You don’t need plane tickets to make summer a blast. Embrace the lower key — and more affordable! — staycation, and instead max out this season with these ideas around home.

By Becki Melchione
Photo by John Sturgis

Keeping your children busy is a full-time job. And if you’ve enrolled in summer camp or the swim club, most of your days are probably covered. But soon, everyone in the house is going to be looking for something new and exciting.

Before you resort to getting in the car, look for ways to add some fun right at home. Try camping in your own backyard. Set up a tent, sleeping bags, put new batteries in the flashlights, pack some fun snacks (s’mores, anyone?) and let the spooky stories begin. Turn the backyard into a mini water park, with classic cool like sprinklers and water balloons. On a rainy day, indulge in a marathon movie session by letting everyone in the family pick one movie (Netflix is perfect for this), grabbing piles of pillows, making popcorn, and hunkering down. For more fun, Google some movie trivia, Easter eggs (intentional inside jokes or hidden messages), or mistakes, and see who can spot them while you’re watching.

The combination of warm weather and long days makes exploring outdoors another great option. Go to a park (not one with only baseball diamonds and soccer fields, but one with hiking trails and a more natural environment) and send your kids on a nature scavenger hunt. There are tons of printable scavenger hunts online, so its just a matter of finding an age-appropriate option. If you want to take scavenger hunting up a notch, try Geocaching, a high-tech treasure hunt using a Geocaching app on your phone or a GPS. Just create an account, search the list of local caches (paying attention to the difficulty level – start with beginner), pack your kid’s backpacks for an adventure, and let the hunt begin.

There’s plenty of fun to be had being a tourist in our own fair city, too. A 15 minute drive to Fairmont Park delivers the Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse, six and a half acres of the most fun outdoor play your children 10 and younger will have outdoors, the Please Touch Museum, one of the world’s leadings museums for kids, and the Philadelphia Zoo where the big cats now roam on catwalks overhead. Or head into the city, and balance off a tour of one of the museums with a romp through Sister Cities Park with its fountain, discovery garden, and duck pond, where the little ones can hop, skip, and float boats all afternoon in the cool water.

For fun day trips, there are plenty of options within an hour or so from the Main Line. The Lehigh Valley offers attractions for all ages from the colorful activities of the Crayola Experience to the action and water rides of Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom. At the DaVinci Science Center, children can experience what its like to be in a hurricane with 78 mph winds, rotate like crazy in a gyrosphere, and play astronaught in a lifesize lunar base camp. For a completely different experience, an overnight farm stay at Flint Hill Farms will have the whole family pitching in with chores such as collecting their own eggs for breakfast, help milking the cows and goats, and assisting with the feeding and handling of the horses, sheep, chickens, pigs, and goats.

Summer will be gone in a flash. Plan now, and enjoy the sweet family memories later.