20 Frugal Ways to Enjoy Outdoor Summer Fun

summerWarm weather seems to bring out a lot of excitement in everyone, particularly those who live in climates that truly have four distinct seasons.  Here in the Chicago area, when the weather gets warm after many months of cool to downright freezing weather, people seem to relish spending time outside.

Enjoying the warm weather doesn’t have to be costly.  There plenty of examples of inexpensive summer activities that can people can find outdoors, and quite often it’s just a matter of taking advantage of many locations and activities that are very close by.  Sometimes, even in your own backyard.

With that in mind, I’ve come up with a list of low-cost outdoor activities that could provide some fun for very little cost.  There’s bound to be something in this list for just about everyone

Low-Cost Outdoor Activities

  1. Take a hike! It can be invigorating to go on a hike, in a setting that’s away from the hustle and bustle of traffic, cars, and even indoor noise.  Getting some exercise outside where you’re getting fresh air, and simply the sounds of nature, can be really refreshing.  And, in many cases, free or close to it.
  2. Have a picnic.  Instead of going out to eat, enjoy a meal outdoors.  Depending on who you’re with, it could even be a romantic setting! If you’re with family or friends, it will save you from cleaning up at home after guests visit. Either way, you can make the food and drink healthy, and it should cost less as well!
  3. Play sports.  For those who like to be active, playing a sport outdoors can be a great way to get some good exercise while not spending a whole lot.  I recently spent an hour in the park with my youngest kid, kicking around a soccer ball.  I plan on taking out some softball gloves and mitts and playing some catch soon too.  Granted, this wasn’t intense exercise, but it was a really fun way to spend time together and didn’t cost anything either!
  4. Start a garden.  This doesn’t have to mean a massive project.  Rather, a very small space of land could be used to grow some veggies that you would ultimately eat.  Saving money by enjoying your time outdoors and saving on food later is a good combination!
  5. Go camping.  While I’m not big into this, I know that many people are.  Instead of going somewhere for an expensive getaway, why not go camping for a few days? It should be less expensive, and could be fun to be outdoors for many folks.
  6. Take pictures.  We can only take so many pictures of our kids, friends, family, etc.  Okay, maybe never enough of kids, but we do need variety.  Sometimes it’s good to get outdoors and capture great shots of nature.  Or, perhaps images of cityscapes. Whatever the case is, getting outdoors in the warm weather can offer a great opportunity to flex your photography muscles.
  7. Go to the beach.  Living around here, we have a massive inland body of water: Lake Michigan.  I know people in other parts of the country might laugh, but there are some fantastic beaches on this like that would really surprise many people.  Particularly on the south and east shores.  Anyway, if there is a beach near you – whether on the ocean or a lake – going there can be lots of fun and inexpensive too.
  8. Go for a swim.  This might relate to #7 above, though it could also depend on how comfortable you feel jumping into that body of water near the beach! If not so much, then there are always pools to go to.  Many larger communities have pools that are available to residents, and can be fun way to spend a day without breaking the bank.
  9. Visit a National Park.  It might cost a lot to get to many of them, as they’re scattered throughout the country.  However, if there is one near you, there is an opportunity to see some incredible nature for very little cost.  Each year lately, there have been a few days that have been designated “free” days.  Do a search for a list of them, they represent a good chance to have some frugal outdoor fun.
  10. Try bird watching.  I know many people might not have the patience for this, but somebody I know very well has had a long-standing interest in bird watching.  He’s quite a bit older than me, so he’s been doing this as a hobby for a long, long time.  This seems to have brought him a lot of enjoyment, time outdoors, and great pictures.
  11. Find things to collect.  This can be a lot of fun for kids.  I recall being younger, taking a trip to Florida, and finding some really good shells on the beach (Gulf Coast).  It was cool to continually try to find one better and better, and in the process amass a haul of interesting finds.  It’s been decades, but those shells are still around somewhere.  Great memories!  This concept can be applied to other things, be it rocks, leaves, or many other things.
  12. Pick fruit.  I’ve gone blueberry picking in the summer, and it was fun.  There is something about the way freshly picked fruit tastes versus stuff that’s in the supermarket, you can often tell the difference.  It can also be cheaper , as evidenced by the unbelievable prices I got a few years ago. We got 4.5 pounds of blueberries for $7.25.  Yes, that’s pounds of berries.  At a grocery store, that might cost $40 or more.
  13. Go for a walk.  Going for a stroll around the neighborhood – assuming it’s safe and walkable – can be a pleasant way to spend some time.  Going with a friend or your spouse can provide a great chance to talk and catch up on things too, all while getting some exercise.
  14. Grill.  Grilling out can be a lot of fun, especially with a group of friends over.  It’s a great way to have some laughs, good conversation, and good seasonal food
  15. Watch a sporting event.  Okay, if it’s a professional sporting event, this might not be a low-cost affair.  However, one could catch a minor-league or amateur game for a modest price.  Maybe even horse racing.
  16. Visit gardens.  Some municipalities have fantastic gardens, and if you’re lucky enough to have any near you, take advantage and visit!
  17. Catch an outdoor movie or play.  There is actually a drive-in theater not too far from where I live, though it’s been about 5 years since I’ve been there. Maybe it’s time to revisit? Also, you could catch outdoor performances for free or little cost some places.
  18. Go to a festival or fair.  Do you have any summer festivals, or fairs that pop up during the warm weather months? It seems like around here, there is something going on every weekend.  These are often very low cost events that can be a fun way to spend time with people and take in the outdoors.
  19. Stargaze.  You’re not going to want to sit outside looking at the stars when it’s 20 degrees outside! When it’s 70 and pleasant, it’s probably a much different experience.  Much like taking in a beautiful sunset, it’s more fun to outside when it’s warm.
  20. Read a book.  Outside? Sure, why not.  Laying out by a pool, or on a blanket in a park, and catching up on a good book can be relaxing and good for the spirit.  If you go frugal and get the book from the library, it’s even better!

My Questions for You

Do you plan on doing any of these things during the summer?

What are your favorites?

Do you have any other suggestions, for low-cost and fun outdoor activities?



  1. says

    Love it! Especially #4. I once saw a bumper sticker that said ‘Gardening is cheaper than therapy’! For some reason I found that very profound!

  2. says

    I do many of those things all year long! I live in southern California where it never gets too cold. My wife and I love to go to the beach and picnic. Over the summer, I expect to bicycle every day. It is reat exercise and a great stress reducer.

    • Squirrelers says

      That’s an advantage of being there. Here in the Chicago area, the list of things to do outdoors isn’t quite as long. Though in the summer, people really relish the season since it’s such a short window of time.

  3. says

    Myself and some friends did some hiking and camped out along the Appalachian trail over Memorial Day weekend. Was a great and very cheap way to get some exercise and enjoy nature.

  4. says

    I cant wait until all this rain stops. Now you mentioned stargaze i almost forgot we actually do have a telescope. Geez been missing out over the past couple of months. We will be at the beach a lot more this summer. Reading and walking are the family favs right now.

  5. says

    I love hiking, going on picnics, and photo walks when the weather is nice. I also love going fruit picking although I wish the orchards were closer. I picked more cherries than I could eat last month and thought I’d never want to see another cherry again, but I’m already craving them just a few weeks later. Fresh picked fruit is soooo good.

  6. says

    Love the idea of taking pictures. With your phone it is totally free to take pictures of interesting things, places, and people, and those pictures are great conversation starters for later around a campfire roasting marshmallows!

  7. Nancy Ehlke says

    Your suggestions are great. One more we have discovered over the years is attending open houses at local archaeology sites or arcaheology parks. The archaeologists are eager to explain their excavation. Kids are usually excited to see what is being unearthed. It promotes an interest in history and archaeology in kids, too.

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