Summer Freebies: Free Fun for the Whole Family – Updated for 2019!

free summer activities for kids

[dropcap]S[/dropcap]ummertime in Madison is chock full of great things to do. In fact, there’s so much going on, it actually can get overwhelming . . . and expensive! So, once again, here are a few of my favorite free summer activities for kids and families happening this summer.

For the most part, none of these freebies require registration or much planning (because who has time for that?). And most of them run all summer long. So, get out there and enjoy! Save your money for ice cream and sunscreen!

Take a Spin with Summer Spin

kid painting

Thursday afternoons from 3-6 p.m., bring the whole family to the Chazen Museum of Art for Summer Spin, a weekly event featuring live music and artistic adventures. This summer’s DIY line up includes screen printing, making art from found objects, and creating your own musical instruments. So fun! Summer Spin runs from June 6 through August 22.

Chill at the Moviesfree summer activities for kids

There’s nothing better than escaping a hot day in an ice cold movie theater. The American Family Kids Dream Family Movie Series runs June 16 through August 14 at Marcus Theatres’ Point Cinema and Palace Cinema. Get all the details and print your free passes (otherwise, admission is $3) at Insider tips: Arrive early to get a great seat–some shows do sell out. And don’t forget a blanket or sweater. It can get deliciously chilly in the theaters.

free summer activities for kidsOh, Hey, Anji Play!

Have you heard of anji play? It’s an educational philosophy for kids that focuses on self-directed play. And it’s also SUPER FUN! Let your kiddos experience it firsthand this summer with Wild Rumpus: an Anji Play Experience, an award-winning event created in partnership with the City of Madison, Madison Public Library and Anji Play.

Wild Rumpus runs on selected weeknights, 5:00-7:30 p.m.,  June 24-August 15 at the following parks: Brittingham Park (Mondays), Haen Family Park (Wednesdays), and Reindahl Park (Thursdays).

P.S. Bring a water bottle and wear clothes that can get dirty! 

Art Everywherefree summer activities for kids

The Art Cart, a joint initiative from MMoCA and MSCR, brings free outdoor art programs to parks, playgrounds, and beaches across Dane County all summer long. Families can drop in with no pre-registration necessary; programs are intended for children age three and older. With almost 50 locations, chances are the Art Cart will be in your neighborhood sometime soon. You can see a map of locations and a full schedule here.

Meander the Mercaditofarmers market

The Mercadito at Centro Hispano is not your average farmer’s market. Instead, it’s modeled on Latin American street markets. From traditional entertainment to activities for the kids, it’s a vibrant community gathering, celebrating our Latino community. Meander the Mercadito Wednesdays from 5-7 p.m. at Centro Hispano.

Ski Show Sundays

The Mad-City Ski Team is an award-winning water skiing team that performs free shows all summer long at Law Park on Lake Monona. Bring a blanket and snack and cheer on the skiers–including kids as young as six–as they show off their jumps and flips. Free shows are held most Sundays this summer, beginning at 5:15 or 6:00 p.m. Check their schedule for specific showtimes.

Hello, Birdiefree summer activities for kids

Explore and learn about the natural world with Madison Parks’ Bird & Nature Outings, held at various park locations on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the summer. Learn to identify plants and animals and just soak in the beauty that surrounds us. Be sure to wear comfy, outdoor-friendly clothing!

Dance the Night Away

Get out your calendar now. Got it? Okay. Block off every single Friday night in August (there are 5 of them again this year!). Why? Your whole family is going to shake your booties on the rooftop of Monona Terrace with Dane Dances, of course! Music begins at 5:30 p.m. and this summer’s line up includes Orquesta SalSoul Del Mad, The Eddie Butts Band, local disco fave VO5, and many others! Food is available for purchase, but you’re also welcome to bring a picnic. Blankets and chairs are okay, too.


Have a great–and cost-effective–summer, everybody!

Oh, and if you know of other free, kid-friendly things to do in the Madison area (especially recurring events that don’t require registration), please share them in the comments. 

Amelia Cook Fontella is a writer, teacher, designer, and entrepreneur. She lives in a cozy little house on Madison’s east side with her husband Rob, kiddos Frankie and Luisa, and a puggle named Starla. Amelia has an MFA in creative writing and regularly teaches in the Madison area, including her own Get Inspired Workshop classes. Amelia and Rob own Green Table Media where they help small businesses and community organizations tell their stories. Amelia adores traveling the world, exploring things in her own backyard, going swimming, and just about anything to do with creativity, writing, and the arts. She’s good at finding other people’s lost things and makes a mean brandy slush.


  1. It goes year round, but science Saturdays at the Institutes of Discovery is a favorite of my kids. It is the second Saturday of every month 10 am to noon.


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