Some of my best childhood memories are of fun family moments during summer vacations. A limited budget or time restraints may not make an exciting cross country road trip adventure feasible. However, there are options that can provide kids with enjoyable experiences close to home during their summer break from school. Here are a few suggestions of things to do for a memorable summer stay-cation.

Explore Your Own Backyard

Visiting a local historical building, monument, or museum can provide an entertaining and educational experience for your family. Keep an eye out for special events that may be going on that will make a stop by extra interesting.

There is a 19th century restored farm house near our home that’s maintained by the city’s historical commission. We have driven by for years but never visited. Recently, I heard they were hosting a Civil War day and we headed over to check it out. Our family had a wonderful time. There were Civil War soldier re-enactors providing musket firing demonstrations, and they had my kids participate in marching drills. A musical group was playing some shoe-tapping folk songs that were popular in the 1800s. A guide gave us a tour of the house, which is filled with amazing artistic craftsmanship in its plaster and woodwork and pointed out the spots where ghosts have been rumored to haunt. It was a splendid event and free to attend.

Spend the summer visiting some spots near your home you might not otherwise have visited.


Take a Trip Through Time

2017 marks the centennial of the U.S. entering World War I. Thousands of monuments to the 4 million Americans who participated in that conflict are spread across the country. Find out if any are located near you by visiting the United States’ World War One Centennial Commission’s online database of monument and memorial locations. Enter your city and state to see an index of sites near you. Make a history lesson for your kids out of visiting these monuments. Join with family and friends for a road rally or scavenger hunt involving sites in your area. Find one that encourages fun, while promoting learning about a bygone era in history.

Summer Reading

Public libraries around the country hold summer reading programs. Many include interesting activities and events for children and teens. At our local library, there is a summer reading program called “BUILD A BETTER WORLD.” Throughout the summer, our local library hosts science experiments, puppet shows, craft workshops, LEGO building competitions, and other fun activities tied to the annual theme. Plus, kids can earn prizes and rewards based upon the number of books they read during the program. It is free for families that have a library card and wraps up with an end-of-summer carnival for participating kids. So, swing by your local public library to see what type of kids’ activities they have going on this summer!

Family Fun Night

Pick an entertaining theme and organize activities and food tied to it. The whole family can get in on the fun and spend some quality time together. Dress up to get into the spirit!

Our family just did an awesome family fun night around the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We wore costumes and enjoyed a meal of fish and chips and non-alcoholic butter beer. Then we played as some Harry Potter characters on the LEGO Dimensions video game. Plus, we enjoyed a round of USAopoly’s Hogwarts Battle Cooperative Deck-Building Card Game. We waved some sparklers around outside pretending they were magic wands once it got dark, and then wrapped up the evening watching one of the Harry Potter movies that we projected on a big sheet tied across the fence in our backyard while munching on monster-themed snacks. Let your creativity soar when planning out a Family Fun Night!


Summer Camps

It used to mean going to camp meant your parents shipped you someplace far away for a month of the summer. Nowadays you can find a multitude of week-long summer day camps being held in proximity to your home. Plus, the camps now cater to a wide variety of interests.

By us, the Detroit Zoo and several museums each host week long summer camp programs. A local indoor rock climbing facility has a camp as well. I even recently saw an advertisement for a Circus Camp taking place in a nearby community. It teaches kids about acrobatics, gymnastics, juggling, magic and “clowning around.” My own kids will be spending a week at Champion Sports British Soccer Camp. They will enhance their football skills at a park just down the street from our house!

Camping Trips

A camping trip can be a very affordable road trip if you want to get away from home during the summer. Can’t make it out of town? Just pitching a tent in your backyard and making some S’mores can be a really fun time for kids. Can’t hit the road and don’t have a backyard to camp out in? Check with your parks and recreation department as they may be hosting an overnight tent camping event in your community on June 24 as part of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great American Camp Out.

Build Your Own Splash Pad

A fun DIY project to do with your kids—which can also teach them about some STEM concepts—is building your own splash pad. Take jumping through the sprinkler to a higher level! Instead of going to a water park or beach, create your own aquatic playground in the back yard.

Make a square out of PVC piping using waterproof sealant to connect the pieces. Cut slits in the pipes of various sizes and at different angles for water to form a spray pattern from into the center of your square’s outline. Place colored rubber athletic flooring panels to create a mat to play on. (Oherwise you’ll have a mud wrestling arena instead of a nice play area!) Add a connector for a hose, turn on the water and you are good to go! Everything you need is available from a hardware store and building something you can use all summer long will cost less than tickets for one trip to a water park.

Your imagination and creativity are really the only limitations when it comes to having fun during a stay-cation. You only have so many summers before your children grow up. Make the most of them! What are some of the activities your family enjoys when it comes to entertaining children during a summer stay-cation?