When summer arrives, many parents welcome the lazy mornings, unstructured days, and a break from school lunch packing. However, after a few weeks, those same parents may find themselves desperate to get their kids out of the house after the hundredth repetition of the phrase “Mom, I’m bored.” And while Richmond has no shortage of awesome summer camps, classes, and memberships for kids of all ages, unless you want to break the bank, you’ll likely also need some free summer activities to fill up your days. Luckily, our city also offers plenty of completely free options that will keep your kids engaged and your wallet full.
While parks, playgrounds, and river spots are awesome, free, and open year-round, we’ve put together our five favorite kid activities that are available specifically during the summer months. To narrow down our favorites, we focused on the following factors:
- Activities/events that are free of charge
- Entertainment for kids of multiple ages
There’s no reason that a budget and summer fun are incompatible. Theme parks, summer camps, and private pool memberships are great, but they’re certainly not mandatory for a great summer experience. All kids really need to create lifelong summer memories are their imaginations, warm days, and time with the ones they love. So, turn off the TV, throw everyone in the car, and have some fun this summer – all for free!
In the meantime, if you know of any great free summer activities available in Richmond, be sure to let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. Free Summer Concert Series
Free summer concerts are the perfect intersection between adult activities and kid-friendly outings. The grownups can sit back and groove to some great live music while the kids run around, eat a picnic dinner, and spend an evening outdoors. And the whole family can enjoy the great atmosphere. Free concerts also tend to have a more relaxed, low-key vibe. As long as your children don’t run amok or scream louder than the act on stage, you’re not likely to incur the judgment of kid-free concert goers.
Why we love them:
Parents spend a lot of time taking their children to live acts that can give anyone over the age of five a migraine. So, it’s nice to be able to take your kids to see music that you can also enjoy. Pack a picnic, chairs (if the venue allows it) and some books, crayons, or games to keep restless little ones entertained. Then just sit back and enjoy the tunes.
West Broad Village
2301 Old Brick Road (The Pad near Aloft Hotel)
June-August, every other Friday (7pm). Live music + raffles & games + food/wine/beer for sale.
Short Pump Towne Center
11800 W. Broad St. (Main Plaza)
June 8, June 29, July 13 (5:30-8pm). Wine tastings provided by Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant.
Stony Point Fashion Park
9200 Stony Point Pkwy. (Triangle Park)
1st & 3rd Thursdays of the month (6-8 pm). Beer and wine available for purchase. Collecting new or gently used shoes at every concert for Soles4Soul.
Music in Forest Hill Park
4021 Forest Hill Ave.
May 13, June 10, July 8, August 19 (6-8pm), September 9, October 7 (5-7pm)
4. Free Kids Bowling Programs at King Pin Lanes & Bowl America
Bowling is as American a pastime as baseball and 4th of July fireworks. However, when the whole family goes, it can also add up very quickly in cost. Luckily, there are two bowling chains in the area that offers free bowling for kids all summer long. So, the next time it’s too hot or stormy to spend the evening outside, or you’re just in the mood to attempt a strike, head to either King Pin Lanes or Bowl America for a fun, active way to bond with the whole family. Just make sure your kids wear socks because those rental shoes have seen a lot of feet!
Why we love them:
What’s not to love about an activity that is free for kids, lets them unleash energy in a controlled environment, and lets the grownups sit back and enjoy a beer and nachos? At King Pin Lanes, registered kids receive two free games of bowling each day of the Kids Bowl Free program all summer long.
At Bowl America, you can take advantage of their free Summer Blast Pass, where kids under 12 also receive two free games of bowling each day all summer long. There’s also a Parent Summer Blast Pass where mom and dad receive one free game each when accompanied by a registered Summer Blast Pass child. With all of these incentives, there’s no reason not to introduce your kids to the kind of good old-fashioned fun we all grew up with, bumpers and all.
King Pin Lanes
200 Otterdale Rd, Midlothian VA 23113
5018 Williamsburg Road, Richmond, VA 23231
7929 Midlothian Pike, Richmond, VA 23235
4400 Pouncey Tract Road, Glen Allen, VA 23060
11532 Hull Street Road, Midlothian, VA 23112
3. Free Summer Programs at Public Libraries
There’s no reason why your kids should avoid learning over the summer. Continuing education over the summer break is an important way for kids to retain learning abilities, improve language skills, and avoid summer learning loss. There are proven benefits of summer reading in particular, and one of the best ways to encourage it is to embrace the library as a family. Public libraries in and around RVA offer wonderful programs and events to get even the most hesitant learners excited.
Why we love them:
In the era of Kindles and e-books, it’s comforting to know libraries not only continue to exist but to thrive with exceptional children’s programs. There’s so much on offer at public libraries this summer.
In Henrico County, your kids can participate in a free Summer Reading Club, which incentivizes reading with cool events and prizes. There’s also a NASA@ My Library program, with STEM programs for all ages, a coding club and a story drama workshop with Virginia Rep, among other offerings.
Chesterfield County offers a free Summer Learning Program with projects, prizes, and event, as well as children’s courses in everything from improv to machine sewing.
If you live in Richmond City, your kids can participate in a free Summer Reading Program with awesome prizes like season passes to King’s Dominion or a Great Wolf Lodge family 4-pack. Richmond libraries also offer fun programs like STEM kites and kid-centered ballet and yoga classes. All of these area libraries also offer frequent storytimes for a variety of age ranges. The best part? All you have to do to take advantage of any of these great resources is to sign up for a library card.
For locations of Chesterfield County library branches, visit here.
For locations of Henrico County library branches, visit here.
For locations of Richmond City library branches, visit here.
2. Free Splash Pads
When it’s hot in Richmond, it is HOT. And the only thing kids really want to do on these sticky, muggy days is play and splash in the water. Luckily, there are several splash pads in the area, and the great news is they’re free and open to the public. Whether you have a baby just learning to walk or older kids who can run and jump, splash pads are a safe, easy way to let kids of all ages cool off. And unlike a pool, splash pads require a lot less adult vigilance, so you may actually be able to sit on the side and relax a little.
Why we love them:
Kids love pools in the summer, but for parents, pools can be a lot of work. Between concerns about swim diaper effectiveness and worries about safety, grownups tend to spend most of a pool visit on high alert. Splash pads are a wonderful alternative that allow kids of all ages to play safely in the water and parents to tone down the anxiety. And with several locations around Richmond, chances are there’s a free splash pad in your neck of the woods
Battery Park Pool (Northside)–Pool and Splash Pad
2917 Dupont Circle, Richmond, VA 23221
Hours: 1-8pm Monday-Friday, 12-5pm Saturday, mid-June through Labor Day
Eastern Henrico Recreation Center Spray Grounds
1440 N. Laburnum Avenue, Henrico, VA 23223
Hours: Open daily 9am-7pm, May 12 through the end of September
Fairmount Pool (Eastend)–Pool and Splash Pad
2000 U Street, Richmond, VA 23221
Hours: 9am-4pm, mid-June through Labor Day
Short Pump Park Splash Pad
3329 Pump Road, Henrico, VA 23233
Hours: 9am – 7pm, through the end of September
Stony Point Fashion Park Splash Pad
9200 Stony Point Parkway. Richmond, VA 23235
Hours: 10am-9pm Monday-Saturday, 12pm-6pm Sunday
Twin Hickory Parks and Recreation Splash Pad
5011 Twin Hickory Road. Glen Allen, VA 23059
1. Free Summer Movie Series
Summer and blockbusters go together like sun and sand. However, with ticket prices continuously on the rise, it can be nearly as expensive to take a family to a movie as it is to go on an overnight vacation. Luckily, there are several spots in RVA that offer free, family-friendly movies all summer long. Whether you like to watch your flicks from the comfort of a cool, dark theater or prefer to sit on the grass and enjoy films al fresco, there’s almost guaranteed to be an option that’s fun, free, and just right for your family.
Why we love them:
Kids need to be active in the summer. That’s a given. However, they also need to have some downtime, and parents often need that peaceful time just as much. Free summer movies are a great, affordable way to combine screen time with family time and make it an experience that the whole gang will love. On rainy days, take advantage of indoor theaters like Bow Tie Cinemas, which offers a Summer Kids Series featuring movies like Trolls and Ferdinand. Or, enjoy a movie under the stars in one of the city’s many beautiful parks, with the Movies in the Park series put on by Richmond Parks and Recreation. And while it’s not technically free, Regal Cinemas offers $1 movies for kids all summer long. With all these great options, there’s no reason cost should keep your family away from the movies this summer.
Bow Tie Cinemas Summer Kids Series
Movieland at Boulevard Square, 1301 N. Boulevard
Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10am. Movie lineup here.
Movies in the Park
June 22 @ Byrd Park (Despicable Me 3)
June 29 @ Summer Hill Park (The LEGO Ninja Movie)
July 6 @Hotchkiss Field (Wonder Woman)
July 13 @ Jefferson Park (Cars 3)
July 20 @ Southside Community Center (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle)
July 27 @ Abner Clay Park (Stars Wars: The Last Jedi)
August 3 @ Battery Park (Black Panther)
August 10 @ Humphrey Calder (Spider-Man: Homecoming)
August 17 @ Forest Hill Park (Beauty and the Beast)
Activites start at 8pm and movies begin at 8:30pm (or as soon as it gets dark).
Regal Cinemas Summer Movie Express (PLEASE NOTE: Movies are $1)
Regal Short Pump (11650 W. Broad Street, Richmond)
Regal Westchester (361 Perimeter Drive, Midlothian)
Regal Virginia Center (10091 Jeb Stuart Pkwy. Glen Allen)
Regal Commonwealth Center (5001 Commonwealth Center Pkwy., Midlothian)
Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10am (starting June 19). Movie lineup here.
Make the most of what Richmond has to offer this summer without going broke in the process. These five incredible, free activities are the perfect place to start.
For more amazing venues, activities, and resources in the Richmond area, be sure to visit our Best of Richmond series!