Some of the best memories you can make take place outside! Here are 9 of our favorite and fun outdoor family activities that we think create some of the best memories (along with prices and tips – most are free or inexpensive!)
I think most people have fond memories of the summer. Some may have gone on fun vacations to Disneyland, others camping, and others may just have enjoyed the extra hours of sunlight to hang out outside.
I know that some of my favorite memories have taken place during the summer! Although I really don’t handle heat very well, there’s just something relaxing about the season! Even though Jack isn’t in school, and Forrest and I both work from home (so our lifestyle is rather laid back), we still enjoy doing a few extra activities and family fun during the summer. I try to plan some kind of outing every week, and it’s proven to be something we all look forward to. There are just certain things that are just a little more enjoyable during the summer!
Here are some of our favorite family outdoor activities. I thought I would focus on outdoor because I think it’s important for children and adults to get some natural Vitamin D and just get off the couch and enjoy the beautiful world around us. I certainly don’t take enough time to do that, and whenever I do, I feel like it always makes me feel better. A lot of these activities are free or inexpensive, and really, they are activities that I think will create memories for a lifetime.
I love camping. Ironically enough, I haven’t been in years. Forrest and I bought a bunch of camping equipment when we got married, but every year since then, there seems to have been some kind of reason not to go. I was super sick from my pregnancy with Jack the first summer after we were married, the second summer Jack was just a little baby, and the next few summers…well, time just got away from us! I grew up going camping quite often. My dad has always loved the outdoors – especially camping. He has spent a good portion of his life being a scout master for the Boy Scouts, and he would sometimes take us camping as a family. I always loved it, and I looked forward to those fun nights of “roughing it.” I’ve always known camping was something I wanted to do with my family, and this summer, we finally decided to set aside a weekend to do it! I’m planning to do a whole series of camping posts next week, but it’s really one of the best summer outdoor activities in my opinion – especially because with camping, you can do a bunch of other things (like hiking, fishing, etc.) We recently went camping at Jellystone Park Larkspur, and it was so fun. I’ll do a review next week, but if you have a Jellystone Park near you (there are over 100 locations nationwide), I highly recommend checking it out! Costs of Camping:
- Equipment – this will obviously vary significantly on what you get. We have a four man tent from Target (it was awesome), an air mattress, sleeping bags, a cooler, and a portable grill. I recommend some camping chairs (which you can get for relatively inexpensive)
- Food – there are so many yummy camping recipes, and most of them require just simple ingredients. You can also just play it simple and bring hot dogs, hamburgers, and, of course, all the fixings for s’mores!
- Camp site – varies depending on where you go! Jellystone Park was at least $37 a night for camp site, but it also included a lot of activities. I’d say camp sites cost between $15 and $30 for a basic site. Ask around for recommendations!
- Fire wood, coals for a fire
- Gas to get there
Forrest had many, many memories of canoeing growing up. He loves to talk about the canoeing trips he took with his dad (50 miles one time!) It’s something we’ve been able to enjoy quite a few times as well since we’ve been met, and I really love it! When we lived in Provo, we would go to a local place that would allow you to rent a canoe for several hours and you could go on the Provo River and into Utah Lake. One time when we were canoeing there, Forrest hit his glasses off into the river…he got out and couldn’t ever find them. It was a sad day! However, since then we’ve gone many times, and it’s always so fun. Last year we went with most of Forrest’s family, and it was quite the experience. It was pouring down rain, Forrest and I really had no idea where we were going (and since I’m secretly the most competitive person ever, we were way ahead of anyone and had no idea if we missed our stop), and the route was rather trecherous. However, it was a blast, and I hope we can go again soon. Jack was two at the time, and he just sat in the canoe! Beyond the bout of rain we had, he did great. Costs:
- Location – some places may charge for you to use their property. If you don’t own a canoe, you’ll probably go to a place like this, since they will probably include the canoe. I believe the place Forrest and I used to go in Provo is
- If you want to buy your own equipment, you’ll obviously be paying more upfront, but it may be worth it if you plan to go a lot. A basic canoe costs ___ and paddles are ___.
- Life jackets – most places that have canoe rentals will have life jackets included. If you are using your own canoe, you’ll need to purchase them. The cost will just vary.
Something that both my grandfather and Forrest’s had in common was a love for fishing. Forrest’s grandpa spent many years deep sea fishing, and it’s something that he would share with his family. My grandpa was more of a lake/river fisher, but he loved it so much. One of my favorite pictures of this one of him holding a giant fish he caught. The look on his face was priceless: I don’t think I ever really went fishing (which my dad says he regrets not doing – but we did plenty of other fun things!), but this summer, Jack has been begging us to go. We go on walks at a couple of different lakes almost every day, and there are always tons of people fishing. Every time we go, he deeply sighs whenever we pass by someone and laments on how much he wants to go fishing. So when we went to Jellystone Park this last weekend, I was excited to see that they had a catch and release fishing pond that we could try out.
Of course, you’ll need fishing poles, fishing line and bait to go fishing. It can be an investment, but it’s one of those things you will invest in once and use for a long time. We were sent a couple of Shakespeare Catch More fishing combo sets for our trip, and they were so perfect. They come pre-spooled with Stren fishing line and a fishing kit that has lots of hooks, bait, and more. Fishing is one of those things that can be relatively low-stress, and you can enjoy with your family in a relaxed setting. Whenever we see people fishing, it’s usually with a bunch of their family. Although we didn’t catch any fish with Jack, he was on cloud nine, and he has been asking to go again ever since. I feel like we created some great memories with him. I hope we can go again soon, so we can create more lifelong memories and a love for fishing, just like his great-grandpas. The Catch More Fish Youth Combo was perfect for him, and he even was able to cast it into the water by himself! I used the Catch More Fish Ladyfish combo and Forrest used the Lake/Pond combo, and they were all very high quality and easy to use. If you enjoy fishing, you should enter the “Stren Drop a Line Contest.” All you have to do is visit this website, upload a picture of yourself fishing, and write out one of your favorite fishing memories, and you can win a dream fishing trip with a friend! Costs:
- Fishing poles – the fishing poles we bought cost 29.99.
- Bait – varies
- Fishing License – unless you are fishing on private property (with permission, of course), you will need a fishing license. The regulations for this vary depending on the state, so just do a quick Google Search for your state. I believe in Colorado an adult license is around $20, and children can fish for free
- Be sure to check out this fishing checklist (insert link here) to make sure I didn’t miss anything!
This is another activity I really never did (or really, heard of) before I met Forrest. However, it’s a big thing in his family, especially with his dad, who could probably be considered semi-pro. I have to humor Forrest by clarifying it is indeed called Disc Golf, not Frisbee Golf. But, regardless of what you call it, it’s a great outdoor activity that can really get your heart beating and your competitive spirit rearing to go! Basically, you use these hard discs and throw them into baskets. Courses can be long or short, and we’ve encountered a wide variety of different ones (some are better maintained than others!) However, it’s really fun! You can buy Disc Golf gifts at sporting good’s stores like Dicks, on Amazon, or even on Craiglist. I often see Disc Golf discs being sold for very cheap on Craigslist. You may not even realize there is a course nearby, because they are typically in parks (or something similar), and they aren’t very noticeable. So if you want to find one, you’ll have to probably search online. However, we’ve been able to find them everywhere we live, so hopefully you can too. Forrest likes to run from hole to hole for some extra exercise. Jack loves throwing them, and he’s actually getting quite good! Costs:
- Discs – cost varies depending on where you buy them. I think a new disc is around $5-10, but you can often get them for cheaper.
- Possibly the location – most courses we’ve been to are free, but there are some that require payment. For instance, at Jellystone Park, if you aren’t camping there, you have to pay $18.
Because I grew up in Colorado, and then lived in Utah for about six, great hiking trails have always been easy to find. While I’m definitely more a leisurely-hiking type of person, there’s nothing more relaxing than being out there in nature. When you are looking for hikes, make sure you read reviews of certain areas – and don’t just take someone’s opinion. A few summers ago, we went to a family reunion in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Someone had told my mom about this amazing family friendly hike, so we went on it! Well, it was not family friendly at all. It was actually quite dangerous at times. So just make sure you go on a hike that is appropriate for the skill levels of people going. It may be fun to make your own trail, but if you are going with small children, I’d recommend going on a trail that’s been marked before you! If you are in Utah, one of my favorite hikes was Stewart Falls. It’s pretty easy (I carried Jack for most of it), and it has a great waterfall at the end! Costs:
- Parking/Entrance Fee – most places I’ve hiked don’t have parking or entrance fees, but if you go to a National Park, you may have to pay a fee per person or car.
There are tons of outdoor sports that you can enjoy together as a family – this is something Forrest always loves to do. Ultimate Frisbee, Football, Soccer…the options are almost endless! However, I thought I’d share my favorite – badminton! This is a low-impact sport that lots of different ages can play, but it can get really competitive. We always love playing as a family. Forrest and I bought a badminton set for less than $30 at Walmart. It wasn’t the highest quality set, but it’s worked well for us. You can set it up pretty much anywhere, and it really is a lot of fun. I definitely recommend having extra rackets and birdies on hand. We always end up breaking rackets after playing and losing some birdies. (picture of family playing Badminton)
- Badminton set (this is the one we bought – it comes with other games, too!)
- Extra rackets and birdies
While we don’t have some of the crazy storms I’ve experienced when driving through the Mid-west in Colorado or Utah, we’ve had some pretty crazy ones. Whenever there was one going on when I was growing up, I would go outside on the porch and watch them with my dad. I still do this (especially when we are at my parent’s house.) I don’t know why, but it’s such a cool experience. It’s important to be careful while doing this – you don’t want to risk anyone getting hurt, so I’m definitely not advocating storm chasing or standing out in the middle of a field…but if you have the proper protection, it can be such a fun experience. I think if you have kids that are scared of storms, it can be a good time to observe from far and see that it’s not that scary (as long as you are being safe.) I know it helped me, because I hated wind and thunder sometimes growing up! Cost
If you live in a city, this may not be as exciting (though sometimes there can be some great stars that shine through it all.) However, some of my favorite experiences have been going out when we are camping or hiking at night and just looking at all the stars. This can be one of the most breath taking sites, and if you go out with a blanket and just look at the stars, it can be really cool. One of the best places I star gazed was in South Dakota. It still takes my breath away just thinking about it! Even if you just want to go on your roof or trampoline during a very clear night, it can be a fun family experience. Though I highly recommend going somewhere in the middle of nowhere or in the mountains. If you hear about a meteor shower, that is even cooler to watch (and worth getting up in the middle of the night for…since that’s often when they happen!) Cost
There are a lot of different water activities that you can do, but this is one that I really enjoy and isn’t as expensive as some other ones (such as jet skiing or white water rafting…though white water rafting is totally worth doing at least once!) If you can find a good river where tubing is approved (or they rent tubes out), it can be a fun and refreshing activity for lots of ages. It is very important to make sure you pay attention to local reports on if it’s safe or not, and to only go in areas that don’t have rapid waves. There was recently a person who drowned and wasn’t found for a few weeks because they went during a time that it was restricted, and the water was just too rapid and high. It was really sad. So just be careful, and it can be a great activity! Cost
- Varies depending on where you go
What is your favorite outdoor activity?
Katie is a Colorado-native, BYU graduated, and most importantly, wife to one and mother to three beautiful boys. She is passionate about sharing her experiences with others – especially about pregnancy, breastfeeding, cooking, and crafts. She is currently training to be a Certified Lactation Educator. She loves spending time with her family and helping others find joy in family life.