60 Free & Fun Things to Do This Summer

updated Apr 30, 2024
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​​It’s never too early to break out the calendar and start filling up your summer schedule. But on the days when there isn’t anything going on, or you just want to chill on the cheap, you’ll still need some sort of warm-weather entertainment, right? From planting a summer garden to game nights with friends, there are way more things to do in the summer than you might realize. We’ve got you covered with our list of 60 free or nearly free activities that will ensure your summer is top-notch. 

1. Find inspiration at an open house. 

Open houses aren’t just for prospective homebuyers. Well, maybe they are — but don’t let that stop you from crashing the next one in your neighborhood. Not only will attending an open house satisfy your inner snoop, it’s a great way to get home decor and design inspiration.

2. Enjoy fireworks.

Fireworks are a summertime entertainment staple, particularly around Independence Day. Since pyrotechnics are traditionally displayed against the night sky, you don’t necessarily need tickets to take them in. Just scope out a good spot and enjoy the show!

3. Host a backyard picnic.

Few things scream “summer” like a good old-fashioned picnic. Just pack a basket full of your favorite foods and throw down a blanket in your very own backyard for the quintessential seasonal experience.

Credit: Getty Images/ David Sacks

4. Host a yard sale.

Declutter your house and make a little extra money at the same time with a yard sale. You don’t even have to splurge on advertisements: Some simple homemade signs and a few strategic social media posts should be all you’ll need to attract a crowd. 

5. Visit the farmers market. 

While it’s wonderful to support local farmers and artisans, you don’t necessarily have to spend a ton of money at your nearest farmers market. Outdoor marketplaces are perfect for people watching, and they often feature free live music and entertainment. 

6. Set up a sprinkler.

For some water fun that doesn’t include a pool membership, set up a sprinkler in your yard. Run through it like you did as a kid, or call over some friends and make some cocktails for some hilarious fun.

7. Do a decluttering challenge.

Apartment Therapy’s Decluttering Cure delivers daily motivation and expert organization tips straight to your inbox. This curated content will help you conquer clutter room by room for a clutter-free home come fall.

8. Explore your closet.

Come up with different ways to mix and match some of your favorite tried-and-true clothing items.

9. Propagate existing plants.

Want to grow your indoor or outdoor garden without spending any money at all? By learning how to propagate, you can easily multiply your favorite plants (like lavender, spider plants, or tomatoes) without spending a dime.

10. Climb a tree.

As far as things to do in the summer go, climbing a tree is perhaps the most nostalgic. Whether you find a good branch and read a book or see how high you can go, is there any better way to embrace your inner child?

11. Participate in a local run.

If your town will have a 5K fun run this spring or summer, why not train for it and participate? Even the most hesitant runners can succeed using approaches like the Couch to 5K program, which slowly builds from no running to running a 5K in just six to 12 weeks. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

12. Plant a garden.

If you’re lucky enough to have a backyard that gets some decent sun, planting a garden is one of the best, low-cost things to do in the summer. It’ll keep you busy all season long, and (bonus!) you’ll enjoy fresh, delicious produce too! No backyard? No problem! Use containers to create a balcony garden. Tons of herbs and veggies — like tomatoes, peppers, carrots, and basil — do really well in containers. 

13. DIY slip ‘n’ slide.

Channel that inner wild child and create your very own slip ‘n’ slide, one of the most classic outdoor games. Simply throw down a couple of tarps, stake them down at the sides, then run your sprinkler over the tarps for a wet, slippery ride. Bonus points if you set it up on a downward slope. 

14. Make your own popsicles.

When those long, hot summer days start getting you down, break out some fun ingredients and make your own popsicles. You may have to buy a popsicle mold, but there isn’t much else you’ll need. Things like fruit juice, fresh fruit, and yogurt are just some of the ways to make your own yummy popsicles. 

15. Find or make a walking tour of a city.

Most cities have some kind of free walking tour available to download, and if you can’t find one you can easily map out some landmarks and interesting spots around your area with interesting history that you can visit. Even the tiniest towns have little-known unique spots — just grab a friend and start wandering. 

Credit: mapodile/Getty Images

16. Go for a hike.

Walking is free, and walking in nature is freeing. In Japan, they have something called a Shinrin-yoku, which is a “forest bathing trip,” or a quick walk in the woods. Take as many of these as you can. Head to national and state parks or even just the local trail — be sure to take any trash you create with you when you leave.

17. Host a movie night.

Take a vote on which movie, make sure everyone dresses in pajamas, have all the drinks and snacks prepared, and enjoy your night together.

18. Photography challenges.

Love to take shots for decorating your walls or your Instagram feed? Taking pictures is a great thing to do in summer. Instead of just randomly snapping photos, give yourself a challenge for a day. You can make up your own or search online for popular ideas.

19. Get adventurous with urban foraging.

Even if you don’t have a garden, there may be free food within your reach. Look online for foraging maps of your city or ask friends if they know of any places to grab free fruit, nuts, herbs, and more (legally, of course) — and then search for a recipe to experiment.

20. Paddle or swim your way around a local waterway.

If you’ve got the gear, take your kayak, raft, or canoe out for a spin. If you don’t own any kind of watercraft, finding a local swimming hole or lazy river to go for a quick dip is equally as fun.

Credit: View Stock | Getty Images

21. Read in a hammock.

If you’ve got your own hammock, put it up in your backyard or at a local park, grab a great summer novel, and enjoy a few hours swinging and reading.

22. Go to the park with friends.

You don’t have to spend tons of dough buying food or special “picnic” things — just grab some snacks from the pantry and an old blanket and go sit and enjoy nature at a favorite park with friends. 

23. Bike around town.

Enjoy your city from a fresh perspective on your bike, or find a local trail to zoom around on.

24. Visit free museums.

A museum is a perfect place to spend a sweltering summer day, and visiting a free museum is one of the best things to do in the summer. Odds are there’s a free museum in your area, so take the opportunity to check it out. 

25. Upcycle old finds into something fresh. 

Do you have furniture, art, frames, or other pieces of decor lying around that could use an upgrade? Now is a brilliant time to scavenge for cool found objects around your home and revamp them through DIY projects

Credit: JennLShoots/Shutterstock.com

26. Get sporty.

When’s the last time you enjoyed a game of badminton? Volleyball? Pickleball? Take what gear you’ve got and set it up in your backyard (or make use of the equipment at your local park) to compete against your friends. 

27. Volunteer for your community.

Volunteer work is free and makes you feel good. Try delivering meals to older folks, organizing a cleanup around your neighborhood, restocking your local community fridge, and more. 

28. Collect natural objects for art.

Looking for things to do in the summer that will also level up your home? Collect flowers to press to make art you can hang on the wall. Find interesting branches to incorporate into your decor, as well as stones and pine cones. You can look in your backyard for a lot of objects that can bring nature into your interiors.

29. Play like a kid on the playground.

Find a playground not currently occupied by a gaggle of kiddos and let loose. Slide with abandon. Swing like you don’t have motion sickness. See if you can cross to the other side of the monkey bars without falling.

30. Host a Bake-Off.

For those overcast and rainy summer days, call up your friends and challenge them to a Bake-Off. Turn it into a friendly competition where you can only use the ingredients you already have on hand or allow everyone to make a quick grocery run. No matter if you win or lose, you’ll get a delicious treat out of it.

31. Grab existing art supplies and paint some nature.

When it’s framed, just about anything looks good. So don’t be shy to grab whatever art supplies you have on hand (even just a pencil and paper) to go outside and sketch/watercolor/pencil color/oil paint nature. You could get some pretty good art out of it!

32. Camp in your backyard.

Have some camping supplies in a closet somewhere that barely get any use? You don’t have to trek to a far-off wilderness location to have any fun in nature. Use your own backyard to pitch a tent, drag out a mattress, and make s’mores. Absolutely no judgment if you sneak back into the house to sleep the rest of the night.

Credit: Eric Audras / Getty Images

33. Build a sandcastle.

It goes without saying that building a sandcastle is one of the very best things to do in the summer. If you’re near any beaches (or even sandboxes), challenge yourself to spend an afternoon building a truly impressive sandcastle.

34. Go on a scavenger hunt.

You can find tons of scavenger hunt ideas online (or you can craft your own). Grab your friends, set up some prizes, and spend an afternoon seeing whose hunting skills are the strongest.

35. Try geocaching.

Yes, it’s still a thing! The old-school way to geocache involved a GPS unit, but now there are apps that make it easy to get started — you can sign up for a geocache account and go for a hunt. Not only is it free, but you might also get something out of it if you find a particularly good treasure cache.

Credit: NickSpinder/Shutterstock.com

36. Stargaze or meteor shower gaze.

Is there anything more humbling than gazing up at the sky? Pick a clear night, find a quiet spot away from city lights, and bring a telescope or even just a blanket to look at the stars. Check out Constellation Guide to find what stars (or planets) to pick out of your night sky. Or time your stargazing for a night when there’s a meteor shower for a spectacular show.

37. Join a Meetup group.

Meetup is meant to get people hanging out, and it’s free to join. So whether you pick a hiking group, book club, or whatever else sparks your interest, you can have plenty of fun without necessarily spending money. 

38. Have a date with your pet.

Treat your pet to a day of perks: Hit the beach, the dog park, or anywhere they can run around and get crazy. Chances are high you’ll have a great time too.

Credit: Daniel de la Hoz/Getty Images

39. Start a book club.

You can finally start on those books you’ve been meaning to read. Call up some friends and see if they’d be interested in reading the same novel and meet up once a week or month to discuss. 

40. Rearrange for a new look.

Did you know regularly rearranging furniture can have mental health benefits? Well, it can! If you’re someone who absolutely loves making your home look fresh and new on the regular, spend a day wildly rearranging not just furniture and accessories, but also whole rooms and art on the walls.

41. Call an old friend to catch up.

Like, on an actual phone. Send a text first to ask if you can call if you’re phone-shy.

Credit: Tony Anderson/Getty Images

42. Write letters or send postcards.

Grab your best stationery (or make your own) and send some dear friends some correspondence. Try slipping pressed flowers from your yard to friends to send a piece of your home to them.

43. Start a fundraiser or charity event.

Another one of those things to do in summer that’s free to do and benefits people in need! You can set up a dance marathon, a charity night with talented friends who can sing or do comedy, or even a craft night where you can sew or make items that can be donated.

44. People watch.

Can you remember the last time you ever just sat and watched the world go by, instead of staring at your phone? When you consider things to do in the summer, you might not think of people watching — but just try it! If it feels funny, bring a book out with you to make you feel a bit less awkward.

Credit: Photo: Sidney Bensimon; Prop Styling: Carla Gonzalez-Hart

45. Play board games that usually just collect dust.

Do you have some board games collecting dust somewhere in your home? Grab some snacks, your roommates, or your kids and plan to not get up until you play each and every one.

46. Window shop online for home inspiration ideas.

When you don’t have the budget for new home things, it can be easy to want to stay away from design stores (and even sad if you feel like you can’t take anything home). But it doesn’t have to be sad! Leave the credit cards in your wallet and go online window shopping for ideas and inspiration.

47. Challenge yourself to a cook-off with only the food you have in your house.

There are plenty of names for the phenomenon (like a pantry challenge or… just a typical weekday night), but check out what you have on hand — maybe even those ingredients you’ve had in the back of your pantry for a while. See if you can get creative by creating a cool meal without going to the store.

48. Drop off treats to an older relative. 

Do you have any older relatives that live near you? See if you can swing by with goodies and have a visit. Ask them for fun stories from when they were growing up; you might be surprised.

49. Learn a party trick like juggling or origami.

YouTube is a goldmine of videos showing you how to do and make all kinds of things. Why not spend a rainy afternoon trying to master some small trick you can whip out to impress your friends? (Or just entertain yourself.)

Credit: Olena Yakobchuk/Shutterstock.com

50. Give yourself an at-home spa day.

You don’t need a spa day at a real spa — just spend a little time transforming your own bathroom into an at-home one you can pamper yourself in and enjoy some free self-care.

51. Learn about your town’s history.

Does your town have any notable former residents? Any structures built by famous architects? Any battlefields? Any “largest in the world” things? Do a little research to find out and then put the items on a potential future walking tour.

52. Go to an open mic night.

Some comedy clubs and coffee shops offer open mic nights for free. The comedy might be cringeworthy, or you could stumble on someone pretty funny! Perhaps even sign yourself up for next month’s standup if you’re feeling brave. 

53. Attend a book reading.

Many favorite authors with recently released titles have book tours. Check them out to learn more about your favorite author and their newest masterpiece.

54. Learn how to make something from scratch.

Try learning how to make something from scratch — especially something you like to have a lot of, like hummus or throw pillows. It might take a bit of money on supplies to start, but then you’ll be saving money the whole summer long making items instead of buying them.

55. Join a Buy Nothing group. 

If you’ve never heard of the Buy Nothing movement, a conglomeration of community-based groups that encourages giving and sharing products instead of engaging in consumerism, it’s time to look it up. There are worse ways to spend a summer Saturday than getting and giving free stuff while making community connections!

56. Fly a kite. 

To be fair, this is only free if you already own a kite (though you can find plenty of options for under $20 online) — but can you imagine a more wholesome outdoor summer activity? Bonus points if you make the kite from scratch using things you already have on hand, like garbage bags and sticks. 

57. Head to your local library. 

Seek refuge from the summer heat in the public library. Whether you’re there to browse books or take part in community events, there’s never been a better time to support your local library and librarians. 

58. Visit the next town over.

Explore outside your city’s limits and visit the next town or city over. It’s easier and cheaper than a vacation (or even a staycation, if you play your cards right). Plus, you’ll get to feel like a tourist in your own backyard. 

59. Set a step goal. 

Use the longer days to your advantage by setting a daily step goal. You don’t need a fancy watch or even a pedometer to count your steps — most modern cell phones will do that for you. If 10,000 steps a day is too much, start slow and work your way up. 

60. Watch the sunrise. 

While waking up before dawn doesn’t scream “fun,” watching the sunrise by yourself or with your family is about as peaceful and life-affirming as it gets. It also sets the tone for the rest of the day, so you’ll be ready for all the other free activities on your summer bucket list.