Summer is coming and now is a great time to start planning some of the summer activities your family will be looking forward to. Florida is famous for Disney World, Universal Studios, Kennedy Space Center and a few other attractions located in the heart of Florida. While each of these is great, wouldn’t it be better if you could treat your kids to some fun all summer long… for free? There are several activities and programs available for kids and families that offer entertainment, and even learning adventures, at an affordable price.
Regal Cinemas offers select G or PG movies free for kids and parents during their annual Family Fun Festival. Shows start at 10:00 am on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Tickets are available at select theatres box office on the day of the show. Tickets and showings are first come, first served and are limited to theatre capacity.
Several stores offer free weekly and/or monthly activities for kids. Your children can participate in free arts and crafts projects at Jo Ann’s, Michaels, Pottery Barn Kids, Lake Shore Learning Centers, Lowes and Home Depot. Free storytimes are available every Tuesday at your local Pottery Barn Kids and occasionally at Barnes and Noble. Prefer to read with your child at home? Check out Barnes and Noble’s Summer Reading program, where your child can earn a free book for reading eight. Reading can be a great bonding experience for a child and parent. Check the website of your local stores for “in-store events” for dates and times.
Enjoy the outdoors at one of 40 Florida state parks that offer free admission. One of my favorites is Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park located in Jacksonville. Some of the amenities at this location include bicycling, canoeing and kayaking, fishing, hiking and nature trails, a horse trail, interpretive exhibits and wildlife viewing. This particular park is also pet friendly. Make it a learning experience by bringing binoculars for bird watching or having your children draw the different animals and insects they come across on a nature walk. Pack a picnic and bring some outdoor toys for an enjoyable family day out.
Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve
13802 Pumpkin Hill Rd., Jacksonville, FL 32226
Looking for some free water fun? Gather the pool toys and have a fun-filled day at the beach. Go swimming, build a sandcastle or think bigger and try a sculpture (like the turtle in the photo). Collect pebbles, seashells and seaweeds to create portraits in the sand. If you are into scrapbooking, look for seashells or other small items from your family outing that will make great accents for your photos. Aside from beaches, check out your local community pools. Some local pool, like the Jacksonville Equestrian Center Aquatics Department, offers free admission. There is a kiddy pool separate from adults and older kids. Did I mention all of this is indoors?
The Jacksonville Equestrian Center
13611 Normandy Blvd., Jacksonville, FL 32221
Another free activity filled with fun for the whole family is camping! Unpack the tent and sleeping bags and go camping in the backyard. Build a small fire or use the grill to make camping favorites such as hamburgers, hotdogs, and s’mores. Make sure to check with your local fire department on guidelines, as most fires in residential areas need to be out by dusk. Camp fire sing-a-longs and stories are a favorite for most kids. Try some games, such as Tag, Hide and Seek or Dance and Freeze. Campers dance until the music stops and then freeze in a creative way. Some state parks do allow families to camp in tents for free. Big Cypress National Preserve has free campgrounds and camping is limited to 10 days.
The Oasis Visitor Center
33100 Tamiami Trail East Ochopee, FL 34141
Old Town offers free admission, free parking and live bands on stage Wednesday, Friday and Saturdays. They also offer nightly auto shows with a different theme each night of the week. Classic cars (prior to 1974) are the highlight on Saturday nights with over 300 cars in the parade. Register your family’s classic car and show it off together. Saturday nights also feature fifty and sixties rock n’ roll music. This is sure to be fun for the whole family! Old Town also offers shopping, dining and rides.
5770 W. Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy, Kissimmee, FL 34746
Are you a Bank of America customer? The Museums on Us program allows cardholders to gain free admission on the first weekend of every month. Simply show your Bank of America ATM card at one of seventeen participating museums for free access on select weekends.
Participating museums in Florida are:
- Young at Art Children’s Museum (Davie)
- Museum of Discovery and Science (Fort Lauderdale)
- Museum of Art (Fort Lauderdale)
- Museum of Contemporary Art (Jacksonville)
- Museum of Science and History (Jacksonville)
- Miami Art Museum
- Miami Children’s Museum
- Miami Science Industry
- Museum of Contemporary Art (Miami)
- Bass Museum of Art (Miami Beach)
- Orlando Museum of Art
- The Mennello Museum of American Art (Orlando)
- Pensacola Museum of Art, Florida Holocaust Museum (St Petersburg)
- Museum of Fine Arts (St Petersburg)
- Tampa Museum of Art, and South Florida Science Museum (West Palm Beach)
Kids love making arts and crafts projects for their parents. Use items laying around the house (paper plates, popsicle sticks or even recyclables) and allow your kids imagination to run wild. Other projects that you can involve your kids in is gardening or baking. Use this experience as a fun learning experiment. Kids can learn all about vegetables or work on their math with a simple baking lesson. How about teaching your children about the gift of giving? Volunteering is such a rewarding experience and doesn’t have to be all work.