Looking for some fun and inexpensive ways to hang with the kiddos this summer? Look no further! Here’s a sampling of some of the free and frugal summer activities you can expect this year. Do you see something missing? Let us know in the comments!
Kids Bowl Free: This year, only High Sierra Lanes is participating in the Kids Bowl Free Program (plus Carson Lanes if you’re in Carson). Every weekday from noon-4, kids can get two free games of bowling — EVERY DAY ALL SUMMER! You do need to rent shoes, but this is a huge savings for some great (nice and cool) indoor fun.
Cinemark $1 Movies: Looks like we’ve lost a few movie theater options this year, but fortunately, the Summit Cinemark theater is hosting the Summer Movie Clubhouse movies this year! At 9 a.m. on Mondays and Thursdays, you can gain entry to select movies for just $1. These movies are filled with children, so they’re a perfect opportunity to take your kids to the theater without too much stress if they make a little noise.
Home Depot Kids Workshops: Type in your zip code to find your local store. Kids building workshops are offered once a month at most locations. They are completely free, and kids get to take home their creations.
Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program: Sign up for Barnes & Noble’s summer reading program, fill out your reading journal with at least eight books, bring it in, and receive a free book. It’s a perfect way to keep kids reading and get something new at the end of the summer, too!
Hot August Nights: Would your kids enjoy looking at old cars? Hot August Nights is happening from August 7th-12th this year. Totally free to check things out on a hot summer evening!
Lazy 5 Water Splash Park: Head out towards Spanish Springs for the Melio Gaspari Splash Pad. With awesome water features and no standing pools of water, this is a great option for younger children. It’s also only $3/person (ages 2 & under are free), and punch passes are available.
North Valley’s Water Splash Park: Similar to Lazy 5 (though I’ve heard this one is bigger/has more features for bigger kiddos), North Valley offers a splash pad as well. Again, no standing pools of water makes this park a great option for stress-free play. $3/child, 2 & under are free, and punch passes are available.
Legends Mall Splash Pad: Want a quick and easy (and totally free) splash pad option? Head to the Outlets at Legends! There is a really great water feature in the center of the mall with water splashing up and over big rocks. There are benches surrounding the area so you can sit and watch the kids play. Bring a towel and have some fun on a hot day!
Kids Triathlons: My daughter did one of these area triathlons last year, and it was a great experience. This one is for the one Bower’s Mansion triathlon, though Carson City and Reno both have one, too (Sparks’ already passed). Cost is $35 for the event, and there are options for children ages 4-15. Kids receive a finisher’s medal, a shirt, and some other swag, too.
Young Shakespeare at Tahoe: Young Shakespeare at Tahoe is a free event for children designed especially for younger viewers. While the event is free, donations are accepted, and reservations are required via their website. Find dates, show times, and more info HERE.
Junior Naturalist Program: This totally free program offers a monthly nature-focussed hike through the Truckee Meadows Park Foundation. Find more details for locations and meet-ups on their website.
Free Fishing Day: This year’s free fishing day is on June 9th. On this day, adults and children may fish in any public fishing water in the state without getting a fishing license.
Free Fishing Event at Sparks Marina: In addition to the overall Free Fishing Day in Nevada, from 7 a.m. – noon on June 9th, you can take the kids to the Sparks Marina for a free fishing day event. Every child receives a free fishing pole and a free shirt at the event. There will be representatives from the Sparks Fire Department, Police Department, Sheriff’s Department, and Coast Guard. A special section of the marina will be stocked with more than 4,000 fish for the kids to go fishing!
Sparks Heritage Museum and Cultural Center: Visit the downtown Sparks area to explore some of the city’s history. With artifacts and displays and galleries, you’ll learn a lot about Sparks’ history. Across the street is the authentic steam locomotive, a cupola caboose, and a Pullman executive car. In addition, the Glendale Schoolhouse (a nationally registered historic schoolhouse) is Nevada’s oldest school! Cost is $5 for ages 12+, and free for 11 and under. Find details for business hours in the Sparks recreation catalog.
Summer Concerts & Watermelon on the Quad: Did you know these were voted one of RGJ’s “best family outings”? These free concerts happen every Wednesday evening from 6-8 p.m. at UNR.
Discovery Museum: For about $100/year, your entire family can visit the Discovery Museum whenever you want. Whether it’s the hot summer months when you need to get out of the house but stay cool, or the winter months when the kids need to get some energy out, this place is the place to be! Wednesday mornings you can also gain early admission for “Small Wonders Wednesdays” for the under-5 crowd!
Apple Store Kids Hours: Did you know the Apple Store offers a variety of Kids Hour classes? From how to code, to how to create your own videos, older kids can sign up for a variety of free classes.
Apple Camp: My kids loved Apple Camp last year. Each camp is three days a week for 90 minutes each. The kids receive a free shirt, and parents do need to stay at the store (not a drop off camp). Last year my kids learned how to use iMovie and created their own movie trailers during the week. These classes fill up INSANELY fast once the times/dates are released. I suggest you get on the notification list HERE and register immediately once the classes are announced (some were filled up within 30 minutes of them being released last year).
Sparks Marina: The Sparks Marina is a wonderful place to escape for a few hours. With a 2-mile walking trail around the marina (run, walk, ride a bike/scooter), a coffee shop, park, dog park, a beach for swimming, beach volleyball courts, and more, it’s a fun place for the whole family.
Local Libraries: Nearly all of our local libraries host story times for toddlers and preschoolers. These are totally free, interactive, and lots of fun! Not to mention it’s a nice, cool place to escape the hot summer sun. Check the calendar for your local library, as they usually host free family movies nights, events, and other fun classes, too!
Reno Philharmonic American Salute Concert: This free family concert put on by the Reno Philharmonic on Wednesday, July 4th at Wingfield Park is an event for the whole family. The park opens at 5 p.m. for you to grab a spot on the grass, and the concert starts at 7:30 p.m.
Barnes & Noble Kids Activities: Check out the calendar for our local Barnes & Noble Kids’ Activities. There are often story times, craft times, and activity times for children, all free of charge. View our local store calendar HERE.
Food Truck Fridays: Food Truck Fridays has launched back up for the summer! Take a night off from cooking and eat out at Idlewild on Friday nights this summer. With live music, rock-climbing walls and more, the whole family will enjoy a night out on the grass at the park.
Reno Sculpture Fest: This event, happening on July 14-16, is a fun one for the whole family to head outside and explore. The exact details will be listed on their website soon. Some of the past years’ sculptures were absolutely incredible!
Farmer’s Markets: It’s nearly Farmer’s Market time! I love strolling through farmer’s markets, checking out the stands, buying some fresh fruit, and talking to local farmers. Sometimes I don’t even buy anything, but it’s so fun to walk around with the kids!
Scheels: Don’t ask why, but we end up taking our kids to Scheels at least twice a month. They LOVE it. While you’re there, you can play on the free play structure in the kids’ section, look at the fresh and saltwater fish tanks, take a ride on the ferris wheels, try a free sample of fudge, play a game of bowling, visit the shooting gallery, check out all the talking presidents, and more. Buy a scoop of gelato, and then step out the back side of the store to enter the Outlets at Legends mall and play in the water splash pad.
The Nurturing Nest: If you have children on the younger end, you may want to check out The Nurturing Nest’s calendar. With some free play times just for toddlers, you can beat the heat while your little ones play, and you might even meet some new mom-friends for yourself!
High Sierra Gymnastics: Every Wednesday and Thursday, your 0- to 5-year-olds can drop into preschool open gym at High Sierra Gymnastics for just $5. Let your kiddos run around, tumble and have fun indoors!
Stewart Indian School Father’s Day Pow Wow: If you are looking for a unique activity to do for Father’s Day weekend, this event in Carson City at the Stewart Indian School looks amazing. Entry is totally free, and this is a fabulous way to experience American Indian heritage, history, and pride. A variety of vendors will be there, as well as raffles, arts & crafts, and competition dancing.
Last Friday in Downtown Sparks: On the last Friday of the month from May through September, you can view the museum, tour the train and the Glendale Schoolhouse for free from 5-10 p.m. You can even stay up late for a free movie in the amphitheater for the kids. Vendor booths, local music, and entertainment will be happening until 7 p.m.
Stars & Stripes Honor March: Head to the Sparks Marina on May 28th from 8-11 a.m. for the 2nd annual honor march. This march/walk around the marina will benefit the Nevada Veterans Memorial Plaza.
39 North Marketplace: Thursdays in June, July, and some August dates are included in the 39 North Marketplace. You’ll find farm-fresh food, local vendors, live music and dancing, activities for kids, and more at these events in downtown Sparks.