Be Playful

Being playful in the city

Posted on: 16 April 2008

Photo by moriza.

If you have lived in a city or large town for any period of time, you will have probably noticed how commericialised the city centre has become. If the centre of a city defines the identity of that city’s residents, then it would be true to say that the urban dweller’s primary identity is that of the consumer. Who we are is defined by what we are able to buy.

This means that it is hard to do anything playful in a city without buying something. Shopping, the cinema, restaurants and cafes, the local pub – even some city parks now charge an entry fee.

So, here are some brilliant completely free ways to be playful in the city. As a bonus, many of these ideas subvert the high-pace and the commercialisation of city life.

1. Go on a Zen Walk

Go to a busy place in the city that you like, maybe even somewhere you pass every day. Decide on a short route of about 500 metres (1/4 mile). Walk the route as slowly as you dare, breathe slowly, and let yourself become part of the city space. Pause at the end of your walk to reflect on things you noticed.

2. Go flash-mobbing

Join a large group of people in a synchronised, seemingly random act. If there isn’t a flash-mob group in your area, set one up. For inspiration, there are some great videos on YouTube.

3. Join your local freecycle group

Buck the buying addiction and give stuff away. You’ll also find many of the things you need for free too.

Note: Freecycle does send a lot of emails. I recommend setting up an email filter with a folder dedicated to freecycle.

4. Find a spot you like and read a book

You can get free books on bookmooch, or from your local library.

5. Give someone a smile

On the bus, across the street, in the shopping mall. Most people will look away, but nothing can beat getting your smile returned.

6. Visit a museum

Did you know that it’s completely free to visit all publicly owned museums in the UK, from galleries of art, to museums dedicated to local relics? I love the silence in museums, and they are great places to get inspiration, or to sit quietly and day dream.

7. Do an A-Z walk

Look up the first street (beginning with ‘A’) and the last street (beginning with ‘Z’ or a nearby letter) in the index of a city map. Walk the most direct route from one to the other.

8. Join in with a carnival

Carnivals and festivals have a lively, vibrant atmosphere. Don’t worry about not fitting in. One of my favourite festivals in Manchester is the Muslim celebration of Eid. I wouldn’t feel comfortable joining in, but I love the buzz of the festival atmosphere.

9. Be an insurgent for peace and justice


Photo by kalandraka.

Whether it’s starting a free hugs campaign, offering to spend time with an elderley neighbour, or inviting a homeless person around for a meal, you can start to be the change you wish to see .

Your Thoughts

How have you been playful in the city? What other ways can you think of for being playful? Let me know how you get on if you try any of these.


5 Responses to "Being playful in the city"

wonderful! yes, i have done zen and magic walks in the city, and every single one of them has been absolutely amazing. it’s also beautiful to do this in all the little tucked-away wild spots that every city has. i’ve also participated in free hugs campaigns – have you? they’re a lot of fun.

there are so many things one can do. it would be interesting to turn this into a meme!


Thank you for visiting and for your lovely comment. Do you have any other ideas for free things to do in the city?


oh, there are all kinds of ideas. some of them might be particular to one of the most beautiful cities in the world, vancouver, where i am grateful to live but i’m sure there are similar ones. for example

1) check out community gardens
2) sit in an outdoors cafe and watch the world go by
3) go “urban spelunking” in the city’s forgotten places, like abandoned subway tunnels
4) dance to a busker’s music, out in the street
5) take a busker for coffee and listen to her/his stories
6) wrap little presents and hand them out to pandhandlers

etc etc etc ….

really, this would be a GREAT meme!

isabella moris last blog post..ernesto cardenal: verses from the pluriverse

.. i meant “PANhandlers” (i don’t seem to be able to leave many comments without a typo :))

isabella moris last blog post..ernesto cardenal: verses from the pluriverse

[…] Being playful in the city – for all the urban players out there. […]

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