4 Ways to Make This a Summer Your Child Will Remember


School is out, temperatures are on the rise, and the pandemic is in check for now. Finally, the family vacation doesn’t have to take place in the backyard wading pool!

But … gas prices are ridiculously high, and you really wanted to take the family someplace memorable. Never fear — with some thought, some planning, and a bit of creativity, it can be done. Your summer vacation won’t break the bank, and it will be one your child talks about for years to come.

1. Spend a Day at the Fair

Ask anyone where they took their very first Ferris wheel ride; chances are, it was at a county fair. Most counties around the country hold a fair sometime during the summer, and it usually lasts about a week. It might begin with a parade, continue with livestock and/or horse shows, and feature other competitions. Besides the carnival rides, your kids won’t be able to resist the scents of cotton candy, popcorn, and fried foods galore.

As the sun sets and the fairground lights come on, your kids will forget about the computer games at home. The lights, sounds, and smells transform everything, and they’ll beg for “just one more ride!”

From the various county fairs, winners go to compete at the state fair, which is bigger and more eye-popping still. The rides are massive and breathtaking, carnie barkers invite you to “Step right up and win…,” and well-known music acts entertain in the grandstand. To keep your child from getting lost in a state fair–sized crowd, equip them with a kids smartwatch. With its GPS-tracking capabilities, you can safely keep tabs on them at all times.

2. Take in a Music or Art Festival

With the waning of the pandemic, music festivals are making a triumphant return. Whether rock, country, folk, Celtic, hiphop, or something else, there is music out there for everyone. Many festivals are family-friendly and an easy, gas-saving drive from home. Festivals often take place over a weekend, and some may require proof of COVID-19 vaccination (or a negative test) to enter.

While music festivals are feasts for the ears, arts festivals are feasts for the eyes. From paintings to pottery, sculpture to jewelry, you’re sure to find something to appeal to your personal aesthetic. Often, you’ll find wearable art for sale, and your family may come home sporting new, eye-catching threads.

Perhaps your town is reviving its summer art festival from before the pandemic, including special activities for kids in various age groups. If so, encourage your child to attend a class or workshop that piques their interest. You may find you have another Chagall or Rodin on your hands.

3. Visit a State or National Park

Look at a map of your state, or simply Google your state’s name and “parks” or “historic sites.” You’ll be surprised how many are close to you. Now, ask your kids what they want to do — hiking? Biking? Canoeing? Fishing? State and national parks offer all these choices and more.

Children who love wildlife will be in seventh heaven at a state or national park. They can listen to the ranger talk about owls or learn why beavers build dams. They can be close — but not too close! — encounters with everything from prairie dogs to bison. On the various coasts, several parks feature viewing areas where your child can see dolphins, whales, or feral horses.

Find a park within your state that matches your interests and offers the type of lodging that fits your needs. You may have a choice between bring-your-own tent camping, RV sites, or cabins. Some parks offer more luxurious tents for “glamping,” and others have grand and even historic lodges.

Don’t think you live anywhere near a national park? You are likely within a day’s drive or less. Every state, plus Puerto Rico, Guam, and American Samoa, holds a bit of our country’s natural and historical treasure. So bundle everyone into the car and immerse yourself and your family in America’s natural and cultural history. Every state boasts its own national “wow” factor that will have your child saying, “Remember that summer…?” for years.

4. Catch a Wave — or a Thrill

There’s no better time than summer to take advantage of the great outdoors. Whether you’re a water lover or a confirmed landlubber, you’ll find no shortage of outside options for family fun.

For those living in coastal states, a modest drive can typically make a trip to the ocean possible. So pack the sunscreen and make this the year your eldest learns to surf or your youngest wins the sand castle contest. And don’t worry if you’re land-locked: Inland lake and river areas abound in recreational opportunities and lodging choices, from cottages to condos. If you’re feeling really adventurous, some lakes also offer houseboats for rent — talk about an experience your child won’t forget!

Should you prefer destinations that feature dry land but don’t lack for excitement, visit an amusement or theme park. There are great amusement or theme parks in every state. Some include water features, some have lodging nearby, and all offer rides for every age. There’s probably a park just a short drive from your home, so load up the family and get ready for thrills. Your kids will be reliving their death-defying roller-coaster rides for years to come.

Summer is upon us, so the time to prepare for memorable vacation fun is now. Spread out maps on your dining room table and get the family huddled around. Bring up Google on the laptop, and start planning your summer adventures!

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