9 Inspirational Ideas for Summer Exploring with Kids

School is almost out! Are you ready to keep the kiddos entertained? Here are some tried & true tips for exploring with the kids that will make this summer an adventure everyone will always remember!

Summer starts early in The South – and I can hardly believe this is the last week of school for my kids! YIPEEEEEE!!!!

I’m being serious, my friends! I LOVE it when my boys are out of school – I’ve looked forward to it all year!

This was our first year sending the boys back to school after two years of homeschooling. It was very bittersweet. There was a lot about it I loved, and a LOT about it I simply couldn’t stand. But, we’ve gotten through it – survived at least, and maybe even thrived through lots of it. Praise the Lord!

Today the boys are out of school for a teacher in-service day, which is kind of strange since this is the last week of school anyway, but whatever! Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, I say! We decided to spend it in a laid-back kind of way, getting totally prepared for those wonderful summer days ahead.

We slept late, we played around all morning doing whatever we wanted, we went out for lunch, got shaved-ice treats afterward, and now we’re home doing some chores and playing some more until it’s time for music lessons and a baseball game tonight.

A pretty darn good day, I’d say! It’s given me a taste of what we have to look forward to this summer…which is awesome, BUT… I’ve also noticed something about my boys that I want to kind of, well, change, and I’m gonna use this summer to do my best at changing it:  They’re homebodies who love to stick to their routines and “what they know.”

HOW did this happen to MY kids????

I’m the type of person that drives home via a different route than the one I traveled to my destination. I want to stop and eat and shop and explore every dive, attraction, art gallery, museum, historical monument, scenic view, and strange little burg or town along the way. I want to try new foods, meet new people, take lots of pictures, and experience new things every chance I get!

But, I married a man who was the original “get-from-point-A-to-point-B” kind of guy, and his offspring seem to have inherited that gene from him.

C’mon man!!!

Thankfully, over the years I’ve been able to groom their father into my ultimate travel hubby. After years of arguing back and forth about it, I finally convinced him to get off the interstate and eat somewhere besides McDonalds on road trips. Now, he’ll even brake for cute little antique shops and tea rooms, if I ask in just the right tone of voice and smile big enough. It has seriously made all the difference in our lives, and dare I say it???…our marriage!

Exploring the world around you, even in your own backyard, can broaden your horizons, teach you incredible things, and help you to grow to be a better person. I firmly believe this. Besides all that, let’s face it, it just keeps life from getting BORING!!!

Today, for instance, my boys wanted to visit the same ol’  lunch spots they ALWAYS want to go to…not that there’s anything wrong with Chick-Fil-A (love it!) and our local hotspot, PAL’S Sudden Service, but for some reason today, my car rebelled. It refused to turn into those establishments and insisted on traveling on down the road to a small, local little lunch spot that I’ve passed thousands of times throughout my life but never stopped – The Dairy Cup in Mount Carmel.

The boys were filled with worry and dread. What if we hate it, Mom? We’ll die of starvation! We’ll be miserable! What if they don’t have anything we like???!!!!

Oh the horrors!!! Seriously, you’d have thought I had asked them to jump into a volcano!

Quite a spread from Shirley’s Restaurant on Watauga Lake near Hampton, Tennessee – mouth-watering country cooking that my boys complained about until they took the first amazing bite! You won’t find this fare at your typical interstate stop!

But guess what? They enjoyed it! It didn’t kill them. They each ate something they really liked, and I got to enjoy the experience of doing something new. And, even better, we ordered our lunch and ate inside TOGETHER, taking our time, and actually having this thing called a CONVERSATION. If you haven’t tried it with your kids before, you should.

What did we talk about? Exploring, adventure, and about how we are going to make this the summer of getting out there and trying new things – even the little things like simply having lunch at a different spot from time to time.

A festival we discovered in Sugarcreek, Ohio in the Amish Country – just by getting off the interstate!

Being a “Traveling Mom” these past few years, I’ve learned that it’s the little things in our daily experiences that add up to being the big deals in our relationship with our kids – and our spouses. For instance, taking a road trip together instead of rushing through airports, getting off the beaten path to explore a historical little town we’d never stopped in before on the way, or stopping for a picnic at a scenic spot on some highway we’ve never traveled before instead of at a fast food joint on the side of an interstate … these are all little “side-adventures” that give us more time to enjoy things together, get to know one another better, spend time talking about things we would never have talked about otherwise, learn new things, meet new and interesting people, and simply create memories that will last.

What are some ways you and your family break out of your rut, and get out and explore and find adventure together? And how does it make a difference in your lives? I’d love to hear from you! I’m sharing nine of our tried and true ideas with you below, and I would love it if you’d please share your ideas with me!

9 Tried & True Ideas for Summer Exploring with Kids

1. Take a road trip instead of flying whenever possible. Yes, it might take more time, but just think of all the beautiful scenery you will get to see – AND, most importantly, it is TIME WELL SPENT – TOGETHER!

Scenery that makes it worth taking the road trip! (Northeast Tennessee)

2. Get off the interstate and take the “short cuts” on the side roads. Here’s a tip: Carry some maps or a road atlas in your car just in case you end up in a place with poor cell service and can’t use your mobile app for maps/directions. Teach your kids how to read maps and road signs – a skill that they will probably/hopefully need one day. You never know what you’ll find on those backroads that you’d miss otherwise – like amazing roadside farmer’s markets in southern Georgia, with delicious summer peaches like these!!!

Georgia Peaches
Peaches we found stopping at a roadside market on a backroad through Georgia!


3. Let the kids choose the route. Give them an opportunity before you leave to study maps and different routes. They may find a back road that leads to some great stops and roadside attractions they’d love to experience with you – like underground caverns, the largest surf shop in the world, or even a ukulele museum and shop that leads to a new talent!

4. Eat at that little-known dive of a restaurant! I can’t tell you how many times we’ve taken a chance and ventured off into some unknown territory to eat at a little seafood shack or hamburger joint instead of the “highly recommended” chain restaurant – with FABULOUS SUCCESS! There is simply nothing more satisfying than discovering the perfect coconut-fried-shrimp at a little oceanfront dive, eating the best blue crab off a school lunch tray on the dock of the Intracoastal Waterway, or biting into the juiciest grilled cheeseburger with the perfect pickles while overlooking the mountaintops of the Blue Ridge Parkway. STOP THE FAST FOOD INSANITY!!!

Canyon's Restaurant, Blowing Rock, North Carolina, Blue Ridge Parkway
Canyon’s – a little dive we happened upon while driving the Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC, has good food & an amazing view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

5. Chart your “Summer Staycation Adventure”. Unfortunately, we can’t travel and be on the road constantly during the summer. So, do your research, moms and dads! Find out what a tourist to your neck of the woods would be interested in seeing and doing if they were visiting. You might be surprised at all of the things in your own backyard that you’ve never done, or things you’ve done but your kiddos have not! Chart your course and put it on the calendar for your summer-to-do-list.

Mount Le Conte, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Mount Le Conte in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – right in our backyard!

6. Have a plan for a rainy day. Yes, even the most perfect summers have those dreary days. So, take advantage of it and have an arsenal of ideas ready – like indoor water parks, trampoline parks, and putt-putt courses; children’s museums and libraries; and even volunteer opportunities.

Birthplace of Country Music Museum, Bristol
The Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol, TN/VA is right here in our backyard – the perfect experience for a rainy day!

7. Use (and take a break from) electronics wisely. There is definitely a time and a place for our electronic gadgets. Reading, enjoying some music, even retreating into our games and social media when we need a break from too much interaction with one another are fine. But set limits and take breaks, often.

EPCOT, Walt Disney World
The kids had NO IDEA what these things were! (Located in EPCOT at Walt Disney World)

8. Turn boring activities into exciting adventures with scavenger hunts. There was a time when my kids and nieces/nephews thought Walt Disney World EPCOT was the pits! Can you believe that? So, in order to keep them entertained while the adults got to enjoy exploring the World Showcase, I came up with a scavenger hunt adventure.

I divided them up into teams and, while visiting each country, they had to take pictures of each other doing different activities – such as trying on a costume from that country, talking to one of the Cast Members who was from that country, playing a game popular in that country/culture, or finding out an interesting fact that the rest of us didn’t know.

We ALL had a blast – even the adults joined in. And we have some of the cutest photos of the kids in all kinds of hats and costumes from those trips!

So – if you think you might be visiting a place the kids aren’t as excited to be as you, make up a little scavenger hunt game to keep them busy.

One of the best things about this, too, are the presentations they did for us at the end of the day – VERY entertaining!

9. Have a list of topics to talk about and/or study together. When you get off the beaten path, one thing you find is that you end up having some down time together – maybe while you’re traveling, or dining, or just resting. This can turn out to be the most important, meaningful part of it all IF you take advantage of it by taking time to truly LISTEN and CONVERSE with one another. Usually, for us, it turns into prayer time and a Bible lesson.

Yes, it’s great to be prepared with some things to talk about, and I highly recommend this. However, it’s not necessary to always have a plan because some of the most beautiful moments within families come when we simply take the time to listen and respond to one another. Prayer is always important for us, because it is a priority for us to lead our boys to grow in their relationship with the Lord…and to share His Word with each other. I can’t tell you how often I have learned from my boys during these conversations – truly a blessing!

I hope that your summer will be filled with fun, learning, and adventure as you explore with those you love!

Happy Exploring!

❤️ Tron




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