Busy Mama: Plenty of options for summertime fun for $1 or less

Summertime fun doesn’t have to cost big bucks. Check out some of these free or almost-free activities that are designed for families:

1. Cheap movies on the big screen

Every summer, Regal Cinemas offers $1 admission during the Summer Movie Express at select theaters, including Regal Martin Village Stadium 16 & Imax in Lacey.

This year’s lineup includes 18 popular family flicks including “Despicable Me 2,” “Turbo” and “The Lego Movie.” All of the movies begin at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and proceeds go to the Will Rogers Institute. For more information, including the full schedule, go to www.regmovies.com/movies/summer-movie-express.

Meantime, Cinemark offers the Summer Movie Clubhouse, which is $1 per show, or 10 movies for $5 if purchased in advance. Its movies include “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2,” “Walking With Dinosaurs” and “Rio 2.” Century Theaters Capital Mall in Olympia is a participating venue. For more information, including the full schedule, go to www.cinemark.com/summer-movie-clubhouse.

2. Free museums and art

Most museums and art galleries in the Puget Sound area offer free admission at least once a month.

For example, the Museum of Glass, 1801 Dock St., Tacoma, offers free admission from 5 to 8 p.m. during the third Thursday of each month. And the Museum of Flight, 9404 E. Marginal Way S., Seattle, offers free admission from 5 to 9 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month.

In Olympia, the Hands On Children’s Museum, offers free admission from 5 to 9 p.m. on the first Friday of every month. Due to the Fourth of July holiday, the next one will be July 11. It’s a popular program, and the museum typically has between 700 to 1500 children and their families during one of their first Fridays, according to its website. For more information go to www.hocm.org or call 360-956-0818.

The Children’s Museum of Tacoma, 1501 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, offers “pay as you will” admission by donation at all times. For more information, go to www.playtacoma.org or call 253-627-6031.

3. Free library programs

Libraries aren’t just about books, they’re also places to make crafts, watch movies and hear musicians. (And don’t forget they’re a great place to borrow free DVD movies.) The Timberland Regional Library has a wide variety of kids activities scheduled this summer at its various branches, from magic shows and scavenger hunts to story times and reptile shows. For details, go to www.trl.org.

4. Free building workshops

Home Depot and Lowe’s stores offer free Saturday morning workshops for kids.

All of the materials are provided, and if you’re instruction-challenged, there are experts who can help your child create the perfect birdhouse or pencil box.

Home Depot’s programs are from 9 a.m. to noon the first Saturday of the month, and are while supplies last. The July 5 workshop is a bug house. For details, go to www.homedepot.com and search for kids workshops.

Lowe’s Build and Grow Clinics are at 10 a.m. on select Saturdays; the next one is July 12. Preregistration is recommended. For more information, go to www.lowesbuildandgrow.com.

5. Discount fair tickets

The Thurston County Fair is offering “One-Buck Wednesday” on July 30. Admission will be $1 for all ages with a non-perishable donation for the Thurston County Food Bank. For more information, go to www.co.thurston.wa.us/fair/fairprices.htm.

6. Free concerts

Watch a vaudeville-style show, a magician and a concert about science during the Children’s Entertainment Series, organized by the city of Lacey. The concerts and shows are at 6:30 p.m. every Tuesday through Aug. 5 at Huntamer Park, 618 Woodland Square Loop SE, Lacey.

The city also sponsors Lacey In Tune Summer Concerts in the Park at noon on Wednesdays through Aug. 6 at Huntamer. For more information, call 360-491-0857 or go to www.ci.lacey.wa.us.

Most parks and recreation departments in South Sound offer free summertime events for families. For other events, check out your municipality’s web site.

7. Learn about sea life with a beach naturalist

The South Sound Estuary Association will have beach naturalists on hand during low tides this summer at Frye Cove, West Bay, Tolmie and Priest Point parks to talk about marine plants and animals. The events are free and run through the end of August.

For more information, including dates and times, go to www.sseacenter.org or call 360-754-7371.