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.
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!
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.