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10 Free (or Nearly Free) Activities for Kids

You can enlighten, educate and entertain your young offspring without breaking the bank

Grandmother and kids visiting museum, Summer Fun for Kids (and You) on the Cheap (Blend Images/Alamy)

Visiting a museum can be a low-cost (and air conditioned) way to enjoy a hot summer day. — Blend Images/Alamy

En español | Kids of all ages want summer fun that's a break from the ordinary, especially from those dog days of boredom.

The good news is that parents and grandparents can provide lots of fun activities without breaking the bank.

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While they're at it, they can even provide some priceless lessons, skills and memories.

If you're prepping for another summer with stay-at-home kids or visiting grandchildren, consider these wallet-friendly ways to make the most of "together" time.

1. See how it's made

Unlock the marvels of manufacturing for thousands of American-made products by going on factory tours that are often free and usually educational. Visit Factory Tours USA for listings of nearly 600 offerings, searchable by state, product or industry.

2. Amuse 'em at a museum

Check with musuems near you about free or low-cost admission and other summer programs for kids on select days. Some credit cards and member organizations also offer special museum admission deals.

3. See pros play

If the young 'uns (or you) are pigskin fans, you can go hog-wild at National Football League training camps, usually mid-to-late July. Admission to preseason practices is often free, or a small fraction of a game ticket, and some training camps offer "family fun" events for a more fan-friendly experience. Contact franchises or visit for dates and locations (typically posted in early July).

4. Spare the expense of bowling

Kids can bowl two games per day for free — every day, all summer long — at some 1,000 bowling centers across the U.S. and Canada participating in Kids Bowl Free. Preregistration is required (you'll need to print and bring passes to your designated lanes), and if you want to do more than just keep score, low-cost family passes allow up to four adults to participate.

5. Angle for free fishing

With the exception of Alaska, every state (and the District of Columbia) holds no-license-required days, ideal for newbies to, ahem, test the waters — and maybe even provide dinner. Get details on summer's free fishing days at, where you can also download a free app for iPhone and Android smartphones that features more than 35,000 boat ramps and marinas in the U.S. where you can launch or dock a boat.

Next page: 5 more budget-friendly activities. »

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