If you’re living in a small town like I am and want to find fun things to do on a budget, you’re probably more than a little tired of the generic advice to visit museums or go to free outdoor festivals.
While the options may be different from those found in larger cities, there’s plenty of free and cheap entertainment to be found in smaller communities. We may just have to get a little more creative! Here are 15 free and cheap things to do in a small town:
1. Enjoy Downtown
Small towns in rural America are known for their downtowns with “heritage” buildings, quaint streets, and charming local shops. Though an earlier generation of shops and their owners are gone, today you can still find antiques stores, restaurants, and coffee shops.
Get out of the house and stroll around downtown, just taking in the atmosphere.
Bonus points if you only browse and don’t buy, making the experience totally free.
2. Go Out for Coffee
Yes, this is actually a thing. It’s common to find groups of friends sitting at local coffee shops for hours on Saturday mornings. Coffee shops are also popular hangouts for the older, retired crowd. For the price of just one cup of coffee, you could experience several hours of fun with your friends.
3. Work Out
Because what else is there to do? At least you’ll be in good shape after that coffee and rich homemade pastry you couldn’t resist.
If you’re looking for a place to work out, 24 Hour Fitness gyms offer some of the best pricing around, including a free trial and a variety of classes. There are over 35,000 gym locations across the United States, so see if there’s one close by for you to join.
Even if you don’t want to spend the money on a gym membership, working out can be easy and free! Apps like C25K, Nike Training Club, and Touchfit can help keep you in shape without any equipment necessary. Who needs a treadmill with all that open space?
4. Drive Around
Driving around town for hours might not sound like fun, but when you’re a teenager, it’s pretty exciting. I spent many Saturday nights during my teen years cruising around with friends.
Even now that I’m an adult, I still find myself driving around town. Only these days, it’s usually to see if there’s anything new going on — like a home renovation or a building going up. When a whole new street was added a couple of years ago, it was the talk of my town.
5. Host a Get-Together
Since you can eat at the local restaurants only so many times, it’s more common for people to get together at each other’s houses for meals and entertainment. Outdoor grilling is popular, as are potlucks. The entertainment portion of the evening may be spent watching sports on TV or playing board games or cards.
If you want to make your get-togethers more regular, you can even start a club. A poker, painting, or book club can be a great way to pass the time and get a chance to hang out with friends.
6. Go Hunting or Fishing
Although hunting and fishing equipment isn’t cheap, you probably won’t need to buy much if you or your family has lived in a small town for years. These items are usually passed down from generation to generation.
Even if you’re not originally from a small town, friendly locals might share their equipment with you. Avid hunters and fishers love introducing their hobby to new people.
7. Go Hiking
One of the benefits of a small town is that there can be a lot of open space not too far away. Sometimes, it can be a ton of fun to pack a bag and head outside of town. If you have kids, hiking can be a chance to spend some time together, while you teach them how much fun it can be to explore!
8. Go Garage Sale-ing
Attending garage sales is almost like a sport in small towns. It’s a good way to take up an entire Saturday during peak garage-sale season. They are also a great way to find inexpensive holiday gifts for family and friends. If you find that you’ve collected too many treasures from other people’s garage sales over the years, you could even try hosting your own.
9. Join Committees and Boards
Every big community event or organization has a committee or board of some kind. Whether you are interested in technology, planning, or just getting to know more people around town, these organizations can be a great way to get involved and make a difference in the community. But if you’re looking for something to do, don’t say so too loudly, or you might end up serving on all of them!
10. Support Your Community
There are always fundraisers going on for one group or another. Pancake breakfasts, hog roasts, and soup suppers could conceivably fill every weekend of your social calendar for the entire year. Community support is a hallmark of small-town life.
11. Become a Dog Walker
Being in a small town can be a lot of fun if you have a dog to run around with. Taking the dog for walks in the neighborhood can give you an opportunity to stay in shape, have some fun, and even meet some new people and pets in town.
The problem is dogs are expensive. That’s why taking on a side hustle as a dog walker can be a great idea in a small town and is an excellent way to turn a costly activity into a paying one.
12. Start a Garden
Though there is not much space for gardening in the city, a small town offers a lot of extra room to start your own vegetable patch. Even a small garden can be a fun (and cost-effective) way to spend some time. It can also help you fill up your fridge with fresh carrots, peppers, strawberries, and anything else you could want, all while saving money on food!
13. Learn to Cook
Now that you have a garden, it would be great to do something with all those extra fruits and vegetables you have. Learning to cook can give you a skill that will help you save money and will satisfy your taste buds for years to come! To get started, just check out websites like Yummly and The Food Network, or try apps like BBC Good Food and Tasty.
In the big city, all the light in the air means that the night sky is usually dark, cloudy, and empty. A plus of small-town living is actually having the chance to see the stars! Some evening, why not try to spend some time with friends as you gaze up at the night sky? Like with hiking, kids can enjoy the experience too, as you teach them all about the constellations — providing you know what you’re talking about!
15. Relish the Peace and Quiet
Although you may sometimes find yourself bored or frustrated with the lack of things to do in a small town, the sheer serenity you’ll find there more than makes up for it. And it costs nothing, either!
The Bottom Line:
There are many ways to pass time in small towns, and they don’t all have to break the bank! These cheap and creative solutions can be a great way to enjoy yourself just as much as you would in the big city. They may not seem as grand, but they can be just as fun!
Additional reporting by Lauren Shayo.