Where to Find Cheap Summer Entertainment

Summer is lazy, and hazy, but it can also start to get a little dull as it wears on. To keep you from hitting the summer doldrums too quickly, here are a few suggestions for cheap summer entertainment.

Summer Concerts

You don’t have to be in a big city to get the benefit of free or cheap summer concerts. Most medium-sized cities, and even some smaller ones, host free classical concerts, jazz trios, and other events at local parks, shopping centers, and cultural centers. Check the website for your city, the community calendar in the newspaper, or the local mall website for details.

Hang Out by the Water

If you have a beach or lake nearby, then a day hanging out by the water can be pretty cheap. Parking is usually affordable, and then you just bring a cooler of snacks, loads of sunscreen, and lots of sand toys. As a bonus, the sun will wear everyone out and you’ll get to be early, unless you stay for an evening bonfire.

Free Movies from the Library

If you’ve had enough outdoors time (too sunburned, maybe), visit the library to borrow free movies. Many libraries carry current DVDs, and rental is either free or $1 a day for the most popular titles. If your library doesn’t have movies, look for a local Redbox and then hunt down Redbox coupon codes online.

Wipeout on ABC

I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but I love this show. It’s the perfect summer entertainment, and since it’s on ABC, it arrives free. If you’re not familiar, it’s sort of like American Gladiator, but with poorer athletes, mud, and wisecracking hosts. It’s positioned as family fare, so it’s pretty clean (humor-wise).

Game Night

Invite over a few families for a giant game night. Ask everyone to bring games and snacks and it will be fun for all ages with a minimal cost.

Candlelight Picnics

Rather than eating dinner inside during the summer, lay out a blanket and dine on the grass by candlelight. Then lay back and stare at the stars, or flashing airplane lights, depending on where you live. Bonus points for spotting a satellite or meteor.

Summer Theater

If you’re a theater-enthusiast, then you may be able to find some free or cheap summer Shakespeare performances in your local area. Check the community calendar for upcoming events.

Street Fairs

Most street fairs are packed with vendors, but there’s also cheap entertainment for the kids, live music, and a wide range of food. You can also pack your own lunch and find a bench or spot of grass to sit down on. The fun is in the enjoyment of the afternoon, not in browsing the vendors for stuff you don’t need.


Carnies travel the country this time of year, setting up for a weekend or two in a local school parking lot or city park. Although carnival rides aren’t the cheapest entertainment, it’s certainly a lot cheaper than visiting a full amusement park or water park.

Community Pool

Most communities have a free or low-cost pool. You may need to pay an annual membership, but it’s certainly cheaper than digging your own pool. Contact the local YMCA, a neighborhood cabana club, or your city’s Parks and Rec department for a list of local pools.

Free Museum Day

Many museums host a monthly free-admission day. Although these are often weekdays, they occasionally offer free weekend days during the summer. Get on your local museum’s email list to receive an announcement of the next one. If you have a Bank of America account, they often sponsor free days.

These ideas should keep you busy for several summer weekends. If you need more than that, consider camping or just laying around on the hammock reading a good book. That’s enough entertainment for me!

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