I love my kids, but they are expensive! How easy is it to drop $100 going out to eat and bowling or to the movies? We all love to get out of the house and take our kids fun places, but sometimes our pocket books just can’t support “Family Fun” every day. Unless it’s free…
Last year, my husband called me and asked if I would spend 30 minutes putting together a list of some ideas we could do as a family that wouldn’t cost us anything. That’s right. Not a single dime. I admit I was skeptical. There are so many awesome things to do in the Quad Cities, but something free was almost unheard of. And if it’s free, didn’t that mean it was boring?
Quite the contrary!
After many hours of exhausting research, compilation, and labor, I came up with the list you see below (in no particular order). I was so surprised to see all the awesome free stuff in our community. I knew I couldn’t keep it to myself. We shared this information about a year ago, but here it is again…revised and updated! Thanks to my fellow QCMB writers for contributing ideas, contact information, and photos.
We would love to keep this list current for our readers. If you have any links, phone numbers, ideas, or information to share, please comment on this post. The more free stuff, the better! Have fun and don’t forget to share with your friends and family!
- John Deere Pavilion
- John Deere Harvester Works – factory tours where you can see how the agricultural equipment is built
- John Deere World Headquarters – you can view the display mural with 75 years of history, equipment, and memorabilia
- Two historic homes of John Deere descendants: Butterworth Center and Deere Wiman House, Moline, IL
- Schwiebert Riverfront Park (includes spray park) in Rock Island
- Nahant Marsh – urban wetland boardwalk
- Bucktown Center for the Arts
- Free movies in the park at the bandshell in Veterans Memorial Park, Bettendorf (Summer 2015)
- Skybridge in Davenport
- Mississippi River Distilling Company in LeClaire
- Arsenal Island (Mississippi River Visitor Center and Arsenal Museum)
- Black Hawk State Historic Site
- Centennial Park in Davenport (features basketball courts, playground, skateboard park, spray park, cricket and rugby fields, dog off-leash area, and riverfront trail access)
- Fryexell Geology Museum – located on the campus of Augustana College in Rock Island – one of the largest and finest collection of rocks and minerals in the Midwest (It also has a complete dinosaur skeleton!)
- Empire Park in East Moline
- Naibi Zoo (free days offered throughout the year – utually at the very beginning and ending of each season)
- Backwater Gamblers (water ski club – free shows on Wednesdays and Sundays in the summer)
- Freight House Farmer’s Market in Davenport-Open Tuesday afternoons, Saturday mornings, and they just added Sunday afternoons (11am-3pm) as an additional market time! You can check out the Freight House Facebook page or website for specific times and dates.
- Other Quad Cities farmers markets
- Bike trails
- Vander Veer Botanical Park Conservatory – free admission on Tuesdays, all kids 16 and under are free every day, plus free monthly concerts through the summer
- Loud Thunder Forest Preserve
- Walnut Grove Pioneer Village
- Scott County Park
- West Lake Park
- Credit Island
- Wapsi River Environment Educational Center in Dixon, IA-free nature activities
- Wild Cat Den State Park in Muscatine, IA
- Smiths Island Nature Trail in Muscatine, IA
- Frisbee Golf Courses in the QC: West Lake Park in Davenport, Middle Park in Bettendorf, Eastern Avenue Park in Davenport, Devils Glen in Bettendorf, Prospect Park in Moline, and Camden Park in Milan
- Dog Parks (Although some have limits on the age/size of children who can enter)
- Family Dollar Day$ Mondays: For the past several years, The Family Credit Union has been sponsoring “Funday Mondays,” offering free general admission to the Putnam Museum in Davenport, Quad City Botanical Center in Rock Island, Family Museum in Bettendorf, and Riverside Aquatic Center (from 5 to 8 p.m. only) in Moline. (This discounted offer usually runs from Memorial Day through mid August and has limited hours).
- Weed Park in Muscatine
- Visit Quad Cities-Excellent website with an event calendar and TONS of local resources!
- Lots of activities along the Mississippi River – including eagle watching, hiking, biking, and boat watching
- Visit any garden shops/nurseries or pet shops. My kids love to go to Petco and hold the guinea pigs!
- Church events – free movie nights, carnivals, Vacation Bible School, and other family friendly activities for the community.
- Chick-Fil-A in Davenport – Every Tuesday morning from 9:30-10, children can enjoy storytelling, crafts, music, and playtime in the indoor playground. Parents will receive a free small coffee. Thursday nights from 5:30-7:30 are Family Night. Children will receive a free ice cream with the purchase of a kid’s meal. They can top it off with toppings from the sundae bar. Click here to view the schedule of events.
- Free Concerts and Movies in the Quad Cities
- Kids Bowl Free in Davenport at Bowlmor Lanes, Miller Time Bowling, and Quad City Family Entertainment Center– Register your child and get 2 free games of bowling per child ALL summer long (valued at $500). Includes children 15 years old and younger. Standard shoe rental rates apply.
- Davenport Parks and Recreation Department
- Bettendorf Parks and Recreation Department
- Moline Parks and Recreation Department
- Rock Island Parks and Recreation Department
There are so many parks in the Quad Cities; it would be impossible to list them all. Click here for an overview of all Quad City Parks and Rec contacts and links. It includes info on biking, hiking, golf, fishing, pools, water parks, playgrounds, skiing, tennis, and much more!
Public libraries are a huge source of free family entertainment (and a great place to go during the wonderful winters of the Midwest). Free baby, toddler, and preschool story times are just the beginning of the amazing programs that are offered year round. Click on the links below to view the scheduled free story times and to browse other programming options, including free summer reading programs!
Bettendorf Public Library offers free passes for the Bettendorf Family Museum. Rock Island Public Library offers free passes for the Quad City Botancial Center and the Niabi Zoo. Moline Public Library offers free passes for the Niabi Zoo. There are specific stipulations for this free offer, so be sure to call the library before you go to see if the passes are available. You can also search here at the Davenport Public Library to see which passes are available and at which branches. You can only check out one pass per location per registered library card. Call your library for additional information.
Check out our list of restaurants where KIDS EAT FREE! Please call ahead to ensure the special still applies.
Volunteering together is another great free family fun activity. The possibilities for this are endless, but please consider spending some time to serve the Quad Cities. Your kids will remember it for a lifetime! Check out Marie’s post and Siri’s post on ways to volunteer and give back to our community.
If you can get through this whole list in one summer, can you share some of your energy with me?
From the Quad City Mom’s Blog to you…have a safe and fun summer with those kiddos!
(If you have any additional ideas, please post them in the comments!)