15 Family Entertainment Ideas for Tight Budgets

You can create a fun and memorable evening with family on a budget. Here’s a list packed with tips and ideas to have a good time with family for free or cheap. 

Visit A National Park

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The US has several national parks and forests that offer free admission and opportunities for outdoor recreation. You can try hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, and camping.

Opt for shorter, scenic trails like the Junior Ranger Discovery Hike at Grand Canyon National Park or the Redwood Creek Nature Trail in Redwood National Park. You can find a list of national parks and forests near you on the National Park Service website


Father and his daughter using telescope to look at stars while sitting in camping tent indoors
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Find a dark spot away from city lights and lie on a blanket to gaze at the stars. To make it a fun learning activity, you can use a stargazing app or book to help you identify constellations. You can research upcoming meteor showers and plan your stargazing around them. 

If you want a true learning experience, look for local astronomy clubs or observatories that host public stargazing nights. 

Have A Picnic In The Park

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Pack a basket of delicious treats and head to your local park for a fun afternoon. To make it even better, you can host a theme picnic. For a pirate-themed picnic, you can play games like a treasure hunt or prepare fairy-inspired treats for a whimsical picnic. 

You can stick to regular games like frisbee throwing or soccer if not themed. 

Go For A Hike Or Bike Ride

Senior couple hiking in natural landscape

Hiking and biking are great ways to get exercise and enjoy the outdoors. They can also be a great family activity. Use resources like AllTrails or TrailLink to find trails suitable for your family’s age and experience. 

Start with shorter, more accessible trails if you’re new to hiking or biking with kids. Pack plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, insect repellent, and first-aid essentials to stay safe. 

Visit A Free Museum Or Zoo

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Many museums and zoos offer free admission on designated days or evenings. Use them and plan a free entertainment day for the whole family. 

Start by researching “free admission days” for museums and zoos in your area. 

You can also browse museums at MuseumFinder and zoos at Americanzoos to see what exhibits are currently on display and choose ones that pique your family’s interest. 

Play Games At Home

Playful family playing video games together in living room.
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You must have some board games or card games at home. Use them to plan a fun games night at home. If you don’t have any, you can buy one for cheap. You can also play games like dumb charades, pictionary, or others that don’t require you to buy anything. 

Go To Free Concerts Or Carnivals 

BRISTOL, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM - Jun 29, 2019: Irish indie folk band Villagers in performance at the Bristol Sounds Festival, Bristol, England. June 29 2019.
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Look for free outdoor concerts or carnivals going on in your locality. Many communities host such free events during vacations and before the onset of the winter. Check local listings, parks departments, or community centers for upcoming jams. 

Have A Movie Night

Tokyo, Japan, 3 November 2023: Urban Street Scene with Movie Advertisement Banners
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Movie nights are the best and easiest way to have a cheap yet entertaining time with your family. Gather blankets, pillows, and popcorn for a cinematic adventure at home. 

Watch a favorite pick of all time or explore new releases; options are endless. You can dress up like the movie characters to make it even more fun. 

Do A Craft Project

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Doing craft projects with family is not only fun but is also a great bonding exercise. This can be great if you have kids of different ages who need some push to get along. 

From tie-dyeing shirts to building cardboard castles, the possibilities are endless. You can also make props that you can use as decor in the coming holidays. 

Arrange A Talent Show

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If you are having a big family gathering, something like a talent show will be epic. Organize a family talent show where everyone gets to showcase their unique skills. Singing, dancing, jokes, magic tricks everything counts. 

Volunteer Together In A Charity Event

Volunteers with garbage bags cleaning up garbage outdoors - ecology concept.
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Community or charity events are a great way of giving back to society and can be fun, too. There are countless ways to contribute and spark social awareness, from planting trees at a local park to helping at an animal shelter or volunteering at the soup kitchen. Many organizations need help, so you can find one that fits your interests well.

Visit A Local Library

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Libraries are an excellent resource for free books, movies, music, and more. They also often host events and programs that are free or low-cost. You can explore diverse book collections, attend captivating storytimes, or participate in engaging workshops.  

Go For A Swim

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If you live near a beach, lake, or pool, go for a swim. Swimming is a great way to cool off and have fun. You can build sandcastles, kayak across serene waters or simply splash around; water activities offer endless laughter and joyful memories.

Have A Campfire

camping, travel, tourism, hike and people concept - happy family sitting on bench and taking picture with smartphone on selfie stick at campfire in woods
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Campfires can be a great family activity on a budget if you have a backyard. You can roast marshmallows and tell stories around a campfire. If not marshmallow, you can also try barbeque, the choice is all yours. 

Build A Fort

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If nothing else, you can build a fort in your living room and have fun with your young ones. Get some pillows, chairs, sheets, and blankets; you have everything you need. Add secret passages and cozy nooks for storytelling, games, and imaginative adventures.

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