Last Hurrahs: Ideas for Getting Outdoors Before School Starts

Carrie Visintainer

The minute I flipped my calendar from July to August, it hit me. It’s almost Back-to-School! Such mixed feelings. One the one hand, it’s nice that the house will be quiet when my son jumps on the bus for second grade and my daughter starts part-time daycare. But at the same time, I love summer! Living in Colorado, our family spends a lot of time outdoors exploring the mountains, and I find it over-the-top fun. So this year I decided to try to stretch summer out as long as possible. In addition to shopping for school supplies and making sure my son has a few pairs of jeans without holes in the knees, I added another item to the August To-Do list: Last Hurrahs. Here are some ideas for making memories before the school bell rings:

  • Camp in the backyard. This is the “Great Outdoors” version of a Staycation, and it’s a blast. The best news: it doesn’t matter if your yard is big or small. A tent will fit in any size space, or if you’re hardy, you can just grab some blankets and pillows and sleep under the stars. Add roasted hot dogs, S-mores, and campfire songs (with or without an actual fire) to the mix, and you’ve created an night to remember.
  • Squeeze in a hike. Take a look at the trails near your home and pick one with lots of opportunity for discovery. Maybe there’s a winding nature path, or a trail with a vast mountain views, or a walk with a burbling the river along the way. Pack a high-energy picnic for extra fun, and make sure to offer you kids rewards (read: sugar, stickers, tattoos) for a job well-done.
  • Try something new. What’s an outdoor activity your family hasn’t tried yet? Perhaps it’s rock climbing, fishing, canoeing, or whitewater rafting. Well, it’s time to get it scheduled. Come up with a few options, take a family vote, and then get out there together. Trying a new adventure might also provide a bridge to asking your child how he is feeling about returning to school with a new teacher and classroom.
  • Go on a scavenger hunt. Design a path that’s a revival of sorts; it takes you back to some of your favorite summer haunts. If it’s feasible, choose a route you can reach by bike. Good options include the discovery museum, natural areas, library, lake, or playground. It’s always fun to end on a sweet note, maybe at an ice cream shop. With the items your kids collect during the scavenger hunt, create a scrapbook or box called Summer Finds 2014. You’ll have so much fun looking back during the school year and saying, “Remember when…?”
  • Road Trip, Anyone? Maybe there’s not time for something major, but what about a quick overnight? Get spontaneous! Book a campsite at a local state park, check out a nearby hot springs, or pack up the bikes and head to a neighboring town with popular pedestrian paths. Add some grab-and-go snacks and travel games like Bingo or Spot It to the ride, and the fun keeps up while the wheels are rolling.


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ABOUT CARRIE: Carrie Visintainer is a Colorado-based writer and the founder of Free Your Wild, empowering women and families to unlock their inner wild. Her work has appeared in Outside and 5280, and she’s the Wild Mama columnist for The Coloradoan. Her first book is forthcoming, represented by Wolf Literary. Visit Carrie and share your insights at

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Last Hurrahs: Ideas for Getting Outdoors Before School Starts by Carrie Visintainer