We are blessed to live in a city that offers many free/discounted activities for families. We are getting more proficient at keeping an eye out for these events, and actually remembering to put them on our calendar!
I highly recommend bookmarking the websites of some of your favorite places/festivals around your city, and checking them often. Most museums, zoos, etc. have websites where they post special events. Even some of the “expensive” venues (such as the symphony or ballet) that we would typically ignore, occasionally have a “special event!” It works for me!
For example, this past week we when to the “Children’s Museum” a fun place of learning activities for kids. This summer, the first Friday evening of each month is free admission. We packed a dinner to take along, so we didn’t need to buy dinner. Afterward, we stopped by Krispy Kreme for their Free Doughnut Day! (Apparently, we must not be doughnut connoisseurs, though, as they just just tasted like regular doughnuts to us!)
Earlier this spring, we visited the Japanese Gardens on a free admission day. Gen loved seeing the waterfalls, koi fish, and flowers blooming. The Zoo also has $2 Tuesdays on the 2nd Tuesday of the month, which many of our friends love to take advantage of (we use our membership pass- thanks, Nana!).
The State Park system even offered a Free Camping Day! (We didn’t go, as we wanted to get strawberries from a farm that day.) But we did go to a farm that allowed us to tour their barn with farm animals for free! (And, with the $2 off coupon on their site, you could get 2 lbs of U-Pick strawberries for free!)
In the summer, free concerts in the park abound, even in the small rural town where we used to live! (Such as this and this.) Last year, we realized that there was something going on almost every night (we didn’t go to everything, of course!). These are a great chance to introduce your kids to music that you love, while avoiding the high cost of tickets for everyone, plus it’s in a fun atmosphere! We love seeing little ones dancing on the grassy park lawns in the evenings. Our favorite family tradition over the past several years, has been attending the symphony’s grand finale of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, complete with fireworks & cannons.