As every stay-at-home mom or dad knows, the difference between a humdrum summer vacation (t.v. on for hours at a time, siblings squabbling, listlessness and annoyance setting in) and a fantastic summer vacation is what you do. It’s not about just entertaining the kids, either—it’s about family bonding: going on adventures, getting outside for healthy fun, learning about nature and history, having melty cones of ice cream, relaxing and playing and spending time together. So we’ve pulled together a list of 50 things to do this summer – 25 things to do this month and 25 more to come next month – to ensure you and the family have something fun to do every day this summer. Grab your sunscreen, bug spray, bathing suit and picnic basket—and let’s have a great summer!
May 24th to May 30th
On your mark… get set… GO!!
School just got out, but don’t wait for the doldrums of summer to set in; pack up the kids and hit the ground running! This is your week to hit some of the main attractions of Atlanta. Here’s an affordability secret: if you don’t mind doing and seeing a lot in a short amount of time, pick up a CityPASS to save 43% off of ticket prices. A CityPASS gives you tickets to the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca Cola, Inside CNN Studio Tour; as well as a choice of either Zoo Atlanta or the Center for Civil and Human Rights; and a choice of either Fernbank Museum of Natural History or College Football Hall of Fame. There is a catch, though; CityPASS is only valid nine days from day of first use, but the savings are worth it if you’ve got the energy to do it.
May 31st to June 6th
Okay, you’ve been going hard & fast on your CityPASS week. Time to take a breather, slow down, get creative, relax a bit.
• Have an arts & crafts day; haul out the crayons, markers, construction paper, kid-size scissors, glue, pipe cleaners, and let your imaginations go to work.
• Have a “cooking school” day. Let the kids choose the recipes and be in charge of the meals. (plan the menu in advance so you can have all the ingredients at hand.) You could make an easy breakfast recipe with them (pancakes from scratch, muffins, egg sandwiches); make homemade pizzas for lunch, letting the kids do the work of assembling and decorating their pizzas with toppings (depending on age, they may need help stretching the dough or working the oven); plan an easy dinner like an evening cookout, where they can handle the macaroni salad and veggie side dish, while you work the grill. A couple of great side benefits to this: it helps your kids be more aware of the thought, time and effort that goes into every meal you make; it creates awareness for cost of ingredients and nutrition; and for elementary school-age kids in particular, can be an interesting lesson in fractions and measurements, especially if you halve or double a recipe.
• Have a “pool fun” day. Whether you have your own pool, a community pool, or just a bunch of inflatable pools, grab the sunblock and pack a picnic lunch. Spend the day in swimsuits. Bring some activities—a card game, some magazines, and every inflatable or squirting water toy you can dig out of your garage.
• Rainy day or too-hot-to-go outside day = dance party day. Time to show kids how you move & groove to your favorite tunes, or if you have a game console with dance or karaoke games, have a “tournament” of dancing or singing (Dance Party or Glee Karaoke are favorites of the tween and teen crowd). Take a break with a few performance-related games like Charades, Guesstures, Taboo or Pictionary, keeping the creative and fun vibe going.
• Have a “git-er-done” day. Plan a home project that both you and the kids can work on—for example, cleaning out drawers and closets, organizing craft areas and desks, going through toy boxes and bins, setting aside outgrown toys and clothes for donation. After the work is done, load the kids and the clothes/toys for donation into your car and head over to a donation center like Goodwill, a thrift store such as the Clothes Less Traveled or Wellspring, or a family services center such as Bloom (formerly known as Fayette Youth Protection Home) that accepts gently-used donations for children. Let your children help you carry in the items and discuss how they will be going to help others in need. Then find a way to reward everyone for a job well done—go play on a playground, go out for an ice cream, or stage an impromptu kickball game in your backyard.
June 7th to June 13th:
All that going, going, going for the past couple of weeks means that mom (or dad) needs a break. Fortunately, there’s an abundance of local and not-so-distant camps—both day and overnight ones—designed to appeal to just about every child’s talents and interests, as well as every parent’s budget. Look into Fayette County Camps, 4-H Camp, Peachtree City Camps, Winshape Camps, Camp Calvin, YMCA, Girl Scout or Boy Scout camp, as well as the camps of whatever activities your child’s involved in—academics, music & arts, sports, recreation, music, martial arts and so forth. Camps are also a nice way to introduce your child to a new activity without the months-long or year-long commitment that many school year activities entail. Since it’s just for a week, why not encourage your child to try something different—lacrosse camp, maybe? Or horseback riding? A camp for kids who love to do science experiments? Or why not fencing? It could be just enough of an experience to introduce your child to her new favorite activity or uncover her hidden talents.
June 14th to 20th
• Have a water day. Purchase a bunch of inflatable water toys—sprinklers, slip n’ slides, mini pools, water squirters—set it all up, and let your gang go to town. If you want to make it a little more interesting, have them create an obstacle course, incorporating the water toys and whatever other outdoor toys you have on hand, then time your kids and their friends as they go through the course. For snack? Watermelon, of course.
• Write and perform a play. Get your kids’ imaginations fired up by helping them and their friends write a play, assemble costumes, rehearse it and perform it.
• Go for a picnic. Choose one of Fayette’s many beautiful parks and head out early with a picnic blanket, lunch, Frisbee, soccer ball, books and magazines. Spend the day outside, under the trees, enjoying the fresh air and the time away from the t.v. set.
• Stroll the shops. Take advantage of the midsummer sales by heading over to the Avenue or Ashley Park, or drive a little distance to one of the metro Atlanta indoor malls. Give each child $5-$10 to spend on a small toy or item. Alternate between stores that appeal especially to them (toy stores, video game stores) and that appeal especially to you (your favorite clothing store or housewares store). Spend some time at the bookstore, where you and the kids can pick up some fresh reading material. Visit the ice cream store or candy store for an extra treat.
• Organize a neighborhood game day and cookout. Set up the water toys you had out earlier in the week (the kids had so much fun that they’ve been begging you to do it again ever since) as well as a playing field for baseball or kickball, a net for volleyball or badminton, riding toys in the driveway, and fresh sand in the sandbox for the little ones. Have your neighbors bring their own meat for the grill and their own drinks, plus a side dish or dessert for sharing with all. End the evening with a movie night for the kids inside, while the parents relax and socialize out on the deck.
June 21st to June 27th
Callaway Gardens week
At $129 starting price for a family annual pass, the 13,000 acre Callaway Gardens is one of the most affordable, fun and educational places to visit in the Atlanta area. The beautiful gardens include the Callaway Discovery Center, Day Butterfly Center, Sibley Horticultural Center, Callaway Memorial Chapel, Mr. Cason’s Vegetable Gardens, Birds of Prey Shows, and Discovery Bicycle Trail and Walking Trails.
• Beach day. Bring the family and enjoy Robin Lake, with swimming, paddleboats, miniature golf, and shuffleboard. Catch one of the several shows performed by Florida State University’s Flying High Circus. For extra fees, the kids can enjoy Iceberg Island, the Xcelerator Slide, the Spider Jump or the Rock Wall.
• Take a hike. Start early and plan to follow one or more of Callaway’s many nature trails, which range from .6 miles to 1.5 miles. Don’t forget your picnic lunch, sunblock and bug spray!
• Have a learn-about-nature day. Bring a sketch pad and pencils, and spend the day observing and identifying flowers and plants in Sibley Horticultural Center. Attend one of the Birds of Prey shows held throughout the day. Spend some time in the Day Butterfly Center, observing the exotic plants, butterflies, birds and insects in the Center’s collection. To maximize the potential of this visit, you and your kids can spend time in advance doing some research on various plants, insects and animals that you’ll see there.
• The Discovery Bike Trail is 10 miles long, and an excellent way to see plenty at the gardens. You can bring your own bicycles or rent on-site; in addition to mountain bikes and ten-speed bikes, Callaway rents out tandem bikes and bikes with child seats.
• Visit the nearby towns of Pine Mountain and Warm Springs. Want adventure? Go to Roosevelt Stables for horseback riding or Wild Animal Safari for a hands-on safari experience. Want history? Visit the Little White House, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s personal retreat, and Warm Springs, where polio victims received treatment and therapy. If it’s a Friday, finish the day by heading over to the Callaway Gardens Farmers Market for natural products, including vegetables, fruit, cheeses, flowers, bedding plants, potted plants, honey, herbs, and baked goods, as well as artisans and vendors with unique offerings. Demonstrations and kids’ activities will keep your crew entertained while you select the perfect homemade blackberry jam for your lazy- Saturday-morning toast.