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It’s Here! Summer Freebies — The 2024 Edition!

It's your roadmap filled with low-cost or no-cost things to do.

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illustration of woman resting on hammock made of sale tickets, summer freebies, summer deals
Alice Mollon
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As the sun warms your summer days and provides balmy nights, there’s no better time to explore your area’s best budget-friendly activities. From outdoor escapades to cultural delights, here is a bucket list roadmap to a summer filled with low-cost or no-cost things to do — no wallet required.

Hit the beach or lake. If you live anywhere near a coast or a lake, a day on the water may be one of life’s greatest summer pleasures. Not only is it free to low-cost, depending on park fees or parking charges, but a picnic lunch, games, toys and books from home make it even more budget-friendly. Spend the day building sandcastles, riding the surf, flying a kite, striking up a game of cards or reading a good novel.

Get lost in a used bookstore. Summer is a great season for reading, and most cities have a few used bookstores to peruse. Plus, summer reading is ripe for relaxed tomes discovered in a dusty below-list-price shop. A good used bookshop offers a curated selection of literature you may have yet to read a year or ten ago and is often chocked full of women authors and writers of color. Searching for specific titles or authors may disappoint, but the treasure trove of literary finds you can snag for a few bucks a pop is well worth the venture. Bring a girlfriend, spouse or the family — or go it alone for a satisfying summer afternoon.

Go on an art walk. Many towns host art walks where local artists and merchants support the city’s art scene. They are usually free. Since art viewing tends to reduce stress and increase dopamine, the happiness-boosting brain chemical, gazing at art is good for you, too. Wear something cool and comfortable with flat shoes since you’ll be strolling through each art vendor’s wares, discovering paintings, sketches, sculptures, jewelry, woodworking and other crafts. Even if you’re not buying, talk to artists, listen to conversations about art, and spy the most interesting, colorful or unusual art.

Go berry picking. Since blueberries are grown all over the U.S., and other berries like strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, huckleberries, boysenberries and elderberries thrive in summer, you may have a nearby U-pick berry farm. There’s something natural and adventurous about walking through berry fields and plucking ripe berries off the bush. Strawberries are usually the first berry of the season, followed by blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries as the temps warm. Find out if you need a container or if the farm provides them. Wear comfortable clothes you don’t mind getting berry juice stained and stay hydrated. Depending on the berry and how many baskets you fill, most pints of berries cost just a few dollars each, plus they’re fresh, in season, plump, and straight off the plant for pies, cobblers and fruit-topped cereal or ice cream.

Hit a museum. The Blue Star Museum Program offers military families free museum admissions from Memorial Day to Labor Day. All 19 Smithsonian Museums in Washington, D.C., are free year-round. Bank of America’s Museum on Us program offers cardholders free admission during the first weekend of every month. Check your local museums for free days or reciprocal relationships. Sometimes, having a library card earns you free admission, or belonging to a credit union or other organization qualifies.

Find a trail, boardwalk or pier to explore. The south is known for its piers and boardwalks, and some free ones include Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head, North Carolina; Pascagoula Beach Park Pier in Mississippi; Myrtle Beach Pier in South Carolina; Gulf State Park Pier in Gulf Shores, Alabama; Ocean City Boardwalk in Maryland and Virginia Beach Boardwalk and Pier in Virginia.

Yes, the rest of the country has piers, too — Navy Pier in Chicago, Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco and Coney Island, to name three. Walking the pier, buying a fishing rod and bait or strolling the vendors is inexpensive, enjoyable and cheap. Not near a pier or boardwalk?

There are over 88,000 miles of walking and hiking trails in the U.S. through forests, mountains, beaches and national parks. Portland, Oregon, Honolulu, Tucson and Los Angeles have the most trail options, but trails can be found in every state.

Visit a farmer’s market. Not only do farmers’ markets help communities, but they also help you access in-season fruits and vegetables, try new foods and learn about healthy eating. It’s a pleasant way to pass a summer morning. It’s also an opportunity to socialize, find the freshest produce available, often from farm to market, make friends with local growers and buy directly from farmers. In addition, you’ll usually find local honey, eggs, bread, cheese and other products at low prices. Fresh air and ripe tomatoes? It’s a summertime win-win.

Other freebies:

National Donut Day

On June 2, head to your favorite donut shop since many will be giving away free donuts.

Free Slurpee Day

On July 11, 7-Elevens nationwide give away free Slurpees. 7-Eleven, get it?

National Ice Cream Day

On July 16, you can get frozen freebies from Friendly’s, Carvel and elsewhere.

National Hot Dog Day

On July 19, look for freebies from Nathan’s Famous, Sonic Drive-In and 7-Eleven, plus other chains and supermarkets.

Free Dippin’ Dots

On the third Sunday in July, the ice cream brand gives away free mini cups of their unique Dippin’ Dots ice cream to cool you off.

National Book Lover’s Day

August 9 is the day for bibliophiles. Look for a free Kindle download at Amazon Kindle, which constantly releases new free books. Find a Little Free Library in your neighborhood by going to their map. Or offer to review a book for an author and receive a free book for your services. Sites like Story Cartel, Enchanted Book Promotions and Good Reads have programs that avid readers and reviewers can join.

National Root Beer Float Day

A&W restaurants are celebrating August 6 by giving out free small root beer floats. Check their website for a delicious recipe and updates on the giveaway.

*Summer promotions and availability are subject to change.

What are YOU most looking forward to this summer? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Money