The long New England winter is finally over, which means I plan on spending as much of the next consecutive 120ish days outside as possible.
You’d think that with all of the time I spent waiting for summer I’d have enough ideas to keep the fun rolling indefinitely, but I’m lazy sometimes and broke all the time so occasionally I opt for a TV movie and a nap instead.
What a waste.
I like to keep those days to a minimum, and you should do the same, so here are my tops picks for a summer of fun on a liberal arts budget (also known as free):
Okay, so maybe you don’t have a breathtaking trail like this near you. Luckily there’s always somewhere begging to be explored, be it a mountain trail, a town path, or a city street you haven’t traveled. Looking for an exciting twist to your travels? Try geocaching!
2. The Beach
The beach is my jam. Warm sand, blue skies, relaxing waves lapping the shore. Grab a good book, a frisbee, your dog, or a boogie board for hours of fun in the sun on the coast or at the lake. Bonus fun if you befriend a surfer and try something new without paying to rent equipment!
I promise, sports are just as fun now as they were when you were a kid, just with a little more huffing and puffing. Check-in with your friends to see what supplies you have collectively and organize a pick-up game after work. Who knows, in time it may become a weekly tradition and maybe you’ll even meet some new fun athletic pals!
Having a picnic can be fun on its own or in addition to any other “free fun” activity. Throw together something to eat and bring a blanket, shades, music, and spf to the park, the beach, or your backyard for an al fresco twist on lunch. If you have a few bucks and are feeling lazy it still counts if you grab a pizza instead of making fancy finger sandwiches.
5. Local Events
Okay, maybe craft fairs and farmers markets aren’t your thing. Luckily the summer months bring with them a wide variety of typical and unique events for you to sample. If you live in a city, you can easily find these with a quick online search, and you’ll likely run into flyers and ads every day. If you live in a smaller town, search for events in surrounding areas and check town websites for information on fairs, outdoor concerts, food festivals, and more!
6. Touristy Spots
I think I was in my twenties by the time I first made it to Plymouth Rock, walked Boston’s famous Freedom Trail, or checked out a witch museum in Salem, MA. They were all free and offered a short day trip and a unique memory. New York has the Statue of Liberty, and Chicago has The Bean, but even in the smallest towns you can find a landmark–an old building, a natural feature, a fort or monument. So go be a tourist in your own town!
What’s better than having fun and helping a good cause? There are countless opportunities at everything from animal shelters to garden clubs to organizing events for nonprofits (shout out to Chris Cares International!). It’s easy to find something that matches your interests and fits your schedule, especially with sites like volunteermatch.org–and volunteering for causes you’re interested in is a great way to meet new people or connect with your friends.
Here’s a secret: most local libraries have passes for local museums, parks, aquariums, etc. available for residents to sign out. Your college ID will also get you into many of these places for free, so hold on to it after graduation! Honestly, even the lamest sounding museums can be a really good time if you keep an open mind. I had a blast at Lowell Massachusetts’ Quilt Museum once upon a time!
You’re never too old for most things, a hilarious or frisky game of Twister included. It’s a shame that we forget about these games as we get older because the truth is–if they were able to hold our attention as adolescents they must be exceptionally entertaining. Chances are you have at least a few childhood favorites–Scrabble, card games, Pictionary–lying around at your parents’, and don’t forget the even simpler classics like manhunt, water balloon fights, and foursquare!
10. Nightlife Events
You’re probably going to go out at night anyway, so why not put a little extra effort into looking for an open mic, comedy night, or karaoke bar? You can make up for the stronger cover charge by drinking cheaper booze–and the best part? EVERYONE who goes to these events usually wakes up embarrassed the next morning, so you’ve got nothing to lose!
BONUS: Cheap Fun
• Matinee/Drive-in Movie- If you’re going to see a movie, this is the way to do it. A matinee is about half the price of a regular ticket, and if you must go at night–head to the drive-in if you can find one. Most drive-in theaters charge by the carload–so stuff your car full of friends and bring your own food for a cheap cinematic experience.
• Driving Range- A bucket of balls goes for about $5 and most ranges have clubs you can borrow. Split a bucket with a friend and whack away–trust me, no experience is required.
• Fairs- Sometimes the lamest-sounding fairs can be the most fun, and the plus? There usually aren’t any crowds. Look out for fundraisers with a few attractions for the cheapest thrills.
• Pick-Your-Own- With the right mentality this is way more fun than when you were a kid. There’s no adult around telling you you can’t climb the ladder to the top of the tree/bush or yelling at you to stop throwing berries at your friends–but when you’re done be sure to call mom for a sweet recipe.
• Arcade- Arcades never get old. I recently attended an 80’s-themed 30th birthday party at an arcade and it was totally awesome. Forget the laundry–your quarters are committed to fun this week.
What’s your go-to free summer activity? Did I miss anything?
Amanda Cripps is a writer and marketing professional taking one day at a time in the NH Seacoast. You can follow her on Twitter @amandacripps