By J.G. Noll
Summer begins and it feels like it all stretches out in front of you–so many days and weeks that are completely empty and full of promise. But somehow, by the middle of June, it feels like it’s all rushing by fast. . . too fast. Use this bucket list to explore your duty station and to make the most of your summer holiday.
1. Visit a farmer’s market
Make it into a family trip. Grab a stroller or a wrap for the little ones and give your older kids directions for fruits and veggies to be on the look out for. Farmer’s markets often have samples and fun items, so don’t be afraid to stop and enjoy. . . and maybe splurge a little.
2. Find a park you’ve never been to
Pull out Google Maps and find a little patch of park that you haven’t visited. Explore it with the kids or take a blanket and a book and just read by yourself.
3. Attend a summer festival
Chances are, your town has at least one summer festival. . . even if it’s a tiny one. Take a few bucks and enjoy the local culture and flavor of your town. You won’t be here much longer. Make the most of it while you can.
4. Try a new food
Summer means a bounty of local veggies and fruits that you might not normally get a chance to taste. Whether it’s at a restaurant or in your own kitchen, make it a point to try something different. If rhubarb’s plentiful where you are, try making rhubarb compote for ice cream or a rhubarb pie. Okra? Ask around for a local recipe. If you see fried yucca on the menu, order up a plate.
5. Get to the library
Libraries are a wealth of information and activities. From book clubs for teens to craft time for kids to reading challenges for adults, you can always count on the library to offer cheap, meaningful, intellectual entertainment. In fact, many libraries now offer makers clubs, crafting circles, and language classes– it’s the perfect way to keep every one occupied, safe, and in air conditioning when it gets too hot.
6. Visit a museum
Take your military ID, check out Blue Star Museums, and hit your local museum. Thanks to a partnership between Blue Star Families and the National Endowment for the Arts, museums across the country invite military families to explore their exhibits for free.
7. Take in a National Park
Many parks in the National Park System are free for everyone. For those that aren’t, you can obtain your family’s free Annual Pass by phone or at a visitor’s center.
8. Learn something on YouTube
Don’t know how to do the Wobble? Maybe you’d like to teach your kids how to use chopsticks since it looks like your next duty station might be in Asia. Or dig out your sewing machine and learn how to use it (finally). YouTube has a host of free tutorials for pretty much everything you could ever think of. Use the summer to add something to your skill set.
9. Use your resources on base
Maybe it’s a library, the pool, a campground by the beach, or the USO. (Or something else!) Find one of the things on base that you’ve always walked or driven by but never actually tried out. Then take the plunge and explore it!
10. Spend a day without any electronics
Put down all of the devices and turn off the TVs and computers. Yes, for everyone. Research shows that it’s good for kids’ brains when they’re bored, and you’ll feel great after you’ve gotten away from the constant distractions that electronics bring.