By Alyssa Goldman, Cheapism.com
It might seem like summer just started, but there's still time to enjoy a raft of summer activities before school is back in session. Take advantage of the sun and the free or low-cost family activities in your area. We've compiled an end-of-summer bucket list with nine things you should do before it's too late.
Pick your own fruit. Blueberry season runs from May through September, with the best pick-your-own in Maine, New Jersey, Oregon, North Carolina, Washington, California, Florida, and Michigan. (Not to worry -- blueberry farms are located throughout the U.S.) Blueberry picking is a fun, family summer activity that yields a tasty souvenir to bring home. Pay by the pound and don't be afraid to load up: Freeze the fruit and use in muffins and pancakes through the winter.
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Tomatoes, watermelon, and summer squash are at their peak in August. Check out the map at Epicurious for ingredients of the season in your state and then visit Pickyourown.org to learn where you can harvest this month's freshest fruits and vegetables.Before summer ends, take the plunge.
Dive in. Ocean waters are at their highest temperatures in August, usually reaching somewhere in the 60-degree range. What are you waiting for? Find a stylish, cheap swimsuit and take the plunge.
Start a garden. Yes, it is possible to prepare a fall garden and call it a summer activity. But there are some precautions you should take. These include wetting the soil a day or two before planting the seeds, planting them deeper into the soil, and providing them with some shade (i.e. straw or grass clippings) to keep them cool. Also, water the newly planted seeds two or three times a day. Some fall veggies to consider growing: spinach, lettuce, Swiss chard, radishes, beets, broccoli, kale, and cabbage.
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Host a barbecue. Invite family and friends over for a barbecue -- one that won't cost a fortune, either. The cheapest barbecue meats include beef chuck, hanger steak, brisket, chicken, whole turkey breast, and pork. For carnivores and vegetarians alike, the best veggies to grill include Vidalia and red onions, zucchini, eggplant, potatoes, green beans (wrapped in foil), Portobello mushrooms, asparagus, and bell pepper. If you're missing grilling essentials, Cheapism lists six cheap and practical grilling accessories.Hiking is a cheap summer activity.
Visit a museum. Go to a museum on one of the free days or during free afternoon/evening hours. Typically these opportunities are offered during week days, making it a challenge to plan a visit during the school year, so make the most of summer freedom.
Volunteer. It's always harder to coordinate family activities when school is back in session. Before school starts, participate in a school-supply drive. Two other summer activities centered on volunteering: serve food at the local soup kitchen or play bingo at a retirement home. For families with older children, building homes through Habitat for Humanity can be a rewarding experience.
Attend an outdoor sports game. There's nothing like watching a baseball game during the summer. Whether it's a major league, minor league, college or middle-school game, this is a quintessential summer activity not to be missed. Minor league baseball games are a cheap, child-friendly option: kids often get to meet the players and join in on-field activities.
Take a hike. National parks are always a cheap option for families. Visit a national park near you and hike one of its many trails.
Enjoy free local activities. Check out nearby libraries for free (or inexpensive) summer reading programs, free workshops, arts and crafts, movie screenings, and more. Also, look into activities at community recreation centers for fun, free (or low-cost) end-of-summer memories.
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