By Suzanne Wright

Aaah, summer … it starts off so promising. About two weeks into the stickiest season, a chorus of whining “I’m bored,” and “there’s nothing to do!” begins, continuing on an incessant loop until school is back in session. And, let’s face it: summer can be expensive, with a seemingly endless stream of admission fees into popular local attractions.

We know. Most everyone has been there.

So, we’ve scoured the market for family friendly, fun and free (or nearly free) ideas that will keep your kids happy and your wallet intact. Think of it as your summer survival kit.

Scouting for treasure. Sure, it’s old school, but a neighborhood scavenger hunt is still a blast if done right. Wondering how to get started? Check out for a free guide chockfull of secrets to ensure a successful hunt.

Get ‘em hot & fresh. Since 1937, when the red neon “hot” light is illuminated, it means the original glazed Krispy Kreme donuts are being made. Watching hundreds of donuts — at their warm and gooey best — whizzing by on a conveyor belt is mesmerizing. It costs nothing to look and less than $2 per donut to indulge. Visit for the location nearest to you.

The world under a roof. The city’s two largest permanent farmer’s markets, Your Dekalb Farmers Market and the Buford Highway Farmers Market, are air-conditioned portals to faraway lands. The latter is smaller and less crowded than the Dekalb farmers market and has been recently renovated. Once dedicated to Asian foods, it stocks a variety of items from Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Eastern Europe. Have the kids pretend you’re at an international bazaar and wander the aisles with them looking for exotic produce, meats, baked goods and seafood. Samples are often offered and there are frequent demonstrations. Visit or call 770-455-0770 for hours.

Put on an apron. When’s the last time you cooked with your kids? Heating up something or  ordering pizza doesn’t count. If it’s been a while, prepare a made from scratch meal where the whole family pitches in. Check out Cooking With Kids at for recipes such as Happy, Dappy Flapcakes and Mexican Fiesta Tacos. There’s also a special section just for teens.

Lend a hand. Most organizations don’t allow volunteers under age 18, but Compassionate Kids, founded in 2004, specializes in giving children opportunities to serve the earth, others and animals. The Atlanta branch, one of 30 operating nationally and internationally, offers field trips and volunteer projects for kids ages 3-14. Upcoming events will focus on hunger and include activities at a community garden and the Atlanta Community Food Bank. Most activities are free or have a minimal charge. Download the calendar of events at or call 404-317-9078 for more information.

Create a family time capsule. Whether you’re commemorating a special occasion — a bar mitzvah or a Sweet Sixteen — or simply want to gather souvenirs, a family time capsule is an interesting and inexpensive project that everyone can do together. Check out this link for ideas.

Chill out. The self-proclaimed King of Pops, 26-year-old Steven Carse, sells handmade, vegan paletas (that’s Spanish for popsicle) from his street cart in the Poncey-Highlands neighborhood. His ever-changing menu of creative combinations includes blackberry lemonade, chocolate sea salt and grapefruit mint. For $2.50, it’s cheap, cool relief from summer’s heat and humidity. Visit to find his current location.

Dig in the dirt. Interest in community gardening has really sprouted since First Lady Michelle Obama planted an organic vegetable garden at the White House. Dedicate a couple square feet of lawn and a few hours to seeds and soil this summer and you’ll harvest the benefits of fresh produce all year long. Don’t have a yard or limited for space? Check out container gardening or participate in a community garden. There are more than 150 community gardens in the Metro area; click here for details on how to start your own.

Trade in bored for board games. Put the Xbox on pause and rediscover classic family games like Scrabble, Battleship, Trivial Pursuit and Clue. It’s cool to be unplugged: singer Beyonce boasts of being the reigning celebrity Connect4 champ. Fans of Monopoly — celebrating its 75th birthday — can find all the versions at