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Buncombe On a Budget: Summer Fun Without Breaking the Bank

Buncombe On A Budget

It’s summertime, and the living… can be expensive. Here at Buncombe County, we know it’s the time of year where you’re itching for ways to take advantage of the great weather, or maybe you have kids home from school that need activities to keep them busy. From recreational to educational, from indoor (read: air conditioned) to outdoor (possibly pool adjacent), Buncombe County has many free and cheap activities to keep your summer lively and your wallet hearty. For example, did you know your library card is your passport for free tickets to the North Carolina Arboretum, WNC Nature Center, Museum of Science, and more? And while you know the County’s Fourth of July fireworks extravaganza at Lake Julian is legendary, you might not know you can whittle away summer days with paddleboats, bird walks, a drum circle, and other activities at County parks.

Beyond activities, Buncombe County also has resources to stock your pantry, keep you healthy, and help you stay plugged in. All County libraries have free laptops and hotspots available so you can stay connected throughout the summer. You can also utilize our community engagement markets for free food and access to County services. And while nobody wants summer to end, we know it’s inevitable. So, make sure to set a reminder to get in touch with Health and Human Services to schedule back-to-school immunizations.

So if you’re looking to enjoy summer break without going broke, check out our sample week suggestions for enjoying Buncombe on a budget, and browse all the resource links below to find your own frugal fun. And don’t forget to tag us in your social media posts using #BuncombeOnABudget.

Sample week (estimated costs based on a family of four)



  • Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the sights at Lake Julian (tables and grills are free and located at all County parks).
  • Burn off your lunch by going paddle boating at Lake Julian ($12 per hour).
  • Show off your skills at the LEGO builders club every Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. at the Pack Memorial Library (free) –OR– check out the library’s event calendar for other age-appropriate, free activities.
  • Catch some live music at the Groovin on Grovemont concert series on Tuesday, July 12, Tuesday, July 26, and Tuesday, Aug. 9 at 6 p.m. The concerts are free, but food is available for purchase. Proceeds from food sales go to the Friends of the Swannanoa Library and the Swannanoa Community Council.
  • Total for day: $12



  • Check out a free laptop and/or hotspot from any of the County library branches.
  • Use your laptop to learn about photography, web development, animation, or other topics from LinkedIn Learning (free with your County library card).
  • Get out and play disc golf at the Buncombe County Sports Park or Lake Julian (free, and if you need a disc golf set, you can check it out for three weeks at a time from Pack Library) –OR– settle in with a digital book or movie on your laptop from the NC Digital Library (free with your library card)
  • Check out Fairview Summer Movie Series on the 4th Thursday of the month at 5:30 p.m. in the Fairview Library Community Room (free).
  • Feel the rhythm at the drum circle at Lake Julian, which meets the last Thursday of every month from 5:30-7:30 p.m. (free, but you must bring your own drum).
  • Total for the day: $0


  • Start a garden with free seeds from Buncombe County’s seed libraries (free).
  • Get inspiration to tend to your garden by walking the grounds at the NC Arboretum (free via Zoom Pass with your library card, make sure to reserve your spot ahead of time).
  • Cool off after your visit to the Arboretum with a visit to one of the five County pools open 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on weekends ($3 per person, $12 for family of four).
  • Total for the day: $12



  • Learn more about how African Americans have enriched and advanced the City of Asheville with the Asheville Historic Map of African American Landmarks. Maps are available Monday-Friday at the Register of Deeds office, 205 College St., and the Pack Memorial Library, 67 Haywood St., Asheville, Tuesday through Saturday.
  • Be a tourist in your own community, and visit Buncombe County Farms using the Farm Heritage Trail map or (free, but we can’t guarantee you won’t spend money at the farms).
  • Owen Park has two lakes that benefit from Swannanoa River’s fish hatchery. Pack your fishing pole and spend the day fishing lakeside (free, but an NC fishing license is required in all Buncombe County rivers and lakes). 
  • Total for the day: $0

Total for the week (based on a family of four): $36

Don’t see anything that aligns with your hobbies or interests? Make sure to browse the library’s event calendar where you can join a book club, Spanish practice group, learn about creative writing, and more. And don’t forget, there are multiple online courses and digital resources you can access with your library card. Need a library card? Click here to learn how to get or renew one.

Online resources:

  • LinkedIn Learning: Features over 5,000 courses (and over 130,000 videos) in popular fields like web design, web development, IT, education/instruction, media production, and business. Materials are available in seven languages and certificates of completion are issued for every course.
  • Virtual library: Fix a car, study for the GRE, learn a new language, write a grant, research your own history, and more.

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Article Information

Updated Jul 01, 2022 10:48 AM
Published Jun 15, 2022 10:10 AM