With so much to do in the summer, wallets can quickly become worn out from overspending. But not to worry — there’s plenty to do in Rhode Island in the summer that’s free — or at least very, very cheap — and none of it involves heading to the bathroom when the check arrives.
Movies: You should see Wonder Woman in a big theater with surround sound and a large popcorn. But not every movie needs that treatment. For a less expensive option, you could pile all your friends into your clown car and head to Rustic Tri-View to see the latest blockbusters. But if that is too rich for your blood, there are movie options for the low, low price of free! For family-friendly flicks, head to Rocky Point Park on Thursday nights where movies are projected on a screen in front of the lawn. Bring a blanket and arrive hungry because there’s always a line of food trucks waiting. For more grown-up movies, check out Movies on the Block on Thursday nights. Once a week, the movie screen on a brick wall at the corner of Union and Westminster Streets downtown draws a crowd of movie lovers and occasionally, a leashed cinephile (they’re usually dogs). Check our listings for the Movies on the Block summer line-up.
Music: Free music practically pours from every corner of the state in the summer. On Tuesdays, head to North Kingstown Town Beach for their summer concert series. On Wednesday nights, you have your pick of gazebo concerts. Check out the live music at the gazebo at Narragansett’s Town Beach, or head to Garden City in Cranston to listen to their gazebo concert. On Thursday nights, head to Burnside Park downtown when the park turns into a beer garden. The beer isn’t free, but the music is. And so is the entertainment for the littles (Legos and bubbles FTW!) On Fridays is the WBRU Concert Series at Waterplace Park. Check out Alt-Nation for this year’s line-up and check out Roots Report for other free music options. It’s also worth paying attention to the concerts held at the Botanical Center at Roger Williams Park. They aren’t free, but they are reasonably priced and the scenery alone is worth the price of admission.
Museums: Most museums in the state offer free or discounted days on occasion. The RISD museum is free on Sundays and the third Thursday evening of each month. The Natural History Museum in Roger Williams Park is free to Providence residents on the first Saturday of every month, but even if your ID doesn’t say PVD, admission costs about the same as a cup of coffee. The Roger Williams Park Zoo also is free to Providence residents the first Saturday of the month. Museum membership is also worth considering if you’re a frequent museum-goer. The up-front cost can be steep, but membership quickly pays for itself after a couple of family visits. Memberships often come with museum reciprocity as well. So if you purchase a membership at one museum, partner museums will let you in for free. Another option is to contact your local library. Many of them hold a few passes to local museums and will check them out to you for the day on a first-come, first-served basis.
Munchkins: If your little ones are climbing the walls, bored with all that summer freedom, fear not! There’s plenty of free entertainment around that will keep kids (and you) busy. On Thursday mornings, head to Burnside Park to enjoy a free storytime. When storytime is over, kids are lead through a themed craft while you lounge on over-sized beanbags scattered on the lawn. Just about every bookstore and library in the state offers free activities and storytimes. The storytime at the Athanaeum is particularly fun, and in the summer, the librarian takes her show on the road, reading stories to little ones playing at Humboldt Park, located near Wayland Square, on Thursday afternoons. When temperatures really spike, Providence keeps kiddos cool by turning on the water at various splash pads throughout the city. And if things get too hot even for the splash pad, head to the Providence Children’s Museum. Admission is always free for EBT cardholders, and admission is free for everyone on occasional Friday evenings. Check their calendar for details. Side note: If you find yourself getting aggravated when little Johnny knocks down your awesome Magnet Tile tower … again! … consider hitting the children’s museum on their adults-only night. The playground at Roger Williams Park Zoo, which is super fun, also has an adults-only night. Neither of these events are free, but wouldn’t you pay any sum of money to finish your damn tower?! And of course, there’s WaterFire. Your kids will eat too much sugar and stay up too late, but they’ll create lasting memories and you’ll get to smell the campfire scent in their hair as you carry your sleeping cherubs from the car to bed.
This list is far from exhaustive — we haven’t even touched on the hiking trails (see page XX), beaches, rivers (see page XX) and old-fashioned block parties. If you have a favorite free event we missed, let us know on Facebook and we’ll share your suggestion.