Summer Fun Ideas for The Family (That Won’t Break the Bank!)


Summer goes so fast, doesn’t it?  Here we are in the fourth week of August, and September is fast approaching.  But despite the need for back-to-school shopping, there is still time to get in some last-minute family fun this summer. Here are a few ideas that involve minimal planning and won’t break the bank.  I have tried to include links when possible.  Many of these activities are available well into the fall, so the fun doesn’t have to end with the start of the new school year!

Summer Fun Ideas For the Family
A view of the South Entrance Main Trail at Merritt Island
A view of the South Entrance Main Trail at Merritt Island
  1. Have an old-fashioned picnic. Fill a cooler with your favourite grub and make use of a local park or even your own backyard. There are so many lovely spots tucked away in Niagara, you really can’t go wrong.  Merritt Island in Welland is one of my favourites, as it offers a view of the water, a playground, and a well-maintained 4km trail for biking, rollerblading or walking.
  2. Go outside and play. Turn Hide and Seek into a water fight.  Water balloons, squirt guns and super-soakers aside, a couple of buckets will work nicely.  Want to be a bit devious? Arm yourself and then leave a message for your kids and a water gun for each one outside. In the note, tell them mom and dad are hiding somewhere in the yard and challenge them to find you.  This can also be done without the water if you prefer to stay dry, but the simple act of playing with your kids will be a great bonding moment and show them that you still know how to be silly.
  3. Explore the local parks and splash pads – many of which are free to use. In fact, why not combine this with a picnic and spend the day playing outside?   (Note to Parents: avoid the temptation to sit on the sidelines just watching your kids – get involved and play too!)  You can also use the playground equipment to get in a quick workout.  There are lots of great ideas on Pinterest for exercising with your kids and many that can be easily adaptable to a playground jungle gym.
  4. Plan a day trip or weekend getaway. Pack up the family and go exploring!  Can’t afford to spend a week at a cottage?  Why not take a day trip and explore attractions nearby?  Here’s a great link to get you started which can be used to plan a last-minute summer road trip or a fall getaway:  Visit Ontario Travel
  5. Set up a tent in the backyard. Use it either for a camp out, or simply let the kids play in it during the day.  You’ll be surprised at how easily they will put down their electronic devices, and if you’re lucky you may even get a quiet night in if you can convince them to sleep outside.
  6. Go Stargazing. Seriously, when was the last time you did this?  While it may not be easy to do from your backyard if you live in the city, a short drive out-of-town can provide the proper setting to view the celestial show.
    Image of Big Dipper provided by Sky & Telescope
    Image provided by Sky & Telescope

    There are many phone apps now that offer stargazing support that even a beginner can have fun whether the sky is clear or not!  Do some research beforehand, and be prepared to share some stories about how the constellations got their names.  Greek Mythology is rich with these, and your local library can be a great resource.  Late August is usually a great time for meteor showers, and with a little luck, you may be able to see some interesting phenomena with the naked eye.   For a detailed summary of this week’s sky forecast, click this link to Sky &

  7. Try something new! Rent a paddle-boat, kayak or canoe on the Welland Canal (visit City of Welland’s site here.) Hourly rates are quite reasonable and the waters of the canal provide a great place for beginners.  Not into water sports?  Why not go hiking in the Niagara Falls Gorge, or try rock climbing at an indoor facility like Peaks Rock Climbing in St. Catharines.  They will offer instruction and assistance so that even the most tentative of beginners can feel secure.  Pricing for initial lessons are a bit more, but a day pass is quite reasonable and they are open late most days.  (Note to Parents: Children under 18 years of age will need a parent to sign a waiver.)  If climbing doesn’t appeal to you, why not try bouncing instead?  Plan a visit to the new Sky Zone in St. Catharines.  They offer a range of activities utilizing trampolines and climbing apparatus.  You will have to buy a pair of special socks, but these can be used on return visits and really, why should the fun end with summer?

There’s still time to do something together before school starts.  Just do it as a family, and make some great summer memories.  Now put down that iPad or phone, and get outside!

Have an idea for a fun family activity that won’t cost a fortune?  Share your ideas below!