Summer has been officially on for about a month and a half, and there’s still about a month and a half to go before it officially ends. But as we all know, Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer — when school and work and day-to-day responsibilities ramp up again — and that’s closing in quickly. If you tend to be a procrastinator, now is the time to get shaking. There are summer brews that you haven’t quaffed, beaches you have yet to bask on, and meats that remain ungrilled.
Even if you aren’t a “why do today what you can put off until tomorrow” type, you still probably haven’t had all the summer fun that you longed for in February. That’s why we made this list, featuring a bit of everything, even an option for those who aren’t charmed by the rays of the sun. Dig through the options we’ve kicked your way and get to work making a loose list of your own for the rest of August and the first week of September.
You don’t want to let any of this hot weather or your vacation days go to waste.
Go Sky Diving
We jump off of diving boards into water because the plunge ends in cooling liquid that looks summer heat in the face and says, “Get bent.” But what if it was the dive itself that was cooling? Look, we know the pitch for sky diving is generally about leaping from a plane and making the sky your bitch, but don’t overlook how much more frigid things are at 10,000-feet. It’s at least ten degrees cooler than on the ground, which is solid when temperatures are climbing.
The experience may only add up to a few chilly minutes breaking through the clouds, but they will be refreshing ones you will never forget. You don’t get that from the air conditioning at the multiplex.
There’s a lot of good skydiving in the United States and abroad. With the variety of possible landscapes, you can drop onto the most beautiful places in the nation. We suggest going to Alaska Skydive Center because ascending over Denali Park and North America’s highest peak before being dropped over the waters of the Cook Inlet and into the wilderness surrounding it is legit lifechanging.
Take a Barbecue Road Trip
Ultimately, any road trip you take during the summer is a good one, and any barbecue you host or attend is too. So why not double up on good and hit the road for meal after meal of grilled meat, freshly made coleslaw, scratch dinner rolls, fresh corn, creamy mashed potatoes, and the rest of the bbq pantheon?
Obviously, this is gonna be a lot easier if you live in a state like North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee … well, pretty much the south in general. But you can always drive to your nearest southern state or fly in and grab a rental car. You might think this is an expensive option, but you can’t put a price on eating barbecue exclusively for an extended period of time broken up only by driving and roadside attractions. Think of all the Instagram cred alone!
Murphysboro, Illinois may not be a vacation capital, but try to work it into your road trip because it is the home of 17th Street Barbecue where Mike Mills and his daughter Amy continue to make the cherry and applewood-smoked baby back ribs, which have brought them high praise since the 1990s. These ribs win world championships and break records on the competition circuit. They are legit.
Every state has an ice cream truck or van that plays “The Entertainer” or “Turkey in the Straw” and slowly glides through residential areas. The tunes pull kids with handfuls of cash from in front of the fan or television to run screaming to the curb for a frosty treat. And yes, that stuff is tasty as hell, even those terrifying, deformed Spongebob pops.
However, the ice cream man and his Bomb Pops can kick rocks because paletas are next-level delicious. If you grew up in a community with a large Mexican population, you likely experienced a person walking a wheeled, refrigerated cart around and ringing a bell. In that cart were paletas, or Mexican ice pops in flavors like pineapple, mango/chili, rice pudding, goat milk caramel, and strawberry. You can also get them at the store or paleterias, but it’s not as fun.
If you’re in Southern California, Make your way to Los Alpes Neveria in Huntington Beach to taste some surprising flavors based in traditional Mexican cuisine like mole, elote, and pico de gallo. They also make the classics, so don’t worry if you prefer your corn pops to be cereal.
Go Skinny Dipping
All swimming is not created equal. It’s always fun, but we aren’t gonna commit ourselves to saying that splashing around in an above ground pool in your uncle’s yard is on par with floating along the surface of an infinity pool on the roof of a luxe hotel. We just can’t lie to you like that. That’s why you should trust us when we’re upfront about how awesome it is to rip off all of your clothes and hit the water.
Yes, there is a chance that some National Lampoon’s Vacation stuff could happen, but it’s far more likely that you will end up wet, naked, free, and having the time of your life. Bonus points for picking a lake in some pristine part of a forest, a natural hot spring, or a place with a posted sign prohibiting horseplay (sometimes you have to take a horseplay stand).
Try making your way to Haulover Beach in Bal Harbour, Florida. Located on a shoal between Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic, this beach held a trial for the world record in skinny dipping, so they know all about the fun that is a clothing-optional stretch of fine sand and shoreline. That’s why they were sanctioned by a local naturist organization in 1991.
See an Outdoor Movie
We get the appeal of a dark, air-conditioned theater with reclining seats. No lie, the setup is pretty damn sweet. But nothing beats a drive-in. Then there are dive-in movies at public pools, movies shown at parks, and the ones that are played in state and national parks. Point being, there are a lot of films being shown under the stars, and summer weather makes it pleasant (depending on your state) to grab some of your favorite foods, treat the world as your living room, and take in a flick.
Generally, these movies are second runs, so you won’t be catching new releases. That doesn’t really matter because it’s more about the novelty and less about the actual film.
If you’re down with drive-ins, check out our list of the best in the country. Also, make time to consult the web for films that are being shown in state parks and local parks near you. There are a decent number of these things happening.
Go Camping with Friends
Campsites get crazy busy during the summer because the weather is generally ideal for chilling outdoors. So though we think you should absolutely camp before things get chilly again, we would advise you to find somewhere a little less swamped. BLM land or free camping is the way to go.
Be sure to bring plenty of beer and s’mores makings. Spend a lot of time around the campfire trading stories and really reconnecting with nature and your friends. This is also a good time for some mellow recreational drug use, if you’re keen. We wouldn’t advise you to break the law, but we will support you in whatever decision you make, especially the decision to smoke some weed.
We have a list of awesome campsites you can check out handy. Otherwise, exercise some Google prowess to find campsites or open spaces near you that combine beautiful scenery with relatively few other campers. They’re out there, and they aren’t as hard to find as you would think.
Spend All Night Enjoying Air Conditioning in a Dive Bar
For the sun adverse (redheads, we got you), this option is a treat. All you need to do is find a dive bar with air conditioning, some games to play, and a decent jukebox or a bartender who has solid musical tastes. Make sure there’s no problem with you setting up shop for hours and hours, too.
You can fly solo but we think friends make things better. Plus, if you get hammered, having a backup to help you to your bed, prevent you from going home with a rando, and stop any potential fights is going to make your life a lot better. This is the chance you needed to finally order a Chocolate Choo Choo, Bourbon Bug’s Blood, or Squashed Strawberry Alley Cat.
If you are all about accolades and you live near Savannah, Georgia, head to the Rail Pub, which was chosen by the Nightclub & Bar Media Group as the country’s best dive bar. It has lived many lives, including as a brothel, and it continues to function as a place to get your base needs met.
Head to a Festival
If summer is coming to a close and you haven’t been to a festival yet, the time is nigh. There are a ton of available music fests, but there are also cultural festivals and food festivals. If your tastes lean more strongly towards eating a dozen things that include lobster rather than toward swaying among cheering and singing crowds while a lineup of musicians plays, we support you. Everyone isn’t made for Bumbershoot. Some of us are Pittston Tomato Festival people.
Start by looking local, but if you don’t see something that interests you, don’t be averse to traveling and making a mini-vacation out of it. Believe us, everyone that showed up for Bonnaroo wasn’t from Tennessee.
We love gathering festivals to help you out, so if you are trying to figure out where to go, lean on us. Whether you are curious about food festivals, the best summer music festivals, or music fests you’ve never heard of, we’ve got it all covered.
Swing off of a Rope into a Swimming Hole
Is any body of natural water worth your time if it doesn’t include a knotted rope hanging sturdily from a large tree on the shore? We’re talking quarries, marshy swimming holes, fishponds, large lagoons, and small lakes. Heck, even bends in rivers and meandering streams should have a freaking rope from which to play Tarzan.
Summer simply doesn’t feel like summer unless it includes you wrapping your hands around a rough length of cord, flying through the air in an arc, and letting go to splash into cool, clear water. Half the fun is risking a terrible injury, and that just feels American to us. Deeply, deeply American. Make sure to get lots of pictures because they are pretty much the only calling card you need to prove that you own summer.
We collected the 50 best swimming holes in the country by state, so there’s a shortcut for you. But keep in mind that they don’t all have ropes. We contend all swimming holes are good swimming holes, but consider driving to get to the ones with the rope swinging option.
First of all, we are talking surfing in water here, but if you don’t live anywhere near the ocean or one of those bizarre surf contraptions that people use to make videos of dads falling off boards and being repeatedly slammed into a wall by water, you absolutely have the option of going dune surfing instead. Riding fiberglass down a massive mound of sand is fun, too.
Let’s stick to the water for this entry. Who could possibly look upon a day spent in undulating water surrounded by beautiful people as anything other than a tiny slice of paradise? Plus, it’s a really great workout and a good excuse for a bonfire or at least some beers consumed feet from the shore. If you haven’t gone before, take a lesson. If you have gone before but just haven’t managed it this season, it’s time to manage it.
Beginners who can make it to California easily should consider shredding at Cowell’s Beach in Santa Cruz. It will be packed with locals, but it is also one of the friendliest beaches ever. The sets are waist-high and break 200 yards from the shore, and the water is 55-degrees in summer. Plus, there’s a surf shop right there and you can hit the Beach Boardwalk when you’re done riding the waves.
Go to an Adult Summer Camp
It’s natural to look back on the summers of your youth with wistful fondness. In many cases, these nostalgic musings are rooted in camp experiences, which is why adult summer camps have suddenly become very, very popular. If you miss camp or were desperately jealous of kids who got to go when you didn’t, these are the chance you have been looking for to climb rocks, frolic in the water, learn archery, take pilates, and get in some mountain biking.
There are so many different programs that you can get in on leadership camps, empowerment camps, space camps, even 90s camps. You will go home with a ton of new memories and friends and you can start telling people about your camp girlfriend that they can’t meet because she lives in a different state.
Camp No Counselors was early to this game, as it started with 100 friends on Labor Day weekend in 2013. Once word spread, it became apparent that people in their 20s and 30s were desperate for a space where they didn’t have to be so serious. Now, the company has camps in both New York and Los Angeles.