7 Low-Key Ways to Have Big-Time Summer Fun

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These activities don’t cost much, but the memories you’ll make are priceless.
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By Betsy Voreacos

Your kid’s best friend is spending eight weeks at an expensive sleep-away camp. Another is vacationing at a fancy resort. Yet another gets to play in the sand all summer long at a grandparent’s beach house. You don’t have the time, the money, or the inclination to compete with that kind of summer fun. But all is not lost! Here’s how your family can enjoy all the season’s best activities without breaking the bank.


Image ©iStock.com/Tempura

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Go jump in a lake!

It’s a good bet you’re a day trip away from a good old-fashioned swimming hole. Kids are so used to diving into a chlorine-filled pool that jumping in a lake will be an exciting adventure for them. Many lakes have beaches with lifeguards, rafts to leap from, floating slides out in the water, and other fun things to do on the beach or in adjacent parks.

Image ©iStock.com/stanley45

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Picnic in the park.

When’s the last time you packed up a picnic basket, laid out a blanket and had a meal in middle of a field? Kids can help choose the menu, tote the cargo, and distribute the food when you get where you’re going. Don’t forget watermelon…and paper towels!


Image ©iStock.com/Dragan Radojevic

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Pack Bounty for Your Picnic

Stash a roll of Bounty paper towels in your tote bag so you won’t have to worry about running out of napkins (or having them all blow away in the breeze!).

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Take me out to the ballgame.

If a major league ballgame is out of reach, geographically or financially, see if there’s a minor league team within driving distance. Minor league games are much more accessible, plus you can sit much closer and the food is a whole lot cheaper! Don’t forget your gloves to catch foul balls and to get there early for batting practice.


Image ©iStock.com/pamela burley

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Find a fair.

You don’t have to go to the big-name amusement parks to have big-time fun. Check out your state or county fair, a local carnival, or even nearby street festivals. Scour local web sites or newspapers for discount coupons or dates of cheaper “ride for one price” nights, too. If you’ll be playing games of chance, make sure your kids each know the budget ahead of time (say per child) and don’t forget to bring the cash!

Image ©iStock.com/Kali Nine LLC

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Row, row, row your boat.

Rent a row boat, canoe or kayak for the afternoon on a local lake (make sure the kids have a chance to paddle, too!). Stop on the shore to explore and cool off, too.

Image ©iStock.com/Christopher Futcher

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Sleep under the stars.

Kids love to camp out and you don’t have to go very far – the backyard is a perfect spot! Catch fireflies, roast marshmallows over a fire pit, tell stories, play in the sprinkler, blow bubbles, and enjoy your favorite outdoor activities together before crawling in your sleeping bags in the tent.

Image ©iStock.com/stanley45

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Climb a mountain.

There’s so much to be found along a mountain trail (or any topographically interesting nature spot near you). Check online for a nice, easy loop that all the kids can do, and bring water and snacks for the crew. As you stroll, collect leaves, twigs, and rocks and put together a shadow box upon your return.

What are your favorite smaller-scale summer activities?


Image ©iStock.com/fotostorm

Betsy lives with her family a stone’s throw from New York City. An overly involved mother of three children, Betsy has always been acutely aware of her shortcomings as a parent, not to mention those of her children. She documents her life in the brutally honest Old Minivans Die Hard.

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