If you look at the 80-some days between the end of school and the beginning of school in August and wonder how the heck can you afford to entertain the kids and family during that time – don’t despair.
You can introduce the kids to some classic movies, culture, art, the outdoors, plus do some fun physical activities, like bowling and skating, without doing much damage to your wallet. Read on to find several free and low-cost outings ($5 per person or less generally) to make those 80-some days of summer break go by fast.
Meander in museums
Wichita has no shortage of museums – with exhibits ranging from artistic to local history to other cultures and even an homage to Pizza Hut. A few museums are always free to visit and some have special free days and programming.
Wichita State University near 17th and Hillside has three museums – four if you count the 75-plus works in its outdoor sculpture collection as a museum – that are always free. The Pizza Hut Museum (wichita.edu/museums/pizzahutmuseum) is inside the first, original Pizza Hut building now located on the Innovation Campus section of WSU. Its hours are 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday and Friday and noon-4 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday. The Ulrich Museum (wichita.edu/museums/ulrich) showcases modern and contemporary art and is open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 1-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. You can see some interesting artifacts at the Lowell D. Holmes Museum of Anthropology in Neff Hall but get there this month when its hours are 1-4 p.m. weekdays. It’s closed June-August.
The art museum also has an 8-acre outdoor sculpture collection that’s always accessible for free, and you can get a guided tour of it every third Saturday from 10-11 a.m. On the fourth Saturday, families can make art during WAM’s Family ArtVenture from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. And here’s the scoop on getting some free ice cream at WAM: From 1-3 p.m. Saturday, July 13, the museum celebrates its 84th birthday with an ice cream social.
One of the less expensive museums to visit in Wichita is the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum, 204 S. Main, (wichitahistory.org) with admission prices of $5 for adults, $2 for kids 6-12, and free for 5 and younger. They also have some free programming and a free day to visit. Five summer “Adventure in Time” workshops in June and July for third- through 12-graders will focus on topics related to writing and history. Check the website for specific times and topics. With limited space, workshop registration is required by calling 316-265-9314 or email email@example.com. On July 20, the museum celebrates Wichita’s 149th birthday and if you bring a birthday card, your group gets in for free.
Can you name some of Kansas’ great athletes? If you can’t, visit the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in the Wichita Boathouse, 515 S. Wichita, (wichitaboathouse.org). It’s open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays and admission is free, with donations suggested.
Go to the movies
Outdoor free movie nights have become popular – and you save even more money because you can usually bring your own snacks and beverages. Remember to bring lawn chairs and bug spray if you’re watching outdoors. Most venues combine other fun activities, such as free music, with the movie nights.
Here’s a list of some free outdoor movie venues this summer:
•Exploration Place (exploration.org) has one more movie remaining in its free May Riverflix series: “Up,” May 24. Get there at 6:30 p.m. for other free activities, like face-painting and henna tattoos, or take advantage of discounted admission to see the science center’s exhibits. The special rate is $5 per person ages 2 and older between 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Riverflix night. The museum is at 300 N. McLean Blvd.
•Andover’s Capitol-Federal Amphitheater in Central Park, 1607 E. Central, (andoverks.com) has three movies remaining in its summer series: “The Little Mermaid,” on Saturday, June 15; “Captain America – The First Avenger,” on Saturday, July 13; and “Grease,” on Saturday, Aug. 3. Movie times are 7 p.m.
•Mulvane Library’s (mulvane.scklslibrary.info) outdoor movie night on Friday, May 31, features “E.T.” Food trucks arrive at 7 p.m.; movie starts at 8:30 p.m. at the library, 408 N. 2nd Ave.
•Goddard’s Linear Park is where The 99 band will play before “Aquaman” is shown on Friday, June 8. Music starts at 6:30 p.m.; movie begins around 8:15 p.m. The park is at 108 N. Main. (facebook.com/events/263250724555276/)
•Wichita Art Museum (wichitaartmuseum.org) is holding its seventh annual free Tunes + Tallgrass event Friday, June 21, outdoors with music by the Haymakers at 7 p.m. and “Moonrise Kingdom” showing at 9 p.m. outside the museum at 1400 Museum Blvd. in Riverside.
Of course, the Starlite Drive-In, 3900 S. Hydraulic, (starlitefun.com) is always a great outdoor movie-viewing venue, and it will feature at least two special carload pricing nights this summer. As part of the Tallgrass Summer Cinerama, the 1980 fantasy/science fiction cult classic “Flash Gordon” is showing Thursday, May 23, with $10 per carload admission. Its second carload pricing night is Thursday, June 6, as part of National Drive-In Movie Day; the movie has yet to be announced. Pricing for that night is $15 per carload or regular admission if your per-person admission would be cheaper.
If you prefer the comfort of indoor movies, remember you can see first-run movies on Tuesdays at AMC Northrock 14 theaters, 3151 N. Penstemon, and on Wednesdays at Warren Old Town, 353 N. Mead, for just $5.
Morningstar Church, 11010 E. Kellogg, (mstarcc.org) has ongoing free movie nights the first Friday of most months (except this July).
Derby Plaza Theater, 1300 N. Nelson Dr. in Derby, (derbyplazatheaters.com/summer-movies) has $2 kids movies showing at 10:30 a.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays June 4-Aug. 1.
Enjoy the great outdoors
If you want to learn more about the outdoors, the Great Plains Nature Center near 29th and Woodlawn (gpnc.org) is the place to go. It has lots of family- and wallet-friendly events. The center’s programming will teach you all about Kansas’ flora and fauna and introduce you to archery, bird-watching and even camping.
It’s always free to wander the nearby trails and tour the center, which has a 2,200-gallon aquarium with native fish and exhibits of tall- and short-grass prairies with preserved, native animals.
One special event is the free O.K (Outdoor Kansas) Kids day Saturday, June 1, where you can try your hand at fishing and archery, among other things.
If you’re a novice or inexperienced camper, try Camping 101 at the GPNC from 5 p.m. June 22-10 a.m. June 23. Cost is $5 per person or $20 for five people. They’ll even feed you dinner, s’mores and breakfast. Bring your own tent and bedrolls; there are a limited number of tents to borrow.
For times and other programming, like the free every-other-Sunday archery classes for novice and experienced kids and second Saturday bird-watching, visit gpnc.org/programs.
It’s always free for kids 16 and younger to fish in Kansas, but adults can fish for free too on the first weekend in June, so head to a lake that weekend and toss in a line or two.
Go a little wild
Visit the Kansas Wildlife Exhibit at Central Riverside Park at noon Tuesdays between June 6-Aug. 9 and you can watch the animals being fed and learn about the featured animal of the week. The exhibit, which is always free to visit, features more than 25 species, including beavers, red fox, porcupine, mink, hawks, owls and more.
The Sedgwick County Zoo (scz.org) has changed its Twilight Tuesdays programming in July from free admission in the evening hours to $3 admission per person all day Tuesdays in July from 8:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. with a special voucher. Pick up the voucher at a Cox Solutions Store; there are three in Wichita and one each in Derby, El Dorado and Newton. The voucher can be used for an entire group and can be redeemed multiple times during the month.
The zoo will have another $3 admission day on Saturday, Aug. 3, for its Back to School Bash.
Get some culture
Introduce the kids (and maybe yourself) to the opera, ballet and William Shakespeare– all for free this summer. These are mainly outdoor performances so bring lawn chairs or blankets, sunscreen and bug spray.
The Wichita Grand Opera stages a free opera at Bradley Fair in May and this year’s theme is Rock Opera, featuring some recognizable numbers from “La Boheme,” Elton John’s “Aida” and more. It’s at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 30 at the Bradley Fair plaza near 21st and Rock Road.
Ballet Wichita is staging a 45-minute performance of “Cinderella” for its annual Ballet in the Park series (balletwichita.com/ballet-in-the-park). It will be performed June 5-9 in parks in El Dorado, Mulvane, Wichita, Augusta, Andover and Haysville.
One of the Bard’s most popular works, “A Midnight Summer’s Dream,” is this year’s Shakespeare in the Park (wichitashakespearecompany.org) production that will be performed 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, June 6-23, in five Wichita parks and one each in Park City and Derby. There will be one indoor performance June 9.
The comedy includes a wedding, a play within a play, love potion mix-ups, fairies and more.
Stretch, swim, bowl, skate
Get the kids off the couch and head to a park or do some more structured activities like yoga, swimming, bowling and roller skating for free.
Grab a mat or towel and do some stretching with some free outdoor yoga classes. The Wichita Art Museum hosts a free yoga class on its lawn 9-10 a.m. the first Saturday from now until October, plus an evening class from 7-8 p.m. Wednesday, June 12. Get Fit Wichita is hosting a free morning yoga class 8:30-9:30 Saturday, June 30, at Central Riverside Park.
Enjoy a free swimming outing practically every week by taking advantage of free swim days at each of Wichita’s seven city pools: Harvest, June 2; College Hill, June 9; Aley, June 16; Evergreen, July 6; Minisa, July 14; Linwood, July 20; and Orchard, July 27.
Hit the lanes for two free games of bowling nearly every day through the Kids Bowl Free program. Five area bowling centers – Derby Bowl in Derby and Northrock Lanes, Seneca Bowl, The Alley Indoor Entertainment and West Acres Bowl in Wichita – participate in this national program. You have to register online at kidsbowlfree.com. Each center sets its own schedule for the free days and age limits for participating kids but it generally starts at age 2 and ends at either 14, 15 or 16. You have to pay for shoe rental, which is generally about $3 or less. Purchase a discounted family pass for up to four adults to bowl two games on those free days with the kids.
Get passes for kids 12 and under to roller skate for free at Carousel Skate Center, 312 N. West St. Sign up for the passes at kidsskatefree.com (there’s a $4 processing fee to enroll in the national program) and the passes will be emailed to you every week. The free skate sessions are on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons.
Try some new board games at a free come-and-go Bonding with Board Games night 7-9 p.m. Friday, June 7, at the Sedgwick County Extension Center, 7001 W. 21st.
And don’t forget to check the summer schedules of public libraries in the area. Most amp up their free programming to accommodate kids and families. Also, remember to check your city’s park and recreation schedule for other programming and events.
Groove to some music
The free family-friendly KEYN Summer Concert Series (wichitawaterwalk.com/events) is back with bands taking to a stage near the WaterWalk Fountain downtown at 8 p.m. Fridays, July 12-Aug. 16. The line-up is subject to change, but currently includes: Astronauts on July 12; Radioflyer and Across the Pond, on July 19; King Midas & the Muflers on July 26 and Big Fat Fun on Aug. 2. and Annie up on Aug. 9. You get a double free treat because the fountain show with lights happens at 8, 9 and 10 p.m.
For some free jazz, take in the Bradley Fair Concerts (bradleyfair.com/events) at 7 p.m. Thursdays in June plus July 4. The line up is: June 6 – Oli Silk, jazz keyboardist; June 13 - Joseph Vincelli, jazz saxophonist; June 20 –Brian Simpson, jazz keyboardist; June 27- Denny Jiosa, jazz guitarist, and July 4 - Celebrate America Concert with Grace Kelly, jazz saxophonist. Stay for the free fireworks display on July 4 for a bonus.