If your budget says a big summer vacation is out of the question, here are some inexpensive options for immersive summer fun.
1. Drive-in Movies
An old-fashioned way to enjoy the summer blockbusters or old classics. Many historic drive-in theaters are still around, and movies are more memorable on summer nights with nature as the backdrop.
2. App it
Stumped for something to do? The apps DoStuff and Eventbrite can show you popular events in your area—depending on where you live—and many of them are free. Also, check the “events” section of Facebook to see what local events your friends are going to, as well as popular nearby happenings. You can also regularly check the perennially popular Groupon and LivingSocial for discounted entry to local attractions, restaurants, and more.
3. Visit a national park
You support these beautiful gems through your taxes, so take the time to visit them. There are 59 national parks proper across the U.S. Get a Passport to Your National Parks book and start collecting stamps each time you visit one. Or stay local and visit your state parks—great places to hike, fish, and camp.
4. Attend a concert
Whether it’s a local artist jamming in a coffee shop, a nationally touring act rocking a nearby theater, or a destination music festival, catching live music is synonymous with the summer. Not sure where to start? The app Songkick lets you browse nearby shows, and tracks your favorite artists, alerting you when they’re in town.
5. Plant a garden
A garden not only gives you a summer-long project, but saves you money on your grocery bill. Plus, it can be a soothing pastime.
6. Start a home project
If you saved some money by not summering in Spain, why not reinvest it in your house? With a little bit of elbow grease, you could end the summer with more equity. Pick a project your skill level and budget can handle, or learn how to do something new. It might not be as relaxing as, say, summering in Spain, but it might prove more rewarding.
7. Plan a summer blowout
You’re likely not the only one looking for something to do, so why not throw a party? It could be as simple as a dinner party, or as raucous as a block party that you organize with your neighbors. Breakout the barbecue, the Slip ‘N Slide, and rent an outdoor projector for a movie night.
8. Treat your community like a vacation destination
Pretend you’re visiting your town for the first time. Ask your friends on Facebook for their favorite restaurants, places to visit, and hidden gems. Call the library for local guide books and contact the chamber of commerce or tourism department for recommendations. Then plan a week of activities. You might see where you live in a whole new light.
9. Binge watch something
With temperatures in many places reaching all-time, plastic-melting highs, maybe you just want to stay indoors. A Netflix account is just $9 a month and HBO Now is $15. Watch every season of that show everyone is always talking about. If you want it to feel like more of an accomplishment, work your way through one of those lists of “the greatest movies of all time.” The new classic movie and art-house streaming service FilmStruck starts at $6.99 a month.
10. Join a summer reading program
Want to avoid screens? Join an adult summer reading program—most public libraries offer one—or join a book club. Like to do things solo? Google “summer reading challenge.” There are lots of creative lists to work through. The New York Public Library posts a popular summer reading list every year.
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