Free For All

Feeding the ducks and fishing at Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden are some of our favorite free activities. Photo: Ashley de coligny

Can you believe November is here already here? To me, that means the holiday season is officially upon us, even though stores have had their Christmas trees up for weeks already. And to me, this also means a tighter budget—all those holiday gifts aren’t going to buy themselves. With my wallet already quivering in fear over the next two months, this means our family fun time had better be cheap. And by cheap, I mean FREE. Lucky for us, on Oahu we have plenty of free entertainment, even beyond the beach. Here’s a list of my favorite go-to family fun spots when I can’t spend a dime. The best things in life are free, right?

Oahu Urban Garden Center
I recently visited the Children’s Garden (see the blog here), which amazed my kids. Admission is always free, but the University of Hawaii-run Garden Center is only open on weekends on the second Saturday of every month. Parents can buy plants for their backyards, get advice from master gardeners and learn from workshops while kids can run through the sensory, butterfly, animal and Hawaiian gardens, hedge mazes and more.  A few times, we were able to take home a free plant to let the learning continue. Learn more about second saturdays online

Library Storytimes
I can’t remember the last time I paid full price for a book. I’m too much of a cheapskate to buy children’s books at the store, when the library is a perfectly good treasure trove. Plus, it’s more fun for everyone. My kids can pick whatever they want, I don’t have to say “no” to anything, and I don’t spend a cent. Well, that is, except for that time my son tore all the pages out. I had to pay for that. The Hawaii State Public Library System consists of 50 branches across the state, many offer free children’s story times. For more info, click here.

Fishing at Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden
This gorgeous spot offers free catch-and-release fishing every weekend from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. You can borrow fishing gear then make the 20-minute walk to the lake. I had a recent not-so-successful fishing trip there (you can read about that misadventure here) but we had a blast nonetheless. Even if you don’t fish, it’s a beautiful place for relaxing and picnicking. For more info, click here.

Play Tourist
OK, I’ll fully admit that sometimes we cruise the hotels and resorts just for fun. (And not as a paying guest. Sorry, hotels and resorts.) One of my kids’ favorites is to watch the dolphins at the Kahala Resort. We’ve also checked out the aquarium and roaming Disney characters at Aulani, and the birds and fish at the Hilton Hawaii Village. Does this make me feel kind of tacky? Sure. But did we get some free entertainment in? Definitely.

Hit the Malls
Most of the shopping centers on Oahu offer free, kid-friendly entertainment. Kahala Mall has Toddler Time every Wednesday from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. and Windward Mall has a free children’s play area near Macy's (a total lifesaver for me, and one of my kids’ favorites places ever) as well as arts and crafts for kids once a month at the Kids' World event


Free admission days

My family absolutely loves exploring Bishop Museum. You can always watch for free admission days which can pop up for special occasions such as the YMCA's Healthy Kids Day in April and Hawaii Pacific Health's KidsFest in October. Check Bishop Museum's calendar here.

The third Sunday of every month, the Honolulu Museum of Art has free admission for the Bank of Hawaii Family Sunday.  It comes with arts and crafts for the kids, live performances and a bargain on family friendly movies at the Doris Duke Theatre. You can also catch a free trolley to the Spalding House for more free kids fun. Click here for more info.


Festivals and Fairs
Almost every weekend, there always seems to be a free community fair or festival to check out. And you know how I keep up with them? A little shameless plug for HONOLULU Family Magazine here: I always use the handy online calendar to find out about the latest local events. Sign up for the free weekly eNewsletter and the editors' top picks will be emailed to you every Thursday.

What are some of your favorite free things to do with the family? Share them with us on HONOLULU Family Magazine’s Facebook page!

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