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Summer bucket list: 27 affordable (or free) family activities

There’s no denying that summer brings the life out of us. The warm-breeze, sun-filled days that spark a smile are upon us. Therefore, it’s a no-brainer that you’re probably on the hunt for thrilling summer activities (aside from just working on that tan). Without further ado, let’s explore a number of exciting ideas you can add to your summer bucket list, and the best part is, they won’t break the bank.

Cheap backyard summer activities for the whole family


Let’s delve into some pocket-friendly summer activities for family fun in your backyard to spark your creativity.

Play equipment

If you have a water source and ample room, you can spring for a trampoline, splash pad, or bounce house for immense summer fun that is suitable for all kids ages. You can also find extra water activities to enjoy for some frugal fun.

Backyard movie nights

Investing some of your would-be vacation funds in an affordable projector is a great idea. Then, rig up a large blanket in the backyard and take turns choosing family movies.

Break out the camping gear

Backyard camping is a summer activity that even an older kid can also delight in. In addition to stargazing and story-telling, the best part about a summer camp in your backyard is that if anyone experiences difficulty sleeping, the house is just a few feet away.

Start a garden

While you may not get to hike a national park this summer, you can bring a bit of nature home with a container or backyard garden. Some may consider this fun activity a chore, but gardening can keep everyone preoccupied for weeks on end.

Make homemade ice cream

Let’s face it. Nothing beats a nice cold scoop (or three) of ice cream when the sweltering summers roll around. What’s even better is that if you’re looking to spice up your ice cream experience, then you take the homemade route. You might be pleasantly surprised to find that it tastes better or equally as good as store-bought ice cream.

Stargaze from Earth

For a bit of nighttime summer fun, make your kiddie pool work overtime by filling it with blankets and pillows, host a family stargazing night, and enjoy a few scoops of your favorite ice cream while at it. You can also get alerts to view the international space station fly overhead based on where you live.


Plagued by weather or too many lights? You can also try these super easy (and super cheap) constellation viewers.

Host an outdoor relay race

Kids can start running from as early as 18 months old, so who needs the summer Olympics when you can revel in a boatload of summer games from the comfort of your home? For a fun outdoor activity round up a few supplies around your home, such as a hula hoop, clothes hamper, and a pool noodle, and convert your backyard for the best outdoor play.

Embark on a scavenger hunt

It’s no secret that a scavenger hunt can be daunting if you’re playing with strangers or people you don’t have a rapport with. Fortunately, a scavenger hunt is a fun summer activity you can participate in with your loved ones as you can revel in new ways of trying to outwit each other.


Free nostalgic summer activities for the whole family


We’ve rounded up a few free activities to add to your summer bucket list. Whether you are feeling creative or looking for a little adventure, there's so much you can do to fill your days with enjoyment.

Create and make fun summer cocktails (or non-alcoholic drinks)

A perfect summer night is almost unimaginable without the thought of a refreshing drink in hand. Whether it’s a fruity spritzer or vibrantly-colored sangria that can brighten anyone’s day, you can get your creative juices flowing by working on some new creations.

Conduct a blind taste test

Do you have unwavering confidence that you pick out your favorite foods and drinks in a massive lineup? Putting it to the test can be a fun thing to do during summer. Simply round up the family and your go-to condiments, drinks, and desserts, wear a blindfold and see if you can properly identify a few of everyone's favorite treats without peeking.

Host a potluck

Granted, having a blowout party might not be ideal in the times we live in, however, hosting a small group of people in your backyard or the local park and asking them to bring different foods is one of the most fun, festive and affordable summer activities.

Fly a kite

A fun thing to do when the wind is blowing is to take your kids outside and teach them the secret to flying a kite for hours on end (Just like you might have done when you were a kid.)

Go for a hike

You don’t have to reside near the woods to experience the joy of walking through and experiencing nature. A number of towns have hiking trails that are worth exploring. After a thrilling day of hiking, you can wind down in a hot tub.

Roast marshmallows

Another idea for a fun activity to do during summer is to roast gooey marshmallows and flatten them between graham crackers and chocolate. With a fire pit in your backyard, you can roast away and enjoy these yummy treats while gazing into the sky. Bonus: get creative with how you upgrade your s'mores.

Run through the sprinklers

Want to get your kids offline and outside? Turn on the sprinklers and jump through the water with them. After all, you can’t let the grass and plants have all the fun!

Decorate the pavement with sidewalk chalk

You can channel your creativity as a family by cracking open a box of chalks and crafting colorful designs on your sidewalk or driveway. As a fun activity, you can also use the chalk to delight in games such as hopscotch and tic-tac-toe.

Experiment with grilling corn

Sure, corn is mouthwatering at any time of the year. But it’s truly a summer food staple. To discover your next barbecue hit, get creative with seasonings such as buffalo sauce, pesto, and bacon sauce, and corn toppings. After all, the world is your oyster!

Dance it out

As one of the most legendary summer activities to enjoy, put on your favorite playlist, get the family together and show off your best moves. Who knows? Maybe it will turn into a memorable dance contest.

Hone your florist skills

If you have a garden full of blooms or a local shop where you can purchase inexpensive flowers, try your hand at putting together a few bouquets. Showcase them as home decor or gift them to your friends who could use some color to help brighten up what could be an otherwise drab day.

Go cloud hunting

Cloud hunting is another summer activity you can enjoy with your kids. Rather than stretching your budget, relive your childhood and let your imagination run wild as you identify clouds shaped like an animal or other items.

Go for a scenic drive

Your hometown might be peppered with undiscovered places worth exploring. Taking a drive with your family to explore the sights and sounds of the area is one of the most adventurous and free summer activities you can do.

Plant an herb garden

Are you on the quest for a fun and cost-effective idea that can shave some extra bucks off your grocery bill? Then an herb garden is right up your alley. Additionally, gardening is a fun activity to involve your kids in as they can learn a skill and gain a better understanding of what they eat.

Play with water balloons

Even the older kids will find the giggle-inducing, goofy task of throwing and trying to dodge water balloons irresistible. During summer break, you can turn your yard into a massive water balloon fight. Worried about the mess? No problem. Offer the kids a popsicle for helping clean up.

Open a lemonade stand

Although buying store-bought options can be quick and easy, nothing compares to homemade lemonade from fresh lemons that you squeezed yourself.

Craft a bird feeder

Gain insight into the birds that are native to your area by creating a bird feeder. The perfect combination of craftiness and a few simple household items can convert your backyard into the perfect place to birdwatch and enjoy what nature has to offer.

Wash your car

You can easily turn the tedious task of washing your car into one of the most fun-filled summer activities by making a game out of it. It's hot outside and giving your kids the opportunity to play with the hose and get messy is all it takes for a fun afternoon.

Virtual performances

Even if your house lacks the big stage of a high-end production, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy the magic of entertainment right from the comfort of your home. A wealth of theater companies are offering a virtual taste of the summer activity you would’ve enjoyed in person. Get online and enjoy live streams that are entertaining for the adults but also appropriate for the kids.


Family-friendly camping and hiking activities


Whether you have a preschooler, toddler, or a baby, it’s never too early to take them on a camping trip. They can have their first tent camping experience as early as six months of age. Some family-friendly hiking and camping activities are:


  • Horseback riding

  • Going for a swim at a campground with a swimming pool

  • Fishing with a boat rental

  • Visiting the local national or state park and taking in the sights and sounds

  • A scavenger hunt on a stroller-friendly hiking trail

  • Catching fireflies

  • Bird watching

  • Animal watching

  • Jump rope

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