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Summer Bucket List - Fun ideas for summer activities for kids, families, couples, and adults!

Here it is, my 2017 Bucket List! I’m a believer that when you take time to physically write down your hopes and goals, you are much more likely to make them happen. Share them aloud with a friend (or, you know, the internet), and that likelihood goes up even more.

While this list is by no means comprehensive to all the summer fun that is to be had (for example, I’m hoping to squeeze in a bike ride along the lakefront, visit new farmers markets, and convince a critical mass of people to rent a paddle tavern with me), it offers 12 ideas for memorable summer experiences that can be enjoyed in most any city, along with new recipes to try at home. I hope it inspires your own summer adventures, and I’d love to hear what’s on your bucket list too!

1. Attend an Outdoor Concert.

This is my absolutely favorite thing to do in the summer! While (in most contexts) live music is rarely a bad time, enjoying it outdoors on a blanket with friends, a cheese plate, and a glass of wine makes the experience a treasure. Milwaukee has a series called Jazz in the Park, plus other live music festivals throughout the city, and I bet your hometown has one too. If not, bring your blanket and a little portable speaker that can connect to your phone outside and create your own.

Other essential outdoor concert/picnic gear:

This is my favorite picnic blanket, and I use plastic dishware similar to this one. While you can certainly use paper plates, something about having an actual plate (even if it’s plastic and rainbow colored) makes the picnic that much more special and fun.

If you are planning to bring wine (and I hope you are!), check out these picnic wine glass and bottle holders.

2. Toast S’mores.

This might seem like a no-brainer, but last summer, I let the entire season slip by without toasting a single marshmallow. It was sad, and I don’t want it to happen to you.

Although milk chocolate is classic, I love making s’mores with dark chocolate or peanut butter cups. This year, I may even take things a step further and bring these beauties to our next cookout.

Other s’more ideas: spread the graham crackers with Nutella or swap them for chocolate graham crackers (or both!).

3. Go Picking at a Local Farm.

Like apple picking in the fall, visiting a local farm to pick strawberries, raspberries, or even summer veggies is a fun, rewarding way to spend an afternoon.

The Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp, Strawberry Bread, and Strawberry Oatmeal Bars you can bake with them afterwards are pretty rewarding too.

4. Watch Fireworks.

Humid summer evenings spent watching fireworks blaze across the night sky are some of my most vivid childhood memories. Many cities offer free firework shows, and while the Fourth of July might be the most common, other city festivals often feature them too. Check your local listings, plan ahead so you get a good spot, then watch the magic unfold.

5. Visit a State Park.

You don’t need to book a plane ticket to Wyoming or Montana to enjoy a beautiful state park. I bet you live nearer to one than you think! Do a little research and plan a day hiking and picnicking at a state park near you. Our current plan is to spend a day hiking at Devil’s Lake, and if time allows, to stay the night too.

6. Learn to Grill Something New.

For Ben and me, that means pizza. While I’ve mastered this easy naan pizza, my track record with traditional pizzas made on my homemade whole wheat pizza crust has been a little…crisp. Already a pizza master? Try grilling something you’ve never tried before. These Grilled Sweet Potato Fries are my current pick, and I want to work my way through this list too.

7. Bake a Fresh Peach Pie.

If there is a better way to celebrate the juicy beauty of summer peaches than baking them into a golden, flaky pie crust and then smothering them with vanilla ice cream, I have yet to figure out what it is. Homemade pie is a good amount of effort, but I make a commitment to bake at least one fresh fruit pie every summer. It’s worth it every time! I use my favorite homemade whole wheat pie crust recipe and this recipe for the filling.

Prefer cherry or blueberry pie to peach pie? Follow your heart and your appetite…and save me a slice!

8. Get Wet.

Maybe it’s a float trip with friends down a lazy river, renting a kayak or canoe, or installing an old school slip ‘n slide in your backyard, but this summer, commit to getting your hair wet. Have you always wanted to try stand-up paddle boarding but never have? This is the time!

9. Eat Outside as Often as Possible.

Regularly dining alfresco one of my biggest goals this summer. It’s also one of the most achievable. Whether it’s a picnic at a public park or on your own back porch, eating outdoors is one of summer’s greatest pleasures. Don’t let the trouble of carrying plates outside weaken your resolve. It’s not as much trouble as you think, and it’s absolutely worth it!

Planning to picnic? Be sure to check out my favorite picnic gear mentioned in #1 above.

10. Rock a Straw Hat.

Yep, this is totally on my bucket list. Despite an inexplicable desire to be a “hat person,” they never look quite right on my noggin. That said, if I can’t embrace the easy-breezy look of a straw hat in the summer, when can I? Put fear of fashion judgment aside and sport a new warm-weather look you love but have never had the guts to try, whether it’s a cut-out one piece, ripped up jean shorts (I just got this pair and they are so comfortable, I’m tempted to sleep in them), or romper. It’s the season to have some fun, wardrobe included!

Hat picks:

Currently debating between this one and this one. Any faves? The price is right on the first, but the packability of the second intrigues me…

11. Watch a Thunderstorm Roll In.

One of my favorite parts of growing up in Kansas was our epic thunderstorms. I can still feel the static in the air as they approached and the way the quality of the light and temperature of the wind changed as the clouds gathered. The sky rolls, darkens, then BOOM. Thunder rattles the windows and lightening illuminates the sky. It’s awe-striking. If you have the opportunity to sit on your porch and safely watch a storm from start to finish, it’s one of summer’s most underrated, powerful experiences.

12. Make Homemade Popsicles.

While a cold popsicle always hits the spot on a hot summer day, they are even more satisfying if you’ve made them yourself. You can use just about any fruit and mix-ins, so the flavor possibilities are endless. These Berry Parfait Yogurt Popsicles and these homemade Fudgsicles are two of my favorites.

If you haven’t purchased a homemade popsicle mold yet, now is the time. This one is less than $12 and works like a charm. If you have purchased one, this is the time to dust it off for the season.

What’s on your Summer 2017 Bucket List? I WANNA KNOW! Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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  1. I didn’t toast any s’mores last summer either!! Let’s keep each other accountable on this one. ;) Outdoor concerts are my favorite thing too, there’s something just so awesome and communal about a bunch of random strangers all enjoying the same thing! :)

  2. Definitely the straw hat from J.Crew – it’s more feminine and fun looking! Don’t really have a summer bucket list because we keep very busy around here. However, we love to take small vacations in the fall.
    Devil’s Lake is always a great destination – we used to stop and spend some time there when we would be on our way back from college (UW Stout). We too love all the farmers markets that pop up in the spring/summer. I also like going to nurseries to see what’s new in the planting kingdom…I always have to do some major restraining so I don’t buy everything interesting that I come across. As always, our tomatoes become a full time job once they start producing and so far, they’re right on schedule. Love tomato salads!

    1. Thanks for sharing Chris! Produce does start to become a full time job in the summer! Tallying one vote for the J.Crew hat…

  3. I’ve been wanting to go to Devil’s Lake for about 3 years now! My husband and I live in Madison and each summer I say I want to go, but we never make it because we’re always boating with my family. Hopefully this year I can finally cross that off my bucket list as well!
    My vote is definitely for the Nordstrom hat…so classic!

    1. I hope you’re able to go, Danielle! Thanks for weighing in. I’ll add a tally to the Nordstrom hat!

  4. Hi Erin, thanks for all the good suggestions! I love eating outdoors as often as possible! And, I’m looking forward to trying your Fajitas in Foil and Naan Pizzas on the grill! I definitely cast my vote for the J.Crew hat. I’m sure you’d look adorable in either one, but, as you are a world traveler, I’d go with the J. Crew! Happy summer!

  5. Love these! What fun things to grill!! I, too, want to see a good thunderstorm roll in… it’s been a while, Michigan! I also want to make it to a zoo this year, as well as to Lake Michigan! 

  6. LOVE your summer list! I am with you, if I write something down it is WAY more likely to happen :) Brian and I have a list of our own as well!

  7. I’m from WI too and all these things look like so much fun. I’m hoping to go to a few state parks as well as some farmers markets. Enjoy!!

  8. hey girl- love the list! We need to hang out sometime! ( if we could visit one another) They would be so much fun !

  9. My bucket list this summer includes staying home (we usually drive across the country to go to the beach), and spending as much time as possible at our local state park, where we are volunteers.  That park is probably my favorite place on the planet.  Local state parks can be amazing places.  Ours is a true oasis in the desert with human history going back at least 10,000 years and very unique plant life.  The good thing about going to a state park is that it gets you out into nature, and we all need exposure to nature to get inner peace and balance.