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15 Family-Favorite Summer Traditions to Start This Season

These are the activities no summer is complete without, according to the dads who love them.

Barbecues. Fireworks. Trips to the shore. Riding a rollercoaster. Summer means different things to different people. And every family has their sacred summer family tradition, that one thing they do every year because what would summer be without it? Maybe it’s an activity passed down from generation to generation. Maybe it’s a random trip you took once that ended up being so fun that it’s now a summer staple. We spoke to 15 dads about their favorite summer family tradition. Some spoke of neighborhood get-togethers and backyard olympics, others of cherished getaways and fireworks-buying trips. All of them make clear one truth: Summer is a hell of a time. 

1. Going to the County Fair

“Our county fair happens in the summer, and it’s one of our favorite things to do as a family. Ever since the kids were little, they’ve loved going to see the animals, ride the rides, and eat junk food. It’s actually gotten a lot nicer in recent years, too. They’ve started bringing in bands and musicians. They’ve added a bunch of tents and local vendors, and brand new rides. There’s a pie-eating contest, and a petting zoo. Face painting. The works. County fairs really have something for everyone.” – Kurt, 37, Michigan

2. Seeing Movies at the Drive-In

“I’m not sure how many drive-in movie theaters still exist in America, but we have one of them, and it’s one of our favorite places to go in the summer. We borrow my dad’s big conversion van, load up with snacks, blankets, and lawn chairs. Then we back in facing the screen, prop the doors open, and enjoy the show. My wife and I sit outside, and the kids use the van as their own personal clubhouse. The movies are always shown as double features, too, so we’re all up way past bedtime. We probably go at least two or three times from when the theater opens in the summer to when it closes in the fall. Definitely a favorite family tradition.” – Jon, 40, Ohio

3. Throwing a Tie-Dye Party

“As soon as the kids get out of school, we have their friends over and tie-dye their ‘summer shirts’. These are the shirts they’ll wear all season, when we go to the pool, or hiking, or on other family trips. It’s always a big tie-dye party on our deck, and the kids have gotten super into it over the years. They look up new techniques on YouTube, try to find different color dyes, and usually end up doing more than one shirt. Or a shirt and shorts. Or socks. Socks have actually become pretty popular the past few years. It’s a messy tradition, that’s for sure, but we love it.” – Ed, 36, Indiana

4. Going on a Fireworks Run

“We used to buy fireworks where we live, but they’re really just glorified sparklers. Our neighbor tipped us off about going to Pennsylvania, because you can buy way, way more stuff there. We’ve never looked back. It’s our tradition every Fourth of July. We always buy more than we need, and my wife groans when we come back with a trunk full of them. But then we always have a great time on the Fourth, and have plenty to last us for a while after. She’s the only one who doesn’t look forward to it. Maybe the neighbors” – Jeremy, 47, New York

5. Hosting a Big Garage Sale

“Every spring, we do a massive spring cleaning and purge whatever we can from inside the house. We box it all up, and store it in the garage until summer, when we have a massive, annual garage sale. We usually coordinate it with the neighbors, too, so it’s this big event on our street. It’s never made us rich, but it’s definitely a nice way to earn a little spending cash we can use for other summer fun. And it’s a good motivator when spring cleaning rolls around. We have teenagers, so it’s always like, ‘Do you really want to keep that? Or would you rather have ten bucks in the summer?’ We weren’t able to do it last year because of COVID, so we’re really excited for this year. The giant summer garage sale will return to all of its glory.” – Tom, 39, New Jersey

6. Watching Fireworks Displays

“My sister’s birthday is on July 4th. Our city always has a great fireworks show at the town park, so all of us – aunts, uncles, cousins – go there to celebrate. It’s always a madhouse, but one of my cousins works at the city pool, which is right inside the park. So he unlocks the pavilion for us, and we get to sit on the big patio, chilled out in lawn chairs, and watch the show. The kids think it’s so cool, like they’re VIPs. My sister is in her 30s now, but I think as long as we can all walk – we usually have to park far away and then walk to the pool because of the crowd – we’ll be observing this tradition for a long time.” – David, 37, Pennsylvania   

7. Renting a House By the Beach

“My family has always taken a trip to Ocean City, New Jersey every summer. I’m actually not sure how it started, but I’ve been going since I was little. We’ll rent a house by the beach, and just kick back for a week. My father passed away a few years ago, and our Ocean City trips are one of my favorite memories of spending time with him. So now, hopefully, my kids are enjoying the trip as much as I used to. I think they are. They look forward to it as soon as school is out, and they talk about it for days after we get back. Like I said, it’s one of our family’s most enduring traditions, and one that I’m so happy to keep going year after year.” – Matt, 38, Maryland

8. Going to the Amusement Park

Cedar Point is the best amusement park in the country, hands down. Ever since I was 11 or 12, my family has made a road trip to go there for the day. We wake up super early, and get there as soon as the park opens. It’s a good two-and-a-half hour drive, but it’s totally worth the trip. We usually try to wait until the end of summer when it’s a little cooler out, and pray for good weather. I think there’ve only been three times we went and the wind and rain was so bad they had to close all the rides. We had to take a few years off when our son was born, but now that he’s grown he loves going on the roller coasters, and all the scary rides. He loves summer Cedar Point day as much as I do.” – Chris, 40, Michigan

9. Hosting a Monthly Wiffle Ball Tournament

“There are five houses in our cul-de-sac, all with families and kids. What started as a pretty simple pick-up game of Wiffle Ball quickly turned into a pretty big spectacle. Wiffle Ball is just one of those games that’s fun to play and funny to watch. So it wasn’t long before the whole neighborhood was involved. Our first games were last summer. We formed official teams, made jerseys, made a scoreboard, and really went all out. It’s all in good fun, too, which is the best part. No one is overly competitive. Everyone is a great sport. It’s been a really great experience, both as a family and a neighborhood of friends.” – Greg, 38, Connecticut

10. Making a DIY Mini Golf Course

“One of the things we loved to do before the pandemic was go play mini golf. Since everything was closed, we had to adapt, and we started building our own ‘courses’ on the driveway and in the backyard. My two sons started it by making a ramp out of some old PVC drain pipe, and that got my wheels turning. While we don’t have a set schedule, I think we’ve played at least two times each month since the weather got warm. Some of the holes we’ve made up have been really creative, too. No windmills, but my oldest son built one with our Roomba as an obstacle at the end. The best part is that everyone works on their holes in secret, so the reveals are always exciting. They’re all made from stuff we find around the house, too, which makes it a totally sustainable summer tradition we’ll be able to enjoy for a long time.” – Kevin, 37, Michigan

11. Hosting a Neighborhood Movie Night

“Once the movie theaters closed, I started looking into building an outdoor theater. On a budget, I was able to get a decent projector and a screen, and we’ve hosted a weekly movie night since early spring. Usually there are about 10-15 kids, including mine. And the parents and adults come, too. The kids have really gotten into it. Some of them started making little movie tickets. All of them come with their favorite lawn chairs and blankets. There’s a snack bar. The only thing missing is new release movies, but none of the kids seem to mind. I can’t even remember the last movie we actually saw in the theater, and I think everyone is pretty convinced that this tradition is going to make our driveway the hottest spot in town for the rest of the summer.” – Charles, 36, New Jersey   

12. Celebrating the End of School with a Shaving Cream Fight

“When I was in high school, we used to celebrate the end of each year with shaving cream fights. We’d all stash cans of cheap Barbasol in the woods near the school, then run out and go nuts when the bell rang. I told my son and daughter about it – they’re in middle school and high school – and they thought it was the coolest thing. So we let them invite their friends over on the last day of school this year, gave them all cans of shaving cream, and let them go to town. It was a huge hit, and it looks like ‘The Shaving Cream Showdown’ – that’s what they called it – is going to be something all the kids look forward to every year to kick off the summer.” – Jeffrey, 41, Colorado

13. Choosing a Trip via Dart Toss

“Growing up, I had a friend’s family that did this and I thought it was a super ballsy and unique way of choosing a long weekend summer getaway. Basically they narrow down their long weekend choices to four or five options. Then one person in the family wears a blindfold and throws a dart at “board” — we use a square tack board because it’s more forgiving — and everyone cheers them on. It’s a lot of anticipation and excitement and all of the places on the board have all been agreed upon earlier so everyone is usually pretty into what wins. It’s a great way to drum up additional excitement.” — Jack, 46, Virginia

14. Hosting Our Neighborhood Olympics

We’re a competitive family, and we have a lot of fun playing games against — and alongside — one another. A few years ago, we decided to host a “Summer Olympics” in our backyard — a scored combination of games and activities. We had a mini ropes course, an archery event, a basketball shooting event, and more. We have a lot of young families on our block and they were intrigued by our idea. So, what started as a multi-game competition in our family has evolved into a block-sized competition where each family hosts an event in their backyard and it takes place during a full week in the summer. There are belly slide events, long jumps, “javelin” tosses, and all sorts of other games and trials. It’s a blast. We even have a torch lighting ceremony at the start and an end of games barbecue. — Stewart, 44, Indiana.

15. Crabbing 

I grew up crabbing in the summer with my dad and grandfather. Now my dad and I take the kids and it’s something I’ve really enjoyed sharing with them. We do it a few times during the mid summer, sitting on the pier, and passing down all the little pieces of information that I learned — using chicken necks for bait, how to pull up the traps. It’s a great tradition and it’s one that I hope my kids will pass down to their families. — Tyson, 43, South Carolina