Here comes the sun, and we’re all dreaming of pearly beaches and swaying palm trees. Summer frolicking doesn’t have to be expensive: Here are a few ways to enjoy the summer without digging too deeply into your pockets.
Plan a potluck barbecue:
Fire up the grill and have your friends over for a barbecue extravaganza. Cut down on costs by having each person bring something. Assign menu items like main dishes, salads, desserts, beverages, along with stuff like napkins and cups to make sure you have enough of everything. Turn ordinary hamburgers and hotdogs into a special treat by creating a topping bar that boasts snazzy items like fruit salsa or unusual hot sauces. For an inexpensive dessert, cut peaches or mangoes in half and put them flesh-down on the grill; then serve with a scoop of ice cream.
Take a hike:
Some parks charge entrance fees, but lots of prime hiking spots are free. Grab a good pair of shoes and a few friends and take off on a nature-lover’s adventure. Your city likely has nearby trailheads that can be accessed for an easy day hike. Spectacular parks around the country that you can access for nada include Great Basin National Park on the Nevada/Utah border, the Buffalo National River in Arkansas (fees only apply to camping), and Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve. There are plenty of choices for sturdy backpacks that won’t break the bank. At $75, the Teton Sports Wilderness 55 is a bargain, boasting a rainfly for the top and zippered side pockets.
Pack a picnic:
Take your portable party to the beach, to the meadow, or to a local park. You don’t need the fancy wicker basket – a duffel bag or a tote will do the trick (tuck a Frisbee in there for post-picnic fun). Frugal picnic foods include devilled eggs, pasta salad, chicken salad, hummus, fresh strawberries, as well as prepared sandwiches and salads from budget-friendly stores like Trader Joe’s. If you have extra condiments from your last take-out, throw ‘em in. Toss down a tablecloth and enjoy.
Organize a photography outing:
Get a group of buddies together and pick a theme for an afternoon of shutter-bugging. Capture cityscapes, flowers, sunsets, churches, fountains – or pick a particular style to focus on, like black & white. You’ll improve your skills and have lots of fun sharing tips and results.
Find the freebies:
Scan the Web and search the local paper for free concerts, outdoor film screenings, festivals, and other events in your area. Whatsonwhen is a great website that lists festivals and happenings all over the world; many of them totally free. Even in a pricey city like New York, there are all manner of amazing no-cost things to do, from Shakepeare-in-the-Park, the Brooklyn Botantic Gardens (admission free before noon on Saturday), and, of course, Central Park, where free, volunteer-led walking tours are sponsored by the Central Park Conservancy, (212) 360-2726.