After a long, pandemic-haunted winter that forced many Americans to stay home more than they’d like, the prospect of warm weather and the outdoors is a welcome one.
Outdoor transmission is technically possible, but it’s also rare. A February 2021 study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases found that COVID-19 transmission is 18.7 times more likely indoors than outdoors. So the more spring activities you can do outside, the better.
These affordable activities will let you get outside to have fun this spring and leave the confines of your home behind.
Outdoor Activities to Have Fun This Spring
Spring is the perfect time of year for outdoor activities. Not too cold, not too hot, and in many cases not yet crowded with summer travelers. Whether you’re looking for something to do solo, with your significant other, or with friends or family, there’s something for everyone.
1. Spring Camping
Depending on where you live and when you go, spring can still be a chilly time of year for camping. But isn’t that what campfires and s’mores are for?
Still, you do need proper camping equipment. If you don’t own a tent, spring-appropriate sleeping bags, and other essential gear, go through our camping equipment checklist to ensure you have everything you need.
Swimming might not be an option, but you can potentially do some fishing, hiking, or canoeing while you’re at it.
Pro tip: If you’d prefer to camp in an RV instead of a tent, platforms like Outdoorsy allow you to rent them from owners in your area.
Whenever I ask my dad how a fishing excursion went, he talks about the experience itself rather than how many fish he caught. That’s because for him — and most avid anglers — fishing isn’t really about the results. “They don’t call it ‘catching’ for a reason,” he says.
Fishing is about being outside — away from the stresses of modern life, enjoying the solitude and scenery. The strategy, casting technique, and possibility of landing fish merely make fishing a fun way to pass the time in a beautiful setting.
Hire a local guide if you’re new to the sport (or want to learn the more difficult art of fly fishing). They can show you some beautiful places to fish and the proper technique. Go without the goal of catching a dozen fish, and you’ll have fun regardless.
Hiking requires little in the way of equipment, although you do need reliable hiking shoes and possibly a backpack (read up on how to find affordable hiking gear if needed). You get to enjoy the great outdoors while getting a little exercise.
Nearly any reasonably healthy person can do it, although trails vary in difficulty, elevation gain, and length. You can go alone or with others. I even hike with my infant strapped to my chest, so don’t be afraid to take the little ones.
If you want to make a trip of it, check out some of the best long-distance hiking trails in the United States. Or just find a fun local hiking spot and go out for a couple of hours.
But wherever you go hiking, always let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to be back. Occasionally, trouble strikes on the trail, from getting lost to animal attacks to getting physically trapped or stuck. Watch “127 Hours” if that step seems unnecessary.
Like hiking, biking can be easy or challenging, hilly or flat. Go mountain biking or road biking or compromise with paved trails.
It makes a great free workout — and one that requires only one piece of equipment: the bike itself. Two if you count the helmet.
Buy a used bike to save money, but make sure the bike is in excellent condition. Check the chain and frame for rust. Check the brake pads and pulleys. Do a test ride to make sure the bike changes gears smoothly, feels aligned, and feels generally comfortable for you. For more information, see our guide to choosing the right bicycle for you.
If you plan to ride in chillier spring weather, make sure you have any additional clothing or equipment needed for cold-weather biking.
5. National or State Parks
You can find some of the best camping and hiking in the nation’s parks. But that’s not the only reason to visit one.
From stunning natural formations like the Grand Canyon to the geothermal springs and geysers at Yellowstone to the largest trees in the world at Yosemite, our parks offer plenty worth gawking at. And you never know what wildlife you’ll spot — the last time I visited Yellowstone, we saw grizzly bears, elk, and even a white wolf.
Parks can make the perfect outdoor adventure trip on a budget for anyone looking for affordable yet memorable travel.
6. Spring Skiing & Other Winter Sports
The ski season extends beyond the spring equinox in many parts of the country. Some ski resorts have even stayed open as late as the Fourth of July, though that’s often more of a marketing gimmick than anything else.
Some ski resorts offer discounted lift tickets or equipment rentals for spring skiing. You may also find cheaper nearby accommodations after the peak winter season. And the crowds tend to thin out in the springtime, making for both shorter lines and less slope traffic all around.
But spring skiing comes with the risk of slushy slopes, and you won’t necessarily know the snow conditions weeks or months in advance. As such, spring skiing works best when you can travel opportunistically, with minimal advance booking.
But if you have the money for heli-skiing, they can drop you in the optimal spot. Check out the best places to heli-ski in North America for perfect powder, but don’t expect any bargains.
Zoos often offer cheaper entrance fees in the off-season, and you can expect thinner crowds than a summer Saturday. Most zoo space is outdoors, so you don’t have to venture indoors if it’s still unsafe in your area.
Plus, you might find a different experience in the spring, such as spotting more baby animals or species that are less bashful before lighter crowds.
Most zoos also offer plenty of outdoor eating options. When you find a pleasant day with nothing else booked, stroll through your local zoo for an easygoing outdoor experience.
8. Wine Tasting
You don’t necessarily have to travel far for a wine tasting excursion. People make wine all over the U.S., not just in Northern California. I’ve tasted good wines in states ranging from Maryland to New Mexico.
Most wineries offer beautiful outdoor spaces for wine tasting and weddings — a significant source of revenue for many local wineries.
Brush up on your wine knowledge with a quick wine buying guide, then hit the vineyards to enjoy a tipple.
9. Beer Gardens & Craft Breweries
Many local craft breweries also offer fun outdoor spaces. I’ve increasingly found that they actively woo families with young children, as the millennials who fueled the craft beer boom have reached their 30s and started families. For example, my sister’s and brother-in-law’s favorite craft brewery not only makes flavorful beers, but it also has an outdoor play area for the kids and plenty of outdoor seating for adults.
10. Court Sports
From tennis courts to basketball courts to volleyball courts, they all offer fun in the sun and a workout. You can get your blood pumping and have a boisterous time with friends — all with little more equipment than a ball.
Not everyone feels comfortable with close-quarters basketball during the pandemic, but you can find ways to play without body-checking and close contact (even if you have to resort to playing horse). Tennis requires no close contact at all, and small-teams volleyball makes it easy to stay socially distant.
11. Race or Sporting Event Training
If you ever wanted to get into racing shape, there’s no time like the present.
Whether you just want to run a decent 5K or have your sights set on an obstacle course race or marathon, start training now. Most races suspended during the pandemic, but sporting events are beginning to open again, even if only at a trickle initially.
Besides, running makes for an affordable workout you can do anywhere while spending some time outside. Train alone, with a partner, or with friends. You can even train with your kids if they’re old enough or have them bike alongside you.
12. Kayaking or Canoeing
Renting a kayak or canoe is a refreshing way to get an outdoor workout. Rowing works your core, back, and arms for an upper-body workout you can take at your own pace.
Whether you go out on a local lake or travel to the beach for some ocean kayaking, it’s fun to get out on the water alone or with friends. You can even take the kids — whether they’re old enough to row or not.
The weather doesn’t always cooperate with trips out on the water, of course. For cold, rainy days when paddling FOMO creeps in, there’s always an in-home alternative like Hydrow.
13. Beach Trips
Beach trips in the spring offer a different experience than in summer. You probably won’t be riding waves or sunbathing, depending on the temperature, but beach towns offer more than just tanning and swimming.
Most people enjoy walking on the beach. Dogs love it even more, making a beach trip perfect for those with pals of the canine persuasion.
You can play beach sports like volleyball, fly kites, go running, or pack a picnic lunch or dinner. Or of course, you can go kayaking or canoeing.
While still fun, beach towns tend to be quieter in the spring, with lower costs for everything from accommodations to restaurant deals. So skip the crowds and costs of summer beach trips, and take your next beach vacation this spring.
Take your meals outside this spring. The prettier the setting, the better.
Local parks make an obvious option. But brainstorm other locales as well, from hiking up to an overlook to waterfront picnicking.
In the warmer months during the pandemic, I saw many friends through socially distanced picnics. We would lay out blankets 6 feet apart and catch up over food and drinks. We were even able to throw a frisbee with plenty of hand-sanitizing before and after.
From flowers to fruits and vegetables to shrubs and privacy bushes, get creative with how you can improve your own outdoor space. Growing fruits and vegetables lets you save money on your grocery bill — all while reducing the carbon footprint of shipped produce.
Check into ways to save on home gardening before jumping in, and recruit your spouse or kids to help. You can also hang a bird feeder in your garden so you can still look out and enjoy a little bird watching on spring’s inevitable rainy days.
16. Backyard Barbecues
You can also enjoy your backyard by sharing it with friends over some barbecue and beverages.
Depending on community spread and everyone’s vaccination status, stay 6 feet apart. But even distanced outdoor barbecues make for an enjoyable way to catch up with friends during the pandemic. Or just use it as an excuse to get your family outside the confines of your four walls.
Light up the grill, chill some beers or make some lemonade, and light up a fire pit when the sun goes down.
17. Home Improvement Projects
A popular pastime during the pandemic, one constructive way people stayed busy at home was working on DIY home improvement projects to boost home values or just make home a more pleasant place to be.
Some home improvement projects even reduce your homeownership costs. To sweeten the deal even further, you could qualify for federal green energy tax credits for certain home upgrades.
And yes, many of these projects require indoor work. But not all — some hands-on projects like exterior painting, carpentry repairs, and roof updates involve spending time outside.
As much fun as it is to do something recreational, you can do many activities specifically to help others, making them even more rewarding.
Take fishing, for example. For years, my father sat on the board of the local Trout Unlimited chapter. They hosted an annual event each spring when volunteers took underprivileged children fishing in a stocked stream.
Volunteer doing activities you love. That could mean gardening for a nonprofit or public park, grilling hamburgers for needy kids, or helping to build or renovate low-income housing. Do whatever you love doing outdoors anyway — just do it for someone else.
Every spring, most of us can’t wait to get outside for fresh air. But after an exceptionally restrained winter during the pandemic, getting outdoors feels all the more urgent.
You don’t have to spend a fortune to do it, either. Many spring outdoor activities are free or low-cost. Get outside, see friends and family members in a way that feels safe to you, and have fun.