16 Free Things To Do for a No-Spend Weekend (That Are Actually Fun!)

You shouldn’t have to blow through your budget just to enjoy the weekend.

Happy couple on a hike
Updated May 28, 2024
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Do you look forward to the weekend while simultaneously dreading how much money you’ll spend on dinner, drinks, popcorn, and a movie?

Weekends were made to be restful, not stressful. However, it’s hard to relax when you’re worried about your budget.

Luckily, it’s easy to find free fun that guarantees you will enjoy the weekend and keep more money in your bank account

Here are 16 options for free — or nearly free — weekend fun near you, no matter where you live.

Take a hike

Monkey Business/Adobe Friends hiking

Whether you live in the desert or near the mountains — or on the East Coast, West Coast, or in-between — odds are good there’s a nearby hike you’ll enjoy.

Websites like AllTrails and Hiking Project can help you find hikes for any experience level near most ZIP codes in the country.

Check out your local library’s event schedule

fizkes/Adobe Group art class

Local libraries are more than hubs for free books, media resources, and internet access. They also function as community centers that showcase local arts and culture, provide free learning opportunities, and help families and individuals connect.

Find out if your library posts an event schedule online and look for book readings, community choir performances, movie showings, gaming clubs, or any other free event that interests you.

Read a new book

Syda Productions/Adobe Woman reading a book

While at the library, browse the new books shelf or stroll through the nonfiction section to find your next fascinating read.

The right library book can give you hours of free entertainment. Just make sure to return the book on time, especially if your library charges late fees.

Find a new board game

gstockstudio/Adobe Young people playing board game

Instead of visiting a game shop or paying for the newest video game, ask if your library has any strategy or card games you can check out for the weekend. Some libraries also have game-loaded tablets and video games available for checkout.

Stream a new show

Prostock-studio/Adobe Couple watching TV

You don’t have to sign up for the latest, greatest streaming service to catch an interesting film.

Many libraries give cardholders access to free streaming services such as Kanopy or Hoopla, where you can find everything from international classics to kids' TV shows.

Volunteer for a cause you believe in

Rawpixel.com/Adobe Group of people volunteering

Volunteer work might not sound like a fun weekend activity, but plenty of volunteer opportunities are enjoyable and rewarding.

For instance, if you love the outdoors, look for local environmental groups planning a cleanup event where you can get outside while meeting like-minded individuals.

If you love animals, contact the nearest animal shelter about volunteer opportunities.

Pro tip: Taking advantage of these free ways to have fun should save you money. Use that newfound cash to get out of debt this year.

Plan a picnic

Sanja_85/Adobe Family having picnic in the park

Transform an ordinary meal into a special occasion by moving your typical weekend brunch or dinner outside.

Local parks can make for picturesque picnic locations, but your home’s backyard or apartment’s green space can work just as well for enjoying a cheaper home-cooked meal with family and friends.

Explore a city park

Seventyfour/Adobe Women walking in a park

Speaking of parks, check out your city’s parks and recreation department website to find parks in your area.

You might be surprised by how many unexplored parks are in your city or county, especially if you typically visit whichever park is closest to your home.

Enjoy a nature walk

Viktor Pravdica/Adobe Walking in nature

Getting out of town for a lengthy hike can be a fun adventure, but you shouldn’t have to drive far to get in touch with nature.

Instead, go for a stroll around your neighborhood and catalog the flora and fauna you notice, from the smallest bugs to the flowers in your neighbors’ window boxes.

Consider leaving your phone behind for an unplugged experience. Or, download a free nature app such as iNaturalist or Merlin to identify local plants and animals and contribute to ongoing scientific research.

Test a new recipe

simona/Adobe Couple making dinner at home

Cooking at home is almost always cheaper than going out. So while testing a new recipe isn’t exactly free, it’s a much more affordable alternative to dinner and a movie.

The weekend is the perfect time to try out a more complicated or time-intensive recipe that you wouldn’t be able to test during the workweek.

Plan an in-home spa day

shintartanya/Adobe At-home spa day

Scented Epsom salt, cozy candles, and a warm neck towel can transform an ordinary bubble bath into a spa-style experience.

Create your own relaxing playlist ahead of time and toss your towels in the dryer before your bath for maximum comfort.

Give free furniture a second chance

Syda Productions/Adobe Refinishing a piece of furniture

Maybe you have always wanted to practice woodworking or are interested in learning how to paint or stain wood.

Either way — and whether you prefer Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace — it shouldn’t be difficult to find free furniture in your area that you can easily convert into a weekend arts and crafts project.

See the stars

astrosystem/Adobe Mother and daughter observing stars

Pick a clear weekend night during the new moon to drive beyond city limits and stargaze.

The International Dark-Sky Association keeps a list of registered dark-sky areas ranging from secluded national parks to surprising locales in the middle of cities or suburbs.

Look into your city’s event schedule

andreaobzerova/Adobe Friends enjoying a show

While many free community events occur at local libraries, your city might have a separate list of free city-sponsored events.

Check out the community calendar to learn about free outdoor movie nights, local concerts, swap meets, holiday fairs, or volunteer cleanup opportunities.

Host a neighborhood barbecue

Monkey Business/Adobe Group of people grilling

How well do you know your neighbors? If you’re hoping to forge new friendships, consider making your home a hub of neighborhood activity.

Start by inviting everyone over for a summertime barbecue or neighborhood potluck.

Find a campsite

Aree/Adobe An older couple camping

A weekend camping trip is a relatively inexpensive way to get away from it all before the workweek starts again.

You can camp at a national or state park if there are any in your area. Or, pitch a tent in your backyard and roast marshmallows over the grill for a simple, convenient way to experience your home in a new way.

Bottom line

Andrey Popov/Adobe couple doing taxes

You don’t have to choose between having a fun-filled weekend and spending money on activities you can’t afford. Instead, look for free or nearly free activities like the 16 we covered.

These activities let you enjoy the community without damaging your ability to grow your wealth. Try one of these ideas this weekend.

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Author Details

Michelle Smith

Michelle Smith has spent a decade writing for and about small businesses. She specializes in all things finance and has written for publications like G2 and SmallBizDaily. When she's not writing for work at her desk, you can usually find her writing for pleasure near large bodies of water.