Ahhhh summer is coming, and for most of us, that means many more days outside to enjoy the beautiful sunshine and warm weather. Summer also presents many opportunities to have fun for free, or at least on the cheap. I am looking forward to many places and activities that will help me enjoy the day but still preserve my budget. Here are five fun things to do - for not very much money:
1. Day at the beach: For those of us lucky enough to live near beaches, there's nothing like a day lying on the sand and enjoying the waters. Grab a few friends, a beach volleyball, and a cooler filled with drinks, fruit, and sandwiches, or borrow some books from the library, and you can while away a whole day. Public beaches are free, although nearby parking lots can charge a premium. The best bet is to go to the beach early to snag the cheaper on the street parking, or carpool with a group of friends so you can split the cost. Or, if you don't mind walking, parking a few blocks away will decrease your parking fee significantly. Don't forget the sunscreen!
2. Botanical gardens & arboretums: If the lack of greenery in your city is getting you down, go to a botanical garden or arboretum to get your fill of a variety of flowers and plants. The admissions fee usually ranges from $5 to $20 per person, so it's not the cheapest attraction, per se. Still, you can easily spend a whole day in the area, and the price-per-hour is much cheaper than attractions like amusement parks or movies. If you have children, this is a budget-friendly and educational excursion: most arboretums will offer drastically reduced or free admissions to kids.
3. Free museums: Where else can you cool your body (thanks to industrial AC) but also nourish your soul? Many large cities have museums that offer free admission year round or on select days. In New York City, several museums (including the Goethe House German Cultural Center, the Whitney Museum at Philip Morris and the Guggenheim Museum Soho) are free every day. In Los Angeles, the famous Getty Center and Getty Villa are also free of charge.
4. Movies at second-run theaters: Many people escape to the movies for a respite from the heat, but with ticket prices brushing the $20 line, movies are by no means cheap. If you can wait for a few months after the general release date of movies, second-run theaters offer significant value. A movie that costs $12 at a first-run theater might be 50% cheaper at a second-run theater. Of course, you may have to give up the latest projection technology or sound systems.
5. Day hikes: Lace up your shoes and head for the great outdoors. Most hiking trails are free and are a fun bonding activity for families or couples. Just don't invest in buying expensive tents, camping gear, or backpacks unless you are an avid hiker. See Trails.com's 100 best trails compilation for inspiration.
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