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Retro Summer: Classic Outdoor Activities Worth Reviving

Get a little nostalgic with these retro outdoor summer activities, and try something totally new with your partner, family, or friends.

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Once the weather turns nice and the sun is out more, it’s the time to enjoy all the outdoor summer activities. Most of us feel a little cooped up after the cold weather of winter and the rainy days of spring. Summer is the perfect time to pull out all the backyard toys, plan some vacations where all the time is spent outside, and enjoy those long summer days before the weather takes a turn again in the fall.

If you’re looking for some outdoor summer activities to try this summer, we’ve put together a list for you. Get a little nostalgic with these retro summer activities and try something totally new with your partner, family, or friends. Summer is a great time to get some fresh air and spend time outside having fun with your loved ones. Scroll through the list and pick a few fun things to add to your summer bucket list.

Summertime Fun for Everyone

Summer is great for lounging in the sun and enjoying those lazy hazy days, but sometimes you just want to have fun! Adventures From Scratch is packed with over 50 activity suggestions, so you don’t even have to come up with ideas on your own! Each is hidden until you’re ready to scratch off the coating and give it a try. Grab your copy today!

Classic Outdoor Summer Activities

Let’s start with some summertime options that will bring back the memories and feelings of years past. The reason these activities are classic is that they are beloved and never seem to fade in popularity. These are fun options for the entire family or with a group of your friends. 

Do a taste test from an ice cream truck.

The song played by the ice cream truck might vary from region to region, but everyone knows how to recognize it. Grab some cash (even though many accept cards and online payment options now) and head to the truck with a group to do a full sampling. 

Order multiple items including popsicles, ice cream bars, and other sweets and then find a spot outside to eat a few bites of each one to figure out which is your favorite as an adult. Do they still carry your favorites from childhood? Do you love it as much as you remembered?

If you live in an ice cream truck desert, consider heading to your local ice cream shop and asking for a bowl or cup with a collection of flavors so you can do your own taste test. Try some crazy flavors that you have never tried. You never know when you might find something new that you love. Maybe your taste buds have changed over time and a flavor you didn’t love in the past is your new favorite.

When all else fails, order a sundae loaded with all the sprinkles, toppings, and whipped cream that you want. Treat yourself to something special on a hot summer night in whatever way sounds the most fun for you.

Find a nearby drive-in for an outdoor movie night.

There are only several hundred drive-in movie theaters remaining in the United States. At one point in the 1960s, there were more than 4,000, so this is definitely a retro activity that is still hanging on. 

You just drive your car in and park facing the screen. Get comfortable in the car with all your snacks and you watch the movie on a giant screen and listen over the radio or using small speakers next to your spot. 

Most theaters have a variety of movie options depending on the week. There are family-friendly movie options, some classic older movies, and brand new releases. Most theaters do a double feature, so you can settle in for a long evening of fun and entertainment. 

Do a quick google search and see where the closest theater is to you. Stock up on your favorite snacks or visit the concession stand when you arrive. And definitely don’t forget blankets, pillows, and any other comfortable accessories you need to really enjoy the show.

No drive-in near you? Don’t worry! You can create a similar ambiance by creating your own “drive-in” at home, using a rented or purchased projector. Even if you don’t have a screen, you can use a sheet hanging from a clothesline or your garage door. Get creative! Gather the gang, make some popcorn, and it’s movie time.

Tie-dye shirts and try classic crafts.

Did you ever go to a summer camp while you were growing up? You might remember some of the fun craft days that they hosted. You can recreate those childhood favorites this summer for your whole family. 

Tie-dye shirts are one of the most popular options. Just grab a collection of white t-shirts and some colorful fabric dyes. Using rubber bands, you can twist the shirt tightly and tie it up. When you pour the dye over it, it will create cool patterns in the parts of the shirt that are tucked away. Use simple online tutorials to get more ideas and make your supply shopping list. 

Another great craft that was a summer camp staple is friendship bracelets. Grab a few colors and spend some time tying them into special knots to create various patterns. Make one for each of your best friends. 

There are plenty of other crafts you can try out to get your hands doing something new and fun. Take a pottery class, bring out the camera and take some portraits, or pull up drawing or painting classes online and see what skills you might have untapped.

Camp out in the backyard.

Camping can be a little intimidating for people who don’t spend a ton of time in the great outdoors, but it can be incredibly easy for anyone with a backyard. Set up your tent and practice with all the comforts of home at your fingertips. 

Fire up the grill to make your dinner outside using hamburgers, hotdogs, or another fun camp meal. Light a bonfire to make s’mores and tell ghost stories. Do some stargazing if you live in a spot where the lights aren’t too bright from the street or other houses in the neighborhood. And if you decide that you don’t want to be outside anymore, you can always sneak inside to sleep in your bed without having to worry about your site.

Who knows? After a magical night, you might be hooked and find yourself searching for a state park near you where you can try roughing it a little more. There are also some great websites available that allow you to rent RVs and campers if you want to try a little glamping and explore more of the great outdoors.

Run through the sprinklers.

Water parks have gotten incredibly high-tech with crazy water slides and giant theme park rides to keep kids cool in the summer. But you probably remember turning your own backyards into a water park and you can do that this summer. It’s a lot cheaper than a day at the park and you can invite all of your friends over to enjoy a more retro vibe.

The sprinkler that is used to keep your lawn alive and green is the most basic addition to your homemade park. Run through it or set up a chair and just enjoy the cold water as it does double duty with its gardening work.

Another popular option is the DIY slip and slide. The store-bought options are usually geared toward preschoolers, but what about adults that want to take a dive across the lawn? All you need are tarps and a hose (and maybe some dish soap if you’re feeling wild.) Lay out the tarps across the lawn, it’s best if you have any sort of a hill. Start the hose at one end after getting the tarp completely wet and then give it a try. Dish soap helps make it extra slippery.

Water balloons have also come a long way in the last decade. It used to take hours to fill up a bag of water balloons and tie them all off. Now, you can purchase quick-fill balloons that fill and seal hundreds of balloons in just minutes. Have fun soaking each other with balloons, just make sure to clean up the pieces when you’re done (the least fun part.)

Test some tricks on a skateboard.

Skateboarding is a sport that was started in Southern California around the 1950s. Surfers wanted something to do when the waves were flat, so they started “sidewalk surfing.” Since then, the sport has grown so much that it’s become an Olympic sport!

With over 11 million skateboarders in the world, cities are starting to add more skateparks and places for people to practice and roll around. Moving around on a skateboard promotes balance and coordination and it’s great for exercise.

If you grew up skateboarding, you might be able to step right back on like no time has passed, but make sure you are wearing some protective gear. Introduce your kids to this fun way to get around the neighborhood and see if they’ve got any natural talent.

Host a BBQ with lawn games.

Invite your friends, family, or neighbors over for a summertime BBQ. Grilling is an easy way to cook all kinds of meats and veggies. You can even make some desserts on the grill. Throw a potluck where people can bring all the classic side dishes like pasta salad, veggies and dip, fruit salad, and more. 

While the food is cooking, work up an appetite with some outdoor games. There are so many backyard games to choose from. Popular lawn games include bocce ball, ladder ball, capture the flag, and more. Even better would be to pull out some retro toys like the hula hoop, the skip-it, or pogo sticks to see if people still have the same skills. 

Badminton is an easy retro game to set up in the backyard. Set up a net and determine if you’re playing singles or doubles and then have a blast launching the birdie back and forth. You can set it up tournament style and see who has the best racquet skills in your group.

This is a fun activity for a large group and gives you an excuse to gather your favorite people together in one place. Enjoy those summer afternoons with a casual day of good food, cold drinks, and some friendly competition.

Grab the ropes and try Double Dutch!

Playing Double Dutch requires three or more people, two people turn the long ropes and one or more people take turns jumping in the middle. The jumper performs tricks and fancy movements with their feet while jumping between the ropes.

This classic outdoor summer activity was believed to have originated on the streets of New York City with Dutch immigrants. In the 1970s, rules were formally established by two NYC police offers and competitions began.

Now, Double Dutch has multiple categories of competition and is even a varsity sport in New York City high schools. Bring this activity from the streets of Brooklyn and Manhattan back to your neighborhood this summer.

Roll around on skates.

The roller rink was a very popular hangout decades ago when disco music was popular, but roller skating has been around for a long time before then. The earliest roller skates date back to 18th century Europe. Thankfully, there have been some updates to the skates themselves and they are making a resurgence in popularity in the last few years.

Roller rinks are still around in most large US cities, but they are a little harder to find today than 30-40 years ago., so take it outside. Whether you live near a boardwalk or any smooth path outside, you can strap on your roller skates (or roller blades) and get some exercise while having fun. There are so many cool tricks that you can learn as you get more comfortable wheeling around.

Hang out at the swimming pool.

There are at least 10 million residential swimming pools in the United States. If you are one of the lucky ones, then you probably already have a backyard filled with noodles and inflatables and a group of people that will come over as soon as you throw out the invite. 

If you do not have easy access to your own pool, you have some other options to enjoy this summer favorite. Check to see if your neighborhood parks have public pools or splash pads. You can also rent private pools by the hour using the Swimply website. Inflatable pools come in all shapes and sizes if you want to add something to your yard that doesn’t require a lot of maintenance and can be set up and taken down fairly easily. 

Swing some clubs on the golf course.

Golfing is a popular leisure activity during the summer, but if you think it’s only for people with country club memberships, you’re in luck. Community golf courses try to keep it affordable and accessible for everyone. You can rent clubs and try your hand at an easier course, plus many offer lessons.

If you aren’t sure if you’re ready to hit the links yet, driving ranges are fun places to smack some golf balls and practice your swing. Miniature golf is another great family activity because everyone can putt. Mini golf courses have entertaining themes and tricky obstacles. Make a list of a few near you and make it a point to visit them all and play tournament-style with friends.

Golf is a great way to get out and get some exercise, fresh air, and have some fun! Give it a try this summer.

New Things to Try This Summer

With longer days and more availability with school holidays, it’s the perfect season to get out and try something new. We’ve got a few options to get you thinking about some things that might challenge you a bit or introduce you to some new activities and places this summer.

Take a kayak tour.

Kayaking is a great way to get out on the water and get a good workout in as well. Lakes, rivers, streams, and even the ocean are all great for kayaking. And the best part is, you don’t need to purchase a boat to get out on the water. Kayaks are easy to rent along with paddleboards. Do a quick google search and see which lakes near you have a rental spot.

There are also groups that offer tours. If you feel like you want to have safety in numbers out on the water, or you want a guide to give you information about the area, this is a great option. You can learn about the location, as well as the fish and marine life you might come across during your paddle.

Any time you rent a kayak or paddleboard, you will also get a life jacket for safety. Be sure to pack lots of sunscreen for your adventure and a waterproof case for anything you bring in the boat.

Visit a local park you’ve never been to.

Spend a free summer day scoping out a new park. No matter where you live, there’s got to be a park in your area that you have never explored. Whether it’s a state park, national forest area, or just a city park. Pack some snacks in a bag and bring a book or some lawn games and head out to explore. Take your time reading any information plaques, and try a few of the trails to see where you end up—just be open to new things.

If you have kids, visiting new playgrounds can be a great activity for the summertime when they are out of school. Each playground is a little different and offers new kids’ activities that they will have a blast exploring. For new options, check any community groups for parents. It’s a popular topic to share new and fun parks in the area. Make a list of all the ones you want to explore and change up your normal routine.

Set up a scavenger hunt.

Scavenger hunts are fun and help you shake things up a bit. You can customize a hunt for any situation. There are tons of free printables online for nature scavenger hunts if you want to challenge yourself and your family to make some new discoveries in your neighborhood or while out on a hike. You can find road trip options as well, full of things to watch for while traveling by car.

For more formal options in your city or a place you are visiting, there are companies, like Let’s Roam, that offer unique hunts to introduce you to neighborhoods and challenge you to answer trivia questions and take memorable photos while you’re racing to find the end. It’s a unique way to go on an adventure and explore. 

Head to an amusement park.

Theme parks are scattered around the country and it seems like many of them are competing for the fastest, tallest, or most extreme rides. If you love exhilarating rides and roller coasters, see what the newest additions to the park nearest you are. Maybe it’s been a few years since you’ve visited and you’ll have plenty of new options to explore. 

Just beware. If it’s been a long time since you’ve ridden the tea cups or an upside-down roller coaster, you might not love it as much as you remember. Spend a day flying through the air and screaming your head off. Amusement parks have a variety of things to do in addition to rides, so when you need a break (or if you quickly realize you don’t love them anymore), you can play games at the arcade, watch the entertainment, or eat your way through the concession stands.

Explore the farmer’s market.

During the summer months, farmer’s markets pop up in communities all over the country. Many of the larger ones are on Saturdays and Sundays, but some are on weekdays. If you have never been, you can find information online about the markets close to you. Try a new market or spend a few hours slowly walking through each stand. Buy a fruit, vegetable, or snack you’ve never tried before, and then make a meal around that new item.

The cool thing about shopping at the farmer’s market is you’re getting local and fresh produce and you’re helping to support smaller family-owned farms and vendors. It’s a great way to be an active member of your community. You might find some new favorite stands or foods that you hadn’t discovered yet. Enjoy the seasonal markets and produce while you can.

Have a rainy day readathon.

Looking for some kid-friendly rainy day activities that don’t involve a full day of screen time? Consider stocking up on some books for a rainy day readathon. You can set up some goals for how many pages or time they spend reading with some rewards. Maybe you have dessert before dinner if they hit a certain amount or they get to choose the next movie night. It’s a great way to get everyone reading even when school is not in session. The local library can be a great resource for free books as well.

Even if you don’t have kids at home, rainy day reading is enjoyable at any age. There will be days where the weather isn’t ideal, so have a book or two that you’ve been excited to read and keep them out where you remember to pick them up when you just want a little time on the couch.

Build an obstacle course.

Obstacle courses can be a great way to burn off some energy and you can change them up constantly so you’re never doing the same course. This is outdoor fun for all ages and you don’t need any special equipment to set these up. Utilize what you have in your garage or your yard already.

Draw lines with sidewalk chalk with instructions like jumping, skipping, hopping on one foot, or doing tasks like push-ups or jumping jacks. You can bring in water balloons, basketballs, or tennis balls and have the participants hit targets or make baskets. Make it into a relay race with teams. If you do want to stock up on some basic supplies, the dollar store can be a great spot to check. Obstacle courses can include any challenges, so have fun creating them!

This is a perfect way for kids to burn off energy and get some physical activity while having a blast. Make it more challenging by blindfolding the participants and having their teammates guide them using their voices. 

Organize an outdoor dinner party.

We mentioned above that summer BBQs and grilling are perfect for gathering your friends and family, but what about putting together a fancier alfresco dining experience in your backyard? Maybe you got a new pizza oven and want to fire up some gourmet pizzas. Turn your backyard into an Italian getaway. Put up some string lights and add a tablecloth and some flowers to your table. 

It doesn’t take much to make your backyard a beautiful dining spot. Nature and plants along with the open sky will do most of the heavy lifting. Just put together a few dishes and something fun to drink and you’re ready to go. It will feel fancy to use real dishes and silverware outside as well because most people are used to paper plates and disposable silverware outdoors. 

Make sure to keep a few citronella candles going if you have mosquitos in your area. Nothing is worse than getting bit while trying to enjoy a nice evening. Put together a playlist of your favorite summertime songs to set the mood and invite a few of your closest friends. Maybe you rotate who is hosting each month or turn this into a weekly event. Enjoy the outdoors while it’s nice out.

Make a summer outdoor activities list! 

The sunny season is in full swing, so add these ideas to your list, and have some fun with timeless summer activities this year! Revive at least one thing from your past, share it with your partner, friends, and family, and make some new memories. This list is just a start. Use the comments to let us know which classic activities you’re planning to bring back!

Frequently Asked Questions 

What are the best activities for a summer BBQ?

Lawn games are one of the simplest outdoor summer activities for BBQs. Pick up ladder ball, a bocce ball set, or badminton and invite people over for some food and fun.

What new summer activities should I try this year?

Why not make something old new again? Bring back classic outdoor summer activities like roller skating, drive-in movies, and backyard games. When you need to cool down, find an ice cream truck!

How can I entertain my kids for summer break?

When it comes to summer activities, you’ll find lots of suggestions at Each of their scratch-off activity books is filled with 50+ hidden ideas you can scratch off when you need some fun!

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