It might not officially be summer yet but the weather has been beautiful here in Edmonton, and it has me wanting to spend ALL the time outside in the sunshine! This is a problem for me…it’s so easy to hibernate during the winter, but as soon as the weather warms up I can’t stay cooped up. I’ve talked before on the blog about how this relates to a big increase in my spending (The Busted Summer Budget). To combat that I’ve taken the initiative to set money aside during the winter so that I can afford to do the things I want without breaking the bank.
Another good way to keep your budget in check is to keep yourself busy with activities that are more cost-effective. That way you will still feel like you’ve had a full summer but bypass the impending doom of calculating how much you’ve spent. To aid you on the mission I’ve rounded up twenty ideas to get you out of the house that aren’t going to cost you your first born. You’ll be able to do most of the suggestions no matter where you live, but I have included Edmonton-specific details for my local followers (and for me to refer back to when I need to make some plans!)
1. Go for a Hike
The perfect (and free) activity and pretty much my favourite way to exercise during the summer. Unless you are going on an advanced hike in the mountains, you won’t need to invest in an expensive pair of hiking boots, and there are plenty of trails that won’t cost you anything to trek on
Local: Edmonton has an incredible network of trails throughout the river valley, but if you’d prefer to get out of the city then you should check out Cooking Lake/Blackfoot Recreation Area. It’s my favourite spot and is only about 45 minutes East of downtown. It’s a provincial park that is free to get into and has almost 85 km’s of well-maintained, not crowded trails. Cooking Lake/Blackfoot is also directly South of Elk Island National Park, so you could also take advantage of your free park pass this year.
2. Berry Picking
We do this every year, and it always makes for a fun day. Check your local area for U-Pick farms and head out to stock up your fridge, freezer and stomach with delicious fresh berries.
Local: Our annual berry picking tour starts with Strawberries at Prairie Gardens, and then we head East to Horse Hill Berry Farm to stock up on raspberries. As long as we get an early start, we are usually done by lunchtime, and so we head to The Downtown Diner in Fort Saskatchewan for a bite.
3. Backyard Campfire
Honestly, having a fire isn’t exactly my favourite thing to do, but I know a lot of people love it. The only thing that wins me over about it is the smores. Yum. If you don’t already have a fire pit in your yard then maybe you can hit up a friend who does, or sometimes local parks will have ones you can use at no cost.
4. Gallery Tour
Take a stroll around town and visit your local art galleries for the perfect mix of outdoor heat and indoor air conditioning. Many large galleries also offer free admission days so keep an eye out for those.
Local: The Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA) is now offering free admission every Tuesday and Wednesday night from 5 pm to 8 pm. There are also many art galleries along 124 Street (full listing here) so you can plan your own walk, or there are organized walks every so often.
5. Horse Races
A night out at the races is always a good time, and if you avoid eating or drinking (too much) at the track, it can also be a cheap night out as you don’t have to pay to get in. Plus, maybe you’ll even be a pro horse picker and will come home with some winnings.
Local: Northlands Park is the place to go for racing in Edmonton (at least for now), so check the schedule and plan a visit.
6. Picnic in the Park
Inject a little romance into your relationship and pack up a picnic. This is a cheaper option than going to a restaurant, and you get to soak up the warm weather.
Local: Hit up the Italian Centre for a fantastic selection of deli meats, cheeses, and dips that will impress just about anyone.
7. Brewery Tour
Another option to get you out of the blazing hot sun is to check out a local brewery and go on a tour of the facility. Plus, beer…enough said!
8. Sporting Event
What’s better than spending an afternoon at the ballpark (or field) to watch the game and drink a cold one (beer is a common theme here). To keep your costs low, you should look into local amateur sports teams and keep an eye out on special promotions that happen throughout the season.
Local: We made it out to a few Edmonton Prospects baseball games last year, and it was always fun. The best seats in the house are only $20 ($10 for kids), or you can go on ‘Toonie Tuesday’ and buy one full price ticket and get the second for $2. Pro tip: get the perogy hot dog, it’s delicious! Maybe soccer is more up your alley; FC Edmonton also has promo tickets for $20 and that includes a hot dog and pop.
9. Go for a Bike Ride
Remember when you were a kid and you could ride your bike for hours and hours without a care in the world? Get back that feeling by hauling out your bike and hitting the trails.
10. Browse a Farmer’s Market
Farmer’s markets are a great way to spend a morning, and you don’t need to spend a lot of money. Take advantage of all the fresh produce and local food and get inspired to cook something for dinner from scratch. Even if you splurge a little on supplies, you’ll still save money by cooking at home instead of heading to a restaurant.
Local: There are lots of farmer’s markets all across the city, you can find a listing of all of them here. My favourite is the downtown City Market, it’s has a good variety but isn’t too huge and Saturday mornings always seem to be the best time for us.
11. Day Trip
Escape the city for a bit and hit the highway. Day trips feel like a mini vacation but don’t have all the added costs of having to stay in a hotel. Head to a nearby beach, visit a historic site, or just explore a small town you’ve never visited before.
Local: Alberta has this weird thing where we like to build random big structures, it’s strange but can set you up for a pretty unique road trip. Head to Vegreville and check out the giant Ukrainian Easter Egg and then head to the giant Ukrainian Sausage in Mundare.
12. Board Game Cafe
Board game cafes have been popping up all over the place, and it’s a fun way to spend an evening. Most places will charge you a flat fee to play as many games and for as long as you want.
Local: Board n’ Brew in a new addition to Edmonton’s board game cafe scene. They have a huge selection of games, tasty food, and local brews on tap.
13. Backyard Movie
Set-up your TV or laptop up outside, pop some popcorn and curl up on a blanket under the stars to watch a movie. Much cheaper than going to the theatre, and romantic 😉
14. Improv Show
Comedy shows are a perfect date night out, but they can get really expensive depending on who you are going to see. Instead, look for a local improv troupe. Their tickets prices will likely be much more affordable, and you’ll still get a good laugh.
Local: If you’re in Edmonton you should go see a Rapid Fire Theatre show. Tickets to their Theatresports start at only $12.
15. Small Town County Fair or Rodeo
Big ticket events come with high ticket prices (I’m looking at you K-Days and the Calgary Stampede), but if you go off the beaten track, you can find cheaper alternatives.
Local: For a couple of options that are in Edmonton’s vicinity you can look for the Ponoka Stampede or the Vegreville County Fair. Admission is free to the Ponoka Stampede, but you do have to buy tickets to the rodeo events, and it’s $8 to get into the Vegreville County Fair.
16. Tackle a DIY Project
We all have lists of chores we need to get done around the house, but maybe there’s a project you can team up with your partner to get completed. Two summers ago we rebuilt our front porch, and aside from a few disagreements and a tetanus shot, it was a success. Getting through the job can be a challenge, but you’ll feel accomplished when it’s over.
17. Free Festivals
Summer is the time when the events schedule for a city really picks up, and there are often free activities you can attend.
Local: Edmonton is known for all of its festivals, so there’s no shortage to choose from. The Heritage Festival, K-Days Parade, Canada Day Fireworks, and the Works Art & Design Festival are all free to attend, as long as you can resist the temptation to sample all the food options.
18. Jigsaw Puzzle
There’s always a few days in the summer that are rainy, and you’re stuck inside. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself and watching endless hours of TV, why not get a jigsaw puzzle and give your brain some activity. I love puzzles but they are a hard pass for the bf, so I’m usually left solo, but if you are both puzzle lovers then it’s fun.
19. Local Music
Just like how local comedy shows are cheaper than big names, local musicians also have much better ticket prices (sometimes even free). And maybe you’ll get to watch an intimate performance by someone who ends up super famous! Someone out there got to see Taylor Swift play in a dive bar before she was a superstar.
Local: If you live in Edmonton (or are visiting), check out The Needle Vinyl Tavern. It’s a fantastic live music venue right downtown.
20. Wander around Ikea
This sounds super lame, but there always seems to be a time every summer when we make the long drive out to Ikea and just wander the displays. Usually, we have a couple of small things we want to pick up, but it’s so easy to kill a few hours just looking at things. This is a good one to save for one of those days where your house is a sauna, and you can’t stand it for another second. Plus, grab dinner at their restuarant…it’s so cheap and those Swedish meatballs are delicious in the grossest possible way.
There you have it, 20 ways to fill up your summer with date nights (or days) that aren’t going to break the bank. What are you going to try first? Or maybe you have more ideas to add to the list?