25 free things to do this summer in the Triangle

Do you need ideas for summer activities in the Raleigh area? Discover a wealth of free activities and events to enjoy this summer in the Triangle.
Posted 2023-06-06T16:02:01+00:00 - Updated 2023-06-13T13:58:00+00:00

If you're looking to soak up the sun and make the most of your summer days without emptying your wallet, you're in the right place. The Triangle offers an abundance of free activities and events that will keep you entertained throughout the season. Get ready to embark on a budget-friendly adventure that will create lasting memories without breaking the bank.

Do you need ideas for summer activities in the Raleigh area?

Let me help you with that!

This article is all about things to do at home and free places in the community to visit this summer in the Triangle. The most money you'll spend is on gas unless you make other purchases.

1. Check Your Local Library

The libraries in our area hold many free classes like make-and-take crafts, storytimes, knitting, book clubs, game nights, anime club meetings (with snacks and movies) and much more!

Find out what your local library has to offer! Sometimes registration is required, so be sure to sign up fast.

You can always stick around to read books and check out a few for home, too. If your children like to color, see if your library has coloring page print outs and crayons available.

2. Splash Pads / Spraygrounds

My tween and teen still enjoy water play together. They also love when I join in on the fun. Splash pads are normally free to visit and can have simple to very creative equipment for kids to enjoy. There are many across North Carolina. WRAL Family has a list of pools and another with splashpads open in the Triangle area. For the Triad specifically, look at this list.

If you can't make it to a splash pad or sprayground, grab your water hose at home and create your own fun!

3. Pet Stores

It's free to look around and hang out with the animals. Local pet stores are a great place to see different species, learn about them, and even cuddle a few animals where allowed. This can be especially entertaining for younger children. Stores like PetCo and PetSmart have fish, reptiles and sometimes cats.

4. Arboretums and Botanical Gardens

Usually free to enter. You'll reap the benefits of fresh air and sunshine while checking out beautiful varieties of trees and plants. Take a stroll, then rest at their gazebos or picnic tables for snack breaks. Just remember to ''leave no trace!''

A few on our list for summer are:

5. Art Museums

I can't count the number of times art museums have come through for us. We often choose those that are free to enter. There are always a plethora of interesting pieces to see.

Give your local (free) art museums a chance. Be sure to also check their websites or inquire at the front desk about summer classes. Some of them may be open to attend without fees. A few we've visited:

6. Volunteer

Opportunities abound to lend your time to different causes. You can also join a group trash clean up at parks or by bodies of water (depending on your location). Feel free to do this as a family, too. You don't have to join a group to make your area cleaner.

Use these links to get you started:

NC.Gov's list of Volunteer opportunities

Activate Good

7. Outdoor Concerts

Have you visited the website of your city or town? Check the Parks & Recreation section or events calendar for free community concerts and live music.

It can be a great way to meet new people or get together with friends and relatives. Bring your lawn chairs, blankets, and pack a full meal. If your area doesn't have this, a quick Google search should give you listings of nearby locations.

8. Exercise Classes

Libraries and churches in my county have offered free exercise classes for adults and kids. Search websites like for listings.

Planet Fitness is once again offering their FREE High School Summer Pass program for teens ages 14 to 19.

If you'd rather stay inside, Youtube is a great resource to find what you're looking for.

9. Sidewalk Chalk Play

Younger kids will often spend a bit of time doing this! We've taken our chalk to differing locations but it's an activity that can be done right at home. Create abstract masterpieces, choose themes, or make games out of it.

Need ideas?Find them here

See the creative work this Apex mom did with sidewalk chalk!

10. Movies In The Park

A LOT of parks host free movie events during the summer. Again, refer to your area's Parks & Recreation website or events calendar for dates/times. If you'd prefer another location, a ''movies in the park'' Google search will do.

If you're open to spending a little cash, many theaters offer discounted summer rates, too. See WRAL Family's list of free or discounted movies.

11. Attend Local Festivals

I know this one can be tricky! It's hard to go to a festival and not make purchases. However, many are free to enter and that's the purpose of this article.

If your family really wants to attend but not spend, I suggest having meals and desserts ahead of time to avoid extreme food temptations. And bring snacks from home in case of emergencies.

12. Scenic Drives

Explore your area! A lengthy drive along country roads can be mood changing in the best ways. Whether singing along to your favorite music or sitting in silence enjoying the views, it's a good time. You may also come across something new or new-to-you.

13. Picnics

They can happen somewhere in the community or in your yard. You just prep, pack, and go. WRAL has great tips to help you plan yours!

14. Skate Parks

Both of my daughters like to skateboard and ride RipStiks. We've mostly used empty parking lots but skate parks are on the list for summer. They are usually free to enter. Find a skate park near you

15. Walking Tours

A great way to get outside and learn something new about your area or a nearby location. There are paid guided tours, pay-what-you'd-like tours, and self-guided tours. Keeping with our ''free'' summer theme, choose the latter.

There are a multitude of tours in our state. Here is a list of tours in Raleigh and downtown Durham.

16. Scavenger Hunts and Geocaching

We did scavenger hunts often when my girls were younger. I'd either create a list of things to hunt for or find ideas online. Pinterest is a good resource for that but you can use this link, too.

Most of the time, we stayed right in our yard. If you'd like to go farther, walk your neighborhood, downtown area, or local parks. Geocaching is another option. Geocaching involves people using a GPS receiver or their mobile phones to to hide and seek containers, called "geocaches" or "caches."

17. Backyard Camping

If you already have tents, sleeping bags, and other necessary items, why not go for it? You can make s'mores, read stories by flashlight, play games, and use your telescope if you own one. Read this WRAL article for more tips

If sleeping outdoors isn't your idea of fun, make forts and camp out in your living room! Snacks, movies, crafts, & games should be all you'll need. And you can still read books by flashlight, too.

18. Mural Photoshoots

Not only have we found murals near us out of curiosity and happenstance, we've had fun photoshoots in front of them. It's a way to take unique, colorful pictures and spark creativity for projects, etc.

Here are some great murals to check out:

19. Visit Roadside Attractions

This can make for interesting and fun road trips. Have you ever wondered about North Carolina's roadside attractions? Our state has so many cool things to see!

20. Readathons

Remember those library books I mentioned? Pull them out, turn off all devices, and have an afternoon/evening of reading. The timeframe will, of course, depend on ages and schedules.

My daughters and I used to take special trips to the library just for this. Then we'd pick-a-spot in the living room, spread out, and read our books together. We called this time our readathons. If your family already has unread books, now's the time to do it.

21. Historic Sites

There are many across our state with free admission. See a listing of all NC historic sites and plan your next trip.

These are a few of our trips:

Also check out our Hidden History section for more ideas of places to visit!

22. History and Science Museums

I can't write an article about free activities without mentioning the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and the North Carolina Museum of History.

Both are located in downtown Raleigh with FREE admission. Great places to spend the day!

23. Art On The Porch Or In The Park

Grab a blanket, all of your art supplies, coloring books, canvases, and head to the park... or your porch. You can turn on music and color/draw/paint the day away. My daughters still enjoy doing this!

24. Science Experiments

So many experiment ideas can be found online and require things you already have somewhere in your home. To save you time, check out this list of safe and simple ones!

25. Rest and Relaxation

Remember, it costs nothing to simply rest and spend time together. Watching a movie just for fun or educational shows are great ways to hang out.

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