Summer is only a few weeks away and family schedules are already filling with sporting events, lazy days by the pool, backyard BBQs, and amusement park vacations. The season is all about getting excited to be outdoors with the family and spend fun quality time together. Whether you’re looking for a way to teach the kids something new, or just let everyone relax for an afternoon, adding a celebration to the mix can help both parents and kids slow down and enjoy each other’s company.
1. Music Festivals
I love watching my kids dance. Their little toddler bodies have absolutely no rhythm and they absolutely do not care. They hear the music and they just start moving. Summer music festivals give the whole family an opportunity to shake their inhibitions. Even the most hardened teenager can be found involuntarily tapping a foot or shaking a shoulder as the music moves them.
Music festivals provide an opportunity to fall in love with local not-so-mainstream bands, for parents to introduce children to the music of their glory days, and to gain an appreciation for the hard work it takes to play an hour of music on a hot stage in the middle of a dirt field. Venues may vary from a seated hillside amphitheater to a farm field full of spectators. Bring a blanket and a picnic lunch and watch as the whole family relaxes and starts to move with the music.
2. Art Festivals
Museums and galleries are nice, but kids can find them a little stuffy. Remembering not to touch a painting or quietly staring at a sculpture protected from little hands behind a window is not always easy. Take a child to an outdoor summer art festival, though, and worlds of possibility open before them. They’ll see paintings and drawings covering any topic their little minds can dream. Explore together how rocks glued together become bugs and a pile of scrap metal turns into a bulldog or 6’ tall flamingo.
When our family visits an art festival, we make it a very hands-on experience. With few guidelines, this is the time to let our kids pick things up, turn them over, and ask questions about what they are seeing. It’s the time to let them experiment with holding paintbrushes, smudging charcoal, or painting on canvas. Watch for live artist’s demonstrations and stop for any children’s booth available. They’ll be excited to bring home their own creations.
3. Cultural Celebrations
Any family that travels has some level of appreciation for the customs and traditions of areas different than their own. It’s part of the reason we take our kids places. We want to open their eyes and show them diversity is beautiful. Cultural celebrations make that lesson easier for parents by bringing the far corners of the world very close to home.
Check out a Chinese lantern festival, a Hindu color festival, or a Polish Polka gathering. Look for opportunities to introduce kids to the traditions of their heritage. There is hearty Dutch blood running through my children’s veins and they know tulips in bloom means a wooden shoe parade will follow. Attending a cultural celebration can give us a deeper understanding of the struggles our neighbors have gone through and how strongly they have overcome, as well as open our eyes to the soul of a destination we are visiting.
4. History Faires
What young child doesn’t at some time dream of being a knight or a pirate, a princess or a pretty fairy? At a Renaissance Faire, the Middle Ages come to life as royalty roams the roads and mermaids lounge in pools of sparkling water. Watch heroes on horses battle in live jousts or listen as a jester spins a silly tale. Sample food from the king’s table and watch for fairies sprinkling magic glitter. Dressing up is encouraged, so let the kids put on their homemade armor and pixie wings. Mom and Dad, let loose and try it, too! Here are more tips for having a Renaissance faire excursion.
If the Middle Ages don’t strike a chord, perhaps the early days of the American frontier will fit the bill. Mountain Man Rendezvous offer a chance for families to step back into days of exploring, hunting, and trading. Learn how to make authentic tools of the day, shoot a bow and arrow, or see how hard the daily chores were in a frontier household. Dig out the coonskin cap and prairie skirts and make it a day of fun family make-believe.
5. Local Town Gatherings
Small town festivals are my #1 favorite way to explore a new area. In Utah, every town has one and they usually are a whole week long. We could easily schedule a summer festival for every single week between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Local festivals often center on what made the area famous or prosperous back in the good ol’ days. It might be Strawberry Days or Old Settler’s Day. It might be shrimp or scarecrows. Our favorite summer festival is Onion Days in Payson, Utah.
Whatever the theme, there are sure to be parades and carnivals, local church pie stands, and talented locals singing the National Anthem. The mayor and the volunteer firefighters will probably be walking around hobnobbing with the grocer and the barber. In an afternoon it’ll feel perfectly right to throw on an apron and start scooping ice cream with the locals.