11 Free things to do with kids in Thunder Bay this summer: Updated for 2023
Raise your hand if you like free stuff! Here’s our list of the best FREE summer fun for families in Thunder Bay in summer 2023.
1. Go to a Border Cats game Become part of the Junior Cats Club, where kids 12 and under get in free to Sunday afternoon home games at Port Arthur Stadium. Hit the concession stand and cheer on the Cats!
2. Visit a fire station
Big red trucks, big rubber boots, big fun: To visit a Thunder Bay fire station, all you have to do is fill out a request form and set a date. The firefighters will take you and the kids on a tour of the station, including seeing the equipment and asking them questions about their job. (Kids must be of school age.)
3. “Fly” a plane
Visit the Northwestern Ontario Aviation Centre to see artifacts and exhibits about the region’s flying history, and try your hand at the amazingly realistic flight simulator, created by two local aviation enthusiasts. Open Wednesdays and Sundays from 1-4 pm or by appointment.
4. Get green
Explore the Centennial Botanical Conservatory, filled with enormous green plants, a tiny fairy house, a waterfall and chunks of amethyst. Outside, there’s a kids’ veggie garden and info about bees and other pollinators. Or, visit the new Adelaide Monarch Garden (on Adelaide Street near Boulevard Lake), created by Urban Greenscapes, to see if you can spot any monarch caterpillars or butterflies amongst the butterfly-friendly plants. There’s a cool metal butterfly sculpture too.
5. See wild birds up close
At the McKellar Island Bird Observatory, kids can be citizen scientists and monitor migratory bird trends. Visit researchers John and Maureen Woodcock, who carefully capture birds using special mist netting, then weigh, band and release them. Open approximately 7:30 am-1 pm, every day starting August 1, closed when it’s raining. (Donations welcome too!)
6. Visit the animals
Take a little country drive to see the friendly alpacas, geese, ducks, pigs and more at the animal farm at Vanderwees (note that there is a nearby mini-putt course on site, as well as Funland rides and activities, which both have fees).
7. Catch an outdoor movie
The Movie Nights in the Parks series takes place in several different parks around town, on Thursdays in August: the 10th, the 18th and the 23rd. Concessions are available, and bring your own blanket, lawn chairs and some cozy clothes if the lake breezes are cool.
8. Groove to the music, live and outside Live on the Waterfront is a concert series that runs on Wednesday nights from July 19 to August 21, 2023, 6-9 pm. You can also check out free concerts at Crossroad Music at Fort William First Nation on Saturday afternoons from 1-5 pm, Chippewa Park on Sunday afternoons starting at 2 pm and Waverley Park on Mondays from 6:30-8:30 pm.
9. Experience art and history
Take your bikes and enjoy your art outside with the self-guided Def Sup graffiti art tour that shows off the city’s mural artists. The Ahnisnabae Art Gallery has art for sale, but you can still pop in with the kids to see incredible examples of Indigenous art. Kids 12 and under get into the Thunder Bay Art Gallery for free, and it’s free admission for all on Wednesdays (and just $5 for adults other days). The work of several different local artists is on display this summer, including vibrant colourful paintings and birchbark clothes. Tuesdays are free admission days at the Thunder Bay Museum (and the rest of the time, adult admission is $3, kids 6-12 are $1.50 and kids under six are free). Top kid attractions, according to museum staffers are the real jail cell and the wigwam. The visiting summer exhibit is Behind Racism: Challenging The Way We Think.
10. Love the library
The Thunder Bay Public Library offers all kinds of family-friendly activities in summer 2023. Visit their events page or summer newsletter to get listings of all the events. There’s everything from Science North programs and panning for “gold” to crafts, storytime, window painting, an exotic reptile show, gardening and much more.
11. Splash around
Shriek, giggle, spray: splash pads are always a winner. Why not take a tour of the city’s five splash pads to figure out which one is your family’s fave?
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