It’s the season your kids have been waiting for, so how will you maximize the long lazy days of summer with your family? Celebrate the carefree season to its fullest with these outdoor summer activities and adventures your whole family will enjoy.
Back to Nature Summer Activities
Trailblazing – Head to a local, state or national park and make a day of nature hiking. Before you go, make a list of things for your family to find and identify, such as a black oak tree, woodpecker holes, a garter snake or a raccoon paw print. Carry a backpack with binoculars, sunscreen, visors or sunglasses and plenty of water and snacks. Don’t forget your hiking shoes and a lightweight jacket in case the shade becomes cool.
Ride ‘em, cowboy – You don’t have to be a horse owner to enjoy the pleasure of riding one of these majestic beings. Visit your nearby horse rental stables and catch the sunset on horseback. For a stable near you, visit horserentals.com. Make sure your children are provided a helmet for their safety before you ride.
Z is for zoo – Summer wouldn’t be summer without a trip to the zoo. Check out animals at one of the many zoos that have created natural, spacious settings and teach your kids the importance of these habitats. Check the schedule for animal presentations, and don’t miss the petting zoo where youngsters can walk and talk with the animals and feed them.
The perfect peach – Perk up those taste buds because peaches are now in season. Round up the family and head to the orchard for a day of fruit-filled fun. When you get the peaches home, work together cleaning and pitting them and preparing them for shortcake, smoothies and fresh peach pie.
Water, Water Everywhere Summer Activities
Beach bummin’ – Load up the beach ball, buckets and blankets, and get ready for a day at the beach. For added fun, take along goggles, snorkels and fins for underwater exploration.
Wet your whistle … and more – Spend a smoldering summer day cooling off at one of the many water wonderlands. Your family can swoosh down waterslides, catch the human-made waves and tube around narrow canals. Before you go, ask about age and height requirements and what activities are available for the younger set. Also, don’t forget to protect your family’s skin. Apply sunscreen throughout the day.
A trip downstream – Canoeing is a fun-filled family adventure for all ages. Look for canoe rentals on a clear river, and take a refreshing dip when the day heats up. Carry belongings such as your wallet, keys and snacks in a waterproof bag that floats. Tipping over isn’t uncommon (although it can easily be avoided if caution is exercised), but can be half of the fun. Be sure to give the kids plenty of opportunities to paddle and steer.
Ride the waves – If you don’t have an ocean nearby, don’t despair. You can likely find plenty of wave action at a wave pool in your own community or nearby. These pools often supply tubes and rafts for riding the waves. Call in advance to find out. If they don’t offer these amenities, ask if you can bring your own.
Backyard water blast – Plenty of cool fun can be had right in your own backyard. Make it a family tradition to have an annual water spree. Fill water balloons and play a game of catch. Or hook up the sprinklers for a refreshing game of tag. Don’t forget to fill up the squirt guns and super soakers to ensure everyone stays drenched. Then take a refreshing break in a wading pool.
Putt around the lake – You don’t have to live on a lake or own a boat. Contact your nearby marinas, lakeside stores and resorts to find out where you can rent a pontoon or motorboat for a cruise around the lake.
Your Own Backyard Summer Activities
Under the stars – Take full advantage of the peaceful summer nights and camp out in your backyard. Kick off the evening by watching the sunset. Then build a bonfire (if it’s permitted in your area), roast marshmallows and gaze at the stars. Bring along your guide to the stars and see what you can spot: the Little Dipper, Hercules or Sagittarius.
Croquet champs – Set up this outdoor game the whole family can play. Then hold a summer’s end family croquet match. Give handicaps to each family member based on their most recent scores for a game, so it’s fair to everyone.
Up, up and away – Is the wind hampering your fun? It won’t be for long. Make the most of that breeze and get your kite up in the air.
Step right up – Organize a backyard carnival to raise funds for your favorite charity. The whole family will have a ball putting on this event. Hang posters in local businesses and submit a news release to your local radio station and newspaper. Ask friends and neighbors to help staff the booths. Then set up games such as a bean bag toss or number wheel, a baked goods stand, fortune telling, face painting and refreshments.
Green thumbs – Make summer gardening a family affair. Ask each member to choose a favorite vegetable to plant. If you’re getting a late start, look for starter plants that have already sprouted. Work together to get the garden ready and plant it. Then give each person his or her own responsibility for keeping it up: watering, pulling weeds, picking ripe produce, cleaning it and preparing it to eat or store.
Swiss family, who? – What’s a backyard without a hideout or special place to kick back? Younger kids will thrill at building a treehouse or fort. Older kids will look forward to a covered hangout, such as a gazebo, for visiting with friends. Whatever you make, have the whole family pitch in. Small children can feel a part of the project by carrying small materials, dispensing nails and occasionally swinging the hammer with close supervision.
Out and About Summer Activities
Dancin’ in the street – Summer abounds with fairs and festivals along river-fronts and in the streets. Enjoy live music, new foods, boating and ski shows, magic acts and arts and crafts. Look for upcoming festivals online or in the entertainment section of your newspaper, pick up an event guide from your state travel bureau or the local chamber of commerce and check out Washington Parent’s great family-friendly calendar of events.
Batter up – Family fun centers offer a variety of recreation for the whole family. Get ready to practice your batting swing, holler “fore,” speed around the race track, bump another boat or have some wacky golfing fun.
Recycled treasures – Join the craze and spend the day rummaging for treasures. This is an excellent way for kids to get the most out of their limited earnings and teach them the importance of recycling and how to get the best value for their money.
Summer sights – Places and things to see during the summer are abundant, from checking out the big city with its tall skyscrapers, old architecture and murals and art displays, to viewing the wonders of nature from sand dunes and mountains to waterfalls and shorelines.
Performing arts in the park – Unwind listening to a summer concert in the park or taking in a movie under the stars. These events aren’t always well-publicized, so contact area park authorities for a summer schedule.
Big wheels and small – Paved trails are popping up everywhere: in parks, along riverbanks and even through many towns. Pull out your bikes and in-line skates and take advantage of these smooth paths. For a better workout and to keep everyone moving at an equal pace, have small children ride bikes while older ones and parents push off on their blades.
Coasters, cars and Ferris wheels – A trip to a theme park can be the highlight of the season. If your kids are at different ride levels, invite another family or two with children similar in age to your own. Then divide up so everyone can get the most out of the day. Meet up for lunch and dinner to swap kids, so all adults get time with each age group.
Park play – Take your kids for a picnic and an afternoon at the park. Scout your area for an updated park with a large, enclosed fort-style playground. Bring along a playmate for your child and they’ll be content for some time. Don’t forget to bring your reading to catch up on.