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TurnerFalls.JPG Turner Falls is a scenic, natural getaway that houses Oklahoma's largest waterfall. Photo by Akila Muthukumar

Summer is a great time to spend with your kids who are usually off and about to school,  extracurriculars, Friday night football games, competitions and much more. But with July quickly coming to a close, you may feel this summer just hasn’t been adequate. Maybe your budget has been too tight or it’s just been impossible to take off enough days from work.

 

If so, do not fear, these are the top 5 summertime ideas that I enjoyed (in no particular order). They pack plenty of fun into one short weekend and were all affordable and memorable.  

 

  1. Turner Falls Oklahoma

Although this choice requires a trip out of state borders, the long drive (3-4 hours) was well worth it. Turner falls is located in a scenic mountainous area with a nearby zipline station. The drive to the park provided ample opportunity for sightseeing, ranging from giant wind turbines on the outskirts of Oklahoma to the natural wonders of caves and cliffs within the park. Turner Falls has campsites for overnight stays, but we were able to cover a lot within one day (6 hours). The main attraction is a nearly 80 foot waterfall; visitors can swim in the basin below the fall, moving as close as 5 feet from the pounding water stream. The park is filled with different water locations and includes a few exciting slides (nothing extreme) that mesh well with the natural aura given by the location. Instead of buying food, we packed a picnic

 

  1. Ray Roberts State Park

From kayaking to geocaching to grilling vegetables over an open flame, this camping trip was a fun family weekend and the only overnight event on this list. We found it the perfect place for first time campers who didn’t want a completely out in the wilderness experience. The State Park Workers were always nearby to help set up tents, give short tours and answer any questions. We choose to stay at a campsite but are considering a future (more expensive) visit in a lodge, with time to try horseback riding, nature watching and explore photography. Sleeping outdoors was initially scary and slightly uncomfortable, but slowly the sound of dozens of insects went from annoying buzz to soothing lull that made it easier to fall asleep.

 

  1. Visiting a Local Farm

Many seasonal fruits, especially blueberries, blackberries or strawberries, tend to ripen during the summer. If you visit some nearby farms, you can pick these fruits yourselves. Beware of insects and plan ahead with plenty of sunscreen and repellent. When visiting this blueberry farm (approximately 3 hours spent there), my family also enjoyed the sweetest jams, ice creams and other freshly baked treats at the farm’s small cafe. The place had benches perfectly placed between the rows of bushes for rest stops and potential picnic sites. We also ran into a peach farm when we got lost on the way back, but we were out of time to pick the fruits ourselves; we still bought a pound of delicious peaches that were just picked that week by farmers.

 

  1. Waterpark

Going swimming at the aquatic center or local rec center are great ways to cool off in the summer, but they just don’t give you the feel of a serious summer event. Instead, try hitting a local waterpark such as Hawaiian Falls, NRH2O or Hurricane Harbor. These parks will have plenty of thrilling rides for the daredevils, but safer options such as a lazy river, wave pool, or kiddy park for those who only want to get their feet wet (literally!). The parks are interspersed with pizza and fast food options to treat yourself after a day of swimming in the heat. I went with a large group of people to Hawaiian Falls, which allowed us to save money with a group deal for entering the park. If you cannot collect enough people, consider searching for other deals or special timings.

 

  1. Staying Home All Day

Interestingly enough, one of my best summer days was the chance to stay at home all day. This means no grocery shopping, no running quick errands, not even going on a short walk. My family found it difficult to all be cooped into house for so long. Oftentimes we are caught up in our endless to do lists and our desire to find an exceptional experience that we forget so much of it happens at home. Plan a day with movies, board games, card games, crafts and cooking together. Eventually you will run out of things to do and everyone might be slightly restless but that is OK. Have your family sleep in, ignore their work responsibilities (briefly at least!) and take the time to be bored with each other. It may seem odd, but the experience will be refreshing!

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