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5 Affordable Activities You Can Do in Almost Any City

As a travel health professional, there comes a time when, after moving into your new apartment and starting your new job, the dust begins to settle, and you face your first weekend alone in an unfamiliar place.

Sometimes it’s hard to find good activities to do, especially when you’re new to the area. And even if you’re earning a higher wage as a travel therapist or nurse, you might not want to blow that extra income on an expensive outing every weekend.

Luckily, there are plenty of options for affordable leisure-time activities, no matter where you are in the country. Keep reading for some ideas on how to enjoy your free time, either cheaply or for free.

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1. Outdoor Activities

The benefits of exercise are hard to beat, and as a health professional you probably already know how important it is to stay active outside of work. Going on a brisk run or bike ride around town is one great way to survey the area while working out.

Depending on your location, you may have close access to hiking trails full of serene scenes and breathtaking vistas. But even if you’re in a flat part of the country, chances are there’s a gorgeous state park nearby that celebrates the natural landscape—be it a desert, prairie, or plain.

Another way to enjoy the outdoors in your new home is to check out the city’s historical district. Find out if there are any old streets or charming parks worth an afternoon’s walk. For example, some people enjoy strolling through a centuries-old cemetery to get a feel for the history of the town. 

If you brought your gear, you could drive to a campsite over the weekend for an intimate encounter with nature. Sleeping within a park’s borders gives you more time during the day for hiking, dirt biking, or other recreational activities, and in many places, it costs less than $20 to stake a tent.

2. Cultural Activities

Besides the flora and fauna, you can learn a lot about a city by visiting its museums. And with the wide variety of educational institutions—art and history museums, historical mansions, and zoological centers—you’re bound to find a subject that interests you.

Museum admission can get pricey, but many institutions offer free admission on select days throughout the year. If your town is renowned for a particular industry (agriculture, automotive, racing, etc.) or historical figure (presidents, inventors, pioneers), then you should definitely consider checking out that specific museum.

Public art is by nature free to view, and urban cities are teeming with it. If you don’t know where to start, check your city library. Most libraries are virtually brimming with free resources, offering everything from day trips to multimedia events. Or just pick up a city guide and wend your own way!

3. Food Activities

Some argue that the best way to tour a city is by tasting it. But quality cuisine can fetch a high price, and all that eating out could eat a hole in your wallet. Foodie-friendly cities like Chicago and Houston host food festivals and restaurant weeks throughout the year, where you’ll pay a fixed price to try multiple eateries or dishes.

If you prefer the atmosphere of a bar, try to research the best gastropubs in the area—and the specials they offer throughout the week, from happy hours to trivia nights and more. Hardly anything else will make you feel as much of a local as knowing when it’s Pint Day at each of the top bars in your town.

4. Entertainment Activities

When looking for good entertainment, affordability can be hard to come by. Music venues and concert halls usually charge steep entrance fees, and even a “free” concert may require a cover charge. There are a couple workarounds for this. First, if you work an atypical schedule (say, nights and weekends), you may be able to land a good deal on matinee concerts or daytime screenings.

Secondly, if there’s a major university nearby, download a copy of their events calendar. From symphony concerts and musicals to sports games and tournaments, student events are usually much cheaper to attend—if not free.

5. Local Activities

Finally, the last set of affordable activities that you can do in any city are those unique to your new home. Small towns are notorious for throwing parades, festivals, and quirky holidays for absurd traditions (Mashed Potato Wrestling, anyone?). But even if you’re in a big city, chances are there are pockets of local culture waiting to be discovered on your next day off.

One way to break into a local circle is to join Meetup and find like-minded locals with whom you share an interest or hobby. Through an online platform like Facebook or Meetup you can gain a new running buddy, join a thriving gardening club, connect with other gamers, or discover neighborhood potlucks. By meeting with locals, you’ll blow off steam, make new friends, and have a good time without blowing your budget.

But not everyone wants to socialize in order to explore a new town. Don’t worry; there’s an app for that—Spotted by Locals, a guide built by people who really know and love your city. With Spotted by Locals, you can discover the best your city has to offer while avoiding its tourist traps. The app works all over the world, but in the US it will guide you through the big cities of Boston, NYC, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Lastly, one of the best ways to spend your free time as an off-duty travel nurse or therapist is to donate it to volunteer work. If you need some direction, check Volunteer Match for the listings in your area, by interest. From education and literacy to environment and health, volunteering enables you to leave your new town a little better than how you found it.

Final thoughts: Staying busy while staying in budget

In summary, going out and about doesn’t have to be expensive. Granted, some destinations are known for activities that take a toll on your wallet, such as playing the slots in Las Vegas, catching a Broadway show in NYC, or tasting wine in California. But by planning affordable activities, you can save up for those unmissable destinations and fully enjoy your visit.

Seeking your next city to explore through allied travel? Discover current job openings nationwide with Club Staffing.

Tim Fraticelli is a Physical Therapist, Certified Financial Planner™, and founder of PTProgress.com. He loves to teach PTs and OTs ways to save time and money in and out of the clinic, especially when it comes to physical therapy documentation or continuing education. Follow him on YouTube for weekly videos on ways to improve your physical and financial health.

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