Fancy doing something for free? There are so many choices...
Over the summer life may seem cheaper than during the darker days of winter – at least the heating bills shouldn’t be quite so horrific. However, getting out and about during the nice weather doesn’t always come without a cost. These days many exhibitions or stately homes charge you an arm and a leg for an admission ticket, a restaurant meal doesn’t come cheap, and you usually have to pay for parking, too.
So, to celebrate the summer, we are suggesting a dozen top things that you can do absolutely free, gratis and for nothing.
1. Go for a picnic.
Will you go alone, take a companion or go on a “bear hunt” with the grandchildren in the woods? You don’t need to shell out for a Fortnum and Mason’s hamper for your al fresco feast. Your own cheese sandwiches will do. However, planning the menu can be fun, and why not make something a little bit special to take along, such as some cupcakes
2. Visit a museum or gallery
We all know we are supposed to visit the Louvre when we go to Paris or the Prado in Madrid – they are on the tourist map. But how many of us have never visited our local museum, even though it’s just down the road. Find out a bit more about your local history or, if you have an hour to spend in town, use it to visit an exhibition. Many local museums don’t charge, and if you are in London all the major museums, such as the V&A, the Natural History Museum and both Tate galleries, are absolutely free.
3. Go and see a film
British summers aren’t always sunny (as you may have noticed recently!) and there’s nothing like a movie on a rainy day. Sign up to see new releases free at your local cinema at websites such as seefilmfirst.com and momentumscreenings.co.uk.
If you don’t have a DVD player it’s worth investing in one. DVDs are, of course, not free, but you can borrow them from friends or rent them from the library and catch up on films and TV series you have missed or simply want to see again.
Lovefilm and Netflix both offer free trials of their online film service, so you can watch for a whole month without charge.
4. Street wise theatre
You can usually find something on in a city centre, whether it’s a scheduled performance, street art or just a busker playing for a donation. Parks may have some free entertainment, too. Check out summer festivals in your area. For a stunning array of free street theatre the Edinburgh Fringe Festival has something for everyone.
5. Who do you think you are?
Did you ever wonder who you great-great granny’s sister was? Find out by compiling your family tree. You can start off your researches absolutely free by simply asking living relatives for their recollections. You will also find plenty of information on the internet. Why not start an album with as many photos of your relatives as you can track down? The fun really starts when you stumble across someone who has the “other half” of the tree you are building and suddenly everything falls into place.
6. Black, white and read all over
If you’ve a lifetime’s collection of books on your shelves that you know you will never read again, sell them at a car boot sale and use the money to buy new ones. Alternatively, swap unwanted titles for ones you do want to read on the ReadItSwapIt or BookMooch websites.
7. Flower power
Beyond the Chelsea Flower Show, there are plenty of other garden events and floral delights to enjoy free of charge. Among those that don’t charge for entry are: the Royal Botanic Garden (Edinburgh), Glasgow Botanic Gardens, the Fox Rosehill Garden and Gyllyngdune Gardens (Falmouth, Cornwall), Chiswick House Gardens (west London), Kenwood House (north London), and the David Austin Rose Gardens (Midlands).
While the National Trust usually charges for admission to gardens, you can enjoy much of the countryside it manages free, including Alderley Edge in Cheshire, and the Ashridge Estate in Hertfordshire, to name but two. Donations to the charity are always appreciated.
8. Dragons Ahoy!
You’ve seen the Boat Race, you’ve watched the Henley Regatta, now watch a dragonboat race. Dragonboats, originally come from south east Asia, and races are traditionally held as part of the annual Duanwu Festival. Contests between the colourful boats have gained popularity overseas – particularly in the UK since the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge took part in one on their tour of Canada in 2011.
Races are taking place in London, Yorkshire, Northampton and the Potteries, among many others. Check out the Charity Dragon Boat Events calendar to see if there’s one near you.
9. Course fishing
Local councils often offer free adult learning taster courses over the summer to encourage you to sign up for a more substantial course in the autumn. For instance, this month and next Bury Adult Learning Service courses include a Taste of German Language and Culture (and similar courses in French and Spanish culture), photography, IT, writing for personal and financial benefit, bird watching and many others. Macclesfield College is offering a free ECDL (European Computer Driving Licence course).See what your local council or college offers.
10. Volunteer trifles
Help out a local charity, marshal a sporting event, become a guide or steward at your local museum or gallery or help behind the scenes at your local operatic society. If you have a passion for dressing up, you could play a part as a costumed interpreter or storyteller at a local National Trust house or live the life of a Tudor at Kentwell Manor in Suffolk.
11. In at the deep end
The end of the free swimming concession for over-60s last year came as a blow to water lovers. But you can still swim free until the end of August courtesy of British Gas, which is offering vouchers for adults and up to two children on its special website.
12. Just the ticket
Finally, remember, if you are going out for the day, to save money by taking the bus if you can. If you qualify for a bus pass on account of age or disability you can take the bus free anywhere in England, no matter where you live (there are different rules and age qualifications for free travel in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.)