Long days, curling waves, flashing fireflies - Mother Nature provides lots of summer fun absolutely free. But we've found her some competition this year. These giveaways and too-good-to-be-true freebies will keep you and your wallet on vacation all the way to fall. By Sandy M. Fernández, REDBOOK.
1. Do a sun salutation
Top yoga teachers will lead free outdoor classes at the third annual Yoga in the City festival in San Francisco (May 12), Chicago (June 2), New York City (June 9), and Los Angeles (June 30). More than 20,000 people joined in last year, so you might want to stake out your mat early.
2. Bite into a doughnut
Friday, June 7, celebrates National Doughnut Day, which began as a way of honoring Salvation Army "lassies" who served baked goods to troops during World War I. In their honor, Dunkin' Donuts is giving away a doughnut with every drink, and all Krispy Kreme stores nationwide are participating with no purchase necessary (check the company's Facebook page for details).
Nothing's cuter than a tyke in two-toned shoes. Get yours two free games a day through September by registering at kidsbowlfree.com. Then sit back and enjoy that air-conditioning.
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4. Visit the Grand Canyon. Or Yosemite. Or Yellowstone. Or…
It's the National Park Service's 97th birthday, so on August 25, the government will waive entrance fees to every national park. Check nps.gov for information.
Beginning in May, the North Face stores in 13 states will offer free park passes, camping guidebooks, and activity guides. See exploreyourparks.com for locations.
Military? Hit up your local NPS office (store.usgs.gov) for an annual pass that lets you into all the federal parks. Normally $80, it's yours for free. Thanks for serving, soldier.
5. Plant some tomatoes
Pittsburgh gardening writer Doug Oster will send you a packet of heirloom tomato seeds-all he asks is that you return some at the end of the summer, so that he can continue the program. See dougoster.com for details.
6. Catch movies on the big screen
In July and August, Clearview Cinemas Kid's Club (clearviewcinemas.com) offers twice-a-week 10:30 a.m. matinees of favorite family movies, for no charge. Isn't it time you saw Rio?
Many cities-and even some beaches-offer outdoor movies during the summer. Check your town's official website, or Google "free outdoor movies" and your hometown.
When children bring a new book report into a Showcase Cinema "Bookworm Wednesdays" matinee this summer, they earn a movie ticket-and get a parent and siblings under 6 in too. Start reading, kid!
7. …Or watch on the small screen
Text REDBOOK to 727272 and Redbox will send you a code good for a free movie rental every single month. Watch it after the kids go to sleep for a no-cost date night.
8. Bring back the roller rink
Sign up at kidsskatefree.com and you'll be emailed up to four kids' roller-skating passes every single week. (Your local rink not participating? The site has a letter you can print out, asking them to join the program-if you bring it to them, they might change their mind.)
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9. Stock your family library
Kids ages 10 and under can join Pottery Barn Kids' Summer Reading Challenge online: If they finish any of the site's reading lists, they can get a free book from the store.
Elementary school-age kids can get a free book from Barnes & Noble's "Imagination's Destination" program when they download and finish an online reading journal (each one lists at least eight titles).
Kids with a "Young Saver" account at TD Bank will have $10 deposited into their account if they read 10 books by summer's end.
10. Have a magical vacation
Located just minutes from Disney World, the two-year-old Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek offers a lagoon-style pool, 400 rooms, and-all this summer-your second night free. (Use promo code DISBOGO when you book.) Not a Disney-phile? Stick to the spa, golf course, and restaurants-but promise us you'll go down the pirate-ship waterslide at least one time, okay?
11. Redo your yard- for nothing!
Join the Arbor Day Foundation (arborday.org) and you'll be able to choose 10 saplings-we're talking the good stuff: blue spruce, oaks, red cedars, white pines, and more-to be mailed directly to you. Use the website to find out which are best for your climate.
12. Free gas (it's like gold these days)
This'll ease the expense of an extra-long drive: When you stay two nights at a Choice Hotel (Comfort Inn, Sleep Inn, Econo Lodge, and eight other pillow-plumpers), you'll get free fuel or dinner, in the form of a $50 gift card to a gas or restaurant chain. Get the details at choicehotels.com.
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13. Celebrate Dad!
Bring him to the Pasta House on Sunday, June 16, and his spaghetti and cheesecake are on them. Find locations at pastahouse.com.
Take your kids by Home Depot on June 1 and they'll be able to make a crafty present at the free Father's Day gift workshop.
Dads cash in on a gratis cup of fro-yo at TCBY on Father's Day. Ask your husband or father for a bite.
Check into a KOA Campground (koa.com) over Father's Day weekend and kids camp free. No need to rough it: Accommodations at over 400 sites nationwide even include deluxe cabins and motels.
14. Get brain-freeze
On 7-Eleven's special day (July 11, obviously), the chain opens its doors for free Slurpees. Sweet deal!
15. Snag yourself a cone
Two Ben & Jerry's ice cream trucks will be touring the coasts and giving away cones all the way into fall. Follow @benjerrystruck and @benjerryswest on Twitter to find out where they'll be and even request stops. And on the afternoon of May 14, hit any Häagen-Dazs shop for a free scoop of gelato (check the company's Facebook page for participating locations).
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