Every year, the whole Kidlist team gets excited to put together our annual summer bucket list. This year, we were extra excited for outdoor fun, amazing summer camps, making memories at home, local museums opening up, free events, and more. We hope this guide helps inspire your family to make your own bucket list together; use our #sharekidlist tag on Instagram so we can check them out!
This article is sponsored by DuPage Children’s Museum.
DuPage Children’s Museum
301 N Washington Street
Naperville, IL 60540
Play More this Summer at DuPage Children’s Museum
Explore, play, wonder, build, create, and discover! Every visit to DuPage Children’s Museum is an adventure in fun and learning. Get the wiggles out and make some noise in Move & Groove, build with real tools in the Construction House, explore the forces of gravity in Make it Move, and let imagination soar in Creativity Connections – the possibilities are endless! DCM’s youngest guests can exercise both mind and body in Young Explorers, specially designed spaces for ages 2 years and under. Children and their grownups will have a blast playing and learning together.
There’s always something fun going on at DCM – watch for more information coming soon about outdoor summer events. Plan your visit today! Pre-registration is required. dupagechildrens.org/visit
2021 Summer Bucket List
Fun Places to Go Summer 2021
- Plan an outing to see a drive-in movie together.
- Soak in the AC at a kids’ summer movie, with deals from just $1.
- Take a canoe, kayak, or paddleboat out on the lake together!
- Go visit a classic car show and find your favorite cars together.
- Go fruit picking! Our 2021 strawberry picking guide is live, and you can keep an eye out for updates to our blueberry picking and apple picking guides once those seasons draw closer.
- Hike at Waterfall Glen. It’s a beautiful place for a scenic hike or bike ride that is best taken days after a big rain, but is lovely any time of year.
- Go wild on a drive-thru safari. Local options include Safari Lake Geneva in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin (check out Katie’s review), Shalom Wildlife Zoo in West Bend, Wisconsin (check out guest contributor Rene Cozzi’s review), and Aikman Wildlife Adventure in Arcola, Illinois.
- The Forge: Lemont Quarries is open! Annie put together an amazing review with everything you need to know to plan your visit to this outdoor adventure destination.
- Put your putting skills to the test at these nearby mini golf courses.
- Farmers markets are back to bustling!
- There are some amazing skate parks in our area, plus great local skateboard shops to buy a board and learn from experts. We like Jerics in Crest Hill and First Gear in Berwyn.
- Visit Lake Katherine for an easy day-trip of butterflies, hikes, and kayaking (rentals available by appointment).
- Go hiking at Starved Rock, which has amazing natural wonders to explore, including waterfalls. You really cannot spend too much time in the great outdoors during the short summer months of Chicago!
- Go camping together and share s’mores under the stars. Be sure to use our printable checklist of what to pack for camping to make sure you don’t forget anything!
- Check out Frida Kahlo: Timeless at the College of DuPage (check out Annie’s review!) and other local events celebrating Kahlo’s legacy throughout the area.
- Visit a local farm!
- Outdoor concerts are back on, so grab your lawn chairs and head out to enjoy the live music together. Some spots are welcoming picnicking or have food vendors, too.
- The Morton Arboretum is an amazing local destination. The Children’s Garden has limits on how many children may enter at once, so stop there first to grab a ticket for later if need be, and be sure to check out the Human+Nature exhibit (we’ve got a map with all five sculptures.)
- Graue Mill and Museum in Oak Brook offers amazing insights into the history of our area.
- We have been wanting to check out Fabyan Villa Museum and Japanese Garden in Geneva. It has select open hours on Wednesdays and Sundays; check ahead to confirm the current schedule.
- Visit a summer festival!
Ideas for Summer Fun Close to Home
- Make your own grilled pizzas! Depending on their ages, kids can help make the dough, cut up toppings, spread the sauce, or sprinkle the cheese.
- Make an outdoor fairy garden or a construction zone.
- Go camping in the backyard! Be sure to do a fire and make s’mores or campfire banana boats.
- Make a sun dial.
- Have a water balloon fight
- Grow a new vegetable or herb in a pot or your yard and eat it.
- Plant a native plant that supports bees or butterflies! Check out The Morton Arboretum’s guide to growing a butterfly garden.
- Work on writing: cursive, calligraphy, or brush lettering! Local bookshops sell workbooks where you can practice right alongside the instructions.
- Make a family journal or scrapbook about your experiences during the pandemic.
- Bigger kids can learn to mow the lawn!
- Make a play and perform it for your loved ones.
- Plan a family book and movie challenge: Read the book together, then have a special family movie night to watch the movie. Talk about the differences, similarities, and what the kids liked about
- Create pointillism art with paint and q-tips.
- Make a mosaic garden stone from broken dishes.
- Run through the sprinklers — or have the kids build their own PVC sprinkler!
- Teach the kids to wash the car.
- Find a church offering stay-at-home Vacation Bible School options with all the supplies you’ll need to put on your own camp at home!
- Enjoy ice cream from a local shop.
- Make homemade treats like mason jar ice cream or popsicles.
- Hunt for treasure with geocaching!
- Try a take-home kit from a local business. Many pottery shops, painting studios, and bakeries are offering kits.
- Paint some kindness rocks together, then go on a walk and have fun planting them around your community.
- Hike a trail together! Check out our list of the best hiking trails for kids. Go early to beat the crowds (and the heat).
Places to Add to Your Summer Bucket List
If you prefer to see a menu of places to go so you can create your own bucket list of destinations you haven’t been or want to go again this summer, head to our Map of Things to Do with Kids or our Map of Outdoor Fun! There are bulleted lists there with links to all of our location profiles so you can make your own list and get tips before go.
Free Summer Bucket List Printable
This year we made squares with individual ideas that you can cut out and tape to a calendar to plan your summer days or put them in a jar to pull out each morning!
Click on the image below for the printable version of the summer bucket list squares, then pick and choose what you would like to do with your kids. We even included six empty squares at the end so you can write-in your own bucket list items. Enjoy!
Here’s a tip: If you are looking for specific places to go in any of the categories on our bucket list, search up “kidlist ___”. For example, you can type into Google “kidlist splash pads” or “kidlist summer festivals” and our guide will pop up full of ideas and specifics!
Summer Camps for 2021
Camps are happening all over the suburbs! While some may be full, others still have spots available. Click here to check out local summer camps.
Don’t forget to share your adventures on Instagram with the hashtag #mykidlist! We love seeing all the family fun going on in our communities.