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During the summer, it's easy to start feeling like an "event planner" in an effort to keep the words 'I'm bored' at bay. But a summer full of camps and Disney trips can get expensive! Here is a list of fun and/or cheap things to do in and around Gainesville that will keep the kids busy and having fun this summer. For updates on all of the free and/or cheap events that are coming up on the calendar, be sure to join our 'Free and Cheap Summer Fun' event page on Facebook!
Fun4GatorKids Weekly Playgroups – Fun4GatorKids plans weekly playgroup at fun, family-friendly places around town each week! Some of the summer playgroups include a trip to the fire station, an exclusive splash pad playdate, and so many more fun outings! To get updates when we add another playgroup to the calendar, be sure to subscribe to the Events section on the Fun4GatorKids Facebook Page.
Florida Museum of Natural History – I've taken my girls to the Florida Museum of Natural History more times that I can count, but they always have a great time! The Discovery Room is full of hands-on activities, and you could lengthen your stay by bringing a picnic lunch to enjoy on the tables outside the museum. Plus, the special exhibits at the museum (Wicked Plants and the Butterfly Rainforest) are free to active duty military and their families from May 30 until Sept. 5!
Regal Movies – I'm SO EXCITED to hear that Regal Cinemas will be offering their $1 movies again this summer! The movies show every Tuesday and Wednesday at 10 am. Click here to see the movie schedule. The $1 movies kick off on June 14 and wrap up on August 10.
Free Summer Camps – Believe it or not, there are actually a handful of FREE CAMPS! You can see the 7 we have listed thus so far right here on the Fun4GatorKids website. My daughter participated in the ABC'S of Safety Kindergarten Summer Camp and had an awesome time!
Retirement Home for Horses – Every Saturday, families can visit Mill Creek Farm and feed the horses from 11 am until 3 pm. It's such a fun and peaceful places to visit. You can both pet and feed the horses. Just remember to bring lots of carrots!
Libraries – All of the Alachua County Library locations host wonderful events, playgroups, storytimes, music times and more for kids of all ages. All events are typically free, and you'll be able to get a break from the heat. You can click here to see a full calendar of events, which you can search by library branch.
Tioga Town Movie Nights – The Tioga Town Center shows a family-friendly outdoor movie the second Friday of the month. The movie is free for families, plus there is a great playgroup nearby if the kids get antsy. Just remember to bring a blanket and/or chairs.
Dudley Farm – While the summer months are HOT here in Florida, Dudley Farm is worth spending a day outdoors. The cost is $5/car, and once inside, you can tour this once-working 1800s farm and go inside the actual family farmhouse! The kids will even get the chance to try handwashing clothes and hanging them on the line and can try pumping the well!
Alley Gatorz Kids Bowl Free – Aley Gatorz is once again offering their Kids Bowl Free program this summer! Kids can bowl two free games each day now through October. You can sign up for program here.
City of Gainesville Summer Heatwave – Summer Heatwave, offered by the City of Gainesville, is a free summer programs for local teens. It includes activities like basketball and pool parties, and gives teens a place to hang out – the "Teen Lounge."
Playgrounds and Parks -We are so fortunate to have 51 different parks and playgrounds in and around Gainesville. Each park has unique playground equipment, like the face-to-face swing at Westside Park! Make to visit a new playground or two each week of summer!
Harn Art Museum – I once thought the Harn Art Museum wasn't a place to take my girls when they were younger, but then we attended their Tot Time and had a blast! You get a fun volunteer-led tour through part of the museum, and then you finish your visit with a fun craft to take home. The summer Tot Time Dates are: June 3 at 11 am (Rolling Rainbows); July 26 at 3:30 pm (Let's Play with Clay) and August 5 at 11 am (Let's Play with Clay). You can also visit the museum on your own time, or check out one of their fun Museum Nights or Family Days.
Report Card Deals – Once your kiddos get their final report cards in the mail, their good grades will get them FREE ENTRANCE to the Butterfly Rainforest and Santa Fe Teaching Zoo!
Devil's Millhopper Sinkhole – While it's outdoors, the sinkhole is heavily shaded. There are quite a few steps to maneuver if you want to get down into the sinkhole, but if not, you can always take the trail around the sinkhole. We have seen deer, snakes, and so many other neat animals at the sinkhole! To visit, there is only a small parking fee.
Public Swimming Pools – The City of Gainesville has three public pools in town, all of which only charge a couple dollars for admission. A dip in the pool, ride on the water slide, and time in the adjacent splash pad makes for happy kids that are ready for a nap after their visit. There are other community pools that welcome the public, including the YMCA and certain hotels. For more information about those pools, visit the site.
UF Bat Houses – Visiting the UF Bat Houses on the University of Florida campus never gets old. At dusk, somewhere between 40,000 and 70,000 bats fly out from the bat houses in search of food. It's an amazing sight! Just be sure to bring along some bug spray.
Paynes Prairie – Paynes Prairie in Micanopy is full of trails – both long and short – that take you through the prairie. We have spotted the wild buffalo and horses, gopher tortoises and more on our walks. There is also a lookout tower behind the ranger's station that gives you a great viewpoint of the entire prairie.
Gainesville Health and Fitness Free Teen Membership – Gainesville Health and Fitness is offering all Alachua County teens (ages 13-17) a free gym membership over the summer! Teens can visit up to two hours each day, and parents do not have to be members at the gym for the teens to take advantage of the offer.
Cellon Live Oak – The Cellon Live Oak is the largest living Oak Tree in Florida, and is located right here in Gainesville! The low-lying branches are perfect for climbing, and there is a large field under and around the tree that's perfect for a picnic.
Alachua Splash Pad and Lake Butler Splash Pad – Both the Alachua and Lake Butler Splash Pads are free and open to the public. Kids will play for hours in the splashing water, but when you are planning you visit, be sure to check the site to make sure the splash pad isn't closed for a private event at that time. There's nothing worse than getting everything packed and ready for a day at the splash pad, then to find out the pad is closed that morning. I know, I've been there.
Springs - We are so fortunate to have tons of beautiful springs, lakes and rivers just outside of Gainesville! Some springs have a small parking fee, tube rental fee, and/or admission fee. But you can't beat the price of a few bucks for an entire day of fun! Blue Springs has a large zero-entry area that's shallow for younger kids to enjoy. Other must-visit springs include Rainbow Springs, Poe Springs, Lafayette Springsand Juniper Springs. The Itchetucknee Riveris another well-known place for tubing, plus there's Bob's River Place(perfect for older kids) that has log rolling, a tall slide, and a tall rope swing. To see a list of ALL the springs, rivers and lakes in and around Gainesville, visit the Fun4GatorKids site.