Summer is finally here in full swing. Maybe because I’m a summer baby, I love so much about this season—ice cream shops, sundresses, and even taking out the garbage without putting a coat on. But in the last few years, summer seems to have flown by, and the leaves were changing before I knew it.
This year, I’m making an effort to make time for my favorite things. Ideally, I wouldn’t have to make a list to enjoy summer to the fullest, but life is busy, and it can be too easy to let other things take precedence. I’m learning that living intentionally means having no regrets. This bucket list is my antidote to a too-short summer, and my ticket to a season to remember.
01. Pick your own
Often we think of going fruit picking in the fall when apples are ripe and ready for pie-making. Summer is a great time to get to the farm, too, and it’s quite possible that you’ll find the space less crowded now than later. You’ll also find much more than pumpkins and apples—think raspberries, strawberries, peas, tomatoes, and even fresh flowers for your table. If your schedule is flexible, try to go midweek for discounts.
02. Farmer’s market feast
Farmer’s markets are always a treat, but they can also be a little overwhelming. When everything looks good, the key—again—is to be intentional. Take one lap to see what’s available, then set yourself a challenge of creating a meal only from ingredients purchased at the market. Some stalls may have recipes on hand, while vendors at others will be happy to help you select choices for pairing and buy the right quantity for your crew. You just have to ask!
03. Botanical garden getaway
You don’t have to travel far to feel like you’re in another world. Look around for botanical gardens in your area and visit their websites for information on special events. Many are free to enter; others offer memberships that give you access to multiple gardens across the country. Bring a camera, sketchpad, or journal to stretch your freshly inspired creative muscles.
04. Movie/concert/play in the park
If it feels like the weekends fill up too fast, make the most of a weeknight with art in a park. An outdoor movie, concert, or play is an excellent excuse to pick up your favorite take-out, toast with your favorite drink (if allowed on the premises), and share an evening with friends. It may also mean visiting a park you’ve never been to before, thus expanding your appreciation of your town or county. Many of these events offer free admission, which is something you won’t find in a theater.
When was the last time you played Marco Polo or did a handstand in the community pool? As we grow up, we have to leave some things behind . . . but not everything. While a handstand by a thirty-something in the shallow end may be unseemly, taking a dip and feeling your body move through the water can be a joy at any age. Don’t sit on the sidelines this summer. At least once, take the plunge and remember why you dreamed of being a mermaid all those years ago.
06. Evening run (or walk)
It’s hard to describe the glorious energy I feel during a run in just the right weather. When my muscles are warm and my breathing comes easy, I feel like I could go on and on. If that’s not the case for you, consider a walk or a bike ride in the evening that allows you to get outside for some cardio while the sun’s still out but the temperature is less-sweltering.
07. Ice cream truck indulgence
Is it even summer if you don’t have ice cream? I’m not recommending making dessert a daily practice, but I also don’t think anyone ever gets too old for rainbow sprinkles. Ice cream, gelato, and Italian ice shops offer sophisticated options these days, from organic local dairy to Kahlúa-based treats. That’s not to say that “sophisticated” flavors are in any way superior to time-tested classics. Whether it’s your favorite childhood combination or the newest thing on the menu, what matters is what brings you joy.
08. Wear your favorite summer dress
I love switching out the clothes in my closet from season to season and finding something I’d forgotten about. Some years, though, it’s not yet warm enough to wear my favorite things, and I forget (again) until the appropriate weather window has passed. I’m making an effort this year to make sure I’m rotating what I’m wearing so that I enjoy getting dressed each day. The things that I’m not so excited about can be donated to spark joy in someone else’s summer.
Ultimately, getting the most out of summer means getting back to the simple things—the possibilities borne of longer days and breezy nights, the vivid flavors of seasonal food, the calming effects of fresh air, and the opportunity to build relationships. Whatever that means for you (hiking? gardening? painting outside?), I hope you enjoy as much of it as you can.