It appears that you're using a severely outdated version of Safari on Windows. Many features won't work correctly, and functionality can't be guaranteed. Please try viewing this website in Edge, Mozilla, Chrome, or another modern browser. Sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused!Read More about this safari issue.
It’s hot, it’s humid, it’s summer in Arkansas. Kids are ready to get out of school, and parents are beginning to worry about how they will occupy their children during the coming months. Family vacations and weekend getaways are great, but only last a few days. I know I’d rather not spend a ton of money, so I’m always hunting for activities that pack a punch but won’t break the bank. These family-friendly summer activities are perfect for all ages, can be enjoyed by kids and parents, and cost little to no money!
Summer is the perfect time to cool off in a pool, creek or at a splash pad. Many cities across Arkansas have free splash pads like the one at Craighead Forest Park in Jonesboro and the one at Lawrence Plaza in Bentonville. Pool membership costs can vary from city to city, but many have budget-friendly summer memberships or day passes. My family loves the Batesville Community Center and Aquatics Park, and it’s just $5 a day.
Swimming in the creek is a childhood rite of passage, and there are some excellent swimming holes scattered across the state. Sylamore Creek in Mountain View is one of my favorite spots. It runs below the Swinging Bridge in Allison which is also worth taking a look at.
Check out these free and fun swimming holes:
15 Refreshing Swimming Holes in Arkansas
My young son inherited his father’s childhood Hot Wheels collection, but he has built a pretty impressive collection all on his own. He can also tell you the make and model of cars I’ve never even heard of before. He’s an old soul and loves a good car show where he can “talk shop” with old men and dream about the cars that will one day fill his garage.
Car shows are fun because you often don’t have to travel far, they are usually free to the public, and you don’t have to invest much time. Plus, you get to see some beautiful and unique automobiles and explore some history.
I have a small 400-square-foot garden, so while I do realize that full-scale gardening isn’t a cheap endeavor, you can start a small garden on a budget. Growing a tomato plant or some fresh herbs in a bucket (or an old grill) is a small investment, and kids love the responsibility of watering while they watch it grow. The flowers may attract butterflies, and hunting for hornworms is fun and creepy at the same time. When it finally fruits, you can make a batch of salsa or a killer BLT sandwich. Fresh herbs can be added to various meals, and your family gets the joy of knowing you grew your own food.
Here are some resources for starting a garden:
Arkansas Gardening: 20 Things To Do This Summer
Growing Native Plants in the Arkansas Landscape
Beyond World Wars: A New Season of Victory Gardens
Foraging can also be a lot of fun and a great way to get out and explore the outdoors. Foraging means looking for natural growing food, and there are edible plants growing everywhere, even in your backyard!
We love hiking and floating along the Buffalo National River. In mid-summer, a float trip is a great way to cool off and explore the region and one of our favorite things to do is look for fossils. Riverbeds are loaded with all kinds of cool fossils, we enjoy seeing the unique patterns and designs left by bugs and creatures long ago.
Do be careful because while fossil hunting is allowed on state land, collecting fossils within the boundaries of Buffalo National Park or any national forest is prohibited. We prefer to take pictures and leave our finds behind just to be safe.
If you don’t feel like hunting for fossils, you can also check out one of Arkansas’s rock shops which are full of treasures.
Grab a stick, a string, a hook and a worm and you can fish on the cheap. Growing up, my sister and I regularly crafted homemade fishing poles and fished in a pond behind our house. We never caught anything, but we made some great memories. In a time when there is so much to distract us, a simple fishing outing can be a great way to slow down and connect with your kids.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will host its annual free fishing weekend on June 9-11, 2023. You can also borrow a rod, reel and tackle at over 50 locations across the state. It’s completely free!
What free activities does your family enjoy? Leave us a comment so others can check them out too.
Sign up for our weekly e-news.
Get stories sent straight to your inbox!
We select one featured photo per week, but we show many more in our gallery. Be sure to fill out all the fields in order to have yours selected.