13 Fun, Good-For-You Things To Do This Summer in Lieu of a Vacation

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Written By: Melissa Fiorenza

If you’re the kind of person who usually equates summer with a trip out of town, it’s not easy to suddenly nix your usual getaway and instead spend the sunny season at home. But oh, think of the savings. Think of the spared expenses. Think of the fact that you WON’T HAVE TO PACK OR DEAL WITH FLIGHT DELAYS. But your question no doubt is: What will I do instead?

Make the next few months the summer you devote to your health and wellbeing by having a total blast without forking over your last six paychecks. Here’s a list of 13 things to do this summer that are basically free (or at least way cheaper than a vacation package), good for you in one way or another, and guaranteed to serve up Insta-worthy memories and mental snapshots that’ll last a lifetime.

1. Dine al fresco

When the weather is nice, there’s zero reason to not take your dinner outdoors every night and enjoy the fresh air. Don’t have a patio in your backyard? Not a problem. Pack up your food and hit up your nearest park, picnic blanket in tow. Or go visit friends (or Mom and Dad) who have backyards begging to be used. And fyi, these portable wine glasses are ahmazing.

2. Go camping for real

Went camping once and hated it? Try it again. In the words of author Terry Tempest Williams, “To be whole. To be complete. Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.” There’s nothing like being with friends or a significant other in a tent in nature, no WiFi, talking about life. Check out reserveamerica.com to find a campground close to you.

3. Find a recreational sports league

And think outside the box: bocce ball, wiffle ball, bowling, cornhole. Yup, those leagues exist. The idea here is not to be competitive; recreational leagues are about meeting new people, doing something physical, and having a good time. If you’re in a big city like Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, or D.C., look into Zog Sports. If your ZIP code isn’t on the list, run a quick Google search to find out what’s nearby.

4. Stargaze better

Ready to make stargazing from the roof of your car a heck of a lot more interesting? Whip out your phone right now and download the app called Night Sky. Tonight, hold your phone up to the sky: the Night Sky app identifies the stars, planets, constellations, and satellites above so you know what you’re looking at. Romance + education. Why not?

5. Take on a summer-perfect hobby

A few ideas to consider: kayaking, rock climbing, sculling, biking, botany, fly fishing, gardening, photography, hiking, grilling, running, sailing, horseback riding, off-roading. Whatever you do, try to make it less expensive by teaching yourself with YouTube (depends on the hobby, obviously) and enlisting the help of a friend who’s already really good at it.

6. Try geocaching

Geocaching is essentially a real-life treasure hunt that you totally have to try if you haven’t already. Here’s the gist: you create an account at geocaching.com and download the official app on your phone. Find a geocache in your area, venture to it, and sign the logbook when you find it. Sometimes you’ll find a few knick-knacks hidden inside; take a memento and leave something for other adventurers like yourself.

7. Become a DIY pro

Look around your apartment, your house, your yard—got a piece of old furniture you wish you could modernize and spruce up? A dilapidated shed you always wanted to just toss out? Or maybe your bedroom is seriously lacking a beautiful headboard. Time to finally DIY. Thanks to the likes of Pinterest and again, YouTube, it’s easier than ever to figure something out for yourself, enjoy the process, and not spend money on an expert. Share your mission on social to make yourself accountable, get the tools you need, and get started.

8. Plan a bunch of day trips

Whether it’s 20 minutes from home or two hours, there must be places—landmarks, small towns, big cities—that you’ve never really explored or have even been to. Now that you’ve decided you’re not soaring off to the beach for a week, this is the perfect time to plot out a few day trips and see those sights that are right nearby. Who knows? You could discover off-the-beaten-path cafes, cool stores, or just great people-watching stops you never knew existed.

9. Turn into a farmers market regular

If you’re lucky enough to live near a farmers market, GO EVERY WEEKEND. Really learn about all the different kinds of fruits and vegetables and grains out there, like purple-top turnips, scalloped squash, farro, and green zebra tomatoes. Google recipes that incorporate them and cook like you’ve never cooked before. If you find yourself loving this new adventure, invite friends over every Sunday for a farm-to-table feast, hosted by you.

10. Pick fresh fruit

Okay, okay, so becoming a farmers market guru is way too intense for you? Take it down a notch. Go on a fruit-picking date with your other half. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, cherries—whatever you decide to pick, bring your haul home and whip up a sweet dessert together. If you’re not sure where to go, head to pickyourown.org and choose your area to see all the options.

11. Dance the night away

There’s something about dancing in the heat of the summer—even if you’re indoors—that makes you feel so good, so alive. Pick up a form you haven’t tried before (maybe a hip-hop class?) or go with your favorite, like salsa at the club you haven’t been to in a few years. Grab the girls and make it a night of it.

12. Join a weekly fitness group

Get your bod up at 6 a.m. if that’s what it takes to squeeze in a new weekly fitness group this summer, so that come fall, you’ll feel less guilt in indulging in the comfort foods of colder weather. From kickboxing to cardio to spinning, the options these days are endless. Pick one and get moving; you’ll be so glad you did.

13. See through the eyes of a child

Author Paulo Coelho said, “Children are always looking at the world as if it was for the first time in their lives. So, we should always look to the world with the eyes of a child. I am not saying be naive, I am saying be innocent in the sense of discovering things.” And Deepak Chopra once said, “See the world as if for the first time; see it through the eyes of a child, and you will suddenly find that you are free.” Why not the heed the words of some of our world’s wisest thinkers, and tag a long with a friend who has little kids—if you don’t have your own? Do exactly what they want to do that day, with them. Fly a kite. Jump in muddy puddles. Swing on swings. Go down the slide. Let go of your adult obligations and be free.