While your best bet for cheap winter entertainment might be holing up with Northern Exposure DVDs from the library, summer brings a bounty of ways to enjoy the longer days and warmer nights in a more social way, without blowing your budget. Here are 10 ways to have the best summer "friend dates" ever - on the cheap.
→ Don't be shy! Here's how to "ask out" a cool new potential friend.
Farmers' Market Window Shopping: Farmers' markets are so pretty and fun! And often full of samples! Meet your friends at the nearest market to do your grocery shopping together, or go with a date to choose ingredients for a meal you'll share.
Frozen Treat Bike Ride: Go for a long, meandering bike ride in search of popsicles, or make the trek—no matter how long—to the closest Slurpee/Icee/Squishee purveyor. Ride home enjoying the spoils of your mission!
Garage Sale Tour: Check the listings in your local paper, eat a nourishing breakfast, and spend the morning checking out the wares. Garage sales can be entertaining and fascinating (read: weird in a good way), whether you find something to buy or not.
Evening Garden Walks: Grab a refreshing drink and stroll around your neighborhood or local park with a fellow green-thumbed friend, noticing and discussing the progress the plants are making. It's a great way to learn what works well in your area and discover what you like while either making plans for your own garden work on the weekend or dreaming of when you do have your own someday. My partner and I do one around our yard almost every summer evening.
Swimming Date: Get the lap swim schedule for your local public pool and treat your friend to a $5 swim. You can push each other to do a kickass workout, or grab kickboards and gossip in the slow lane.
Popsicle Party: Make a fun new grown-up popsicle recipe and then share the wealth! No need to wait if you have one of those fancy super-fast popsicle makers.
Book Swap Party: Have a few book-loving friends over—or meet at a cafe/park—for a trade of good summer reads, while either basking in the sun or seeking refuge from the heat.
Laundromat Happy Hour: At least in San Francisco, laundromats always seem to be located next door to excellent bars. Meet up to get the laundry done, then enjoy a discount drink while your clothes spin. If this is a date, consider your undies situation.
Grilling Potluck: Invite friends and crushes to come over with their random grillables in tow. Everyone's got something they can throw on the grill—veggies, frozen burgers, Trader Joe's pizza dough, fruit—and the meal will be greater than the sum of its parts.
First Friday, Finally: It can be difficult to make it to monthly art nights/gallery openings in the winter when it's dark at 4pm, but the summer months were made for strolling while admiring art. And there's often free wine!