I’m sure you’ve seen it in stores near you: back-to-school season is in full swing. Yet for many school districts around the country, families are just now at the halfway point between running out of the classroom after the final bell of one school year, and taking the inevitable “First Day of School” photos for the next. If your family is anything like Wayfinding TravelingMom Jennifer Kaufman’s, you’ve begun to hear a chorus of “I’m bored” from any number of your children. Here’s how to beat the boredom (and the heat!) in Cincinnati – or wherever you are – without breaking the bank.

Cheap Things to Do in Cincinnati (& Beyond) to Banish Summer Boredom

Looking for ways to combat a chorus of "I'm bored!" this summer? We've got you covered with things to do in Cincinnati - and beyond. Find more than a dozen free or super cheap ways to beat the heat this summer. Splash parks, museums, and other family-friendly activities don't have to break the bank this summer!

Activ-A-tees at Blue Manatee

Throughout the summer, Blue Manatee Children’s Bookstore continues its fun programming. Check the schedule for sign language events, story time, “Make a Mess” days, and more.

The Cincinnati Art Museum

Free admission, special exhibits and activities for kids, air-conditioning(!), and tucked away in beautiful Eden Park… what’s not to love? Even if you aren’t a big art buff, I think you’ll have a great time visiting the art museum.

Krohn Conservatory

Also located in Eden Park, why not plan a visit to the Krohn Conservatory? Even if the annual Butterfly Show has ended, the Krohn has lots of beautiful things to see!


Fountain Square

If you’ve been in Cincinnati any length of time, you probably know that Fountain Square is always hopping. This is never more true than in summer, when you’ll almost always find some sort of event, festival, or other happening, well, happening.


a family points across a creek as they look for a geocache in Cincinnati

Since you can find treasures on a hike or tucked away in a big city, Geocaching is a great way to get outside, no matter where you live! Photo Credit: Jennifer Kaufman, Wayfinding TravelingMom

One of our favorite activities year-round, geocaching is an absolute blast in the summer. The adventure and route is entirely up to you, but summer means you might be able to add a little creek play, soft serve ice cream, or other summer fun to your treasure hunt.

Outdoor Movies & Music

Depending on where in the city you live, you’ve got a number of places to choose from for an outdoor movie under the stars. Check your local neighorhood’s website for what’s playing near you.

You will also likely find lots of great (free!) outdoor music events like the Blue Ash Concert Series, Washington Park’s Bandstand Bluegrass, the Live at the Levee Concert Series, the West Chester Concert Series, and Music in Mason (with lots of free kids activities, too). From Bluegrass and cover bands to national recording artists and symphonies, you can probably find something you’ll like.

Smale Riverfront Park

It seems that every time I visit Smale, it gets more exciting. Besides a beautiful view of the Roebling and the river, you can now splash in the fountains, take a walk along the banks of the Ohio, and rest your feet on one of the “porch” swings.

Sharon Woods Harbor

A staple of my childhood summers, the Boathouse and Harbor play area at Sharon Woods is still a blast. A playground, water features, paddle boats, bike trails… there is something for everyone!

Trammel Fossil Park

This one can be a bit hot, but with free admission – and all the digging a kid could want – it’s definitely worth a visit this summer.

Washington Park

The revitalization of Washington Park is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in my 30+ years in the Queen City. The home of another splash fountain/play area, this one is extra cool at night when it lights up with colored LEDs. Goodness knows it’s still plenty warm in the evenings during the humid Cincinnati summers! There is almost always something going on at Washington Park, so be sure to check the schedule for music, fitness, kickball, and kids activities.

toddler twins play in a splash park fountain, a great way to keep kids busy during the summer

Splash parks (or “spraygrounds”) have become such a popular community amenity. We find they’re often easier than toting things to and from the neighborhood pool! Photo Credit: Jennifer Kaufman, Wayfinding TravlingMom

Water Splash Parks

Much easier at times (as a parent) than even the pool in our neighborhood, we always have a great time at splash parks. We have small one at local parks, but these are some of the larger, often themed offerings around the city:

Beech Acres
Clippard Park
Home of the Brave

Miami Whitewater Forest: Parky’s Pirate Cove

Sawyer Point Sprayground

Smale Riverfront Park
Washington Park
Winton Woods: Parky’s Ark
Woodland Mound: Parky’s Wetland Adventure

And don’t forget about the biggest end-of-summer blowout – coming much sooner than we’d like! – the WEBN Riverfest/Fireworks.

Though many items on this list are specific to Cincinnati, it’s likely that your town has splash parks, free museum offerings, music events, and plenty of other activities to keep kids busy during what’s left of the summer. What’s YOUR favorite thing to do to change things up during long summer days?