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The Ultimate Summer Bucket List: Your Family’s Guide to the Best Summer Ever

The Ultimate Summer Bucket List: Your Family’s Guide to the Best Summer Ever

Once school’s out and the regular activities start to wind down for summer, it’s time for a more leisurely lifestyle — if only for a few months. Make the most of your time together over the next few months by enjoying some activities you’ve never considered. From painting rocks to roller skating, here are 51 super-fun family bonding opportunities that will make this one the best summer ever!

Catch fireflies

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We’ll start with the obvious. This classic summer pastime is fun for the whole family. Fireflies typically emerge in late May and early June depending on where you live. Save jars throughout the year so you can share with friends and neighbors who join in the fun. Poke holes in the lid, add some grass, and enjoy them for a while before bedtime. Bonus points for setting them free before you turn in.

Have a picnic

Happy family having picnic in park on sunny summer day

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Whether you pack a cooler or you have a proper picnic basket, this classic warm-weather activity is one children love. Make some sandwiches, and pack some chips, fresh fruit and some drinks, and you have the makings for the perfect picnic. Don’t forget the blanket!

Take a bike ride

©"Family bike ride" by Lars Plougmann is licensed under BY-SA 2.0. - Original / License

If your littles are too little to ride their own bike, grab a trailer to tow behind you or add a baby seat to your bike. For those who are able to ride, load up the bikes, and head to a greenway or empty parking lot to ensure you can all ride safely without fear of cars. And don’t forget helmets for all!

Camp out in your backyard


Everyone should camp in a tent at least once in their lives. If your family hasn’t yet taken a camping trip, consider camping out in your backyard. Pitch a tent, build a fire, roast s’mores and fall asleep to the sounds of crickets. It’s the ideal summer bucket list item. Plus, if anyone gets scared or can’t sleep, you’re steps from their bed.

Make homemade ice cream


There’s nothing like a cold ice cream cone to cool you off on a hot summer’s day. The only thing better is if it’s ice cream you made at home. A few simple ingredients are all you need to whip up this tasty treat. Do a quick online search for “homemade ice cream recipes” and see where it takes you.

Create a mural with sidewalk chalk

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You don’t need to be Picasso to enjoy flexing some artistic fun. Grab a big box of sidewalk chalk and let everyone loose to create their own work of art. If you want to get fancy, though, grab some painter’s tape and make a pattern. Have the kids color in the blank spaces and see what sort of magic mural you can create!

Play in the sprinkler

©"Back Yard Sprinkler Play" by Monkey Mash Button is licensed under BY-SA 2.0. - Original / License

This classic summer activity is one the whole family can enjoy. Plus, you’ll simultaneously water the lawn while you’re having fun. Two-for-one! Get on your bathing suits and fire up the hose. It’s time for everyone to get wet!

Go berry picking

©MomsWhoThink /Ashley Haugen

Depending on where you live, there is likely some sort of berry in season — especially in the early summer months. Do a search for “berry picking near me” online, and find a local farm that invites people to come berry pick. Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries — they’re all up for grabs. Bonus points for whipping up a fresh pie with the kids when you get home.

Visit a local landmark you’ve never been to


The odds are likely high that there is a park, museum or other family-friendly attraction in your town you’ve yet to visit. Pick the place and set the date, and then mark that destination off your bucket list.

Create squirt gun-painted t-shirts

©"Ready Aim Paint" by Dave Hogg is licensed under BY 2.0. - Original / License

Grab the smocks and rally the troops. This activity is definitely outdoors only, but oh-so-fun. Grab some squirt guns, paint and t-shirts from your local dollar store, and hang up a tarp. Fill the guns with paint, hang the tee on a hanger in front of the tarp, and let the kids take aim. See what sort of creative masterpiece they create, and they’ll enjoy wearing it all summer long!

Have movie night

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Whether you pile up on the couch with a big bowl of popcorn or you have an outdoor projector and a white sheet, movie night is always a fun respite after a day of playing in the summer sun. Find a movie no one in your family has seen yet, and after dinner and bath, go ahead and press play.

Read a book as a family

Cozy dreamy people enjoy free time lie carpet floor dad daddy read book mom mommy three small preteen kids listen in house indoors

©Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock.com

Select a popular title that no one has read before, and settle in to knock out a chapter a night. Not only is it providing some family togetherness, but it’s also keeping brains engaged during the summer break. Plus it’s fun to discuss the book over dinner. Bonus points for taking turns who reads each chapter.

Get wet in a nearby waterfall

Children playing in waterfall.The refreshing of the israel children's family when they play the water.

©tong patong/Shutterstock.com

If you want a break from the pool but still want to get wet, head to a nearby waterfall. A quick search for “waterfalls near me” will likely bring back some options, depending on where you live. It may be a short hike, so wear appropriate shoes, and pack a backpack with bug spray, sunscreen, towels and snacks, and off you go.

Take a staycation

©Zoran Zeremski/Shutterstock.com

Kids overwhelmingly seem to enjoy spending the night anywhere other than home. Book an overnight stay at a local hotel or Airbnb, and enjoy the gift of a change of scene. Bring some board games or cards, and disconnect … together!

Throw a backyard BBQ

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Plan what is perhaps the ultimate summertime experience: a backyard BBQ. Have the kids help plan the menu, create the guest list and decorate. Invite your nearest and dearest to enjoy some burgers and dogs and perhaps some cornhole and Slip N Slide fun.

Visit a waterpark

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There is perhaps no other more summery activity than spending a day at the waterpark. Whether it’s an all-out water amusement park complete with a lazy river or it’s simply a wave pool and a waterslide or two, this one is guaranteed to be a hit with the family. Pack your towels and sunscreen and plan to grab lunch at the snack bar. This one will no doubt rank highly on your family fun list.

Take a day trip


Get out the map and draw a 1- to 2-hour radius. Identify a town or two where you’ve never been. Do some research to find out what goes on there, and then load up the car and head in that direction. You may find some interesting shops on a historic downtown Main Street, or perhaps you’ll stumble upon the perfect playground at the city park.

Visit your local zoo


What kid doesn’t love a trip to the zoo? Before you go, look online and see if there are any new exhibits to explore. Map out your route once there, and depending on the size of the zoo, make a list of must-see animals in case you don’t have time to take it all in. Bonus points for making an animal scavenger hunt list to keep little ones engaged.

Have a craft day


Break out all of your craft supplies and perhaps fill in some blanks with a quick trip to your local craft store. Once you have everything out and organized, let everyone grab what appeals to them and get to work creating. Remove any boundaries and let imaginations run wild.

Fly a kite

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When the warm summer winds whip up, swing by your local toy store and grab a kite. Then take to an open field and enjoy the wonders of this age-old activity.

Cook something


Whether you want to just whip up a batch of cookies or you want to create a complete menu for the family to make together, there is perhaps no more meaningful activity than time spent in the kitchen. Little ones love to stir and pour, while older kids can keep their math skills sharp by measuring and calculating cook times. Get out the cookbooks and see what sounds tasty.

Build a fort

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It’s a well-known and documented fact: kids love forts of any kind. So raid your linen closet and get out all the sheets and blankets you have, and turn the living room or playroom into one big fort. The only problem here is they may never want to take it down. Bonus points for sleeping in the fort overnight.

Visit a farm

©Irina Wilhauk/Shutterstock.com

Do a quick online search and identify a nearby farm that invites visitors to come pet the animals and experience the property. Many farms also offer summer day camp experiences, so this is a great activity to determine if that sort of summer camp is the right fit for your child.

Go roller skating

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Lace up your skates and take to the wooden rink for this age-old activity everyone loves. Many roller rinks have devices that help beginners learn to find their balance on wheels. And once they’ve got the hang of it, they’ll be skating circles around you.

Visit a state or national park

©Matt Kremkau/Shutterstock.com

Every state has a state park, and some states are lucky enough to have national parks too. Get out in your neck of the woods and explore your nearest state park. Pack a picnic to enjoy during a break from hiking. Visit the park’s website before you go to determine what sort of wildlife or natural features you may see while there.

Play a new board game

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Every family has their favorites, but branch out and try a new board game. Whether you purchase one at the local toy store or you borrow one at a friend’s suggestion, this is a fun way to broaden your family entertainment horizons. And while there are plenty of classics, like Life or Monopoly, there are always new options popping up as well.

Visit a new-to-you playground


You likely have your favorite neighborhood playground, but this summer, make a point of visiting a different playground your family has never experienced. You may find new types of play equipment and make new friends too!

Have a puppet show


The joy of make-believe is never more present than when playing with puppets. Whether you have a cardboard box with cut-out window or your kids simply crouch behind the couch to perform, you’ll no doubt delight in the storylines that unfold. Bonus points for making your own puppets out of socks or construction paper and popsicle sticks.

Have a dance party


Every kid loves to get their wiggles out. Put on some groovy tunes and you have an instant dance party. This is also a fun way to introduce different types of music from different eras. See which types of tunes resonate most with your children.

Paint pottery

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This bucket list item could go one of two ways. You can either hit up a local paint-your-own pottery place, where your child can pick out the item they want to paint. In places like this, you paint the item and then leave it with the business to fire, and then you pick it up a week or two later. Another more affordable option is purchasing some plain ceramic pots at a local garden center, and breaking out the paints and paint brushes at home. Either way, you’ll have a personalized keepsake to enjoy at home.

Set up a lemonade stand

©"lemonade stand!" by amy.gizienski is licensed under BY 2.0. - Original / License

It’s a childhood rite of passage. Set up a card table and some chairs in front of your home, and have your kids create a sign announcing their new business. Then gather the supplies you’ll need to provide a refreshing cup of lemonade to each paying customer. Young entrepreneurs will revel in the profits of their hard work.

Create an obstacle course

Boy jump over strings passing course of obstacles

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With the rise in interest in shows like “American Ninja Warrior,” kids are more interested than ever in re-creating similar obstacle courses at home. Set up the ultimate obstacle course for your family — indoors or out (both?) — and then show the kids how to successfully complete it. Invite some neighborhood kids for a little friendly competition. And for the ultra-competitive family, time each child and dole out awards for first, second and third place.

Paint (and plant) rocks

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This is a pay-it-forward-type activity that just brings a bit of joy to others’ lives. Gather some rocks — either from a gravel lot or purchase some smoother stones from a garden center or craft store — and some paints. Paint each rock with a fun picture or friendly phrase. When they’re all dry, plant the rocks around your neighborhood for others to discover. It’s the easiest way to anonymously brighten someone’s day!

Create and bury a time capsule

©"time capsule project" by woodleywonderworks is licensed under BY 2.0. - Original / License

Commemorate this summer for eternity by creating a time capsule with your family. Have each member gather an item or two that is meaningful to them or that represents this particular time in their lives. Store the items in a box or other sturdy container, and then bury the time capsule on your property. Mark the spot where it’s buried or otherwise document its location so they can come back and dig it up in 20, 30, 40 or more years and share its contents with their children.

Visit a botanical garden

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Enjoy a colorful experience in nature when you visit your local botanical garden. Explore all that’s in bloom and discuss the various qualities of the plants and flowers you discover.

Build a bird feeder


You don’t have to be a master carpenter to create a comfortable feeder for our avian friends. The tried-and-true success of a pinecone with peanut butter and birdseed can be the perfect way to invite some birds into your yard.

Race go-karts

father and daughter driving go kart on the track

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If you have a child with a need for speed, this one is going to fast become their favorite summer memory. Find a place near you with a child-appropriate track and both single- and double-seater karts so younger ones can ride with an adult.

Attend a sports game

©"Flying Disc - Ultimate Frisbee - World Games 2005 (1)" by Raimond Spekking is licensed under BY-SA 4.0. - Original / License

Whether it’s a minor-league baseball game or a local rugby team taking to the field, an afternoon or evening taking in a local sporting event is a sure bet. It’s also a fun way to introduce kids to sports they may not be aware of. Ultimate Frisbee, we’re looking at you!

Take it to the river

©"Tubing james River state park-aug24" by vastateparksstaff is licensed under BY 2.0. - Original / License

A river adventure is always a fun way to spend a summer day. Depending on their ages, kids can enjoy the water via inner tube, kayak or canoe. And don’t forget life vests and bug spray!

Climb trees

©"The kids climb a tree" by Sumner_ is licensed under BY 2.0. - Original / License

The pinnacle of childhood memory-making, scaling a tree and enjoying a snack or some idle chit-chat is the way to go. Explore a park and look for low-hanging limbs that support the weight of your child. For younger ones, make sure you’re nearby to catch them if they fall.

Play a classic game of tag

Mother and children running and playing in front yard

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A perfect activity once the sun has started to set and the heat lets up, every kid loves a game of tag — or a variation thereof, such as freeze tag. An adult should volunteer to be “it” first to set the stage for a fun and fair game. But after you count to 10, all bets are off!

Do some yoga

Young mother and daughter doing gymnastics and stretching in the city park on sunset

©Dmytro Gilitukha/Shutterstock.com

Grab some blankets, towels or yoga mats, and spread out on the lawn. Then look up some kids yoga videos on YouTube to show on your laptop, or share some of your own yoga moves. Kids enjoy the movement and parents may get a moment of zen out of it too!

Visit a local splashpad


For another fun way to cool off, look up your local splash pad destinations. These are great options for little ones who can’t yet swim or those who are cautious about pools, lakes and oceans. Bring a towel and don’t forget the sunscreen!

Make friendship bracelets

©"Friendship Bracelets" by tracilawson is licensed under BY 2.0. - Original / License

Commemorate this special summer by making friendship bracelets for each other. Whether you do intricate thread-woven types or simply thread some beads onto a piece of lanyard, these will be treasured trinkets for a lifetime.

Make homemade popsicles

©"Organic Watermelon Popsicles" by Growing a Green Family is licensed under BY-SA 2.0. - Original / License

Buy or make some juice in any flavor you please. Pour the juice into some plastic cups, top with plastic wrap, and poke popsicle sticks through. (Or make it even easier and purchase some plastic popsicle molds.) Pop them into the freezer, and voila! Custom-made popsicles to cool off with!

Build a fairy garden

©"Fairy Garden" by Monkey Mash Button is licensed under BY-SA 2.0. - Original / License

There are ready-made fairy garden kids at big-box crafter stores. But you can also make your own with parts and pieces found around the house. Either way, this fun activity brings a bit of whimsy as kids love miniatures — and watching plants grow. It’s an all-around win!

Make a windchime

Handmade wind chimes (mobile) of seashells in sunlight

©Kate Garyuk/Shutterstock.com

Every time the wind blows, you’ll be reminded of this fun activity. Plus this can be as basic or advanced as your kids’ capabilities allow.Here’s a great beginner-level option that uses only a few items and requires very little oversight. The sky is truly the limit in terms of materials, so get super creative!

Create and keep a nature journal

©"my nature journal page 1 10-5-07" by jimmiehomeschoolmom is licensed under BY 2.0. - Original / License

Either buy some small notebooks or grab a stack of paper and fold it in half to make small booklets to use as nature journals. In them, you save pretty plants and flowers you discover while out in nature. Draw pictures of birds and bugs you spot, or write a journal entry describing the sounds of nature.

Make a bug hotel

©"Nothe Gardens Bug Hotel" by garryknight is licensed under BY 2.0. - Original / License

Create a fun and stylish place for bugs to take up residence. This can be in a stack of cinder blocks, in a large cardboard box or any other object that you choose. Gather sticks to build “bug beds” and put down some leaf “carpeting.” Options are endless!

Go horseback riding


Do a quick online search to find local options for horseback riding. Then check to make sure your children are the right age to enjoy this activity safely. Assuming so, get everyone dressed in long pants, and get ready for a fun ride on one of the most beautiful animals around. Make sure to wear helmets!

Make a scrapbook

Children paper crafting with parents in outdoor children party, painting, stickers and making figures cut from color paper. Children hobby paper craft modeling, group development of children


And finally, after knocking out all of these fun, family-friendly bucket list items, you’ll want to create a scrapbook that captures each of the moments you enjoyed as a family. Everyone can make their own, or you can make one big one as a family with everyone contributing in their own way. Looking back on a summer well spent is the perfect way to wrap it up!

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