Making Our Summer Activity List (More) Affordable

Let’s face it: Summer as I knew it as a kid is vastly different from the summer that my kids have come to know. My summers were filled with play dates, lazing by the pool, trips to the movies and amusement parks, and a healthy amount of boredom.  But, as the young children of a mom who works full-time throughout the summer, my kids will mostly be spending the summer at day camp.  Although the price tag for both kids to attend camp all summer was like a punch in the gut, I feel blessed that I can provide them with an opportunity to kayak, swim, and be with their school friends while I am at work.

But, I want to be able to enjoy summer with them too. I am not ready for it to pass us by as we maintain our status quo even in the summer.  I made a list of traditional day/weekend activities that I enjoyed as a kid for us to do this summer, but after all the money that I spent to send my kids to camp plus our summer vacation, I had to find ways to make those activities as affordable as possible. Here is my list:


I love taking my kids to museums, particularly on rainy days in the summer. I like that we can spend the entire day looking at exhibits and learning new things together.  But, the cost of admission to some of our favorite museums is steep.  Luckily most libraries offer discounted museum passes to library card holders for a variety of attractions including the Basketball Hall of Fame, Children’s Museum, Mystic Seaport, KidCity, Connecticut Science Center, New England Air Museum, and the Peabody Museum.  While some passes need to be picked up and returned in person to the library, others can be printed easily from the library website.


My kids love the zoo. Here are some tips for keeping the cost down that we have used recently.  First, my local library offers passes for the Beardsley Zoo.  With the passes, the cost is only $5 per person for up to six people.  For my family of four, we were able to enjoy the zoo for only $20!!!  This zoo is on the smaller side and perfect for my young kids.  Plus, Beardsley Zoo offers a number of discounts for active-duty military and veterans and their families.

We are also planning on going to the Bronx Zoo this summer, and Wednesdays in the summer are free admission all day. Their website asks that guests enjoying the zoo on free admission days “Please consider making a donation to help support our operation costs, and to aid our work in caring for animals,” but no set amount is required.  As you can imagine, free admission days can be very busy, but still enjoyable.

Amusement Parks

I have many friends who buy season’s passes to some of the local amusement parks, as the season pass often pays for itself in just three visits, and if you are able and willing to go to the amusement park that often, definitely do it. I, on the other hand, generally start summer with the intention of going several times, but before I know it, summer is over and we only went once.  One of my favorite affordable ways to get my young kids to an amusement park is by going to Quassy Amusement Park in Middlebury on Saturday nights from 5pm-10pm. The cost of admission is $50 for an entire carload, up to 10 persons safely seated in one car, and that includes parking.  Although I have found that the evening can be a bit chilly for the water slides, my kids do not care.  We hit up the water area for the first hour, change, and have plenty of time to enjoy the rest of the rides before closing.

This one is a little less affordable, but worthy of a plug: For those looking to travel to an amusement park for the weekend, I also want to suggest Sesame Place in Pennsylvania.  Still, Sesame Place has partnerships with a number of hotels that offer package discounts, and if you book online ahead of your stay, you can receive fairly substantial discounts on your park tickets alone. Although the park is generally geared toward a younger crowd, there’s plenty to do and the waterpark is great.  And a new bonus: Sesame Place is now the first theme park in the world to be designated as a Certified Autism Center. What does this mean?  It means that the park staff are trained in sensory awareness, motor skills, autism overview, and social skills, and the park itself offers quiet rooms, low-sensory stimulation areas, and noise-cancelling headphones among other things.  And, there is now a great deal of information on their website about the rides and activities to help parents decide what may or may not be a good fit for their children.

The Movies

My kids love to go to the movies, but the prices are astronomical, making it a treat that we do not get to do together often. And, while we generally try to enjoy matinee prices or bargain nights whenever possible to see the newest movies, I am also excited to take my kids to the Southington Drive-In movie theater this year.  I grew up in Southington and remember sitting in my pajamas in my mother’s station wagon eating snacks and watching movies as a child.  It was so fun.  So, I am psyched that the classic Drive-In, one of only a few remaining in the state, reopened several years back.  According to their website, “the theater is the only community-owned and volunteer operated facility in the state,” with “all proceeds distributed to our host civic and non-profit organizations.”  Movies run every Saturday night throughout the summer beginning at sunset (gates open at 6 p.m.), and the 2018 schedules boasts a variety of newer and classic family movies.  Prices start at $10 per carload for Southington residents, $15 per carload for non-residents.  You can bring lawn chairs, your own snacks, or even purchase snacks on site.

Getting Wet

We have an inflatable waterslide, water balloons, and a sprinkler at our house, but that is the extent of our get-wet activities at our home. So, for most of summer, when we want to get wet, we hit up various splash pads across the state.  We also sign up for the pass to our city pool.  Many towns offer pool passes, and for us, it is totally worth it.  We pay $25 for our entire family to use the pool for the summer.

Another option that I am exploring this year is enjoying a night at one of the many indoor water parks in New England. This may sound silly because you can get wet outside during the summer, but we have been to two different indoor water parks (although during the winter) and had a great time at both.  Plus, the prices are significantly reduced in the summer months.  Why not enjoy a night away and get wet?

Our Other Favorites

Some other inexpensive activities that we enjoy all summer include picking fruit from our local orchard, visiting parks across the state, hiking, bike riding, checking out some of the cool castles that CT has, taking a ferry ride, and visiting farms.

There you have it. My family’s summer plans without breaking the bank.  What are some affordable summer activities that your family loves?

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