50 Super Fun Summer Bucket List Activities to Inspire an Unforgettable Summer 2024 (+ a Printable!)

By:
Updated:
Summer

As the countdown to Memorial Day weekend gets shorter, I can practically hear the sizzle of food on the grill, feel the warmth of the sunshine, and smell the bonfires that will help roast the perfect s’mores. After making it through many rainy spring days, our summertime reward is almost here! I want to make sure to take advantage of these warm months when we get to ditch our coats in favor of sunscreen. 

Every May, my family likes to come up with a summer bucket list of things we want to experience and accomplish. Some are simple and quick ideas, while others require more time and planning.

Whatever mood you’re in, the Kidlist team is here to help you find activities that will fill your days and nights with summer memories you’ll be dreaming about well into next season! Our Summer Bucket List is organized by how much time the activities will take. It’s a great resource to use when you’re coming up with ideas of what your family is excited about. Be sure to read to the end for our free printable, too!

Summer 2024 Local Fun Ideas (~1-3 hours)

1. Visit a New Playground

There are many awesome parks and playgrounds in the western suburbs! Our list of the 10 best playgrounds is a great starting place. Harvester Park in Burr Ridge is epic and a must see and we also have the scoop on the newest renovated playgrounds.

2. Splash Around at a Splash Pad

When my kids start complaining that they’re TOO hot, I know that it’s time to add water play to our day! With dozens of local splash pads, my kids will be checking this off their bucket list several times this summer. This year, we’re excited to head to Soehrman Park so we can swing by the new playground during our visit.

3. Shop at a Farmers Market

With a local farmers market almost every day of the week, there are many opportunities to support small businesses and family farms while enjoying the fresh air. There are also a couple new ones this year, like Naper Settlement!

4. Touch a Truck

Have a truck-loving kiddo? Check out a Touch-a-Truck event and give them the chance to sit in the driver’s seat, push buttons, and honk the horn. While there are events throughout the summer, May and August are especially hopping with options.

5. Play Mini Golf

As my littles turn into bigs, watching them play mini golf is so much fun. It definitely gives them a chance to work on their coordination and patience as they take turns! We’ve updated the list with some great options in the Northwest suburbs this year.

6. Watch Fireworks on the 4th of July

Last year, Elyse wrote: “My kids thrive on routine, so I have to hype myself up to be prepared to handle any meltdowns that staying up late to watch fireworks might bring. I’ve learned that it helps to have glow sticks, headphones, and lots of snacks!” I heartily agree with her tips, which can help make the wait for dusk to fall go a bit smoother until it’s time to ooh and aah at the gorgeous display.

7. Fly a Kite

A summer classic! Check out our guide to areas with perfect open spaces for kite flying, as well as some tips.

8. Taste Test Ice Creams

This summer, my family is going all-out with an Ice Cream Shop Bracket to taste-test our local shops and vote on our favorites. Choose a new ice cream shop each week and take notes on which one is your favorite!

9. Enjoy an Immersive Experience

A child gazes up at a canopy of blue and green umbrellas strung up in an alley.

This year’s new exhibits include the return of Elmhurst’s picture-perfect Umbrella Sky (through mid-September), which will be joined by a couple of new colorful displays in town.  

10. Visit a Safety Town

Teaching kids about road safety is so important! Elmhurst’s Safety Town is free and is now open to the public daily, from dawn until dusk. Bring a helmet and your child’s preferred method of transportation (bike, scooter, or trike) and explore the miniature town.

Kidlist Tip: Many other suburbs also offer Safety Village programs; look into registering for these popular programs.

11. Get Out on the Water

Rent a canoe, kayak, or paddleboat and enjoy the outdoors while getting in a workout. My kids love the paddleboats at the Riverwalk in Naperville.

12. Hike to a Waterfall

Although Fullersburg Woods in Oak Brook doesn’t have a waterfall anymore, there are still plenty to enjoy all over the suburbs and beyond! Our guide to finding waterfalls has destinations that are a short walk all the way to true hikes that are a short road trip away.

Kidlist Tip: Bring water shoes if you are planning to hang out around the waterfall for a while as well as a towel for the ride home.

13. Head to the Library

No matter the season, a library trip is always a great idea. In addition to outdoor story times, many libraries also have summer reading programs, which offer extra incentives to keep reading, even when school is out! Many also have extra-cool play spaces, such as the Wheaton library pictured above. Here’s our list of the 10 best local libraries.

14. Make the Most of a Rainy Day

When Mother Nature decides to keep you inside, you can head to some tried-and-true favorite indoor play spots, like Playroom Cafe Two in Naperville. We have plenty of other rainy day activity ideas here, too!

Summer 2023 Adventures & Outings (~3+ hours)

15. Watch a Drive-In or Outdoor Movie

 Spice up your movie-watching experience by packing up your car and heading to one of the last local drive-in theaters. There are also many movies in the park that are free! 

16. Have an Epic Outdoor Adventure

Become one with nature as you complete obstacles in the trees at Go Ape Chicago in Western Springs, with activities for kids ages 2 and up. Or, challenge yourself at an outdoor adventure park. The Forge: Lemont Quarries has activities geared towards kids ages 3 and up.

17. Take a Hike

There are tons of gorgeous forest preserves in the area, many of which have kid-friendly trails to hike or bike. I’m looking forward to checking out Waterfall Glen in Darien this summer.

18. Go to the Zoo

Brookfield Zoo Chicago is our favorite zoo to explore in the summer, but there are many other options nearby, too! Cosley Zoo in Wheaton isn’t as big, which makes it great for little ones, and Phillips Park Zoo in Aurora is free.

19. Explore Cantigny Park in Wheaton

This free park has gardens, trails, a playground, museum, and a tank park. Tip: parking rates are increasing this summer, but parking is free the first Wednesday of the month.

20. Enjoy a Day at a Museum

If you’re looking to beat the heat, check out one of the many museums in the area. These museums and zoos offer free days or discounted admission. DuPage Children’s Museum is one of my kids’ favorite places to go; we hop on the BNSF Metra and walk from the Naperville stop to the museum.  

21. Take in a Baseball Game

It’s hard to rival the excitement of a Major League Baseball Chicago Cubs or White Sox game, but there are also several Minor League teams nearby. The Kane County Cougars, Windy City Thunderbolts, Joliet Slammers, and Schaumburg Boomers have games throughout the summer season. Check their websites for special promotions.

Kidlist Tip: Get buy one, get one free tickets to Kane County Cougars games by using the code KIDLIST! See their website to order and for more details.

22. Just Keep Swimming

When the heat is too much to handle, head to an outdoor pool to keep cool! There are dozens of local pools that offer day passes. Many of them have features that appeal to kids of all ages, from tot pools and spray playgrounds to diving boards and water slides.

23. Turn Up the Volume at a Concert

To me, life doesn’t get much better than listening to live music outside on a beautiful day. Going to summer concerts with my family is one of my favorite things to do. We pack a big blanket, lots of snacks, and get ready to dance, sing, and enjoy the scene. 

24. Watch a Parade

In addition to Memorial Day and 4th of July parades, some towns host parades throughout the summer. La Grange is known for its Pet Parade, which began in 1947. 

25. Head to a Festival

Carnivals and festivals always make me feel nostalgic; maybe it’s the smell of funnel cakes or the rides that were there when I was growing up (does anyone else remember Pharaoh’s Fury?). I love watching the glee on my own kids’ faces as they go down the Fun Slide on a potato sack or go around and around on a rocketship.  

26. Take in Some Art

Art fairs and festivals are great because not only can you snag some cool art for your home while supporting local artists, but many of them also have activities for kids. I am all about helping to spur my kids’ creativity!

27. Gawk at Classic Cars

There are many classic car shows this summer! Some are recurring weekly, while others are scheduled for one day instead.

28. Go Fishing

Going fishing is an awesome way to help your kids practice patience and have some time outdoors. With fishing derbies for both beginners and experts, as well as many lakes and ponds in the forest preserves, the suburbs are full of opportunities to fish with your family.  

29. Pick Fruit

Make a day out of visiting a farm to pick strawberries or blueberries. Or, check out our new guide to local u-pick farms and find a new favorite. Aronia berries, anyone?

30. Smell the Flowers

Teenager holding a flower in the middle of a sunflower field

Sunflower fields are breathtaking, and many local fields allow you to cut flowers to take home. The photo ops alone are worth the trip! Sunflower season begins mid-to-late July.

31. Amuse Yourselves at an Outdoor Amusement Park

My parents took my daughter to Santa’s Village in East Dundee last summer, and she was on cloud nine when she got home! Six Flags in Gurnee keeps older kids entertained, and Pirate’s Cove in Elk Grove Village appeals to a younger crowd (ages 2-9). We’re lucky to have many different amusement parks to check out. 

32. Stroll the Naperville Riverwalk

The 1.75-mile riverwalk has something for everyone. There are paddle boat rentals, parks, and plenty of places to eat nearby! 

33. Explore the Morton Arboretum

A new mini-golf experience at The Morton Arboretum is sure to be a hole-in-one with families. (Check back with Kidlist, as we’re excited to check out a sneak peek of the event before it opens so we can share all the details with you.) The four-acre Children’s Garden is also filled with fun activities for kids. My friends tell me that the tadpoles have officially begun hatching, so definitely check out Wonder Pond to see the American Toads grow! 

34. Get Thrills at a Water Park

Waterparks cool you down and provide excitement all day! There are so many different options, from pools with slides and adventure like Paradise Bay pictured above, all the way up to Raging Waves, the biggest waterpark in Illinois. Our guide to water parks has features of each one as well as opening dates and links to hours and pricing so it’s easy to plan your day.

Advance Planning Required

35. Go Camping

This adventure definitely requires some advanced planning, but there are many campsites within a few hours away to bring the family for an outdoor camping experience. If the idea of camping doesn’t appeal to you, set up a tent in your backyard instead!

36. Take a Day Trip to the Renaissance Faire

Check out Elyse’s guide to taking kids to the Bristol Renaissance Faire in Kenosha, Wisconsin. There’s live music, games, activities, face painting, and great food. After years of saying we should go, my family is definitely making this a priority for Summer 2024.

37. Road Trip!

Pack up your car and head to Michigan… or Indiana… or Wisconsin. We’ve rounded up some destination ideas for you, complete with travel tips to help the car ride go smoothly.

Summer 2024 Fun at Home

These ideas for summer fun at home are a great way to round out your bucket list with some less time- and planning-intensive activities.

38. Have a bonfire and make s’mores.

39. Catch fireflies at night.

40. Create your own nature scavenger hunt.

41. Paint rocks to leave around your neighborhood to spread joy.

42. Have a water balloon or water gun fight.

43. Play in a sprinkler or baby pool.

44. Make your own ice cream or popsicles.

45. Plant your own garden.

46. Get creative with chalk and bubbles.

47. Play with magnetic tiles on your garage door.

48. Create your own al fresco restaurant, complete with menus.

49. Have a lemonade stand.

50. Wash your cars, bikes, or scooters.

Summer Camps for 2024

Camps are happening all over the suburbs! Some may be full, but others have spots available. Click here to check out local summer camps.

Places to Add to Your Summer Bucket List

Our big Map of Things to Do with Kids is an awesome tool if you’d like to view activities and destinations based on their location! You may find other things that your family would like to add to your bucket list from here.

Free Summer Bucket List Printable

Our bucket list below can be cut out to pull from a jar, taped to your calendar, or you could keep it intact and cross out the activities as you complete them! We even included empty squares at the end so you can write in your own bucket list items. Enjoy!

Kidlist Tip: If you’re 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!


Our Kidlist Summer Guide is full of ideas to help you make this the best summer yet! If you’re looking for specific events, our Events Calendar is a great resource, too.

Join the List

Let us help you plan fun days!
Get kid-friendly updates straight to your inbox

"*" indicates required fields

When would you like to receive Kidlist emails?*
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Related Articles

About the Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.

Our Amazing Sponsors
Popular Guides