Boredom Be Gone: 114 Free Summer Activities to Keep Everyone Busy
Are you looking for a summer experience you won’t forget?
You don’t have to break the bank for a good time. We’ve come up with 114 activities to help you make the most of your summer — and best of all, they’re free. Our summer bucket list includes virtual options, too.
114 Free Summer Activities
Summer fun doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a suntanned leg. Here are 114 free summer activities for kids, parents, friends and more. Use our list to make this summer the best — and most affordable — one ever.
Free Outdoor Summer Activities
There’s a wealth of free activities in the great outdoors — as long as the weather cooperates!
1. Parks: Whether you live in a small town or a big city, chances are there’s a free park nearby ready for you to stop by and enjoy for the afternoon. The National Park Service has some fun ideas about adding to the adventure by mapping your visits.
2. Picnics: Make a couple of nut butter and jelly sandwiches, or spend a morning deviling up some eggs. Then pack your picnic basket (or any bag will do), grab a blanket and enjoy dining alfresco. Everything tastes better outside.
3. Hiking: Parks, lakes and other natural areas often have marked hiking trails. They also usually designate the trail’s skill level and provide options for novice and experienced hikers. Before you head out, check your local parks department website or the National Park Service website to ensure you know about closures or schedule changes.
4. Playgrounds: Play areas and slides are great places for kids to run and play, but they’re fun for adults, too! Set up a playdate, take the kids to the playground or go after sunset with someone special and swing side by side.
5. Swimming: There are ways to swim for free in the summer. See if local pools offer free summer swim days, or check out the beaches, lakes and swimming holes in your area. The YMCA Swim for Life program offers free lessons based on income.
6. Kite flying: As Mary Poppins put it: Let’s go fly a kite! If you don’t already have one, it’s pretty easy to make your own from things you probably have around the house, like a garbage bag, sticks and string.
7. Stargazing: Looking at the stars is always free, so find a cloudless night and download a free astronomy app to help you identify what you’re seeing. While you’re gazing skyward, track the location of the International Space Station with a free app, and check when it will be visible in your area.
8. Camping: Before you start planning your trip, check out our guide to camping on a budget. Look for free campsites in your area and then pack the car with tents and marshmallows!
9. “Seek” out nature: Download the free Seek app from iNaturalist and spend time exploring living things outdoors. The live image recognition feature searches through a catalog of millions of crowdsourced nature observations so you can instantly identify species of plants, insects, birds and other living things. Watch where you’re going when using this app — it is mesmerizing, like a nature-focused Pokemon Go.
10. Beach day: If you’re fortunate enough to live within driving distance of a big lake or ocean, a day in the sand at a free public beach is a perfect remedy for summer boredom. Have a sandcastle competition, bike ride along the boardwalk, and soak up the sunshine while you can.
11. Gardening or hydroponics: Start seeds in the summer for fall crops. Plant seeds or cuttings in the backyard, or start an indoor herb garden and watch them grow. Online seed swaps offer free options if you already have seeds. If not, some public libraries have free seed libraries, which help keep heirloom seeds growing for new generations.
Hydroponics are a fun way to grow plants indoors if dirt is unavailable. Grow an avocado from an avocado pit or green onions from the bulb end.
12. Crowdsourced treasure hunt: Geocaching is fun for the whole family and a great chance to spend time outdoors. Download the free app or access the site from an internet browser, choose your cache, and set off on an adventure. When you find the treasure — often a toy or some other token — you can take it and leave your own.
Free Activities in Your Own Backyard
13. Backyard camping: Where better to pitch your tent than in your own backyard? I went backyard camping as a kid, and it was a fun way to experience the thrill of sleeping outdoors. Plus, it’s a campsite you don’t have to pay for!
14. Take a bubble break: Use homemade bubble solution and household supplies to blow bubbles in your backyard. It takes some practice, but the results are Instagram hashtag gold.
15. Create a backyard oasis: Spend the summer vacationing in your own backyard. Find free or cheap ways to transform your porch, balcony, patio or lawn into a relaxing escape for the whole family.
16. Get in tune with the moon: The moon phases are powerful enough to alter ocean tide levels, and they are beautiful to observe in the night sky. Learn about the phases and use them to mark months off your calendar, rather than the same old weekly grind!
17. Make a time capsule: Look to the future by making a time capsule. Let kids choose what they want to include, from school photos to a list of favorite toys. Then bury the time capsule in the backyard or put it away somewhere safe so future generations can find it — or you can dig it up when your kids become adults!
18. Shakespeare in the backyard: Work with your kids to stage a play or put on a talent show in the backyard. Use toys and dress-up clothes as props and costumes, and invite friends to come over and see the show! Free learning activities from Folger.edu can help kids — and parents — get excited about Shakespeare.
19. Family sports day: Play parents vs. kids basketball, show your kids how to play HORSE, mark off a baseball diamond in the backyard or teach your kids the many “rules” of Calvinball.
For an extra challenge, create your own backyard obstacle course with household supplies.
20. Have a yard sale: Technically, it’s your front yard, but a garage sale is a classic summer activity that combines decluttering with earning cash — and you can do it outdoors. What could be better? We’ve got tips to make your yard sale a huge success.
21. Scavenger hunt: Plan your own scavenger hunt or join a community hunt. Scavenger hunts encourage curiosity and observation skills. The best part? They can even be planned indoors as a rainy day activity, too.
22. Take up birdwatching: Have kids make cheap bird feeders, grab a pair of binoculars, and encourage budding ornithologists to start journaling observations. The Audubon Society has a free app that serves as a virtual field guide to help identify and learn about birds.
23. Create a backyard water park: Turn on the sprinklers, fill up some water balloons, toss in a kiddie pool and you’ve got the makings for your very own splash pad. Don’t forget the sunscreen.
Got a hose and a sheet of plastic? Then you can DIY a Slip-n-Slide. Just add soap and watch the slippery hijinks begin.
24. Have a hammock hangout: If you already have a hammock, you’re in luck because it’s the perfect spot to spend an afternoon. Invite a friend or family member to your personal hang time, but don’t forget the snacks (and drinks) because nobody is going to want to get up for that.
Arts and Entertainment
Check out these free summer arts and entertainment activities to keep busy.
25. Virtual performances: Check out Lincoln Center at Home for free dance, film and theater offerings. Also, check your local theater’s website for free streaming of live performances.
26. Outdoor movies: Many towns and cities have free summer outdoor movies. Bring a blanket and get there early to claim your spot!
27. Free movies: Outdoor movies aren’t the only way to see free flicks this summer. Did you know you can get free movies from your local library?
Find tickets to movie night for cheap, either at a dollar theater or through theater loyalty programs.
28. Outdoor theater: Whether it’s Shakespeare in the Park or a summer musical, plenty of cities offer free outdoor theater while the weather’s warm. Check with your local parks department.
29. Summer concerts: Free outdoor summer concerts are starting up again. Check out the schedule of events on your community calendar or event space.
30. Free museum tickets: Nearly all museums offer free admission days, so figure out when you can go and enjoy an afternoon spent in air-conditioned comfort. Be warned that some museums have occupancy limits, so you may need to register on the museum’s website for dated ticket entry.
Looking for free museum tickets? Check out your hometown library to see whether it offers complimentary passes.
31. Bookstore author nights: Bookstores regularly invite authors to give readings from their newest books. Does your local bookstore offer virtual events? You can always grab a blanket and sit under the stars with your smartphone or tablet.
32. Public lectures: Many communities have free public lecture series, so see what’s being presented in your area, whether in person or online. You could learn about anything from aardvarks to zydeco. College and university campuses often encourage community attendance at free lecture series where you can hear from scholars and special guests.
Summer Activities in Your Community
Once you start looking, you might be surprised how many free things are available in your community. Check out your local chamber of commerce website, recreation center website and event listings in the local newspaper.
33. Community events: Check your local newspaper website or community calendar for free events like runs, festivals and garden tours. Some have moved online, meaning you can participate from anywhere.
34. Volunteering: Your favorite local organizations need volunteers — perhaps now more than ever. You can even use volunteering as an opportunity to learn a new skill. For instance, the Smithsonian needs digital volunteers willing to learn how to transcribe so they can help make historical documents more easily accessible.
35. Virtual tourism: Maybe you’re skittish about long-distance travel, or your budget keeps you closer to home. Either way, you can still explore distant places — including space — by taking one of these virtual field trips.
36. Hometown tourism: If a friend or relative visited your town or city, what special sights would you show that person? Why not take a few hours and explore those places yourself?
A short day trip doesn’t have to break the budget. See how to save on gas next time a road trip calls your name.
37. Next-town-over tourism: Are you a little bored with your hometown? Take a bike or car ride to the next town over and play tourist. See what free parks and exciting vistas it has to offer!
38. Window shopping: Just because you don’t want to spend money doesn’t mean you can’t have the fun of shopping. Window shopping is a great way to explore a new neighborhood.
Curb impulse buying with our guide to the tricks retailers use and how to budget and shop mindfully.
39. Farmers markets: Here’s another free activity that requires just a little self-control: visiting a farmers market. You can spend your time people-watching while enjoying a little local culture and trying out the free samples. Lots of markets have live entertainment, too.
40. Meetup groups: Meetup.com gives you the opportunity to connect with other community members who share similar interests, from orienteering to knitting. Some groups might meet in places that cost money, such as coffee shops, so look for groups that meet virtually or in free spaces.
41. Public library: How could we get this far without mentioning the library? Your public library has a wealth of free books, movies, music and games for you and your family to enjoy. You can also try free library apps like Hoopla and Overdrive.
42. Tour the local fire station: Many fire stations offer free tours to local residents. Get a group together for some educational fun, and be sure to call ahead! Get a group together for some educational fun and be sure to call ahead!
You’re great just the way you are, but if you want to level up your life, these free ideas can help.
43. Morning pages: Fans of Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” are already familiar with the idea of waking up every morning and writing three pages about whatever’s on your mind. It helps you process emotions, explore ideas or even write short fiction. It’s also absolutely free.
44. Gratitude journal: Write your morning pages as soon as you get up. Then, at the end of the day, write down three things in your gratitude journal. These can be three things you’re grateful for or just three happy memories from the day.
45. Walk 10,000 steps: If you’re looking to improve your general health, start by walking. Set a goal of 10,000 steps per day, which is about 5 miles. If you don’t already have a pedometer, use a free pedometer app to track your steps — or just walk around a park or a track for about an hour.
46. Couch to 5K: Ready for something a little more intense? Try spending your summer going from couch to 5K — that’s a 5K run, of course. The Couch to 5K program helps beginner runners slowly work their way up to a 5K run by steadily increasing the distance run every day.
47. Get in a free workout: You don’t have to pay a bundle for a gym membership to get the benefits of physical activity all summer long. Take advantage of the warm weather and work out at a local park using the playground equipment to train.
From yoga to Pilates to Zumba, there’s a free fitness app for that. See our recommendations for the best workout apps to download and try for free.
48. Declutter your home: Whether you use the KonMari method or make it up as you go along, taking the time to declutter will leave your home feeling refreshed and you feeling reenergized. Trust us — you’ll be glad you took the time to clear out those old papers and even make some money off those old clothes.
49. Refresh your home’s look: If you’re getting tired of the look of your surroundings, we have tips from home decorators for refreshing your home — and they don’t cost a dime.
50. Read all the books on your nightstand: If you’re anything like us, your nightstand has at least five half-finished books stacked on it. Finish them, and then put them away! Make it fun by setting up a free account to track and review your summer reads on Goodreads.com. You can also enter to win free books through the Goodreads Giveaways program.
51. Learn a new hobby: Always wanted to know how to draw? Or to impress with your singing voice, even outside the shower? With the help of free online tutorials, you can learn anything from juggling to origami, all with items you already have around the house.
Fun Summer Activities for the Family
Round up the kids, grandkids, aunts, uncles and cousins for these free summer activity ideas.
52. Family dinner: How often does the entire family sit down to eat dinner together — and how often does that dinner last for more than 10 minutes? Use summer’s more relaxed schedule to plan regular family meals where you share conversation and enjoy each other’s company.
53. Tell your day: How can you make these family dinners memorable? Try the “tell your day” technique, where each family member goes around and shares the story of his or her day.
If you need additional inspiration, ask everyone to share one good thing and one challenge from their day.
54. Family cooking projects: Make these family meals even more special by inviting kids to help cook (and no, we’re not talking about having hot dogs again). Whether it’s cool, sweet treats like make-your-own popsicles or passing down your secret spaghetti sauce recipe, you’ll make both food and memories in the kitchen.
55. Chronicle family history: Do you have a record of your family’s history? How far back can you track grandparents, great-grandparents and extended relatives? Write down family stories and interview relatives to learn more about your family and its many generations. Design a stylish — and free — family tree on Canva.com.
56. Family book club: Choose a family-friendly book for everyone to read and discuss together.
Not sure which books will be page turners? PBS sponsors a free Book Club in a Box with titles that will be conversation starters for the whole family.
57. Family movie night: Organize family movie nights. Let everyone take a turn each week picking a free movie from the library or on your streaming service. Or suggest a themed marathon like Brat Pack movies or bingeing the “Star Wars” or “Harry Potter” series complete with themed snacks.
58. Family game night: Was it Mr. Green in the library with the revolver? Who can build the Longest Road? Family game nights are great ways to spend time together without spending money. Popular games include fun with railroads (Ticket to Ride), the craving-inducing Sushi Go Party! and dangerous cats (Exploding Kittens), which can often be checked out for free at your local library.
Looking for a free game for the whole family? Try playing a modern-day take on charades with Fishbowl.
59. The longest picture in the world: In Beverly Cleary’s “Ramona and her Father,” the Quimbys work together to draw the longest picture in the world. Replicate Ramona’s adventure with your kids, using crayons or markers to create your own longest picture as a family.
60. Family slumber party: Grab your jammies and your sleeping bags and have a family slumber party in the living room. Pillow fights are mandatory, so come prepared.
61. Reconnect with relatives: Set up chat sessions with relatives you don’t see often, or introduce your kids to their second cousins! For grandparents who live far away, consider setting up a weekly or twice-monthly session to keep in touch and get to know each other a little better.
62. Family photo challenge: Photo challenges are a blast because you not only get to flex your camera skills but you can share the pics on social media. Even young children will want to get in on the action and capture a rainbow or photograph their own shadow.
63. Yes Day: Author Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s “Yes Day!” is about how parents can create magic for their children by simply agreeing to say yes to every request for one full day. Yes, you can eat ice cream for breakfast. Yes, you can have another hour of screen time. Parents might want to set some ground rules, of course, but a Yes Day for anything that doesn’t cost money just might become the most memorable day of the year!
64. Family band: Whether your kids have a year or two of piano lessons under their belt or they’re still learning how to play the recorder, have fun spending an afternoon together singing and recording your family’s favorite songs. Don’t forget to send the recording to Grandma — she’s going to love it.
65. Craft time: Turn cardboard, milk cartons and other recyclable goods into fun family craft projects. If you need inspiration, here’s a list of 1,000 recycled craft ideas, from placemats to spaceships.
66. Family night walk: After the sun goes down, temperatures drop and it becomes the perfect time to take a family walk or a bike ride. Add a little fun flair like glow sticks to bikes, scooters and strollers, and don’t forget the reflective gear and helmets.
67. Parent date night: Leave the kids with grandparents or arrange a free babysitting swap. Then go out for a much-needed date night, doing free summer activities like stargazing, going to an outdoor concert or having a picnic.
Need a cheap date idea this summer? Try penny dates with your partner or even one of your friends or kids for a fun way to connect without the cost.
68. One-on-one kid dates: Take each of your kids out for a special one-on-one date. Do free, fun summer activities like hanging out at the playground or visiting a museum.
69. Rock and bowl: Bowling can be expensive, but many bowling alleys offer free bowling nights for kids. Parents can keep score and rock out to the music while cheering on the budding pro bowlers. Check with your local bowling alley!
70. Visit a factory: Take a factory tour to learn how stuff is made. You may have to dodge all the kids on field trips from Vacation Bible School, but many companies offer free admission.
Find a Fun Summer Activity for Kids
These free kids’ programs and at-home activities are perfect for keeping kids busy in the summer months and encouraging them to stretch their minds.
71. Barnes & Noble summer reading: If your kids love reading, they can earn a free book by signing up for the Barnes & Noble Summer Reading program, reading eight books and journaling about them. If your kids are already big readers, you may need ideas on how to get free books for kids.
72. Virtual zoo: Zoos in your area may offer special pricing or even free admission on certain days. But you can also take free virtual tours of zoos near and far. The San Diego Zoo offers webcam video of its residents in action along with activities and games to keep your little animal lovers entertained.
73. The Stock Market Game: Got a would-be stock market whiz on your hands? Keep kids busy — without risking real money — on The Stock Market Game. The game is free but does require a sponsorship through a local school (or parents can register as homeschool teachers).
74. Sidewalk chalk murals: A little chalk and a big expanse of sidewalk or cement is the perfect recipe for creativity. If your little artist needs some inspiration, try one of these sidewalk chalk mural ideas.
75. Pizza Hut Camp BOOK IT!: A lot of us remember participating in BOOK IT! as children. It’s still around, and Pizza Hut is offering a free summer reading challenge — and the opportunity to win coupons for free pizza — to young readers.
76. Start a lemonade stand: While it might take some supplies, DIY lemonade stands are classic summertime projects that teach kids money skills. Just don’t send them out thirsty, or they’ll drink up all the profits.
77. Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge: Let your kids join a community of readers with the Scholastic Summer Reading Program. They’ll attend weekly author events, play book-based games and win virtual prizes.
78. Make a blanket fort: One thing is for certain — a classic blanket fort never goes out of style. This is a quiet summer afternoon activity for kids when it’s too hot to go outside and they’re much too old for nap time.
79. Michaels Camp Creatology: If you have basic craft supplies like paper, scissors, paint, yarn and pipe cleaners, you can choose from free online workshops for kids.
80. Make homemade playdough or slime: You’d be surprised what you can do with flour, glue, water and food coloring. Use various recipes to create a rainbow of doughs and slimes that’ll last days (or weeks) when stored correctly.
81. Home Depot virtual field trips for plants: If your kids caught the gardening bug, Home Depot offers free virtual field trips about growing plants.
82. Check out virtual storytime: Even if your local library isn’t hosting storytime, many libraries across the country, including the New York Public Library, host sessions with librarians telling stories virtually.
Summer Activities for You and Your Friends
Be the hero of your social circle when you suggest these free summer activities to do with your friends.
83. Babysitting swap: Exchange free babysitting with a friend. You’ll watch their kids one night, and they’ll watch yours another night. Or extend the fun by starting a summer camp co-op.
84. Clothing swap: Whether it’s in person or virtually, have your friends bring out their gently worn clothes and enjoy swapping your way into new favorite outfits.
85. Toy swap: Have your friends drop off their gently worn toys to swap for the toys your kids no longer use.
86. Jam session: Invite your musically inclined friends online or in your backyard for an evening jam session.
87. Game night: Invite a few friends over to play the board games you loved as a child, such as Chutes and Ladders, Parcheesi, Jenga, Yahtzee and Trouble.
88. Hang out: You don’t always have to plan an event for your friends. Just invite them to come over and hang out! It’s easy and free.
89. Break a record: Do you have competitive friends? Work together to break a world record. You’ll need to read through existing records and find your niche, then apply and wait for acceptance. Once accepted, you’re on your way to record-breaking summer fun.
90: Host an at-home spa day: Chances are you already have all the fixings for a relaxing home spa session. Put some salts in a tub for a foot soak, slather on a DIY face mask and ask Alexa to play Enya while you sip (and spill) the tea with friends.
Virtually Stretch Your Mind
Fire up the computer, tablet or smartphone to check out these online freebies.
92. Project Gutenberg: Get free access to nearly every public domain book through Project Gutenberg. You can even read Project Gutenberg books on your Kindle, your ebook reader or the free Kindle app.
93. Free audiobooks: Prefer your books in audio form? LibriVox offers free audio versions of public domain books, read by volunteers. Or use one of these free apps to download free audiobooks, movies, TV shows and more from your library.
94. JayIsGames: Like games? JayIsGames features the best browser and computer games out there, from role-playing games to locked room games to interactive novels. A few games are pay to play, but the majority are free.
95. Free streaming video: Watch hours of TV shows and movies with free video streaming apps that let you check out your favorite shows for free.
96. Learn a new language: Summer is a great time to begin learning a new language. We’ve got free language-learning apps to help you get started.
97. Make movies: Have you always wanted to make a short film or start a vlog? You probably have all the tools you need already on your laptop.
98. Record music: Your laptop also probably has most of what you need to record music — all you have to do is come up with the hit song! Record your songs and sell them through Bandcamp, or check out our other ideas for making money with music.
99: Start a blog: Everyone has a story to tell, so why not share yours with the world? Set up a free blog and start writing.
100. Laugh (or gasp) at YouTube’s best web series: YouTube has plenty of great original web series. Kid-friendly options include “Millie and Lou” and “Tab Time.” Adult series range from family-friendly “Heartland” to more suspenseful fare such as nostalgic true crime series “Unsolved Mysteries.”
101. Binge-watch your favorite TV show: Whether you’re a fan of “The Office” or you’re more into “The Handmaid’s Tale,” summer is the time for binge-watching your favorite TV shows.
102. Apple workshops: Apple moved its previously in-person workshops online during the pandemic. Sign up for a free session and learn how to edit video on a Mac, make music with Garageband and more.
103. Explore a new personal finance topic: Sure, you can always zone out on the latest true crime podcast. But why not brush up on your personal finance knowledge by tuning in to one of these personal finance podcasts?
Saving, Earning and Managing Money
If you have some spare time, check out these ways to save money, earn money or do some of that planning you’ve been putting off.
105. Get paid to play video games: Despite what your parents told you, playing video games may not be a waste of your summer after all. In fact, we found seven ways to get paid for playing video games.
Turn old toys into treasure by selling Legos. Our step-by-step guide will help you find the best sites for selling discontinued sets and minifigures.
107. Start a coin jar: Get the whole family involved in saving by setting up a coin jar and encouraging everyone to drop in their change. Add extra motivation by creating a family goal, such as a day at the water park, and taping the goal to the jar.
108. Update your resume: When’s the last time you updated your resume? For better or worse, it’s something you can do for free on a summer day when you’ve got time on your hands. If you’re not sure where to start, check out this step-by-step guide for writing a resume.
109. Update your LinkedIn profile: While you’re updating your resume, you might as well update your LinkedIn profile. When’s the last time you added new skills or asked for a recommendation?
110. Make a five-year plan: Where do you want to be in five years? Take a summer afternoon to sit down and think about your goals and dreams — as well as what you need to do to get there.
111. Get out of debt: If one of your goals is to get out of debt, you can start working on that right now. If tackling all your debt at once seems overwhelming, start small with the debt snowball method.
112. Make money without a 9-to-5 job: Want to earn a little extra money to pay down debt or plan for next year’s summer vacation? We came up with 56 creative ways to make money that don’t involve a 9-to-5 job, so you can still enjoy your summer.
If you're looking to make more money from the comfort of home, check out our job portal. We post new work-from-home job opportunities every weekday.
113. Get paid for your secret talent: If the job market is a little too tight for your taste, consider making a few bucks off your special talent.
114. Start planning for fall expenses: The last free thing you want to do this summer? Start planning for fall. Whether you’re budgeting for back-to-school expenses or thinking about the holidays, taking time to plan now will mean saving money in the long run — and thinking ahead is always free.
Kaz Weida is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Tiffany Wendeln Connors and Veronica Matthews contributed to this story.