Free & cheap summer activities / excursions for families with children – Low Calorie Diets Tips

Tommy Yellin, 5, and his mother, Lori Palen, enjoy toddler storytime at the West Regional Library in Cary in this 2017 N&O file photo.

Tommy Yellin, 5, and his mother, Lori Palen, enjoy toddler storytime at the West Regional Library in Cary in this 2017 N&O file photo.

N&O file photo

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Are you looking for more tips on how to save?

News & Observer’s service journalism team produces a free

with tips for cutting costs in several categories. We will add new stories often.


With inflation rising, we’re all looking for ways to save a little money and keep our budgets in check.

News & Observer’s service journalism team produces a free savings series with tips for cutting costs in several categories.

In this issue we give tips on how to save as a family (or activities with children) during the summer holidays. We will update this story with good tips that we receive from readers.

1/ Free bus rides for children

use the bus: Gas prices are tough at the moment. Did you know Triangle residents can ride the bus for free until the end of June 2022? And even after that, children under the age of 12 travel free on the regional buses. These include GoTriangle, GoDurham, GoRaleigh, and GoCary (since Chapel Hill Transit is free for all ages).

With the youth GoPass, riders between the ages of 13 and 18 can also travel for free. Without a pass, these passengers travel on the buses at half price. To learn how to get your pass, visit gotriangle.org/youthgopass.

(Plus, what kid wouldn’t want to pull the yellow cord when it’s time to get off?)

For our complete guide to public transport in the Triangle (including e-scooters, bikeshares and Amtrak) can be found at newsobserver.com/news.

2/ Free events, books for children

Happy summer reading in the library: Get your library card now if you don’t already have one! Sign up for summer reading programs and come back often for books, movies, and more—for free. (Many of our local libraries also offer summer reading programs for adults, such as Wake County Public Libraries and Chapel Hill Public Library.)

Stay up to date with your library’s events calendar. Many local libraries have stackable schedules filled with stories, crafts, bird watching, scavenger hunts, concerts and more.

For our full guide to using the free content in the Triangle Librariesvisit newsobserver.com/news.

3/ Save money when eating out

Make cooking a family affair: Restaurant meals can quickly eat up a family’s budget. Instead of eating out, use the summer break to make preparing meals and snacks an adventure. YouTube is a treasure trove of kid-friendly cooking videos, and your kids can use their library cards to check out children’s cookbooks.

Go one step further and have fun theme nights:

  • Play Italian music while the family prepares a simple pot of spaghetti.
  • Transform your home into a restaurant complete with fabric tablecloths, beautiful glasses and formal attire.
  • Try your hand at making baguettes and learn a few French words along the way.
  • Is your family competitive? Turn your kitchen into a Food Network cook-off and see who can turn Tuesday night’s ingredients into a decadent meal (and then enjoy all the creations together afterwards).

color me healthy has free recipes, a guide to making more meals at home, and more. Color Me Healthy is a partnership between the NC State Cooperative Extension and the NC Division of Public Health. (Info: colormehealthy.com/eat-smart)

And stay tuned: there will soon be a story with tips on how to save in the supermarket.

4/ Reduced or free cinema offers

Go to the cinema (during the day).: These cinemas make family summer movies incredibly cheap – sometimes completely free.

  • AMC cinemas: 30% discount on tickets if you see your film before 4 p.m. (Info: amctheatres.com/offers)

  • Cinemamark: Summer Movie Clubhouse is offering $1.50 tickets to select movies all summer long. Also get a $1 rebate on kid’s snack packs or any size popcorn and drink combos. (Info: cinemark.com)

  • Theater of stone: Admission, popcorn and drinks are $1 every Wednesday and Thursday at 10am from June 6th to July 28th. (Info: stonetheatres.com/summerkidshows)

  • Royal Cinemas: Summer Movie Express tickets are $2 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. (info: regmovies.com)

  • marquee cinemas: The Wakefield 12 Theater in Raleigh offers free admission to select family films on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 9:30am. (Info: www.marqueecinemas.com)

(Did we miss any local theater summer deals? Let us know by emailing ask@newsobserver.com.)

5/ Day trip, vacation by train with discount tickets in NC

Take a day trip by train: Amtrak’s $5 Child Special allows customers to pay a $5 one-way fare ($10 round trip) for children ages 2-12 with the purchase of a regular adult fare. The deal runs until August 31st.

A day trip on the Caroline or Piedmont trains can take the family to Selma, Charlotte, High Point and other destinations. To purchase tickets, visit amtrak.com/kids-summer-fare-nc.

Note: Although this discount cannot be combined with any other offer, groups of four or more members can enjoy significant discounts on train tickets. Visit ncbytrain.org/deals for more information.

6/ Free parks, paddling pools, playgrounds in the triangle

Spend time outdoors: And visit some of the Triangle’s many parks, playgrounds, historic sites, greenways and more.

Here are some of our favourites Triangular parks with playgrounds:

  • Pullen Park (Raleigh) – Fancy a carousel ride? If not, this historic Raleigh Park has pedal boats and trains, plus a playground, water sports center, arts center, athletic fields and more. location: 520 Ashe Avenue, Raleigh The information: raleighnc.gov/places/pullen-park
  • Chavis Park (Raleigh) — Other Carousel!? While you’re there, check out the playground (complete with a water feature in the warm months), art exhibits, community center, sports centers and more. location: 505 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Raleigh The information: raleighnc.gov/places/john-chavis-memorial-park

  • Children together playground (Cary) – The Kids Together Playground at Marla Dorrel Park ensures easy mobility for all. Landscaping and play equipment provide multi-sensory stimulation. Toilet facilities include adult-sized changing tables and additional space for wheelchairs and strollers. location: 111 Thurston Drive, Cary The information: kidstogethercary.org

For a complete guide to parks with playgrounds (and other outdoor activities to check off your summer bucket list), visit newsobserver.com/living.

Dig out your bathing suit and go to a splash guard in the triangle. Here are some free ones:

  • The Taylor Street Park Sprayground is located at 416 N Taylor St. in Wake Forest. It’s free and open to the public. Visit wakeforestnc.gov for hours and more information.

  • That Eva E. Ennis Splash Pad Located at 502 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. at Smithfield. It is open Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, and gaming is unsupervised. Visit johnstonnc.com for hours and more information.

For a complete guide to public pools, paddling pools and splash pads, visit newsobserver.com/living. Not all of these activities are free, but many only cost a few dollars.

7/ Free and cheap bowling

Lace up your bowling shoes: And enjoy free or discount bowling this summer. Check out these programs:

(Did we miss local summer bowling deals? Let us know by emailing ask@newsobserver.com.)

8/ Free or cheap museums for the family / children

Go to a museum: And plan your visit so that your tickets are free.

Here are some museums that are always free:

Some museums have free or reduced admission from time to time:

  • Durham Museum of Life and Science: On Durham Community Days, Durham residents can enter the museum free of charge with proof of residence. (Info: lifeandscience.org/visit/durham-community-days)
  • Marble Children’s Museum in Raleigh: Through the Museums on Us program, Bank of America, Merill, and Bank of America Private Bank cardholders can receive a free admission ticket on the first clear weekend of each month. (Info: marmorskidsmuseum.org/BankofAmerica)
  • Kidzu Children’s Museum in Chapel Hill: Kidzu offers a range of free activities for children throughout the month. Garden Parties are held every third Friday of the month, Junior Gardeners are held every Thursday morning, and Sensory Friendly After Hours Nights are held every third Wednesday of the month for children with developmental or intellectual disabilities. (Info: kidzuchildrensmuseum.org/calendar)

(Did we miss local museum offerings? Let us know by emailing ask@newsobserver.com.)

9/ Free live music, summer concerts for the family in NC

Add family-friendly concerts to your calendar: And check websites regularly for updated listings of shows and events.

Here are some concert series taking place throughout the summer:

To keep the evening free, pack sandwiches and snacks so you don’t buy food truck bites. Just think of your bug spray!

(Did we miss a free summer concert series at the Triangle? Let us know by emailing ask@newsobserver.com.)

10/ Free kids activities in Raleigh this summer

Go to Dorothea Dix Park: And take advantage of all the free activities that take place there throughout the summer. There are walking tours, fitness classes, arts and crafts events, sky gazing nights and more.

For a full list of events, see the calendar: dixpark.org/calendar.

11/ Free Summer Outdoor Movies for Family in NC

Pop some popcorn and pack beach chairs: For a night under the stars… and in front of the projector. Outdoor films are held throughout the Triangle, and many of them are free.

Here are a few outdoor film series in the triangle:

Share your savings tips with us

Do you have a tip for saving? Let us know in the form below, or try accessing the form here.

We might use your tips in a future story.

This story was originally published Jun 16, 2022 1:59 p.m.

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Kimberly Cataudella (she/she) is a service journalism reporter for The News & Observer.

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