Sometimes Inexpensive Fun Recreation Ideas are hard to find.
These days it’s easy to spend a significant amount of money on recreational activity. Families often blow their recreation budget, thinking they can’t cut these expenses and still have a good time.
But we challenge that notion. There are hundreds of ways to enjoy family time or a date night without dropping $100 to do it.
Consider what you’d pay for the following: a professional sporting event, a concert, a museum visit, a trip to the zoo, a first-run movie or a Renaissance festival.
The costs of admissions, gas, parking, meals, and souvenirs (that you must have!) quickly burn a hole in your wallet. Even simple activities like bowling, ice-skating, roller-skating or miniature golf can deplete your recreation budget if you’re not careful.
Budget Recreation Ideas & Fun Activities
We are convinced that meaningful, yet economical memories can be created with little or no cost if you know where to look. You may not do “dinner and a movie” like many other people, but you certainly can create interesting and enjoyable memories.
Some of our suggestions may sound like things a kid would do. Well, we think kids seem to have fun with anything from a cardboard box to a bucket of water.
Have we become so “sophisticated” that we have forgotten the simple pleasures that can bring immense enjoyment to our lives?
Please read these ideas with an open mind. Perhaps, you’ll discover a wonderful new youthfulness.
Rather than publish a long list of ideas, we’re encouraging you to think about fun activities that fit into three different spheres: Seasons, Holidays, and Recurring Statewide or Local Events.
Seasonal Recreation Ideas
Unique activities are associated with each season of the year. Of course, many of these ideas are limited by your geographic location — ice fishing in the Arizona desert just won’t work.
Winter Family Activities
But, think about winter in other parts of the country. You could enjoy sledding, ice-skating, Christmas caroling, building snow forts, reading aloud a favorite book together by a crackling fire or having a snowball fight. In Arizona and Florida, picking citrus is an enjoyable family activity.
Spring Family Activities
In springtime, outdoor dates or family activities could include visiting an arboretum, hiking through fields of wildflowers, the forest, desert or mountain trails, strawberry picking, and bird watching. We especially enjoy this season as our citrus trees are in full bloom.
Nothing compares to taking a walk while the smell of fresh citrus blossoms wafts through the air and hundreds of butterflies dart about.
Summer Family Activities
Summer activities include picnics at a local park, boating at an urban lake, waterskiing, camping, barbecues with juicy corn on the cob and watermelon, and swimming. We do lots of this. One of our favorite mini-dates is to escape to our pool and sit and talk after the kids are in bed.
Fall Family Activities
As the weather cools in the fall, consider apple picking, making annual holiday preparations, going on a hayride, taking walks in the park and raking a humongous pile of leaves and jumping into it. You’ll laugh and feel like a kid again.
No matter where you live, budget recreation ideas planned around the seasons of the year can capture your imagination and your heart.
Holiday Recreation Ideas
Virtually every month contains its holidays. So if you’re looking for inspiration and a reason to celebrate, just check your wall calendar. Many of us are so busy that some holiday celebrations fall by the wayside — it may be time for you to revive some.
Winter Holiday Family Activities
On New Year’s Eve, we always host a party. We invite families with their kids and everyone brings food so our preparation is minimal. We play Charades and throw confetti at midnight.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day follows later in January—it’s an opportune time to visit a black cultural museum and to learn about the history of slavery and segregation in our country. Many cities host breakfasts or luncheons to celebrate Dr. King’s impact on society. There’s nothing wrong with a morning or lunch-time date, is there?
February is host to President’s Day and Valentine’s Day. Celebrating Washington’s and Lincoln’s accomplishments and noteworthy character attributes can be rewarding. We don’t usually do a date night on Valentine’s Day — it’s too crowded and most restaurants won’t accept coupons that night.
So we go out the prior or following night when they’re less crowded. If you enjoy making homemade cards, they are always appreciated. An outdoor mall near our home hosts a “Lovers’ Lane” with free horse-drawn carriage rides, chocolate tasting and dancing to big band music.
Spring Holiday Family Activities
The Jewish festival of Purim — which precedes Passover — provides another opportunity for a different kind of costume party.
March or April ushers in Easter and Passover. Many churches host musicals celebrating these occasions. Years ago, an iris farm in Phoenix gave tours when the flowers were blooming — unfortunately, it has closed down.
In May we commemorate mothers and our fallen war heroes. Mother’s Day is a man’s opportunity to honor his wife and mother with some of their favorite things. Consider a special breakfast, cards from the kids and a favorite dinner, cooked by someone other than mom.
Summer Holiday Family Activities
Even if you don’t have a mother, you can take the time to say thanks to an older woman who has influenced your life. The three-day weekend of Memorial Day provides an ideal opportunity to host a barbecue, cheer for our troops at a parade, visit a veteran’s cemetery and place flags on the graves, attend a church picnic or one of many other commemorative events.
Celebrate Father’s Day in June with the dads in your life or visit a man of character who has influenced your life.
July brings fireworks and picnics. One of our favorite memories is celebrating Independence Day in a small Arizona mountain town. We were there for their first ever town celebration.
The veterans’ band played. It was reminiscent of the Mayberry town band in the Andy Griffith Show. The fireworks were spectacular, the people friendly and the weather beautifully cool.
For Summer Crafts and Decor, visit this page on our website.
Fall Holiday Family Activities
Labor Day, celebrated in early September, provides a three-day weekend for camping, barbecues or just lounging around. And Grandparent’s Day gives us a reason to travel, spend time visiting or send a card to our parents.
If you want to feel like a kid, plan your Halloween costume early in October. By the end of the month, you can don your costume and go visit neighbors. You’ll be surprised how much fun it is to go door to door and talk with laughing friends. If that idea scares you, try planning a costume party or go to a church-sponsored harvest festival.
At Thanksgiving, we reach out to people who have no family in town. We shoot fake turkeys, play “Spoons” and eat lots of pie.
December offers lots of free—or inexpensive—recreation activities. Most high schools and colleges host holiday concerts. There are always free, church-sponsored musicals.
Community-sponsored productions of A Christmas Carol or the Nutcracker often provide admission with a donation to Toys for Tots or a food bank. Our Christmas season wouldn’t be complete without a night of driving around looking at Christmas lights.
Annual Local Activities
Every community offers events that occur on a yearly basis. In our area we have:
– A hot-air balloon race in January.
– A huge used-book sale at a large coliseum in downtown Phoenix in February. People line up for hours before the doors open to ensure they get “first dibs” on some great titles.
– Several free horse shows in February and March.
– An open house at a state wildlife rehabilitation center in spring and fall. The first time we attended, we were amazed to learn about the numerous creatures that we hadn’t realized lived in our desert.
– The Arizona State Fair every October.
– Scout-O-Rama in November — this is a huge event where Cub and Boy Scouts display scout skills and hands-on activities for kids and adults. You could experience amateur rocketry, delicious Dutch-oven cooking, obstacle courses, plant conservation information, native wildlife demonstrations and so much more.
– A myriad of college and high school spring concerts and recitals in May. Beth and Curtis from Spokane, WA, wrote, “Most universities publish dates and times of their recitals in the local newspaper or online. One of our most enjoyable evenings was spent in a university recital hall listening to a solo tuba recital. It was memorable and quite entertaining. And, best of all, it was absolutely free.” If you ever get the opportunity to hear one of our military bands perform, don’t miss it. They are phenomenal — and free, too.
Where to Find Budget Recreation Ideas
Keeping a watchful eye on your local newspaper calendar of events will give you plenty of ideas for things to do. It seems there is something special every week of the year, and many are free. Another great resource is the AAA Tour Book for your state. They list activities city by city. Just be sure to verify all the information.
Volunteering can provide you with free recreation, too. Our daughter Becky regularly volunteers at the All-Arabian Horse Show in Scottsdale. Her few hours of volunteer labor provide her with passes to daytime events.
We’ve also volunteered at our local botanical garden during their annual luminaria holiday festival. We received free admission, heard excellent music and helped usher for a wonderful event.
Heck, there are even fun things you can do in the comfort of your own home.
- Special Movie Night – with PG and PG-13 Movies
- Family Game Night with age-appropriate games
- Jig Saw Puzzles
Rather than wreck your budget, find inexpensive, fun recreational activities to enrich your life. You only go around once in life, why not do it for free!