Summer is almost here! If you have older kids, that means that school is out and you’re about to hear about how bored they are. Let me tell you, it is so much easier to have an idea of how to keep the kiddos entertained before you start hearing the “I’m bored!” every 5 seconds! While summer is a time of relaxation and fun for the kids, it can be a stressful time for the parents, especially if finances are tight. Below is a list of family-friendly activities that won’t break the bank!
Get a Membership!
Most zoos, aquariums, and museums offer memberships to help you get the most out of your visits. I love this idea because while it seems like a decent chunk of money upfront, it may be less than you think.
We are a family of 6. The admission to San Antonio Zoo is 26.99 for adults and 23.99 for kids ages 3-11. So for our family, one visit to the zoo is $156 since 2 of our kids are over 11 and one is only 7 months. The cost of their family membership is only $99 and lasts for a full year and includes both adults and 4 children. You can visit as much as you want in that year and it even includes tickets to their Halloween event. In just 2 visits, this membership pays for itself.
This will obviously be different depending on how many kids you have and the costs of admission, but definitely look into it! We take trips to the zoo often on a weekly visit during the summer. They also offer handy “souvenir cups” that are close to $7 for one drink (sounds crazy, right?), but the refills are only $1.50. We keep a couple of them in the car and just take them each time we go. They are totally okay with it and it saves SO MUCH on drinks!
There is a nifty little website that isn’t super well known called kidsbowlfree.com. Basically, you sign up each kid and then each of them gets 2 FREE games of bowling every day in the summer. Shoe rental isn’t included, but we just bought shoes. If you do not want to buy them, however, shoe rental isn’t generally that much. We go multiple times a week and the kids love it! Kids Bowl Free has completely NO COST for the kids. If you would also like to bowl, you can also add on a “Family Pass” for $29.95 where you can add adult members as well. Most of the bowling alleys in my area participate.
- Astro SuperBowl
- Bandera Bowling Center
- Oak Hills Lanes
Visit a Park
Most towns and cities have at least one park that is completely free. We live in a decent-sized town, so we are lucky enough to have a lot of them. Our favorite one to visit has a fishing pond, bike trail, playground, splash pad, and a bunch of poke-stops (for those kids obsessed with Pokemon Go).
- San Pedro Springs Park
- Brackenridge Park
- Friedrich Wilderness Park
- San Antonio Missions National Historic Park
- Comanche Lookout Park
- Pearsall Park
- Eisenhower Park
- Woodlawn Lake Park
- O.P. Schnabel Park
- Confluence Park
We have several local pools in the area with a decently low entry fee. Some areas even have free public pools! Ours also offers a membership where you can go so many visits for a specific fee throughout the summer. The San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department offers free swimming at 24 outdoor area pools.
If you want to splurge a bit, you can also get your own pool! I really like the Index pools as they are easy to set up and are decently affordable. I personally prefer the ones with the frame rather than the blow-up ring. While the setup is a bit more extensive, they just seem bigger and more sturdy. A lot of times you can get pools on sale at the end of the season. Also, don’t forget to look at the Facebook marketplace or Craigslist. People are always selling things like pools for cheap on there!
Map of Public Pools in the San Antonio area
Free Splash Pads in and around San Antonio
This one really depends on what area you live in. We live in a warm area and San Antonio put in close to 100 splash pads in parks around the area that are completely free during the summer. I have seen other areas do this as well to help beat the summer heat and lower the number of heat-related illnesses.
- Yanaguana Garden’s splash pad at Hemisfair Park
- The Pearl Splash Pad
- Fischer Park Sprayground, New Braunfels
- Pearsall Park Splash Pad
- Park West splash pad in Seguin
- Bulverde Community Park splash pad
- Voigt Park Sprayground
Go on a Scavenger Hunt
Scavenger hunts are fun for all ages and the best part is, you can do them anywhere! Even my teenager still loves a good scavenger hunt. Below are a few FREE printable sheets to help with your scavenger hunt fun!
- Camping Scavenger Hunt
- Beachtime Scavenger Hunt
- On the Road Scavenger Hunt
Let’s Go Camping!
This one can be done in a couple of different ways. A lot of areas have campgrounds where you can go and camp for a low fee (our park is $10 a day for tents). We bought a tent for cheap at Walmart. Just a tip, if you go at the end of summer/fall time, they go on clearance and you can get them really cheap. I also see a lot of people selling them on the Facebook Marketplace, so that could be a good place to check!
If you would rather stay home, opt for backyard camping! We like to do this a lot in the summer as it is little to no cost and the kids have a blast with it. All you need to do is set your tent up in the backyard, get some snacks, build a small campfire (if your area allows it), and you’re good to go! You can also make your own tent with blankets or tarps, you just have to be careful about insects and wildlife.
Visit a Texas State or National Park
For those of you with a State or National Park nearby, they are a great place to utilize during the summer. We are a very outdoorsy family and take as many outdoor activities as we can get. This is one of our favorites! We go here multiple times a summer to camp, fish, visit the nature center, hike, kayak, and so much more!
They are not only fun, but they can also be educational! Our local state park has over 20 nature trails, a horseback riding stable, and even a nature center where they can learn about local wildlife and plants. The kids love going there in the summer to camp and go on nature walks to learn about all the animals and plant-life.
State Parks less than an hour from San Antonio:
- Guadalupe River State Park – 55 minutes
- Government Canyon State Natural Area – 40 minutes
- Old Tunnel State Park – 1 hour
- Lockhart State Park – 1 hour
- Palmetto State Park – 1 hour
- Blanco State Park – 1 hour
Volunteer (for older children)
Our local animal shelter and zoo area always looking for volunteers and even accept teens! I am a big animal lover, so I always try to make sure that my kids grow up showing compassion and kindness to all creatures. If you are the same, volunteering with animals is a great way to do that.
This one sounds odd but bear with me here. You don’t see it so much anymore, but last summer my kids set up a lemonade stand and bake sale in our front yard. They made signs and everything. It was seriously almost a whole week planning affair and I couldn’t believe how engaged they all were in it.