When my daughter was small, every summer we created a family summer fun list full of outings, day trips, and fun activities around the house. Over the years, our summer fun list faded into the background as summer camp, road trips, sports, and other priorities came to the forefront. But with graduation fast approaching, it was time to rethink the summer fun list and turn it into a summer bucket list for teens.
This list was first created a couple of years ago when we couldn’t socialize safely very much and we needed to be creative about coming up with fun things to do. Now that things have changed for the better, we have expanded this list to include activities that can be done both independently and with family or friends.
Why Create a Summer Bucket List?
Unless your teenager has a summer job, internship, or summer camp, they will have a lot of time on their hands. And while teens may start out with great intentions about all the fun things they want to do during their free summer, those plans often go by the wayside once they start sleeping in and going down the social media rabbit hole on their phones.
If you want your teen to learn to set goals and also have a fun and productive summer, a bucket list is a great way to start. It is a way to focus their intentions and set about having a weekly or daily plan to accomplish their goals and create a summer of fantastic memories instead of a wasted summer spent staring at their phone.
Plus, with a summer bucket list for teenagers, every time your teen feels bored, you can point them toward the list and give them a place to focus their energy. And, if your teen has been struggling to find his or her place in a friend group or feeling a bit down, a bucket list of fun activities gives them something to look forward to all summer long.
Summer Bucket List for Teens
To plan our summer, I sat down with my teen and we created our own list, which I then in turn made into a summer bucket list that teens can do almost anywhere. I’d love to hear what other activities you put on your teen’s summer bucket list!
Fun Things for Teens to do Outside this Summer
Visit a farm — no matter where you live, you might be surprised by the creative ways that local farmers have engaged with the community. So far we have visited local farm to cuddle with goats (they also offer goat yoga), pick strawberries, buy tulips, and cut our own lavender. Just check with the farm first as some require reservations.
Hike in a local park — Try a new trail, let them guide the way, or bring a friend a let them explore. AllTrails is a great way to find local trails of varying lengths and difficulty. Check local parks, state parks, arboretums, and botanical gardens for ideas.
Stargaze — watch the weather for a clear night when the moon is waning and the stars shine brightly, then head away from as much light pollution as you can to watch the stars. Bring blankets and cozy up as you lay back and search for constellations. Or, check with your local observatories and see if they are offering any public stargazing events!
Go paddling — pick your paddle — canoe, kayak, or stand up paddleboard and head out on the water.
Swim — head to a nearby beach, lake, or pool for a swim day. The nice thing is that teens can now carry their own stuff.
Take a bike ride — jump on a local bike path and see how many miles you can clock.
Run a 5K — so many organizations like Girls on the Run offer running programs if there isn’t someone to run with. This is also a great way to train for fall sports.
Go to the zoo — there are also drive through zoos and safari parks. We have found that teens aren’t too old to enjoy looking at the animals. Just check to see if you need to buy timed-entry tickets before just showing up.
Camp in the backyard — pitch a tent and camp in the backyard, or have a camping sleep over with everyone in their own small tent in a circle. Play a game of flashlight tag while you are out there or buy some sparklers and s’mores fixings.
Play mini-golf — whether it is with friends or family, a round or two of mini-golf is a fun way to be outside without too much pressure — unless you have a strong competitive streak!
Float down a river — rent tubes or book a private rafting tour down a river this summer.
Take to the treetops — zip lines and tree top adventure courses are fun for the family or your teen’s friend group.
Watch a movie outdoors — visit a local drive in or concoct an outdoor movie “theater” in your backyard.
Grow a garden — whether it is an herb garden, flower garden, or vegetable garden, tending your plants and watching them grow is so rewarding — especially when you can eat what you pick!
Visit a farmers’ market — farmers’ markets are a fun place to buy local produce, meats, fish, dairy, baked goods, and other prepared items. It is even more fun consuming all the goodies you buy!
Go on a picnic — pick a park with a view and lots of space to keep to yourself and pack up a picnic basket. In our house, we love Uncrustables and frozen blueberries for picnics on hot summer days!
Do a photoshoot in your hometown — meet up with friends and be a tourist in your own town and take pictures of each other in front of local street art, cool buildings, and scenic views.
Light sparklers in the backyard — teens are old enough to responsibly and safely play with sparklers in the backyard and will have fun creating videos and pictures as mementos.
Make s’mores — in our house, it isn’t summer until we have had our first fire pit and made s’mores.
Run through the rain — don’t let a rainy day make you sad! Running through a summer shower can be so fun — something mom didn’t always “let” you do when you were younger.
Go karting — if your teen is old enough to learn to drive, this is a good summer to practice. But even if they aren’t, they can get a feel for the wheel with some outdoor go karting (or indoor with precautions).
Eat outside — outdoor dining can mean the backyard, visiting a food truck and eating in a park, or enjoying a patio restaurant (especially one with a view!)
Fun Things to do with Teens Inside this Summer
Go rock climbing – if you haven’t tried indoor rock climbing yet, this is the summer to give it a try at a local climbing gym.
Bake a dessert — what’s the best thing to do with the berries you picked at the farm? Turn them into a cobbler! This is the perfect time to try to make your favorite summer dessert.
Take a Chopped Challenge — challenge a friend, or your parents, with a “Chopped” style cooking challenge. Someone creates the ingredient basket and two others compete to make the best dish using those ingredients. You can even do it over FaceTime!
Learn a new skill — want to learn to play an instrument, speak a new language, take an elective you can’t get at school? Now is the time to explore your interests and figure out what paths you want to pursue. There are tons of free resources on YouTube and Khan Academy. Pick something fun that doesn’t feel like school.
Write letters to grandparents — chances are the grandparents or elders in your life are feeling a bit isolated and lonely right now. If they can’t figure out how to FaceTime, they will always appreciate an old-fashioned, hand-written letter.
Plan a theme cooking night — pick a theme (a style of cuisine, a special ingredient, or something crazy and fun) and divide up the meal with everyone in the family making a different course. Then sit down and enjoy the feast.
Practice test skills — no one ever wants to think about the dreaded SAT or ACT but if your teen isn’t busy this summer, it is a perfect time to brush up on test taking skills or enroll in a prep course.
Host a sleep over — once school is out, teens appreciate the opportunity to stay up late, sleep in, and spend quality time with friends.
Have a spa day — try at-home facials, go get manis and pedis, or even try the fun kind of face masks.
Make a BFF scrapbook — the teen years go by fast. Create a scrapbook to pass around from friend to friend, with everyone adding a few pages — it will become a treasured monument to friendships.
Plan a craft night — there are so many painting and crafting classes that you can take together or online to watch to let your inner artists emerge.
Have a movie marathon — pick a rainy day or when it is just too hot to go outside to binge that movie marathon you have always wanted to do. Pick a series (Star Wars, Harry Potter…) or a theme (rom coms, social justice), get cozy and settle in.
Livestream a Broadway show or concert — you do know that Hamilton is on Disney + right? There are also other live performances you can stream on YouTube and Netflix (like Ben Platt’s Netflix special).
Create a vision board — if all this staying at home has you dreaming of the future, now is the time to create a vision board. What do you want in your life — travel? school? friends? relationships? activities?
Write in a journal — these are interesting times. Times that later historians will look back on and wonder what it was like. So why not document what you are feeling and doing with a daily journal this summer?
Plan a dream trip — use this vacation planner to start mapping out a future trip. Here are some great ideas for trips with teens.
Learn a TikTok dance — everyone else is doing it, why not join the fun? Better yet, challenge mom or dad to learn along with you.
Host a book club — find a book you love (or think will be fun to talk about) and get your friends to read it and then host a virtual book club discussion. See our recommendations on book for teens.
Create a YouTube channel — be creative and find a way to stand out by creating a YouTube channel reading to kids, leading experiments, singing, or showing off your skills.
Research colleges — it isn’t too early to start narrowing down a list of schools you may want to check out and attending virtual college tours. Think about size, location, majors, activities, sports, and other factors important to you and use a site like College Board to create a list.
Learn to do laundry — it may not be fun but someday you will be on your own of off at college and it isn’t cool to shrink your sweaters or turn all your clothes blue so learn how to do your laundry now when you have someone to guide you.
Experiment with a new look — you don’t need to totally reinvent yourself but maybe now is the time to try out a new hairstyle, hair color, fashion style, or make up.
Learn to meditate – middle school and high school are stressful, especially now. Guided meditation can be a great way to calm the brain and just breathe so you can live in the moment and release some of those worries. Find suggestions on YouTube or try out the Calm app.
Create a time capsule — these are crazy times you are living through. It is the perfect time to create a time capsule with your favorite photos, music, movies, and foods. Make sure to include some headlines from this time too.
Support a cause — do you feel activated to take on a cause that is important to you? Whether it is anti-racism, Black Lives Matter, the environment, LGBTQ rights, or anything else there are tons of ways to get involved online, learn to be an ally, and share resources.
Make homemade ice cream — it is summer and you need to cool off so learn to make your own homemade ice cream, juice popsicles or other frozen treats.
Learn how to balance a check book — adulting is coming and it is time to learn some basic skills. Set up a bank account, get a debit card, and learn to balance a check book.
Clean out closets — it is time to sort through those toys you don’t play with anymore and the clothes in the back of your closet that no longer fit and donate them to a local charity.
Join a campaign — are you political? This is the moment to volunteer for a campaign and see how you can help. Remember, local races matter too!
You may also want to check out our Rhode Island bucket list or Massachusetts bucket list if you live in New England with some destination-specific ideas to add to your summer list.
Download and print the summer bucket list for teens
Ready to get started on your summer bucket list? Download and print the Summer Bucket List for Teens PDF now.