As spring approaches, harsh winter weather gives way to sunshine and showers, so break out the barbecue, go for a hike and pick some fresh flowers.
You can plan solo, romantic or family friendly spring activities to kick off the season. From gardening to jogging, here are some fun and free things to do this spring.
Visit a Farmers Market
Smell the fresh flowers, fruits and vegetables while perusing handcrafted goods at your local farmers market. You can try free samples of various items, such as honey, tea and jam as you wind your way through booths. Additionally, you can survey crafts and decor and take photos of your favorites to replicate at home. If you make your own soap, flower arrangements or baked goods, barter them for produce or other items that catch your eye.
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From picking up trash to working a shift at a local food bank, you can find opportunities to volunteer in your own community. If you're not sure where to start, check with a nonprofit, such as VolunteerMatch or the United Way, for an opportunity near you. In addition to location, you can search by interest, such as arts and culture, disaster relief and education. With the weather making a turn for the better, there are endless opportunities to serve outside.
Plant a Garden
Use fruit and veggie scraps for compost and plant the cores or seeds to grow your own produce. For avocados, cultivate a pit with water and sunlight. Allow sprouts to grow for several weeks before planting the pit in soil.
To enjoy more pineapple, remove the leafy top and allow it to harden before planting in a mixture of soil and compost. Not only will you be eliminating waste, but you'll also enjoy fresh, free produce for months to come.
Go for a Run
Jogging on a treadmill is a great way to get your exercise on during the bone-chilling winter or stifling summer months. However, you should venture outdoors for a run when temperatures are more mild. There's no better way to clear your head, get some fresh air and enjoy the sights and sounds of spring. If you're not comfortable jogging alone, grab a buddy and get in shape for summer together.
Do Some Spring Cleaning
As you move your winter wardrobe to storage, take time to do a bit of spring cleaning to save money. Purge any items you haven't used in the past year and sort them into donation and trash piles. If you stumble across anything of value, sell it for some extra cash. Without the unnecessary clutter, you'll have a new appreciation for the things you actually need. As an added bonus, your house will be easier to keep clean throughout the year.
Organize a Neighborhood Garage Sale
After you've completed your spring cleaning, organize a garage sale for your block. Reconnect with neighbors as you all make some extra spending money. You can even set up folding chairs and enjoy a relaxing day outside as potential buyers peruse your goods.
Go for a Hike
Strap on your hiking boots and get some exercise in the great outdoors. Pick a new trail or head back to a favorite spot you weren't able to trek during winter. If you're hiking to a treacherous summit, be sure to bring company. Take plenty of water, as well as your smartphone, in case of an emergency. You can also snap some shots of the gorgeous spring scenery you're sure to encounter.
Visit a local wilderness area, neighbor's garden — with permission — or your own yard to gather a bouquet of beautiful blooms. Place them in a vase in your kitchen or office or give them to a loved one who needs some cheering up.
From peonies to pansies, flourishing flowers mark the official arrival of spring. Use a free online encyclopedia, such as the one from Better Homes and Gardens' website, to identify unfamiliar blossoms by providing details such as special features, as well as your zip code.
Ride Your Bike
It's finally time to dust off your mountain bike or beach cruiser. Take a relaxing ride along the coast with kids or pets in tow or try a challenging trail with a buddy. If you live in a big city, you can save money on subway or bus fare by biking to work or an outing with friends. Be sure to use a lock if you leave your bike outside.
Have a Picnic
For a cheap and easy date idea, go on a picnic. Or, meet up with friends or family to enjoy your local park. Even during the week you can ditch your desk and find a spot to eat lunch and soak up some vitamin D. Bringing your own meal will save you money.
Visit a Free Museum
Hundreds of museums, such as the California Science Center in Los Angeles and the Bronx Museum of the Arts in New York City, offer free admission year round. Others are free during certain times or on particular days of the week. Check with a nearby museum to see if it has a special offer for locals, like the Art Institute of Chicago, which admits Illinois residents at no cost on Thursday evenings. Note that some offers exclude limited-time exhibits, IMAX presentations or special engagements.
Read or Write Outdoors
Visit a public library to borrow a classic or pick up that novel that's been sitting on your nightstand for months. Sit in the yard or extend a lunch at an outdoor cafe as you get lost in pages inked by your favorite author. If reading a book is too daunting when the weather is warm, catch up on the growing pile of neglected magazines in your kitchen.
You can also let the warm spring temps serve as inspiration while you pen a letter, compose a poem or type up a new blog entry.
Setup Your Patio Furniture
Use an evening or day off to move outdoor furniture from the basement or garage back to its rightful home on the patio. Chaise lounges, tables and chairs are great for giving your outside space some TLC. On chilly days, bundle up and grab a coffee while reading the paper in the sun. If it's unseasonably warm, opt for an iced drink and cool off in the shade.
While many campgrounds charge daily fees, you can find free camping sites that take reservations on a first-come, first-serve basis, such as the Goodell Creek Campground in Marblemount, Wash. These spots might not offer water or other services, so you'll need to pack plenty of supplies. If glamping is a more feasible option for you, pitch a tent in the backyard, where running water and a pantry full of food are mere feet away.
Make Homemade Tea
Make a gallon of delicious iced tea by steeping it in the warm spring sun. Fill a clean glass jar or pitcher with lukewarm water and add several tea bags from your pantry. Food Network recommends using one tea bag for every 5 ounces of water and loosely covering the pitcher before placing it in the sun. The longer you let it steep, the darker and more potent the brew will become. After several hours, remove the bags and refrigerate the tea before serving. Add sweetener or fresh fruit if desired.
Channel your inner Roger Federer or Serena Williams at a local high school or public court after work or on the weekends. Not only are these facilities well maintained, but they're also free to use. If you're a member of a country club or the YMCA, you're likely already paying to use a tennis court, so make it a point to book those matches.
Enjoy the Beach
Take a walk along your favorite beach without your winter parka, but before bikini season is in full swing. On the East Coast, check the local sunrise time and squeeze in some exercise at dawn. If you're a West Coaster, opt for a pre-dinner sunset stroll with family or friends. Bring some firewood to roast hot dogs or s'mores.
See Cherry Trees Blossom
In 1912, the mayor of Tokyo gave Washington, D.C., a gift of 3,000 cherry trees, and the blossoms have become synonymous with the arrival of spring in our nation's capital. The National Cherry Blossom Festival takes place over four consecutive weekends and sees more than 1.5 million visitors. While you might not be a local, or able to travel to D.C., you can also find the trees and their ethereal blossoms in Boston, Nashville, Tenn., Brooklyn, N.Y., San Francisco and St. Louis.
Play an Outdoor Game
Play an outdoor game with your significant other, friends or the kids. Cut a hole out of a cardboard box to create your own corn hole game or do a beanbag toss with an old ladder from your garage. Place a piece of paper with a point value on each rung — with more points for the smallest openings between steps — and throw an item to garner as many points as possible.
Visit a National Park
From stunning red rocks to majestic peaks, soak in the nation's most picturesque scenery at a national park. There are more than 400 parks, many of which are free to visit. However, the 120 that normally charge entrance fees offer free admission on the weekends surrounding National Park Week in April. If you aren't sure which parks are closest to you, visit the National Park Service and search by state.
Take Up Birdwatching
Visit a local botanical garden or wilderness area or just enjoy the birds in your own backyard. Utilize Audubon's free online bird guide to identify those that are unfamiliar to you; you can search by name and taxonomic family, as well as region. Don't forget to pick up binoculars to spy these creatures in their natural environments.
Fly a Kite or Remote-Controlled Plane
Bring a kite to a local landmark or your family's favorite spot on a blustery afternoon and watch it soar. If you don't have a kite, make your own with three simple items: paper, sticks and some yarn or string. Have a competition to see who can make the sturdiest kite out of items found around the house. If you're tech savvy, take your remote-controlled plane or drone for a flight on a clear day.
Go to the Dog Park
Your poor pup is sick of taking the same loop around your neighborhood in the cold, so it's time to revisit Spot's favorite spot: the local dog park. He's surely missed stretching his legs in an open space and playing a game of fetch. He'll also be thrilled to socialize with buds he hasn't seen all winter.
Host a BBQ
The crockpot has officially worn out its welcome, and extra oven heat that was welcome during winter is now just making you sweat. Instead, throw a filet or rack of ribs on the barbie. Perfect your technique to make the most out of the months-long grilling season that's now underway.
Attend a Free Music Festival
Many event centers and parks offer free entertainment, including live music, in the spring. These can be fun events to take your kids.
The city of Novato, Calif., for example, hosts a free concert series on Saturday nights at its city hall, starting in February. Check with your city, local mall or park for upcoming event dates.
Cheer on a Local Sports Team
From track meets to baseball championships, support your local high school team by attending an outdoor game. Check the season schedule and pick a rivalry match or special alumni game, if you happen to live in your hometown. If you have young children, be sure to bring them, as it will get them excited about both sports and their education.
Host a Neighborhood Party
Ask guests to bring a dish and their favorite soft drink or alcoholic beverage to a gathering at your home. Catch up with friends and welcome new faces as you celebrate the start of spring. You won't have to do anything other than open your front door and, as a bonus, you'll likely end up with free leftovers.
Visit a Free Zoo
While many zoos charge admission fees, some — such as the Santa Ana Zoo in Orange County, Calif. — offer free entry to local residents on a certain day of the month. Other zoos, such as the Staten Island Zoo, offer free entrance in the afternoon one day a week, though donations are usually welcome. Check with your local zoo for offers or promotions, especially if you're visiting with a large group.
Wash Your Car
With a reprieve from snow and sleet, you can finally wash your car. Skip an expensive detail and use your own soap, hose and vacuum to get your wheels back in mint condition. You can also get the kids involved and make it a family activity.
Feed the Animals
Take leftover bread, nuts or seeds to a local park and feed the birds or squirrels. This is a great way to salvage aging food you won't use, but likely wouldn't be accepted at a food bank. If you have kids, not only will they be able to to make use of the playground, but they'll also enjoy feeding the animals with you.