When you need a break from studying or just something to do besides binging Netflix, heading to the theater or the campus Starbucks are classics, but movies and coffee can get expensive quick. So here are 8 free things to do near UA when you’re low on cash. Grab some friends or go alone, either way you won’t have to spend a cent.
1. Walk A Dog At Metro Animal Shelter
You can’t always have a furry companion of your own in college, but sometimes you just need to cuddle a cute doggo. Head over to Happy Hour at Tuscaloosa Metro Animal where you can check out time with a dog for a few hours. It’s a win-win; the dogs need exercising and college students need de-stressing.
Take your new friend to play in the park or for a stroll at the Riverwalk. The shelter has Happy Hour Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 12-4PM, and all you need to participate is a valid driver’s license. The cuteness factor alone makes it one of the best free things to do near UA.
2. Go For A Hike At The Arboretum
When looking for free things to do, parks are an obvious choice. The UA Arboretum is a 60-acre park just a ten minute drive from campus. It features plenty of walking trails and gardens perfect for when you’ve been holed up cramming for an exam or writing a paper, and a salad you had postmated to your door is the closest you’ve been to nature in a week.
The arboretum is open every day from 8AM until sunset. Pack a picnic and spend a few hours enjoying Alabama’s natural beauty. If any of the flowers or trees pique your interest, the arboretum staff can tell as much as you want to know about them. The arboretum accepts donations, but admission is always free.
3. Go To A Creative Writing Reading
The University of Alabama has a big creative writing program, and the students have frequent readings at various locations around Tuscaloosa. They do readings of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction by both undergraduate and graduate writers so no matter what you’re interested in, there’s probably a reading you’ll like.
It’s a great way to support local writers take in some of that culture you’re supposed to be getting in college. To find readings check the bulletin boards in Morgan Hall or the UA English website. As a bonus there’s often free food and drink at these event, making this one of the best free things to do near UA.
4. Catch A Free Movie At The Ferg
Going to the movies is not cheap. Between paying for your ticket, popcorn, and a drink, it can easily cost over $20. Luckily, there’s another option for UA students. The Ferguson Center holds a free movie night every couple of weeks including popcorn and drinks. In fact, the Ferg is one of the best resources when you’re on the hunt for free things to do.
Feel free to bring as many friends as you want; the Ferg has a big-screen theater so you won’t have to compete for space around a TV. You also don’t have worry about the showings being boring or old releases (although they will sometimes show classics–Legally Blonde anyone?) Some recent listings include Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and Spiderman: Far From Home. Check the Ferguson Center website for exact dates and times.
5. Attend An Event At Tuscaloosa Public Library
Because students at UA have access to the university library, many tend to overlook Tuscaloosa Public Library. But when you’re looking for free things to do near UA, this should be one of the first places you look. TPL routinely holds free events including workshops, booktalks, and movie screenings.
Some recent examples include ghost stories told by a state historian, and a bullet journaling workshop–perfect activities for anyone whose favorite holiday is Halloween or has been meaning to get more organized. TPL lists their upcoming events on their website.
6. Go To International Coffee Hour
It’s no secret that UA has lots of international students, but it’s easy to see these students in class or around campus without ever getting to know them. Change that by going to International Coffee Hour on the UA campus! It’s a free event held every week.
You’ll have the chance to hangout and chat with loads of interesting people you might not otherwise get to know, plus who can turn down free coffee and snacks? This is also a great choice if you’re interested in studying abroad but not sure where you want to go; it’s a great time to ask some of the students and staff about their study abroad experiences. International Coffee Hour is held on Fridays from 11:30AM-1:00PM.
7. Go To A Concert Downtown
Music is a big part of college life. It gets you through long study sessions and keeps you awake as you trek across the quad at 9AM. Live music is often expensive, though. The city of Tuscaloosa can come to the rescue. It runs a concert series called Live at the Plaza. It’s held at Government Plaza and features local bands. Bring a blanket and enjoy some live music downtown. The series is only held in the fall, but there are usually a few free music concerts in the spring and summer months as well. It’s a great free activity near the UA campus.
8. Visit The Tuscaloosa River Market and River Walk
The River Market opens at 7AM every Saturday, and yes, okay, it does cost money if you want to buy any of the delicious produce or homemade baked goods the vendors sell, but, even if you don’t buy anything, it’s a great way to spend a Saturday morning. Many of the vendors are happy to give out free samples, and you can peruse the market before taking walking along the river to Manderson Landing. When it comes to free things to do near UA, the River Walk is a perfect way to relax and even get in some exercise. If you go early enough, you might see the UA crew team practicing on the Black Warrior River.