12 Ideas for Summer Fun on a Budget


Published:

The budget might be a little leaner this year, but free summer fun is flowing! With a little planning and a willing family, you can skip expensive programs and far-off vacations and still have a summer to remember.

Before the kids get out of school, take a little time with your summer calendar. Use the following suggestions to pencil in some ideas. Before you know it, you will have months filled with cost-free fun.

Stop by your local library.

Libraries aren't just for reading. Most offer story hours, craft projects and entertainment events. Some have movies, music and other non-reading materials available.

And many area libraries will participate in the Collaborative Summer Library Program, a summer enrichment program for children with a theme this year of Be Creative! Participating libraries will offer programs and projects to inspire kids' imaginations.

Take a few minutes to speak with your children's librarian and learn about the wealth of free family offerings.

Look into area parks.

Many have picnic areas, playgrounds and ball fields. Some have public swimming pools. Several outdoor recreation areas are included in our annual Ultimate Family Resource Guide updated for 2009-2010.

For a bigger adventure, check out the National Park Service Web site at www.nps.gov for state parks. The site lists which parks offer swimming, biking, hiking, fishing, camping, birding and more. Check the park's calendar of events, which may list demonstrations and children's programs.

Load up on kid-friendly summer recipes.

No need to spend money on the local ice cream stand. Create your own kitchen fun with the help of some favorite characters. On www.nickjr.com, for example, you can find yummy summer favorites for Blue's Banana Pops, Ziggy's Juiced Up Fruit Pops and more. Most of the children's television Web sites offer healthy snack ideas that are easy for kids to make. PBS fans will enjoy www.sproutonline.com, where tasty treats include Bob's Build Me Up Berry Shake, Create-a-Color Smoothie and Noddy's Apple Car Delight. Tie on an apron and have fun in the kitchen this summer!

Dust off the bikes and hiking shoes.

Plan a bike trip with the entire family or find a trail to hike. Information on walking and biking trails by area is available at www.americantrails.org, www.railstotrails.org or www.nps.gov. For local mountain biking trails, check out www.trianglemtb.com. Go over important safety tips, like wearing a helmet, using sunscreen and taking plenty of water.

Dig out your old board games and cards. Do your kids know what your favorite card game is? Can you build a house of cards? When was the last time you played Sorry or Monopoly? Playing games together teaches children more than just good sportsmanship. Many teach math skills (Yahtzee), reasoning skills (Clue) and cooperation (Pictionary).

Have a game day for each family member when that person gets to choose the game. Or invite friends and neighbors for a game night. Have everyone bring a favorite game and set up tables for an evening of fun.

Call local museums and the zoos.

Ask about upcoming free family programs or children's demonstrations. Some offer free admission at specific times, such as the last Friday night of each month. Ask to speak to someone in the promotions department or education department to find out about any free programs that are being scheduled in your area.

Visit your local bookstore.

Take advantage of free story hours and craft projects. Borders (www.borders.com), Barnes and Noble (www.bn.com), Quail Ridge Books & Music (http://quailridgebooks.booksense.com) and others list upcoming children's events on their Web sites.

Look through the calendar section of our magazine and Web site. Find unexpected free family events, like festivals, nature walks and craft activities. Look for fireworks displays and free outdoor concerts at www.carolinaparent.com.

Stop into area craft and home improvement stores. Ask about upcoming children's workshops. Home Depot (www.homedepot.com) and Lowes (www.lowes.com), for example, offer free monthly Saturday morning programs where kids can build things, some in time for Father's Day gifts. The classes and supplies are free and you can register your child online.

Organize a family movie night.

Always a favorite, movie night is a time to put on your comfortable pajamas, pop some popcorn and snuggle with a favorite stuffed animal. Borrow free family movies, like Babe or Shrek, from your local library or hit a Redbox at select grocery stores for $1 daily movie rentals (www.redbox.com). Invite friends and neighbors and start a "summer movie exchange."

Plan a backyard camping trip.

Print a free stargazing map from www.kidsastronomy.com and pitch a tent in the backyard. Invite a friend with a telescope. Catch fireflies. Listen to the crickets. Share silly stories. Wake up to the sound of birds. Or just see who can make it through the night!

Share a back-to-school swap.

Finally, enjoy back-to-school "shopping" by inviting friends, family and neighbors to a back-to-school swap. Many families have perfectly good children's clothes that no longer fit. Ask everyone to come with items that might be reused by another family. Or join together to buy discounted school supplies in bulk. With careful planning, getting ready for back-to-school can be a great lesson for our kids on saving money!

Mary Jo Kurtz is a freelance writer and parent of two boys.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Content

Pump It Up Deal to Support Autism Speaks

The entertainment venue Pump it Up of Raleigh is opening it doors for free play from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, July 25, when you make a donation to Autism Speaks.

This Week Features Superheroes, Baseball Ticket Deals, Fireworks!

It's a week when superheroes gather in the Triangle, and when you can see fireworks and get deals on baseball tickets.

Cool Fun: Summer Deals for Movies, Bowling and Ice Skating

These summer deals for movies, bowling and ice skating in the Triangle offer a cool escape from the heat.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

October 2018

Run Club meets every Sunday at 8 a.m. in Midtown Raleigh or Wake Forest. Stroller friendly; children invited. 

Cost: $10/run or $100/annual pass

Where:
Optimist Park Community Center/Greenways
5900 Whittier Drive
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Sponsor: FIT4MOM
Telephone: 919-348-0472
Contact Name: Missy Currin
Website »

More information

North Carolina's signature event features live music, carnival rides, delicious food, kids' entertainment and more. See website for hours and ticket prices.  

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
N.C. State Fairgrounds
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy a craft fair presented by the Junior League of Raleigh. See website for hours and to purchase advance tickets.  

Cost: $10/person

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Discover the origins of the State Fair at a display table, and learn the history behind some of its tasty treats. Make a fair-related craft to take home. All ages. Registration not required.

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Tour the farm, spend time with farmers who care about the environment and meet friendly animals. Tickets must be purchased online; the farm is not open for drop-ins.

Cost: $10/person

Where:
Hux Family Farm
1923 Shaw Rd.
Durham, NC  27704
View map »


Website »

More information

Participants develop their naturalist skills and understanding of local nature. Ages 5-8 with parent. Registration required.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

The Midtown Raleigh Alliance invites you to join in for a fall festival of events for the entire family (even the dog!) This year’s event promises another fun-filled day ~ including a live...

Cost: Online - $10 adult, $5 ages 6-16, free 5 and under, $25 family.

Where:
Coastal Credit Union Midtown Park @ North Hills
4011 Cardinal at North Hills St.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Sponsor: Midtown Raleigh Alliance and Capital Bank
Telephone: 919-438-2210
Contact Name: Emily Holton
Website »

More information

This colorful performance follows a young girl named Vita, who thinks her family has gone loco planning a celebration for deceased loved ones. Why throw a party for the dead? But when a candy...

Cost: $12/person. Free for ages 3 and younger.

Where:
Stewart Theatre, Talley Student Union
2610 Cates Avenue
Raleigh, NC  27695
View map »


Sponsor: NC State LIVE
Contact Name: Liza Green
Website »

More information

Celebrate local food and the community it inspires at Chickadee Farms, a female-run, organic vegetable farm in Clayton. Enjoy slow-roasted pig raised by Little Eco River Farm, Southern...

Cost: $25 for adults, $5 for kids, free for children 3 and under

Where:
Chickadee Farms
980 McLemore Rd
Clayton, NC  27520
View map »


Sponsor: Chickadee Farms
Telephone: 919-418-9628
Contact Name: Jenn Sanford-Johnson
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Children ages 11 and older with special needs make snacks for furry friends. Register online. Choose course #116722.

Cost: $19/resident, $24/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Enjoy a fun rotation through hands-on stations to learn about a variety of fall topics. Interact with the topics and volunteers at each activity. Activities range from hands-on learning experiences...

Cost: $5.00 per child for Arboretum Family members, $7.00 per child for nonmembers

Where:
JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27606
View map »


Telephone: 919-513-7011
Contact Name: Elizabeth Overcash
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Learn how bats fly, catch their food, where they live, and what they do all winter. Preregistration recommended. Program includes story, craft, and outdoor experience.

Cost: $3

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Drive
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Wilkerson staff
Website »

More information

Enjoy an evening stroll to watch the moon rise and learn about the natural world after dark. Dress warmly, wear good walking shoes, and take water and a flashlight. Ages 10 and older. Register...

Cost: $9/member, $12/nonmember

Where:
North Carolina Botanical Garden
100 Old Mason Farm Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC  27517
View map »


Sponsor: North Carolina Botanical Garden
Telephone: 919-537-3770
Contact Name: Elisha Taylor
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Learn why leaves turn color during the fall season. Enjoy a one-hour tour of native trees in the park.

Cost: Free

Where:
E. Carroll Joyner Park
701 Harris Rd.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Celebrate with this annual tribute to the state vegetable.

Cost: Free

Where:
State Farmers Market
1201 Agriculture St.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Website »

More information

Learn why leaves turn color during the fall season. Enjoy a one-hour tour of native trees in the park.

Cost: Free

Where:
E. Carroll Joyner Park
701 Harris Rd.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy movies, trick-or-treating in the shopping district, a costume contest for kids and adults, free hayrides and more.

Cost: Free

Where:
Park West Village
Village Market Place, corner of 54 and Cary Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Website »

More information

Take the family out for a night of trick-or-treating, hayrides, music and a free outdoor movie-screening at sunset. Enjoy discounts and specials at select restaurants and shops in the District for...

Cost: Free

Where:
The District at Park West Village
3400 Village Market Place
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Park West Village
Contact Name: Conner
Website »

More information

Ghostly games, activities, face painting, haunted maze and more highlight this annual event for all ages.

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Learn how information is protected online. Students will work on puzzles, encryption and code breaking. At the end of the lesson students will see if they can figure out encrypted information....

Cost: Free

Where:
Spreedly
733 Foster Street
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

Learn about area charter schools and speak to school representatives. Snacks provided.

Cost: Free

Where:
Durham Arts Council Allenton Gallery
120 Morris St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Sponsor: NC Association for Public Charter Schools
Telephone: 336-669-9996
Contact Name: Rhonda Dillingham
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Enjoy mischief, magic, spirits and fortunes. Enjoy a kid-oriented daytime version of the popular Halloween Phantasmagoria event with crafts and hands-on activities. Learn all about...

Cost: $5 donation per car

Where:
Duke Homestead
2828 Duke Homestead Rd.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

More information

Wander the garden to see glowing pumpkins and follow a scavenger hunt. Make your own natural potions, meet live critters, design a candy catapult, and create leaf art. Enjoy treats and prizes. Take...

Cost: $5/person. Free for ages 3 and younger

Where:
North Carolina Botanical Garden
100 Old Mason Farm Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC  27517
View map »


Sponsor: NC Botanical Garden
Telephone: 919-249-8404
Contact Name: Andrew Torlage
Website »

More information

Fly into the world of "Stellaluna" to discover bats, owls and other nocturnal animals. Make a craft. Ages 3-10 with adult. Register online.

Cost: Free

Where:
Good Hope Farm
580 Morrisville Carpenter Rd.
Cary, NC  27519
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Kids spend a night out in nature making memories and new friends in an old-fashioned, camp-style program. Ages 8-12. Register online. 

Cost: $15/resident, $19/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

This annual celebration of multiculturalism brings together nearly 60 international groups who call the Triangle home. Explore the world through main stage performances, cultural exhibits, world...

Cost: $5-$15/person

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: International Focus
Telephone: 919-782-0552
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Get ready for a day filled with Lexington barbecue, live music and family friendly attractions as NC By Train gets you to the Lexington Barbecue Festival on Oct. 27, dropping you off at the welcome...

Cost: Train price varies; free festival

Where:
Raleigh Union Station
510 W. Martin St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: NC By Train
Telephone: 800-298-7246
Contact Name: Alison Boswell
Website »

More information

Enjoy enrichment classes for grades pre-K to 8th grade. Super Saturday is a bi-annual event organized by PAGE (Partners for the Advancement of Gifted Education) of Wake County.  To...

Cost: $20-$25 per class

Where:
Triangle Math and Science Academy
312 Gregson Drive
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Sponsor: PAGE of Wake County
Contact Name: Suzy Wang
Website »

More information

Live entertainment, a kids' zone, corn hole competition, food trucks, and arts and crafts vendors highlight this annual festival in Holly Springs.  

Cost: Free

Where:
Sugg Farm at Bass Lake Park
2401 Grigsby Ave.
Holly Springs, NC  27540
View map »


Website »

More information

Explore magnet programs in the Durham Public School system.

Cost: Free

Where:
Southern High School
800 Clayton Rd.
Durham, NC  27703
View map »


Website »

More information

Learn how bats fly, catch their food, where they live, and what they do all winter. Preregistration recommended. Program includes story, craft, and outdoor experience.

Cost: $3

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Drive
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Wilkerson staff
Website »

More information

Children's booksellers read their favorite picture books. All ages.

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Website »

More information

Take the family for a grassroots outdoor music event

Cost: Free

Where:
River Park
106 E. Margaret Ln.
Hillsborough, NC  27278
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy food trucks, a petting zoo, costume contests for adults and pets, trick or treating at downtown businesses, a hay ride, children’s arts and crafts, balloon artistry,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Cary
South Academy Street
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Sponsor: The Heart of Cary Association
Telephone: 919-561-3340
Contact Name: Nanette Mattox
Website »

More information

Explore the historic heart of downtown Raleigh on a walking tour of Fayetteville Street. Tours highlight the people, places, architecture and political movements that have shaped...

Cost: Adults (18+) $10; Youth (7-17) $4; Children (6 & under) Free.

Where:
City of Raleigh Museum
220 Fayetteville St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Learn about local bats and the wonderful things they do for humans. Wrap up the session by making a night creature luminary to use in fall celebrations. Appropriate for ages 5 and older....

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Telephone: 919-870-4330
Website »

More information

Man's best friend is featured in a family-friendly event that includes dog shows, a canine costume contest, parade, photo booth and more.

Cost: Free

Where:
Durham Central Park
501 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

Wear a costume and take part in the inaugural Trick or Trot 5K at Wendell Falls. Prizes will be awarded for the fastest runners in costume and awards for the best-dressed runner. Awards will...

Cost: $30/person

Where:
Wendell Falls
320 Vintage Point Lane
Wendell, NC  27591
View map »


Website »

More information

Don a costume and experience the magic of Marbles after dark with family-friendly Halloween activities. Purchase tickets online; this event sells out quickly.

Cost: $12-$18/person

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Explore historical concepts of spiritualism, awe and wonder from the 19th century at Duke Homestead in this no-scare event. Wander the property to see what wonders you can find. All ages....

Cost: $10 plus tax per person in advance, $15 plus tax at the door.

Where:
Duke Homestead
2828 Duke Homestead Rd.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

More information

This annual celebration of multiculturalism brings together nearly 60 international groups who call the Triangle home. Explore the world through main stage performances, cultural exhibits, world...

Cost: $5-$15/person

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: International Focus
Telephone: 919-782-0552
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit Module

Magazine

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Directories

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2017-18 Education Guide offers 660 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. Plus, find out who our 2018 Readers' Favorites are.