When it comes to things to do in Seattle with kids, we’re happy to report parents don’t have to break the bank to keep them entertained this summer. If being frugal is on your adulting to-do list, we’ve got ten great ways to make it happen. From making friends with barnyard animals to free bowling sessions and cheap matinees, we’ve mapped out all you need to know to unlock adventure now that summer is finally here.

photo: Farrel-McWhirter Farm Park

1. Visit Your Favorite Barnyard Animals

Whether your kiddo is team Old MacDonald or Barnyard Dance, spending time with their farmyard favorites is always a hit. So bring on the chickens, cows, sheep, bunnies and goats! Although the programs at Kelsey Creek Farm are still on hold, kids can visit the animals outside between 11 a.m. & 3 p.m., daily before hitting the playground when they’re done. The same is true of the animals at Farrel-McWhirter Park, where you'll also find a grassy field that's great for playing catch or kicking the soccer ball. Make an appointment to visit the blind calf, Amelia, at the Sammamish Animal Sanctuary or grab fresh produce while the kids wave "hi" to the animals at Maltby Farms if your kids still want more moo, baa, fa la la.

photo: iStock

2. Catch a Flick

If May’s hot temps have you wondering what August’s weather will be like, we hear you. Beat the heat and enjoy some downtime with the kids at the Regal Summer Movie Express. For just $1 per ticket, families can watch their favorite movies (think: Sing, The LEGO Movie, Trolls: World Tour and more!) at their local Regal Theater (there are participating theaters in Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond, Renton, Tukwila and the Issaquah Highlands) on Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout the summer. Or folks can get their view on with the Cinemark Summer Movie Clubhouse. It's eight weeks of summer movies on Wednesdays at the Bellevue Cinemark at Lincoln Square, and it’s just $1.50 a ticket. Sounds like you can splurge on popcorn!

3. Spend Time on the Farm

When it comes to wide open spaces and free things to do with kids, it doesn’t get better than local farms. Take a trip over the bridge to Oxbow Farm & Conservation Center. On the weekends families can hike the trails, enjoy a picnic, shop the Farm Stand and maybe even happen upon a special event. Mary Olson Farm is another spot to wander and picnic when the sun is out. Both of these farms are free, but if a cheap, new-to-you farm adventure is what you're after, try the Pioneer Farm Museum and Ohop Indian Village. It’s a bit of a drive, but for just $5 per adult and $4 per kid, you can take a Pioneer Folklore or Pioneer & Native American Craft tour on the weekends with a reservation.

4. Make a Splash

Families will relish the chance to splash and play at the city’s wading pools and spray parks after last year’s hiatus. Whether you’ve got your sights set on a free water play spot that’s close to home, beachside or on the Eastside, we have a feeling kids will be more joyful than usual at these summer hot spots. As of publication, the city has plans to open eight wading pools and seven spray parks on June 26. The city also plans to open Coleman and Mounger pools on June 19. Although they’re not free, they fall on the cheap(er) side of family fun. It’s $4.25 per kiddo and $6.25 per adult to swim with a reservation. If you really want to make a day of it, these spectacular natural waterslides will surely impress your little adventurers.

5. Find Adventure on the Trails

Between the free days in Washington’s state parks and national parks, plus KCLS's Discover Pass check out program, taking the kids hiking around Seattle or on the trails of Mt. Rainier has never been easier. Add in the free programs hosted by Bellevue Park Rangers or Seward Park Audubon volunteers, and you can even learn something while wandering among the trees. It's the no-fuss summer plan your family needs.

We're also big fans of taking the kids on a PopUp StoryWalk. It adds a new twist to your trail adventures. Visit the rotating StoryWalk selection at Lake Wilderness Park to read a different story every month. The fantastic playground (and nearby Gnomes Trail) are always worth the trip, too.

Bringing your little pedal pushers to a local bike trail or challenging pump track is just one more way to enjoy the city’s natural surroundings when the sun is shining.

photo: Pinstripes

6. "Strike" Up Fun

When the sun is high and the kids need a chance to cool off inside, it’s time to head to a local bowling alley to take advantage of the Kids Bowl Free Program. Once families are registered, they’re eligible to play two games a day at no cost (note: parents pay to play). All you need is your game day ticket and you’re ready to roll. West Seattle Bowl and Roxbury Lanes offer this summer program in the city. On the Eastside, families can find the same deal at Kenmore Lanes. Strike while you can with this freebie!

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

7. Play at Local Parks

There are so many fabulous new playgrounds to check out around the city, so why not pack a picnic and your kite and make a day of it? Gorgeously blooming gardens are another family excursion that doesn’t cost a thing to enjoy during the summer months. Just think of the photos you’ll get of your Littles!

photo: iStock

8. Take to the Seas & Lakes

Ahoy, matey! When you live on the Sound, you’ve got to take advantage of it. And we couldn’t think of a better way to do that than with a beach combing adventure. Who knows what treasures your little marine biologists will find! If you want to find out exactly what they’ve uncovered, join a beach naturalist from the Seattle Aquarium at low tide. This free program is offered throughout the summer at local area beaches.

You can set sail with your little deckhands when you rent a free Peapod boat from the Center for Wooden Boats. Take it for a spin around Lake Union to see some of the city’s coolest houseboats and other sights from a whole new perspective. Casting a line is another great free activity for families (no fishing license is required for kids 15 and under). Try one of these local fishing holes—we promise they’ll be hooked.

9. Explore a Museum

Museums and kids can be hit or miss, so it’s hard to cough up admission fees for the wee ones when a melt down and early exit are a distinct possibility. Plus, with so many area museums on reduced hours, the city's Free First Thursday program isn't always a sure bet. But families can still enjoy some First Free Thursday perks at the Burke Museum, the National Nordic Museum and MOHAI (kids are always free here, but parents are free too on First Thursdays from 5-8 p.m.). Children never pay admission at SAM and the whole fam gets in for free at the Seattle Asian Art Museum on the last Friday of the month. Don't forget the recently re-opened Children's Museum of Tacoma that's always pay-as-you-will admission.

If checking out the fantastic new exhibits at MoPOP and the Museum of Flight, or seeing your favorite marine life at the Seattle Aquarium would really make your summer top notch, score free museum passes (yes, we said free!) through The Seattle Public Library and King County Library. You can’t beat that!

10. Find Art Outside

If you’ve got a mini art lover on your hands, find art in the great outdoors. From Seattle’s amazing murals and outdoor sculptures, to the looming installations at the Olympic Sculpture Park, it doesn’t get any better than hunting down these beauties that feel most at home outdoors. For the price of a ferry ride families can make the rounds at the Price Sculpture Forest on Whidbey Island. Its Whimsy Way is a real trip!

—Allison Sutcliffe & Kristina Moy

feature image: iStock


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