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Free & Frugal Summer Activities for Kids in Reno 2016

free & Frugal summer 16


It’s time for our summer edition full of free and frugal activity ideas for the summer of 2016!  Use some (or all) of these 40 ideas to fill your summer with fun activities and events without breaking the bank!

1.  Free Kids Bowling.  It’s back!  The Kids Bowl Free program allows children to receive two free games of bowling each day at participating locations.  In Reno, that location is High Sierra Lanes, and in Carson it is Carson Lanes.  For the cost of shoe rentals, your kiddos can enjoy a whole lotta bowling this summer!

2.  Dollar Movies at the Theaters.  Taking four kids to the movies is expensive, so each summer, we take advantage of the Dollar Movies at the theater.  The theaters are filled with kids, so if your kiddos decides to make a little noise, it’s not the end of the world.  But, overall, it’s relatively quiet in the theaters and is an inexpensive way to take the kids to the movies.  This year’s movie schedule is not yet out.  Keep your eyes out on Cinemark.com for the release of their schedule!

3.  Victorian Square Splash Pad.  Bring your bathing suits to the dollar movies at Victorian Square in Sparks and head outside to play in the splash pad afterwards!  It’s free and fun and a great way to cool off on a hot summer day.  Pack a lunch, too, so you can eat on the grass.

4.  Discovery Museum.  For the days that are just too hot, head on over to the Discovery Museum.  A yearly family pass is only $100, making it a steal if you use it regularly!  Check their calendar to view any special events going on, but even without special events, the Discovery Museum is always a hot spot and fun for kids of all ages.

5.  Reno Pops Orchestra & P’Opera: Rogers & Hammerstein.  Go watch a concert presentation of over 20 favorite selections from some of Rogers and Hammerstein’s most popular shows, including Oklahoma, Sound of Music, South Pacific, and the King and I.  Pack a picnic or dine on vendor food, and head to Bartley Ranch on July 8th from 7:30-9:15 for this totally free concert.

6.  Hot August Nights. From August 2-7, Hot August Nights is celebrating its 30th anniversary!  At the time of posting this, the event schedule is not yet available, so be sure to check back HERE to find specific events!  My kids LOVE seeing all these old and beautiful cars around town!

7.  Genoa Americana 4th of July Celebration.  Looking for something special to do on the 4th of July?  Why not head down to Genoa?  With a children’s parade, the Carson City Symphony Orchestra, and the option to buy a BBQ meal at the volunteer fire department, this seems like a wonderfully fun family event for the holiday!  Find more info on their website HERE.

8.  Reno Sculpture Fest.  This totally free to the public event runs from May 6-8th.  Head downtown to check out over 30 sculptures, music, art, food trucks, kids activities, street performers and more! Find more info HERE.

9. Young Shakespeare at Lake Tahoe.  Head on up for a day at the beach and introduce your family to Shakespeare while you’re at it!  Tickets are free, with a suggested donation of $5/adult and $1/child. Most showings are at Sand Harbor, but there are some held elsewhere, including Minden and Bartley Ranch.  To find dates and buy tickets, head HERE.

10. Summer Concerts & Watermelon on the Quad.  Voted one of RGJ’s “Best Family Outings,” these FREE events are perfect for all ages.  On Wednesdays from July 16th-August 10th, catch a great concert from 6-8pm.  Pack your picnic dinner, grab a blanket, and have some summer evening fun at UNR.  Dates & concert specifics HERE.

11. Sparks Marina.  The Sparks Marina is such a fabulous place to go play.  Get some exercise as you walk, run, or bike around the Marina’s 2 mile loop with your kiddos.  Finish up with a popsicle from the food stand and a visit to the playground.  There is also a beach area for swimming, and a dog park for the pups!

12.  Scheels.  Scheels is the perfect place to be on those hot summer days.  Grab a free fudge sample, or buy a scoop of gelato.  Head to the Farris wheel for $1, play on the free indoor play place (located in the kids clothing section), bowl upstairs for $2/game (no shoes required on this short-lane version of bowling), and observe the fresh and saltwater fish tanks!

13.  Fishing 101 Class at Scheels.  The Scheels Kids Klub on Monday, May 16th will focus on fishing!  Class is geared for kids 4-12, and starts promptly at 6pm.  Head HERE to preregister for this FREE class.  Class includes a free Farris Wheel ride.

14.  Camping 101 at Scheels.  This Kids Klub class on Monday, June 20th at 6:00 PM is all about camping!  This free class for 4-12 year olds includes a free Farris Wheel ride. Preregister HERE.

15.  Olympics at Scheels.  This Kids Klub class sounds SO fun!  Kids 4-12 will be participating in a Scheels rendition of the Olympics on Monday, July 25th.  A free Ferris Wheel ride is included.  Preregister HERE.

16.  Wild Life Class at Scheels. Learn about all the animals living at Scheels and use clues to help find them all!  This Kids Klub class is on Monday, August 22nd at 6:00 PM. A free Ferris Wheel ride is included.  Preregister HERE.

17.  Home Depot Workshops.  Home Depot offers one workshop per month.  Dates vary based on your local store, and dates/activity plans are typically released just one month before the next workshop.  To keep tabs on the next upcoming workshop, visit Home Depot HERE and enter in the zip code for your closest store.  These are totally free and include a Home Depot work apron for the kiddos!

18.  Legends Splash Pad.  The Legends Mall in Sparks has a cute little splash pad for the kiddos.  Water flows both from the ground and from over the tall rocks.  There are plenty of benches to relax on while the kids play and splash in the water.  It’s totally free, just bring your towel!

19.  Washoe County Library Story Times.   Nearly all of our local libraries offer free toddler time & free story time events each week.  You’ll also find Family Game Nights and Movie Nights on the schedule of events for the various libraries.

20.  Washoe County Kids’ Reading Program.  Beginning May 15th you can sign your kids up for this reading time through your local library.  They can earn prizes while keeping up on their reading throughout the summer.  And of course, it’s free!

21. Michael’s Kids Craft Classes.  Michael’s hosts kids classes that run about $2/child.  Find a fun craft and stop by the store for some fun summer craft making.

22. Urban Roots.  Urban Roots is a family favorite of mine.  Stop in on Wednesdays from 10-12, or Saturdays from 10-12 for drop in days and get your hands dirty while helping out on the farm!

23.  Sierra Safari Zoo.  Visit the zoo with your munchkins on the first Monday of the month (excluding holidays) for half off admission!

24. Free Fishing Day.  This year’s free fishing day is on June 11th.  This is a day where no fishing license is required for fishing in the state’s public water spaces.

25.  Local Parks.  We have so many great parks in the area.  Why not explore a new one each week?  Find a full list of Reno parks HERE and the Sparks parks list HERE.

26.  Farmer’s Markets.  Farmer’s markets are fun to visit, walk around, and buy some great local goods.  Check out a full list of farmer’s markets in our area HERE.

27.  Artown.  While all events are not available at the time of this posting for me to highlight a few, check back HERE to see the calendar of events for this year’s Artown!

28. Deer Park Pool.  Deer Park pool in Sparks is offering $2 Tuesdays this year.  Please note that this is a different deal/day than they’ve offered the past couple years.  The pool is open from 12:30-4:30 on Tuesdays from June 11th-August 7th.  Find more details and other open swim times HERE.

29.  Sparks Train Museum. The Sparks Train Museum is open to the public for tours of the train and museum on Saturdays between 1-4pm.  Adults are $5, and members and children 11 and under are FREE!

30.  Hike It Baby Hikes.  Meet up with other mommas for hikes found ALL over town WITH your kiddos in tow!

31.  Nurturing Nest.  From free baby wearing groups, to free toddler play dates, and free support groups, the Nurturing Nest is the place to be!  Check out their calendar HERE for times and dates throughout the week where you can connect with other mommas with young babies and toddlers!

32. Junior Naturalist Program.  This free program offers a free, monthly, nature focussed hike through the Truckee Meadows Park Foundation. It is held on the second Saturday of each month.   Learn all about the plants and animals in the Truckee Meadows on these hikes!

33.  Creative Arts Studios-Bubbles with Baby.  This bubble filled class is for children under age 3.  Cost is $5 per family for the class.  Class is on July 27th from 9:45-10:30.

34.  Idlewild Park Train Ride.  Idlewild park is a fun place to play, and in the summer, the little train is running daily from May 30 to September 5th, with exceptions on Mondays and holidays. It is $2/person, children under 2 are free, and you must pay in cash.  So head on out for a park day, and bring some extra cash to take a short ride on this train!

35. Barnes & Noble.  Barnes & Noble regularly hosts story times and other fun events for children in their upstairs children’s area.  Head to their site, browse their story times, and enjoy a great book with your kids!

36. Bugs & Butterflies. Bugs & Butterflies will be reopening for the 2016 summer season on June 16th.  Open house hours are Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 10-3 until September 24th.  This butterfly house and science center is a totally free resource for our area!

37.  A Pollinator Parade.  Creative Arts and Urban Roots are presenting A Pollinator Parade. Performed “in the unique setting of the Urban Roots Farm, this story emphasizes the renewal of nature and our responsibility to care for the Earth.”  Following the performance will be a farm tour.  This event is on July 27th at 6:30 PM at Urban Roots.

38.  Family Urban Art Walk.  Join the Creative Arts Center and local artist Apryl Stott for a free walking tour on July 20th at 10:00 AM.  You’ll enjoy seeing the downtown art installations, and even make your own sketch.  This tour starts in the courtyard of the McKinley Arts and Cultural Center.  The walk is one mile in length.

39.  Dance Me a Story Workshop.  Children ages 3-6 years are invited to join this free movement and music workshop, Dance Me a Story, by the Creative Arts Center on July 18th from 4-4:30.  Drop in registration not required.

40.  Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Triathlon.  Your kiddos can download and fill in the Summer Reading Triathlon Journal, bring it into the store, and receive a free book!  Between Barnes & Noble and the library reading programs, you’ll have happy little readers all summer long!


Know of another free or frugal activity or event for kids?  Please leave the details in a comment below!  


About Jessica Locke

Jessica Locke
Jessica is a wife and homeschooling mom to four kiddos, two pups, and five chickens. She enjoys mixed martial arts, Spartan races, and teaching/coaching fitness, self defense, and martial arts. She currently writes at motheringwithcreativity.com for all things mom-ing and homeschooling, and at Debt Free, Reno, NV on FB and IG for all things money-matters.

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