Summer Fun on a Budget

Summer has been full of fun, cheap adventures that have kept us happily busy!

I truly had planned to write up a bunch of fun 4th of July activities that we were going to do in preparation for the 4th of July but, that didn’t happen. Let’s be real here, it’s busy and doing a craft project just doesn’t seem to be fitting in with our lifestyle right now and I’m totally okay with that! The winter will be here soon enough and our days will be filled with crafts, books, and games once again. But for now, it is SUMMER! And we are going to live every moment drinking up this beautiful sunshine!

So you may be asking yourself what sorts of cheap or free things have been keeping us so busy? Well I’ll share them with you in hopes that you too can find some adventures in your neck of the woods!

Family Fun Runs

I am not a runner by any means. It’s just not my thing. Lately though, everywhere I look there is information about these fun different runs that people are doing! It just so happened the our whole family has now done two Color Runs! What is more fun that getting covered with a bunch of different colors as you run around together!? Look in your area maybe you all can go do an obstacle course through the mud like the Tough Mudder. Or what could be more fun than running through a bunch of inflatables as your obstacle course!  Usually there is a small fee to enter however, in our cases both were donation based events for local schools.

Making memories with family + Supporting a good cause + Being healthy and active= Major win!


Free Zoo

In our area there are a few different options for free zoos. Having the flexibility in the summer allows us to be able to go on more of a whim! We always try to shoot for a week day when the weather looks nice since it isn’t as crowded during the week. I pack a cooler with lunches, snacks, and drinks to help save money on food. We all wear comfy shoes and spend the day meandering around the zoo. Even the littlest one is in awe of all the animals.

As you can see, my middle child was not happy being so close to the mom and baby gorillas!
A face to face view of the grizzly bear!

Free Zoos near Eau Claire, WI:

Irvine Park

Como Zoo

Trips to the Beach

Nothing beats the beach on a hot summer day! Most beaches are free to the public or just have a small parking fee. I have a bag of sand toys always packed and ready to grab! We throw together a bag full of sunscreen, towels, life-vests, tubes, and a change of clothes. (Be watching Instagram to find out about the newest all natural sunscreen that I recently discovered!) Then we work together to pack a few food items that everyone likes! And of course being out in the sun we make sure to bring lots of water to drink! The littles can play to their hearts content and then nap on the beach when they get tuckered out! That is definitely one of my favorite ways to spend the day! These pictures were taken at Lake Altoona Beach, a great place to swim in early summer.


Bike Trails

Our area is full of different bike trails and paths to explore. Even if its just for a quick jaunt together or a longer trip that usually end with a stop to get ice cream, we always have a blast! The girls love riding in the Burley Bike Trailer and my oldest is building up her stamina to ride her own bike! Once again we feel good since we are having fun together but also staying active!

Good thing she has a little sis to give her the extra boost she needs every once and awhile!

Nature Hikes

Along with bike trails, there are lots of unique walking paths in our town to explore. And sometimes we find ourselves forging our own trails! The girls love to find different flowers along the way, as well as sticks, feathers, and other fun things to collect! We usually pack snacks in the stroller because as you all know, kids are hungry all the time! This allows for us to explore for longer periods of time. These pictures are from a recent hike along the Chippewa Water Trail.


Feeding the Ducks and Throwing Rocks

Eau Claire means “Clear Water” so our city is full of fun areas along the river to spend an afternoon. My girls could throw rocks in the water for hours! And of course we have to bring along any bread to feed any ducks we may see.

Treasure Hunting

Growing up we always stopped at thrift sales (or garage sales as some call them) whenever we went anywhere. As kids we would grab whatever coins we could scrounge together and come home with all kinds of fun treasures. It is still something my Grandparents, my Mom, and I love to do. Of course the thrill of finding unique treasures has now been passed on to my girls. My husband is not a huge fan but it has seriously clothed our children, basically filled all our bookshelves and playroom, and decorated much of our house! (Check out the cute lemonade stand I just scored here.)The other day it was my husband’s birthday and my four year old grabs her purse on the way out the door to lunch and says to him excitedly, “Do you think there will be any thrift sales along the way Dad?!” Of course it was a Sunday and it was his birthday so the chances of going treasure hunting that day were slim to none. I had to laugh at her excitement and the fact that the tradition had now rubbed off on her!

These roller skates were our newest finds! We found the brand new Frozen pair for $4 and the other pair at another sale for $1!

Trips to the Park

There are so many different parks around town to explore. Each one has something different to offer the kids. It has been kind of a fun bucket list idea of ours to write down all the parks in our town and try to visit each of them! I love to see how excited the kids get when we visit a park they have never been to before. If you haven’t checked out the new playground at Altoona Elementary School, we highly recommend it! They did a great job of survey the kids to get their input on what type of equipment they enjoyed playing on.


Free Kid’s Classes

Keep your eyes and ears posted for fun classes that are being offered.

Churches are a great option for fun summer activities. My four year old just had a blast at her Vacation Bible School Class this past week. It was free for anyone who wanted to come and have fun and learn about God! They sang songs, did all kinds of fun experiments, played games, and made different projects together! She gained so much from that week.

We have also found a fun free Yoga in the Park for Kids class that happens every Tuesday. The girls grab their mats and practice their poses with other kids. The leader does a great job leading them in playing games, doing stories with actions, and strengthening their bodies.

Another resource to check is your local schools and libraries! They have a bunch of fun, free classes that they offer for kids over the summer.

S’mores and Campfires

Evening fires and s’mores have been a large part of our evenings lately. We just finished up our new patio area and so we are spending a ton of time out there. Sitting around the fire is a perfect time to reflect on the day together and just relax. Of course, the girls are always thrilled to roast a marshmallow over the fire. Although it is messy, nothing is cuter than a kid devouring a large s’more.

Our first s’mores on our new patio!

Community Events

I love to check out the Events Calendar that our city puts online. There are so many great activities happening all the time!

Last week, on the day of the Summer Solstices, a local yoga company put together a large free event for the International Day of Yoga. They had face painting, vendors, and live music. Then they led a class for a large group of people. The older two girls and I went with some friends and had a great time! There is also free Yoga in the Park for everyone on Thursdays and Saturdays!

Booked on our calendar is:

  • Family Fun Day– a free event with live music, sports, demonstrations, exhibitors, arts, an outdoor movie, and so much more! This year we are excited to watch The Secret Life of Pets on the big outdoor screen!


  • Chalkfest– a free event where local artist spend the day covering the sidewalk with unique pieces of art. At the end of the day, the pieces are judged and awards are announced. They have fun chalk related games and food vendors out so you can spend the day watching the chalk artwork progress. The kids can also participate by adding to the kid’s sidewalk mural.


  • Dragon Boat Festival-watch teams paddle large Hong Kong style dragon boats along a 250 meter course.
  • Ski Sprites– We love to go on Wednesday and Sunday nights to Lake Altoona Beach to watch the Ski Sprites preform daring tricks!

I’m sure there will be many more spur of the moment community activities that will fill our calendar.

Strawberry Picking

I just took the kids to a local strawberry patch with a friend and her little ones this week! It was perfect! The baby was content pulling berries off the vine and stuffing them into her mouth. The kids were content eating strawberries and occasionally putting berries in their buckets. And we got to pick berries while chatting together. It really was such a wonderful time! And we came home with a pail full of delicious, juicy berries! These pictures were taken at Mcilquham’s Orchard.


I’m hoping to take them blueberry picking soon because those are my favorite to pick! They are seriously the easiest berry to pick and fresh blueberries are hands down THE BEST!

Playing in the Rain

Summer rains are the best time to go out and play! The air is warm and the cool rain is refreshing. Rain boots and “sumbrellas” as my middle baby says, are fun accessories that we don’t often get to use! Here is the link to score a cute frog umbrella like ours! I’ll be honest though, I got mine treasure hunting at a thrift sale! I love going out with all the kids and splashing in the puddles with them. We have splash contests and races. Best of all, occasionally Daddy comes home during our rain adventures and joins in, dress clothes and all!


Backyard Water Play

I love setting up water play areas in our yard. It is so much easier for me than to bring all these young kids to the pool.

  • I put up our pool which has a slide and sprinkler on it. (Another find of mine from treasure hunting that I scored for FREE!) I also bring over a small little tikes slide and put that into the pool as well. Then we fill it with ball pit balls (see more here). The kids could spend hours in this pool.

  • Another favorite is a simple slip and slide!
  • Turning the sprinklers on is another easy way to stay cool and keep the kids happily, busy!

  • And of course we always have our water table on hand! Here more about my love for our water table here.

Outdoor Music Concerts

On Tuesdays, Owen Park in Eau Claire is filled with Blues Music. Local food vendors gather and people bring their blankets, chairs, and beverages to relax and listen to the music.

Schultz Barn in Eleva has a featured band every Tuesday in the summer too. I actually just came home from there. It was just gorgeous! It isn’t too crowded and its set at a barn looking out over the rolling fields! They have a woodfire pizza company come and they also sell ice cream. You can bring your own beverages and just relax with family and friends.


Thursday, Pheonix Park in Eau Claire has their Sounds Like Summer Concert Series. 2,000+ people come to these every Thursday night!


Take a look in your community to see if they have any live outdoor music shows! It is a perfect venue for a family picnic!

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Local baseball games are a family event that can be enjoyed by all ages! We have our local Express games that we like to frequent. The kids have a fun time seeing the game, enjoying a hot dog, and doing the different family events that they often have. While we are there we also try to hit up the train ride that goes through Carson Park!


That’s what we have been doing…

And of course LOTS of play-dates with friends and family!

Do you have any family things that you can do on a budget over the summer?


20 thoughts on “Summer Fun on a Budget”

    1. I was actually just checking into helmets for the baby! I usually look through amazon and try to find the best reviews. I also like having the helmets with the padding in them so we can take those out as they grow for a more snug fit.

    2. Talk to your local hospital too! Ours does free helmets for kids 2x a year and they fit your kids with helmets and you get to have them! See if yours offers something similar!

  1. Summer is all about spending time and having fun with the family! There are tons of free activities we can all engage in. Sure, it would be nice to check in at a luxurious resort, but only if we saved for it. It would be wiser to put the money away for a college fund. It is making memories that count after all.

    1. Exactly! Every once and awhile we splurge on a big family adventure but for the most part there are some amazing memories we can create for free! Saving for college is a great place to put that saved money! After all it is super important!

  2. Great List!
    We do the nature walk a lot to find “treasures”. Sometimes with little ones – it’s about the little things!

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