Looking for affordable summer fun?

Summer is almost upon us and the traditional school year is coming to an end. If you’re looking for free (or nearly free) things to keep your family busy during North Carolina’s dog days, we offer some options:

–As Pullen Park amusements remain under construction for another six months, head out to some of Wake County’s other great parks for summer fun. Raleigh Parks and Recreation facilities offer a variety of art and community centers, playgrounds, green spaces and aquatics to beat the heat. To dodge the humidity, schedule picnics and play early in the day, and choose a venue with lots of shade or even a pool/spray ground. And if an afternoon storm cuts your pool time short, be sure to ask for a Sunshine Pass to return on another day at no charge.

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–Local libraries also are good places to keep cool. From crafts to homework help (for year-round youngsters), workshops, traveling exhibits as well as age appropriate story times and book clubs, the library is a family favorite that’s easy on your pocketbook.

–Kids bowl free this summer at The Alley on Hillsborough Street. Keep your youngsters entertained with two free games per child per day. You also can pick up a pass for up to four adults to play all summer for $24.99. Shoe rental is not included. Lane bumpers and ball ramps can be requested so that just about any age can play. Visit kidsbowlfree.com to register.

–The 2011 kids’ summer movie series will feature second run G- and PG-rated films on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10 a.m. Participating chains include Regal Entertainment Group (Beaver Creek in Apex, White Oak in Garner and Brier Creek and North Hills in Raleigh), Ambassador Entertainment (Mission Valley and Six Forks Station in Raleigh), Carolina Cinemas (Raleigh Grande) and Marquee Cinemas (Wakefield). Admission – $1 or free – varies by theater, and all offer concession specials on popcorn and drinks. Visit the individual theater’s website for specific dates and movie selections.

–North Hills Kids programs are hosted on the Commons at North Hills and include free tented open play and creative exercise. There are often appearances by special guests, coupons or other giveaways, a book club and rotating calendar of activities in conjunction with Midtown vendors and the North Hills Farmers Market. Visit northhillsraleigh.com or Facebook.com/NHKids for the latest.

–The next time you take a trip to the airport, check out the RDU Observation Park. Plane enthusiasts of all ages can enjoy the views overlooking the facility’s longest runway as aircraft take off and land. The park is located near the air traffic control tower and Park and Ride 2, and a playground with picnic tables is situated nearby.

–If museums are more your family’s speed, you’re in luck. Raleigh is home to the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences (11 W. Jones St.) and the N.C. Museum of History (5 E. Edenton St.), both of which offer free general admission. And while you’re downtown, check out $2 Tuesday nights – the third Tuesday of every month – at Marbles Kids Museum (22 E. Hargett St.). Also, the newly expanded N.C. Museum of Art (2110 Blue Ridge Road) offers the Arts in the Museum Park 2011 Summer Series, and the movie portion includes $4 seats to a handful of family-friendly blockbusters. Dan Zanes and Friends join the museum’s concert series, and the Children’s Performance calendar includes an array of entertainment, usually for just a few dollars, from June through September. Visit individual websites for more details.

The News & Observer
Jun 2011