Cheap Or Free Activities To Do With Kids


Cheap or Free Activities to do with KidsKeeping kids busy is a struggle at times, especially during the winter or because their age limits what they can do. There have been several times this season where I was going to lose it if we stayed inside one more day. Our kids do so much better when they can get energy out.

With a budget, we can’t always do the big things, so we’ve been trying to find free or cheap things that our kids enjoy. Below are some outings we’ve enjoyed.

On our Christmas trip we discovered that our kids loved the coin rides at the malls and they didn’t even have to be working. They just hopped from one to the other pretending to drive and waving at everyone. I discovered that the Northgate Mall has some of these coin rides along with an indoor play area. It’s nice and quiet since it’s not a bustling place, but I find I like the indoor play area at Hamilton Place better because it’s larger and has more things to climb on. It’s a great option for cold or rainy days for the kids to get some energy out while you sit and read a book or catch up on emails and texts. Or have a playdate and a real conversation while the kids are busy. 

The library offers storytime and activities for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers at various locations throughout the week.

They also have a variety of fun programs for kindergarteners through 12th grade that focus on various topics like culture, cooking, art, music, theater, adulting, etc. They have various reading and learning challenges throughout the year. You can check out their events calendar and filter by age to see all the different programs offered and where they are offered. Each branch of the library has a pass for the Chattanooga Zoo, Creative Discovery Museum, and Hunter Museum that library card holders can check out once per year. The pass is good for a week and you can use it as many times as you want during that time. The downtown and Avondale branches have free meals for kids, Monday through Saturday from 4:30pm to 5:30pm through the end of the school year, thanks to the YMCA. 

The Creative Discovery Museum offers a free night once a month for families to access the exhibits after hours. You have to register for tickets online and it opens the first of the month.

We’ve taken our kids a few times to these and they’ve loved them. The first time we went, it was crazy, but the second time was calmer. Maybe it was because we got there after dinner. They recently finished redoing all their exhibits, so next month would be a great time to visit on a free night. If you have a child with sensory sensitivity, the museum offers a special night for your family. On the first Thursday of the month, they hold a Sensory Night to allow children to play with limited extra sensory inputs. Attendance is capped at 100 people. Registration for these nights opens at the first of every month as well. 

The Chattanooga Gymnastics Center holds Open Gym for ages 5 and under every Friday morning at all three of their locations. It’s not free, but at only $5 per kid, it’s worth it to let them bounce around and expel energy.

Make sure to sign up early in the week because the spots fill up quickly, especially if it’s rainy weather ahead. They have a Homeschool Open Gym at their Ooltewah location every Friday for ages 12 and under, also $5 per kid. They also have Saturday Night Open Gym for ages 4-11 years, but they are at certain locations and cost $15 per kid. Modern Play also does Open Play on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at $5 per kid. 

The Hunter Museum has Sunday Studio on the second Sunday of every month where you can create art inspired by exhibitions at the museum. This isn’t necessarily free or cheap, but kids 17 and under are free. If you are an EBT card holder you can also get in for free for up to 4 adults. 

Since you can borrow a pass from the library, you could get in free to the fun day as an adult if you planned it correctly.  

As the weather warms, don’t forget about all the parks, playgrounds, and splash pads in Chattanooga and the surrounding areas. We like going for a walk with a picnic lunch and playground visit on a sunny afternoon. The city has updated some of the playgrounds in recent years and is currently putting in a new one at Heritage Park. Be on the lookout for a blog post with an updated list of playgrounds in the area. Cloudland Canyon is only $5 per car and you can get a visitor pass to Reflection Riding for a suggested donation of $15 per car. 

I’ve also done several craft things for the kids at home like baking soda with colored vinegar, shaving cream with paint and paper, sensory bins, water beads, or crafts from the dollar section of Michaels. My three-year-olds could sit and play with baking soda and vinegar for hours while making rainbows and patterns. 

Make sure to check out some of the other lists Chattanooga Moms has of things to do in Chattanooga. What are some of your favorite things to do in Chattanooga on a budget?

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Kimberly Casey
Hi, my name is Kimberly and I am a new stay at home mom. I am a nomad of sorts. Born in Arkansas to a military family of five children, I was speaking German by the age of 4. I have lived in Germany, England, and the United States and have traveled to countless other countries. In 2006 I moved to Providence, Rhode Island in order to attend Johnson & Wales University where I received a Bachelor's degree in Food Service Management, an Associate's in Culinary Arts, and an Associate's in Baking and Pastry Arts. So you could say that I'm a foodie.  After college I worked in Collegiate Ministry for many years and loved every second of it. I would do it again in a heartbeat if given the chance today. I met my husband, Wade, in 2011 through Collegiate Ministry but we didn't start dating until 2015. Our entire relationship was long distance and we saw each other a total of 10 times before our wedding. After our wedding in 2016, I moved to Chattanooga where my husband is an associate pastor and I can say that this move was one of the hardest things I had ever done. After two years of marriage we welcomed our daughter into the world this past October. She is a joy, loves to smile, and has turned our world upside down. If I'm not in the kitchen baking or cooking, you can find me outside enjoying nature. 


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