The Guide to Summer Fun
Have a Great Break without Breaking Your Budget
By Gini Kopecky Wallace
The Bard said it: Summer's lease really does have "all too short a date." Here's how to make the most of it without depleting your savings.
The night sky is filled with wonders, and all you have to do to enjoy them is look up. The Perseid meteor showers peak on August 12, says Frank Cianciolo, senior program coordinator for the McDonald Observatory Visitors Center in Austin, Texas. Get away from lights and start watching after
1 a.m. You could see two or three a minute. To learn more about the Perseids and other summer events—including June's low-transiting moon, July's three-star Summer Triangle, and the gathering of four planets in August—go to http://stardate.org/, http://www.skyandtelescope.com/ and http://www.spaceweather.com/.
"There's always something in bloom at a public garden," says Madeline Quigley, of the American Public Gardens Association. At the New York Botanical Garden, June brings roses and tree lilac; July means daylilies and hydrangea, and August brings water lilies and lotus. "Many gardens also offer activities ranging from day camps, to concerts, to evening mixers with plant-inspired cocktails." Go to http://www.publicgardens.org/ to search for public gardens by city and state or scroll listings. Visit http://www.ahs.org/ for other garden events.
Fairs and Festivals
More than 750,000 visitors flocked to the Indiana State Fair last year to enjoy the midway rides, watermelon seed-spitting contests, and more. "And that was an off year because of the heat," says public relations manager Andy Klotz. Go to http://www.statefairdates.com/ for a list of state fairs and links to their sites. Go to http://www.festivalusa.com/ or http://www.festivalfinder.com/ to learn about other festivals across the country. And make sure to check out NEA Member Benefits Click 'n Save at http://www.neamb.com/ for ticket discounts to all sorts of other summer attractions, especially water parks!
Pick Your Pleasure
Blake Slemmer's mother often took her kids to pick-your-own farms when he was little. "We'd pick blueberries, strawberries, peaches, and apples and help her and my grandmother make applesauce," says Slemmer, a Georgia software developer who created a farm information site at http://www.pickyourown.org/, now maintained by farmers and farm visitors.
Parks and Historic Sites
"When people think about visiting a national park, they usually think of the iconic natural parks—Grand Canyon and Yellowstone," says Laura Loomis, of the National Parks Conservation Association. "But there are 391 units in the national park system, and many are little known but very fascinating. About two-thirds preserve our cultural and historic heritage, and many don't charge." Go to http://www.nps.gov/ to research destinations such as Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Pine Springs, Texas, which boasts the world's finest fossilized coral reef, and the house in Glen Echo, Maryland, that was home to Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross.
"It's fun, it's easy, all you need is a guide and binoculars, and it's a great way to get outdoors and hang out with family and friends," says Chuck Remington, director of Field Support for Audubon's Centers and Education division. Audubon maintains more than 40 nature centers offering programs for kids and adults. Go to http://www.audubon.org/ to find them, read about top birding trails and what to watch for in different locales (the swallow-tailed kite in Florida, the trumpeter swan in Washington state), or learn birding basics. You needn't leave home to bird-watch, says Remington. Birds are everywhere. "The endangered pied-billed grebe makes its home in Brooklyn's Prospect Park."
Whatever your interests, there's an opportunity calling to you and a number of organizations eager to help you find it. At http://www.idealist.org/, you can search by interest, skills, language, location, time frame, and suitability for kids, adults, families, and/or groups. "There really is something for everyone," says Erin Barnhart, manager of Volunteerism Initiatives. "And during the summer, there are so many outdoor projects that let you get outside, make a contribution, and have a good time." Example: Barnhart's recent one-day volunteer outing with friends. "We went on a hike and helped clean up trails. We had a blast." Other good sites to visit: http://www.usafreedomcorps.gov/, http://www.getinvolved.gov/, and http://www.habitat.org/.
Buzz Off! Best Ways To Keep Mosquitoes at Bay
Need ideas for fending off the pesky buggers? Retired Navy Medical Entomologist Joseph Conlon, technical advisor to the American Mosquito Control Association, reviews the options. Go to http://www.mosquito.org/ for more.
What You Can Do
Option 1 - Cover Up
Option 2 - Reduce Odors
Option 3 - Be Still
Joe Conlon says, "Sometimes women attract mosquitoes, possibly due to hormones. Sometimes men do, because they're larger and emit more carbon dioxide. If a woman wants to avoid bites, she should stand near a big, fidgety man—and vice versa."
Option 1 - The Big Three
Option 2 - Lotions & Potions
Option 3 - For Hunters & Campers
Joe Conlon says, "The best repellent is the one you actually use, but caveat emptor. People make claims about all sorts of things that haven't been tested. Some swear by fabric softener sheets, but there's no evidence they work."
Wind, Smoke, & Fun Stuff
Option 1 - Citronella Candles & Mosquito Coils
Option 2 - Wind Effects
Option 3 - Gadgets & Gizmos
Joe Conlon says, "Salespeople say that the citrosa geranium and other plants repel mosquitoes when planted around a house. But any repellent would be in the oil, and you have to crush the leaves to get it out."