When our mid-May string of unseasonably hot days hit, I started getting a little nervous about summer showing up so soon! It’s always hard for me to find a balance between planning too much and too little. But as we sweated buckets on the walk to school, my kids started making their own list of things to do over the summer, and we all started to get excited. There’s still room for spontaneity and rest, but now I know that my kids are really excited about the pool, not too keen on the beach, and will lose their minds with glee when I tell them it’s time to head to Pirate’s Cove.
Our Kidlist summer bucket list brings together a huge variety of local outings, outdoor fun, at-home activities, and more. Use this list to create your own personal family bucket list and start conversations with your kids about what plans would get them excited for the summer! Or, check out our printable at the end and fill a jar with ideas to pull out when the dog days of summer stretch on without enough to do.
This article is sponsored by DuPage Children’s Museum.
Play All Day at DuPage Children’s Museum
Explore, create, build, wonder, discover, think, play, and more! Every visit to DuPage Children’s Museum is a new adventure. Make a splash in AWEsome Water, build with real tools in the Construction House, explore the forces of gravity in Make it Move, and let imagination soar in Creativity Connections. From pancake arches to paper airplane launchers, make new discoveries with Ada Twist and friends in The Questioneers: Read. Question. Think. PLAY! Don’t miss out, this exhibit is only open through August 31. For the youngest guests, 2 years and under, DCM has special Young Explorers spaces where they can exercise mind and body. There’s no need to pack a lunch, Bean Sprouts Café is open on the Museum’s lower level. Plan your visit today – dupagechildrens.org.
2022 Summer Bucket List
Fun Places to Go Summer 2022
- Visit an outdoor amusement park! Older kids might love to bring a friend along to a destination like Six Flags or to try out go-karts at Sugar Grove Family Fun Center; as I mentioned above, my younger kiddos are all-in on Pirates’ Cove in Elk Grove Village.
- Color Factory opened in Chicago this summer and is getting rave reviews! Several families from our team have gone and can’t stop talking about it.
- Check out our list of ways to cool off for playgrounds and destinations with water features, where kids can stay refreshed to beat the heat! This list includes nature playgrounds such as Bison’s Bluff in Schaumburg and Hawks Hollow in Geneva.
- Pick a membership to a local museum or zoo together, then commit to going once a week for the entire summer. There’s something magical about having a special place the kids grow to know and love!
- 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! First up for the summer season is strawberry picking, followed by blueberry picking and apple picking.
- Find a Chicagoland waterfall together! Or, if you’re feeling like more of a trip, head down to Starved Rock for even more nature (and hidden waterfalls).
- Maggie Daley Park’s play garden is open. This playground in the heart of downtown Chicago is a really fun destination; pair it with lunch or dinner (picnic or from a restaurant) for an all-day outing.
- Try a local tea time together, with reservations made in advance so everyone has time to get excited (and maybe dress up fancy)!
- The Forge: Lemont Quarries has outdoor recreation including ziplines, climbing, BMX/mountain biking, laser tag, and more. Check out Annie’s review of The Forge and get 20% off tickets with the code KIDLIST20.
- Need a break from the sun? Head to an indoor play area for air-conditioned fun inside!
- Put your putting skills to the test at these nearby mini golf courses.
- Go to a farmers market together, grab breakfast for a picnic, and bring home some locally grown produce or goodies! We make it a tradition to head over to our farmers’ market every Saturday, but you can also make a list of area markets to explore. Many are in downtown areas (including Aurora, Downers Grove, Elgin, and Wheaton) that you can also explore afterwards.
- 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!
- Visit a local farm to learn about the animals and farm life. Many of the farms on our list host regular events for kids and families, so check out their calendars!
- Check out a local minor league team together. Use our special promo code, KIDLIST, for buy one, get one free tickets to a Kane County Cougars game!
- Grab the lawn chairs and go see an outdoor concert together.
- Visit a summer festival together for rides, food, and live music.
- Plan an outing to a local coffee shop near a playground. Grab some iced coffee and baked goods, then head over to play!
- Visit a special exhibit, such as the immersive Frida Kahlo exhibit in Chicago or the colorful alebrijes at Cantigny Park in Wheaton.
- Tour the sculpture park in Schaumburg, then stop by the Ninja Warrior-style course at Meineke Park nearby.
- If you have a preteen or teen who loves video games, take them to explore the classics at the largest arcade in the U.S.: Brookfield’s Galloping Ghost, which has more than 500 games to choose from, including many retro titles. The arcade charges $20 at the door for unlimited play.
Ideas for Summer Fun Close to Home
- Make popsicles together! You can get creative with your favorite flavors; this strawberries-and-cream popiscle recipe looks delicious.
- 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.
- Plan a family book and movie challenge: Read the book together, then have a special family movie night to watch the movie.
- 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!
- 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
Cut out these ideas and tape to a calendar to plan your summer day… 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 2022
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.
Our Kidlist Summer Guide has tons more ideas for fun in (and out of) the sun this summer! Bookmark it for inspiration whenever you’re looking for something to do.