Drag out summer after Labor Day: 12 ideas

So what if it’s almost the end of August, kids are heading back to school in droves, and Labor Day is almost here?

There are ways to drag out that summer feeling with easy-going, inexpensive travel. Pick places that you haven’t been to before to heighten a sense of adventure — something that summers are made for.

Here are 12 ideas to get you started into dragging out summer–at least until the leaves start to change color.

(This gorgeous shot of summer was taken in Ireland.)

1. Go to an old-fashioned ice-cream parlor or stand that you have not been to before and try a new flavor. As treats go, ice-cream is affordable and has nutritional value–if you ignore the sugar and fat. For example, at Tom’s Ice-Cream Bowl in Zanesville, Ohio, there’s a wonderful concoction made with coconut and chocolate chips. Tom’s Ice-Cream Bowl is one of my new favorite travel destinations and worth the drive. If you have a favorite parlor or stand, do tell. (Margot’s is in San Juan Bautista, CA.)

2. Go to a festival–any festival. Although Labor Day festivals abound, look for one that is after Labor Day. The Honeyfest in Lithopolis, Ohio fits that category. Held the first Saturday after Labor Day (this year, Sept. 12), this is a festival that blends music, honey, food and art into a lovely concoction with a summertime feel. I’m sure there are other festivals like this one that are organized by folks who hate to say good-bye to summer as well.

3. Get out that bicycle or the roller blades, strap on a helmet and head out to celebrate your inner child. If you don’t own a bicycle or roller blades, rent. One of my favorite places to rent roller blades is Santa Monica, California. Skate to Venice Beach to browse the craft tables that people set up on weekends. Also, at any given hour, there is someone doing entertainment for donations only. My favorite is the guy who juggles chain saws. (The photo of cyclists and roller bladers by Herkie was taken in Iowa.)

4. Find a historic home that has been turned into a museum. Often these museums are operated by volunteers who are passionate about history and what makes their house museum worth visiting. As a bonus, admission is generally inexpensive. Although hours often are cut back after Labor Day, many historic houses offer a weekend visit option. My favorite house museum is the Dinsmore Homestead near Rabbit Hash, Kentucky, about a half-hour from Cincinnati. Another fascinating home is the Copper King Mansion in Butte, Montana. Again, if you have a favorite historic home, pass along your suggestions.

5. Grab a fishing pole for a lazy hour or two of trying to catch a fish. Even if you end up with nada, watching the water ripple and the clouds move overhead is a cheap summer-like treat. Before you go, find out what the regulations are for a fishing license. In Ohio, people age 15 and under and age 60 and over don’t need a license. My son fished on the Smith River in Montana last summer using a friend’s borrowed pole. This summer was an evening visit to Sharon Woods Metro Park in Westerville, Ohio. Neither experience cost money. State parks are a good place to look for a free to inexpensive fishing location.

6. Take a merry-go-round ride, even if you don’t have a kid with you. Several parks and towns have merry-go-rounds as stand alone attractions. Last summer we took a spin on the merry-go-round in Saratoga, New York. The National Mall in Washington, D.C. also has a merry-go-round, as does Central Park in New York City. For two more carousel gems, check out the one in downtown Mansfield, Ohio, and my favorite, the merry-go-round in Missoula, Montana.

7. Rent a paddle boat for an hour. If you have more than two people who want to take a paddle boat ride, but you only want to rent for an hour, split the hour with the same boat. We did this in Sturbridge, Massachusetts one summer. Paddle boat rentals, I’ve found, are surprisingly cheap. A little over a week ago, the ONLY cheap thing we did in Greece was rent a paddle boat in Corfu.

8. Go tide-pooling to see what critters have become temporarily caught between the beach and the ocean. Once, near Thomaston, Maine, we spent hours walking along craggy rocks checking out the variety. Of course, Maine can feel nippy come September, but elsewhere, the temperatures are still comfortably summer.

9. It’s not too late to head to a swimming hole and float in an inner tube or swing off a rope to land in the water. The most memorable swimming hole I’ve been to is in New Braunfels, Texas between Austin and San Antonio.

10. Hike to a summit no matter how high the mountain. Getting to the top of a hill can also feel like an accomplishment. The trail to the top of the Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque, New Mexico offers a huge reward those who end up a mile higher than where they started at the parking lot where the trailhead begins. The view from the top is splendid. Look for Mt. Taylor near Grants, New Mexico in the distance.

(Clinton Steeds took this shot on Ryan Mountain at Joshua Tree.)

11. Drive out of town or the city, if that’s where you happen to live,and find a field. Once found, spread out a blanket, lie down and look up at the stars. Find the Big Dipper if nothing else. This summer, in addition to the Big Dipper, I was lucky enough to see shooting stars one night near Telluride, Colorado.

12. Baseball season is not over yet. For a down-home version of baseball, head to a minor league game. Those teams are still into crowd pleasing and involve spectators in the fun of the sport. When we were at an Isotope’s game this summer in Albuquerque, the excitement and fun of spectator participation, turned the kids of friends of ours into baseball fans.

And, one more thing. Wherever you go, wear white. The adage that you aren’t supposed to wear white after Labor Day is made to ignore, particularly by anyone who wants a summery feel.