8 frugal ways to enjoy the great outdoors this summer

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If you're tired of spending those long summer days cooped up at home, but don't have the budget for a vacation or pricey concert tickets, don't overlook some free and low-cost activities in your own backyard. There are several ways to enjoy some fun in the sun and relax in the great outdoors with friends and family, on date night or when you're flying solo and just need a break.

Here are eight frugal ways to enjoy the great outdoors this summer.

1. Settle in for summer movies at the park.

Skip vegging out in front of the television on a hot summer night in favor of enjoying an outdoor movie. Many local parks and recreation centers host summer movie nights where you can pack a picnic and enjoy a movie on the big screen with friends, neighbors, and family members. This can be a fun and frugal way to spend an evening – and it won't put a dent in your budget.

2. Take yoga and fitness classes.

Many yoga instructors, personal trainers and dance fitness instructors host free or low-cost workshops outdoors during the summer. If you need to revisit your New Year's resolution to get in shape this year or just want to try something new, use some of that time off this summer to indulge in fitness activities. Yoga in the park or on the beach, dance classes outdoors or even a boot camp personal training session are great ways to change up your routine.

3. Pack a picnic.

Find your nearest lake or beach for a relaxing picnic by the water. The summer months call for spending time on the shore, so pack a tote with food and drinks for the day, reading materials and your favorite device for a low-key afternoon or evening. Some beaches and camping grounds near lakes allow you to set up a bonfire – another great way to enjoy the great outdoors while treasuring the company of friends and family.

4. Go on a ranger-led tour at a national park.

All national parks around the United States offer ranger-led tours each season. If you happen to head to a park on a weekend with free admission, you can enjoy a free tour of the area with an expert. Otherwise, admission fees will cost only a few dollars per vehicle. Before you go, look at the calendar of upcoming programs, such as canoe or boat tours, bird watching tours, nature hikes and tram tours.

5. Host a potluck barbecue.

If you're an avid party planner, host a potluck by your pool or in your backyard. If you're expecting a larger turnout, consider reserving a gazebo or picnic area at your local park or recreation center. Barbecues are a great way to get people together during the hot summer months, and you'll keep food costs down by encouraging attendees to bring a dish to pass. The group could go hiking around the park or on a nature walk after the meal to make the most of the great outdoors.

6. Go stargazing.

Museums and planetariums in your area may host stargazing and moon watching events throughout the season. Check out their calendar of events for upcoming sessions, and plan your evening around them. You could look up a few budget-friendly restaurants in the area to enjoy a good meal before you head out for the free nighttime show or just enjoy a delicious and low-cost home-cooked meal before the stargazing adventure.

7. Join an outdoor sports team.

If you enjoy staying active throughout the season, skip the gym a few days a week to play beach volleyball, tennis, basketball or other outdoor sports with a local team. You can find a number of sports-oriented groups on sites like Meetup.com where you can join a tournament or league for free or by paying a nominal member fee. If you prefer solo activities, head to the local skate park or go paddle boarding at a lakeside park for some outdoor fun.

8. Try geocaching.

Enjoy a good scavenger hunt? Geocaching is the perfect excuse to get outdoors and will give you a chance to discover new places in your own backyard. All you need is a GPS device – and some patience – as you start exploring the area or the nearest geocache. Just log on to geocaching.com to join the "world's largest treasure hunt." Geocaches may be hidden in local parks, near the beach, around natural attractions and in other public places accessible by car or on foot.

Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report

If you love the outdoors, check out the slideshow below for a look at some of the best National Parks in middle America

48 PHOTOS
Best National Parks- Middle America
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8 frugal ways to enjoy the great outdoors this summer

Little River Canyon, Alabama

(Photo: SeeMidTN.com/Flickr)

Little River Canyon, Alabama

(Photo: Robert Goodwin/Flickr)

Little River Canyon, Alabama

(Photo: johnbrian/Flickr)

Cumberland Gap, Tennessee 

(Photo: howderfamily.com/Flickr)

Cumberland Gap, Kentucky/Virginia line

(Photo: Sisterbeer/Flickr)

Cumberland Gap National Historic Park, Tennessee 

(Photo: Outdoor_Adventure_Training/Flickr)

Mammouth Cave National Park, Kentucky

(AP Photo/Ed Reinke)

Mammouth Cave National Park, Kentucky

(AP Photo/Ed Reinke, File)

Mammouth Cave National Park, Kentucky

(AP Photo/Ed Reinke)

Ozark National Scenic Riverway, Missouri 

(Photo: CMFRIESE/Flickr)

Ozark National Scenic Riverway, Missouri 

(Photo: U.S. Dept. of the Interior/Flickr)

Ozark National Scenic Riverway, Missouri 

(Photo: CMFRIESE/Flickr)

Atchafalaya River, Louisiana

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

Atchafalaya River, Louisiana

(Photo: DidierB77/Flickr)

Atchafalaya River, Louisiana

(Photo: nousku/Flickr)

Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas

(Photo: Ken Lund/Flickr)

Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas

(Photo: Ken Lund/Flickr)

Chickasaw National Recreation Area, Oklahoma 

(Photo: NPS Park Cultural Landscapes Program/Flickr)

Chickasaw National Recreation Area, Oklahoma 

(Photo: kimadababe/Flickr)

Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas 

(Photo: mlhradio/Flickr)

Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas 

(Photo: thor_mark/Flickr)

Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas 

(Photo: kittell/Flickr)

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Kansas

(Photo: MiguelVieira/Flickr)

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Kansas

(Photo: Vincent Parsons/Flickr)

Natchez, Mississippi

(Photo: Ken Lund/Flickr)

Natchez, Mississippi

(Photo: FabFemme/Flickr)

Niobrara River, Nebraska

(Photo: Overduebook/Flickr)

Niobrara River, Nebraska

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

Effigy Mounds, Iowa

(Photo: greenheron47/Flickr)

Effigy Mounds, Iowa

(Photo: tinydr/Flickr)

Lewis and Clark Trail, Runs through Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington

(Photo: mypubliclands/Flickr)

Lewis and Clark Trail, Runs through Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington

(Photo: mypubliclands/Flickr)

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Indiana

(Photo: Drewski Mac/Flickr

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Indiana

(Photo: Cletch/Flickr)

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Indiana

(Photo: Chicago Man/Flickr)

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

(Photo: betsyweber/Flickr)

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

(Photo: Betsyweber/Flickr)

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

(Photo: RTD Photography/Flickr)

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

(Photo: Corvair Owner/Flickr)

Apostle Islands, Wisconsin 

(Photo: Posnov)

Apostle Islands, Wisconsin 

(Photo: TimWilson/Flickr)

Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota 

(Photo: jck_photos/Flickr)

Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

(Photo: dishfunctional/Flickr)

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

(Photo: Jvstin/Flickr)

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

(Photo: Chiot's Run/Flickr)

Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota

(Photo: AR Nature Gal/Flickr)

Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota

(Photo: Jvstin/Flickr)

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