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Fun summer activities

108 Fun Free and Affordable Summer Activities for 2024

Summer is a season synonymous with fun, adventure, and making lasting memories. However, with costs continuing to rise, many people are seeking ways to enjoy the summer without breaking the bank. The increased cost of travel, fuel, and accommodations has led to a surge in demand for low-cost summer activities. 

Whether you're planning to stay local or looking for budget-friendly excursions, there are numerous ways to have a fantastic summer without spending a fortune. Let’s explore various affordable activities for all age groups and personality styles, the evolution of favorite summer pastimes, and tips on how to find and book these experiences.

Fun Free Summer Activities by Age Group

Whether you are at home or on the road, there are low-cost summer activities for every age group. Everyone can find something free or almost free to do this summer, from kids to seniors. Kids will enjoy playgrounds, swimming, and visiting libraries for free events. Teens and tweens may enjoy pool parties, day camps, and hiking. Lastly, summer activities are just for kids. Low-cost summer activities have a lot to offer adults as well. From free festivals to gardening, adults can also reap the benefits of these free activities. 

Toddlers and Preschool

  • Splash Pads - Check out local play areas with fun sprinklers and fountains, plus, they are usually free.
  • Sand Play - Digging, building, and exploring in sandboxes or beach areas is a great activity for kids and it builds their motor skills!
  • Story Time - Libraries will often have summer events with special read-a-louds by guests.
  • Petting Zoos - Interacting with gentle farm animals is a great and interesting experience.
  • Bubble Play - Buying a bottle of bubbles is a cheap and fun backyard activity.
  • Mini Hikes - Short, easy walks are great for little legs.
  • Playgrounds - Get your thrills on the classics, monkey bars, slides, and swings.
  • Sidewalk Chalk - Another summer classic, art that washes away.
  • Picnics - Make sure to have the kids plan and pack what to eat.
  • Ride-On Toys - These can be had for cheap at thrift stores and lead to oodles of driveway fun.

Elementary Kids

  • Swimming - Dive into fun-filled pool or beach days where you can splash around, play games, and learn essential water safety skills that will keep you confident and safe.
  • Bike Riding - Pedal through your neighborhood with the wind in your hair, enjoying the freedom of movement while mastering the balance and coordination needed for cycling.
  • Nature Walks - Embark on mini adventures in the great outdoors, discovering the wonders of nature, from tiny insects to towering trees, and learning about the environment.
  • Sports - Get your game on by joining team sports or taking on solo challenges, improving your athletic skills, making new friends, and having a blast.
  • Craft Projects - Unleash your creativity with a variety of art and DIY projects, transforming everyday materials into amazing works of art that you can proudly display.
  • Camping - Pack your gear and head out for a family camping trip, where you can sleep under the stars, toast marshmallows over a campfire, and create lasting memories.
  • Visits to Museums - Explore fascinating exhibits at local museums, igniting your curiosity and expanding your knowledge on a wide range of topics from science to history.
  • Gardening - Roll up your sleeves and plant a garden, watching as your green thumb helps flowers bloom and vegetables grow, bringing beauty and freshness to your home.
  • Treasure Hunts - Embark on exciting scavenger hunts, following clues and searching for hidden treasures, turning your neighborhood or local park into a thrilling adventure.
  • Cooking - Step into the kitchen and whip up delicious treats, learning the magic of cooking and baking while developing important skills and enjoying the tasty results.

Tweens

  • Adventure Parks - Feel the rush of adrenaline as you soar through the air on zip lines and navigate challenging ropes courses at adventure parks, pushing your limits and having fun.
  • Kayaking/Canoeing - Grab a paddle and set off on a kayaking or canoeing adventure, gliding through peaceful lakes and rivers, and enjoying the refreshing splash of water.
  • Movie Nights - Host epic movie nights with friends, setting up a cozy space with popcorn and snacks, and diving into exciting films followed by lively discussions about your favorite scenes.
  • Art Classes - Discover your artistic talents by taking painting, drawing, or sculpture classes, and exploring various techniques and styles while expressing your creativity.
  • Volunteering - Make a positive impact in your community by volunteering your time and skills, helping those in need, and experiencing the joy of giving back.
  • Science Projects - Conduct experiments and dive into the fascinating world of science, exploring different concepts and discovering how things work through hands-on activities.
  • Photography - Capture amazing moments with your camera, learning about composition, lighting, and editing to create stunning photos that tell a story.
  • Hiking - Take on more challenging hiking trails, immersing yourself in nature, enjoying breathtaking views, and feeling a sense of accomplishment with each new summit reached.
  • Fishing - Cast a line and enjoy the peacefulness of fishing in various bodies of water, learning patience and technique while hoping for a big catch.
  • Reading Clubs - Dive into captivating books and share your thoughts and insights with fellow bookworms, engaging in thoughtful discussions and expanding your literary horizons.

Teenagers

  • Sports & Fitness - Stay active by participating in organized sports teams or developing your own fitness routines, improving your health, skills, and teamwork abilities.
  • Volunteering - Use your talents and skills to support causes you care about, making a meaningful difference in your community and gaining valuable experience.
  • Concerts and Festivals - Experience the excitement of live music and cultural events with friends, creating unforgettable memories and enjoying the vibrant atmosphere.
  • Road Trips - Plan epic road trips to explore new places, embarking on adventures that take you off the beaten path and allow you to discover hidden gems and scenic spots.
  • Internships/Part-Time Jobs - Gain real-world experience and earn money with summer jobs or internships, building your resume and learning important professional skills.
  • Beach Days - Head to the coast for a day of sun, sand, and surf, playing beach volleyball, building sandcastles, or simply relaxing by the water.
  • Camps - Join specialized camps that cater to your interests, whether it's sports, arts, science, or adventure, meeting new people and learning new skills in a fun environment.
  • Learning New Skills - Take the opportunity to pick up a new hobby or skill, from coding to cooking, expanding your knowledge and discovering new passions.
  • DIY Projects - Get creative with DIY projects, transforming old items or raw materials into something new and exciting, and enjoying the satisfaction of your handiwork.
  • Social Activities - Connect with friends through organized events or casual meet-ups, enjoying the company and building strong social bonds.

Adults

  • Gardening - Transform your outdoor space into a blooming paradise, cultivating plants that bring color, fragrance, and freshness to your surroundings, and finding relaxation in the process.
  • Outdoor Cooking - Fire up the grill and enjoy the delights of outdoor cooking, creating delicious barbecues and picnic feasts that bring family and friends together.
  • Traveling/Road Trips - Embark on adventures to discover new destinations, experiencing different cultures, cuisines, and landscapes that enrich your life and broaden your horizons.
  • Fitness Activities - Stay fit and healthy with regular exercise routines, whether it's jogging, yoga, or a vigorous workout, keeping your body and mind in great shape.
  • Festivals and Fairs - Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of local festivals and fairs, enjoying the music, food, and entertainment that celebrate community spirit.
  • Home Improvement - Take on DIY projects to enhance your living space, from simple repairs to major renovations, making your home more comfortable and stylish.
  • Concerts and Events - Relish the excitement of live music, theater, and community events, appreciating the arts and culture that bring joy and inspiration.
  • Social Gatherings - Host or attend gatherings with friends and family, celebrating special occasions or simply enjoying each other's company in a warm and friendly environment.
  • Photography - Capture life’s moments with your camera, exploring your creative side through photography and learning to see the world from new perspectives.
  • Learning - Continue your education with courses and workshops that interest you, keeping your mind sharp and satisfying your curiosity with new knowledge and skills.

Seniors

  • Walking Clubs - Join group walks to stay active and socialize, enjoying the company of others while exploring your neighborhood or local parks.
  • Gardening - Enjoy the therapeutic benefits of tending to plants, and cultivating a beautiful garden that provides relaxation and a sense of accomplishment.
  • Book Clubs - Engage in lively discussions about your favorite reads with fellow book lovers, sharing insights and enjoying the camaraderie of a shared interest.
  • Crafts - Create beautiful handmade items for fun or gifts, exploring your creativity through various craft projects that bring joy and satisfaction.
  • Fitness Classes - Participate in exercise programs tailored for seniors, staying fit and healthy with activities designed to meet your needs and capabilities.

Summer activities by age

Favorite Summer Activities by Personality Type

What people enjoy during summer free time differs by interest and personality type. Outdoorsy types will enjoy hikes and camping. For people more inclined to stay indoors, there is plenty for them to enjoy as well. There are museum and library events and simply enjoying books and crafts at home.

Creative types can look into signing up for writing retreats and taking some photos outside. Whether you like fitness events or social gatherings, summer offers something for everyone. 

Summer activities by group

Adventurous Activities

  1. Hiking and Nature Trails - Embark on a thrilling journey through local trails and parks, discovering hidden gems and enjoying the beauty of the great outdoors.
  2. Kayaking or Canoeing - Rent a kayak or canoe and paddle your way through serene waters, taking in the breathtaking scenery and wildlife around you.
  3. Camping - Set up camp under the stars at a local campground, roasting marshmallows, telling stories, and embracing the peacefulness of nature.
  4. Rock Climbing - Challenge yourself by finding a nearby climbing wall or natural rock face, and feel the exhilaration of reaching new heights.

Creative Activities

  • Photography Walks - Stroll through nature or urban landscapes, capturing stunning photos that tell a story and showcase your artistic eye.
  • DIY Craft Days - Get creative with recycled materials, turning everyday items into unique and imaginative projects that are both fun and eco-friendly.
  • Painting or Sketching Outdoors - Pack your art supplies and head to a park or beach, where you can let the scenery inspire your next masterpiece.
  • Writing Retreat - Find a quiet, picturesque spot to write poetry, stories, or a journal, allowing the tranquility to fuel your creativity.
  • Street Art Tours - Explore vibrant murals and street art in your area, appreciating the colorful expressions of local artists.

Social Butterfly Activities

  • Potluck Picnics - Gather friends and family for a delightful picnic where everyone brings a delicious dish to share, creating a festive feast in the great outdoors.
  • Outdoor Movie Nights - Transform your backyard into an open-air cinema with a projector and screen, and enjoy watching your favorite films under the stars.
  • Community Festivals - Dive into the lively atmosphere of local fairs and festivals, experiencing the food, music, and entertainment that bring the community together.
  • Beach Volleyball - Rally your friends for a fun and energetic game of volleyball at a nearby beach or park, soaking up the sun and enjoying the competition.
  • Game Nights - Host exciting board games or card games in the evening, where laughter and friendly rivalry make for a memorable time.

Intellectual Activities

  • Museum Days - Explore museums on discounted or free admission days, immersing yourself in art, history, and science exhibits that spark curiosity and learning.
  • Library Events - Participate in book clubs, lectures, or workshops at your local library, engaging in thoughtful discussions and expanding your knowledge.
  • Historical Walking Tours - Discover the rich history of your city by joining a guided walking tour, uncovering fascinating stories and landmarks along the way.
  • Documentary Screenings - Watch educational documentaries at home or in community centers, broadening your understanding of various topics and sparking meaningful conversations.

Relaxed and Laid-Back Activities

  • Beach Days - Spend a leisurely day lounging by the water, soaking up the sun, and enjoying the soothing sounds of the waves.
  • Gardening - Start a small garden or care for existing plants, finding joy and relaxation in nurturing nature.
  • Fishing - Experience the tranquility of fishing in a local pond or river, where patience and calm are rewarded with the occasional catch.
  • Yoga in the Park - Join or follow along with a yoga class outdoors, finding peace and balance amidst the beauty of nature.
  • Reading Under a Tree - Find a shady spot beneath a tree and lose yourself in a good book, letting the gentle rustling of leaves provide the perfect backdrop.

Fitness Enthusiast Activities

  • Outdoor Fitness Classes - Join free or low-cost yoga, tai chi, or boot camp sessions in local parks, staying fit and motivated in the fresh air.
  • Running or Biking Trails - Explore local running or biking paths, enjoying the freedom and exhilaration of moving through scenic routes.
  • Swimming - Visit a community pool or local lake, diving in for a refreshing swim that invigorates both body and mind.
  • Fitness Challenges - Create or join fitness challenges with friends or online communities, pushing yourself to new limits and celebrating each achievement.

Family-Oriented Activities

  • Scavenger Hunts - Organize a scavenger hunt in your neighborhood or a local park, where kids and adults alike can enjoy the thrill of searching for hidden treasures.
  • Nature Crafts - Collect natural materials like leaves, rocks, and sticks, and create beautiful crafts together, fostering creativity and a love for the outdoors.
  • Farm Visits - Visit local farms for fruit picking or petting zoos, offering a delightful day of hands-on learning and fun.
  • Story Time - Have themed storytime sessions in the backyard, where imaginative tales and cozy settings create magical moments.
  • Bike Rides - Plan family bike rides on safe paths, exploring new areas and enjoying quality time together while getting some exercise.

Fun Summer Festivals Across the USA

Now, for the more adult, fun-loving crowd, summer camp may not be your thing. However, summer festivals are integral to celebrating summer like a pro.

Across the United States, thousands of festivals are held each year. Each state is notable for a unique and fun festival. Music, food and wine, art, and state fairs are just a few of the offerings summer festivals have for people. Many of these festivals are low-cost or free to attend. 

Festivals across the US during Summer 2024

Atlanta, Georgia

Event: Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

Details: Southern cuisine, day passes, weekend-long tickets, wine, beer, cocktails, unlimited food, tasting tents, and intimate dinners. Partners include Four Roses Bourbon, Ketel One Vodka, and Wicked Weed Brewing. Exhibitors include Pie Bar.

Aspen, Colorado

Event: Aspen Food & Wine Classic

Details: Three-day culinary event with wine seminars, gourmet tastings, and cooking demos. Notable attendees include Andrew Zimmerman, Claudette Zepeda, Alba Huerta, and Anthony Giglio. Scheduled for June 16-18.

Vail, Colorado

Event: GoPro Mountain Games

Details: June 8-11, features sports, music, arts, and food. Activities include hiking, disc golf, kayaking, and yoga. Free to spectate, family-friendly, dog-friendly.

Boston, Massachusetts

Event: Boston Art & Music Soul Festival (BAMS Fest)

Details: Takes place June 22-24, and focuses on arts, culture, and education. Centralizes Black joy, voices, and artistry. Free registration is available.

Chicago, Illinois

Event: Lollapalooza

Details: Four-day event with more than 170 acts, including The 1975, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Billie Eilish. Features nine stages and top city food vendors.

Dallas, Texas

Event: State Fair of Texas

Details: Three weeks of food, games, entertainment, live performances, midway rides, Big Tex’s Farmyard, Starlight Parade, auto show, Texas Skyway gondola, dog and pig races, Ferris wheel.

Houston, Texas

Event: Houston Barbecue Festival

Details: Celebrates best barbecue joints.

Hawaii

Event: King Kamehameha Celebration

Details: Statewide holiday with a floral parade, live music, hula, food vendors, and artisanal goods. Celebrates the legacy of Kamehameha the Great.

Las Vegas, Nevada

Event: Life is Beautiful

Details: Sept. 22-24, features performers like The Killers, Kendrick Lamar, and Odesza. Includes seven stages, cuisine from over 70 brands, 18 blocks of art galleries, and comedians. All-In wristband offers front-row viewing, Artist Hospitality Lounge, and food vouchers.

Miami, Florida

Event: Rolling Loud

Details: Three-day hip-hop festival with top names. Loud Club offers elevated viewing, VIP entrance, parking, valet, celebrity appearances, food, and exclusive merchandise.

Orange County, CA

Event: California Wine Festival

Details: VIP event at Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, features fine wines, craft beers, and food.

Oakland, California

Event: Hiero Day

Details: Celebrates hip-hop, art, and dance. Features hip-hop legends, multiple stages, and affordable early bird tickets.

San Francisco, California

Event: Outside Lands

Details: Held in Golden Gate Park, includes music, gourmet food, and art installations. Features Kendrick Lamar, Foo Fighters, and Lana Del Rey.

Silicon Valley, California

Event: Palo Alto Festival of the Arts

Details: Attracts 150,000 attendees. Features over 300 art displays, Italian street painters, stage entertainment, gourmet food, and a kid’s art studio.

Sacramento, California

Event: Farm-to-Fork Festival

Details: Sept. 22-23. Celebrates region’s music and culinary gems. Features local food, wineries, craft beer, and musical acts.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Event: Roots Picnic

Details: Features The Roots and curated musicians. Takes place at Mann at Fairmount Park. Includes local bites.

Scottsdale, Arizona

Event: Chocolate and Art Show Phoenix

Details: Features fine art, music, and chocolate. Partnered with Artists for Trauma. Includes live body painting, and face-painting.

Washington DC

Event: Citi Open

Details: Nine-day tennis event at Rock Creek Park Tennis Center. Includes tailgates, beer festivals, and junior tennis clinics.

Traverse City, Michigan

Event: National Cherry Festival

Details: Eight-day event. Features pies, tarts, drinks, carnival, musical acts, air show, tea parties, Cherry Queen competition, and parade. This event is great because 85% of events are free.

Roswell, New Mexico

Event: Roswell UFO Festival

Details: Pre-Independence Day event. Features music, circus acts, history lessons, dance parties, laser shows, and alien chases.

Carnation, Washington

Event: Refuge Outdoor Festival

Details: Aug. 18-20. Safe space for Black, Indigenous, and people of color. Features outdoor activities, holistic healing, music, performance art, and workshops.

West Virginia

Event: Waynestock Outdoor Adventure and Music Festival

Details: June 8-11. Features indie bands, outdoor activities, aerial tramways, ziplining, hiking, white-water rafting, camping, glamping, mountain biking, and rock climbing. Family-friendly.

Columbus, Ohio

Event: Festival Latino

Details: Celebrates Latino culture. Features music, art, dance, food. Free to the public. Nearby attractions include the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Summer Camp Activities for Kids

Parents and children find summer camps an exceptional choice for enriching summer fun and unforgettable adventures. The vast array of summer and day camps available guarantees that there is something to captivate every child's imagination and interest 

From arts and crafts to outdoor education, sports, science, and even entire family retreats, camps offer diverse programs designed to inspire and engage. These camps provide an ideal setting for children to discover new passions, hone their skills, and forge lifelong friendships.

Moreover, the flexibility in camp durations caters to every family's needs, whether parents are looking for an all-encompassing week-long immersion or a convenient day camp experience. Camps are designed to fit seamlessly into varying schedules, ensuring that every child has the opportunity to benefit from the enriching experiences that camps offer. With such a wide selection, parents can easily find the perfect camp that aligns with their child's interests and their family's summer plans, making it a season to remember.

Skills learned at summer camp

Six Tips for Selecting a Great Summer Camp

  1. Identify your child’s interests. Consider what your child enjoys doing, whether it's sports, arts and crafts, science, or outdoor adventures. Selecting a camp that aligns with their interests can enhance their experience.
  2. Research camp programs. Look into the specific programs and activities offered by the camp. Ensure they have a variety of engaging and age-appropriate options that match your child's interests and developmental needs.
  3. Check camp credentials. Verify the camp's accreditation and certifications. Accredited camps meet industry standards for safety, staff qualifications, and program quality.
  4. Read reviews and testimonials. Look for feedback from other parents and campers. Reviews and testimonials can provide insights into the camp's environment, staff, and overall experience.
  5. Visit the camp. If possible, visit the camp in person. A tour can give you a sense of the facilities, the staff, and the overall atmosphere. It also allows you to ask questions directly.
  6. Review the cost. Compare the costs of different camps and see what is included in the fees. Be aware of any additional costs for activities, meals, or supplies.

How To Prepare Your Child for Overnight Summer Camp

  • Pack accordingly. Follow the camp’s packing list and ensure your child has all the necessary items, including clothing, toiletries, bedding, and any specific gear for activities. Label all items with your child’s name.
  • Practice independence. Encourage your child to practice skills such as making their bed, organizing their belongings, and managing personal hygiene. These skills will help them feel more confident at camp.
  • Discuss expectations. Talk with your child about what to expect at camp, including daily routines, activities, and social interactions. This can help reduce any fears or uncertainties.
  • Prepare for homesickness. It's normal for children to feel homesick. Discuss strategies for coping, such as making new friends, staying busy with activities, and writing letters home.
  • Health preparations. Ensure your child is up to date with vaccinations and has any necessary medications packed with clear instructions. Inform the camp of any medical conditions or dietary restrictions.
  • Set communication plans. Establish how and when you will communicate with your child, whether through letters, phone calls, or emails, depending on the camp’s policies.
  • Pack comfort items. Allow your child to bring a few comfort items from home, such as a favorite stuffed animal, blanket, or family photo, to help them feel more at ease.
  • Review camp rules and policies. Go over the camp’s rules and policies with your child to ensure they understand what is expected of them and what they can expect in return.

Top 5 States for Summer Camp

Summer camps are a cherished tradition across the United States, providing kids and teens with opportunities to explore nature, learn new skills, and forge lifelong friendships. These camps offer a variety of activities, from hiking and swimming to arts and crafts, all designed to create memorable and enriching experiences. While every state boasts its own array of camps, five states stand out for having an especially high concentration of these treasured summer havens.

States with the most summer camps

Leading the pack is California, a state renowned for its diverse landscapes and outdoor activities. With an impressive 467 summer camps, California offers a wide range of options, from coastal camps that emphasize marine biology to mountain retreats focused on adventure sports. Whether children are interested in science, sports, arts, or wilderness survival, there is a camp in California to suit every interest.

Following California, New York is another top destination for summer camps. Known for its scenic Adirondacks and Catskills, New York provides campers with picturesque settings for outdoor adventures. Pennsylvania also ranks high on the list, with its rich history and abundant natural parks offering a perfect backdrop for educational and recreational camps.

Ohio, coming in fifth with 210 camps, showcases the state's commitment to providing accessible summer programs for its youth. From traditional sleepaway camps to specialized day camps, Ohio offers a variety of experiences that cater to different interests and age groups.

Massachusetts rounds out the top five, known for its historical sites and beautiful landscapes. The state's camps often blend educational opportunities with fun activities, ensuring that campers return home with new knowledge as well as fond memories.

Parents living in these states are fortunate to have an abundance of options when it comes to enrolling their kids in summer camps. The diversity and number of camps available mean that families can find programs that align with their children's interests and developmental needs. Whether seeking a week-long adventure or a summer-long engagement, the top five states for summer camps offer unparalleled opportunities for growth, learning, and fun.

This wealth of options not only benefits the children but also provides parents with peace of mind, knowing that their kids are spending their summer in a safe, enriching environment. The popularity of summer camps in these states reflects the strong tradition of outdoor education and recreational programming that continues to thrive across the country.

Average Cost of Summer Camps Across the Country in 2024

Of course, all your summer fun comes down to cost. Across all categories, overnight camps consistently command the highest fees, likely due to the additional costs of lodging and round-the-clock supervision. Interestingly, specialty camps don't always come with a premium price tag; in some cases, like recreational/sports camps, they're the most affordable option at $60 per day. 

Outdoor education programs consistently offer the lowest rates across all camp types, potentially making them an attractive option for budget-conscious families or those looking to maximize their children's time in nature. The variation in costs between day and overnight options, particularly noticeable in family camps and group retreats, suggests that families have flexibility in choosing experiences that fit both their preferences and budgets.

Average cost of summer camp 2024

What Types of Summer Camps Are Out There?

If you are not familiar with the world of camp, well, there are a lot of options. Here is a rundown of summer camp options for kids and families.

Day Camps

Day camps are a popular option for families looking for a structured, engaging environment for their children during the day while allowing them to return home each evening. These camps typically operate during standard daytime hours and offer a variety of activities designed to keep children entertained and learning throughout the day.

Day camps can be found in local community centers, schools, parks, and specialized facilities, offering programs that may include arts and crafts, sports, nature exploration, and educational activities. They are ideal for younger children or those who may not be ready for an overnight camp experience.

Overnight Camps

Overnight camps, also known as sleepaway camps, provide a more immersive experience where children stay at the camp for an extended period, ranging from a few days to several weeks. These camps offer a comprehensive array of activities, including outdoor adventures, team-building exercises, and specialized skill-building sessions.

Overnight camps foster independence, resilience, and social skills as children navigate living away from home, often forming lasting friendships and memories. These camps can be located in scenic areas, such as forests, lakes, or mountains, providing a unique environment for children to explore and enjoy.

Specialty Camps

Specialty camps focus on specific interests or activities, allowing children to immerse themselves in a particular field or hobby. These camps cater to a wide range of passions, including:

  • Art camps. Offering programs in painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, and other visual arts, these camps help children develop their artistic talents and creativity.
  • Science camps. Designed for young scientists and tech enthusiasts, science camps provide hands-on experiments, coding workshops, robotics, and exploration of scientific principles.
  • Sports camps. Focusing on various sports such as soccer, basketball, swimming, or tennis, sports camps help children improve their athletic skills, teamwork, and physical fitness.
  • Performing arts camps. For budding actors, dancers, and musicians, these camps offer instruction in theater, dance, music, and performance, often culminating in a final showcase or production.
  • Adventure camps. These camps emphasize outdoor activities and survival skills, including hiking, rock climbing, canoeing, and camping, promoting a love for nature and adventure.

Specialty camps are perfect for children who have a specific interest or want to deepen their knowledge and skills in a particular area, providing an enriching and focused camp experience.

Camp offerings across the country

Now, you may be curious about how long camps last. The data reveals some intriguing trends: while one-week sessions are popular across the board, overnight camps tend to offer longer stays, with a significant percentage running two-week programs. Day camps, on the other hand, seem to favor shorter durations, with many offering sessions of one week or less.

This information isn't just trivia – it's a valuable insight for parents planning their children's summers and for camp organizers looking to align their offerings with market preferences. Whether you're a parent, a camp counselor, or just curious about summer traditions, this data paints a clear picture of how American families structure their summer camp experiences.

Average length of summer camp

Average Summer Camp Sessions

  • 4 Days or Fewer: Day Camp, 5%. Overnight, 35%.
  • 1 Week: Day Camp, 38%. Overnight, 92%.
  • 2 Weeks: Day Camp, 20%. Overnight, 36%.
  • 3 weeks: Day Camp, 15%. Overnight, 25%.
  • 4 weeks: Day Camp, 12%. Overnight, 35%.
  • 5 weeks: Day Camp, 8%. Overnight, 5%.
  • 6 weeks: Day Camp, 10%. Overnight, 12%.
  • 7 weeks or more: Day Camp, 18%. Overnight, 15%.

How Favorite Summer Activities Have Changed Over the Years

No matter the cost, summer means more than just hot weather and vacations. It’s time for a wide variety of summer activities with each age group. However, the most popular activities have changed over the years.

The preference for summer activities has changed because of multiple factors. Inflation, the Pandemic, and changing interests have influenced popularity. 

Summer activities changing 2024

The above data reveals:

  • Visiting friends and family has consistently been the most popular activity, with a slight dip in 2020 followed by a strong rebound in subsequent years.
  • Walking remained relatively stable, experiencing only a minor dip in 2020 and 2021, but recovering in 2022 and 2023.
  • Travel experienced a significant drop in 2020, likely due to pandemic restrictions, but has steadily recovered since 2021.
  • Shopping saw a substantial decrease in popularity from 2019 to 2020 and has not yet returned to pre-2020 levels, indicating a shift in consumer behavior.
  • Attending outdoor performances had a significant decline in 2020, similar to travel, but has shown a gradual increase in popularity from 2021 to 2023. 

Overall, the chart highlights the impact of the pandemic on summer activities, with a general trend of recovery in social and travel activities over the following years.

Facts To Know About Driving This Summer

As preferences for summer fun evolve, a significant shift has been observed in how people reach those exciting destinations.

Summer drivers

16% of travelers are driving instead of flying. This change reflects growing concerns about cost, convenience, and health safety, prompting more individuals to hit the road for their journeys.

Summer drivers and travel choices

13% of drivers are flying instead of driving due to inflation. The rise of gas prices often making car travel more expensive than flying. 1 in 5 summer drivers

Economic factors are also influencing the length of vacations for many travelers. The graphic below shows that 1 in 5 drivers are shortening their vacations. This trend highlights how rising costs and budget constraints are affecting travel plans, prompting individuals to reduce the duration of their trips.

1 in 4 summer drivers

Rising gas prices are having a profound effect on travel behavior. The graphic below indicates that 1 in 4 drivers are now traveling shorter distances. This shift underscores the impact of increased fuel costs, compelling many travelers to stay closer to home.

Summer Activity Differences Between Millennials and Gen Z

While concerts and festivals may appeal to all generations, there is a big difference in how the younger generation is spending their summer vacation, and we have the data to prove it.

Gen Z and Millenials have different preferences on how they want to spend their summers. Data shows these two generations find different activities more popular than others. 

Millennials vs. Gen Z summer activities

What are Millenials and Gen-Z planning to do this summer?

  • Spending time with my family: Millennial, 66%. Gen-Z, 80%.
  • Hike/walk outdoors: Millennial, 52%. Gen-Z, 69%.
  • Have time off work/school: Milennial, 45%. Gen-Z, 68%.
  • Hang out with friends: Millennial, 46%. Gen-Z, 68%.
  • Work: Millennial, 51%. Gen-Z, 67%.
  • Start/finish a project: Millennial, 49%. Gen-Z, 61%.
  • BBQs/Picnics: Millennial, 41%. Gen-Z, 62%.
  • Go to the beach/pools: Millennial, 36%. Gen-Z, 60%.
  • Water activities: Millennial, 37%. Gen-Z, 60%.
  • Travel/Go on vacation: Millennial, 27%. Gen-Z, 56%.
  • Go to the movies: Millennial, 26%. Gen-Z, 48%.
  • Watch summer sports: Millennial, 26%. Gen-Z, 56%.
  • Play lawn games: Millennial, 34%. Gen-Z, 46%.
  • Summer events: Millennial, 22%. Gen-Z, 43%.
  • Play summer sports: Millennial, 22%. Gen-Z, 38%.
  • Go to Summer Camp: Millennial, 12%. Gen-Z, 23%.

Millennials, having grown up during the rise of social media and tech advancements, often enjoy a blend of traditional and modern activities. They might indulge in outdoor adventures like hiking and camping, or enjoy attending music festivals and social gatherings that foster in-person connections. 

On the other hand, Gen Z, born into a fully digital world, often gravitates towards activities that can be shared and experienced online. This includes creating and consuming content on platforms like TikTok, participating in virtual events, and engaging in gaming communities. While both generations value experiences, Millennials tend to lean towards activities that offer a break from their digital lives, whereas Gen Z embraces the digital integration of their leisure time. This contrast highlights the evolving nature of summer fun across generations, driven by technological advancements and changing social landscapes.

Adding some further data here from Empower, Gen-Z has splurging on their mind this summer:

More than half of Gen-Z planning to travel this summer are capping their spending at:

  • $500 for flights and transportation (52%)
  • $500 for food (55%)
  • $500 for activities (51%)
  • Nearly a third (31%) plan to splurge on lodging, spending more than $1,000 for their hotel or Airbnb stay.

A quarter of Gen-Z respondents planning to vacation are willing to spend between $500-$1,000 for:

  • Food (26%)
  • Experiences (25%)
  • Only 33% expect to spend more than $500 on shopping for souvenirs during their trip.

Cheap, Fun Summer Activities Are in Higher Demand Due to Inflation

Inflation has led many people to change their spending habits and lifestyles. Travel is not exempt from these changes. Plane tickets, gas prices, and accommodations are all factors in making summer plans. Fuel prices normally increase each summer.

Inflation is causing a higher uptick in prices, causing a 1.8% increase from April 2023 until now. People are taking fewer long-distance trips where they drive or choosing to find online flight deals. Everyone feeling the pinch of inflation is choosing less costly options, making low-cost activities in high demand.

Inflation as of 6/2024

Long-distance road trips are becoming less appealing due to the high cost of fuel, leading many to seek out online flight deals as an alternative. Nevertheless, even air travel comes with its own set of financial challenges, pushing travelers to look for more budget-friendly options.

The pinch of inflation is being felt across the board, driving a surge in demand for lower-cost summer activities. Families and individuals are increasingly opting for local or regional destinations, cutting down on travel expenses. Public parks, community events, and free outdoor activities are seeing a rise in popularity as people seek to enjoy their summer without breaking the bank.

How Are Consumers Finding and Booking Summer Activities?

While the internet may be the most common method for most people (including Gen-Z and Millennials) to find summer fun, that is not the only game in town, even though it is still a top resource. 

The internet has created many methods for finding and booking summer activities, making it more convenient and easier than ever. People are also going more direct in making their vacation plans. Vacationers are going directly to Disneyland and Chimani National Parks’ websites to book their trip. Aside from going directly to theme park websites, Fandango and Booking.com still maintain high popularity in booking choices. And, some of the ways we search depend on age and gender. For example, as you can see, men are more likely to go directly to Google Trips.

Finding summer activities

Gender Insights: Women use the websites U.S. Census, Chimani National Park, Booking.com, and Disneland more than men. Men use Google Trips and Fandango more than women.

Tips on How To Find Fun Summer Activities

We’ve come a long way from only hearing about summer fun through neighborhood fliers and word of mouth. There are more resources than ever to help you find summer activities. You can check online for events, possibly finding community pages that advertise activities for your area. Local libraries are also a great resource for free activities during the summer. The possibilities are nearly endless to find summer fun.

As summer arrives, the challenge of balancing fun with financial prudence becomes more relevant. By embracing lower-cost activities, families and individuals can still enjoy the season to its fullest.

Ways to find summer activities

Utilizing Online Resources: Websites and social media platforms often list free events and activities happening in your area. Local Facebook groups or event websites can be valuable resources.

Website and Apps: Go online or use apps to find free summer activities.

Community Resources: Check out your city or town's website or community bulletin boards for free events like concerts, festivals, or outdoor movie nights.

Libraries: Libraries often host free activities for all ages, including book clubs, workshops, storytelling sessions, and arts-and-crafts activities.

Community Centers: They often host free events like summer camps, movie nights, or workshops for various interests.

Local Newspapers: Your local newspaper usually lists free events in your area.

From outdoor adventures and creative pursuits to social gatherings and intellectual engagements, there are plenty of ways to make the most of your summer without overspending. With the right planning and resources, you can create memorable experiences that don’t strain your budget. So, get ready to discover all the affordable and enjoyable activities this summer has to offer!

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