The 10 Best FREE (that’s right!) Summer Activities for Kids in Johnson City, TN

As a Johnson City, TN orthodontist, Dr. Sturgill gets the scoop on all of the fun kids’ activities in the area. We know how excited our patients are about the end of the school year but for their parents, keeping them entertained for several months without spending a small fortune can be a challenge. Well, Sturgill Orthodontics is here to help! Here’s our guide to the best free summer activities for kids in Johnson City.

1. Lakeside Concert Series

Winged Deer Park at Goulding Amphitheater (off Carroll Creek Road) – Grab the family, your lawn chairs and some snacks and head out to the Goulding Amphitheater at Winged Deer Park on Thursdays from 7 to 9 p.m. through July 6 for a free concert series. Sponsored by the Parks and Recreation Department, this is one of the more popular Johnson City activities for kids and families. People of all ages will have a blast dancing to live music. The schedule includes Beach Nite Band (June 29) and Model City Wrecking Crew (July 6). There will also be a special performance featuring the Johnson City Symphony on Sunday, September 10 from 6 to 8 p.m.

2. Independence Day Festivities

Freedom Hall Civic Center Grounds, 1320 Pactolas Road – Ring in Independence Day with free 4th of July fun and fireworks in Johnson City. On Tuesday, July 4, the 32nd annual Independence Day Fireworks Celebration will take place at Freedom Hall Civic Center. The free event will kick off at 5 p.m. Attendees will enjoy food, craft booths, children’s games, live entertainment from Ashley Traglar with Six Gun, Clare Dunn, Austin Moody and Jimbo Whaley & Greenbrier, special guests, military tributes and prizes. At 9:55 p.m., the fireworks will light up the night sky. There will be free Johnson City Transit bus service that begins from East Tennessee State University (corner of State of Franklin and University Parkway) and Winged Deer Park Complex (Bristol Highway) parking lots.

3. Tale to Tail

Johnson City Public Library, 100 West Millard Street – Need to beat the heat? Every Monday from 4 to 5:30 p.m., the Johnson City Public Library hosts Tale to Tail for children ages five through nine. Kids can register for a 15-minute time slot to read to a trained listening dog. This is one of our favorite free summer activities for kids in Johnson City because it helps to prevent learning loss and allows little ones to work on their reading skills. Plus, there are dogs involved!

4. Jr.G’s

Carver Recreation Center, 322 West Watauga Avenue – This free Johnson City teen program is held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 to 5 p.m. for ages 10 through 14. Attendees learn about gardening, composting, worm farming, food preservation and greenhouse herbs. While your teenager is engaged in learning fun, let the younger kids run free on the playground in Carver Park.

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5. Hiking in Buffalo Mountain Park

570 Highridge Road – Buffalo Mountain Park offers some of the best hiking in Johnson City with breathtaking views. The 725-acre natural resource area has a variety of trails for hikers of all experience levels. Since it’s densely forested, the shade from the trees will keep you relatively cool even in the summer. Bring a picnic lunch and head out for a day surrounded by nature. Families with young kids will most likely want to stick to the beginner level hikes. If you’ll be hiking with teens, the 4.5-mile White Rock Loop is a moderate hike and you’ll get to see some waterfalls. Check out the trail system map to plan your trek.

6. Johnson City Farmers Market

Pavilion at Founders Park, 100 E. Market Street – The Farmers Market definitely has to make it onto our list of Johnson City kids’ activities since the younger set tends to love taking in the sights and sounds and exploring the colorful rows of fruits and vegetables. Held every Wednesday and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., mid-April through October, the market features an abundance of fresh produce, canned and baked goods, arts and crafts and treats galore. The Farmers Market Fresh Program, sponsored by the Washington County UT Extension, will be at the Wednesday market through mid-August. Swing by their table to try a sample of a recipe made with local produce. You’ll get the recipe as well as a free cooking utensil. There’s even a children’s challenge where kids have a chance to win a prize.

7. Founders After 5

Amphitheater at Founders Park, 225 Commerce Street – Founders After 5 is another free concert series in Johnson City featuring live entertainment every Friday (except the first Friday of the month) through September in the amphitheater at Founders Park. The events start at 6 p.m. Pack a picnic and lounge outside. A few upcoming acts include My New Favorites (June 23), Fly By Night Rounders (June 30) and Chalwa (July 14).

8. Events at the Tipton-Haynes Historic Site

2620 S. Roan Street – The Tipton-Hayes Historic site holds a number of free events in Johnson City throughout the year. Up next this summer, is the Harvest Craft Bazaar hosted by the Upper East Tennessee Celtic Society. On August 19 from noon to 4 p.m., enjoy a day browsing homegrown and local handmade items set against a backdrop of historic buildings and natural wonders.

9. First Friday

E. Main Street – On the first Friday of every month from 5 to 9 p.m., East Main Street in historic downtown Johnson City closes down for these free festivities. More than two dozen locations, ranging from art galleries and museums to retail shops, participate and open their doors to the public with fun activities and experiences for children, adults and families. One month you might witness a chili cook-off while another month waterslides will be on the agenda. Entertainment includes street performances, outdoor concerts, storytellers, dancers, hula hoopers, fire throwers and more!

10. Johnson City Community Drum Circle

Pavilion at Founders Park, 100 E. Market Street – On Wednesdays through the end of October from 7 to 8:30 p.m., bring lawn chairs and partake in this free, family-friendly event. Sit back and listen to the beats, dance or join in and make your own music.