2024 Summer Bucket List: Fun and Frugal Summer Activities

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Ah, summer, with its sunny days, grilling out, and fireflies at dusk, is one of my favorite times of the year. Longer days, less structure, and vacations also mean more downtime, playtime, and hopefully more family time!

Even though we homeschool, summer means a more relaxed schedule (and more time at the beach!). Summer brings a feeling of freedom and relaxation, but after a while, it can get boring. Inevitably, I’ll eventually hear, “Mom, I’m booored.”

Sound familiar?

A while back, my family started the tradition of creating an annual summer bucket list. Even if we don’t do all of the items on our list, it’s a great way to create memories, spend time on new fun summer experiences, and revisit our favorites.

If you’re looking to create a list of summer activities, this is a great place to start!

How to Make a Fun Summer Bucket List

One of our favorite ways to beat summer boredom is to write down a summer bucket list. It motivates us to come up with new experiences to try that are out of the norm and bring back a few old favorites. And when boredom strikes, it’s the perfect time to point to the list.

The following will help you create a list of summer activities for your family. A word of advice: make a first draft before involving the kids. That way, you’re clear on your priorities before the kids add their “contributions” (and there will be many!).

1. Brainstorm Bucket List Ideas

Start with some basic brainstorming. These questions will get the ball rolling and help you determine what’s important. Again, I’d recommend doing this step yourself before involving the kids.

Here are some questions to think about:

  • What are our favorite things to do? What outings or activities recharge us? How can we do more of those things this summer?
  • Are there any skills or subjects we want to learn? What do we need to get started? (This helps kids learn how to execute their ideas.).
  • Is there something in our community we haven’t experienced yet? Or an annual event that we can’t miss? Any parties we want to host?
  • What are some easy (inexpensive) activities that make us think of summer?
  • Are there any day trips we want to take? 

From here, I narrow down the list to ones that fit our current family priorities. Then, I take this list to my kids and get their ideas and suggestions.

2. Research New Fun Summer Activities in Your Local Community

Now that you have a list of some things you’d like to do, research some new experiences. Here are some places to start brainstorming for community events and activities:

  • What festivals or events does your city host that you haven’t attended before?
  • Are there any free or low-cost classes or events at your library, recreation, or community center?
  • Is there a new playground you’ve been wanting to try?
  • Do you want to watch the fireworks on the 4th of July?
  • Is there a water park or amusement park nearby that you can take a day trip to?
  • Are there any great outdoor activities close by that you’d like to try out?

3. Think Through Summer Routines

Now that you have your list of fun ideas, it’s time to think through a schedule. Even though it’s summer and we think free time is amazing, it turns out we actually crave some structure. Studies show that routines increase a child’s sense of independence and control. It also cuts down on parental nagging and creates better behavior (win-win!). This is one big reason we do the summer bucket list.

I like to create a somewhat loose schedule for the summer. Then I’ll have a general idea of when we can get out and do things. It’s nice to have some routine…but it’s good to be flexible because you never know when the desire to make homemade ice cream on a hot summer day will strike!

Think through new routines and put a few visual reminders in place. Here are some ideas to incorporate:

The above will definitely vary depending on what ages you have in the house.

4. Put Any Specific Events on the Calendar

I don’t like to schedule many of my bucket list items (there needs to be some spontaneity!). But there are some things I don’t want to miss, like the parade or fireworks, holiday BBQs with friends, and backyard fire pit s’mores nights.

Some people work better with more concrete plans. If that’s you, use your summer routine as your base and add any fun and educational summer bucket list ideas to your calendar. Or if you want to be more flexible, create a list of your items (or a cute poster on Canva) and print it off. Post it near your calendar, and as you find free time (or the kids are bored), pick an activity to do!

Summer Bucket List Ideas for Families

If you’re looking for some inspiration for your own list, here are some of our favorite ideas. The best part? Most of these are free or very low cost. A few ideas are splurge activities. Choose some of these activities or use them as a jumping off point to create your own.

If your family is competitive, check out this adventure points system to use with your summer bucket list. It keeps kids motivated to try new things on their own.

90 Ideas for the Ultimate Summer Bucket List

  1. Hike a new trail. Check out apps like AllTrails to find great kid-friendly ones near you.
  2. Create your own scavenger hunt. Or go on Groupon to find inexpensive ones in your city.
  3. Try a new food at the local farmer’s market.
  4. Visit a nearby nature center and learn about plants and animals.
  5. Hang out in the treehouse. If you don’t have one, add build a treehouse to your list.
  6. Check out the state parks nearby that you’ve never visited.
  7. Build a sandcastle with your whole family (and enter a sandcastle contest if you can find one!).
  8. Have a greener version of a water balloon fight in your backyard (use sponges, not balloons, to avoid choking hazards and plastic waste).
  9. Go to a matinee or drive-in movie. Some theaters offer inexpensive movies on weekdays when they’re also less crowded.
  10. Pre-make a bunch of frozen meals for friends who are expecting babies.
  11. Put bubble solution in a kids’ pool, and use a hula hoop to create giant bubbles!
  12. Make a lemonade stand.
  13. Catch fireflies. (Although, sadly you can’t see them in every state now.)
  14. Make popsicles from fruit and chia seeds.
  15. Have a luau for neighbors and friends.
  16. A projector + outdoor wall = outdoor movie!
  17. Teach the kids to make homemade ice cream (handy when the ice cream truck rolls around).
  18. Have a picnic at a local park.
  19. Get in on the fairy garden craze.
  20. Look up local outdoor concerts (many of these are free.)
  21. Stay up late and do some stargazing. Have you stargazed with an app yet? Gamechanger!
  22. Go wildcrafting for herbs and plants with a local expert.
  23. Collect seashells at the beach.
  24. Make real-food snow cones. (Check out this snow cone machine!)
  25. Go fishing and learn how to clean the fish.
  26. Visit a local museum (these are sometimes free or have special free days) to learn about the history of your town or neighborhood.
  27. Play frisbee.
  28. Turn on some oldies and have a dance party in the living room.
  29. Make a slip-and-slide in the backyard.
  30. Go to a sports game.
  31. Take a trip to a local pool or swimming hole.
  32. Play wiffle ball in the backyard.
  33. Learn how to make simple origami.
  34. Plan a road trip somewhere you haven’t been.
  35. Finger paint outside.
  36. Draw with sidewalk chalk.
  37. Have a puppet show.
  38. Make necklaces with homemade clay beads.
  39. Make a birdhouse.
  40. And a bat house.
  41. Visit the fire station and take them homemade cookies.
  42. Make slime.
  43. Go to the zoo.
  44. Cool off in the warm weather by playing in the sprinklers.
  45. Visit a retirement or nursing home and make cards for the residents.
  46. Learn how to score a baseball game.
  47. Make a DIY beauty recipe and have a spa night.
  48. Go to the lake and kayak or canoe.
  49. Ride a Ferris wheel.
  50. Try out a free kids’ workshop at your local home improvement store.
  51. Have a game night and learn new card games.
  52. Enjoy the great outdoors with a backyard campout.
  53. Teach kids how to jump rope.
  54. Make some healthy ice cream sandwiches.
  55. Take a nap! (Maybe in a hammock?)
  56. Fly a kite.
  57. Build a pillow or blanket fort, and stay up late on a summer night.
  58. Play Capture the Flag.
  59. Climb trees.
  60. Join the library’s summer reading club.
  61. Make paper airplanes and race them.
  62. Let the kids plan and cook dinner.
  63. Pick an empty wall in the garage and paint a family mural. (Or in the house for braver/more artistic parents!)
  64. Play flashlight tag.
  65. Make root beer from scratch.
  66. Learn how to crochet or knit.
  67. Try an online class from Udemy.com and learn a new skill (many are only $14.99).
  68. Learn to walk a slackline.
  69. Find a maker’s space or attend a mini-maker’s faire.
  70. Go to a U-pick fruit farm and make homemade freezer jam.
  71. Spend a lazy afternoon reading books.
  72. Ride a roller coaster!
  73. Watch fireworks or attend a 4th of July parade.
  74. Take the entire family on a bike ride.
  75. Go on a boat ride if you live near a lake.
  76. Practice random acts of kindness for people in your community.
  77. Try out a new smoothie recipe for a refreshing mid-day snack.
  78. Have a fire in your firepit and make s’mores and roast hot dogs.
  79. Eat some ice-cold watermelon on a hot day.
  80. Learn how to hula hoop or do a cartwheel.
  81. Plant a garden and get the kids to help! It’s a great way to get some sunshine and play in the dirt.
  82. Visit a local splash pad on a hot summer day.
  83. Go paddle boarding at a lake or reservoir.
  84. Explore nature and gather items to make a nature collage.
  85. Have fun playing in the rain!
  86. Plan a block party with your neighbors.
  87. Make homemade marshmallows for s’mores.
  88. Make a list of any playgrounds you want to try out and hit them all.
  89. Invite some new friends over for a BBQ.
  90. Learn how to make friendship bracelets and trade with your friends.

The Main Thing: Have Fun!

Making a summer bucket list is a fun way to plan for new experiences and try to prevent boredom. It’s a great time to make new memories as a family too.

The important thing is to look at it as family inspiration and not a “to-do” list. Even if we don’t get to everything on our wishlist, it reminds us to spend quality time together and try new things, whether we’re out adventuring or at home.

Do you create a summer bucket list? What’s your favorite thing to do in summer?

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


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