I am all about finding stuff for free or cheap. My husband laughs because he sees my ears prick up at key words and phrases like "deal" or "free day". But hey, we have a big family and I like to be able to take them out in public once in awhile without breaking the bank. So, here's a list of stuff we usually do in the summer and I'll add to it as I think of more.
1. The Beach. *Free* This one is obvious, but we seriously spend as much time as possible there. There's a lake near our house with a shallow swim area, toys and sand and with enough sun screen and a picnic lunch we can be there all day.
2. Jetty Island. *Free* This one is donation based, but even putting in $5 (you don't have to donate anything) is a deal for a ferry ride to and from a nice sandy island off of Everett. Bring a picnic and be aware of the ferry times so you're not left stuck on the island overnight. Here's the website with times http://www.everettwa.org/default.aspx?ID=503
3. Jennings Park and Petting Zoo. *Free* Another one where we can definitely spend a few hours. There's playgrounds, a big barn and petting zoo, old historical buildings, a pond where kids can fish (I don't think I would eat any fish from there), a beautiful garden and many paths. Don't forget your camera at home. Click here for directions and more info
4. VBS. *Free* Pretty much the same as day camp for kids but it's free. And they learn great memory verses. Our favorite is always at Warm Beach Free Methodist Church, because they really go all out for this.
5. Museums. *Free* We haven't taken up on this because my little ones are still too little but most museums have free days every month.
6. State Parks. *Free* Besides visiting the State Park, there's usually lists of tours and workshops available to join. Usually they teach something that has to do with environmental conservation.
7. The Pet Store. *Free* I am sorry, but I am not going to be like my own mother and allow my kids to bring home any animal they would like. One cat is good for us and maybe a dog later and possibly some fish if they ever ask, but if they are interested in rats, mice, Guinea pigs, hamsters or birds they're just going to have to get their fill at the local pet store. They can also see all sorts of lizards, ferrets and snakes. If we read the labels on the cages we can learn about what they eat and what they habitat is like. The owners never mind us coming in to look although I sometimes pick up some cat nip for Rockey.
8. The library. *Free* Okay, this one is obvious, but sometimes forgotten because it's so obvious. Story time doesn't happen in the summer, but they have other workshops. I usually order my books online so they are waiting for me and I can focus on my kids there.
9. Seattle Center. *Free* My kids can play all day in that fountain. We never walk over by the rides and someday I'm sure they'll figure out that they're there, but then it wouldn't be free or cheap. We usually do go in the Center House and buy ice cream and watch the taffy being pulled. http://www.seattlecenter.com/
10. Hiking. *Free* and good activity. My favorite two for kids which are easy and lead to a good place are the Ice Caves up past Granite Falls and Clayton Beach up on Chuckanut Drive. Bring a picnic. If the tide is out Clayton Beach is a great place to swim because of the warm bay water.
We also visited the ice caves for a cheap anniversary date
11. Forts. *Free* I think there are a few forts around Washington but the one we usually visit is Fort Casey. We usually camp there with our church but we also like to go there as a family for a picnic and exploration. The kids love exploring the jail like underground rooms and my husband likes looking at the WWII era guns. I personally like the beach, the lighthouse and the beautiful view.
12. Festivals. More on this when I can look up dates and websites.
13. Free Kids Movies. More on this later.
Lastly I just asked my two little girls what was their favorite field trip. Emma says hers is the fire station. Just bake those fire fighters some cookies to thank them for the job that they do and they'll gladly take your kids on a tour and let them try on some gear. Ruby says that her favorite place to go is Grandma's house:)