Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Summer's here! Check out Go Ask Mom's summer fun guide

Posted May 24, 2012
Updated June 10, 2012

I shared the first part of the Go Ask Mom Summer Fun Guide earlier this week. Now here's the full guide.

Find 16 ideas to take you through the 12 or so weeks of summer vacation. The focus is on free and cheap fun. I'd love to hear your suggestions too!

And of course, keep reading Go Ask Mom all summer for regular updates on fun activities for kids. As always, I"ll post a round-up of weekend activities every Wednesday night and a look at a place to take kids on Friday. And, of course, I'll have other posts about activities as I learn about them.

Here's to a great, fun (and hopefully not too hot) summer!

1. Free and cheap movies: Movie theaters across the region offer free and cheap movies on some weekday mornings when school is out. Tickets are usually no more than $2 a piece. And, in some cases, adults are admitted for free. You usually get a good deal on concessions too. I've updated our free and cheap movie database for the 2012 season, though some of the theaters have not posted their movie schedules. So stay tuned for continuing updates.

And I'll add that the list also includes outdoor movie series and movie theaters where the tickets are $4 or less. So if you're looking for cheap flicks in the evening or weekends, you'll find some options there too.

2. Public pools: For those of us without a pool membership, public pools are a great and cheap way to cool off in the summer. Most charge only a few bucks per person to swim. Some include spraygrounds, which dump and spray water on kids and are great fun. For a list of public pools, which do not require a membership to swim, check out our public pools database.

And stay tuned for more information about Buffaloe Road Aquatics Center, which is scheduled to open this summer in east Raleigh. The 6,000-square-foot indoor recreational leisure pool will include a giant water slide, vortex, lazy river, lap lanes, zero depth entry, tot-sized play features, volleyball net, basketball hoops and concession stand when it opens.

3. Historic sites and other family destinations: North Carolina has more than two dozen historic sites and many of them are within driving distance of the Triangle. While your kids' eyes may glaze over at the mention of visiting an old plantation house, never fear. You'll also find, in many cases, plenty of open space for kids to roam and explore nature too. My favorite recent experience at a local historic site was at Historic Stagville in Durham where a group of chickens came over to our picnic table while we were having lunch. Check out Go Ask Mom's gallery of posts on Triangle family destinations to learn more about some of the historic sites in our region and other great and usually free or cheap destinations for families.

4. Summer reading programs at local libraries and stores: These are great opportunities to keep your kids reading during the summer. Libraries typically offer free weekly activities to encourage kids to read. Once kids have finished the program and read a certain number of books or pages, they often get a free book, coupons to local restaurants and more. Click here for a list of summer reading programs in the region.

5. Free bowling: Some bowling alleys offer free bowling to kids during the summer. Click here for information about a program that offers free bowling at alleys in Clayton, Sanford, Wilson and Fayetteville, among other places. Click here for information about free summer programs at AMF alleys.

6. Nature centers: The region is peppered with nature centers, which typically offer hands-on activities and more for kids and families, along with open spaces, forests and trails to run around and explore. A new favorite of mine is White Deer Park in Garner. In north Raleigh, there's the new Annie Louise Wilkerson MD Nature Preserve too. And many nature parks and gardens in the area offer regular programs for kids that are free or really cheap. Check with your local city or county parks department for details. Wake County's parks, in particular, offer some great programs.

7. Playgrounds: You could easily spend the entire summer exploring new playgrounds. I've reviewed dozens in the last couple of years. Go to our our parks database to see them. And check this post that I wrote for's Out & About section on my favorite five big parks in the Triangle.

8. Museums: We're lucky to have three major state museums that all are free. It costs nothing to spend the day at the N.C. Museum of History, which unveiled its new Story of North Carolina exhibit last year; the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, which opened its new and massive Nature Research Center in April; and the N.C. Museum of Art, which offers all kinds of very inexpensive programs for kids. If you've been a regular at any of these museums, perhaps the summer is the time to explore some of their daily or weekly programs. Favorites of mine include the weekend family tours at the art museum and storytimes at the natural sciences museum. And stay tuned for more information about a free Wednesday movie series for kids that the art museum is planning this summer.

For links to all of the museums in the region, click here.

If regular trips to Marbles Kids Museum, the Museum of Life and Science, the N.C. Zoo, Kidzu Children's Museum and other places that charge admission are among your summer plans, an annual membership, which usually allows free admission to the museums, may be a great option. Read my earlier post for details on museum memberships. (Reminder: Kidzu Children's Museum is free on Sundays).

9. Vacation Bible School: Local churches across the region offer free or nearly free Vacation Bible Schools for kids as young as 3, in some cases. Read my earlier post for details.

10. Volunteer: There are many opportunities in the region for kids of all ages to help out in our community. I usually write about volunteer opportunities during the holidays, but most of those suggestions work all year. Click here and here for volunteer ideas for young kids. Click here, here and here for volunteer ideas for tweens and teens. Collecting birthday party kits - comprised of a box of cake mix, frosting and candles - is a great and easy way for kids to help out. I wrote about these when Go Ask Mom collected them during an event earlier this year. And I've written about The Comfort Project and Zach's Toy Chest, which both were started by local moms. They distribute items to sick kids in our area.

11. Get crafty. The Scrap Exchange in Durham and the new Cary Creative Center both offer cheap opportunities to get crafty. For just $5, you can spend 90 minutes in the Scrap Exchange's make-n-take room, make anything you want out of materials from the room and take it home. At the Cary Creative Center, there are bags you can fill up with items for just $5. And there's space there to get crafty. If your kids are preschool age, check out the In Lieu of Preschool blog, written by a local mom, for some great ideas. She shares crafts here on Go Ask Mom too.

12. Kids eat free: Check our kids eat free page to find out when restaurants offer deals for kids. Restaurants also often offer special entertainment on their kids eat free nights. As always, restaurant deals change daily. It's always best to check before you go to ensure that the deal is still good. And if it's not, please email me!

13. Explore a new farmers market. Many of the region's markets offer more than fresh fruit and veggies. I'm talking about activities for kids. Western Wake Farmers' Market in Cary has music and, often a face painter. Midtown Raleigh Farmers' Market in North Hills has music. Carrboro Farmers' Market has a small playground. Durham Farmers' Market sits next to Durham Central Park and even offers a cooking class for kids ages 9 to 13.

14. Summer concerts: You don't need to pay top dollar to hear some great music around here. The summer means free or really cheap summer concert series. They include Music on the Porch in Raleigh, Fridays on the Front Porch at Chapel Hill's Carolina Inn, Chapel Hill's Southern Village series, Music on the Lawn at the American Tobacco Campus in Durham; and the spring and summer Sertoma series in Cary.

15. Head to the ball park: In my family, summer isn't complete without some trips to the Durham Bulls and Carolina Mudcats. This is inexpensive family fun at its finest.

16. Slow down!: Enjoy your kids. If you're anything like me, sometimes you get caught up in everything that needs to be done. The laundry. Dinner. Grocery shopping. Work. Cleaning. And more laundry. Some days I sit down after the kids are in bed and realize that I never really had a good conversation with them that day. So slow down! Let the laundry pile up. Have sandwiches for dinner on a blanket in the backyard. Catch fireflies. Pick out shapes in the clouds. Have fun!

Happy summer!


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  • info274 May 29, 2012

    Another great suggestion is to check out the Fiscal ReMoMsibility course offered by JD Wealth Services Finance Academy. Its a Financial Class for moms and its being held at Monkey Joe's so the kids can play check it out.

  • shall6 May 24, 2012

    Thank you jpgmarks! That's a great idea!


  • jpgmarks May 24, 2012

    Meals on Wheels of Wake County is a great volunteering opportunity for families - they can work with you to pick a route that doesn't require as many stops (and carseat ins and outs), and the recipients love seeing younger faces as well! Highly recommend it!