Unlock Your Social Circle: The Ultimate Virginia Guide to Free & Cheap Places to Make Friends in 2023

Unlock Your Social Circle: The Ultimate Virginia Guide to Free & Cheap Places to Make Friends in 2023

Photo courtesy of Musicbox Karaoke Lounge

By Aila Boyd

July 24, 2023

Summer is a time of endless possibilities, and Virginians know how to make the most out of the season. However, it can be an isolating time if you don’t have someone to experience it with. 

If you’re looking to make new friends and enjoy the warm weather without breaking the bank, we’ve got you covered. Check out our guide to dozens of cheap or free places where you might make a friend in 2023.

Concerts in the Park

Going to a concert in the park is a great summer activity where you can meet new friends with similar musical tastes. The Fairfax County Park Authority’s Summer Entertainment Series is worth checking out if you like music. This year’s series spans 18 locations and a total of 183 live performances. All performances are free. There will be wine and beer available at certain performances, including a performance from Steely Dan tribute band Countdown to Ecstasy on July 22 and Bruce in the USA, a Springsteen tribute band set to perform on Aug. 5, both of which will be at the Arrowbrook Centre Park

Salem hosts a Salem After Five concert series on Friday nights that runs through August. It features various bands and food trucks. Tickets only cost $5 and proceeds benefit local charities. Upcoming performances include Five Dollar Shake on July 14 and The Kings on Aug. 4.

Fitness Classes

Working out is so much more fun when you have someone to do it with. Try hitting up a local exercise class to meet new fitness-minded friends. Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation maintains an extensive list of the various local fitness classes being offered, including Zumba, Pilates, and CXWORX. With a branch in nearly every corner of the commonwealth, the YMCA is also a great low-cost option. Find your nearest Y here.

Skateparks

If you like shredding but don’t want to do it alone, consider spending the afternoon at a local skatepark where you can show off your moves and commune with the like-minded. The Rotary Centennial Riverfront Skatepark in Lynchburg is a 14,000-square-foot complex with a street course and bowl. 

Those in Richmond should check out the Richmond Area Skateboard Alliance, a nonprofit group dedicated to promoting the activity. Its members are an eclectic bunch, ranging from elementary school teachers to professional fabricators. Charlottesville also has a vibrant skateboard community that you can check out at the Charlottesville Skate Park.

Volunteer

Unlock Your Social Circle: The Ultimate Virginia Guide to Free & Cheap Places to Make Friends in 2023

Photo courtesy of Serve the City Peninsula

Consider making a friend while benefiting your community by volunteering. Norfolk residents should look to the handy list of volunteer opportunities the city maintains, like the Norfolk Animal Care Center, where you can feed and clean cats and dogs. No matter what area of the state you’re in, there’s likely an animal shelter that would love to have your help. 

Serve the City Peninsula is a robust volunteer group to check out if you’re in the coastal part of the commonwealth. It focuses on improving the community through acts of kindness. If you’re in Fairfax and want to get involved but don’t know where to look, Volunteer Fairfax has you covered. It can help connect you with nonprofit organizations based on your availability and interests. Additional volunteer opportunities can be found at VolunteerMatch, which connects nonprofits with eager volunteers.

Environmental Groups

Unlock Your Social Circle: The Ultimate Virginia Guide to Free & Cheap Places to Make Friends in 2023

Photo courtesy of Citizens’ Climate Lobby – Charlottesville Chapter

Those who care deeply about climate change may be interested in helping the planet and meeting a new friend at the same time. A good place to start is the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. There are chapters in 12 localities throughout the commonwealth, including Fairfax County and Charlottesville. CCL activities include hosting community education events focused on global warming, holding meetings with elected officials, writing letters, and screening films. Keep Norfolk Beautiful is another group to consider. It focuses on recycling and reducing litter.

Bowling

Unlock Your Social Circle: The Ultimate Virginia Guide to Free & Cheap Places to Make Friends in 2023

Photo courtesy of Lee-Hi Lanes

Who doesn’t love bowling? Consider joining a local bowling league to meet new people and channel your competitive energy. Lee-Hi Lanes in Salem has a number of summer leagues worth checking out. Staunton Lanes in Staunton offers both social and competitive leagues, including ones for church groups, men, women, children, and seniors. The Sunday Funday league at 3:30 p.m. is worth considering. 

Board Games

Board games are an excellent way to meet new people. You don’t have to worry about awkward small talk, you can just focus on the details of the game. Midlothian’s Unplugged Games Café is a unique operation. You pay a $6-$8 Play Pass fee and get access to the café’s large game library. You can play as many games as you like while also enjoying a burger or slice of cake. Check out upcoming events like the Unmatched Tournament on July 16 or Blood on the Clocktower on July 31. Roll With It Board Game Café & Bar in Virginia Beach has a similar setup.  

Bingo

Bingo is a great low-stakes activity to do while mingling with new people. Bingo At Chestnut Hall holds games every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in Newport News. If you’re in Virginia Beach, check out Centerville Bingo on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. Beer also pairs well with bingo, which is why Bingo Beer Company in Richmond is worth looking into, as the establishment holds regular bingo nights. It’s right there in their name, after all! 

Karaoke

Unlock Your Social Circle: The Ultimate Virginia Guide to Free & Cheap Places to Make Friends in 2023

Photo courtesy of Freddie’s Beach Bar & Restaurant

There’s no better way to make new friends than to impress them with your vocal abilities. Try hitting up a karaoke night at a local bar. MusicBox Karaoke Lounge in Falls Church regularly holds open karaoke nights. After enjoying a delicious craft cocktail or two, get up on stage and sing your heart out. 

At Freddie’s Beach Bar & Restaurant in Arlington, every night is karaoke night. Karaoke at the LGBTQ+ establishment normally starts around 8 p.m. and ends around 1:30 a.m., with the occasional game of bingo or drag performance in between. 

Hiking Clubs

Those who like spending countless hours every weekend exploring new trails should consider joining a hiking club. Wanderbirds Hiking Club is a great group to join if you’re in northern Virginia. The group says it’s friendly and welcoming to new members. Meetup is the easiest way to find out what low-cost hikes are coming up, like one on July 16 at Manassas National Battlefield

The Southern Shenandoah Valley Chapter of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club in the Harrisonburg-Staunton-Waynesboro area also holds a variety of hikes each month, most of which are in the George Washington and Jefferson national forests.

Bicycling Clubs

Cycling enthusiasts may want to join one of the many clubs and groups that are devoted to the activity in the commonwealth. The Eastern Virginia Mountain Bike Association focuses on building, riding, and maintaining trails in the southeastern part of Virginia. Cyclists who identify as female in the Roanoke Valley will likely enjoy the sense of camaraderie and engaging rides the Roanoke Valley Riveters curate on a regular basis. 

Public Libraries 

If you’re a bibliophile and want someone to share your passion with, consider hanging out at your local library. There’s nothing more fun than having someone to mull over the details of the latest release from David Baldacci or Jeannette Walls (both of whom reside in the commonwealth). 

Many libraries have book clubs. The Roanoke County Public Library has quite a few of them, in fact, including one that invites participants to share the books they’ve recently read and the ones on their reading list while enjoying refreshments. Henrico County Public Library also has book clubs, including fiction and nonfiction discussion groups. 

Meetup

Don’t worry if none of these ideas resonated with you because you can always start your own affinity club on Meetup.

 

READ MORE: 46 Books to Put on Your Summer 2023 Reading List, According to Our Staff

  • Aila Boyd

    Aila Boyd is a Virginia-based educator and journalist. She received her MFA in writing from Lindenwood University.

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