(Near) Free Entertainment

In my years I’ve had to come up with ways to entertain myself for little to no money. Being told to “go outside” when I was younger didn’t help, since I didn’t have a job or a car at the age of 10. But over time, you gain a car, you gain a job, and you still find yourself broke and longing for entertainment. Here are some things I’ve found that can pass time.

  • The  Library has a vast collection of entertainment. And for (gasp!) free! I know it’s not very elegant to walk into the musky collection of encyclopedias and pull that Library Card out of your pocket, but you can also check out things like movies, CD’s, books, books on tape, and use their Micro Fiche, (If they still have one) to play detective. You can check out movies, and take them home with you for a cheap date night. (You don’t have to tell your date where you got the movie.) You can also check out places like PaperBackSwap.com or TitleTrader. It’s a way to swap books you’ve already read with others.
  • Online video exchange places like HuluBlockbuster Online and Netflix are another cheap way to watch movies and television. If you’ve seen any of the advertisements, you know how they work. It’s really nice on a rainy day to browse through your instant Que and find dozens of series of television shows, and hundreds of movies.
  • In almost every town there is a “Cheap Theater”. Check Fandango.com for theaters near you. Growing up in LaCrosse it was The Rivoli. You could see a movie for $3 or $2 if you were a student. They had pizza and beer and it was the best place to go and just hang out and watch a movie. You had to live with a faulty projector since the theater was in an actual old downtown theater building with creeky wooden seats and a scary basement bathroom, but you dealt with it. Here in Madison it’s the Market Square theater. Similar prices, but movie theater popcorn and candy seem to be at full price. You can also see movies at the Orpheum Theater here in Madison. You just have to deal with specific showtimes and days of the week, since they are also a concert venue. I just found this clip on a website for the Wisconsin State Journal as well… “The Wisconsin Union Directorate offers a variety of free movies at Memorial Union and UW-Madison’s Cinematheque screens films every Friday and Saturday when classes are in session. Check out www.union.wisc.edu/film/ and cinema.wisc.edu/ for more details.”


The Orpheum in Madison, Wisconsin. 

  • Wander. That’s right. Wander. I’ve stumbled upon many adventure just by wandering around this fine town, and you can do it in any town you live in. I’ve come across free carousel rides, fashion shows, free food samples, free antiques (right place, right time), and many other things. Downtown areas are great for things like wandering around. Here in Madison, I’d say the obvious State Street, and Capital Square are best for that. Window shop, browse stores you’ve never been in before and make your own adventure. One great idea i’ve had is a themed photo scavenger hunt. It’s a great way to get to know your town. Pick a theme (statues, works of art, colors…) and go around town and take pictures of them, or yourself next to them. This could be an all day adventure!
  • Make your own party… You have a place to live… some old board games… a bit of food, and some phone numbers of friends. Why not create your own party? Call a few people up, and invite them over for a themed movie night (Thanks Netflix!) or a monopoly marathon, and some popcorn and drinks. Even make it a BYOB. Someone may even leave leftover drinks at your house (bonus!)
  • Here are some other things you can do for FREE. That’s right. Free.  Visit a Museum. Go to the Mall and play with gadgets. Learn a new language via FREE podcasts. “Try Out” a health club for free for two weeks. Volunteer somewhere (animals need love too.) Go to the local Zoo. Tour an old building.

So don’t worry about penny-pinching and being bored. There are probably still many un-tapped resources in your town worth discovering, for little to no money. The internet is a great way to search your local area for deals and bargains on venues, Museums, bars, and other fun places.


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