Affordable Things to Do With Kids This Summer
Keeping the kids occupied during the long days of summer can seem like a daunting task. The novelty of late mornings and lazy days is quick to rub off once the boredom sets in. But the expense associated with summer entertainment can add up fast. Luckily, there are plenty of free and low-cost things to do with kids this summer in and around the Sacramento area. Following are a few ideas.
Beat the heat this summer and take the kiddos to cool off at one of the many (free!) spray parks around Sacramento. Most spray parks operate through Labor Day, though the hours vary. Spraygrounds are also found at parks in Folsom, Rocklin and El Dorado Hills. The Fountains at Roseville also has a splash pad, plus a playground and train rides too!
If your kids need a little more oompf in their water play, check out one of several expansive aquatic complexes in the greater Sacramento area. The Steve Miklos Aquatic Center in Folsom has an in-pool playground, inflatables and water slides for just $7. In Elk Grove, the Wackford Aquatic Complex also has a play structure and water slides, as well as an inflatable obstacle course. The entrance fee is $6 for kids 5 and up.
Photo courtesy Airman 1st Class Philip Bryant
If you have young children, free storytimes are a great way to keep them engaged over the summer. The Sacramento Library has storytimes for kids of all ages, from babies through preschool age. Barnes and Noble bookstores in Natomas also hosts storytimes for young children. Folsom Public Library hosts summer storytimes for kids ages 2–6 at 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays through Sundays and Tuesdays at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and 7 p.m.
What’s better than watching a movie under the stars? Watching a movie under the stars for free, of course! There are several options for free outdoor movies in Sacramento this summer, including Screen on the Green in East Sacramento (Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse) and Natomas at Nite (Lego Movie 2, the Incredibles 2 and Missing Link). Or, check out Movie in the Park in Rocklin for the Lego Movie 2 or Mary Poppins Returns. Another affordable option for outdoor movies is the West Wind Sacramento Drive-In. Thursday nights are Family Fun Nights, and kids’ admission is only $1.75.
Cinemark’s Summer Movie Clubhouse has $1 movies if you purchase them the day-of at the box office. Showtimes are at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Upcoming movies (all rated PG) include Kung Fu Panda, the Lego Movie, Spongebob Squarepants Out of Water, Sherlock Gnomes and Hotel Transylvania 3. Theaters include Century Greenback, Folsom, Laguna, Roseville and Cinemark Woodland.
Regal’s Summer Movie Express also offers $1 kid’s tickets throughout the summer. Showtimes are at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and tickets must be purchased at the box office. Upcoming movies include the Lego Movie (1 & 2), How to Train Your Dragon (2&3), Smallfoot, Secret Life of Pets, Captain Underpants, Sing, Penguins of Madagascar and Boss Baby. Theaters include Regal Arden Fair, Natomas, Laguna Village, Olympus Pointe, Davis and El Dorado Hills.
Studio Movie Grill in Rocklin also has dollar movies through its Childrens Summer Series. Movies begin at 10 a.m. every day of the week. Upcoming movies include Sing, Minions, the Lorax, How to Train Your Dragon, Captain Underpants, Dr. Seuss’ the Grinch, Puss in Boots and Penguins of Madagascar.
Pins N Strikes in Elk Grove is offering free bowling and a movie every Wednesday from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Upcoming movies include Gnome Alone, Hotel for Dogs, Emoji Movie and Cars 3.
Sacramento Adventure Playground
Photo courtesy Sacramento Adventure Playground
The Sacramento Adventure Playground lets kids be kids through unstructured building (with real tools!), arts and crafts, and outdoor exploration. This summer, it’s also coming to a library near you! Pop-up play days will be held at the Valley Hi-North Laguna Library on July 11, Colonial Heights Library on July 19, Martin Luther King, Jr. Library on July 24 and Del Paso Heights Library on Aug. 3. It’s free to play, but kids must be registered and donations are greatly appreciated.
Big Trucks Summer
Photo courtesy Roseville Utility Exploration Center
Have a kid who’s a truck fanatic? Boys and girls of all ages can check out different utility trucks during Big Truck Summer, thanks to the Roseville Utility Exploration Center. Garbage trucks, dump trucks, electric trucks and more will be on hand for demonstrations and exploration at Maidu Regional Park or Mahany Park on Wednesdays from 10 – 11 a.m. through July. You can also stop into the exploration center and check out the interactive exhibits and educational workshops focusing on conservation and green living. Hours are 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and Saturday. Admission is free!
Skateboarding is not a crime, so take the kids to one of Sacramento’s free public skate parks so they can ollie and grind their way through summer. The grand daddy of them all is the newly-remodeled 28th and B Skate Park, which has indoor ramps, quarter pipes and grind rails. Admission is $3. Elk Grove also has skate parks, as does Roseville, El Dorado Hills and Folsom.
With the exception of parking fees, hikes in the greater Sacramento area are totally free. Some great options for kids include the Davis Arboretum, a flat, mellow trail that follows Putah Creek, Effie Yeaw Nature Center Preserve, which has interpretive trails along the American River, and the Placer Nature Center, with a five-acre preserve near Auburn. If your kiddos loves wildlife, they’ll love the easy hikes through the wetlands of the Cosumnes River Preserve or the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, home to thousands of species of birds.
Family Bike Nights
Photo courtesy Safetyville USA
If you and your kids like spending summers on two wheels, head to Safetyville to do it in a car-free environment. Free Family Bike Nights are held from 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. on Thursdays & Fridays through Aug. 25. Cruise around the miniature town, learn about bike safety and grab dinner from the food court.
Explore a Fire Station
Are you the parent of an aspiring firefighter? Take him or her to one of the Sacramento Fire Department’s open houses. The events are held Saturday mornings from 10 a.m. – noon at stations across the city. The kiddos can get a behind-the-scenes look at the firehouses, ask questions of firefighters and even check out the fire engines. Check out the schedule for a station near you!
Kids Bowl Free (and Cheap!)
Photo courtesy John Brighenti via Flickr
The Kids Bowl Free program is a way for bowling alleys to give back to the community and provide kids with a safe and fun way to spend the summer. In the Sacramento area, the program is offered at Fireside Lanes in Citrus Heights, Strikes Unlimited in Rocklin and Country Club Lanes in Sacramento. Though you have to register online ahead of time, kids receive two free games of bowling each day of the program, all summer long. Specific dates and times vary by location.
Photo courtesy SMUD
Did you know SMUD (yes, the electric company!) offers free science classes for kids and their parents? Upcoming classes will teach you how to make your own light-up greeting cards, build a solar cooker, design your own pet robot and make a solar-powered phone charger. Although classes are free, you have to register ahead of time.