For most of you it’s finally officially summer. But just because you suddenly have a whole bunch of free time on your hands doesn’t mean you also have endless funds in your pockets for summer activities. If you’re like me and always trying to have the most amazing adventures you can on as little as possible, then the research I’m about to share with you might come in handy. Check this list of 25 fun free (and almost free) things to do when you’re stumped for options and want to make the most of your day.
1) Have a picnic — This one’s been around forever, but people rarely take advantage of how simple, yet how fun having picnics can be. Alone or with friends, eating outside on a blanket is always more exciting.
2) Public art project — Playing around at home with paints and pencils has all the makings for a good time, but turn it one notch up by creating ephemeral art with friends outdoors. Make it simple: a giant chalk drawing on the driveway, or a message along the sidewalk. Choose what you want to create together and make it a team effort. Then stand back and marvel at your work.
3) Learn a language — No need to pick up a pricey Rosetta Stone package. All that’s required is a wifi connection and the ability to type into Google “Spanish lessons,” or whichever language you’re interested in learning.
4) Visit your public library — You may not even realize your town has one; it might be hiding away somewhere. Libraries tend to offer programs and events all summer long that might pique your curiosity and keep your engaged.
5) Go for a hike, a walking adventure — No matter where you live, there is someplace you can sufficiently hike. It doesn’t need to be a waterfall hike in Malibu or a mountainous excursion in Aspen. Urban dwellers and small-town inhabiters can find beauty all around them, too. Discover your town by foot and explore the far corners of your neighborhood. Trudge up hilly streets, steps, stairs and anything else you can find in your area that will get your blood pumping and help you see new sights.
6) iPhone scavenger hunt — Have you done a scavenger hunt lately? They’re amazing and so forgotten after we reach junior or high school. Let’s bring them back, but with a modern twist. Create a list of unlikely conquests to check off. Try to find someone who will sing a tune for you, go look for a particular leaf or flower, find a specific styled dress in a storefront window and take photos or shoot video of everything you find. Bags with collected oddities are no longer needed. Simply show the friends you’re competing against all the shots from your adventure. Most items checked off the list wins.
7) Travel the world (through your meals) — Make it a point to learn about a region and create food for which it’s best known. Think: Lily Huffman and her family’s International dinner night. Look up recipes online and help your parents in the kitchen to prepare the meal.
8) Look at the stars — Want to know what exactly you’re gazing at up there? There’s an app for that.
9) Make comic books — Instead of trying to crank out an entire novel over the summer (I’ve read some of Lisi’s fans’ comments and some of you are quite ambitious!) why not tell a complete story using pictures and captions. It’ll force you to refine your plot as well as give you some more drawing practice. Do this alone or collab with friends, then share with family and neighbors.
10) Start a book club — Lisi will tell you, it’s one of the best ways to get to know someone and it’s a whole lot of fun discussing favorite characters with fellow book enthusiasts. Create a club where you all read the Clique series together start to finish, and meet up after each book to talk about what you loved most. Then start a new club to discuss the themes and messages (ok, ok, and the drama) of Pretenders and License to Spill.
11) Be Jackson Pollock (the abstract artist known for his splatter/drip paintings) — In an area large enough to move around and experiment, put down a sheet or canvas and go to town splattering it with paint. Let your inner Pollock shine.
12) Movie date — Plan a movie date with mom or your BFF, but do your research first. There are many $1-3 movie theaters across the country and they’re playing movies you’ve been wanting to see.
13) Make a fort — We are never too old for blanket forts. Make one and feel happy.
14) Have a car dance party — Next time your mom’s driving you somewhere or you’re driving your friends to get lunch, crank up the volume and dance it out from behind the safety of your seatbelt. Make a mix cd or mp3 of your favorite anthems and high energy music right now, and get to dancing.
15) Bubble bath (outside) — This is what happens when your relaxing tub experience meets the kiddie pool outside. Add bubbles and make it 100 times more fun.
16) Create a photo series — Decide on a theme beforehand and, using your smartphone or any camera at your disposal, take photos that will reflect your photography project. Collect photos all summer long and then put them together in a collage, scrapbook, or upload them to a photo blog.
17) Explore nature programs — Check nature centers near you for free community programs and start exploring.
18) Plant a garden — You can get flower bulbs and seeds at the dollar store. Choose flowers that grow well in summer like sunflowers and watch them grow 6′ tall in no time.
19) Form a bike gang — Chart a route beforehand and ask a few friends to regularly meet for bike rides. Tell them there are t-shirts or Members Only jackets involved. They’ll say yes.
20) Make a time capsule — Does anyone do this anymore? It’s another one of those forgotten activities that needs reviving. Grab a large jar, tin box or something similar and place items of meaning to you in it (not too much meaning that you don’t want to give them up, of course). A receipt from a favorite restaurant, a rock from your trip to the beach, a few lines from a poem you loved… Write a note about what’s happening in the world or in your life right now in 2014. Then bury the capsule in the garden or near a tree for some future someone to discover it. You may never find out if your capsule is uncovered, so be prepared to let it go to the universe.
21) Learn origami — Another brilliant Youtube craft activity that will make you very popular at birthdays. No money for a gift? No problem. Bring your friend a couple of beautifully folded origami boxes for rings or to keep treasures in and write a heartfelt birthday note in a handmade card.
22) Host a frozen yogurt sundae party — This one isn’t free but can be done on the cheap. Pick up several toppings and frozen yogurt of your choice, and invite friends over to create their own frozen yogurt sundaes. This will make everyone so happy that conversation, laughter, and good times will naturally ensue.
23) Start flower bombing — Look for places around you that could use a little color or would do well with some life added to it. What better way to brighten up some empty land than bombing it with wildflower seeds? Try the patches of grass between the sidewalk and street, empty lots, grassy medians, and wherever else you can find. Click through the “flower bombing” link above for a few tips on how to make your own wildflower bombs, and start spreading beauty.
24) Fashion challenge — Flip through a few fashion magazines you have at home or pick up a new issue of your favorite. Choose one or two looks you’d love to rock and then head to a thrift store and recreate them for less. Much less.
25) Make a vision board — I made a brand board with Lisi when I first started working with her to get to know her brand and understand her audience. It was incredibly fun to put together and did the trick. You may not have too much use for a brand, but you might love having your own vision board hung up in your room. Gather every print material of interest you can find: magazines, newspapers, ads, etc. and artfully collage images of things you love, experiences you want for you life, goals you have, and anything else your imagination can muster.
This list ends at 25, but the options for fun, (mostly) free things to do in the summer are endless. What activities did I miss? Where else can you adventure for less but get much more? Feel free to let us know in the comments section below. Lisi will return with her usual blah-g post next week. For now, happy summer!