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42 fun activities to do for under £20

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Need a break from those long shifts in the library? Organising a fun activity for you and your friends doesn't have to break the bank. Here's some inspiration...

person abseiling and woman in art gallery

Credit: Jan Nedbal (left), Africa Studio (right) – Shutterstock

Uni can get a bit repetitive at times. You go to lectures, you study in the library and you go on nights out every weekend – or something along those lines, anyway.

It involves a bit of effort and organisation, but why not use your weekends to get your friends together and do something a bit different?

Everything in the list below will only set you back £20 or less, and will leave you with some amazing memories to take away from uni. After all, when else are you going to go to a roller disco or try a life drawing class?

Cheap activities for students

Here are some of the best cheap things to do with friends:

  1. Escape rooms – Solve puzzles and try not to fall out with your mates as you attempt to unlock the door and escape the room within (usually) an hour. Escape rooms are so much fun, and the more people you get involved, the cheaper they usually are – expect to pay between £15 – £20 per person.
  2. Go-karting – We all know that affording your own car at uni can be seriously expensive, so go-karting can be a great way to brush up your driving skills (or take your Mario Kart prowess onto the track). Websites like Groupon and Wowcher sometimes have deals where you can get tickets for under £20. It's also worth checking if any go-karting places near you offer student discount rates.
  3. Wall climbing – Test your core strength by trying out some indoor wall climbing. Usually, if you're familiar with climbing, you should be able to book a place for around £10–15 (maybe less if you're able to get a student discount). However, if you're a newbie, you'll probably have to pay for a taster session with an instructor and might need to pay extra to hire shoes and harnesses. This could cost more than £20 altogether.
  4. Hit the beach – This one is location-dependent but, if you're able to, heading to the beach can be a great way to brush off those cobwebs after a long semester. Waste pennies in Brighton's arcades, eat fish and chips on Whitby's seafront or climb to the top of the Blackpool Tower for stunning views.
  5. Stand-up comedy – When you think of stand-up comedy, you might think of expensive sell-out arena tours. But there's a whole world of brilliant comedy out there, most of it super cheap (and sometimes free!). Google stand-up comedy in your area to find smaller comedy clubs.  You never know, you might get to see the next big comedian before they get famous!
  6. Brewery/winery tour – There's some pretty interesting science behind how wine and beer are made. Brewery tours are really fun and often involve the chance to taste some beers too. It's worth shopping around for cheap deals near you, but you should be able to find one for under £20. And, of course, a winery tour's a great option if you're not a fan of beer.
  7. Bowling – Relive your 10th birthday party and head to a bowling alley for a bit of competitive fun. Games with Hollywood Bowl can cost around £10 per person (price varies depending on location). However, more upmarket bowling alleys are on the rise if you want something a bit fancier. Slots in the morning are usually the cheapest, with the prices going up the later you book.
  8. Paintballing – This is a uni favourite, and companies often offer discounts to students. Keep an eye out on campus and at freshers' fairs for stands offering discounts. Virgin Experience Days tends to offer equipment hire and four different paintball games for around £12.50 per person.
  9. River cruise – If you live anywhere near a large river, see if you can book a river cruise. In London, for example, you can hop on a Thames River Cruise for around £15. If you're more of a night owl, look out for party cruises. 
  10. Golf driving range – Are you a fan of golf, but not the walking? If so, a golf driving range is a perfect way to practise your shot. Bear in mind that some venues might charge extra on top of the cost of golf balls to hire a bay and club too. But, overall, you shouldn't expect to pay much more than £10 – £20.
    mojito in a bar
  11. Cocktail night – A fun thing to do for a night in is host a cocktail-making session. You can use our easy cocktail recipes and split the cost of ingredients with your friends.
  12. Roller disco – They were acceptable in the 80s and they're still acceptable now (believe us). A roller disco is a great alternative to your usual night out, although expect a lot of bruises along with the hangover. They often cost around £10 to £20 per person – have a look online to find ones near you.
  13. Hiking – Hiking is a lot more fun when you're not getting dragged around by your parents on a drizzly day. Wait until the sun is shining, grab your boots and get out into the countryside. Even if you're a city dweller, a quick train or bus ride should be enough to get out into the sticks. Make sure to research local hiking trails before you set off, take a map and stock up on some homemade sandwiches.
  14. Pub quiz – Is there anything more British than heading to the pub for a few pints while attempting to answer tricky general knowledge questions in a bid to win yet more pints? Pub quizzes are everywhere (have a quick Google or keep your eyes peeled for posters), and they're a super easy (and cheap) way to get a few mates together for a bit of fun after uni. Plus, they just so happen to be on our university bucket list...
  15. Cheese tasting – Probably the first lesson you learned when you arrived at uni is that cheese is expensive. And fancy cheese even more so. But if you want to treat yourself, then a cheese tasting experience is a good way of getting your fill. We've seen wine and cheese tasting experiences for two that work out at around £20 per person on Wowcher.
  16. Bike ride – If you want to get out into the countryside, but walking isn't really your thing, grab a bike instead. If you don't have your own, research bike hire in your local area. There are plenty of ways to cycle cheaply!
  17. Afternoon tea – You might think afternoon tea is more up your grandma's street, but who could turn down sandwiches, scones and unlimited cups of tea? They can get pretty expensive, but shop around and you can get some pretty good deals. Search for afternoon teas up and down the country. You can usually find some for as little as £10 per person. 
  18. Karaoke – This is ideal for a night out. Places like Lucky Voice have karaoke booths in a few different locations, and prices start at around £6 per person (depending on the day, time and location). Time to release your shower singing voice to the world... 
  19. Museums – Have a look at what museums are near you or in surrounding cities, and if any take your fancy they make for a great (often free!) day out.
  20. Laser Quest – If you like the idea of paintballing but not the bruises that come with it, Laser Quest could be right up your street. Split into teams and run around shooting your mates with your laser gun – it's a great adrenaline rush. Laser Quest GB has locations across the country, and you can normally get two games for about £15 per person.
    woman in art gallery
  21. Art galleries – Even if you don't consider yourself an art connoisseur, art galleries can be pretty fun. Look out for special exhibitions or art galleries in impressive buildings. The top of the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Newcastle, for example, offers stunning views over the river as well as world-class art. Plus, many galleries are free!
  22. Trampoline park – There is really no better feeling than releasing stress with an hour of uninterrupted jumping at a trampoline park. Flip Out has parks all over the UK and a one-hour session is usually under £15 (prices vary per location). A two-hour session won't cost much more, but beware – trampolining is more tiring than you'd think!
  23. Board game night – If you already have board games at home, this one's totally free! If not, see if any local pubs or cafes have games available for customers to play. Avoid Monopoly (or else you'll be there all night) and try something a bit different like Exploding Kittens or Cluedo.
  24. Paddleboarding – Paddleboarding in the UK isn't quite as idyllic as it would be on a gorgeous Hawaiian beach, but it's still fun and relatively easy to pick up as a beginner. Taster sessions are available around the country, starting at around £20 per person – locations can vary from the sea to rivers and lakes.
  25. Ice skating – Outdoor rinks pop up all the time in winter, but indoor ice rinks are available year-round. General admission is usually between £7 – £10, but keep an eye out for student discounts which could make it even cheaper.
  26. Theatre – Every city will have a main theatre, but tickets for larger shows can set you back quite a bit. Instead, do your research and find smaller theatres that are home to amateur or smaller productions. Tickets for these will likely only be around £7 – £15, and you can stumble across some absolute gems. Alternatively, you can get tickets for £10 or less from the National Theatre if you're aged between 16–25. For more tips, see our guide to getting cheap (or even free) theatre tickets.
  27. Farm attractions – Whether you're in the city or the countryside, chances are you won't be too far from a farm attraction. Get back to nature and feed the horses and goats, admire some alpacas or ride a donkey. Many of these farm experiences allow you to get up close and personal with the animals, either by petting, grooming or walking them – what better way to spend your Saturday? Plus, admission is normally free or only a few quid. 
  28. Sky bar – Now, sky bars aren't known for being cheap, but you should be able to get at least two drinks for under £20. Dress up nice, sip fancy cocktails and soak up the panoramic city views. You'll usually find them in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh and more.
  29. Castles – One of the best things about living in the UK is that there are more castles than you can shake a stick at. Use this interactive map to find ones that are close to you, and step back in time as you explore turrets and moats. Some have entrance charges, while some are free, so make sure you check before you go.
  30. Cheap gigs – Music gigs are often really expensive (particularly for the big names and big venues). But every city will have smaller, independent venues with up-and-coming acts on the line-up. Let go of your usual music tastes and try something different – you could find yourself enjoying it more than you'd expect! Our tips for getting cheap concert tickets will help.
    music gig
  31. Arcades – With air hockey, dodgems and more, arcades are a flashback to your childhood. Take a tenner, get it changed into coins and spend the afternoon trying your luck at the games. You never know, you might even win a keyring or a slinky for your endeavours.
  32. Life drawing class – If you fancy something a bit different, then a life drawing class can be a lot of fun. It might involve drawing naked people, but once you get past the giggles, it's a good opportunity to be creative and develop your drawing skills. Classes are usually around £10 – £15. Have a quick Google to find one in your local area. 
  33. Horse riding – Horse riding isn't the cheapest hobby in the world, but you should be able to get a beginner's group lesson for around £20 if you shop around. Plus, galloping away your worries on a gorgeous horse is a great way to spend the weekend.
  34. Swimming – If you haven't stepped foot in a pool since the last time you went on holiday, how about a trip to the local swimming baths? Use Poolfinder to find your nearest pool (including outdoor swimming pools and lidos), grab your swimming costume and get going. Whether you want to get fit or just have a splash around, it'll only set you back a few quid. Remember to take your student card to try to get a reduced price!
  35. Murder mystery night – Invite some friends around for some immersive murder mystery action! You could use a site like Night of Mystery to download your chosen murder drama, get the costumes ready and don't forget to stay in character. Alternatively, you can find some unique murder mystery packages on Etsy. If you like dressing up and trying your hand at some seriously amateur acting, you'll love this.
  36. Crazy golf – Crazy golf used to be a slightly lame 'family day out' activity, but it's seen a bit of a revival in recent years. Following suit from Junkyard Golf, crazy golf bars are springing up all over the place, and they're usually around a tenner per person. Alternatively, you could stick to the old-fashioned ones, which place less emphasis on alcohol (and are generally cheaper).
  37. Country house – The UK isn't just ripe with castles, we've also got a fair few country manor houses floating about too. From Castle Howard in Yorkshire to Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, the UK's stately homes are stunning. Entry fees will set you back a bit (around £15 – £20), but there's usually a lot to explore, so will be more than enough to fill a day out.
  38. Canoeing – If you fancy sailing but haven't quite got the funds to launch your luxury yacht just yet, then canoeing or kayaking is a (vaguely similar) alternative. Use British Canoeing to find your nearest water sports centre. You should hopefully be able to find taster canoeing sessions for around £20. But, if you already know what you're doing, you should be able to take a boat out on the water for around a tenner.
  39. Aquarium – Head under the sea by taking a trip to your nearest aquarium. SEA LIFE has venues all over the country, but ticket prices are usually quite pricey (starting at around £16 but some locations are more expensive). Another option is The Deep in Hull where student tickets are usually priced under £20.
  40. Birds of Prey – There are loads of birds of prey centres in the UK, allowing you to handle, feed and watch the feathered creatures in action. Do a quick Google to find your nearest, and expect to pay about £10 for admission.
  41. Food festival – Have a look online to see if there are any local food and drink festivals due to be held near you soon. Some have free entry, but for others, you might need to pay anywhere between £5 – £20 for a ticket, depending on the size of the festival.
  42. Go stargazing – Last but not least, there's nothing better than staring up at a pitch-black starry night sky. Head out into the countryside for the best views, or find an official observatory for expert guidance. Check out the Go Stargazing website for more info. 

We also have loads more suggestions of free things to do.

Jessica Murray

WRITTEN BY Jessica Murray

As an Editor of Save the Student, Jessica Murray has written extensively on student money news and money-saving tips. She was co-host of our podcast, No More Beans, and is now a journalist at the Guardian. Her tips and insights range from fun guides for freshers, to information for graduates entering the workplace.
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