There are plenty of budget friendly ways to entertain kids in Monroe County. Whether you are a resident of Bloomington, Ellettsville, or Stinesville, or you are visiting from out of town, Monroe County CASA wants to share a few options that won’t break the bank.

Outdoor Activities

Monroe County

Looking to get the kids out of the house and away from the electronics? Entertain kids in Monroe County by exploring the wide array of free, family-friendly outdoor parks that the area has to offer. The perfect place to start your outdoor adventure is at Switchyard Park in Bloomington. Located right on the B-Line Trail, Switchyard Park provides all that a child needs to have fun. Play on the basketball, pickleball, or bocce ball courts, hang out at the skatepark, cool off at the splash pad, or take a trip to the playground! Be sure to keep an eye out for food trucks there too! You can eat and relax at the picnic shelter.

Is the temperature feeling a bit brisk outside? No need to worry. There is still plenty to do. Bundle up and enjoy free outdoor activities like Bloomington’s Freezefest. This must-see winter festival features ice sculpture carvings by various artists. Another attraction that fits any season is Bloomington’s Griffy Lake Nature Preserve. In the summer months, watercrafts are available to rent for as little as $8 per hour. Or as the seasons change, hike the trails around the lake to enjoy colorful autumn leaves or a snowy scene of the lake.

For more ideas be sure to check out Visit Bloomington, the City of Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department or the Monroe County Parks and Recreation Department.

Cultural Immersion

Monroe County’s cultural experiences are a unique way to engage children without breaking your budget. Many of these immersive experiences can be found in the various art museums and galleries in Bloomington. One of these includes the Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University where you can find a variety of art collections including ancient art, contemporary art, Asian art, and more. A visit here is sure to be educational, inspiring, and eye-opening.

Farmers’ Markets for Fresh Food and Fun


Want to get fresh local food and enjoy free live family friendly entertainment?  Go visit the Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market, the  Woolery and Winter’s Farmers’ Markets, or the Smithville Farmers’ Market on a Saturday morning.  There is plenty to enjoy at the market for both children and adults. Walk around to the many stalls selling locally grown produce, locally sourced baked goods, and even beautiful fresh-cut flowers! Food samples, sweet treats, live music, and the beauty of the local community are a recipe for a lively morning for yourself and your children. Did you know you can also use your SNAP (food stamp) card too at the Bloomington markets? You can also draw up to $27 in SNAP (food stamp) benefits, and receive up to $54 worth of food. Learn more here: 

 double your SNAP benefits at the Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market

double your SNAP benefits at the Woolery and Winter Farmers’ Markets

Sweets and Treats

Along with all the fun and exciting activities, don’t forget to treat yourselves to some sweets! Ready for some relief from the heat? Stop by The Chocolate Moose to enjoy an ice cream cone. If you’re looking for a healthy option, Rush Bowls offers a wide variety of smoothies and smoothie bowls! In the mood for baked goods rather than icy treats? Enjoy amazing pastries and sweets at Rainbow Bakery or cookies from Baked! of Bloomington.

Entertainment Wherever You Are

Of course, you don’t have to leave home to find budget-friendly ways to entertain kids. There are plenty of ways to engage them at home, too!

Monroe County

While spending some time at home, why not plant some seeds and watch them grow! Visit your local garden center and purchase some seeds for the plants of your child’s choice. Buy a pot or use an old milk container and throw in some soil. Water and care for the seeds as you and your family watch them grow. Children will not only learn valuable skills about how to take care of a living organism, but they’ll learn the beautiful feeling of watching something come to life!

Having a hard time finding ways to get kids off the screens? Meet in the middle and find some fun Tik Tok dances. Learn the choreography together and take a video with your child’s favorite song playing in the background. It’ll be a great way to be active and make some memories that you can save and look back at together one day! Just be sure to review privacy settings before creating videos. You can set your account to be family-friendly under the “Family Pairing” option in settings. Also remember that before you share a Tik Tok video, check “Only Me” or “Friends” under “Who Can Watch this Video?” Taking these steps will promote safety while using Tik Tok with your child.

Finally, let that creative side be unleashed with some sidewalk chalk. This is not only a great way for children to express themselves through drawings, it’s also a great way to get the kids outside of the house and into the sunshine. Whether they’re drawing pictures or hopscotch squares, sidewalk chalk is an easy way to motivate kids to play outside and enjoy the fresh air.

Whether you are looking for cost effective ways to entertain kids in Monroe County or at home, there are plenty of options and ways to have fun. Let that childlike imagination run wild and don’t forget to have fun!

Written by: Amber Whittington