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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

26 Nostalgic Ways to Celebrate the First Day of Summer

Dive, sip, snack, splash, play, and laugh your way into this magnificent season. No one can resist a bean-bag toss!

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Multiple marshmallows extended over a camp fire to roast.Phil McDonald/Shutterstock

Burn a marshmallow

What’s a good s’more without a slightly singed marshmallow? Celebrate with a bonfire with friends or just use a burner on the stove and whip up the classic sticky-sweet summer treat in minutes. Nothing says “summer is starting” like a little bit of marshmallow stuck in your hair and a smear of chocolate on your chin!

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Man with astronomy telescope looking at the stars. Man telescope and starry sky. Night sky. Milky way galaxy.Allexxandar/Shutterstock

Find the Milky Way

Anyone can spot a star or even a planet on a clear night but it takes getting far away from bright city lights to get a glimpse of our galaxy. But, oh, is it worth it! Take a nighttime drive or hike into nature and prepare to be blown away by how small you are and how amazing our world is. While you’re there check out these cool things you can only see in the night sky during summer.

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Beautiful girl in red dress is sitting on the wooden pier. Woman is dangling her feet into the lake. Rustic and natural photo outdoors. Summer river and splashes of water in the evening.Vadym Plysiuk/Shutterstock

Roll up your pants and go wading

There’s something so satisfying about stripping off sweaty socks and shoes and bathing your tired tootsies in a nearby creek, river, lake, or ocean. Even a full gutter or sidewalk puddle is perfect for splashing! Plus, wading through nice, cool water is one of the 50 ways to have your healthiest summer ever.

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Metal glass with mint julep on kitchen tableAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

Sip a mint julep

Sweet mint syrup adds the perfect summer flavor to standard drinks. Daytime? Enjoy some sweet mint tea. Evening? Make it a julep by adding a shot of bourbon.

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London, UK - 5 June 2017: Retro style ice cream and refreshments van on the South Bank, London, UK.Jane Rix/Shutterstock

Hit up an ice cream truck

Remember when the familiar dulcet tones of “Turkey in The Straw” floating through the hot, summer air sent every kid in your neighborhood running out to the ice cream truck? And then the crushing disappointment of not having enough change? Well, now you’re an adult and definitely fast enough and rich enough to get a delicious caramel cone or dreamsicle from the ice cream man. Everyone knows treats from the ice cream truck just taste better!

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wooden rocking chair on front porch with pillowAll About Space/Shutterstock

Sit out on the porch in the evening

The first night of summer is tailor-made for porch sitting. It’s not too cold nor too hot and the smell of fresh grass and the sparkle of lightning bugs will have all your neighbors drifting outside too. Enjoy the quiet evening air or strike up a fun new friendship.

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top view pour cola in gto glass on wood table with copy spaceGCapture/Shutterstock

Make homemade root beer

Pick up a packet (carefully!) of dry ice, a bag of sugar, and a bottle of root beer extract from the grocery store, mix in a large container, and watch the magic of carbonation take place. Share your summer concoction with family, friends, and especially kids. It’s as entertaining as it is tasty. Talk about a sweet science experiment!

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Diving BoardGraphicsRF/Shutterstock

Jump off a diving board

When’s the last time you had an adrenaline rush that didn’t come from crazy traffic or forgetting your cell phone in a restaurant? Instead, get your endorphins going the way you did as a kid: With a jump off a diving board. High or low, backflip or belly flop—whatever you choose, it’ll be a rush! Add this to the list of 22 things you must do before summer ends.

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hand squeezes sunscreen on the arm on a blue backgroundyurakrasil/Shutterstock

Buy a yummy smelling sunscreen

Nothing brings on the anticipation of summer like a whiff of orange- or coconut-scented sunscreen. There’s something about the combination of heat and sweet scents that makes it feel like the beach is right around the corner (even if it’s really miles away). Bonus: Wearing daily sunscreen is one of the 38 non-negotiable beauty rules so you might as well pick one with a summery scent!

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Fruit cocktail on a plate - Colorful fruit skewersMarius Smadu/Shutterstock

Make summer fruit skewers

Summer brings a bounty of fresh, seasonal, fruit. Enjoy the just-picked flavor (along with healthy vitamins and fiber) by making simple skewers of berries, cut-up peaches, pineapple, grapes, or any other of your favorite fruits. Why the skewer? Because food is always more fun on a stick. You know we’re right.

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Take a bath with rose petals and candles. Romantic evening in the bathroom with wine and candlesKryvenok Anastasiia/Shutterstock

Float some flowers in your bathtub

Your nighttime soak gets an exotic summer upgrade when you add a few blossoms to your bathwater. Roses, jasmine, and other summer blooms will make you smell as pretty as you feel. An indulgence? Sure! But this is the first day of summer!

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Family eat popcorn in park or backyards, detailSunCity/Shutterstock

Watch a movie outdoors

All you need is a white bed sheet, a projector, and a laptop to turn your backyard into an outdoor cinema. Invite your neighbors, pop some corn, and enjoy the warm summer evening with your favorite flick. Need ideas? Check out one of these 9 summer-themed movies the whole family can enjoy.

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Two young women with beautiful bodies in swimwear on a tropical beach. Funny caucasian and arabic females wearing black and white swimsuits walking along the shore.javi_indy/Shutterstock

Buy a new swimsuit

Know what you need to get a swimsuit bod for the summer? A swimsuit and a body. Period. But you’ll enjoy the beach more if you have a suit that you love and feel amazing in. Celebrate the onset of pool season by splurging on a fun new suit.

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Organic fresh agricultural lemonade stand at farmer

Set up a lemonade stand

Lemonade stands aren’t just for adorable kiddos (although you’ll be more successful if you involve some). Show your love of summer by setting up a drink stand in your neighborhood and offer some cold beverages for free. You’ll meet your neighbors and get a kick out of helping people cool off on a hot day. Plus this is a perfect parent-child bonding activity.

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Automatic garden lawn sprinkler in action watering grassVolodymyr Burdiak/Shutterstock

Leap through the sprinklers

What was the first thing you did during summer vacation when you were a kid? Ran through the nearest sprinkler of course! The fun doesn’t have to stop just because you now wear dry-clean-only pants or leather shoes. Change your clothes, lose the shoes, and get your frolic on!

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Red white blue popsicles / USA flag popsicles / 4th of July popsicles , selective focusvm2002/Shutterstock

Eat a rocket pop

Popsicles are the quintessential summer treat and the red, white, and blue Rocket Pops are the ultimate popsicle.

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 old couple walking in the park Cedric E/Shutterstock

Take an after-dinner stroll

You don’t have to do something major to celebrate the arrival of summer. Simply take advantage of the beautiful evening with an after-dinner walk around your block. Admire your neighbor’s flowers, catch up on how big their kids are, pet any new pups (or old ones!), chat about your day, and enjoy the fresh summer air.

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Field big daisies in the green grass. Field with daisiesmarienalien/Shutterstock

Pick (or buy) a bouquet of daisies

Fresh flowers are one of the summer’s most beautiful gifts. Bring some inside by making your own bouquet. You don’t have to be a master flower arranger to select a few blossoms—from the farmer’s market or your yard—and create a little work of art for your home. Every time you see them, you’ll smile.

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Dog Listeningwashington1775/Shutterstock

Sleep with your windows open

Late-summer evenings can be stuffy and humid so take advantage of the cooler air of the first night of summer by sleeping with your windows open. As long as you don’t have terrible allergies or noisy neighbors, the breeze will soothe you into a deep sleep.

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Silhouettes of people enjoying the sunset on the atlantic ocean, Lacanau FranceDelpixel/Shutterstock

Go (naked?) night swimming

R.E.M. was on to something with their classic summer song, “Night Swimming”—there’s just something magical about taking a swim through dark, quiet water still warm from the summer sunshine. Make it into a first-day-of-summer adventure by shedding your clothes and inhibitions and go skinny dipping!

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beautiful girl in wreath of flowers in meadow on sunny day. Portrait of Young beautiful woman wearing a wreath of wild flowers. Young pagan Slavic girl conduct ceremony on Midsummer. Earth Daych_ch/Shutterstock

Make a flower crown

A simple wreath of braided daisies, posies, poppies, or even dandelions makes the perfect summer crown for a child, a pet, or even yourself. Not into crafts? Tuck a flower or two behind your ear. Don’t miss learning about the fascinating ways countries around the world celebrate the summer solstice.

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Handsome guy playing a guitar to his friends. High ISO, grainy image, soft focus.Gutesa/Shutterstock

Snap a beach selfie

Summer calls for a new profile picture! You don’t have to be a supermodel or Instagram star to snap a fun, flattering summer selfie. Pose outdoors, on a beach, near a pool (or wearing your flower crown!) and then add filters, stickers, borders, banners, and other summery extras.

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Close up of a man making barbecue and holding beer bottle.bbernard/Shutterstock

Host a backyard barbecue

The smell of meat grilling, the sight of a bright tablecloth, the sound of chill music—Does anything scream “first day of summer” more than a backyard barbecue? Delight your friends and families by hosting the first party of the summer.

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friendship, childhood, leisure and people concept - group of happy kids or friends playing catch-up game and running in summer parkSyda Productions/Shutterstock

Play capture the flag

Round up the neighborhood kids or make it adults-only and set up the classic summer night game. All you need are two “bases,” two flags, and enough people for two teams. For bonus fun, bring glow-in-the-dark bracelets for everyone.

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Vegan fall salad with squash, brussels sprouts, and pomegranate seedsMegan Betteridge/Shutterstock

Make a fresh summer salad

Nothing showcases the early bounty of your summer garden (or the summer farmer’s market) like a salad filled with fresh, seasonal greens, veggies, and fruit. The great thing is that salads are practically foolproof—any combination of veggies with a tasty dressing is great. Find out the life hacks that will make your summer even breezier.

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Cornhole bean bag toss wood game board outside on grassvalbunny/Shutterstock

Set up lawn games

Cornhole. Ladderball. Life-size Jenga. Giant dice. Hopscotch. Lawn darts. OK, so the lawn darts might be a tiny bit dangerous but setting up some fun lawn games in your front yard is the perfect low-key way to celebrate the summer season. No one can resist throwing a beanbag into a hole! Ready to hit the road? These are the amazing beaches to add to your summer bucket list.

Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen, BS, MS, has been covering health, fitness, parenting, and culture for many major outlets, both in print and online, for 15 years. She's the author of two books, co-host of the Self Help Obsession podcast, and also does freelance editing and ghostwriting. She has appeared in television news segments for CBS, FOX, and NBC.