getting outside on the swings

Get Outside! 27 of the Best Outdoor Activities for Families

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It’s no secret that a little time outdoors is good for all of us.  Spending time away from technology and soaking up a little vitamin D can be just what we need to recharge while we get in some quality family time. But it’s easy to get stuck thinking of new outdoor activities for our families.

Next time you need a little inspiration, use our list of favorite outdoor activities to kick-start your next outdoor adventure.  And if you still find yourself looking for something new, we share a little secret for even more ideas at the end of the post!

27 Of the Best Outdoor Activities for Families

1. Visit the Park

I have yet to meet a kid who doesn’t love to get a good underdog push on a swing or fly down a slide at the park.  Even as they are getting older, our kids still love to spend hours at the park.

Tired of going to the same old neighborhood park?  Find a new park you’ve never been to.  Did a nearby park recently get an upgrade?  Take a trip over to check out the new equipment.

And don’t be afraid to join in the fun – even adults can find a little stress-relief from swinging under the sunshine.

kids at the playground
Finding a new playground can keep kids entertained for hours

2. Pack Up a Picnic

Pack up your favorite foods and find any place where you can sit outside, even if it’s in your own backyard. The usual sandwiches and chips are always good stand-by for a portable meal, but try pasta salads, mason jar salads, and soups too.

And don’t limit yourself to just having lunch in the outdoors – make it new and different with a breakfast or dinner picnic.

Protect yourself from the elements with an old blanket or sheet to lay on the ground in spots where there are no picnic tables. Looking for something more compact? We love our sand and water repellent Monkey Mat. It has less bulk than a blanket, so its easy to carry with us where ever we go.

3. Go Bird Watching

Our kids love any excuse to get out the binoculars, so they’ve always jumped at the chance to use them for finding birds.

No need to be super-serious about it though.  While bird watching typically includes identifying the species of birds you find, it’s certainly not necessary to make this part of the adventure.  Instead, talk about the colors, sizes, and sounds of the birds you find.

4. Go for a Swim

From the local (outdoor) pool to a nearby lake, stream, or ocean, playing in the water is a fun way to spend the day.  And what better way to cool off in hot temps? (Just don’t forget the sunscreen!)

Limited on time or don’t have swimsuits with you?  Kicking around in the water is a fun alternative.

playing on the slide at the community pool for outdoor activities for families
Community swimming pools are a great way to get outside on a hot day

5. Take a Hike

It should come as no surprise that hiking is one is our family’s favorite outdoor activities! It’s quick and easy to prep for because little gear is needed to get in a few miles. A good pair of shoes and plenty of water is all you really need, but some ideas for how to keep the kids having fun on the trail are helpful too.

Take on your favorite trail, or find a new one at alltrails.com.  You can search by location and filter by distance, difficulty, ratings, and more.

6. Try Geocaching

Whether you’re in the city or the country, you’ll be amazed at how many geocaches are hidden around you.

If you’ve never geocached before, it’s easy to get started.  Download the app to get clues for local caches.  Some will just have a log to sign once you find it, but others will contain small ‘prizes.’  The standard etiquette is to leave one item for each item you take.  We keep a small bag of trinkets in the car so we are always prepared.

7. Take the Family Fishing

Even if all you have is a Spider-Man or Princess fishing pole and a stick of string cheese, fishing is one of the most exciting outdoor activities for families.  Grab a fishing pole, some bait (seriously, we’ve used string cheese a few times and it worked!), and head to a lake or pond.

taking kids fishing is one of the best outdoor activities for families
Kids don’t usually care if they catch any fish – trying is half the fun

8. Explore a New Town

So often we take the cities and towns around us for granted.  We may pass through on our way to other destinations, but we otherwise never really give them a second thought.

Pick a nearby town you’ve never been to and spend a few hours exploring downtown.  Uncover some new-to-you hidden treasures!

9. Paddle in a Kayak or Canoe

A few years ago, we bought 2 inflatable kayaks for our daughter.  What we thought would be a fleeting interest for our tween has turned into one of our favorite outdoor activities.  Being inflatable means they are portable and easy to bring where ever we go. We bring them to the local reservoir, but we also pack them up for camping and our annual beach vacation in Dauphin Island, AL.

If you don’t want to invest in your own kayaks or canoes, rentals are usually available at recreation areas and local outdoor gear shops.

10. Visit the Local Zoo

Not only can you get outside for a few hours at the zoo, all the walking means you can usually get some miles in too.

Or look for alternatives to a typical zoo in your area.  Nature centers, sanctuaries, preserves, and rehabilitation areas are all options for kids to get up and close with nature.

An online search will give locations in your area, but here are a few to get you started:

North Carolina – the Carolina Raptor Center, just north of Charlotte, is a favorite of the locals

Colorado – The Colorado Wolf & Wildlife Center in Colorado Springs

Washington – Fish ladder at Ballard Locks in Seattle

Michigan – Blanford Nature Center in Grand Rapids

outdoor activities for families: kids at a petting zoo
Places, where kids can interact with animals, can be more fun than just watching them

11. Go Camping

Camping can be a full weekend of adventure in the wild, or just a little more than one night under the stars.  If there isn’t time to dedicate the full weekend to a trip, you can still have a great camping experience with the family.

A one-night stay at a local campground or even a night in your own backyard is just as fun.  There will be plenty of time for a campfire and s’mores, and even a quick hike in the morning before heading home (or inside).

If you’ve never camped before, getting started is easier than you might think with these camping tips for beginners.

getting outside on a family camping trip
We think camping is the best outdoor activity – even if it is in your own backyard

Backyard Outdoor Activities for Families

Getting outside doesn’t have to mean planning, packing up, and traveling somewhere. These ideas for outdoor activities are right outside your front door.

12. Make Leaf or Tree Rubbings

If you never did this one as a kid, it’s time to change that by doing it with your kids! Sheets of plain copy paper and crayons are all you need.  Lay your paper over a leaf or against a tree trunk and lightly color over an area.  Watch the designs within the leaf or tree begins to emerge.

13. Plant a Garden

This is an outdoor gift that keeps on giving.  Caring for and harvesting provides even more outdoor time for families.

Gather your soil, seeds or starts, and a shovel to get started on planting for the season.  Setting some time to plan your garden together is time well spent.  Make sure you are planting in the right season, have the correct spacing between plants, and know how to care for your flowers and vegetables as they grow.

If you don’t have space in your yard for a garden, container gardens are a great alternative.

14. Have a Water Balloon Fight

A good ol’ water balloon fight is perfect for a hot day when you don’t have easy access to go swimming.  And it’s not an endless stream of water that leaves you with a soggy yard that you get with a sprinkler.

15. Go Out For a Family Run

Even just a half-mile will get the family active outside. Infants and toddlers can ride along in a stroller, but little kids can run right along with the family.

Start with a quick stretch and keep the distance short in your first few runs.  By getting out for a run more often, distances will increase.  Before you know it, you’ll be ready to run a local 5k race!

16. Play Lawn Games

Games like Spike Ball, tag, or hopscotch are all great outdoor activities for families.  We also love to get out the Slackline – one of the easiest ways to keep kids playing outside for hours. A Slackline doesn’t take up much space, so it’s great to bring camping too.

Bean bags (we have this portable set on our wish list!) and ladder ball are other family favorites!

outdoor activities for families for playing spikeball on the beach
Games like Spikeball get all the kids in on the action

17. Stargazing or Cloud Watching

Day or night, there can be something to see in the sky.  We love this because it sparks imagination, creativity, and conversation.  Find a shape of a cloud or made from the stars and take turns telling stories about what you see.

18. Read Books in a Hammock

If you don’t have trees in your yard for a hammock, there are other options.  Front porch railings, posts of a sturdy clothesline or swing set, or even just a hammock stand are all places to hang your hammock for an afternoon in the sun.

Pull out your favorite book and read with (or read to) the kids for some quiet time in the sunshine.

19. Paint and Hide Rocks

We have not done this yet, but can’t wait to try it.  Have you heard of “kindness rocks?”

It’s becoming popular in areas all over the country, but this radio station in Evansville, IN has a good story on what kindness rocks are all about.  Paint rocks with happy messages and “hide” them for others to find. Spread a little cheer while having some family time outside!

20. Conduct a Science Experiment

Some science experiments are made to be done outside, especially if you don’t want to be cleaning soda off your ceilings.  Mentos and soda? In this easy experiment, watch the reactions of different types of soda (or carbonated waters) when a Mento mint is dropped in each.

Make sandwich baggies explode in this science experiment or learn about how shadows change with the sun in this experiment.

outdoor science experiment with root beer and mentos
Science experiments are great outdoor activities for families – keep any messes outside!

21. Scavenger Hunt

There are a lot of scavenger hunt lists to download online (we have a fun one for hiking here).  Whether it’s in your own backyard or on a neighborhood walk, finding these little treasures is something fun for the entire family.

22. Play a Game of Kickball or Baseball

A simple game of kickball in the backyard is an easy way to get outside, and a little exercise too.  Don’t worry about not having enough people for ‘teams’ – the ball and the bat is the most fun part of the game anyway!

23. Take a Bike Ride

Or move on any type of wheels: take skateboards, scooters, or roller-blades.  Bike around the neighborhood or along a local hiking trail (make sure to check ahead that bikes are allowed on the trail before you go).

Outdoor Activities for Families in Winter

It can be harder to get outside in those colder months, but these family activities are too good to be overlooked.  So bundle up and get out there!  (And be sure to have that hot chocolate ready to go when you come in from the cold)

24. Hit the Slopes

Skiing (or snowboarding) is one of the most fun winter activities for families. There is nothing like watching the control and confidence of little ones as they head down the slopes. If you’ve never skied before, here are some tips for getting the family started.

Not into downhill skiing? Try cross country skiing. Cross country skiing doesn’t require as much skill or training, so it’s easy to get started quickly.

kids skiing outdoors
In the winter, hit the slopes with the family for hours of outdoor time

25. Ice Skating

Ice skating can seem intimidating if you’ve never done it, but many skating rinks have trainers available.  Trainers allow kids (and adults) to move across the ice without relying on just the skates to stay upright.

Find pop-up outdoor ice skating rinks in many cities in the winter months.  In colder climates, look for ice skating on frozen lakes (for safety reasons, choose one that is managed by the town recreation department).

26. Build a Snowman or Snow Fort

This is a great time to get creative.  Make your snowmen into characters, and if you are really ambitious, build an entire snow family! 

snowman on a beach towel for a fun outdoor activity
Who says a snowman needs to be standing?

27. A Winter Hike

Who said hiking can only be done in the summer?  Hiking through a winter wonderland is a completely different experience.  A pair of snowshoes (click here for kids sizes) or traction cleats can make that winter hike possible regardless of the weather.

Don’t let the expense of outdoor gear and equipment stop you from venturing out in the winter. A simple Google search will give you a list of local shops that provide outdoor gear rentals.

More Inspiration for Outdoor Activities for Families

Want more ideas?  We have a secret that gives us endless ideas for getting outside and creating even bigger adventures: pick any 2-3 activities and combine them!

  • Bring a picnic out on your hike.
  • Geocaching while taking a walking tour of a new town.
  • Cloud-watch at the playground
  • Take a kayak on your camping trip

The possibilities are endless!

How do you like to get outside as a family? Tell us your favorite outdoor activities in the comments!


Click below to save these ideas for easy camping breakfasts on Pinterest!

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