Free (or Super Cheap) Things for Columbia Kids to do This Summer

As the mom of a (mostly) one-income family for the past 13 years, I’ve had to do my best to find ways to occupy my kids in the summer without spending much money. We’ve had lots of fun in our backyard with the slip-n-slide and water balloons, and spent hours in the cool basement riding scooters and building forts, but there have also been days when we needed to get OUT! Since water parks and obnoxious pizza places don’t always fit into my budget, I’m glad we live in a town that offers plenty to do for free.

Whether you’re home with your kids in the summer or have a sitter whom you trust to drive them around town, save some money by taking advantage of a city that offers free and cheap family fun.

The Columbia Public Library

columiaThis place is a gold mine for free summer entertainment. Not only is it much more economical to rent books and movies than to buy them, but the library also offers a program of interactive shows that kids love. Here is their schedule for the next month.

Monday, June 27, 11:00 – Circus Kaput (outside in Metter Park). Circus stunts and comedy with audience participation.

Wednesday, June 29, 10:30 – Lego Time (in basement).

Thursday, June 30, 10:30 – Forest Park Owls (in basement).

Tuesday, July 12, 11:00 – Tales to Tails (in basement). Kids 5 and up can read to a dog. Registration is required.

Thursday, July 14, 11:00 – Fred and Feathered Friends Bird Show (in basement).

Thursday, July 21, 10:30 – Babaloo Musical Fun (outside in Metter Park). Bean bag tossing and beating on buckets.

Free Lunches in Metter Park

Members of Bethany United Methodist Church and TWIGS, a charitable non-profit organization, are kind enough to distribute free Lunchables and fruit drinks every weekday from 11:45 am – 12:30 pm in Metter Park. Look for yellow T-shirts near the parking lot.

Free Bowling

bowlingWestpark Bowl is participating in the Kids Bowl Free program this year for the first time. Simply register at and kids up to 18 years old can enjoy two free games of bowling PER DAY until September. All you have to pay is $3 for each pair of bowling shoes, and whatever candy or drink the kids beg you for while you’re there.


This is a fun outdoor treasure hunt for kids of all ages, and it doesn’t cost anything unless you want to download the app that shows you extra geocaches for $10. There are quite a few geocaches hidden in Columbia, and some are located at historic sites where your kids can learn about the city’s history. You can find out more by reading my blog, A Mom’s Guide to Geocaching.

Playgrounds Galore

If you get out early enough in the morning before it’s too hot, you can enjoy three great parks here in town with fun playgrounds. Metter Park, Bolm-Schuhkraft Park (what I call City Park), and the American Legion Park. What my daughter loves about summer is that the playgrounds at Immaculate Conception and Parkview Schools are also open for climbing business.

Other Fun Things Close to Columbia

A very short drive can take you to some super cheap fun.

Dupo Park and Sno-Cone Stand

Dupo has a great park where kids can play on a dinosaur-themed playground and ride scooters or roller blade around a paved path. The park has several pavilions, so bring a picnic lunch.

And if you haven’t had a taste of Tropical Sno in Dupo, you’ve been missing out. It’s right next to the high school and offers tons of yummy flavors over the softest ice I’ve ever had. Mmm mmm.

$1 Movies

Wehrenberg Theatres offers a Family Film Series for just $1 per movie and they play a different movie each week. They’re on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 10:00 a.m., and the closest theater to Columbia is Ronnie’s on Lindbergh in South County. You can find a list of the movies here.

Free Skating

Belleville’s a little longer drive but it’s worth it if your kids love roller skating. Fun Spot Skating Center offers free skating all summer on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Just register at and all you have to pay for is skate rental.

Know of other free or cheap things near Columbia? Tell me about it! Enjoy the rest of your summer in this awesome little town we call home.

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