14 Summer Family Staycation Ideas - Pen and Parent
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14 Family Staycation Ideas for Summer

By Melissa Uhles

Are you already wondering how you’ll cope with kids this summer? If funds or tight or you’d like to have some fun in your hometown, check out my 14 summer family staycation ideas. These are also sure-fire ways to get your kids off their screens for a few hours each day!


I’ll be honest, I’ve been lucky enough to travel a fair amount before and after having a kid and I’ve grown to prefer the “staycation” over the “vacation”. You may feel the same way or you may yearn to travel. Either way, sometimes we end up on a staycation whether we like it or not.

Following are some things we’ve tried and a few I’d like to try. There’s three long months to give these a go!

14 Summer Family Staycation Ideas

  1. Camp in the Backyard

Imagine roasting marshmallows around a little fire pit in your backyard. You can pitch a tent outside, eat some hotdogs and return to your own beds while the kids sleep in a tent in the great outdoors. If you are a real trooper, you can sleep under the stars with them. I mean, that’s not for me but it might be for you.

  1. Visit Museums

Check out a children’s museum or an art museum in town if your kiddos are old enough. We went to a rock museum recently that was full of geodes, it was a bit hit with my son. It’s funny how you can easily forget that you have cultural choices nearby that can make for a fun outing. Our public library even has FREE cultural passes to these places, check to see if your library offers something similar.

  1. Hike and Picnic

A great summer family staycation idea is to find a beautiful spot for hiking or even a park with a path and play structure. Bring some water, snacks or maybe even a picnic. Some kids may not last too long on a real hike without moaning, but if it’s a nice day you all can get a little exercise this way. You could also push yourself to drive an hour out of town and explore a park you’ve never been to before.

  1. Go Garage Saling  

Checking out garage sales can take up a whole morning. It’s a good chance to explore neighborhoods and your kids can get a chance to spend some of their own money on stuff they probably don't need. But they’ll have fun picking out treasures. You can also think of it as helping the local economy and getting stuff you might need for a steal.

  1. Shop for Used Books

We have one of the most amazing used bookstores where we live, Powell’s Books. If your town doesn’t have something similar you might try to hit up a library book sale. This is a chance to get out and buy books which will encourage your kids to read. That’s a good thing, right? You can pick up something for yourself to read in your lounge chair later, while you sip lemonade and the kids run through the sprinklers.

  1. Visit the Zoo

We have a nice zoo here. Checking out the animals is a nice way to force everyone into the present moment. If you’ve got good weather and snack carts around, it’s hard to complain. We’ve also been to a Wildlife Safari park in Oregon and Bearizona in Arizona, so there are lots of ways to check out critters.

  1. Eat Lunch Out

Lunch out can be an event. We have food cart pods here with all kinds of culinary fare. You can make a day of it by eating tacos off a truck, strolling through a park and returning later to another cart for ice cream. Not every town has food carts so Panera Bread and Sweet Tomatoes are other kid friendly spots we enjoy having lunch out.

  1. Cook a Splurge Meal at Home

One thing that can be a fun summer family staycation ideas is to make kids is homemade pizza. I have a recipe for a fast and easy dough and then everyone can add their favorite toppings. This might be a nice time to invite over another family for a dinner play-date.

  1. Walk the Botanical Gardens

Many towns have botanical gardens where people can stroll through and look at the blooming flowers. Here we have the Rose Garden and it’s like wandering through a maze of pinks and reds in June. Let the kids take some pictures and selfies and they’re bound to enjoy it even more.

  1. Go to the Movies

Going to the movies can get expensive, but if you can catch a matinee it might save you a few bucks. Where we live, they do older movies for kids for a dollar in the mornings on a weekday. It’s an ideal way to meet up with some other parents with little ones. And since you are staying home instead of going on vacation, you can splurge on some overpriced popcorn.

  1. Ride Public Transportation Downtown

Many urban downtowns have public transportation that might be a novel experience for kid that is used to travelling by car. Here in Portland we have the Max light-rail which feels like riding a train. When my son was a toddler we hopped on and for a few bucks were able to just enjoy the ride and the scenic view through the window.

  1. Pick Fruit at a Farm and Can Jam

Make a sweet day by choosing to pick fruit as a great summer family staycation idea. If you have a U-pick farm that’s not to far, that’s a thrilling way to teach kids about true farm-to table eating. If you don’t have something like that in your area, hit up a farmer’s market instead. We’ve picked strawberries and then made our own jam. I admit, I made the jam because real hot-water bath canning requires a precision and boiling water that isn’t easy to get kids involved in. That said, if you want to involve them, making freezer jam is a tasty alternative.

  1. Plant a Garden

Not all of us have a green thumb, I’m looking at myself here. But my husband does and he’s gotten our son to help out over the years by planting strawberries, corn, peas, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots and green beans in our backyard. There is nothing like giving a kid a chance to grow and eat their own food. If you are challenged in that area you could start with a little window box herb garden.

  1. Play Games

If you click on the link above you’ll see the post I wrote about my ideas for games for family game night. Classic board games can fill the time but there are outdoor games that can be enjoyed as well. We like badminton and frisbee. If it’s too hot, we stay inside and play Scrabble.

There you have it, folks. I hope these ideas help you enjoy the summer even if you don’t go far or take a traditional vacation.

When the kids go to sleep in their own beds, on time because they are at home, you might even have some evening time to write, right?

Why not join our FREE WRITING CHALLENGE: Write 3K in 3 Days? We’ll send you inspirational emails with writing prompts every other day to help you get a bunch of words on the page.

What have you done on staycation? We’d love to hear your summer family staycation ideas in the comments.

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The summer is here and you have to check out these 14 family staycation ides for summer that will make your days with kiddos rock. #familystaycations #parentingtips #summerfun @penandparent.com

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