Cheap ways to enjoy the sunshine (or hide from it) this summer

By April Dykman

For Get Rich Slowly

Published: Wednesday, July 9 2014 7:00 a.m. MDT

Every summer I solemnly swear that I’m going to spend the next several months in the water, yet I never do.


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Editor's note: This article originally ran on Get Rich Slowly. It has been reprinted here with permission.

“You + me + swimming date at the springs.”

That was the text message I sent to my friend Kacey last week.

“Are you flirting with me?” she replied. “Let’s make this official.”

See, every summer I solemnly swear that I’m going to spend the next several months in the water, yet I never do. (I say several months because I live in Texas where it’s summer for most of spring and fall.)

This year, however, I was serious. Since I’ve moved from the country and bought a house in the city, things-to-do are much closer to me. Driving time and gas expense are no longer an excuse.

But here’s the thing: I want to keep my spending in check. Now that we live in the city, we save money on gas but spend more money on entertainment and eating out. For instance, when we lived in the country, we had zero interest in making a one-hour round trip to the nearest restaurant for dinner. We always preferred to cook at home because of the driving time. But now, we go out to eat every now and then. Being able to do that is part of the reason we moved.

So, I want to get out of the house more this summer, but I want to be careful about how much I’m spending and that brings me to this list of free or nearly free things for me/you to do this summer. I’ve categorized these activities by whether you’re trying to enjoy the sunshine or escape the blazing heat because sometimes a summer day outside can feel like this.

Want to soak up the vitamin D?

If you’re looking to get outside, here are eight activities that’ll help you accomplish that.

  1. Swimming. Community pools, lakes or springs. Most of these places are free or charge a very small fee.
  2. Kayaking, canoeing, etc. Typically, you can rent equipment for about $10 to $15 per hour. Last month I rented a tandem kayak with my niece and took her to a spring where you can see turtles swimming under the boat. (We also might have been attacked by a swan — we’re still not sure. Either way, priceless memories, people.)
  3. Festivals. My problem with festivals is that I don’t ever know about them until everyone’s posting photos, hashtagging #suckstonotbehere. Anyway, the simple solution is to Google “(city) summer festivals.” I did just that and found an events calendar with stuff like a 5K run in July (you’re drunk, runners!) and an ice cream festival in August (yes, thank you!)
  4. Concerts. Before I moved to the country, I used to go to free concerts in the park presented by our local symphony. You can bring snacks, lay in the grass, and listen to the woodwinds — all for free. There are a lot of free or cheap outdoor concerts in the summer, though. So if classical isn’t your thing, search city guides and local papers to find your scene.
  5. Picnic. Pack a lunch and a blanket and head to your nearest park for a gorgeous afternoon.
  6. Hiking. Head out to your nearest trail or take a day trip to a new park and then take a hike. I mean that in a nice way.
  7. Outdoor gardens. In my city, we have a botanical garden, a wildflower center, and a sculpture garden. All charge a pretty low admission fee, and they’re a great way to spend time in nature and learn a lot, too.
  8. Farmers markets. Most markets don’t just sell produce and meat. They also bring out bands, food vendors and activities for kids. For instance, my local market has a balloon-animal-making clown. He smiles at me and I see this, but the kids seem to like him. Anyway, you can make a morning of a farmers market.

Need to escape the 1,000-degree weather?