School’s out. The kids are bored. You’re not made of money. Luckily for us, the South Sound is full of free things to see and do that’s fun for the whole family.

oly orthoHere are just a few ideas to get you and the family out of the house on summer days!

  1. Explore Titlow Park. On a hot day, there’s nothing better than a park with both shoreline access and a sprayground. Keep in mind that Titlow also has great trails too. Location: 8425 6th Avenue in Tacoma.

    Titlow Park
    The sprayground at Titlow Park is a great way to cool down on a hot day. Photo credit: Daniel Beers
  1. Go to the Chambers Bay playground. The “Playground by the Sound” is a great stop after a walk around Chambers Bay Golf Course. It’s a nice call back to the wooden ones of the 80s. Location: 4952 Grandview Drive W in University Place.
  1. Flip over rocks along the Kopachuck What kid doesn’t want to pick up something wet and disgusting? It might be a good idea to check the tide charts before venturing out. Location: 10712 56th Street NW in Gig Harbor.
  1. Go swimming at the American Lake Park If you’d rather have a beach where you can also swim, look no further than American Lake. The beach and parking are all free. Location: 9222 Veterans Drive SW in Lakewood.
  1. Go see a movie in the park. On select days throughout the summer, Metro Parks Tacoma hosts its Summer Bash & Movies in the Park Free family-friendly movies begin at dusk.
  1. Take the bikes to Point Defiance’s Five Mile Drive. For the younger ones less able to make the whole five miles, there are opportunities to cut the trek short. When you’re done, be sure to look for turtles sunning themselves by the pond near the rose garden. Location: 5400 N Pearl Street in Tacoma.

    Point Defiance Park
    Be sure to look for turtles near the pond at Point Defiance. Photo credit: Daniel Beers
  1. Hike the trails at Snake Lake and check out the Tacoma Nature Center. If the little ones still have gas left in the tank, the Discovery Pond playground area on the property is a fun place to play. Location: 1919 S. Tyler Street in Tacoma.
  1. Stop and smell the flowers at the W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory at Wright Park. The conservatory has more than 250 individual plant species, with 200 orchids alone. Admission is free, though there is a suggested admission of $3. Location: 316 S G Street in Tacoma.
  1. Park at the Tacoma Dome and ride the Link light rail downtown to check out the Chihuly Bridge of Glass. The 500 foot long bridge links downtown with the MOG. The ceiling alone has 2,364 pieces of glass. Many kids might just enjoy the light rail journey the most! Tacoma Dome parking garage location: 2433 East E Street in Tacoma.
  1. Explore Point Ruston. With seven miles of paved bike paths, the Ruston Way waterfront is a beautiful location for bike riding, and bike rentals are available at Point Ruston in warmer months. Don’t forget to stop at the Promenade Playground, where the big toy is modeled after the MV Point Ruston. Location: 5005 Ruston Way in Tacoma.
  1. Take a walk around Waughop Lake in Fort Steilacoom Park. There’s also a 22-acre off-leash dog park, so don’t forget to bring your furry friends along for the day. Location: 8717 87th Avenue SW in Lakewood.
  1. Wander around Freighthouse Square. There’s always something neat to look at in the shops that surround the 107-year-old building. It might be a good idea to bring a little money with you in case you or your children find something you simply cannot live without. Location: 2501 E D Street in Tacoma.
  1. Take your little ones to the Gene Goodwin Memorial Tot Lot. Tucked away next to Fircrest Park is a play area made specifically for the little ones ages 1 through 6. Location: 611 Contra Costa Avenue in Fircrest.

    Fircrest Tot Lot
    Fircrest’s Tot Lot is perfect for the younger crowd. Photo credit: Daniel Beers
  1. Take advantage of the free museum days in downtown Tacoma. The Museum of Glass (MOG), Tacoma Art Museum (TAM) and the Washington State History Museum are free every third Thursday of the month. Check their websites beforehand for hours and current exhibits.
  1. Volunteer at the Emergency Food Network Mother Earth Farm. This eight-acre farm grows and distributes 80,000 pounds of food to local food banks and meal sites. Mother Earth farm is always looking for volunteers Friday through Sunday until the end of September. All ages are welcome. Registration is required. Location: 3318 92nd Street S in Lakewood.
  1. Tune in for story time at the Children’s Museum of Tacoma. Every day between 1:00 p.m. and 1:30 p.m., a Playguide will read a story to anyone willing to hear it. Admission is free, though they encourage a “Pay As You Will” donation. Location: 1501 Pacific Avenue in Tacoma.
  1. Visit the Curran Apple Orchard. Throughout the year, the orchard hosts events, including the Teddy Bear Picnic in July, cider squeezes and summer concerts. Location: 3920 Grandview Drive W in University Place.
  1. Cool off at a sprayground or public pool. Metro Parks maintains spray parks in many neighborhoods as well as a couple very cool pools, including Pierce County’s only wave pool at Kandle Park in North Tacoma.

    Tacoma libraries
    Our local library systems always have something going on. Photo credit: Daniel Beers
  1. Get library cards. Summer break may mean no school, but it doesn’t have to mean no learning. The Pierce County Library, Tacoma Public Library, and Puyallup Public Library also offer museum passes, which get you in MOG, TAM and the Washington State History museums for free (subject to availability as the pass has to be checked out to use it).
  1. Spend a day at a national or state park. Lucky for us, we have Mount Rainier National Park in our backyard. This summer, all national parks will be free on August 25. Any Washington State parks will be free on June 10. But be prepared for crowds on free days!