Free and Cheap Summer Kids' Activities

Keep your little ones entertained without breaking the bank!

Family floating down river together on inner tubes
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You don't have to take an elaborate vacation or leave the city to treat your kids to a fun-filled summer; instead, you can take your children to one of these exciting free or cheap summer activities and events sponsored by major United States brands, companies, and local government organizations.

From discounted summer movie programs for kids to free bowling nights at local bowling alleys, public library and park events to summer reading programs and concert series, your kids are sure to love these community events.

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Discounted Summer Movie Programs

Kids at the movie theater.
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Thanks to kids' programs at major movie theater chains across the country, you can get your kids out of the summer heat and into a movie without breaking the bank.

Regal Cinemas, United Artists, and Edwards Theatres will provide inexpensive movies this summer as part of their Summer Movie Express program. The theatres will offer selected G or PG rated movies for only $1 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10 a.m. Start dates vary for each theater, so check the Summer Movie Express website for more information.

Another movie option is the  Cinemark Summer Movie Clubhouse, which also offers a selection of G or PG-rated flicks for only a dollar each (or $0.50 if you buy a bundle of 10 tickets in advance). 

Some cities, like Indianapolis, Maryland, have their own regional programs for summer movies as well. The ​Goodrich Quality Theater Summer Movies, for instance, offers dollar tickets to shows every weekday morning of the summer at places like the Hamilton 16 IMAX.

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Kids Bowl Free

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If you are looking for a cool summer activity that will take the fun inside, consider bowling. Kids Bowl Free is a great summer program that allows children to bowl up to two free games each day at local participating bowling centers.

Simply go to the Bowl Free website and register your children. Each location determines the dates the program begins and ends, daily availability and age restrictions—simply click on the listed venues to get their specific program details. For each bowling alley, the bowling is free but shoe rental fees are not included.

If you anticipate that your family will spend a lot of time bowling this summer, you can also purchase a family pass. For $24.95, the family pass allows for two free games of bowling each day for up to four adults, which will allow your entire family to bowl free throughout the summer!

In the Indianapolis area, participating bowling alleys include Coopers Sports Bowl in Anderson; Expo Bowl, Western Bowl and Woodland Bowl in Indianapolis; Coopers Stardust Bowl in Noblesville; Southern Bowl in Greenwood and Pinheads Entertainment Center in Fishers.

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Summer Reading Programs

I love to read
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For parents who want to educate their children over the summer or just those who simply want to encourage their children to read, there are a number of free reading programs to enroll them in each year.

Barnes & Noble, for instance, offers a reading program that not only features special events at their retail locations but provides children with the opportunity to earn free books all summer long!

All your child has to do is join the Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program, pick any eight books of their choice, read them, record them in their personal Reading Journal, then take the completed journal to a local store before the end of the first week of September.

Alternatively, local public and private libraries are likely to offer a whole slew of literature-inspired activities. Check your local library's website and social media pages to find summer reading programs for your kids.

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Fun at National and Public Parks

Father and daughter spinning in plastic hoops park.
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Summer isn't complete without spending time outdoors. Pack a picnic and take the entire family to an Indianapolis area park this summer. Take your kids to play on the playgrounds, swim or enjoy one of the free summer concerts taking place all summer. In addition, most parks offer a ton of great programs for kids in the summer.

National Parks, for instance, has a Junior Ranger program that provides free access to young explorers. Here, kids get to earn badges in a variety of park-specific topics or trek through nature on guided nature tours. 

Similarly, public parks in your city will most likely offer summer activities for resident children. Be sure to check out the website for your local and nearby national parks to find out more about their specific summer programs.

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Check Out Corporate Responsibility Projects

Target To Raise Minimum Wage As Labor Market Tightens
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From Target to Home Depot, a variety of major corporations offer childhood outreach programs, especially over the summer, to help inspire kids to stay active in the summer months when school's out.

Every year, the corporate responsibility section of Target's website lists free events they sponsor in major cities across the United States, including museum days, outdoor concerts for kids, and access to local parks and attractions.

Home Depot, on the other hand, has a program designed just for kids and their parents to learn to build everything from birdhouses to toolboxes. Check out your local Home Depot website for more information about classes and demos for all ages—which are typically free year-round!

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