15 ways to fill the dog days of summer: late summer getaways and tips

By this part of summer, some families have already begun the school year, and the rest of us are in the last leg of vacation. If you’re like us, the planned summer trips are behind you, yet empty days still stretch ahead. How to fill these dog days of summer? We have 15 ideas for late summer getaways, day trips, and pit stops.

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1. Check ReserveAmerica for last-minute cancellations at a local state park.

Yes, you’ll remember we recommended getting summer camping reservations months ago. But last-minute cancellations happen all the time. If your dates are flexible (the days seem to stretch out endlessly at this time of year), make a habit of checking the reservation page for your favorite local campground each morning when you check your email. You never know when an overnight opening may pop up!

2. Find a summer festival.

Look in your local paper or the tourism website of your state or city, and make a plan to experience a new-to-you festival. Last summer, we were happily surprised by both a local brewfest (surprisingly kid-friendly!) and local kite festival. Other popular festivals include music festivals and art festivals. Make a day of it, packing a lunch or even planning an overnight.

3. Take a day hike.

Too worn out to plan a camping trip? Take a long day hike. Use the long summer daylight hours to plan a multi-hour hike on a trail near home, and bring enough provisions (such as swimsuits, food, water, and towels) to really make a day of it.

4. Backpack in a nearby national forest.

Feeling more ambitious? An overnight backpacking trip can make you feel as if you’ve really gotten away from it all, without too much time or cash investment. If you have your own gear, all you need is a local national forest (and possibly a permit, usually granted at the forest service office nearest the trailhead). Don’t have backpacking gear? Rent it!

5. Try a new museum.

Do you have a membership to a science or children’s museum? Are you sick of it after visiting all summer? We hear you. Try a new one in another city within your region. Most museum memberships come with to perk of visiting others in a network, which will honor your local membership with free admission. Learn more here.

6. Use a summer hotel deal.

Many hotels offer great incentives to visit at the tail end of summer. Check the website of your favorite hotel nearby or in an adjacent city for an easy getaway. Look for back-to-school specials or themed deals, such as museum packages, mother-daughter packages, or dining packages. Here are some deals available nation-wide at one of my favorite hotel brands, Kimpton.

7. Take the dog to a public pool.

Look for the announcement: at most public city pools, the city offers a ‘dog day’ on the day after the last day the public pool is open for swimming. This is a fun time to let the dogs swim before the pool is drained for the year. If your local pool does not offer a dog day, or you don’t have a dog, look for other fun end-of-summer pool events, such as rubber duck races or boat derbies.

8. Find a wine or ale trail.

Surprisingly, wine tasting and cider or ale tasting can be a family-friendly activity. Many agricultural regions around the country now sport wine or ale trails, where families can drive from location to location for tastings. Many wineries have nice outdoor spaces perfect for picnics or lawn games like bocce ball. Don’t have a wine trail near you? Look for a farm trail with farmsteads to frequent, or find a farmer’s market. Here’s our local wine trail.

9. Look for a living history day.

Give the kids a history lesson before school starts. We’ve found living history days locally that cover everything from pioneering history to Civil War battles. Most living history days will be hosted by a local history association chapter, historical site, or state park. Start your search at the National Historical Society.

10. Raft a river.

While we certainly love multi-day rafting trips, day trips can be wonderfully fun as well. Take your own inflatable rafts on a tame river, or rent a raft from a local rafting company. Even fairly small rivers tend to have recreational enterprises along them. Don’t want to plan it yourself? Go with an outfitter. Some of our favorite day tripping rivers include the Deerfield in Massachusetts and the Deschutes in Oregon.

11. Have a stay-cation.

Eat out at your favorite restaurant, get tickets to the latest blockbuster, and round out your day with a game of mini-golf. Better yet, plan a ‘local food’ day, and head to the farmer’s market, followed by a trip to a local farm, orchard, or factory, sampling local foods along the way.

12. Camp in the backyard.

Tried and true! We have a large tent set up in our backyard most of the summer, and the kids enjoy inviting friends for tented sleepovers. Don’t forget to move the tent every few days to keep your grass alive, and be sure to turn off any automatic sprinklers! Place a small table in your tent and keep a deck of cards or a board game at the ready, along with a camping lantern.

13. Plan a bike trip.

Take your bikes and find a local trail. Many towns and cities now have specialized cycling paths, or families can find single track mountain biking trails. Be sure the trail system you chose allows bikes (as opposed to only hikers) and if you can’t transport bikes easily, find a route from your own neighborhood. Find trails near you.

14. Rent a new water toy.

Head to your local lake and rent a row boat, stand-up paddle board, kayak, or raft. The cost of the rental will be worth it when you don’t have to haul the toy to and from home, and having a novel pastime will keep kids busy for a number of hours. We love playing on SUPs (stand-up paddle boards) the best!

15. Take a tour or have an experience with Groupon or Cloud9.

Find a local activity at a discount with Groupon, or search Cloud9 to find out what adventurous or new experiences are offered in your area. Activities range from paint ball to sky diving to kayaking. Either site can help you find something new to do that you may not have tried otherwise.

What are your end-of-summer plans? How do you beat August boredom?

About the author

Amy Whitley

AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly as a family travel expert at Go Green Travel Green and Practical Travel Gear, and contributes to Outdoors NW as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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