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August Miller, Deseret News
Elijah Greenfield of Salt Lake City checks out a dinosaur skull in 2005 at the Utah Museum of Natural History on the U. campus.

Welcome to the Deseret News' special section about fun things for families to do this summer. It's a sampling of everything from movie events to music, dance and theater, arts and outdoor activities. We hope that this will be a guide you can keep around for reference all summer. It was impossible to be all inclusive, but we've tried to cover most of the bases.

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Summers go better with books. No doubt about it. And parades. And parks. And all can be enjoyed at no cost.

Check out a few of the free events happening around the state this summer. Look below, but also under the listings for music, museums, movies and for free activities.

What: This Is the Place Heritage Park

Where: 2601 E. Sunnyside Ave.

When: Free admission on July 12 only, including live entertainment and carnival games.

Ages: All

Information: www.thisistheplace.org

What: Nature walks and Junior Ranger programs are free with park admission, throughout the summer, at Utah State Parks

Where: Many locations, including Antelope Island State Park (801-649-5742) and Goblin Valley State Park (435-564-3633).

When: On May 24 and 26, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., there is a Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering at the Fielding Garr Ranch on Antelope Island. While parents listen, kids can make handkerchief dolls and learn pioneer games. Also on May 24, kids are invited to meet at 9:30 a.m. at the Observation Point above Valley of the Goblins, Goblin Valley State Park, where they will earn a badge in predators and prey.

Ages: Junior Ranger programs are designed for 6- to 12-year-olds, but all are welcome.

Information: www.statepark.utah.gov

What: Soul 2 Soul, a class in singing and performance, free to the children of single moms only, so that single moms may have a break.

Where: Axis Dance Center, 3658 W. 9800 South, South Jordan

When: May 31, 1-5 p.m., with a performance at 5:15 p.m.

Ages: 6 to 12

Information: Snacks and a T-shirt included. Reservations required. Call Monet Critchley at 870-5706 or e-mail [email protected]

What: Free admission to the Museum of Natural History

When: First Monday of every month. The museum also stays open late, until 8 p.m., with lots of activities and enrichment programs.

Where: 1390 E. Presidents Circle, University of Utah

Ages: All

Information: www.umnh.utah.edu

What: The Parent Child Book Group

Where: Brigham City Carnegie Library, 26 E. Forest St., Brigham City

When: Meets monthly

Ages: Fifth- to eighth-graders

Information: Call 435-723-5850 — or just start your own group.

What: Utah Heritage Foundation Guided Tours

Where: Salt Lake City-County Building, 451 S. State; Governor's Mansion, 603 E. South Temple; Memorial Chapel in Memory Grove, 370 N. Canyon Road.

When: Tuesdays at noon and 1 p.m., June through August, at the City-County Building; Tuesdays and Thursdays 2-4 p.m., June through August, at the Governor's Mansion; Wednesdays from noon-2 p.m. and the first Saturday of every month from 10 a.m.-noon, June through September, at the Memorial Chapel.

Ages: 8 and older

Information: www.utahheritagefoundation.org (where you can also print out maps for self-guided walking tours around Salt Lake City)

What: Fishing. In Utah, kids younger than 12 don't need a license to fish. They may keep a limit of four fish of any species in community waters.

Ages: 12- and 13-year-olds fish for $5 a year. Also youth organizations may have an exemption for projects

What: Stargazing groups offer lots of free fun.

Information: The Utah Valley Astronomy Association includes links to other clubs, www.uvaa.org

What: The theme of the summer reading program for many Utah libraries is "Catch the Reading Bug." The kickoff party at the St. George Library will feature an entomologist.

Where: 88 W. 100 South

When: June 2, 6:30 p.m.

Ages: 12 and younger

Information: 435-634-5737

What: Parades, parades, parades.

When: At Eagle Mountain, Pony Express Days are May 30 through June 7. Bear Lake Raspberry Days are Aug. 7-9. And don't forget that on Sept. 1, in Park City, the Miner's Day Celebration includes not only a parade but a mucking and drilling contest. Of course, towns from Circleville to West Point will have an Independence Day parade.

Information: www.utah.com

E-mail: [email protected]