Updated on 12.17.10

Out With The Old, In With The New: Find Out What’s Going On in your Community

Trent Hamm

Throughout the month of December, The Simple Dollar is posting a daily series focusing on specific activities you can do right now to set the stage for a great 2011. Out with the old, in with the new.

21. Find out what’s going on in your community.

I am constantly astounded as to the wide variety of activities going on in my own community and in surrounding communities. Quite simply, there are more interesting activities going on than I possibly have time to participate in or attend. Ultimate frisbee leagues. Free concerts. Free golf. Free lectures.

Once upon a time, I always felt like there was either nothing to do or that the only activities I could do outside of the home were expensive – go to a movie, go to a club, or something like that. In truth, though, most communities are teeming with things to do.

You just have to find them.

Here are some of the techniques I use to keep abreast of the events going on in my own community.

Use the internet Search the internet for your town name (and nearby communities, too) and the words “community calendar” or “activities” and see what you find. Many cities maintain a web site that includes some sort of community calendar and, beyond that, local newspapers often have similar pages as well that note upcoming local events.

That, of course, leads right into my second tip…

Check the local newspaper Local newspapers are usually treasure troves of event listings of all kinds. Browse through a local newspaper or two to see what sort of events are mentioned. Some newspapers – like the one my parents subscribed to as a kid – actually have a “community calendar” section loaded with interesting stuff.

Visit the websites of nearby colleges and universities If you live near a large university, you’re in luck – most of them have an abundance of activities available to the wider community. I live fairly near Iowa State University, so I regularly attend lectures and other events held there in the Union. You can find out what’s going on there by simply visiting the website of those universities and colleges and reading their calendar of events.

Stop by the post office Many activities are posted on the bulletin board at your local post office. At the same time, the local postmaster will often have great ideas as to where to go to find more event listings.

Visit the parks department In many towns and cities, the parks and recreation department runs ongoing activities of all kinds, from sports leagues you can participate in to youth leagues you can coach and referee in.

Stop by city hall The city hall in many towns often has a community calendar on display, listing activities in the town. Even if such a calendar isn’t available there, asking the people working at city hall for further ideas can be a great boost to your search.

Stop by the library The library in many towns offers group meetings, lectures, and activities of various kinds. Stop in there, check out their calendar, and see what’s on offer.

If you do all of these things, I virtually guarantee you’ll have a giant list of low-cost entertainment and activities in your community, most of them free and most of them completely outside of your bubble of awareness. From that list, I’m willing to bet there’s quite a few activities you will enjoy.

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  1. SEC Lawyer says:

    One reason that I like this blog is the quaint tone of many columns. This advice given by Trent is appropriate for small-town living. It doesn’t fit big-city life as well. Here’s how I figure out what’s going on in the city in which I choose to spend most of my time: I take the elevator down forty floors and step out onto the street. Then I walk to my office a mile away.

    As the “walkability” of my neighborhood is rated “100” by the computer (on a scale of zero to 100), basically everything that a person could possibly want or need is encountered on my thirty-minute stroll. (That includes a beach and a park, by the way.) I also read the daily newspaper and the (free) weekly newspaper because . . . (big sigh) . . . there are “a few” things (not many) that happen more than a mile away. But basically it’s as easy as walking to or from my office. This is in fact why we spend most of our time in the city.

    Eventually we will live full-time in the country, and then Trent’s list will make sense for us.

  2. lurker carl says:

    This advice is absolutely geared for those living in cities and the surrounding ‘burbs.

    When you live in a small town or out in the countryside; no colleges, no libraries, no Chamber of Commerce, no parks, no museums. The local newspaper covers 5 counties. Internet access may be choosing between nothing or dial up.

    But anyone who doesn’t know what’s happening in the community is either newly transplanted or a hermit. When you go to church, enroll children in school, join the local hunting club/antique tractor society/old car club/farm bureau, use services from the local businesses, attend auctions – you’ll learn about everything and everyone in the area. And everyone will learn everything about you.

  3. Debbie M says:

    I find out events from my local weekly paper (such as open-air plays and concerts, 5K runs), the library (all kinds of stuff like lectures and practice sessions in a foreign language), book stores (signings), and a local university’s daily calendar (lectures, music, poetry readings, plays, movies, sports). And google (pick-up games). I’ve seen children’s play groups advertised at grocery stores, too.

    (I am in a smallish city with bad mass transportation; I live fairly centrally but I recall getting a walkability score of around 50.)

    You can also start your own group and throw your own parties of course. Invite people over to carve pumpkins, make gingerbread houses, tie-dye some shirts, have an informal music recital or art show, etc. This works anyplace with friends in commuting distance from a summer camp in the middle of nowhere to a mid-city high-rise dorm.

  4. Interested Reader says:

    I agree with SEC Lawyer some of these are very specific to small towns. Talk to your post master? I know my city must have one, but we have 8 branches, I’m not going to go to one and bug employees so I can find free stuff to do.

    Same thing with city Hall. I’ve been to my City Hall — there’s no bulletin board. There are a lot of employees doing their jobs but entertainment finder is not one of them.

    I’m also confused about why looking online is suggested for some things but not others. My newspaper has a community calendar – online. My parks & rec has a list of events -online. Same thing with the library. No needt to waste time running around looking for bulletin boards.

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