Cheap Thrills: 25 Low or No Cost Entertainment Ideas


Do you know anyone who doesn’t love something for free or at a discount?  Retiring on a budget doesn’t have to mean that you can’t go out and have a great time.  It just requires a little creativity and some online research to find activites and entertainment at low or no cost, so you don’t need to spend your entire month’s entertainment budget in one evening.

Lucky for me and a group of friends, a good friend of ours, Karen, takes the initiative to do all the research online and compiles a list of things to do that are free or are quite inexpensive. Every few months she sends an email called, “Cheap Thrills,” inviting friends to come along. The list of cheap thrills ranges from music to festivals to garden shows and community garage sales.  It makes for a fun circle of people joining together to share in a common experience, while being budget conscious.

Go online and type Free Events (Your City) (Month) and you will see sites that post free and low cost activities that won’t bust your budget.

Concerts – Part of the Cheap Thrills list that Karen sends out is a series of musical shows that cost $45 for a series of seven shows. The entertainers are excellent, and are as diverse as the old time do wop of the Diamonds and a traditional Japanese dance troupe. We also have a free summer concert series at the marina in my town weekly throughout the summer.  At the local casino, there is an outdoor amphitheater where some pretty big name musicians come to play.  Many people show up with lawn chairs and sit on the lawn “outside” the venue, enjoy a picnic dinner and listen to the music for free! Check out your marina, city center and local casinos for free concert schedules.

Music – Some of the best music can be found for free or for a small donation or cover charge at small local pubs, taverns,  and coffee shops.  Don’t miss this great opportunity to enjoy unknowns before they are discovered or  end up on American Idol or The Voice.

Theatre in the Park – Keep your eye out for Shakespeare in the Park or other outdoor theatrical productions for an evening of performance under the stars.

Community Theatre – Small play houses can put on some pretty wonderful shows at an affordable price.  I have seen some pretty good shows for $15-20 a ticket.

Outdoor Movies – Many cities have begun offering a free movie night outdoors in the park.  It’s a great way to spend a beautiful summer evening.  Bring a picnic dinner, a bottle of wine and romance abounds.

Summer Festivals – Festivals come in all shapes and sizes, each with their own flavor. They can be cultural, musical or celebrating something specific, such as the lavendar festival and cheese festival in our area, among many others. With festivals come festival food, great people watching, and always a surprise or two.

Farmer’s Market – Head out to your local farmer’s market. Pick up your veggies and flowers for the week and enjoy your community.

Street Fairs – Summer time is the time of the street fair.  Food, art, crafts, music.  Summer fairs provide everything you need to fill a day with fun and entertainment.

Gallery Art Walks and Gallery Openings – Think free wine and hors d’oeuvres while enjoying beautiful and interesting art.

Free Yoga and Tai Chi in the Park – In many locales you can find group tai chi or yoga classes in the park during the summer for free or a nominal charge.

Brewery and Winery Tours – Wine and brewery tours are often free.  The tasting that follows may have a nominal fee, but there is no requirement to purchase wine or beer to take home. So go, learn and enjoy!

Happy Hour – Smaller portion bar menu foods and discounted drinks, sometimes featuring entertainment, can make for a great evening with friends.

Library Presentations – Many libraries offer free classes or book discussions. It’s a great place to connect with others who love reading.

Book Signings – Bookstores bring in authors who are on a promotional tours to help promote their books.  It’s an opportunity to meet the author, possibly hear a reading and get the book signed.

Museums – Some museums allow you to visit certain parts of the museum without paying an entrance fee or they may offer a senior discount.  Call around and see what kind of deals you can find.

Local Community College and University Events –  The local colleges and universities sometimes offer free presentations, discussions, music etc.  At one of these events, we had an opportunity to listen to a Tibetan monk talk about his experience of being imprisoned by the Chinese government, which was both emotional and informative.

Dancing Under the Stars – Summertime is a time to dance under the stars.  Find out if your town or city offers this type of event.

Nurseries – On occasion nurseries and garden centers will host horticultural and gardening demonstrations and talks.

Parades – There are the standard 4th of July parades all over the country, but there are also many traditional cultural celebrations that include parades and performances.  Check with your local international district to see when they will be having a parade.  Think Chinese New Year!

Travel Stores – Some stores will offer free presentations on travel topics or talks by travel authors.  I recently attended a presentation at REI on El Camino in Spain and also one at a small independent book shop presented by a new author.  Both were equally interesting and free!

Senior Center Think bingo! BINGO! The senior center often has other activities besides bingo, including dances, local day trips and other special events.  Stop in and check out their monthly calendar.

Pow Wow – Often at the end of summer and into early fall there will be Pow Wows around the country.  What a great opportunity to join with the Native American community and watch traditional dance while enjoying some flat bread and other traditional foods.  This is an annual Cheap Thrill that I always look forward to.

Free Day at the National Parks – This a day when entrance fees are waived.  So, if you don’t want to buy an annual or day pass, plan to go on the free entry day.  This year it is August 25th, September 27th and November 11th, 2014.

Dining Out – Many restaurants offer discounts for seniors or early bird specials. Before you head out, check the restaurant’s website and do a general search on the internet to see if there is a coupon.  A local Mexican restaurant that a friend and I really enjoy going to has a coupon right there on the website.  As we sat in the restaurant enjoying our meal, we have wondered how many people there did not know they could have gotten one of their dinners for free.

Hikes – Well, this isn’t exactly “entertainment,” but I had to add it in, because nothing tops being out in nature.  Nature calls for you to come outside, get some exercise and enjoy the beauty that is our world.  Bring a picnic to enjoy at your destination, before turning around and heading back.

So, look for the Cheap Thrills in your area.  Make a list, invite your friends and then head out and enjoy!

Help grow this list. What Cheap Thrills have you found where you live?  Please comment below.

 

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