Summer is officially here! The temperatures have risen, the pools are full, and the barbecue parties have begun! Although the first day of summer doesn’t “officially” begin until June 21 (say wha??), if you’re anything like me, you’re already looking for ways to spend your days that don’t involve the kids climbing on your person like a jungle gym (a girl can’t even sit for a spell without someone climbing on them at my house)!
If you’re a local Alabamian, I’d love for you to come visit me in my city! Even if you aren’t local to me, you just may happen to wander through my neck of the woods on your way to our glorious beaches, and I don’t want you to miss out on all the great things we have going on in Birmingham! There are lots of great summer activities you won’t want to miss!
I’ve tried to narrow this list to things that are free and/or cheap because, hey, summer travel can get expensive! Without further ado, here are 8 free/cheap things to do in Birmingham this summer.
Summer Movie Series
Depending on where you live, you may have a Carmike Cinemas or an AmStar Theaters or a similar movie theater offering a “Summer Movie Series.” These movies are not new releases, but are still offered with a complete movie theater experience including popcorn and a drink! While this series is not free, it comes in at $4 per person, so it would be a great way to spend a hot or rainy day inside. Now, if you’re near one of our great parks like Veteran’s Park in Hoover or Alabaster you can see a free movie during their “Free Flicks Friday” series. Bring your own food, blanket, and/or chair, and enjoy a great time with family and friends at the park!
Most locals are familiar with the Pepper Place Farmer’s Market downtown, but soon the Lee Branch shopping center out toward Chelsea will host its own Farmer’s Market. The Marketplace at Lee Branch opens on June 4, and it will continue to be open every Saturday through October 28. This is a great way to support local farmers and artisans, even if you just drop by to say hi!
Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum
Located in Calera, just a few miles south of Birmingham, the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum offers free admission to its museum and weekly train rides for a nominal fee. Even if you choose not to ride the train, it’s worth the trip just to see the museum itself. Filled with significant artifacts and memorabilia, you will leave their museum educated and in awe of the preservation of this historical form of transportation.
The Birmingham Zoo
I won’t pretend that this activity is a “cheap” one upfront, but it can be over time! If you are a member, you get free admission 363 days a year (and free or discounted admission to special events like this summer’s Dino Discovery exhibit), but even if you aren’t a member, the zoo offers lots of opportunities for discounted admission. If you’re not a local, check with your own zoo and see if they are reciprocal. The Birmingham Zoo is an AZA member, and they offer 50%-100% off of the admission price based on your home zoo’s reciprocal program participation.
McWane Science Center
Again, this is not a “freebie,” but it has the potential to be a freebie or a cheapie based on when you visit. Lots of hands on learning opportunities for all ages, including this summer’s newest attraction Hall of Heroes (you know we’ll be visiting that one) and the family favorite Itty Bitty Magic City. McWane Science Center is reciprocal member of the ASTC, so check with your local science/technology center to see if your family would qualify for free admission here too!
Gardendale Splash Pad
Just a little north of Birmingham, this free splash pad and playground area will keep your family cool and entertained for hours. Buckets that fill with water, water sprayers that can be aimed at friend or foe, and a small obstacle course will keep little ones busy while mom and dad relax under the shade of the picnic area. Bring your own lunch and make it an all-day adventure!
Birmingham Botanical Gardens
This beautiful, well-kept secret in the Mountain Brook area of Birmingham is open from dawn to dusk and is home to some of the most stunning gardens you will ever see. Admission and parking are free, but they do offer more hands on programs for children and adults if you are interested (fees vary depending on the activity). At the very least, you can enjoy a peaceful day of exploration, and maybe sneak in a little learning for the kids too!
Birmingham Museum of Art
One of our favorite places to visit as a family where daily admission and parking are free! Check out the permanent and traveling exhibits, let the kids explore Bart’s Art Adventure (where they can actually touch stuff), and then grab a bite at Oscar’s for lunch. Other fun events at BMA this summer include the 5th annual Caribbean Festival on June 11 in Linn Park (directly across the street from the museum) celebrating the art, culture, and food of the Caribbean. The festival is free and open to the public, so have some fun with your family while sneaking in a little education while you’re at it!
Bonus Activity: Alabama Symphony Orchestra at Railroad Park
Symphony in the Summer is the Alabama Symphony Orchestra’s free concert series June 10, 11, and 12 in Railroad Park. Featuring classical music by renowned composers, and a few more modern musical talents on the Family Fun Day concert, this is an event the entire family can enjoy together. The kids don’t have to sit still in cramped seating through an exhaustive orchestral performance, but the adults can still enjoy the music while the young ones are moving about in the park.I’m sure there are tons more activities that I could name, but I feel like this list will get you off to a great start! Where is your family headed this summer?