7 fun (and free!) activities for your military family

Jessica Evans Avatar

Tracy Moran, chief Naval Air crewman, right, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Jeremy Gardner, Naval Air crewman, both assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25, collect coconut tree fronds. HSC-25 Sailors are working with the National Park Service in a continuing project to beautify Asan Beach Park at Guam. (U.S. Navy photo by Oyaol Ngirairikl/Released)

The military paycheck does not stretch as far as it used to. No sugar coating here. Times are tough. Between so many mil spouses losing their jobs during the pandemic to the soaring costs of everyday items, military families around the country are really feeling the pinch. Not to mention it’s summer. That means your kids are probably howling from the tops of their lungs for things to do. Fortunately, there’s some relief in sight.

One of the ways companies across the country show their appreciation to U.S. service members is by offering freebies and discounts. We know it’s not the same as a COLA but it’s better than nothing. Besides, It’s nice to see companies step up like this as a genuine thank you. This list includes 7 free activities military families can enjoy at no cost:

1. National Parks

Military families can enjoy the most beautiful landscapes in the country for free. All active-duty U.S. military members and their families have access to a free America the Beautiful National Parks pass. This also includes Federal Recreation Lands Pass. The pass, which normally costs $80, is good for a year. You can get into any National Park and National Recreation Area at no cost. Take full advantage of this if you can! America’s parks offer some of the most breathtaking views you’ll find in the country!

2. Sea World Parks and Entertainment

If marine life is your thing, you’ll love this freebie! Every year, the Waves of Honor program offers one free admission ticket and three dependent tickets to Sea World, Busch Gardens, Sesame Place, and more. Sea World Parks and Entertainment has locations around Florida, San Antonio, Texas, and California. Best part? You don’t need to be stationed in one of those states to take advantage of this discount!

3. Museum of Modern Art

Is a trip to the Big Apple in your future? The world-renowned Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City offers free entry all year. New York can be a little expensive, so this is one of the many ways the Big Apple is giving back. MoMA can’t be missed, as it’s one of the most remarkable collections of contemporary art in the world. And, if you’re in the city, be sure to check out the 9/11 Memorial Museum, the One World Observatory, and the Bronx Zoo. All offer military discounts!

Scott Dunlap, Professional Golfers’ Association champion player, provides golfing tips to Keesler personnel during a free clinic at the Bay Breeze Golf Course at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, March 29, 2022. Dunlap is on the coast to compete in the 2022 Rapiscan Systems Classic at Grand Bear Golf Club. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

4. PGA

Calling all golfers! The Professional Golfers Association has a program called Birdies for the Brave. This program provides support for the military community in many ways. One fun thing they do is offer free tickets to PGA tournaments to the active-duty military community. How many free tickets per event varies per tournament, so check each tournament’s website for specific details. If you’re looking for more military golf courses to visit, check out this list! And, here’s why golf courses are so important to military installations.

5. Veteran Tickets Foundation (Vet Tix)

What’s summer without an outdoor concert or two? If ticket prices have you shook, then maybe this organization can help. The Veteran Tickets Foundation is a nonprofit that offers free tickets to major sporting events, concerts, and more through its Tickets for Troops Program. Vet Tix are available to all active U.S. military, veterans, and their immediate families. Sign up for an account to get access. Tickets can be random and go fast, so sign in to your account often to take advantage of this benefit.

Washington Nationals mascot Screech high fives Petty Officer 1st Class Andrew Jenkins, a hospital corpsman and U.S. Pacific Fleet Sailor of the Year, at the Nationals Park prior to a major league baseball game between the Nationals and the Florida Marlins. The four sailors will be meritoriously promoted to chief petty officers for their accomplishments. (Photo by: Petty Officer 1st Class Abraham Essenmacher)

6. Operation Purple Camp

Operation Purple Camp is a program through the National Military Family Association that provides military kids a free week of summer camp. Help your children connect with other mil kids in this great lineup of camps. This opportunity is available to children of all U.S. active duty military. Camp locations are scattered across the US, from California to Texas to Massachusetts and more. Sign-ups are usually in the spring, so you might not be able to take advantage of this benefit this summer, but keep OPC on your radar for next year!

7. Blue Star Museums

Each year, active-duty military and their families gain free access to over 2,000 museums, zoos, and nature centers across the country. This freebie is time sensitive, so plan well! This discount gives you free access from Memorial Day to Labor Day. This initiative, called Blue Star Museums, is possible thanks to a collaborative effort by the National Endowment for the Arts and Blue Star Families teaming up with the Department of Defense and nationwide museums. The list of museums that participates is varied and extensive. You’ll be sure to find something you enjoy!

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