1. Hit the road.
Nothing says summer like a road trip. To get the most bang for your buck, zero in on destinations that can be done within a day. This eliminates the cost of lodging and frees up more money to devote to other things, like exploring activities in a new place. If you do choose to stay overnight, shop around and compare prices to find the best hotel deal.
2. Take a staycation.
Instead of heading out of town, discover the hidden gems within your own backyard. Maybe that means staying at a downtown hotel and enjoying walkable nightlife, or simply spending time in a new-to-you part of town you don’t normally visit. The goal is to see your town through new eyes.
3. Check out a free concert or festival.
Check out your city’s event calendar. You might discover a cool upcoming concert or festival that’s worth checking out. Some cities, for example, throw outdoor “First Friday” events that include live music, local food, and vendor tables where small businesses set up shop on the first Friday of the month. Events like these make for budget-friendly fun.
4. Spend the day on the water.
Narrow your search to off-the-beaten-path beaches to avoid the higher prices of peak season. If you aren’t close enough to the shoreline, there could be some beachy alternatives that are equally attractive. From sitting lakeside with a new book to tubing on a natural lazy river, now is the time to enjoy sun-drenched water activities.
5. Enjoy a bonfire
The summer season is an ideal time to roast marshmallows — if you’ve got some chocolate and graham crackers on hand, all the better. Fancy outdoor fire pits can get pricey, but there are some options that are easier on the wallet and achieve the same effect. You can make your own DIY fire pit for about $60 using pavers from your local hardware store.
6. Explore nature trails.
Take a look at nature trails you’d be able to explore within a day. (Your local parks department is a good resource.) Does your town boast any notable trails? If so, lacing up your hiking boots could make for an awesome summer adventure. If hiking isn’t your cup of tea, consider a guided bird-watching or botany tour. These can be restorative opportunities to reconnect with nature.
7. Host a summer-themed party.
Throwing an end-of-summer cookout is a great way to say farewell to summer. Consider making it a potluck occasion where friends and family bring their favorite dishes to your backyard table. Another idea is coordinating with neighbors to throw a block party, which enables you to split the cost.
8. Take a fun outdoor class.
This can include learning how to kayak or taking a sunset yoga class on the beach. If you can’t find anything that piques your interest, round up your friends and chip in on hiring a private fitness instructor for an hour. This reduces your total spend and provides a cool experience to learn a new skill. From kickboxing to meditation, the possibilities are endless.
9. Make homemade ice cream.
There’s nothing like a cool treat on a hot summer day. The internet has no shortage of simple ice cream recipes you can whip up yourself. You can get extra creative by making homemade gourmet ice pops. If you’re entertaining, boozy ice pops are also a thing.
10. Pitch a tent.
Enjoying the great outdoors and sleeping under the stars might be your idea of the ultimate summer celebration. If you’re not exactly the outdoorsy type, splitting a cabin or going “glamping” with friends could be right up your alley. Have young kiddos? Pitching a tent in your backyard is another option.
11. Take advantage of farmers markets.
Summer markets can provide a burst of sunny entertainment. They’re often structured like pop-up events where local vendors and farmers come together to show off their wares. The biggest perk? Access to locally grown produce that’s usually cheaper than your supermarket’s organic aisle.
12. Grab your wheels.
Slow summer days are perfect for jumping on your rollerblades, bike or skateboard. Check out your local trails or skate parks. If the weather’s too balmy, indoor roller skating is one way to escape the heat. Following local rinks on social media can tip you off to discounts and coupons.
13. Visit a farm.
If you’re looking for a low-cost summer activity, a nearby farm might be just the thing. Many have U-pick offerings that allow you to pull your own produce right from the source. Some even top it off with petting zoos, flower mazes and summer games complete with food and refreshments.
14. Go to a museum.
Spending a summer day at the museum provides a change of pace — and a dose of culture. Discounts are often available to students and military service members, though the museums in your town may also provide reduced tickets to frontline workers. Some museums even partner with local libraries to provide free admission to cardmembers.
15. Cool off in the water.
Swimming is a welcome treat during hot summer months. If you don’t have access to a pool, check with your local parks department to see if any splash parks are available. They’re typically attached to playgrounds and feature free “spraygrounds” designed for kids. For adults, your closest YMCA or public pool might be your best bet for summer promotional deals.
16. Watch an outdoor movie.
There’s something oh-so-nostalgic about gathering with people you love and watching a movie outside. Search online to see if there are any drive-in movie theaters in your area. They’ve made a huge comeback since the pandemic. For a more intimate vibe, consider an at-home movie projector. You could even bring the idea to your neighbors for a community movie night.
17. Treat yourself to outlet shopping.
Indulging in a day of shopping doesn’t have to wreck your budget. Consider skipping the mall and heading to your nearest outlet center. The average discount is typically around 38%, according to Consumer Reports. To dial up your savings, the publication recommends checking out sales and clearance racks, as well as inquiring about loyalty coupons and other rewards and discounts. One more insider hack: crowds tend to be thinner mid-week.
18. Spruce up your garden.
Getting your hands dirty in the garden is a tried-and-true summer activity. Not only does it spruce up your yard — when done right, you could have your own farm-to-table produce center. Experts point to kale, collards, brussels sprouts, peas and spinach as ideal vegetables to plant at the end of summer. To save money on your gardening hobby, consider making your own compost. You can also join a local meet-up group to trade plants and seeds.
19. Coordinate a game night.
Game night is a fabulous way to come together with friends and family for a bit of fun. Why not put a summer spin on it? Incorporating outdoor eating and summer cocktails is a good place to start. From there, dial up the entertainment with games like bocce ball or cornhole.
20. Make a time capsule.
Commemorate the summer season by making a time capsule. You can include all kinds of items — like ticket stubs from events or beachside photos with friends. It’s something you can do on your own or with a group. Bury it in the yard and choose a date in the future to open it.
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