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Cheap Summer Thrills in Charlottesville

Want to get out of the house and have some fun with your friends, your honey or the whole family? No need to drop wads of cash with these tips for how to have fun in Charlottesville without breaking the bank.

Fridays After Five

It’s one of Charlottesville’s longest and most-beloved musical traditions, and after a COVID-imposed hiatus, it’s back, baby! The free Friday evening event puts some of the area’s best musical acts on stage, and Fridays After Five is also a great place to catch up with friends after a long week… or a long year, as the case may be!


Nostalgic fun for the whole family and a perfect wholesome date night activity, Putt Putt was fun 50 years ago, and it’s still fun today! A single game at the Putt-Putt Fun Center on Rio Road only sets you back $6, and three games is even more of a bargain at $14. And as always, a hole-in-one on 18 gets you a free game! Now, that’s a bargain! 

Albemarle County Lakes

Don’t have the time or budget for a beach vacation? That doesn’t mean you can’t pack a picnic and get your toes in the sand. Albemarle County has three lakes with sand beaches, and the cost of admission— $3 for adults and $2 for kids 4-12— won’t break the bank. (Over 62 and 3 and under get in free!) Chris Greene Lake is north of town; Mint Springs is in Crozet and Walnut Springs is south of town.

Sugar Hollow Swimming Holes

What’s cheaper than swimming in a county lake? Swimming in a natural swimming hole! The place for that is Sugar Hollow, way out Old Garth Road. An easy hike in takes you to either of two swimming holes: Snake Hole (named for, you guessed it, certain slippery creatures that rumor has it reside there) and Blue Hole, the larger of the two. Bring the kids, bring the dog. No wallet needed, since the price of admission is free!

Stroll the Mall with Chap’s Ice Cream

A warm evening stroll along Charlottesville’s historic Downtown Mall is made infinitely sweeter with a cone from Chap’s Ice Cream in hand. At less than $4 for a single scoop, you’ll satisfy your sweet tooth without denting your budget. And window shopping is, of course, free. (We take no responsibility for any spending if you choose to step inside any of the gorgeous boutiques that line Mall).

Movies at the Paramount

Taking the family to the movies can be a seriously pricey undertaking, with tickets topping $13 a person at the first-run cinemas in town, the Paramount’s classic movie series, at $5 a person, is, literally the ticket to a good time on a budget. This summer’s movies include the original Ocean’s 11, Sunset Blvd and Standing in the Shadow of Motown.