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The Summer Bucket List: 63 Things Every Family Should Do, Eat, and Enjoy This Summer

The activities no family summer is complete with out. (As edited by a realistic dad.)

Ah, summer. The season of ice cream and bike rides and, ah shit, how long until school starts back up? The truth is, summer can feel a bit stressful. It’s the season of fun, after all. And that reputation comes with a certain list of demands. Days on the calendar need to be filled with exciting activities for kids that make the beautiful weather worthwhile. But, the one truth about summer is it’s often over before you know it. And — because what are parents if not memory makers for their kids? — it’s important to enjoy the time before things get really hectic again. To spend a lot of time outside. To eat good food. To teach the kids how to catch a Frisbee, skip a stone, or spend a lazy afternoon in the sun (it is an art, after all). To help you out, here’s a list of simple activities no summer is complete without. We hope it inspires you to have a family summer you won’t forget. (Realistic Dad SaysOr at least a summer you’ll remember in a vague nostalgic bliss.)

  1. Go for a drive to nowhere for no reason on a backroad with the windows wide open.
  2. Grow something you can eat.
  3. Read a series of books together.
  4. Go to a fair or festival. Eat something fried on a stick.
  5. Set up summer camp in your backyard. Come up with a list of activities and competitions, from sports to arts and crafts, and have the entire family take part. Finish the night by sleeping out in the yard.
  6. Take the kids to a movie in an air-conditioned theater on a hot day.
  7. Play a song too loud at a stoplight while singing along too loud with the windows wide open. (Realistic Dad Says: Be prepared for the kids to yell at you to switch to Imagine Dragons. Counteroffer silence.)
  8. Make a summer ice cream checklist. Try to check off all the options before summer’s over.
  9. Set up a bunch of sprinklers and slip ‘n slides in your yard. Run through them. Repeat. (Realistic Dad Says: You’re okay with having a mud pit for a yard, right?)
  10. Eat a watermelon. Have a seed-spitting competition. (Realistic Dad Says: Just understand that every watermelon your kids will ever eat from here on out will end up with seeds in an eye.)
  11. Find a creek. Walk through it.
  12. Eat potato salad at a picnic table.
  13. Go to a field on a clear night and stare at the stars. Point out some constellations. Mistake a plane’s lights for Mars.
  14. Drink Kool-Aid. Show off your sweet Kool-Aid mustache.
  15. Have a biggest-splash competition at the pool. Perform your craziest cannonball or jack knife.
  16. Tye-dye some old t-shirts. (Realistic Dad SaysIntroduce them to the Grateful Dead while doing it, why don’t you? … Dick’s Pick No. 32 is a solid late Dead show from your, not Grandpa’s, era.)
  17. Spend an entire day at the museum. Many even have free family days during the season.
  18. Make a big batch of popcorn and binge watch something as a family. Maybe Harry Potter. Maybe Star Wars. Whatever it is, dress up for it. Get everyone psyched. (Realistic Dad Says: You’ll probably regret this one.)
  19. Create an ice cream sundae bar. Get all the fixings. Let the kids go wild creating their sugary monstrosities.
  20. Spend all day smoking a pork shoulder or brisket while playing in the backyard. (Realistic Dad Says: You’re going to have to take a sick day for this one to do it while the kids are at camp. Worth it.)
  21. Sit in front of a fire. Sing songs. Tell ghost stories. Make s’mores.
  22. Set up a screen and host a backyard movie night.
  23. Plan a family bike ride.
  24. Make homemade popsicles in paper cups.
  25. Play a big game of hide and seek or capture the flag in the early evening.
  26. Open a map. Find some place an hour away you’ve never been. Go there. (Realistic Dad SaysDownload the area for offline use on Google Maps, just in case.)
  27. Have a water gun battle.
  28. Help your kids start a lemonade stand. Name the business. Make signs. Charm customers. Teach them how to handle money. Pick a charity and donate the proceeds to it.
  29. Go to a baseball game. Majors or minors. Eat hot dogs in the stand. Do the wave. Keep score the old-fashioned way.
  30. Plan a long family hike. Pack snacks. Write down the names of all the animals you see.
  31. Have a make-your-own-pizza night. Go wild with toppings. Pound the dough. Cook the pizzas on the grill. (Realistic Dad Says: Call the family in and toss the dough for everyone like the great pizza man you are not. Be prepared for a dressing down.)
  32. Build a giant sandcastle with a moat at the beach.
  33. Fly a kite. Have you ever flown a kite? It’s like fly fishing for clouds.
  34. Teach the kids how to play catch with a Frisbee.
  35. Grab some jars and spend a night in search of fireflies. (Realistic Dad Says: Prepare for carnage.)
  36. Go to a pond or lake. Have a stone-skipping competition. Or just throw rocks into the water. Watch them splash. Repeat.
  37. Set up a tent in the backyard. Designate it as an all-summer playhouse.
  38. Eat grilled hotdogs and burgers. Go crazy with the toppings.
  39. Dive for coins in the pool.
  40. Have a picnic. Bring sandwiches, drinks. Stare at the clouds. Roll down a hill. Play board games on the blanket. Take a nap. (Realistic Dad Says: A nap? This one, clearly, is a joke.)
  41. Wrestle with the kids.
  42. Learn to use binoculars. (Hint: Spot the thing, then bring the binos to your eyes).
  43. Go for an evening walk every night for a month.
  44. Introduce the kids to a new food. Maybe it’s crab. Maybe it’s a hushpuppy. Maybe it’s a mango. (Realistic Dad Says: Be prepared for leftovers.)
  45. Make summer tomato sandwiches for dinner. Piece of good toast. Swipe of mayonnaise. A few thinly sliced tomatoes. Salt. Pepper.
  46. Run until you’re the kind of out of breath where your lungs burn and head rings and you can’t see straight for a few seconds. (Realistic Dad Says: This is what parenting experts call leading by example.)
  47. Enjoy recovery by lying on some grass.
  48. Build a cairn. You know, those rock trail markers. You have to find a trail first, but then help to mark it.
  49. Swing in a hammock.
  50. Dig a big hole. (Realistic Dad SaysDo it where the slip ‘n’ slide was — soft ground and all).
  51. Blow lots of bubbles.
  52. Share a banana split.
  53. Hit up an aquarium.
  54. Go to an outdoor concert or festival. (Realistic Dad Says: Tell your kids that funny smell is a skunk and that if they stray too far from the blanket they might get sprayed by it.)
  55. Is there a thunderstorm? Stand in the garage with the door open and listen to the rain.
  56. Spend an afternoon making elaborate sidewalk chalk art.
  57. Shoot off some fireworks, legal or not.
  58. Find a local farm and pick berries together.
  59. Write, and then act out a play with the kids.
  60. Spend a day at the library.
  61. Visit a fire station.
  62. Find an arcade on a hot day. Spend the afternoon playing skee-ball, shuffleboard, and air hockey.
  63. Unplug for an entire weekend. (Realistic Dad SaysNo, this doesn’t mean you get one fully charged phone’s worth — it means to turn off your damn phone.)