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Sizzling Summertime Freebies

Sometimes you can't put a price on fun. Check out these 12 free options

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Start a garden for free this summer. — iStockphoto

En español | Hot fun in the summertime? Sure, there's plenty to do, but the price of all that fun can add up fast, draining your bank account. Don't sweat it. There are several ways to have a blast this summer for free (or almost free).

1. Free plants and seeds

With the growing popularity of backyard gardening, swap meets for gardening enthusiasts are sprouting up all across the country and even online. You can trade excess plants and seeds with other gardeners rather than spend big bucks to buy them at the nursery. Then come home and have fun with the family planting away. Find nationwide listings of plant swaps on this website and trade seeds online.

2. Free national park admission

Although two-thirds of all National Park Service sites are always free, admission to the remaining parks will be free as well on Aug. 25 to celebrate the National Park Service's birthday. If you're 62 years of age or older, any day of the year for only $10 you can buy a Senior Pass good for the rest of your life at more than 2,000 sites managed by the National Park Service and four other federal agencies. That's a purchase that pays for itself several times over.

3. Free movies

Hitbliss is an online service that allows you to earn credits by watching selected commercials so you can watch on-demand movies from its website. You'll need to download the program to a desktop or laptop computer (no mobile availability at this time). If you'd rather take the kids to the movies, Regal theaters across the country are offering selected children's movies on Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout the summer for just $1 a ticket, with a portion of that going to charity.

4. Free fly-fishing lessons

Fly fishing is as fun as it is artful. As with mastering any art form, it takes practice and training. On selected dates in May and June, Orvis stores and dealers across the country offer free fly-fishing classes. When you complete one, you also receive a complimentary membership to Trout Unlimited — a $35 value.

5. Free fishing days

Speaking of fishing, if you haven't done it since you were a kid or maybe never tried it at all, you can wet your line without needing to buy a fishing license in most states on their annual Free Fishing Day. In many states, that day this year is June 7, but check online for a complete listing of all participating states and their Free Fishing Days.

Next page: Learn about free summer camps and kids' programs. »

6. Free boating safety courses

If you're going to be on the water this summer, being safe and knowing your state's boating laws are essential. The nonprofit BoatUS Foundation offers free online boating safety courses based on the specific laws of all 50 states.

7. Free camping

If you're looking for a primitive, backcountry wilderness experience, you can camp for free at national forests and on public lands managed by a number of other federal agencies, as long as you follow the guidelines for so-called dispersed camping. If your idea of camping involves an RV, there are still some places where you can camp for free.

8. Free summer camps and kids' programs

Apple is offering free in-store camps to teach kids about filmmaking, and Microsoft stores are providing a similar program all about gaming. If your kids prefer the outdoors, check out free summertime activities and craft programs at Bass Pro Shops, where you can hone your outdoor skills, from archery lessons to making campfire s'mores.

9. Volunteer for free admission

From outdoor concerts and plays to county fairs and festivals, summertime is event time. If there's a cost for admission, ask the event organizers if they can use a few hours of your time. Volunteers often get to enjoy the event for free, and you might even get a free event T-shirt, too!

Next page: Find free Wi-Fi service when you travel. »

10. Free Wi-Fi for travelers

Save on your data plan by using free Wi-Fi when you travel this summer. There are several free apps to download from Google Play and iTunes that allow you to find free Wi-Fi service at hotspots including restaurants, stores and hotels. Don't forget that most public libraries also offer free computer and Wi-Fi access, although you may need to get a temporary pass or library card if you're just passing through.

11. Free do-it-yourself workshops

Summertime is a prime time for home improvements, and Home Depot offers free in-store classes to show you how to do everything from landscape your yard to build outdoor furniture. It even offers special workshops just for kids, as does Lowes.

12. Free stuff to give and receive

Listia is a website where you give away things you don't want in exchange for points that you can use to bid on other things on the website. Freecycle is a worldwide nonprofit network of locally based groups filled with people who give away things they no longer need to anyone who wants them. Both are great ways to find free summertime gear, from a used bicycle to an unwanted BBQ grill.

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