Poke around your own home town for their many frugal and fun activities. These ideas are suitable for people alone, with children, for simple date ideas, or for just hang out with a friend.
- Explore your local parks. I live in a community of 10,000 people, and even we have several community parks. My nearby towns have nice little parks also. Some are along the rivers; some have views and others are set right along Main Street. Parks can have picnic tables, trails to explore, Frisbee Golf courses or mini-golf, swimming holes, skateboard parks, horseshoe rings, swingsets, swaths of grasses to lie on, sand volleyball courts, room to play tag or football, and sometimes interpretive signs for local history or flora. You can meet for an hour at a park, or spend the whole day there. Bring another, or just sit in the sun and people watch.
- Feed the horses. I went to a community park the other day and there were some corralled horses nearby. One of the horses skipped right over to me for pets and scratches. It was clear she was looking at our hands and bags for goodies. I promised her that next time I would bring her an apple. This would be a great use for fruit that is somewhat past its prime but not quite yet mush.
- Visit your local animal shelter. Socializing with the cats and dogs helps they stay adoptable, gives a little joy to their lives and can offer fun and exercise for you. Take a terrier for a walk!
- Summer movies. A lot of towns play a series of fun outdoor movies throughout the summer in downtown areas. This is usually free. You bring your own blankets or camp chairs and edible treats.
- Cities and towns often have free concerts in their parks - often with a full summertime roster.
- Craft Fairs and annual festivals are usually fun and lively.
- Farmer's Markets often have live music and lots of free food samples to get full on.
- Libraries. I could write a whole article on free things to do at libraries. They are one of the nicest uses of our tax dollars! You can go in to your library and read, listen to music or books on tape, browse magazines, watch movies, surf the internet, attend community classes, or simply enjoy sitting in peace and quiet. If you don't have air conditioning in the summer, simply sit in your library, instead of dishing out dollars for air conditioned movie theaters.
- Museums or historical sites. Many towns have funky little museums that are somewhat off the beaten path, but can create an afternoon of fun and exploration. Visit your local visitor center or chamber of commerce and ask what attractions are in your area. Many of these places are free, or request a small donation.
- Vineyards and breweries. Even if you don't drink, a tour through a winery, vineyard or brewery is fascinating. These tours are usually free. Non-alcoholic places get into the act too. One of the best tours I've seen was the Celestial Seasoning Tea warehouse in Boulder, CO. I've done that one more than once! See if your town has a farm tour, cheese-making tour, candy making tour or some other local specialty offering.
- Walk around your downtown. If your town has an area with charm, or at least a retail core, it is very satisfying to merely wander around and look at things. Window shop, grab free tastes of fudge in the candy store, admire the architecture and landscaping, watch trains go by (if your town has tracks), and get in a little brisk outdoor walking.
- Art walks. Many cities and towns have a monthly "art walk" type of evening outing, where all the art galleries and boutique shops stay open and offer free appetizers and treats, and sometimes wine, to people who stay out and browse in their stores. It becomes a very fun townie event, with great people watching, and you can even dress up if you want.
More frugal and fun small town ideas from Amazon: On the Back Roads: Discovering Small Towns of America and The 50 Best Small Southern Towns.