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I think it’s fun to make a bucket list of things I want to do each season. Do I successfully check off all the items? Of course not. But with Memorial Day officially in the rearview window, I step into June hoping to squeeze every last drop of summertime into my days and nights without feeling overwhelmed or completely without routine. After all, our responsibilities don’t take a summer vacation, right?
My Arkansas Summer Bucket List includes a variety of ideas to be enjoyed within our beautiful state and within our own backyards. Many are kid-friendly, meant to be experienced with children or grandchildren. Most are inexpensive. Some will simply take you back to your own childhood.
Mix and match what works for you. Include a few of your own. Weave a handful of these ideas into the upcoming weeks, and see if you can’t end summer on a more restful note.
1. See the Milky Way. Go Astronomy includes a list of Arkansas Observatories. Or, head to the Buffalo River and simply look up. Did you know the Buffalo River is in the process of seeking designation as an International Dark Sky Park? Light pollution is a real problem around the globe. We are lucky to live in a state with wide-open spaces and dark skies for star-gazing.
2. Watch a movie at a drive-in theatre. Arkansas has three remaining drive-ins: Stone Drive-In in Mountain View; Kenda Drive-In in Marshall; and 112 Drive-In in Fayetteville. (Visit websites for all the fun details and schedules.) If these locations aren’t close to your home, check to see if your town shows summertime movies in the park or on the square. Many do!
3. Attend a festival and get away from it all. Arkansas has its fair share of entertaining and unique summer festivals including the Purple Hull Pea Festival (Emerson), Johnson County Peach Festival (Clarksville), and the Hope Watermelon Festival (Hope). Eat a hot dog with all the trimmings. Enter a contest. Spit watermelon seeds. Channel your younger self.
4. Dig for crystals at one of the mines or rock shops in the Ouachita Mountains near Hot Springs. Or, dig for diamonds at Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro. Maybe you’ll score the next fabulous find.
5. Go fishing! You’ve not experienced an Arkansas summer until you’ve cast a cane pole into a stream and pulled out a bream. With 9,700 miles of streams and rivers and over 600,000 acres of lakes, creeks, and bayous, you can be reeling in the big one in no time. Visit the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission for fishing license information and online purchase.
6. Watch the sunrise from a dock or from your own back porch. As morning breaks, you can practically feel the possibility in a new day.
7. Go out for milkshakes or dipped cones at the local Tastee Freeze.
8. Visit the library. If you don’t have a library card, get one. Check out a stack of books and start your summer reading. Many libraries have book clubs and discussion group. Join one. Arkansas is fortunate to have three open Carnegie Libraries and numerous Little Free Libraries across the state. Consider donating to one.
9. Build your own Little Free Library and officially register it. Make it a family project. Details HERE.
10. Pick Your Own. Blueberries or Peaches. Cucumbers or Watermelon. Rhubarb or Blackberries. If it is grown in Arkansas, odds are good you can drive a few miles and pick your own. Once home, whip up something fresh and yummy knowing you helped a local farmer. Click HERE for more information.
11. Ride Bikes. Be sure to follow the rules of the road.
12. Take a Class on a topic that’s always interested you. Photography. Genealogy. Yoga. Cooking. Check colleges, community centers, art centers, home improvement stores, and libraries for opportunities.
14. Hang a Hammock. Then, read a book, take a nap, or simply close your eyes and listen to the afternoon drift along.
15. Channel Huck Finn and paddle the Mississippi River from Helena (with Quapaw Canoe Company). Whether you book a day trip or stay overnight, this promises to be an experience like no other.
16. Go camping in your backyard. Fall asleep to the sound of tree frogs. Wake to the chittering of birds. If this isn’t your cup of tea, book a cabin in the woods and experience a similar soundtrack from nature.
17. Take a Saturday Drive going where the road leads you. Pack a picnic or stop at one of the vintage diners you are bound to pass. Drive the Great River Road and visit the small museums found in the river towns. Spend a day on the Arkansas Wine Trail. Arkansas has no shortage of scenic byways to explore.
18. Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Arkansas is home to two minor league baseball teams—the Arkansas Travelers based in Little Rock and the Northwest Arkansas Naturals based in Springdale. If a professional baseball game isn’t in the cards, arrange an old-fashioned game in your neighborhood. Or, simply watch The Sandlot and eat popcorn from the comfort of your home.
19. Keep a summer journal. At the end of each day, recap everything—what you thought, did, ate, believed. Add sketches if you are so inclined.
20. Go to a parade in your city or neighborhood. Stand on the curb, cheering and trying to catch Tootsie Rolls being thrown from the floats.
21. Hike to a waterfall. Maybe even swim in a water hole while you’re there. Be sure to take bug spray to protect yourself from ticks. For directions to some of Arkansas’s most incredible waterfalls, click here.
22. Enjoy a leisurely morning at your local farmer’s market. Buy the locally baked bread. A pint of strawberries. A bouquet of daisies. Whatever catches your eye and teases your nose. Find one near you.
23. Cook breakfast over an open fire.
24. Plant zinnia seeds in a pot and watch the color explode just in time for Independence Day. Cut and Come Again variety is a reliable favorite.
25. Visit a Garden. Arkansas is home to several botanical gardens brimming with beauty and tranquility. Many memberships include reciprocity, which can be an unexpected bonus while traveling. With summer concerts and free admission nights, your local botanical garden may be just the escape you’re looking for this summer.
One final thought about this Arkansas Summer Bucket List… There’s no right or wrong way to “do summer”. Everyone’s summer looks different.
No matter what you plan to include in yours, remember to carve out time for yourself even if that means dropping the kids off at daycare, escaping to a movie, or binge-watching Gilmore Girls (again) on Netflix.
Go barefoot. Believe in the good. Laugh a lot. To paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald—and so with the sunshine and great burst of leaves on trees… life begins again in the summer.
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