Not sure what to do with kids on weekdays off or on weekends! Don’t worry parents and caregivers, Phoenix on the Cheap has put together a list of some really fun FREE and CHEAP things to do in the Valley of the Sun, not only for your kids, but for the whole family. These year-round delightful destinations are not going to drain your budget, but will allow the kids to experience some fun and exciting activities.
Outdoor activities abound due to the gorgeous weather Phoenicians experience most days of the year. Indoor activities are numerous as well, especially for during those hot afternoons when cool air is a welcoming respite. Check out the list below for some great ideas to entertain the youngsters.
This list will be continually updated! Readers, if you find some other great FREE and CHEAP opportunies around the Valley not on this list, please reach out to us here at Phoenix on the Cheap!
Splash Pads in the Valley help you keep cool
Looking for splashy places to take the kids but don’t want to pay splashy prices? There are FREE and fun water features and splash pads for the whole family all over the Valley, and they won’t break the bank. Choose the best time and place for you and the kids to visit. Don’t forget the swimsuits, sun tan lotion, and plenty of towels. Click here for a list of spash pads now open.
Arizona Diamondbacks Baseball, what a winning deal!
Did you know the kids in your family can attend Arizona Diamondbacks Sunday home games for FREE during the season? The Arizona Diamondbacks offer a Kids Club for ages 15 and under. It’s a FREE program that gives kids prizes for attending home games, offers each child enrolled a FREE Sunday home game ticket, and allows children to achieve digital badges. Parents will need to sign up their children in advance. Click here for more details.
The Valley’s Public Libraries offer a lot more than reading
Each Public Libary in the Valley of the Sun provides not only literacy enhancement, but some fun and FREE year-round events and activities that engage children of all ages. Story time for the toddlers fascinates the little ones and exposes them to new experiences through literacy and learning. Summer reading challenges and activities come with participation prizes for all age levels at most of the Public Libraries in the Valley. Year-round, many of the libraries offer designated sections for toddlers, elementary-ages, pre-teens and teens. Children of all ages can also sign up for an incredible array of year-round events and activities, like music and movement for toddlers and robot building for pre-teens.
To check out what’s specifically available from the library closest to you, locate your city’s library homepage. Click here for a list of All Library Systems in Arizona to find your local public libary. This list is from the Maricopa County Library District‘s website.
More fun with reading — FREE Fun Kids’ Activities from Barnes and Noble
Check out this page from Barnes and Noble that offers FREE activities for your child associated with specific books listed for all ages. Use these activity ideas during time off from school or on a road trip. Choose a book at your child’s grade level and then sift through the activities on this site associated with that book to find the one that engages your child the most. Click here: Free activities for kids from Barnes and Noble
Culture Pass from Act One, it’s FREE
Culture Passes are checked out at your local libary and are good for FREE entrance into a varying array of local museums. Favorite destinations such as the Desert Botanical Gardens, Heard Museum, Superstition Mountain Museum, and many more are FREE for up to two people for one visit. It’s a little-advertised offering from the non-profit, Act One, whose goal is to invite all, no matter the financial ability, to experience the arts in the Valley. Check the Culture Pass site often. Specific tickets are checked out through your local library. Library Systems participating are at the bottom of the Act One Culture Pass website.
Please note, concert and play performances are usually included in the Culture Pass; however, only the museums are available at this time due to Covid restrictions. Check back here at Phoenix on the Cheap as this will be updated once performances are offered again.
Classes, Camps, and Swimming at a low cost
Don’t forget to check out your city’s Recreation Centers for low-cost classes, summer or holiday camps, and, of course, for swimming. Whether purchasing a day pass or an annual membership, your city’s recreation centers offer a diverse amount of choices for your kids at a great value. Sports – baseball, soccer, football, gymnastics, and tennis are a few choices the sporty child can make. Mindfulness, crafting, and even sandpaper pictograph art are other types of the unique classes cities offer. Classes, swimming, and competitive sports are offered at different times of the year. Check out the sites below for specific offerings in your area.
Free and Cheap Train Rides
Kids cannot resist trains, especially when the driver toots the loud horn! Whether it’s witnessing an intricately detailed and life-like model train set or being able to experience a breathtaking ride on a locamotive, trains rule with kids!
The Adobe Mountain Desert Railroad Park in Glendale is free on Sundays (summers excluded). This family favorite park embraces our state’s fascination with trains by offering an informative museum, realistic model train displays, and glorious train rides during the fall and spring. Don’t miss out, click here for more details: Adobe Mountain Desert Railroad Park
The McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park in Scottsdale has a lot to offer. The family can picnic while the little ones enjoy play structures. What’s really cool is the park displays a number of model train towns from a variety of model train clubs. These model railroad towns can be viewed for FREE. What’s even more cool are the train rides, which take place year round and cost $3 per ride, while aged 2 and under are free. Click here for more details: McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park
Valley Museums have FREE days
During the sweltering summer months, kids can enjoy the cool air of a fun educational museum. Many of our Valley’s museums have free days scheduled on certain days year-round. For example, what child doesn’t enjoy the tangly play structure and forest of noodles at the Children’s Museum of Phoenix, free every first Friday of the month. A beautiful and educational outdoor space for the kids to roam with their families is at the Desert Botanical Gardens, which is free on the 2nd Tuesday of each month. A place for kids to really explore different types of art, including very approachable and thought-provoking contemporary art, is at the Phoenix Art Museum. For a list of even more free museum days, click on this article, Free Museum Days 2022.
Additionally, not so cheap, but truly not that expensive is the well-worth visiting Hall of Flame Museum in Phoenix. Kids under 3 are free, while tickets for ages 3 – 5 are $9 and ages 6 – 17 are $13 each. An adult ticket costs $15. Kids can climb on vintage firetrucks, marvel at the history of firefighting equipment and engines, as well as honor those firefighters who have fallen in the line of duty.
Free Museum Days for Bank of America Card Holders
Thanks to Bank of America, if you’re a member with a Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, or U.S. Trust credit or debit card, you can visit selected Phoenix or Tucson museums the first full weekend of every month. Admission is FREE for the cardholder. Click here for details: Extra Free Museum Days for Bank of America card holders.
FREE Planetarium, spring and fall
Mesa Community College’s Planetarium is well-worth a visit, especially if your youngsters are enthralled by space. Varying planetarium shows take place during the spring and fall semesters for free on the first Friday of the month, which are the Planetarium’s Astronomy Nights. Learn about the constellations and the planets. In addition, kids can look through the large telescope! Click here for more details: Mesa Community College Planetarium
Gorgeous Valley Parks
Hiking is only part of the fun at these Valley of the Sun parks. Picnic, explore, and enjoy each parks’ unique attractions mostly free of charge.
Viewing the scenery at Papago Park as the sun sets is a truly moving experience and a favorie of Phoenicians. It’s hard to image our city without South Mountain Park, it’s good we don’t have to. South Mountain affords such great hiking and picnicing with incredible views of the Valley of the Sun. Winding throughout Central and North Phoenix is the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. Each part of the Preserve offers views of wildlife, the city skyline, and nature at its finest. Historic Saquaro Ranch Park in Glendale is in fact an historic ranch that allows modern day visitors a re-created experience from the old west. Visitors can tour the Ranch or just enjoy the vintage rose garden, all unique to this beautiful park.
National Parks are always a good bet for an adventurous experience. Check out this website for free days offered by our National Parks.
Be cool in the summer and throughout the year when you bowl
Most of the free bowling offered at different bowling lanes across the Valley apply to summer season only. For example, check out this website for free bowling at Let it Roll Bowl. Parents must sign up their children in advance. AMF Bowling Lanes (called Bowlero or Bowlmor Lanes at some locations) offer three games in one day for the price of one game. The AMF/Bowlero chain now owns most of the affordable bowling alleys in the Valley of the Sun.
Most bowling alleys in the Phoenix area are a great value when having parties for your kid’s birthday or special event. Check out the websites for AMF Bowling Lanes and Let it Roll Bowl linked above for more details.
Kids Club – at your local mall
Kids Club is a FREE song, dance, and learning program for the newborn to early elementary-age child meeting on various days at your local mall. The themed program allows kids to learn together while participating in entertaining group activities. Parents learn helpful and exciting ways to engage their child. Talented and thoughtful adults dressed as adorable characters perform and guide children through the dancing fun.
Times and places vary so Kids Club encourages parents to sign up on their local mall’s website before the event. For example, Kids Club meets at Arrowhead Towne Center on the first Tuesday of the month and at Superstition Springs Mall every Thursday. Check this out, summer dates, including a spash pad, are scheduled for the first Friday of the month at Santan Village.
Desert Botanical Gardens has FREE days too
A jewel in the desert, the Desert Botanical Gardens is really an outdoor museum. Let the kids explore, along with the entire family, the diverse natural landscapes, which represent desert regions from around the world. Even better, there’s FREE admission to the Desert Botanical Gardens, the second Tuesday of each month, and always FREE admission for active-duty military with ID.
Reservations are required for the free museum day on the second Tuesday. Look for Community Day Tickets on the website. (Advance tickets are also required for general admission.)
Hours vary by season. For location, hours, exhibits, and information, please click here.
The Great Arizona Puppet Theater
This is another Phoenix area attraction that can’t be missed, The Great Arizona Puppet Theater. The performances at this theater are amazingly creative, engaging, and interactive with the young audience. Stories portrayed by the puppets are imaginative and inviting for the whole family. A classic Puppet Theater performance portrays a talking saguaro where all aspects of the cactus’ wildlife have a voice. Participants are tapping their feet to the catchy song, Saquaro-Saquaro well after the performance. Other performances include classics like Rumpelstiltskin and a twist on the classic tale of Old MacDonald, portrayed with a whimsical plot and intriguing puppets. Most performance are $8 for kids and $12 for adults. Click on this link for more details: The Great Arizona Puppet Theater.
That’s not the end!
As Phoenix on the Cheap discovers more affordable and FREE attractions and activities, we’ll add them to this list. Check back frequently for updates.