We spend a lot of money on kids—not just clothes and other necessities, but also camps, pool memberships, enrichment classes, and extracurricular activities. Tack on the annual birthday bash, and poof—there goes the paycheck!
To help ease the financial pile-on (especially during the pricey holiday season), we’ve identified a long list of ways to keep kids entertained and stimulated without spending a dime. Read on for our thrifty finds.
Looking for more free fun? Keep tabs on our Event Calendar, which is always loaded with free (and low-cost) activities for all ages!
1. Hilltop Hanover Farm in Yorktown Heights is free to visit (fees apply for select events and pick-your-own produce).
2. Admission is free on Wednesdays through Fridays at Stone Barns Agricultural Center in Pocantico Hills.
3. Keep an eye out for the periodic Pelham Art Center community free days ...
4. ...and Mid-Hudson Children's Museum Family Free Nights.
5. Visit the Neuberger Museum of Art on the first Saturday of any month, when admission for all ages is free.
It's free to explore the grounds at the Greenburgh Nature Center. Photo courtesy the nature center
6. Take a romp through the Discovery Playground, view the outdoor animal exhibits, and walk to the pond in search of turtles at the Greenburgh Nature Center.
7. Get knee-deep in seining from May–October…
8….or try a hands-on nature program.
9. Mark your calendar for free admission to participating sites on Smithsonian Museum Day Live in September. (Check your local library for year-round free museum passes.)
Aboard the tractor at the historic Muscoot Farm.
10. See what the animals are up to and view the historic buildings and tools at Muscoot Farm in Katonah, where admission is free.
11. Experience the Museum in the Streets, scavenger-hunt style, in Hastings-on-Hudson.
12. Take part in a free hands-on art workshops for kids at the Blue Door Art Center. A different project is offered each week.
13. Visit a local gallery.
14. Learn all about harness racing at the interactive Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame in Goshen.
15. For a slice of local American history, visit St. Paul’s Historic Church. Frequent events are offered, also free.
16. Benefit from free admission to select historic sites on one of the National Park Fee-Free Days.
RELATED: Free Museum Days in Westchester and the Hudson Valley
Visit the Discovery Center and help collect eggs on a John Jay Play Day. Photo courtesy of the Friends of John Jay Homestead
17. John Jay Play Days run May through October. Visit the six Discovery Centers, help collect eggs, participate in a hands-on activity, and bring a picnic.
18. The 38 branches of the Westchester Library System offer more than just books and storytimes. There are loads of free perks, and the best events are found in our Event Calendar.
19. With summertime come free outdoor movies for families…
20. ... as well as the free summer concerts.
21. Take your talent to the stage at a poetry slam and open-mic night at the White Plains Public Library.
22. Skip D.C. and stay local to smell the cherry blossoms.
23. Go fishing!
24. Go sledding!
25. Watch apples get pressed into cider.
RELATED: 100 Things To Do with Westchester Kids Before They Grow Up
Picnic amid the fall foliage at picturesque Bear Mountain.
26. There’s loads to do on the grounds of Bear Mountain—whether viewing fall foliage, sledding, or visiting the trailside zoo (though technically free, there’s much to justify the voluntary donation). A parking fee applies.
27. Take a hike and take in the beautiful Hudson Valley landscape.
28. Take a stroll on the Westchester RiverWalk, which you can pick up in Tarrytown, Croton, or Peekskill.
29. Hop on your bikes and cruise the car-free Bronx River Parkway during Bicycle Sundays from May–September…
30. ..or check out one of these great bike paths throughout the county.
31. Bike, trike, skate, and stroll along the Hudson Valley Rail Trail and meet up with the Walkway Over The Hudson, the breathtaking 1.28-mile long pedestrian bridge that’s hailed as the “world’s longest elevated park.”
32. Learn coding, music composition, and other gadget tricks in free classes at Apple stores. Play with the displays to discover new apps.
33. Home Depot holds free workshops for kids each month. Kids take home a different creation with each session.
34. Browse books, games, and toys—and pull up a cozy seat—at Little Joe's Bookstore.
RELATED: Free Drop-In Storytimes for Westchester Kids
The Voracious Reader will leave you with your arms full of books! Photo courtesy of the store
35. Browse a wonderfully curated selection of books in Westchester's only independent children's bookstore, The Voracious Reader. Free events are frequently offered, including author visits.
36. In July, find out "Where's Waldo?" in a town-wide scavenger hunt, organized by The Voracious Reader and Womrath Bookshop. You might win a prize and attend the end-of-Waldo party.
37. Sign your kids up for Jefferson Valley Mall's KidX Club and take advantage of free activities and perks.
38. Ridge Hill has a similar program for the 8-and-under set, known as RH Kids.
39. Take a breather at the indoor space at Play at the Westchester Mall.
40. Lakeshore Learning offers weekly drop-in art projects.
41. Hit the toy stores that offer play areas for kids like Learning Express ...
42. ... or the Lego store ...
43. .... or A Nu Toy Store, to name a few.
44. Enjoy the music and motion entertainment provided by the mechanical characters throughout Stew Leonard's. We love Chiquita Banana and the Farm Fresh Five! Free kids’ activities are offered throughout the year.
45. Sidewalk sales, farmers’ markets, and fleas often offer free kids’ entertainment and activities; including the Hastings Flea.
46. Take a short jaunt up to Cornish Estate in Cold Spring to see ruins without having to fly to Pompeii.
47. Yet more ruins are worth exploring at the West Point Foundry Preserve.
48. Be intrepid—explore a playground you haven’t yet romped through.
49. Storytimes (and, occasionally, other events) are offered at Barnes & Noble.
50. Pottery Barn Kids also has its share of free events.
51. On prolonged school breaks, make an optional donation to gain admission to Alamo Kids Camp and see a film essentially for free (popcorn not included!).
52. Take a driving tour of Christmas light displays in Westchester.
53. The Trove at White Plains Public Library, in particular, features special programming, interactive shows, and more.
54. Or put on your own puppet show at Larchmont Library’s puppet theater.
Free Family Saturdays in the Lab at Jacob Burns Film Center involve kids in hands-on fun. Photo courtesy the film center
55. The hands-on film-related activities are free at Family Saturdays at the Lab at Jacob Burns Film Center (though to see the feature film requires a purchased ticket).
56. Take advantage of free (or cheap) ski programs in the Northeast.
57. Stroll the beautiful, tranquil gardens of Untermeyer.
58. Roam the gardens and have a picnic at Caramoor. (Just make sure a concert isn't occurring that day—fees will apply.)
59. Cross the border and pick a spot from our list of free places to play in Connecticut.
60. Many (many, many, many!) more free programs can be found year-round on our Event Calendar and via our free newsletters—sign up!
Photos by the author unless noted.
This post has been updated for 2018.