🔒 FREE, low-cost and low-key: 8 Houston things to do with kids this summer that won’t break the bank

File image of a child at the beach (Pixabay)

Summer just started, yet somehow you’ve already run out of ideas to keep the kids busy? Worry not. Here, we offer some low-key, low-cost suggestions that won’t break the bank.

🌊 Spend a day at your favorite beach

GALVESTON, TX - MAY 01: People sunbathe on the beach in Galveston, Texas. (Photo by Callaghan O'Hare/Getty Images) (2020 Getty Images)

Once the temperature soars into the triple digits, there’s nothing to do but melt -- or head to the water. Luckily, there are plenty of options in the area.

Here, locals share their favorite sandy spots. And here, we list some less well-known beaches sure to please the crowd-averse.

🎨 Visit a new museum, or explore an old favorite

UNITED STATES - AUGUST 09: CAMH, the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, Texas (Photo by Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images) (Getty)

Many of Houston’s museums are expensive, it’s true. But on any given day, you and your family can enjoy art without spending a dime.

Some museums offer free admission every day or on specific days. Others offer very low admission fees.

We’ve compiled a list of 25 Houston museums that have no admission fee, charge $6 or less, or offer free admission on certain days.

🚢 Take a free boat tour of the Houston Ship Channel

Sam Houston Boat Tour (Image courtesy of Port of Houston)

The Port of Houston Authority offers free boat tours.

Operated by the Port of Houston Authority, the M/V Sam Houston offers tours along the Houston Ship Channel, the 52-mile-long, 530-foot-wide waterway that connects the port to Galveston Bay. The 100-passenger Sam Houston has operated as Port Houston’s public tour vessel since its inaugural voyage on July 30, 1958. During leisurely, 90-minute roundtrip tours, passengers learn about the port and the maritime industry while enjoying passing views of international cargo vessels and operations at the port’s Turning Basin Terminal.

Sam Houston Boat Tours depart from 7300 Clinton Dr. in Houston. Reservations are required. Call (713) 670-2416; porthouston.com.

🎳 Strike up some family fun at a local bowling alley

File image of a bowling alley (Canva/KPRC 2)

May through August, kids can bowl for free at select Houston-area bowling alleys as part of the Kids Bowl Free program.

Bowling centers participating in the program are providing kids ages 2 to 15 two free bowling games each day through the end of the summer.

Parents can register their children at kidsbowlfree.com. Simply select the bowling center nearest you and fill out the online registration form. During the registration process, parents have the opportunity to purchase a family pass. For a one-time cost (prices start at $34.99), the family pass allows up to four adults to bowl alongside their children each day throughout the summer.

Here’s a list of the local bowling centers participating in the program.

🍿 Watch movies on the cheap at these screenings

File image of children watching a movie (Canva/KPRC 2)

From June through August, families can enjoy discounted admission to select movie screenings as part of a handful of kid-friendly summer movie series being held at several Houston-area theaters.

💦 Cool off at these free, low-cost splash pads, spray grounds and waterparks

Pirates Bay Waterpark (JPP PHOTOGRAPHY 2021)

Spend a blistering summer afternoon at one of these 50 free, low-cost splash pads, spray grounds and waterparks in the Houston area. They’re a great go-to source for free and low-cost family summer fun and a great option if you’re not up for a full-fledged beach trip.

🎭 Watch a free performance at Miller Outdoor Theatre

Miller Outdoor Theatre (Image courtesy of Miller Outdoor Theatre)

Located on nearly eight acres in the heart of Hermann Park, Miller Outdoor Theatre’s eight-month season of professional, culturally diverse entertainment is free of charge to the public.

The venue’s lineup includes both daytime and evening performances of classical music, jazz, ethnic music and dance, ballet, Shakespeare, musical theatre, popular concert artists, and film screenings. Here’s what’s happening at the Miller Outdoor Theatre in June and July.

🌳 Visit a state park

Brazos Bend State Park (Brazos Bend State Park)

Want to escape the hubbub of the city, maybe grab some fresh air and commune with nature but don’t have enough energy, cash or vacation days, to trek out to the middle of nowhere?

Take a day trip or weekend getaway to one of the many Texas state parks in and around the Houston area. Here’s a list of nine state parks closest to us. At these parks, admission costs $5-7 for adults. Children ages 12 and under are free. If you’re interested in spending the night, here are options for overnight camping in cabins or in tents.

If you and your family plan to visit a state park multiple times this year, consider purchasing a Texas State Parks Pass. For $70, you and your family can get free admission to more than 80 state parks for the whole year. Pass holders also receive camping discounts, special discounts for programs, activities, and events, and a 10 percent discount on retail and rental items at state park stores. Buy a Texas State Park Pass at any state park or online.

Houston parents, what would you add to this list? Share your insights and recommendations in the comment section.

About the Author:

Briana Zamora-Nipper joined the KPRC 2 digital team in 2019. When she’s not hard at work in the KPRC 2 newsroom, you can find Bri drinking away her hard earned wages at JuiceLand, running around Hermann Park, listening to crime podcasts or ransacking the magazine stand at Barnes & Noble.