Summer is the best time of year to get out and about. The sun is shining, people are smiling and there just seems to be more to do. And while your kids may spend part of their summer at camp, there are still plenty of hours to get out and enjoy the warmth, especially if your state doesn’t see balmy temperatures year round. Take advantage of free events that come to neighborhood parks or city streets. Get your kids away from their tablets and out into nature and spend days getting soaked and soaking up the sun because summer ends before we know it. Here are some of our favorite ways for kids to make awesome summer memories.
Waterparks and splash parks
Nothing says summer quite like outdoor water fun. For older, more adventurous kids, waterparks are the place to be. The Wisconsin Dells — the self-proclaimed waterpark capital of the world — has something for everyone (including those who would rather splash indoors) with mega-slides and water rollercoasters. Many of their parks also have stuff for the tinier tots. Schlitterbahn Park in Kansas City, Kansas has the tallest waterslide along with a giant surface wave made for surfing. They also have locations across Texas. Water Country USA in Williamsburg, Virginia is in close proximity to Busch gardens and offers great stuff for the smaller kids as well, like a rambling river and Kritter Koral full of spraying animals, fountains and small slides. If taking a trip to a major waterpark like this is too far, many local park districts like Chicago or Seattle have splash parks/water playgrounds open in the summer months for hours of splashing fun.
Outdoor sports leagues
Sure, sports may be a year-round activity for your kids, but there is something different about playing on an outdoor (sometimes muddy) field in the fresh air. Lil’ Kickers has locations across the country that take their soccer leagues outside in the summer. Your local park district is also a great place to find various kids leagues, from T-ball to tennis, kickball to basketball. If summer is too busy for a weekly commitment, start a pick-up game at your local park or in the backyard.
Get the kids off the couch and go outside. There are many incredible botanical gardens that have programming specific to kids: The Missouri Botanic Garden a has a specific children’s garden with seasonal hands-on programming, and the Chicago Botanic Garden hosts kids concerts and nature nights all summer long. Hiking trails are great to explore with kids as well. And if your kids are real nature lovers you could go camping as a family — even if you don’t make it past the yard.
Summer is the time when big cities host summer festivals, from smaller themed neighborhood fests with cover bands to larger scale food festivals. Most of these fests have amazing activities for kids: Think train rides, face painting, glitter tattoos and some form of kid entertainment. Look around for free events like Shakespeare in the Park in places like New York and Chicago, or outdoor symphony concerts in Nashville and San Francisco. Art fairs coast-to-coast are another great way to expose kids to culture.
Take it to the beach
Summer brings beaches to parts of the country that are usually more frigid than balmy. Western Michigan has beautiful beaches perfect for kids to build sandcastles and swim. Places like Ocean City, Maryland have a great boardwalk where kids can stroll, ride bikes, and take a whirl on the carousel. There are also special nights with fireworks and movies on the beach. Many local beaches make great spots for searching for shells, flying kites and throwing around the Frisbee for the afternoon.