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June 15, 2009 8:53 PM   Subscribe

What are some fun things to do as a teenager in a small-ish town?

I'm a teenager living in Sarasota, FL, and my friends and I are constantly lamenting how little there is to do in this town. We're bound here for the duration of the summer, and lacking the social amenities of our respective colleges. The main thing people our age seem to do around here is sit around outside a starbucks and waste time, or sit around on the beach and waste time.

For anyone who grew up in this situation, what did you do? What are some fun ways I and my friends can spend time? Especially appreciated would be easy-to-orchestrate activities that can be repeated fairly often. Don't worry about censoring your own experiences or suggestions. References to drug use or other illicit activities aren't going to offend or corrupt.
posted by One Second Before Awakening to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (37 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
 
I like playing kick-the-can outside at night.
posted by you're a kitty! at 8:58 PM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


When I was growing up in a small town, the options were to get high and/or get pregnant, neither of which are awesome things to do if you're as productive as your question makes you sound.

More constructive things to do? Read. Make things. Volunteer. Organize random scavenger hunts. Make small pieces of art and leave them for others to find. Learn to cook together. Relax at the beach (that's not wasting time, in my book!)
posted by runningwithscissors at 9:06 PM on June 15, 2009


Go to Wal-Mart and try to spend as little money as possible while actually buying something. Fruit is usually a good choice if you have no categories you have to fit the items into. We once got a $0.07 cherry tomato.
posted by theichibun at 9:07 PM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


though i didn't grow up in a small-ish town, i didn't enjoy going to the movies more than once a month and was always looking for new things to do. i've no idea if the following things will appeal to you (or if they're possible in your town) but here are some suggestions:

- water fights (water guns, water balloons)

- volunteering (animal shelter, retirement home, community clean-up)

- themed dinner parties (ugly sweater party, black-and-white party, specific food themes)

- create something big together (a few of my friends filmed their own short film; my best friend and i covered a brick wall in her backyard with a collaborative poem that took up most of our day)

- play arcade games, pool, road hockey, basketball; start a team or tournament

- go bowling, mini-golfing, paintballing, or play laser tag

- hold a community car wash & donate the proceeds to charity

- make a list of "movies we always meant to see" as a group, then have a film-fest

- sign up for couchsurfing (couchsurfing.org) if you like the idea, and then show guests your town when they stay with you

- learn to do something you've always wanted to do, and then teach your friends (and have them teach you something they learned) -- origami, knitting, the foxtrot, how to do cat's cradle, how to sign your name in Sign Language

- lay on your bed, or on the grass, and listen to your favourite album from start to finish. really listen.

- plan a scavenger hunt (you can make it as challenging or naughty as you want)

- visit a park and have a "kids' games" day -- play tag, capture the flag, hide and seek, monkey in the middle, etc.

- have a "kids' fun" day wherever -- colour with crayons, blow bubbles, play simple board games and card games, etc.
posted by gursky at 9:09 PM on June 15, 2009 [5 favorites]


When I was in high school in a small town, my friends and I went through phases of playing various party games. It sounds tremendously dorkish and probably was, but we had some hilarious times playing charades, for instance--we played pretty much every Saturday night for several months at one point. We also had weekly penny-ante poker parties for a long time. At some point, somebody baked cookies for one, and after that the hosts would try to out-do each other with fancy snacks. Sometimes we played "Texas rules," which means any cheating you can get away with is OK.

We found that having some focusing activity for the evening staved off the "what to you want to do?" "I don't know, what do you want to do?" kind of stuff. These kinds of activities also are fertile ground for generating the kind of running in-jokes that can get everybody cracking up and redeem those times when you find yourselves on the beach or at Starbucks wasting time.
posted by not that girl at 9:13 PM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


My friends and I had a regular Terrible Movie Night in high school, where we'd rent these awful D-grade horror movies and settle in at someone's house with soda and popcorn and just basically have a live-action Mystery Science Theater making fun of it. This would probably have been even more fun with alcohol, but most of my friends growing up were devoutly Mormon.

Poker night? You could teach yourselves a bunch of odd variations of the game, and it will come in handy over the years. You could also try gin rummy or even learn to play bridge.

You could learn to play bridge and then, being in Florida, go find some senior citizens who would love to kick your ass at it. Then you'd be having fun and maybe doing something nice.

You could make a movie. Come up with a story, cast yourselves, film it, edit it and score it.

You could teach yourselves to cook some fancy dishes, practicing on one another, and at the end of the summer, host an elegant dinner party for your parents to thank them for putting up with you all these years.

You could get involved with volunteering at a local shelter, at Habitat for Humanity, start a tutoring club for kids who need extra help to keep up during summer vacation.
posted by padraigin at 9:15 PM on June 15, 2009


CB tag is what got played in my town. Cells would work just as well. Someone hides their car and everyone else goes looking it. Hide and seek with cars.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:16 PM on June 15, 2009


Why not try to start up some kind of summer-appropriate business? Like - mowing lawns/gardening, house painting, a mini kid-camp (parents bring their kids to a park/your back yard, give you $10/kid, you spend three hours doing arts n' crafts and playing red-light-green-light), high-larious 'Teenagers Doing a Lemonade Stand' (but with awesome drinks and snacks people will want to buy.)

Or you could set some kind of group goal for the end of summer, and you could all work towards throughout the summer - ie train for run/triathlon/hot-dog-eating-contest.

Join (or create) a local chapter of Improv Everywhere.

Join a sports league - ultimate frisbee, soccer, whatever.

Take a fun course - like art, or rock climbing, or something else you'd enjoy doing with your friends.

Go camping.
posted by Kololo at 9:18 PM on June 15, 2009


Dungeons and Dragons
posted by Bonzai at 9:20 PM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Listen to Zaireeka with three other friends' boomboxes.

Make a potato cannon.

Play board games -- Settlers of Catan, etc.

Learn Max/MSP or some other software and start making music, experiment with noise, jam together with laptops.

Refill fire extinguishers with washable non-toxic tempura paint and start painting walls painting giant murals on the ground.
posted by suedehead at 9:21 PM on June 15, 2009


One of my favorites growing up in a town of 6500 people was to travel to the neighboring town of 17,000 and hang out all night at Shari's or Denny's (or some similar establishment) eating pie and drinking coffee until the sun came up.
posted by moojoose at 9:36 PM on June 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


One fall my friends and I made it a mission to see every graveyard we could find or hear of within easy driving distance. There are graveyards all over the place when you start looking for them, if you live in an area that's been settled for a while, and there were usually a few interesting/surprising inscriptions to be found.
posted by frobozz at 9:36 PM on June 15, 2009


This might not be essentially applicable to your situation, but solitude, man. Summer is my respite from the constantly social atmosphere of college.
posted by trotter at 9:40 PM on June 15, 2009


1. Bootleg from local indigent population
2. Drink said Banana Red MD20/20
3. Go all rebellion
4. Rinse
5. Repeat.


Honestly though I can't think of anything to do.
posted by Gravitus at 9:47 PM on June 15, 2009


Do a podcast.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:47 PM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Public access t.v. show, if that's an option. If it's not, make your own shows/films/documentaries and have a festival at the end of the summer.

Get a big bucket of chalk and go create fun, temporary art on your town's sidewalks. (Get pictures.)

Ramen cookoff.
posted by corey flood at 9:49 PM on June 15, 2009


Teach yourselves poi!!!
posted by infinityjinx at 9:54 PM on June 15, 2009


I grew up in a couple of small, Ontario towns with few friends. I remember (cough) volunteering at the library. We used to take the bus on weekends to a bigger city that had record stores. Later we'd play (cough) Dungeons and Dragons to 1AM and go for cheap end of the night wings at a bar. Then more D&D and hash oil 'til dawn. Part time work seemed to eat up a lot of the days, though.

Are you into art at all? Take up drawing and painting. Get some victory brown modeling wax and do some sculptures that you can get cast in bronze. It'll last forever.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:01 PM on June 15, 2009


Find one of these signs outside a local business. Wait for nightfall, then rearrange the letters to spell out something clever. Make bets with your friends about how long it will be until someone notices and changes it back again.

Similar to theichibun's advice, go to a discount store and find something cheap, then get creative with it. As an example, a friend and I once bought a whole bag of rubber salamanders from the fishing supply section of a local store for $1. I'm confident that people are still finding them in unusual places many years later.
posted by tomwheeler at 10:38 PM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Learn how to sail if you don't already. It can be free or cheap depending on where you are.

Start a band
posted by bottlebrushtree at 10:41 PM on June 15, 2009


make a movie
form a band
fuck shit up (but don't hurt anybody)
posted by philip-random at 11:47 PM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


In my small hometown, besides the obligatory get high, drunk, or pregnant, most people did this:

-Be in a band
-Go to Target/Starbucks and sit around
-Audition for a play
-Drive to whatever the closest mall/beach is
-Go urban exploring. (Find abandoned buildings/ghost towns/mines)
-Make a movie
-D&D
-LAN parties
-Movie night
-Ridiculous late-night hangouts in parking lots/local golf courses
-Find out who has the best house (pool, jacuzzi, pool table, low-key parents) and hang there.
posted by JauntyFedora at 11:56 PM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Build the ultimate sandcastle, especially if you're off to some beach-less area for college.
posted by mdonley at 1:06 AM on June 16, 2009


Wow! This is a great question. I am 18, from a small town, and in the middle of trying to find exciting things to do with my friends during our last summer vacation before the army. My suggestions are:

- Climb things and sit on the roof. One of the two high schools in my town has a climb-able roof and we love sitting there, you get a view of all the neighbouring towns.

- Have a dinner party with friends. This sounds stupid, but once we did it one time we had so much fun. Rules are, everyone has to bring something they made, and everyone has to help the host clean up. A lot. It's a lot of fun if you take it a little seriously, like actually setting the table and eating with nice plates and stuff, not just sitting around on the sofa grabbing whatever. Also, if you get wine, it adds a lot of fun to the experience.

- Have bonfires. It's loads of fun to sit with friends in the cool summer evenings around a fire, especially if someone brings a guitar and you have marshmallows.

- Well, my friends and I got hooked on Monopoly. But we can only play it once every few weeks because otherwise it gets very boring. Also, party games are fun.

- When my friend's brother moved out of her house to his own place, we took over his room and made it our hang-out place. We stuffed it with pillows and couches, a mini-fridge, a TV, a playstion with loads of games, a fan for the stuffy days, a boom box, and lots of ash trays (we all smoke).

- I don't know about Sarasota but where I live, the streets tend to be totally empty by 1-2am, so we bought two big buckets of chalk and drew a big mural in the middle of the street. And it actually stayed there for a few days and people saw it, it was cool.

- Intense movie marathons. Like, decide that in one day you're going to watch all three Lord of the Rings films, or all 5 Harry Potter movies, or all the Godfather films, or all the movies Jim Carrey has been in since 1995, or anything really. As long as it drives you crazy near the end, because then you enjoy some good laughs with friends.

- Get a DVD (okay, or youtube, but less fun) of a good stand-up comedian. It's a lot of fun to watch with friends because people tend to laugh out loud more when they're with others, so the whole experience is a lot funnier. Ideas: Bill Hicks, Mitch Hedburg, Chris Rock, Margaret Cho...

- Get high in interesting places. But don't be stupid about it, because getting caught would kind of put a dent in your summer fun.

- Get addicted to starcraft. Seriously, you don't even need to be in the same house, just get it, all of you, and then play online all of you together.

- Go to the beach (also, getting hign on the beach = fun).

- Get a part-time job. It is so much fun to be able to spend your own money over the summer. If you're having trouble finding a job, try babysitting; put ads up, talk to people you know, have your mom talk to her friends, etc.

- Have someone bring a guitar and/or other instruments and make up a song about your group of friends. If you guys have a good sense of humor, it'll turn out really funny and very sentimental.

- email me! We are two people in the same situation but in different countries, so here's wI thought: get all your friends to write something (either something long together or each one writes something short seperately) and I promise my friends and I will reply in similar fashion. If we hit it off, we can turn to snail mail, which is loads of fun.

- Remember that some of the best experiences come through spontaneity, and be open to ideas.

Good luck and I promise to add more if I think of anything.
And remember that what you're doing right now is probably the best high school summer vacation experience you could have, because you're just spending time with your friends - it's not the bars, the movies, the big city places that attract you - it's your pals, and without being overly-kitsch, that's what really counts, and what you'll really remember.
posted by alon at 3:37 AM on June 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


This is a really awesome question, by the way.

As someone in a somewhat similar position (OK, I'm 23, but still...)

-Start a band. Seriously. Quality optional.
-Make your own hookah.
-Make your own hookah and only smoke legal smoking herbs out of it, preferably while sitting with friends somewhere comfortable in a park.
-Learn to longboard with friends. Don't get run over.
-Make skateboard videos. Be original. Quality is optional here, too.
-Go camping.
-Take mushrooms or dose down on acid with friends while camping. Take lots of material to draw/write with. Don't get caught.
-Just get together with friends and draw shit, without taking anything at all.
-Get together with some friends and make some stencils.
-Use said stencils on t-shirts.
-OR use said stencils for graffiti.
-OR go make a mural on a wall. Don't get caught.
-Stay up all night doing sidewalk chalk.
-Bonfires = Awesome.
-Dinner parties. I know wine can be hard to get as a teenager, but eating lots of awesome food and drinking wine with friends (not in a sketchy party situation but actually something somewhat grown-up) is really, really cool.
-Get a camera, start doing lots of photography.
-Do urban exploration.
-Do urban exploration while taking lots of pictures.
-Climb up onto a roof, stay up all night and watch the sunrise. Bringing box wine or smoking weed is optional.1

1If smoking weed, smoke joints. That way if caught one can eat the joint and deny everything, or so I hear.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:55 AM on June 16, 2009


in all seriousness: do not grow up in a small town without participating in a field party at least once*
of course, if the town you are in has more cows than people (as my hometown did) then there's probably no danger of you only attending a field party once.


*warning: field parties are somewhat addictive and may lead to the purloining of construction equipment such as orange barrels and arrow boards as a means of demarcating which particular field the party is in, that night. There's nothing like driving along a secondary road in the middle of nowhere only to encounter a large DETOUR sign directing you into the hayfield.
posted by namewithoutwords at 5:03 AM on June 16, 2009


Physical activity in the day to tire you out. Could be sports, could be labor, could be enjoying the local woods / creeks. Programing projects. Practice cooking weird stuff. Actually learning about the colleges I was going to apply to would have been smart. Write stories.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:58 AM on June 16, 2009


Ooh, been there.
* Fruit drop! We got this idea from Letterman, of course. There was a crummy grocery store near the University that sold expired fruit for cheap (WTF?), so we'd buy rotten cantaloupes or whatever and then drive downtown to a high-ish parking garage and drop them off the top into an alley. Good times.
* Once we drove several hours to the first town we came to in the next state (which turned out to be a ghost town) then turned around and drove back. We took turns reading 'The Phantom Tollbooth' aloud during the trip. We were very bored that night.
* Go to dollar stores/antique stores/resale shops and buy weird things and do funny stuff with it.
* I had a sewing machine, so once we went to a fabric store, bought silly fabric (like Chewbacca fur) and trim, and made goofy clothes out of it.
* We made clothes out of plastic grocery bags once, too.
* Ice blocking: buy block ice, use it as a sled to slide down big hills.
* In the urban exploration vein, we used to take flashlights and a camcorder (which we had to rent, and it was huge--this was the mid-'80s and nobody owned one) to various malls around town and explore the drainage tunnels underneath. They were full of awesome graffiti and random discarded crap.
* Make a slingshot out of surgical tubing and create harmless mayhem with water balloons.
* Find a church or whatever with Bingo Night and play bingo with the old folks.
* "Vandalize" friends' houses in harmless and creative ways--plastic forks, that kind of thing.
* Some friends started a band even though none of them could play instruments. They made joke recordings, we made and put up joke gig fliers, etc.
* Instead of drinking crappy beer all the time, learn to mix interesting cocktails. Cocktails were invented to hide the taste of lousy alcohol, so you don't have to buy the top shelf stuff if you don't have the disposable income for it.
I wish I still had so much free time that I had to come up with activities like the above to fill it!
posted by magicbus at 5:59 AM on June 16, 2009


in all seriousness: do not grow up in a small town without participating in a field party at least once

Please don't do this if there is any chance that you will be affecting someone's livelihood. Farmers have a pretty low margin as it is. There's usually at least one such bash every summer around here that ends up costing the farmer thousands of dollars in cleanup and ruined crops. You don't need to wreck someone else's summer to have fun.

Sorry to be the grumpy old lady...

Back to the topic: If you can afford even a cheap-ish telescope, it would be fun to take it out at night (maybe to a beach party/bonfire?) and see what you can see in the skies.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:50 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Make magazine has gobs of brilliant projects. The kite aerial photography (KAP) project caught my eye recently.
posted by thekiltedwonder at 7:51 AM on June 16, 2009


N'thing start a band. Worked for me.
posted by merocet at 8:05 AM on June 16, 2009


I grew up in Tallahassee, so I can totally feel you on the high school boredom. Some fun things my friends and I liked to do that didn't require much money or preparation:
--Dress up in fancy or ridiculous dresses (including the boys) and go to the grocery store late at night. We never did anything that would get us kicked out of the store, but it was fun to see how shocking this could be to some nice Southern ladies and gentlemen.
--Climb onto the roof of a nearby school, just to hang out. More fun than normal because it was vaguely rule-breaking.
--Sneak into apartment complex pools in the middle of the night to go swimming. This one was awesome, especially in the summer.
--Lots of concerts at the grimy local venues--especially good if you're in the band!
--Camping for a night or two, someplace nearby but far enough away that you're away from the parents for a little while.
--Dinner Parties can be fun too--make everyone dress up and then cook together.
posted by Jemstar at 8:16 AM on June 16, 2009


There are lots of good suggestions so far.

I used to get dragged to Siesta Key as a youngin.

Things that I remember having fun with while I was there:
-kayaking in the intercoastal waterway
-looking for sharks teeth at Venice
-Mote Marine was pretty cool - maybe there would be some volunteer opportunities there?

Things that I would do now:
-take photos at night
-drive around on a scooter
-kayak some more
-play some board games
posted by o0dano0o at 9:25 AM on June 16, 2009


oh and yeah - definitely camping
posted by o0dano0o at 9:26 AM on June 16, 2009


Invisible Rope Prank
posted by raisingsand at 9:49 AM on June 16, 2009


* You're in a touristy area, yes? Maybe pretend to be tourists and do all the things that tourists do. You can either do this straight ("okay, fine, let's go see if the Twine Museum really is worth the fuss") or you can go even further and pretend to be tourists -- dress in the tacky clothes, take pictures of everything, even come up with a backstory together so you can strike up conversations with people about how you're all a school group from Canada or someplace.

* Bowling.

* Miniature golf.

* Road trips. Have only the vaguest ideas of a destination ("....Drive east until we hit the coast, maybe?") or a concept ("let's see where we get if we only ever make left turns!" or "how about we go to THAT road and just follow it for an hour and see where we end up?"), and the willingness to stop or change plans en route if you just see something cool ("okay, hold everything -- there's a guy up ahead selling pig statues made of cookie dough. Pull over.") Stop when you feel like it, check out what you feel like, bring the ultimate driving music.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:02 AM on June 16, 2009


Drive around drive around drive around. It's pretty much what my friends and I do. Explore your city, follow every major road until they end, whatever. Works best at night.
posted by MadamM at 12:22 PM on June 16, 2009


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