Summer is the perfect time to do just about anything outside. But it’s surprising how much some activities can cost, for admission and tickets, or sometimes gear you need to buy in order to participate. But don’t worry—there are plenty of fun things to do that are free or cost very little. Here are some of our favorite affordable summer activities that won’t burn up your budget.

1. Plan a picnic

Picnics are one of the best affordable summer activities. They can be as simple or elaborate as you want them to be, and you can have one pretty much anywhere that you want to—in a park, by a lake, or even in your own backyard! You don’t even need a picnic basket, unless you’re going for style points. Make some sandwiches, grab some drinks and maybe throw in some crackers and cheese, and cookies for dessert. Put it all in a backpack, and bring a blanket or towel to sit on… and you’re all set.

2. Go for a hike

A hike is a great way to enjoy the warm summer weather and also get some exercise. You can go to a nearby open space, venture further away from home and make a whole day of it. All you need is the right footwear (either hiking boots or tennis shoes), sunscreen, water, and maybe a hat and sunglasses. 

You also might want to take a trail map if you’re going to a large hiking area—remember that sometimes you can’t count on your phone getting reception in remote, outdoorsy places. Or download AllTrails—it’s a free app that makes it easy to find trails (and all the details about them) near you. And it can even be used offline in case your phone loses signal!

3. Host an outdoor movie night

Movies are always fun… but there’s a whole other level of cool when you watch one outside, on a warm summer night! This used to be pretty hard to do, but these days there are some simple ways to turn your backyard into an outdoor theater. See if you can borrow a projector from a friend, or—if you plan to do this regularly—it might make sense to buy one. There are some inexpensive options, like this one for under $100. Or, check with your local library—a lot of libraries have projectors you can check out (just like a book!). Put out some folding chairs or blankets, pop some popcorn, and invite your friends and neighbors; this is one of the easiest, coolest affordable summer activities!

4. Set up a lemonade stand

This one is mostly for kids, but if you don’t have them and you’re feeling entrepreneurial—go for it! A lemonade stand can be a fun way to meet your neighbors and a great way for your kids to learn the basics of running a business. You’ll just need some lemonade, ice, paper cups, some small bills and coins for making change, a sign, a table, and a couple of folding chairs to get started!

5. Go for a bike ride

If you have a bike, this is an ideal activity. (If you don’t, then not so much.) Put on your helmet, fill up your water bottle, and plan a route—whether it’s a mountain bike trail you want to try or a road route through your area. If you have younger cyclists with you, you can simply make it a short ride through your neighborhood on streets that are quiet and safe for the little riders with you. Since you’re getting some good exercise, it can be fun to ride somewhere where you can get ice cream or a cold drink as a reward!

6. Two words: slip & slide

Who didn’t love running and jumping on a wet piece of plastic on the hard ground when they were a kid? Well, guess what—they still make the Slip & Slide. And there are a lot of fancy new variations in addition to the OG version most of us remember. They even have little inflatable Boogie boards you can ride down the slide now, but it’s still one of the more affordable summer activities.

For a little extra savings, you can even make your own—just get a sheet of heavy landscape plastic from the hardware store and use a sprinkler and some dish soap to make it super slippery!

7. Camp out. (Even in the backyard!)

Who doesn’t love a campout? You can make a trip of it and go to an actual campground, but it can also be really fun (and easy) to just pitch a tent in your backyard. Aside from the tent, you just need sleeping bags. Then you can decide how ‘roughing it’ (or not) you want to get. You can pretend you’re far from home and bring all of your food and supplies, or you can just go into the house whenever you need something. You can use your BBQ or a fire pit to cook and… or you can order a pizza! But either way, you definitely should roast marshmallows.

8. Go geocaching

Geocaching is basically a treasure hunt where you can find hidden caches wherever you are, using just your phone’s GPS.

The caches out there to be found can be anything—even real treasure, like coins. But most of the time it’s inexpensive items like jewelry, card games, or other whimsical stuff. You take an item, and you leave one in its place. Caches are usually placed in a container that’s waterproof, and they have ‘’ written on them so non-geocachers know what it is.

It’s easy to get started—you can use any smartphone, as long as it has GPS. Go to, and download the app. And then, you can start finding geocache sites.

9. Have an outdoor dance party

It’s always a good time for a dance party… and a dance party is always a good time! Whether it’s mid-day with a group of second graders, or an evening with a bunch of 50-somethings, all you need is music and some people willing to groove for one of the most fun affordable summer activities.

10. Have a barbecue

After a long day of summer fun, with any of the above activities, firing up the grill can be just the thing. It can be simple, like hot dogs and hamburgers, or fancier—maybe chicken or steaks. If vegetarian cuisine is more your thing, throw some portobello mushrooms, sliced eggplant, and zucchini on the grill. Then pull out some graham crackers, chocolate, marshmallows, and sticks after dinner, and you can make s’mores!