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Whether you live in a small town or a giant city, there’s always something to do if you get a little creative and set your mind to it, especially if you’re looking for something free and fun that the whole family can enjoy.
Spending time with your family is as important as keeping a steady job and paying your bills on time, but it’s not always easy to accommodate a large group activity if the cost per head to join in on the fun is high.
Every once in a while it’s nice to splurge on a big family outing that will build lasting memories, but it’s also nice to take your money off the table and still have something fun to do with your spouse and kids.
Luckily, there are plenty of activities that are available for you to do and they’re all free or have minimal costs, making them essential go-to activities for a day off or a long weekend.
You won’t have to worry about spending two day’s pay to have fun with your family, and by the end of one of these excursions, you’ll be glad that you went on an adventure and didn’t spend all your money doing so!
10 Family Fun Ideas On A Budget
Planning a simple family outing can be equally fun and expensive if you’re holding on to the idea that you have to spend money to have a good time, but that’s not the case at all if you think outside the box.
If you’re looking to spend time with your immediate family and possibly some invite some neighborhood kids to hang out with your children, then this short list of almost or completely free activities might be perfect for you!
1. Go on a Scavenger Hunt
If you’re looking for an excellent way to spend time with your kids, have tons of fun, and keep it free, setting up a scavenger hunt for your family and kids friends can be a great way to pass the time.
Planning a scavenger hunt is easy, and you can make what the kids find anything you want, including little toys, candy, or other prizes.
You may spend a few dollars on some stuff from the dollar store for the kids to locate, but even a meager $10 can stretch a long way if you’re trying to keep a tight budget.
Alternatively, you can set up a just for fun scavenger hunt that results in one grand prize, like a trip to the ice cream store or a simple choice like what movie everyone gets to watch before bed.
If you want it to be a whole full day activity, you can take the kids around the neighborhood in search of smooth rocks and pebbles and have them paint them in fun designs or colors as an added pastime, and then hide them for all the kids to find as a little contest.
The possibilities with this idea are endless, and the silly fun of following clues to find hidden treasure can keep your kids occupied for hours, especially if you make the clues a bit challenging and the hiding spots tough to find.
You can use anything you’d like for the scavenger hunt, and you can play indoors if the weather doesn’t permit outdoor scavenging.
Other ideas for objects to hide are pine cones, coins, feathers, or the parts to make build something like a puzzle or a cardboard model.
Everyone can partake in this activity, and if you’re planning a scavenger hunt for older kids or a group of adults, you can expand what you’d like to use as hidden objects to more mature items.
This activity is perfect for a holiday or an average weekday when there’s nothing else to do but you want to keep the kids entertained and having a good time!
2. Visit a National Park
National parks are one great treasure with expansive possibilities for you and your family.
These parks can be easily located, and some range from massive to generally localized depending on your location, but there’s a great possibility that there is one very close to you.
National parks have plenty of activities to partake in, and some are available for you to camp in overnight if you so please.
Many national parks have free entry or days where entry is free.
Depending on the entry situation for the national park that you’re choosing to visit, you may have to pay a small parking fee for the day, but if the park is free to enter then this will likely not be the case.
National parks have on and off seasons which means depending on the time of year which you visit, the parks may be heavily occupied or mostly empty.
If you want to go on a day hiking trip or visit a natural lake that you can swim in, a lot of national parks have easy access to hiking trails and other activity areas like swimming holes and rivers that you can easily locate.
Every state in the US has at least one national park, which means that you can easily get to one within your state if you have a car and google maps!
The National Park Service Programming has free activities throughout the course of the year, including snowshoe walks, kayaking tours, and ranger-led hiking excursions which means you can easily plan a day trip and get involved in some serious fun.
If you plan to take a trip to a national park, it’s smart to plan ahead and pack supplies that you’ll need for the duration of your trip, including food, water and gas for your car as gas stations do not exist on national park land.
3. Have a Tea Party
One simple and fun idea to help you keep your kids busy and spend some quality time with them is to throw a full blown tea party!
There’s no need for super fancy drinking ware for this kind of activity, especially if you’ve got young kids who don’t necessarily like tea.
This is a fun activity because you can easily make it whatever you want, from simple to an all out glam-a-thon for your kids.
If you’ve got a fold out table, you can easily set it up in the back yard, set some places with some snacks and some cups, throw some music on and have everyone come over and enjoy the outdoors and a happy little snack time.
If tea is too bitter and off the table, then you can easily use juice or other savory drinks like apple cider in the place of (possibly caffeinated) tea.
This is great for entertaining the neighborhood kids just for fun and doesn’t require anyone to be getting a year older or have some sort of reason to gather around the table for talk and tea.
Entertaining your kids and their friends can be simple with this activity, and you can have a great time yourself seeing the smiling faces of your tea time patrons.
This can also be a great pretend time if you want it to be, and if you’ve got really young kids you can bring a few dolls into the mix to be your royal court for your precious tea time.
This can be as serious or silly as you and the little ones want, but no matter which way you choose to go, you can have a great time hanging out during a lazy afternoon sharing tea with your best little buddy and all of their friends, real or imaginary.
4. Go Swimming at a Community Pool
If you or your kids are fish out of water, you can gather all the swimming supplies and head over to your local community pool if you don’t have one in your neighborhood or in your backyard.
Community pools are great because you can easily spend all day hanging out by the pool, lay in the sun, and let your kids play with other neighborhood children while you relax on a poolside chair.
If your kids are ready to learn how to swim and you are determined to teach them, this is a great way to spend time with your youngsters and bond while showing them a very useful skill.
If you live in a small town or a big city, there’s likely to be a swimming pool near you.
If you don’t live near a large community pool, you can always buy a wade pool for your backyard, ask a neighbor or friend if they’d like to hang out with the kids in the backyard for a day.
If you live in a large city like New York City, then you can take advantage of their large selection of free outdoor swimming pools during their on season.
If the summer is over but you’d still like a dip in a pool, there are also indoor pool options available year round, but you’ll likely have to sign up for a recreation center membership.
Regardless of whether it’s winter or summer, your desire is to swim indoor or outdoor, this is a great pastime that will cost you nothing or next to nothing to enjoy with your family or friends.
5. Take a Free Tour
If you’re the kind of person who likes to take exploring to an informative level, you can easily find a free tour to enjoy with your family or friends!
There are various kinds of walking tours available in cities and towns all over the world ranging from historical to recreational, and you can easily sign up for one online when you’re home or on vacation.
These walking tours can be arts related such as a graffiti tour, historically informative about your town or a specific neighborhood, a food tour, a drink tour, or a tour of a historically important building or home.
This is a great way to get some exercise, learn interesting facts about a place you may have visited before, and have a fun time with your kids or family!
You can easily sign up for a walking tour online in a major town or city, or you can go the DIY route and plan your own walking tour of an interesting area you’re visiting or in your home town.
Walking tours can be long or short depending on how much stamina you think you’ll have, and if you decide to plan your own tour, you can mix it up however you’d like.
Sightseeing tours in major cities of buildings, sculptures, historically revered food establishments, and influential neighborhoods can be done easily with a self-compiled guide or a guide book that you can order online or pick up at your local bookstore.
If you’ve found yourself interested in spending time with your family on a day that is a bit dreary, you can keep your walking tour indoors at a local museum.
If you live in a major city with national museums or in a small town with important local homes or small art galleries, you can easily check out these locations over the course of a few hours and avoid bad weather while having a good time.
A big secret to know about major museums like the Museum of Natural History in NYC or the National Museum of African American History and Culture in DC is that they have a suggested donation.
These large museums have a large donor base that helps keep them running which allows them to offer the public entry on a suggested donation basis.
The signs for these museums will clearly indicate a suggested price but may not always state whether this is mandatory or suggested, so it’s a good idea to call ahead and see if you can access the exhibits without having to pay a high price-per-head.
Be mindful of the fact that you’re able to donate as much or as little as you please, meaning you can technically garner entry to one of these museums for as little as $0, although it’s a polite show to donate at least $1 per person.
The truth is, these museums don’t necessarily need your donation, but they’ll take what they can get.
6. Organize a Game Night
One great way to have fun with your kids any day of the week is to organize a game night!
This is a great way to spend quality time with your family, and if you’re interested in inviting other families to join, you can have a little game party with your friends and family.
This is an easy one to set up even if you don’t have board games or cards on hand as you can play any kind of game including the classics like charades, would you rather, or two truths and a lie.
This is an excellent way to keep yourself and your family entertained without having to use social media or any electronics to pass the time, making sure that you are connecting with your family on a personal level and having fun at the same time!
If you don’t have board games on hand but want to play tactile games that require moving pieces or cards, you can create your own with basic items like paper and pens or trinkets that can be used as pieces for a homemade board game.
If you’re interested in playing board games with your family and you decide to invite other friends over, have them bring a few board games of their own if they differ from ones you own.
You can easily play multiple games in a night and having options can keep the entertainment going for hours.
Alternatively, you can have different games going at once and alternate players as you finish off one game, giving the game room a lively feel that will have you smiling throughout the experience.
Don’t hesitate to supply snacks and drinks for all your game players, and make sure that everyone knows the rules for a fun-filled time!
7. Go to a Community Concert or Cultural Festival
If you live in a big city, there’s a good chance that the spring, summer, and even the fall are filled with live events that are available to the community, including free live music performances and cultural festivals.
If you like to go out and have a night on the town with your family, a perfect way to pass the time is to go to a community concert or visit a festival during a holiday or simply to enjoy the creativity of a different culture at an arts related community gathering.
Many cultural events such as festivals and cultural arts performances have live music, art, food, and activities that can be enjoyed by your family and friends, usually at no cost with the exception of the cost of food or beverages.
Another option is attending a concert in a park or community center which you can usually locate times and showcases online if your community offers these kinds of experiences free of charge.
If you have kids in school and they have a band or choir, you can easily go to a choir or band concert at your kids school every season and go knowing that the music they will play will be wholesome and family friendly.
Theater performances at your local high school of classic plays are also a great way to support your community, expose yourself and your family to arts culture, and spend next to no money for a night of fun!
There are plenty of community based events happening in every major town or city, and you can easily find weekly events to experience with your family just by keeping tabs on local websites for your nearby recreation centers, theaters, music venues and community parks.
8. Visit the Library During Story Time
If you like a little quiet time during the week but still want to enjoy something out of the ordinary, you can enjoy a story session at your local library.
If your library offers public readings, you can get a calendar from your library’s counter that tells you what they have planned over the course of the month and you will usually find a few days out of the month are reserved for story time with the local community.
This is a great way to bring your kids into a fun environment that lets them relax while listening to a great tale by an orator who animates the stories characters in a lively and entertaining way.
An alternative option is having a book reading that you’ve set up yourself, and you can easily get your hands on different books by using the Little Free Library, which is an ongoing book exchange that you can choose to participate in if it is available your community.
You can easily set up a private reading just for your kids one night a week, or invite the neighborhood kids over to listen to new stories in the back yard or in your family room.
Another great way to have a good story time is to make up your own stories and use your imagination or that of your kids to build an epic tale that’s of your own creation!
This is a great way to flex the creativity muscles of yourself and your children while enabling a fun and adventurous experience that everyone will enjoy!
9. Plan a Weekday Beach Trip
If you’re looking for one of the most relaxing things you can do for your mind and body while spending time in nature with your family, take a trip to the beach!
If you’re not near an open ocean, you can visit a nearby lake or local river to experience the great outdoors inland.
If you plan to set up a beach trip and are trying to keep the cost of the experience low, plan ahead by packing your own lunches, drinks, and bring as many beach-ready toys to keep your family entertained for hours.
Make the most of the experience by playing interactive games with your kids who will enjoy a seashell hunt, building a sand castle, or the classic pastime of digging a giant hole to bury their favorite adult up to their neck in.
Beach days are great for relaxing and can easily make you feel like you’ve gone on a vacation-like excursion even if you’re only by the water for a few hours.
For a perfect beach day, look for partly cloudy skies on a sunny day, bring a few towels, sunblock, some snacks, a plastic shovel and a bucket, and you’ll be well on your way to a seaside play day that your whole family can enjoy.
10. Visit a Playground
If going to the beach sounds like a hassle or taking a long trip to a national park is going to take hours going and coming, opt in for a little recreational time at a local playground.
Lots of schools have playgrounds that are open after school that your kids can play in, but there are some playgrounds that are communal and are open to the general public for free entertainment.
If it’s an extra hot day, choose to go to a playground with a built-in sprinkler area so that your kids can cool off and have a great time playing in the water all at once.
Make sure to pack a weather-ready snack like watermelon or a light lunch to avoid spending money at street vendors or nearby restaurants.
This is a great way to help your kids socialize with other neighborhood kids, it’ll help you get to know some of the other parents in the community, and make it easy for you to keep an eye on your children playing while you interact with the local community.
It is important to be mindful of accidents that might happen on a play ground as your kids play, but if you keep a close eye on everyone you’ve brought with you, you’ll have a carefree time playing on slides and swinging on swing sets with your kids.