Keeping kids entertained during the summer months doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.
In fact, a variety of free and low-cost programs are available along the Wasatch Front from June through August that can help fight boredom — to say nothing of saving caregivers’ sanity. Here are some of my favorites:
Bowl for free • Children can get two free games a day this summer by signing up for the Kids Bowl Free program. There is a charge for shoe rental, which runs $2 to $3 per child, each time you go, but the deal still provides an inexpensive outing. Wasatch Front bowling centers in Sandy, North Salt Lake, Roy, Orem, Tooele and West Jordan are part of the program. A discounted family pass good for the summer allows parents to bowl free, too. Information is at Kidsbowlfree.com
Learn to build things • Sign up your children for free workshops on select Saturdays at Lowe’s at Lowesbuildandgrow.com. Home Depot offers free how-to workshops for children and adults. For more information, go to HomeDepot.com and click on “How To” at the top right-hand of the page and then “Workshops” on the bottom left.
See a cheap movie• Cinemark theaters along the Wasatch Front offer a summer series for children, with tickets for only $1 per person. These aren’t first-run movies — titles include “Kung Fu Panda 2,” “Happy Feet 2” and “Dolphin Tale” among others — but they are shown in an air-conditioned theater. Go to bit.ly/JSy5qH to see who’s participating and the lineup at each location.
Water Gardens theaters in Spanish Fork and Pleasant Grove also are offering movies for $1 per ticket. Go to watergardenstheatres.com, click on either location and then click again on “summer kids movies.”
In Orem, the SCERA Center offers movies for one buck, too. Details are at scera.org/events/view/62. And in American Fork, Towne Cinemas has a similar program with tickets running $1.50 each.
Freebies indoors, outdoors • In the Salt Lake area, admission to the Natural History Museum of Utah is free on July 9. You’ll need to reserve a ticket as early as July 4 at nhmu.utah.edu/visit/hours.
Red Butte Garden in Salt Lake City offers free admission on July 24. For details, go to redbuttegarden.org/free_garden_events.
The Utah Museum of Fine Arts offers free admission the first Wednesday of each month.
In Weber County this summer, you can get in free to a variety of attractions, such as the Treehouse Children’s Museum, the Ogden-Eccles Dinosaur Park and the Ogden Nature Center on various Saturdays. Go to co.weber.ut.us/ramp/index.htm and click on “RAMP Summer Saturdays” for a printable schedule of offers.
Also, admission to any national park is free on June 9, and members of the military can get free annual passes. Go to nps.gov for more information.
Many libraries along the Wasatch Front also offer patrons the opportunity to check out passes to state parks.
Listen to classical music• The Utah Symphony offers free outdoor summer concerts, including shows in Taylorsville June 28 and in downtown Salt Lake City July 12. For more information, go to utahsymphony.org and click on “concerts.”
Attend a “star party”• The Salt Lake Astronomical Society offers free public gatherings that showcase what’s visible in the night sky. Look through high-powered telescopes or have an expert show you what you can see on your own. Go to slas.us for a list of upcoming parties.
Movies under the stars • In a Utah tradition, cities along the Wasatch Front offer free movies in parks at dusk. Salt Lake City is showing movies through mid-July. Go to slcgov.com/node/462 for the lineup. Millcreek has a similar program that runs through mid-August. Go to canyonrimnews.org for more information.
Check with your city’s website, because many municipalities — including Magna, South Jordan, Sandy and Draper — are offering free outdoor movies sometime this summer.
Learn about letterboxing• This activity is like geocaching, but you don’t need a GPS unit — just your imagination. There are letter boxes hidden throughout Utah that you and your family can find using clues. Go to letterboxing.org for information.
Get rewarded for reading • Children can earn prizes such as a subscription to Highlights magazine from Sylvan Learning’s Book Adventure program. Go to Bookadventure.com for more information. Free books also are available through Barnes & Noble’s summer reading program. Get program details and print a reading log at bit.ly/MVRz3L.
Salt Lake County has a summer reading program with prizes, entertainment and a host of events for all age groups. Go to Saltlakesummerreading.com for more information. Other municipal summer reading programs can be found in Salt Lake City (slcpl.lib.ut.us/news/index/35); Provo (provolibrary.com/kids-srp) and Tooele (tooelecity.org/tcl/library.html).
Children who read 10 books also can get a free ticket to the Utah State Fair in September and a voucher for one free carnival ride and a small lemonade. Details are at utahstatefair.com/readandwin.
Lesley Mitchell writes One Cheap Chick in blog form at blogs.sltrib.com/cheap. firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @cheapchick Facebook.com/OneCheapChick