchise, there is often an independent league team in many small towns with guys who are still dreaming of earning a shot at an MLB team.

A day at the ballpark can be a great and cheap family event.

Free Outdoor Summer Activities

As with the community activities most of these are free but there may be small fees, depending on where you decide to adventure outdoors.

29. Go for a Hike

Scout out a nearby state park for good hiking trails. Ask your friends and family for recommendations on their favorite outdoor hiking spots. Grab a backpack with water, snacks, a compass, and your map, and have fun.

30. Take Pictures

Even if you’re not good with a camera, this can be a chance to get better. Get a book from the library on photography and use what you learn to get better with your camera.

Better yet, organize the pictures you already have to make it easier to enjoy them.

31. Watch the Sunrise

Get up early. Find a good spot. Look east. There is nothing quite like watching the sun rise and basking in the cool morning air.

32. Go to the Beach

If the beach is not more than a day trip away, grab your swimsuit, sunscreen, and snacks and have a fun, frugal outing. Bring a towel and take a dip. Watch out for sharks.

33. Ride Your Bike

I am always amazed by all of the biking trails around town. There are a lot more than we realize. You can find some great trails through your state and local park services and even in your own neighborhood. Have fun and always wear a helmet.

34. Have a Picnic

Instead of eating lunch at your kitchen table for the umpteenth time, break out the pic-a-nic basket and blanket. Get some sun while you eat.

35. Go Fishing

Find an ocean, lake, river, pond, or puddle, and start fishing. Make sure fishing is allowed at that location. Borrow equipment or spend a little money to rent it from the bait shop.

36. Spend Time with Your Children

This might seem like a no-brainer, but it is worth mentioning again. Summer is the perfect time to reconnect with your children and make memories together.

37. Go to an Outdoor Concert

During the summer, many parks offer free outdoor concert series. Grab a picnic blanket and some snacks and relax on the grass while enjoying live music.

38. Go See a Play

Many small communities still have a theater, playhouse, or an opera house where you can see local productions of plays and musicals. Seeing a locally produced play can be a thrilling experience, and many have discount nights.

39. Go Camping

If you already have camping gear, head for the great outdoors for a cheap and fun-filled way to enjoy summer.

Don’t want to drive anywhere or pay the campsite fees? Camp in your back yard. Pitch a tent, light a fire, and roast some marshmallows under the stars. If you have kids, they will love this idea!

40. Look at the Stars

There is nothing quite like enjoying the starry sky on a clear summer night. If you live in the city, it may be difficult to see the stars because of light pollution.

Hop in the car and drive away from the city. Find a spot near an open field and look up at the night sky. Try to identify different constellations or individual stars. Big Dipper anyone?

41. People Watch

Grab a cup of coffee or tea and head to a park or the downtown area of your city. Find a good spot and watch the world go by. It’s a great way to disconnect and enjoy the sights and sounds around you.

Cheap Summer Camp Options

With kids out of school all summer long, it can be a challenge to find affordable childcare options. This is why I also included a section on summer camp ideas for kids that don’t cost an arm and a leg.

Here are several cheap(er) camp options:

Vacation Bible School

Ah, good ole VBS. Can’t beat this summer-time classic. Send your kids here and not only will they learn some great biblical lessons, you won’t have to spend much to get your kid enrolled. You can often just show up the day of and sign up.

YMCA Camps

These can be had for the fraction of the cost of the big camps, plus there are usually many activities to choose from. See YMCA.org.

Boy Scout Camp

I loved my Boy Scout Camp summers. While they weren’t free, they were very affordable compared to other camps. See Scouting.org.

Church Camp

If you are a member of a church, ask about any summer camp opportunities. I remember going to one of these every year and having a great time.

Community College Camps

If you have a community college in your area, investigate their summer camp programs.

Secondary Education Organization Camps (i.e. 4-H, FFA, etc.)

These were some of my favorite camps during the summer as a teen. They were relatively inexpensive and I got to see friends from school and get more involved in the various organizations.

Special Needs Sponsored Camps

If you have a child with special needs, check with a non-profit organization on camp options. Here’s a list of 25 camps for those with special needs.

Final Thoughts on Cheap Summer Activities

Summers can still be magical and fun without spending a ton of money. It only takes a little planning and knowing what is going on in your community.

Your turn! What are your favorite free things to do in the summer? Add to the list by leaving your comment below.

 I always struggle to find fun things to do over summer break, especially activities that don't break the bank, this list of 41 fun, cheap, and free things to do in the Summer is fantastic, I can't wait to do a bunch of them with my kids as a family. I especially loved the ones that would earn me money, thinking I can do those to cover the cost of the few that do cost a few bucks, so I'm planning to make the cost of summer break free. #familyfun #summerbreak #frugalliving #kids #summerbreak

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  1. Museums For All allows people on public assistance to go to museums for up to $3 each person. Hundreds of museums participate in the USA.

  2. I think these are good ideas! Also, the picture up top is in my local park so, that’s cool!

  3. Avatar Rachel Ashby says:

    These all sound great! I have been trying to find a summer activity ever since my Mom left. The park is my favorite.

  4. Avatar caseynlewis says:

    My favorite was in the rain this morning sitting on the back patio with a book and listening to the rain.  We’re teaching my son to read this summer and have already made a trip to the library.

  5. Go on a scavanger hunt. Make a list of things found in nature like birds or leaves and bugs. To really make it interesting have the kids take turns using a camera to photo the items they found.  Check out the state park or local bike and nature trails some have playgrounds and picnic areas for free. Some might have a small fee for parking though. Go on a flower walk. During the spring and summer some neighborhoods have amazing flower or garden displays. 
    Plant fruit seeds. All those apple and orange seeds shouldn’t have to go in the trash  Plant them to see if they grow. Its always a great science experiment
    Making solar s’mores on a hot day is also fun. Just make s’mores and use a pizza box wrapped in foil place it on the roof of the car if its super hot out or out in the sun and in ten minutes they should be ready. 
    Pitch a tent in the backyard. Instead of heading to the campgrounds head outside to the backyard. 
    Use a telescope and find a constellation

    1. Avatar Philip Taylor says:

      @CJ These are awesome additions. We’ll be sure to add them in next time we update the list. The solar s’mores idea sounds great. I might try that with the girls.

  6. That’s great Phil……and working out or going for a run doubles the weightloss!

  7. Our community pool, sadly, is not free. I’m not sure I’ve ever been to one that is.

  8. Avatar SB(One Cent At A Time) says:

    go fishing

  9. Take part in your local town parade…..or at least go watch it.

  10. I love going for a hike with a friend. You can basically accomplish all that you would accomplish at Starbucks but it would be healthier and with without spending $8 on two frappicinos.

  11. Avatar Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager says:

    Sleep outside in the backyard.

  12. Avatar Melissa @ MangoMoney.com/blog says:

    I love free fun! I’m trying to think of something you might have missed, but I can’t!

  13. Avatar 20 and Engaged says:

    This summer I’ll definitely be writing my books and playing with my new dog, as well as getting fit (but the fitness part may not come for free).

    1. Avatar Philip Taylor says:

      Yeah, but I say it’s worth it to pay for things that help you get fit. I’m paying for WW right now and it’s helped me lose a lot of weight. Worth every penny.

  14. Avatar cashflowmantra says:

    You got blogging and garden on there already. How about playing in a church softball league? That is one of my favorite things although the rain has canceled as many games as we have played.

    1. Avatar Philip Taylor says:

      Oh yeah, I’ve done that one before. Good fun.

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