Arts & Entertainment

10 cheap places to take the kids this summer

Brittany Randolph/Flickr

Swim lessons are coming to a close. Arts camp is over. Now what? While having the kids home for the summer is great, we know it can be stressful keeping them entertained.

Luckily, there are tons of cheap things to do with toddlers and teens around Southern California — you just need to know where to find them. From free museum days to aquatic centers and summer reading programs, here's a list of ways to power through August. 


(Photos: Steven Depolo/Flickr)

The summer heat is likely to continue through September. How do we cope? Bring on the splash pads! Jilleen Christian Singer at SoCal Field Trips curated this comprehensive round-up of recreational water play areas around Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties. Most are free. The others charge a cheap admission fee. Many of the options — like Grand Park, Coldwater Canyon Park and Sylmar Park — are perfect for picnics. Pack up the pouches, PB&J sandwiches and get out.  


Watch a preview of the show

Rogue Artists Ensemble is a collective of multi-disciplinary artists — and they're remixing Shakespeare for the kids this summer. Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and Macbeth. These are just a few of the plays the group will perform using intricate mask work, puppets and live music. The best part? It's free. Kids can brush up on their kid lit before or after the show with this handy study guide. Click here for a list of summer shows in Southern and Northern California. 


(Photo: Noah's Ark exhibit at Skirball taken by Noah Scalin/Flickr)

Discover LA has curated this sweet list of free museum days around the city. The Skirball Cultural Center offers free admission every Thursday. (Check out Noah's Ark!) The Autry National Center — which explores the American West — has free admission on the second Tuesday of every month.

The Huntington in San Marino is great place to get lost in European art and botanical gardens. Take advantage of free admission on the first Thursday of every month with advance tickets. Tickets for Sept. 4 will be available 9 a.m. August 1. More info here. 

Not to mention, The Getty Center and the The Getty Villa have free admission daily. (Full disclosure: You do have to pay for  parking). Both offer indoor and outdoor exploration. Be sure to read this guide before you go. It includes a list of free family events and activities.


(Photo: Skateland taken by michael/Flickr)

LA Weekly named Skateland in Northridge one of its "10 fun L.A. things to do with kids that don't suck for grownups." That is, if you can confidently move in skates. If not, they've got this class where the entire family can learn. The roller rink has been around since 1958 — and according to LA Weekly, "it's sparklingly well-maintained." There's a live DJ, a gamers area, rad lighting, seven giant video screens, a laser maze, pizza and free wireless Internet. Get ready for a family-friendly night of non-stop action. Find coupons here. 


(Photo: JustyCinMD/Flickr)

Arts and crafts without the clean-up. Who's in? A 30-minute craft session at Michael's Kids Club costs $2 per child. The classes — which include painting and bracelet making — start every half hour from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Saturdays. Give your local store a call for more details.


(Photo: City of Redondo Beach)

Hopkins Wilderness Park in Redondo Beach was developed in 1977 as a center for camping, nature study and conservation. The 11-acre site includes four ecological habitats including forest, meadows, streams and a pond. "Once you're inside, you'd never believe you're right in the city," wrote our Facebook friend Shana Reid Brady. It's a great place to take the kids for a relaxing day of outdoor activities. The park is open 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily (except for Wednesdays when it's closed). Click here for details. 


(Photo: ThomasLife/ Flickr)

Not in the mood to leave the house? Then don't. Incentivize your kids with this Barnes and Noble free book summer reading kit. Here's how it works: Read any eight books from the store's list, record it in your reading journal and then choose a free book from the its selection on the Reading Journal list. Here are some activity sheets to keep the little ones engaged while they read.

And don't forget, there's always the public library, says our Facebook friend Julie Ann Muzzall. Here's a list of events at the L.A. Public Library.


(Photo: Mission Hills Bowl taken by Kent Kanouse/Flickr)

Click here for a list of bowling places that offer free games. Registered kids get two free games of bowling daily — all summer long. 


(Photo: José María Pérez Nuñez/Flickr)

Our Facebook friend Elizabeth Potter Scully suggests Culver City Public Theater for free outdoor performances. Check out the Children's Popcorn Theatre noon Saturday and Sundays. "High quality, great atmosphere, very family-friendly," wrote Scully. Its summer show for kids, "The Quibbling Siblings," is about a group of brothers and sisters who put aside their differences to save a princess from a vicious dragon. 


Photo: Living the dream

Hansen Dam Aquatic Center is a 40-acre water recreation facility in Lake View Terrace. The facility consists of a 9-acre recreation lake and a 1.5-acre swimming lake. KPCC's political reporter Sharon McNary is a fan because it's "gigantic, shallow and clean." There's also ample grassy area for barbecues. Adult admission is $3.50; children admission is $1.00. Click here for everything you need to know.

A special thanks to SoCal Field Trips for all the great suggestions via Facebook.

Want to plan a day of activities at home? Read this for inspiration.

How do you spend quality time with your kids during the summer months? Let us know in comments or share on Twitter @KPCC. 

Bonus: Even more options