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50 Fun Things to Do This Summer

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. But there are far more thrilling ways to get where you want to go. This is the luxurious time of year to veer off the expected path -- to meander, sashay, loop the loop. To wander the world (or your local state fair). Linger over lunch (or an ice pop). Get a contact high from a sunset (or a transcendent novel). Think of the ideas on the following as your starting block for the season, and dive in headfirst.

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1. Pull over at every scenic overlook.

 

2. Eat lunch out of a basket.

Head to Bob’s Clam Hut, in Kittery, Maine; or the Lobster Roll, in Amagansett, New York. La Taqueria fills theirs with San Francisco’s best tacos. And for fried chicken, run, don’t walk, to Willie Mae’s Scotch House, in New Orleans.

3. Rent a convertible on your next trip.

Leave the top down and the GPS off.

4. Walk barefoot along the ocean, or just in the backyard.

Research shows it can improve sleep and reduce pain.

5. Sleep in a tree.

Walk the bridges (seriously!) at the Original Treehouse Cottages, in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Dream 35 feet up in the Treehouse Cottage at Winvian Farm, in Morris, Connecticut. Or be one with the woods at the Post Ranch Inn, in Big Sur, California.

6. Read The Shark Club by Ann Kidd Taylor.

This charming novel transports you to the Gulf of Mexico, where a shark researcher explores the power of first -- and new -- loves in a quirky hotel on the Florida coast.

7. Celebrate!

Mark 200 years of a “good thing”: the town of Marthasville, Missouri (pop.: about 1,100), which was named in honor of its founder’s wife. It was also Daniel Boone’s last home and a camping spot for Lewis and Clark. A festival with re-enactors playing early settlers happened on June 17 and 18, but it's worth stopping by anytime this summer.

8. Do the Cha-Cha!

Chicago SummerDance hosts live bands and free lessons in Grant Park through September 10. Dance DTLA stages boogie nights with DJs in Los Angeles’s Grand Park. And you can waltz or tango on the same block as the New York City Ballet during Midsummer Night Swing, held on the plaza of Lincoln Center.

9. Meander through three top flea markets.

Renninger’s Antique and Collector’s Extravaganza, in Kutztown, Pennsylvania (September 28–30); Madison-Bouckville Antique Week, in Bouckville, New York (August 14–20); and the Springfield Antique Show & Flea Market, in Ohio (August 19–20).

10. Put down the blow dryer.

Air-dry your hair in a soft braid or twisty bun; take a swim and get authentic beachy waves.

11. Hike to new heights.

Like Hidden Lake, on the Continental Divide in Glacier National Park in Montana; the sandstone towers of Park Avenue, in Arches National Park, Utah; and Leigh Lake, in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park.

12. Take this show on the road.

Rent an RV and pull up to one of the tallest waterfalls east of the Mississippi in Tennessee’s Fall Creek Falls State Park; the sandy shores of Huntington Beach State Park, near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; or the ancient gorge in New York’s Taughannock State Park, home to an outdoor concert series each summer.

13. Read The Last Laugh, by Lynn Freed.

Escape to an unnamed Greek island for camaraderie, carnality, and (oops!) criminal activity with three grandmas.

14. Do a cartwheel or a handstand. 

Underwater totally counts.

15. Eat at least one meal a day outside.

 

16. See a stadium show.

Tease your bangs and turn up the nostalgia: Guns N’ Roses crisscrosses the country starting in late July, and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers are cruising down the freeway running through your yard all season long.

17. Or cheer on the fishing schooners.

See the annual Mayor’s Race in the Labor Day weekend Schooner Festival and Parade of Sail, in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

18. Jump in a lake.

For privacy and killer views of the Sawtooth Mountains, make it Redfish Lake, 6,550 feet above sea level in Stanley, Idaho. Or join the group on the village green in Mount Desert Island, Maine, to hop the free Island Explorer shuttle bus to Echo Lake’s beach and hiking trails in Acadia National Park. Or venture underground to the sunken lake in the Homestead Crater (actually a geothermal spring) in a limestone dome in Midway, Utah, where you can scuba or snorkel in 90-degree water. (Backstroke under the stars.)

19. Fête Bastille Day

Check out the parades and regatta in La Nouvelle-Orléans.

Taste wines, eat French food, and snap a selfie with a 43-foot replica of the Eiffel Tower at the 36th annual Bastille Days celebration, from July 13 to 16 in Milwaukee.

Join the crowd yelling, “Let them eat Tastykakes!” outside the Eastern State Penitentiary, in Philadelphia, where there’s a historical re-enactment of the storming of the Bastille, and thousands of the local treats are thrown from the ramparts.

20. Build a sand castle, sand pyramid, sand Taj Mahal, or sand Malibu Dreamhouse.

21. Go spelunking.

Explore the longest known cave system in the world, Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave.

22. Learn what the heck a helictite is in the Caverns of Sonora, in Texas.

 

23. Kayak the seaside Painted Cave on Santa Cruz Island, in California.

 

24. Take a 45-minute boat ride along the Colorado River to the Moab Music Festival’s August 31 Grotto concert...

 ... which happens in an acoustically excellent natural concert hall created by a red-stone cave.

25. Smell like summers past.

Bonds No. 9’s Fire Island (from $200, bondno9.com) and Sun Saint eau de parfum by Pinrose ($65, pinrose.com) have notes of Coppertone and carefree fun.

26. Wander through a maze.

Visit European-style hedge labyrinths, like the Kaeser Memorial Maze in the Missouri Botanical Garden, in St. Louis; or the threeacre Pineapple Garden Maze at the Dole Plantation, in Wahiawa, Hawaii.

27. Read Less, by Andrew Sean Greer.

Continent-hop from San Francisco to Mexico, Italy, Germany, Morocco, India, and Japan with this novel’s heartbroken protagonist, as he tries to escape his ex-boyfriend’s wedding and avoid his 50th birthday, all while recapturing his lost youth and jump-starting his creativity (out July 18).

28. Get happy at a clambake.

Bury the shellfish yourself, order the whole shebang shipped from Maine by the Lobster Guy, or leave it to the pros (at the 41st Annual J. Millard Tawes Crab & ClamBake, on July 19 in Crisfield, Maryland; or at one of four summer ‘bakes at Francis Farm, in Rehoboth, Massachusetts). Because nothing beats clams with drawn butter. Unless it’s lobster. Or corn on the cob. Those are good, too.

29. Sip a new white.

Our food editors are loving Borealis, from Montinore Estate in Oregon’s North Willamette Valley, a crisp, justsweet- enough blend of Gewürztraminer, Müller-Thurgau, Pinot Gris, and Riesling grapes.

30. Jump.

On a trampoline, into a pool, or just for joy when you hear the ice cream truck coming. (Order extra hot fudge and sprinkles.)

31. Bite a forbidden fruit.

Or at least one that’s unattainable most of the year, because it’s only in season come summer. Our editors fill up on white peaches; fragrant, softball-size Charentais melons; and Santa Rosa plums (order the small, dark, sweet-tart variety at froghollow.com).

32. Light a fire. 

Throw in live music and the sun sinking into Lake Michigan, and you’ve got Ludington Stearns Park Beach’s Sunset Bonfire series, on the last Thursdays of July, and August. Or start your own at Huntington Beach in California, which has pits ready and waiting; or at locales where you obtain a permit, such as Jennings Beach in Fairfield, Connecticut, and in Nags Head, North Carolina.

33. Cruise to the drive-in.

Bring dinner and catch a double feature of first-run flicks at the Wellfleet Drive-In Theatre on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, which showed its first film in 1957. Or, for an option near you, go to drive-ins.com.

34. Cool off with Jon Snow.

Season 7 of Game of Thrones airs on HBO from July 16 to August 21.

35. Be a face in the crowd at a summer festival.

Head to the white tent at the Aspen Music Festival for chamber music, opera, and funnyman Garrison Keillor. Or hit Festival Napa Valley from July 14 to 23 for winery tours, performances by the local symphony and San Francisco Ballet, and headliners ranging from operatic lyric soprano Danielle de Niese to Gloria Estefan to Bill Murray.

36. Read The Goddesses, by Swan Huntley.

Unearth dark deeds in sunny Hawaii (out July 25).

37. Float!

Go tubing in the spring-fed San Marcos River, in Texas, or the gentle, crystalclear Lower Platte, in Michigan. Clip on a life jacket for the often speedier Maury River, in Virginia. Bring the kids to drift down the Oconaluftee, in North Carolina. Leave them on land to hit the whitewater rapids of N.C.’s Nantahala.

38. Share a big-screen kiss.

During a sunset, a rain shower, or summer fireworks.

39. Whoosh down a wooden roller coaster.

Brave the figureeight on the 1966-built Swamp Fox, at the Family Kingdom Amusement Park in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Zoom at 62 mph on the Screamin’ Eagle, at Six Flags St. Louis. White-knuckle the red-and-white Giant Dipper on the boardwalk in Santa Cruz, California, built in 1924.

40. Grab a snack on a stick.

We’ll take a corn dog, an ear of elote, and an ice pop.

41. Make love, not dinner.

It’s the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, man! Not in the mood? Wear tie-dye and play one of the year’s number-one songs: “To Sir With Love,” by Lulu.

42. Bow down the bard.

See Shakespeare on the Square’s production of Two Gentlemen of Verona in Knoxville, Tennessee’s Market Square; New York City’s Public Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park stagings of Julius Caesar and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in Central Park; or the MaineStage Shakespeare’s renditions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Winter’s Tale, in Lafayette Park in Kennebunk, Maine.

43. Be in the room where it happens.

Hamilton is (finally!) on a national tour, with performances in L.A. starting August 11. The Jersey Boys croon in Charlotte, North Carolina, in July. Hello! The Book of Mormon hits Salt Lake City in August.

44. Read The Lying Game, by Ruth Ware.

Follow a new mom through the marshes of coastal England as she delves into the drama of her boarding-school years (out July 25).

45. Play in the dark.

Count fireflies. Light wish lanterns. Write your name with a sparkler. (Skip curfew.)

46. Perfect your tennis serve.

Get professional coaching with the PlaySight app.

47. Turn around, bright eyes.

There’s a total eclipse of the sun on August 21 that will darken skies over southern spots including Nashville and Charleston, South Carolina. For more intel, go to eclipse2017.nasa.gov.

48. Spend all day in a bathing suit.

Even more points if you go all weekend without putting on real shoes.

49. Gallop through a river!

Double Mountain Horse Ranch, in Hood River, Oregon, leads trail rides across Cascade Locks waterfall.

50. Have a blast until the bittersweet end. 

Watch 70 hot-air balloons ascend to the sky during the Labor Day Lift Off, in Colorado Springs.

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