20 Cheap Summer Activities

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Looking for cheap summer activities for you or your family? Here are twenty fun and different ways to have some great summer fun that's easy on the wallet.

Are you looking for some fun and cheap summer activities?  With the school year wrapping up and the memory of winter wearing away, I know my family is looking for some fun, cheap ways to enjoy the warm summer days ahead.  Even though we’re on a tight budget as we work to pay off debt, one thing we won’t give up is fun. 🙂

A lavish summer vacation would be nice, but that’s going to have to wait until we reach some of our monetary goals.  For now, we’ve come up with a great list of cheap summer activities for the whole family, kids and adults alike.

1. Paint rocks.  Rocks are in abundance pretty much anywhere, so grab a few, some cheap acrylic paint and brushes, and have at it!  Turn your rock into a ladybug, a background for an inspiring quote, or a colorful door stop.  Get creative and see what you can come up with.

2. Hit your local Farmers Markets.  There’s nothing like fresh fruits and veggies, homemade syrup, and fresh baked goods to get the fun going.  Hit the local Farmers Markets in your area and see what kind of inexpensive buys you can find, or what kinds of creative ideas you can dream up from the examples of others.

3. Read a good book – outside.  Head to the local library or half-priced book store and get that book you’ve been wanting to read.  Sit in the sun and soak up some vitamin D as your imagination runs wild or your knowledge increases by leaps and bounds with your new books.

4.  Go on a scavenger hunt.  Make a list of twenty or so outdoor things for the group in your hunt can find.  Pick from different kinds of leaves, rocks, bugs, plants, critters and all kinds of other things.  Give everyone a check-off list and have fun and inexpensive prizes for the winners. (Editor’s note – we LOVE to do this and you should check out Geocaching for a frugal option to this if you don’t want to organize it yourself.)

5.  Go to the beach.  No, not your usual beach – find a new and different place.  Google your state for beaches and pick one you’ve never been to before.  Better yet, pick a new one to try out every couple of weeks or so, and don’t forget your sunscreen!

6. Go hiking.  This is one of our favorite cheap summer activities.  We’ll find a new and different state or county park, and hike for hours, making sure to bring along a picnic lunch and plenty of water.

7. Go fishing.  No, you don’t need a boat.  Find a nearby fishing dock or public shoreline, dig some worms up in the backyard, and have at it.  If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to follow it up with a fish fry at home. 🙂

8.  Check out the area.  Staycations are great cheap summer activities. If you’re at a loss for staycation ideas, search the area within a couple of hours or so from your home for little tourist towns.  Those little towns are often filled with fun things such as antique shops, ice cream parlors and delightful cafes and bakeries and make for absolutely fabulous staycations.

9.  Have a back yard movie.  Hang a sheet up on the outside of the house, grab your DVD player and a projector, and make your own little outdoor movie theater.  No projector?  Hit the drive in movie theater and bring your own snacks.

10. Plan a race.  Put together a family/friend duathlon or triathlon.    Choose any variety of cheap summer activities, such as running, walking, biking or swimming, how long each “leg” of the race will be, and spend the summer training, followed by a “race day” at the end of summer.  Or, do a one-time event of your choice.

*Related: Do you spend too much on haircuts? Read our guide on the best ways to find a cheap barbershop near me to find the top options to save money.*

11. Pick your own fruit.  There are many orchards that allow you to pick-your-own fruit such as raspberries and strawberries during the summer months.  Want to make these cheap summer activities even cheaper?  Pick your fruit along a public walking path.  In our old suburb, there was an abundance of public walking paths ripe with raspberries.  During one outing, our family collected over $30 worth of raspberries – for free!

12.  Hit some summer festivals.  Nearly all states have an abundance of summer festivals in various towns, both big and small.  In addition to being a budget friendly alternative to amusement parks, these festivals make great summer activities. It’s a boatload of fun to visit different nearby cities and towns and see what kind of fun happenings there are during their summer and fall festivals.

Some of the great ones around here?  Kolacky Days, Taco Daze and the Almelund Threshing Show, which focuses on farms and tractors. Some summer festivals are free, and some have a small entrance fee, and of course there’s the price of gas, but if you plan carefully, you can make these fun and different festivals a cheap summer treat.

13.  Revamp your yard.  No, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to spruce up your yard.  One of the best gardening tips I’ve seen circulating around is to start your own vegetable garden in your backyard. Once you get it established, tending and harvesting the beds can be a fun family activity. Freebie sites and sale sites such as Craigslist often offer up everything from landscaping rock, to outdoor plants and outdoor furniture.

*Related: Looking for something fun to do tonight? Read our exhaustive guide of fun things to do tonight that don’t cost a lot of money.*

Or, you can slap a coat of paint on your current outdoor furniture to give it a new and fun look.  Garage sales are another option for finding new and different items to make your yard more beautiful, relaxing and inviting and they aren’t too shabby when it comes to cheap summer activities either.  Get creative and spend some time this summer giving your yard a frugal, new look.

Looking for cheap summer activities for you or your family? Here are twenty fun and different ways to have some great summer fun that's easy on the wallet.

14.   Take advantage of ice cream season.  Whether it’s a trip to your local ice cream shop for a cone, root beer floats at home on a warm summer night, or an ice cream sundae bar, it costs very little to grab a bucket of ice cream and sit out in the yard, soaking up the sun and relishing in the taste of your favorite ice cream flavor.

15.  BBQ/bonfires.  Invite your family and/or friends over, or have a fun evening with just your immediate family, sitting in front of a bonfire with s’mores or barbequing your favorite meal on the grill or over the fire. It’s also one of the best at home date night ideas if you’re kid free for the evening.

16.  Can your own jellies/pickles/salsa.  Make this the summer that you learn how to can your favorite food.  If you like salsa, experiment with different flavors/recipes and learn to can your own.  Take some of that Pick Your Own Fruit you gathered up earlier and make some jellies out of it.  Grow some cucumbers and learn to make/can your own pickles.  Hot water bath canners and jars are often on sale at garage sales, making this a super cheap summer activity that will not only provide fun, but food!

17.  Go camping.  Even if you’re not a tent person, you can take advantage of the camper cabins that many state and county parks offer, making your trip a bit less “rustic.” A back-to-basics camping trip is relaxing, fun and it helps you appreciate the many luxuries that abound in real life.

18.  Go biking.  Take advantage of the warm summer weather and the many state and local bike trails in your area to get some exercise and have some fun.  Biking is a great way to see the world around you and get exercise at the same time.

19.  Go on a picnic.  Search your state’s website for area parks and pack yourself a nice picnic lunch.  Head online and look for new and different sandwich and salad ideas to give your picnic lunch a little adventure, and enjoy eating in the great outdoors.

20.  Look for summer deals.  Websites like Groupon, Amazon Local and other local deal sites often get you a terrific deal on all sorts of cheap summer activities.  Recently, we bought a year-long membership to our state’s historical society for our entire family of six for only $45.  This membership allows us to gain free entry to all historical society sites all summer long and into next year as well.  For the cost of gas alone, we have dozens of places to see and explore this summer.

Coming up with cheap summer activities for your whole family to enjoy takes some planning work upfront but is well worth the money saved and more importantly, time shared making memories together with the ones you love. Use this list as a launching pad to jump off into a summer of adventure with the people you love! You can even take it a step further and use the list as a way to come up with some good hobbies you and your family can enjoy for years to come.


What do you like to do for fun with friends and family during the summer? What are some of the best or most memorable cheap or free summer activities you’ve enjoyed?



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Laurie is a wife, mother to 4, and homesteader who blogs about personal finance, self-sufficiency and life in general over at The Frugal Farmer. Part witty, part introspective and part silly, her goal in blogging is to help others find their way to financial freedom, and to a simpler, more peaceful life.


  • Josh @ says:

    Laurie, almost all of these ideas are for the outdoors….which is great cause I love the outdoors! Thanks for the great ideas!

    • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

      Sure thing, Joshua!! Being we live in the state of the six month winter, we love the outdoors too. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Josh @ says:

        Do you ski or snowboard? I’m getting into it, but when you see me on the slopes, you can definitely tell I’m from FL.

        • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

          No, we don’t do either, mostly because it’s a bit cost prohibitive. We do sled and ice skate though, if it’s above 25 degrees. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Dave Lalonde says:

    These are all awesome ideas! Another fun activity to do with kids could be to plant something. Whether vegetables, fruits, or flowers, etc. It’s great because kids love seeing their plants flourish into something through their own care.

    • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

      Great point, Dave!! We started our first large garden last year, and the kids absolutely loved heading out there to see the bounty that was growing, or to pull a fresh snap pea, bean or cucumber out of the garden. I should’ve had that on the list!

  • Jon @ Penny Thots says:

    We have a store near us that lets you buy pottery and then paint the item you bought. They will place the item in the kiln for you to glaze it and then you come back in a ay or so and pick it up. It’s actually really fun. They have family nights and kid nights as well as a date night for adults to enjoy and drink wine while painting pottery.

    • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

      We’ve been to those types of places before, Jon, and they’re so fun, aren’t they? Great tip, Jon!

  • Shannon @ Financially Blonde says:

    This is a great list Laurie!! We have a local pool here where we can go for free so we just like to bring lunch and hang out there all day. I love the idea of painting rocks though and getting creative with it. We will have to try that this summer.

    • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

      That sounds like fun, Shannon! We don’t have any free pools here, but we’ve got lots of fun beaches. You’ll like the rock painting thing: it’s a good cheap way to add some fun designs to your yard.

  • Will Lipovsky, First Quarter Finance says:

    I enjoy hunting rabbits and working on my own car.

    The rabbits I give to our cats to enjoy. The car I don’t spend too much money on. A few hours of elbow grease and attention to details can totally transform the way a car looks and runs.

    • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

      One of our barn cats brought home a rabbit one day : I had no idea they liked rabbits! I’ve seen them hunted and prepared on shows like Alaska: The Wild Frontier, but I’m not sure I’m ready to kill and prepare one for dinner quite yet. ๐Ÿ™‚ Rick’s a huge fan of sprucing up the cars; you’re right, Will, it really can transform them for cheap!

  • Holly@ClubThrifty says:

    We have a few parks within walking distance of our neighborhood and that’s where you can find us after dinner most nights. We typically walk all around the neighborhood to take the “long way” there then let the kids play. It’s free exercise and entertainment!

    • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

      Love hitting the local parks! And by the time you’re home, the kids are all worn out and ready for bed. Bonus! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Brian @ Luke1428 says:

    We’ve really become a fan of camping and biking now that all our kids are older. Once the essentials are bought both of those activities are pretty cheap. And we are a big fan of Geocaching. It’s a great way to combine technology with outdoor activity.

    • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

      We haven’t done the Geocaching yet but love to bike and camp. We’re already planning our first camping trip of the year! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Andrew@LivingRichCheaply says:

    Tons of great ideas Laurie! Living in NYC…there are many activities for a staycation. Plus there are also always festivals and things of that nature going on. After the winter we just had, just going outside for a walk is enjoyable!

    • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

      Ain’t it the truth, Andrew!!! We are really enjoying spring this year because of that. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • E.M. says:

    Painting rocks sounds like it could be a lot of fun! My boyfriend has tons of acrylic paint from his college days that we could use. It would be fun to make cute ones for my mom to put outside on the lawn. I plan on hitting the beach a few more times when we visit my parents, and we have a pool at our apartment complex that we can take advantage of as well. I like reading while lounging around outside. Great list!

    • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

      Yes, I would imagine it’ll be a different summer living in NC!! Love the idea about painting some rocks for your mom to put on the lawn – you could really come up with some great ideas!

  • Liz says:

    Reading this just got me so pumped for summer! I would say another frugal activity is a picnic. We received a picnic basket for our wedding gift and havenโ€™t used it. I would love to pack lunches and hit up a park for a fun little lunch. I also remember creating scavenger hunts for my sister when we were kids. It was so much fun.

    • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

      We’re a huge fan of picnics. We put together some fun and different sandwiches, some fruit salad and some chips and we’re off. The kids love it!

  • Noonan says:

    Great summer listโ€”i can almost smell the burgers! One more idea for cheap fun . . . weekend yard sales (but only if the weather’s nice).

    • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

      Yum!!! We’re having friends over for a bbq this weekend: can’t wait! ๐Ÿ™‚ Yard sales are a terrific idea: always good to find some great buys for cheap.

  • DC @ Young Adult Money says:

    This is one heck of a list, Laurie! In the past I’ve really enjoyed going to some of the beaches around the Twin Cities. I like your tip of trying out a new one, though. There are some really nice ones that aren’t that busy, which is ideal. Landscaping and home projects have taken up so much time last year that I anticipate them to take a lot of time this year as well. It keeps us from spending money, that’s for sure.

    • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

      We have a great beach near here that isn’t ever busy either, and it’s SO nice!! I know what you mean about landscaping: we are deciding whether or not our two big landscaping jobs will wait till next summer or whether we’ll bite the bullet and do them this year. I have a feeling we’ll be waiting. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Michelle says:

    This is a great list! I’m super excited for all of the fun hiking and BBQs that are about to start ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Kay says:

    Great list Laurie! We love going to the weekly farmers market. There is always live music and lots going on for free there. Grab a fresh lemonade and just stroll around!

    • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

      I agree, Kay. Especially in the smaller towns up here, the Farmers Markets are so fun! ๐Ÿ™‚

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