These Affordable Summer Day Trips for Kids Help Make the Most of Your City

Little Kids Having Fun Outdoors


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Kids in a vegetable garden with carrot

City-Dwelling Fun

As the weather gets warmer and the days last longer, now is the perfect time for kids to embrace their sense of adventure and explore the city they call home. And the best part is that creating memorable experiences doesn't have to break the bank. There are plenty of affordable and exciting options for a day trip right in your own city. 

From having picnics in the park and visiting local museums on free admission days to discovering hidden gems in the neighborhood, there are countless opportunities to make the most of summer without stretching your wallet.

Shot of a family enjoying a picnic in a park

Set Up a Picnic in the Park or By a Lake

Having a picnic at the park or by a tranquil lake can be an excellent opportunity for kids to gain a deeper appreciation for the natural world. Relaxing in the great outdoors offers everyone the chance to be surrounded by lush greenery and fresh air without having to spend any money. Bring along some homemade snacks and a cozy blanket, and get ready to create priceless memories while encouraging your kids to stay active. 

couple sitting in camp-chairs in city park looking movie outdoors at open air cinema

Go to Free Outdoor Movie Screenings

If you've got a movie buff at home, they'll love this idea. Keep an eye out for free or cheap outdoor movie screenings in parks or community centers. Pack snacks, blankets, and folding chairs, and enjoy a cinematic experience with your kids. You can also try setting up a projector in your backyard to create your own outdoor movie night.

Two kids looking at a science exhibit,  back view

Explore Free or Discounted Museum Days

Many museums have specific days or times when they offer free or reduced admission to their facilities. This can provide a great opportunity for kids to learn and explore exhibits they're interested in and foster a deeper appreciation for fields such as science, art, and history. To inquire about discounted admission days, check museum websites or contact them directly.

Family Has Fun at Outdoor Carnival Setting

Attend Community Events and Festivals

Cities and towns often host community events and festivals during the summer — including street fairs, music events, food festivals, cultural celebrations, and more. These events typically feature free or cheap activities such as face painting, live performances, interactive games or rides, and local displays of art and food.

Related: Screw Ticketmaster: Here's How to Get Cheap Concert Tickets

Kindergarten teacher reading to children

Discover Local Libraries

Public libraries are not only free to visit, they often also provide a host of free activities for kids such as story times, puppet shows, arts and crafts, and summer reading programs. Taking your little one(s) to the library can be an excellent way to foster a love for books and reading, engage in educational activities, and participate in special events tailored for children and their families. 

Related: The Best Places to Buy Books Online

Young family walking on the beach together on the weekend. Loving parents on a walk with their children at the seashore during a vacation. Boy flying a plane and bonding with mom and dad on holiday

Have a Beach Day

If you're fortunate to live near the ocean (cries in landlocked Colorado), consider planning a day trip to enjoy some fun in the sand and water. Pack beach toys, towels, and don't forget the sunscreen. Let your kids build sandcastles, play beach volleyball, or swim in designated areas for a refreshing and cost-effective way to enjoy those sweltering summer days. 

Related: 20 Beach Vacation Spots Where Time Stands Still

Parents With Daughter Riding Bikes In Park

Take 'Em on Bike Rides

Many cities have bike rental programs or bike-sharing services that can provide an affordable way to explore the city on two wheels (think Citi Bike in New York City and New Jersey). Research safe bike routes or dedicated bike trails, pack the helmets, and enjoy a family-friendly ride while taking in urban sights, stopping for a bite to eat at your favorite spot, and enjoying the outdoors.

Related: 22 Cities Where You Can Live Car-Free

Students and teacher walking outdoors
Caiaimage/Robert Daly/istockphoto

Go on a Nature Hike

Even if you live in a city, you can still take advantage of nearby nature. Consider doing some research on local nature reserves, hiking trails, or botanical gardens that offer free or low-cost admission fees. Pack some snacks and water, and watch as the little ones identify different plants and wildlife on family-friendly trails.

Related: The Best Hikes in Every State to Get Your Heart Pumping

Girl With Fresh Produce Bought At Outdoor Farmers Market

Visit Local Farmers Markets

Farmers markets are not only great places to shop for fresh produce, they're also vibrant community spaces. Encouraging your children to learn about fruits, vegetables, and locally-made products can be a great educational and bonding experience. Some farmers markets even offer cooking demonstrations, live music, and educational activities for kids. 

Scavenger hunt this way signpost in lush forest woodland
Gareth Webb/istockphoto

Organize a Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt

Another great budget-friendly idea is to create an exciting scavenger hunt tailored to your neighborhood. Incorporate landmarks, local businesses, or hidden gems that can be discovered within walking distance in the city you live in. Engage your kids' curiosity and teamwork skills as they search for clues and complete challenges together.

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