Cheap Summer Fun
- Written by Candice Elliott
After a long, miserable winter, summer is finally here. There is no better time of year for having fun on the cheap. Get the most out of your summer.
It’s time to come out of hibernation and have some cheap summer fun while topping up your Vitamin D levels. Summer gives many opportunities for free or low priced fun. It’s only three months so make the most of it.
This is my preferred type of summer fun. I hate cold and winter and love heat and humidity so even the 100 degree, full humidity days rarely chase me inside. Take advantage of the nice temperatures and the long hours of daylight while you can.
Movies, Plays, Concerts
Many cities will host free movies, concerts, and plays in local parks. You can pack a picnic, bring a blanket and enjoy under the stars. Going to a free concert in Central Park was one of the first things I did when I moved here. I couldn’t believe how elaborate people’s spreads were. Some even had candles in hurricane lamps on their blankets!
It’s such a nice way to spend a warm evening, the light is soft, fire flies are flitting around, rules about public drinking are sometimes relaxed. Don’t get carried away, a nice glass of Rose with your picnic is the vibe we’re going for here not shit faced on Four Loco.
Some events are geared towards families, with children’s movies being shown, some are more sophisticated, the local Philharmonic playing classical music, some are ticketed, like Shakespeare in the Park, but the tickets are free. You just have to line up for them and hope they don’t run out before your turn at the window.
There is something for everyone, but even if the movie or music isn’t your cup of tea, it’s still a nice way to spend an evening.
Fairs And Festivals
This is one of the things I miss about living in the Midwest. My family and I used to go to the Darke County Fair in Ohio every year. Barbecue chicken and all the sides, elephant ears, deep fried veggies. All that stuff (well, not the chicken) that you should probably only have once a year. I went back as an adult a few years ago and it’s exactly the same, but things like that feel smaller when you’re no longer a little.
Some fairs charge a small entrance fee and of course you’ll have to pay for food and rides but it’s still a pretty cheap way to spend a few summer hours. State and county fairs are great but try to find some smaller ones too, they likely won’t have a fee.
Almost every small town has some local food that they are proud of and build a festival around it to show off the local wares. Food festivals are the best kind, lobster fest, oyster fest, strawberry fest, garlic fest. I’ve been to them all and everyone knows food tastes better when eaten outside in the summer.
Note, this is only cheap if you already have the gear or can borrow it. Don’t go out and buy all the stuff if you’ve never been camping before. You might hate it and now you’re stuck with all the stuff you need to do it.
When I was a kid my parents did historical reenactment camping which sounds weird and is a little weird. But it was great as a kid. You got to run around in Laura Ingalls dresses for a week and no one made you take a shower.
You don’t have to reenact history to enjoy all the great stuff about camping, sleeping in the cool forest air, hiking, cooking over an open fire. It’s a great group activity be it a group of friends or your family.
Parks And Beaches
These are obvious but some people just never get around going to them and the summer is suddenly gone. It’s summer. Take a day off work in the middle of the week and go.
If it’s too hot for you to be outside, there are still lots of ways to take advantage of the slower pace of summer.
If it’s a blazing hot day, hit a museum. I love going to the Met in the summer. It’s so cool and dark and quiet in there. Museums will sometimes have reduced fees or free entry days in the summer as well as special programs for kids. Check the perks of your credit cards too, some provide free entrance to museums.
Another cool, dark, quiet place to spend the hottest part of a summer day. And if you go during the day you can usually get a reduced priced ticket.
You should be working out in some manner anyway so I’m not suggesting just your regular trip to the gym. Find a gym that has a class in something unusual that you’ve never tired before. Rock climbing, aerial silks, trapeze. You might discover a new talent and run away with the circus. At the very least you’ll work some muscles that you usually don’t.
Home Made Fun
If you have a backyard, you can fill it with fun all summer for very little money.
Sigh, this is another thing I miss about the Midwest in the summer. We used the grill for dinner a couple of nights a week. You don’t have to host a party to use the grill. Food, veggies especially taste so good when done on a grill. You can even grill fruit. Low carb it with the help of your grill so you can look hot at the beach!
Of course, you can have a good old fashioned cook out party too. Make it a potluck so it’s less work for you. I think the rule of thumb is that the host provides the proteins and the guest bring the sides.
Do you or a friend have a movie projector? Put a white sheet over your clothes line and have movie night in your own back yard. You can make it a theme and have everyone bring a related dish.
Camping out in your own yard can be the gateway to camping for real. You don’t need lots of gear, you can even make a “tent” out of some saw horses and blankets (did that once) and you don’t need a sleeping bag, just sheets and a pillow. If it sucks or if you need the bathroom, you can just go inside! Camping lite.
Get one of those blow up baby pools, fill it up, grab some beers or sangria, and lounge like a lazy Roman. For full summer affect, tune the radio to an afternoon baseball game. Listening to Joe Nuxhall and Marty Brennaman call a Reds game on WLW on a lazy afternoon was the soundtrack to my summers for many years. I can still hear Joe’s sign off phrase, “This is the old left hander-rounding third and heading for home.”
Summer is so short. Take advantage of it. A lot of the things I listed are things I did some thirty years ago and I can still recall the sites, tastes, sounds, feels, and smells. Summer has a way of embedding itself in your memories the way no other season does. Don’t let this summer pass without making some.