Things can get pricey when you’ve got all summer long to keep the kiddos having fun. We’re here to help! Try out all these FREE things to do (or nearly FREE) before the summer’s over. Put them on your end-of-summer bucket list, write them on your calendar, or gather friends to do something fun!
1. Heckrodt Nature Reserve, Menasha
- Why Visit? Heckrodt has amazing boardwalk nature trails, a tree house outdoor playground with zip line, animals, aquariums and much more!
- Address: 1305 Plank Rd, Menasha, WI
- Hours: 6 am – 9 pm DAILY
2. 1000 Islands Environmental Center, Kaukauna
- Why Visit? 1000 Islands is a great place to get out and enjoy hiking along the Fox River. Also, be sure check out the indoor animal exhibits on a hot or rainy day.
- Address: 1000 Beaulieu Ct, Kaukauna, WI
- Sunday through Monday CLOSED
- Tuesday through Friday 8 am – 4 pm
- Saturday 10 am – 3:30 pm
3. Go Fishing
- Why Do It?: Kids 16 and under can fish without a license in Wisconsin! Your first license as an adult is only $5, and they even offer spousal fishing licenses discounts! There are so many great spots to fish right here in Northeastern Wisconsin.
4. Splash Pads
- Why Visit?: Splash Pads are where it’s at! We recommend either the fire-themed Washington Park Neenah Splash Pad or the Wanick Choute Park and splash pad in Sherwood. The Wanick Choute Park splash pad is gated, which is great with wandering toddlers. These are just two of the many wonderful splash pads in our area!
- Wanick Park Splash Pad Address: W4690 Castle Dr, Sherwood, WI
- Washington Park Splash Pad Address: 631 Winneconne Ave, Neenah, WI
- Hours for both: Daily 10 am – 8 pm through Labor Day
5. Kids eat FREE
- Why do it? The greater Fox Valley has a lot of great deals at local restaurants for kid meals throughout the week! Save money with a cheap(er) night out together as a family.
- Why Visit?: Happy summer childhood memories are made of sandy feet and splashing in waves at the beach. Being just a stone’s throw from Lake Michigan, we really are spoiled to have such an amazing number of beaches to choose from right here!
- FREE Beaches: Neshotah Beach in Two Rivers, Clark Lake in Door County, Dodge Memorial County Park in Markesan, Sunset Park in Kimberly, Hattie Sherwood Beach in Green Lake, South Park Beach in Waupaca and Partridge Lake, Public Swimming Beach in Fremont are all FREE.
7. Walking and Biking Trails
- Why Do It?: Not only are Northeast Wisconsin hiking & biking trails family and kid-friendly (keeps little ones away from the streets), but they are also FREE! Check out our favorites: Terrell’s Island, Newberry Trail, and Trestle Trail.
- Terrell’s Island Address: 5401-5541 Shubert Rd, Omro, WI
- Newberry Trail Address: start at Telulah Park, 1300 E Newberry St, Appleton, WI
- Friendship Trestle Trail Address: start at Fritse Park 937 N Lake St, Neenah, WI
- Heritage Parkway Trail & Nelson Family Heritage Crossing: start at Heesakker Park, 1509 East Lincoln Avenue, Little Chute, WI
8. Movie Theater
- Why Visit?: Beat those hot summer days by cooling off in a nearby movie theater! If you haven’t tried the Kids Dream FREE Summer Movies Series, you must. FREE kid movie tickets. Need we say more?
- Participating Locations:
- Hollywood Cinema, 513 North Westhill Boulevard, Appleton, WI
- Valley Grand Cinema, W3091 Van Roy Road, Appleton, WI
- Why Do It?: Live music, city bands, Appleton Rock School … we have so many wonderful options for outdoor summer music around the area!
10. Menominee Park, Oshkosh
- Why Visit?: At Menominee Park the Zoo, Beach and the newly-upgraded playground are all FREE. The whip ride is $1.00, and the train ride is just $1.25.
- Address: 520 Siewert Trail, Oshkosh, WI
- Hours: Daily 9 am – 6 pm until Sunday, September 25
11. Farmers Markets
- Why Visit?: Take in the sights and smells for FREE as you stroll through a market. Many of our local farmers markets are more than just food vendors; enjoy art and music with the community. We’ve even got an option for every day of the week!
12. Plamann Park Children’s Farm, Appleton
- Why Visit?: Check out baby pigs, a calf, donkey, sheep, goats, bunnies and more at Plamann Park’s Children’s Farm. Because of special diets, you can not feed the animals. This is a local family favorite!
- Address: 1375 E Broadway Dr, Appleton, WI
- Hours: Daily 9 am – 4:30 pm through Labor Day (weather permitting)
13. Water Ski Shows
- Why Do It?: Check out shows from local water ski teams around Northeast Wisconsin for FREE. These are great summer spectator events!
14. Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, Green Bay
- Why Visit?: There is so much here at Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary: a zoo, geese, nature building, waterfalls and more! Grab a couple dollars for corn to feed the geese, but otherwise, it’s FREE.
- Address: 1660 E Shore Drive, Green Bay, WI
- Hours: Daily 8 am – 7:30 pm
15. Indoor Playgrounds
Why Visit?: Indoor Playgrounds are the perfect place to burn off some extra energy on a hot or rainy day! Bonus: Many of them are free or inexpensive, too.
16. Henry Vilas Zoo, Madison
- Why Visit?: The Henry Vilas Zoo is one of the only FREE admission, community-sponsored zoos in the country. Parking is free, the zoo is open year-round (except for a few holidays), and there is much more to do while you’re in Madison!
- Address: 702 S Randall Ave, Madison, WI
- Hours: Daily 9:30 am – 5 pm
17. Head To The Library
- Why Visit?: Find lots of FREE programs on our calendar or just explore. The Kaukauna Public Library has a wonderful play area for little ones if you need a starting point!
- Address: 207 Thilmany Rd #200, Kaukauna, WI
- CLOSED Saturday and Sunday
- Monday through Thursday 9 am – 8 pm
- Friday 9 am – 5 pm
18. Check Out a New Park
- Why Visit?: We are so lucky to have an amazing array of local parks and playgrounds to enjoy all summer long! Riverside (rocketship) Park, Fritsch Park, Pamperin Park and Memorial Park are some of our favorites.
- Fritsch Park Address: 1651 Sandys Lane, Menasha, WI
- Memorial Park Address: 1620 E Witzke Blvd, Appleton, WI
- Riverside Park Address: 500 E Wisconsin Ave, Neenah, WI
- Pamperin Park Address: 2477 Shawano Avenue, Green Bay, WI
19. Ride the Trolley, Appleton
- Why Do It?: The Appleton Downtown trolley is FREE for everyone, but donations are appreciated. This is a great way to get out and enjoy downtown Appleton in the summer months!
- Address: 100 E Washington St (departs from the Appleton Transit Center), WI
- Hours: through September 24, 2022
- Thursdays and Fridays 5 pm – 11 pm
- Saturdays 8 am – 11 pm
- Why Do It?: Bowling is a perfect active outing on a sweltering or rainy summer day—and thanks to Kids Bowl Free, it is free for your kids (shoe rental is usually $2-3) and inexpensive to add a membership for the adults in the family.
- Participating Locations:
- Super Bowl, 2222 E Northland Ave, Appleton, WI
- Sabre Lanes, 1330 Midway Rd, Menasha, WI
- Ashwaubenon Bowling Alley, 2929 Allied St, Green Bay, WI
- Buzz Social, 2310 Lineville Rd, Green Bay, WI
Looking for even more ideas? Check out our Ultimate Summer Bucket List of 275+ Things to Do This Summer or our Community Events Calendar for cheap and free events for kids and families.