10 free or super inexpensive summer outings with grandkids (Friday flashback feature)

Many of us have heard Gretchen Rubin's quote, "The days are long, but the years are short" in reference to parenting. I say the same applies to summer time spent with grandkids. The days seem long yet the summer is relatively short, especially when attempting to pack in meaningful and, more importantly, fun activities.

Always here to help, today I re-run my previous post on ways grandparents can fill such days in inexpensive ways. (The original post featured 11 ways; this one just 10, as one is no longer available.)

Originally published June 15, 2016 (outdated info has been removed)

So you have the grandkids for the week. Or the weekend. Or every work day throughout the summer as you (generously) help cover childcare while school-age kids are on summer break.

What to do, what to do?

Here are 10 ideas that won't bust your budget. Some are free, some are low cost, all are great ways for grandkids and grandparents to make grand memories together this summer.

free summer activities 

This one tops the list because fishing is fun. Mostly, though, it's because June — the current month! — is the most popular month for states to offer free-fishing days. Meaning, time's ticking on this idea. Visit TakeMeFishing.org to see when kids can fish without a license in your state.

Public libraries offer programs for children of all ages throughout the year, but the fun heats up come summertime with summer reading programs and special activities and incentives. Visit your local library in person or online to check out its summer schedule. If you don't know much about your library, including branches near you, Google the name of your city followed by the word library and you should easily find your local library district.

I recently relied on this one with my three grandsons — and was surprised by how much fun we all had. Give kids $5 each then head to the nearest dollar store. Let them take their time roaming the aisles considering (and reconsidering... again and again) how to get the most fun from their five. No calculator necessary as the penny-pinching can be figured using just their fingers.

Several theater chains have summer movie specials in which kids and their grownups can beat the heat while enjoying a family film (second run) at a fraction of a film's typical cost. Both Cinemark and Regal Entertainment offer $1 tickets on certain summer days.

Check with your local park and recreation department to see where and when you and the grandkids can spread a blanket (or line up some lawn chairs) on the grass in the park and enjoy a free performance by local musicians. Some neighborhoods offer free performances beyond music, too, such as plays, magic shows, comedy troupes and more — especially if there's a college with a performing arts program in the vicinity.

Is there a kid around who doesn't like to build stuff? Not likely. Encourage budding do-it-yourselfers by taking them to one of the free workshops offered certain Saturdays of the month at Home Depot.

Head to the farmer's market to purchase local delights for upcoming snacks and meals. Kids are more apt to savor summer's bounty of fresh fruits and veggies if they picked the produce themselves — and possibly chatted with those who grew the goodies and pulled them from the ground, too.

Nearly every museum offers a free day for kids (and, possibly, local residents of all ages). Many marvelous museums are admission-free every day, though you may have never suspected so. Google museums near you that interest your grands. Check their calendar then mark your calendar to wander and wonder without it costing a thing.

Bowling centers and schools across the country have kicked off Kids Bowl Free summer specials. Registered kids receive two free games of bowling every day, all summer long. Visit KidsBowlFree.com to find bowling establishments offering the program in your area. 

Many a manufacturer — from candy to beverages to musical instruments to aircraft and auto makers — welcome the public to participate in tours that highlight their process. Some spots even offer a sampling of their product! Visit FactoryToursUSA.com to find such fun near you (and factories are far from the only ones on the surprisingly long and intriguing lists).

Whatever your plans for summer fun with little ones, bear in mind Abigail Van Buren's oft-quoted wisdom for parents: "If you want your children to turn out well, spend twice as much time with them, and half as much money." Such advice proves equally priceless for grandparents meting out minutes and money on grands.