10 Things to Do Outside for Free – InboxDollars Blog (2023)

With cabin fever running unusually high this year, we’re itching to get out of doors. Whether it’s outdoor games for kids, or just things to do when bored, here’s a list of 15 great ideas. Not only are they super fun, they’re also super cheap - or free - so you can stretch your legs and your wallet.

01. Bike Ride

Dust off the bikes in the garage and go for a bike ride. It’s a great way to exercise and soak in nature. If you don’t have a bike, there’s no need to shell out hundreds of dollars or more.

-Ask your neighbors and friends on social media if you can borrow a bike.

-Police auctions often include bikes and some can sell for as cheap as $5. Over 3,000 precincts and municipalities across the country have auctions every year with fantastic savings on a wide array of size, stolen, abandoned, and/or surplus goods. p

-Comb the “free bike” listings on Facebook Marketplace. There are plenty of listings there.

-Check out national deals sites like Swagbucks for the best sales, promo codes, and cash back rebates. For example, you can find savings of up to 35% off best-selling bikes with Backcountry coupons and cash back.

Astride your bike, make the ride more enjoyable!

-Pedal through puddles.

-Set up a fun natural obstacle course using winding trails, twigs, and piles of dirt or debris.

-Bike through sprinklers, not around them.

-Bring portable speakers and blast your tunes out loud -- just not too loud.

-Deck out your ride with fun bike decorations like washi tape, streamers, LED lights, and balloons.

02. Hiking Trails Near Me

Hiking is another great way to get outside and stretch your legs, and unless you’re planning a hardcore route, there’s really no special gear required. Just some comfortable lace-up shoes. (Or in my case, flip flops. Which drives my husband nuts.)

When planning a hiking jaunt, consider how many miles (or yards) you want to walk. The type of incline you can handle, if it’s dog or kid-friendly, how crowded it is, and the kind of gear you might want to bring along like binoculars or a water bottle.

Great ways to plan a free trek through the wilderness:

-On All Trails.com, you can search for a trail near you from a directory of over 100,000 trails. You can enter trail criteria, like path type (paved or dirt), elevation, length, landmarks, and overall rating.

-Just googling “hiking trails near me” pulls up some great places, often with dozens (if not hundreds) of local reviews.

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-If you're hiking with kids, make sure to go at their paces and assign the kids a job. Managing the navigational app is a great task for older kids.

-Plan in breaks, like a stop at the ice cream parlor. Breaks and rewards will keep you motivated.

-Vary the terrain. All flat is boring, all hills is a struggle, and no shade is going to be a scorcher.

-Document the trip with photos and a journal, or even social media post. You'll appreciate it later, and it will motivate you to keep hiking to more and more new spots.

03. Daily Deals Sites

National deals sites like Groupon are a great way to find things to do. I’ve used Groupon before to find things off the beaten path, like getting a private (but super cheap) tour of a local llama farm or discovering a free peony festival.

Right now, some of the local deals on Groupon (in my neck of the woods) include golf, skateboarding parks, historic walking tours,and wildlife sanctuary visits.

Tips for finding a cheap Groupon outing near you:

-Use the right filters for your Groupon search. “Things to do” is a category you can search on Groupon, and filter for the price category of $0.00 to $15.00 to find the cheapest activities.

-Buy your Groupon through InboxDollars and you’ll earn a 5% cash back rebate. For example, if you buy a Groupon deal for $100, you’ll earn $5 free in your InboxDollars account. If you’re not already a member, join InboxDollars free today. It takes about 30 seconds and you’ll get a free $5 bonus to get started.

-Read the fine print. Sometimes you’ll find amazing deals on Groupon (i.e. $35 lobster dinner for two), but if you read the fine print, you’ll find it’s only good for certain days and times of the week. Like Monday at 11:15am.

-Check out other deals sites, too. You can find LivingSocial promo codes, ScoutMob,Scoopon, and Cudo.

04. Unique Picnic Ideas

Picnics are a great outdoors escape. And while you can certainly pack some sandwiches and fruit at home, consider changing it up for your al fresco outing.

-Who says you have to picnic during the afternoon? Try a nighttime picnic with Tiki torches or candles.

-Pick up a hot (or cold meal) at a deli counter in the grocery store.

-Order a pizza or Chinese or other local fare. You can pick it up, or ask them to deliver it to you at the park. You’ll need to set up camp near an easily identifiable location like a building bandstand, but you’ll probably want to picnic near buildings anyway. You’ll be close to a garbage can and parking lot then.

-If you have kids, let them bring along a teddy bear or favorite stuffed animal so you can enjoy a “teddy bear picnic”.

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-Take your picnic on the water. Just make sure your food is in a waterproof container! Sit on the docks, or float down a stream or lake on a raft or canoe.

-Try a rooftop picnic! Enjoy your picnic spread from atop your roof. Or try an empty parking ramp on the top level. It will give you a great view.

If you want to up your game, some fun, practical picnic gear items to consider:

-Reusable food wraps made of beeswax to keep non-liquid foods fresh and secure.

-An easy fold, extra-large picnic blanket with convenient carrying handles.

-A picnic basket-insulated cooler combo. Get a foldable, collapsible one!s

-A Rubbermaid blue ice block or a smaller Fit & Fresh Cool Cooler block.

When you shop any of these items with a Bed Bath & Beyond promo coupon, save up to 35% on your purchase and earn a cash back rebate of up to 3%.

Like bread makers and lemon juicers, thrift stores are often the final resting place for unloved picnic baskets and related gear. You can find great deals on picnic items in thrift stores - many are brand-new or in like-new condition.

Most of the picnic items I find in thrift stores are hard, wicker shaped baskets with leather straps and lots of accessories (regretful wedding registry additions) instead of light-weight, multi-purpose items. But wicker baskets are have a well-loved following too, and you can find plenty of other related wares. And at a dollar or two, you can hardly go wrong with the price.

05. Grow a Garden

This is a fun one for both kids and adults. You can get your green thumb going for free, or super cheep, with these great gardening hacks.

While fancy equipment and starter plants are great, seeds are dirt cheap. Ask your friends and family if they have extra seeds or starter plants. I promise you there will be some hand-raisers.

And, ask them if they have any perennial flowers or shrubs they want dug up. One of my cousins has bee balm (a native flower in Minnesota) and raspberry bushes that are growing like mad and taking over her lawn. Every year she digs up extras for me to come and take away.

06. Places to Swim

While many public water holes are closed to the public, some of them are still open. And if a community spot doesn’t sound appealing, there are other ways to soak up some water as the days are getting warmer.

-Set up a kiddie pool. It can be anything from a plastic storage bin to a fancy inflatable one with slides and accessories. At Walmart, you can find a plastic one for as cheap as $10 - and you can save more with a Walmart coupon. Or you can find them cheaper at garage sales and in used, online listings.

-Run through the sprinklers.

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-Have a water balloon fight (it can get you just as drenched).

-Ask your network of friends and family if anyone has their pool opened. Go for a dip in the pool when no one else is using it.

07. Go Running...or Jogging

If you’re not already “a runner”, this suggestion can sound a bit scary. But as a slow (but steady) lazy runner myself, I can tell you that scary it is not. Start slow, that’s all. You don’t have to be thin or in-shape or 20 years old to get going.

-You don’t have to run non-stop. When I started running, I would walk for 3 minutes, then run for 1 minute. Then it was 2.5 minutes of walking, 1.5 minutes of running. And eventually I transitioned over to just running. Check out these tips on how to start running.

-A great perk with running or jogging is you’ll cover more ground and see more sights.

-If you have an energetic dog, they’ll appreciate you stepping up the pace.

-The mental and emotional clarity after a run feels amazing.

-If you don’t have a pair of running shoes one, no need to break the bank. You can find a top-notch pair for as little as $25 on sporting good sites like Dick’s. And if you shop with a Dick’s coupon code, you can save even more.

08. Go Fishing

Fishing is an interesting pastime because people can fish virtually for free with a home-rigged fishing rod or spend thousands of dollars (or more) on tackle, bait, and gear.

Whether you’re into fly fishing outings or just a casual fisher (with earthworms and bobbers), fishing is a great way to enjoy nature. It’s scenic, peaceful, and there’s the anticipation of the big “catch”.

-You can find free fishing days (and sometimes weekends) where anglers can fish without a license.

-Find places to fish near me with an interactive map that locates all fishing spots in the United States.

-For a unique, DIY challenge, try building your own fishing pole - Huck Finn style. with just a rod and short line. No fancy reels or lures.

-If you’ve never gone fishing before (or it’s been many years), you can learn how to fish. And you can teach your kids how to fish too.

-Fishers of all levels can get into fly fishing. Learn the best tips on technique, gear, and fly fishing destinations.

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09. Fly a Kite

For many of us, it’s been a few years since we’ve flown a kite. But enjoying the breeze with a kite is a truly satisfying outing.

-If you need to brush up your kite-flying skills, or want tips on teaching kids to fly a kite, check out these kite-flying tips.

-You don’t need to buy a kite. With newspaper, dowels, and string, making a kite is a fun STEM project for kids and for adults.

-Kites can be an inexpensive purchase in dollar stores, supermarkets, and other retailers. On Amazon, for example, kits start at a couple dollars. And with an Amazon coupon, you can save even more.

10. Geocaching (Treasure Hunting)

Geocaching is a fun way to join an outdoor treasure hunt from your smartphone. Look for “treasure” and clues in specific coordinates all around the world, including your neighborhood. It’s a fun activity, for kids and adults alike, that will get you moving outdoors.

-Learn more about how to get started geocaching with these tips for getting started and for proper geocaching etiquette.

-There are a number of different items that you can find inside a geocache box - if you’re lucky enough to track them down.

-You can also make your own geocache box. And enjoy the fun of hiding it, too.

There are plenty of free things to do in your neck of the woods. If you're looking to go further, consider planning an outdoor-themed family vacation with a hiking, zipining, and white water rafting in the Smoky Mountains.

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