Image: Todd Spoth

Think low-cost family fun is an oxymoron? Come on, this is Houston we’re talking about!

First there’s bowling, that perennial way to get out of the sun and still stay active. It’s even more a temptation these days, what with the summertime Kids Bowl Free Program. Multiple alleys in the area —including Copperfield Bowl, Emerald Bowl, 300 Bowl (Conroe), Times Square Entertainment
(Katy), Max Bowl North (Humble), Max Bowl East (Baytown), and Tomball Bowl—are participating this year, offering two free games each day to kids 15 and under.

You can also stay cool—though far less active—in the darkened environs of the movie theater, where you and the kids can catch movies for only $1 thanks to Regal Cinema’s Summer Movie Express series. Movies start at 10 a.m. and include such family favorites as The Lego Movie and Turbo. Plus proceeds go to benefit the Will Rogers Institute, so you can feel good about giving back.

Then, there are the free museum days. Thursdays bring free days at the major museums, with the Children’s Museum waiving admission fees from 5 to 8 p.m.; the Health Museum and Museum of Natural Science from 3 to 6 p.m.; and the Museum of Fine Arts from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. 

Meanwhile, the Port of Houston Authority offers its own boat tour of the bayou, an hour-and-a-half-long cruise. The trips along the Houston Ship Channel are free, although reservations must be made in advance. Lots more nautical-themed fun can be had watching sailboat races on Clear Lake. From March to October, over 50 vessels in five different classes race every Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. in front of the Seabrook Beach Club.

And finally, don’t overlook Williams Sonoma this summer, which offers free Saturday cooking classes for kids ages 5 to 12. Just make sure you sign up ahead of time—they fill up fast.

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