summer bucket list

How to make a Summer Bucket List to fit in all the fun before summer ends

Photo above by Jason Leung via Unsplash.

Is it really July already?

Many families look ahead to summer and think of things they hope to do — not just a vacation, but also local attractions to visit, restaurants they want to try, summer festivals to check out, new skills they’d love to build, exercise they want to get, outdoor movie screenings they don’t want to miss, and special, summer-only things like a frosty treat at an ice cream stand that’s only open from May to September.

The list goes on — different for everyone, but always packed with possibilities.

And that’s the challenge. Most of us have so much we’d like to do, but we’re often too busy to actually make a written list before summer begins. Then, before we know it, summer is blowing by. We do a few fun things and suddenly it’s time for buying school supplies and getting kids to bed earlier. We’re left wondering where the summer went.

The good news? This year can be different.

So how do you help the whole family voice what they’d love to do and then map out a schedule that makes sure the biggest things — and the tiny but meaningful things, like that summer night at a favorite ice cream stand — actually happen this year? And how do you do it in a way that feels fun rather than pressured?

Here at Kidsburgh, you can find details about all kinds of great places to go and upcoming events — many of them free or low-cost. And to make it even easier for families to access all the fun this summer, we’ve got a new resource for you: This guide to creating your Summer Bucket List.

Pittsburgh swimming pools
Photo of pool at Sandcastle courtesy of Meg St-Esprit.

As I write this, we’ve still got more than six weeks of summer ahead of us — plenty of time for a whole lot of family fun.

Here’s a great place to begin…


Step one is drawing up a list of everything you’d possibly want to do — even the things you may not be able to squeeze in this year. (Even if they can’t be done during summer ’24, having them on a list will help you make them happen next summer.)

So sit down as a family and start brainstorming. Let everyone voice their interests, including big and small things.

  • Sometimes we forget to be a tourist in our own city. Is there anywhere in Pittsburgh that your family has never gone (Point State Park, the Mister Rogers statue on the North Side) but someone in the family would love to experience?
  • Are there places you haven’t gone in a while that would be fun to revisit?
  • Are there new places that have opened that sound particularly fun to someone in your family?
  • Are there swimming pools you’d love to try or public spray parks you want to visit?

Sit down with a sheet of paper and pen (grownups and kids together, so everyone can voice their interests) and make a list. It should be intentionally big, including everything you all think of. Some of these ideas might be better for next year. But it’s valuable to discuss them now, so you can put them on a calendar and make a note of planning you’ll need to do in advance — things like saving money or getting tickets.

Photo courtesy of Cinema in the Park.

As you make this master list, you might find that several family members love an idea that one person suggests. Or there may be just one person who wants to do a particular thing, so perhaps you’ll do it in honor of their birthday or to celebrate something they’ve accomplished.

Some of the ideas may be things you can do at home, like watching the Olympics on TV (July 26 through Aug. 11), having a movie marathon afternoon or all reading books together while having a favorite snack.

Some may be happening nearby, like the free movies in the park (see this year’s list here) or picking berries at a Pittsburgh-region farm (check out these five locations).

Others may involve day trips or an overnight somewhere. (We’ve got guides to great roadtrips you can do on one tank of gas, including the Laurel Highlands, Cleveland, Columbus, and also weekend getaway guides for places like Washington, D.C., and Hershey/Harrisburg.)

Once you’ve got the whole list, draw up a shorter list of the items your family most wants to do during the next six weeks.

Cleveland road trip
Photo courtesy of Destination Cleveland.


Step two is making a list of the things your family is already committed to doing. This includes the grownups’ work schedules (and kids’ work schedules, if you have teens who work), any camps or classes you’ve already committed to, any travel that’s already booked or other things your family has already scheduled.

Now it’s time to start scheduling. Look over the list you just made and figure out when your family has free time available.

Then look at the list of things your family most wants to do and start blocking the time on a paper calendar or digital calendar app. (Paper calendars can be fun to hang up in your kitchen and let kids look at them to build reading skills and get excited about upcoming plans without interacting with screens.)

Here’s the key to making this stress-free: Be kind to yourselves. You may not pack everything into summer 2024. But if you approach each season in this intentional way, you can make the most out of this summer and the upcoming fall, winter and spring, too.

For more fun ideas, check out our guides to everything to see and do around Pittsburgh and beyond.