Free and Low-Cost Community-Based Summer Activities

Those lazy days of summer can get pretty monotonous after a couple of weeks. If you’re looking for an alternative to high-priced summer camps, then take a look at our list of 30+ FREE and low-cost community-based summer activities for kids – no matter where you live in the U.S.!

We’ve found all sorts of fun things to do. There’s summer reading programs, free bowling and roller skating. You can learn how to sew, do carpentry, code computers, or cook with your kids. Or, visit a museum for free or just take in a move for as little as $1.

Be sure to check out each sponsor’s website for details. Most businesses require advance registration. Participation ages may vary across different locations for the same event. We’ve tried to identify any “hidden” costs some free events have, but be sure to ask before you go so you can stay in your budget. And, most importantly, remember that almost all events require parents to stay on-site while the kids have fun.


Kids Skate Free

Cost: FREE to skate. Rental is extra.
When: Days and times vary by location
Visit to find a participating rink in one of 30 states. Age to participate in Free Skate varies by rink.

Kids Bowl Free

Cost: FREE to bowl. Shoe rental is extra.
When: Start date varies in May and June. Ends by Sept 1, 2018.
Registered kids can bowl 2 free games every day this summer at participating bowling alleys in all 50 states, Washington DC, US military bases, and Canada. Age to participate in Free Bowling varies by location. An optional Family Pass is available for purchase for parents and older siblings who also want to bowl.

Summer Games Bowling Pass

Cost: ~$35 per child
When: May 21 – Sept 3, 2018
Kids can bowl up to 3 games every day at their select AMF, Bowlmor Lanes, Bowlero, or Brunswick Zone bowling center. Kid Pass includes cost of shoes each time you go to bowl. Exact price and age to participate varies by location.

Bass Pro Go Outdoors Family Events

Cost: FREE
When: Varies by store location
Find a Bass Pro store near you and find out when they’re hosting their next Go Outdoors event where you and your kids can learn to fish, kayak, and do other fun nature-based activities and crafts. Bass Pro has stores in 32 states.

Wegmans Cooking With Kids

Cost: $10
When: Dates vary by location
Learn how to cook with your kids – with no prep and no cleanup! Check out the master list of cooking classes and then see if the class is being offered at a supermarket near you. Wegmans has over 75 stores in 6 Mid-Atlantic states.


Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge

Cost: FREE
When: May 7 – Sept 7, 2018
The 2018 Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge theme is “A Magical Summer of Reading,” which coincides with the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Open to students in all US states, territories, and the District of Columbia, students sign-in to their reading program account and log their summer reading minutes in order to unlock digital rewards as they complete weekly reading challenges.

Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program

Cost: FREE
When: May 15 – Sept 3, 2018
Kids in grades 1st – 6th can earn a free book when they turn in a reading log listing 8 books they have read.

Books A Million Summer Reading Adventure

Cost: FREE
When: All summer long
Read 4 books from the BAM Summer Adventure reading list and write about them in your reading notebook. Turn your list in and receive a free pencil case and pencils .BAM operates 200+ stores throughout the US, east of Houston Texas.

Feed Your Brain Summer Reading Program

Cost: FREE
When: June 1 – Aug 30, 2018
Download the reading log and keep track of the number of minutes your 14 and under child reads during June and July. Reach 300+ minutes to claim your Bookworm Bucks from a local Half Price Books stores. Pre-readers can participate by logging how many minutes an adult reads to them. Teens can participate by reading select books and writing a short review. Available in 17 states from Arizona to Wisconsin to Pennsylvania.

TD Bank Summer Reading Program

Cost: FREE
When: All summer long
TD Bank deposits $10 into a new or existing TD Simple Savings account when each K – 5th grade child completes their challenge of reading 10 books. Available at nearly 1,300 branch locations along the East Coast.

Pottery Barn Book Club for Kids

Cost: FREE
When: Every Tuesday at 11:00, year-round
Stop by each week for a special story time at your local Pottery Barn Store. Kids receive a Book Club Passport and a free gift after attending 5 times.

Chuck E. Cheese’s Rewards Calendars

Cost: FREE
When: Ongoing throughout 2018
You choose the goal you want your child to make – such as daily teeth brushing, reading, or doing daily chores. Print off the calendar. Once your kid completes the daily challenges, return it to Chuck E. Cheese for 10 free tokens.


Junior Rangers Program

Cost: FREE
When: Available all year-round
The Junior Ranger program is an activity based program conducted in almost all National Parks. Interested youth complete a series of activities during a park visit, share their answers with a park ranger, and receive an official Junior Ranger patch and Junior Ranger certificate. Junior Rangers are typically between the ages of 5 to 13, although people of all ages can participate in any of the 200+ programs. Some National Parks charge admission.

Blue Star Museums

Cost: FREE
When: Memorial Day – Labor Day
2,000+ Participating museums across the country offer free family admission to active duty military families. Proper military ID is required and some special add-on (like IMAX movies) may not be included in the free admission.

Target Community Partner Events

Cost: Free – $2 per person
When: Varies by location
Target Corporation hosts Free and and greatly reduced admission to a variety of children’s and cultural museums in 21 major cities across the U.S. Visit the website to see when a museum near you may be participating.


APPLE Kids Hour

Cost: FREE
When: Days vary throughout the year
Kids as young as 6 can sign up for free Apple classes. You’ll find classes to learn about creating music with GarageBand, coding with Swift Playground and Sphero robots, and more. Computers are supplied in-store.

Microsoft Events for Students

Cost: FREE
When: Days vary by location
YouthSpark Summer Camps let kids learn the latest technology from Microsoft while making new friends, completing creative projects, and gaining new technology skills. Classes include Minecraft coding, movie-making, Ohbot robot programming, and more. Separate classes for kids as young as 6 and as old as 14. Classes run from 1 to 4 days long. Microsoft has stores in 35 states.


Cost: FREE
When: Everyday (EXCEPT Tuesdays) from 10.00 – 4:00pm
The Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation invites kids ages 6 – 12 to create, collaborate, explore, test, experiment, and invent. Spark!Lab is a hands-on invention activity center where visitors learn that invention is a process and that everyone is inventive. Activities incorporate history, science, engineering, technology, and art. Originally based in Washington DC, you can also find Spark!Labs in Alaska, Massachusetts, Missouri, and Nevada.


Lakeshore Free Crafts for Kids

Cost: FREE
When: Every Saturday from 11am – 3pm
Kids ages 3+ can make and take a simple craft project. No reservations needed.

A.C. Moore Make and Take

Cost: Free or nominal purchase required
When: Varies by store
Find your nearest A.C. Moore craft store through the website’s Store Locator link. Click on “Events” and find out about upcoming Make and Take craft classes for kids.

Michaels Kid Classes

Cost: Free – $5
When: Varies by store location
Find your nearest Michaels store online and check out upcoming kid classes and creativity camps. Age requirements vary by class.

Joann’s Kids’ Craft Classes

Cost: $35+
When: Days and times vary by location
These hands-on classes teach kids 8 and up how to knit, crochet, sew, and decorate baked goods. Some classes last 2-hours, while others meet for multiple days. Supplies are included with cost. No prior experience needed.


Home Depot Kid Classes

Cost: FREE
When: Select Saturdays from 9am – noon, year round
Register to participate in a different carpentry project with your child, ages 5-12. All kids get to keep their craft, receive a FREE certificate of achievement, a Workshop Apron, and a commemorative pin while supplies last. Children must be present at the store to receive.

Lego Store Events

Cost: Free – $10
When: Days vary by location
Kids ages 6 – 14 can sign up as a Lego VIP and be invited to free make and take events each month. Check the online calendar for additional events and classes.

Lowe’s Build and Grow Clinics

Lowe’s stopped offering their free kid building clinics in 2017.


Regal’s Summer Movie Express

Cost: $1 per person
When: Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10am
Watch one of two different movies each week, for 10 weeks. Some theatres may start at different times. A portion of the proceeds goes to the Will Rogers Institute. Regal Cinemas operates in 48 different states.

AMC Summer Movie Camp

Cost: $4 + tax per person
When: Every Wednesday throughout the summer at 10am – Except for July 4
Enjoy a kid-friendly movie, along with a KidsPack (popcorn, drink, and fruit snack). AMC Theatres operates in 40 states. Check the website to confirm if the location nearest you participates in the Summer Movie Camp. Tickets are available for purchase at the box office only.

Cinemark Summer Movie Clubhouse

Cost: $1 per person
When: May 21 – July 28, 2018
Come watch recently released G and PG films for kids. Cinemark operates in 28 states. Check the website to confirm in the location nearest you participates in the Summer Movie Clubhouse. Tickets are available for purchase at the box office on the day of the movie.

Marcus Theatres’ Kids Dreams

Cost: $3 per person
When: Sundays, Mondays, and Wednesdays at 10am.
June 24 – Aug 29, 2018
Enjoy 10 different family friendly films throughout the summer. Marcus Theatres operates in 8 Midwestern states.

Bookworm Wednesdays at Showcase Cinemas

Cost: FREE
When: Wednesdays throughout the summer
Bookworm Wednesdays entitles kids to free admission to a select children’s film when they present a book report at a participating Cinema de Lux, Showcase, or Multiplex Cinemas box office. Accompanying parents or guardians and children under six years of age receive free admission and do not need to submit a book report. Showcase Cinemas operates in 6 East Coast states.

Harkins Summer Movie Fun

Cost: $1 per person
When: 9:45am. Weekday varies by theatre.
Kids 13 and under can enjoy 10 movies throughout the summer when accompanied by an adult. Check the website for details on how to purchase tickets in advance. Harkins operates in 5 Southwestern states.



Alessa Giampaolo Keener, M.Ed. homeschooled her children from kindergarten into college. Over the last 15+ years, she has also worked with families in creating individualized learning plans. As a professional curriculum developer, Alessa has created afterschool youth development programs for a Baltimore-based nonprofit, as well as teaching materials for homeschool parents and brick and mortar school teachers.