For me, this spring was more jam-packed with business than a Mountain Dew can is packed with sugar. So I look forward to the summer slump where my obligations cool down a bit despite the rising Kansas City temperatures.
Not usually one for cheesy articles advising the stereotypical activities (Go to the pool! Ride your bike! Feed an orphaned baby goat at the zoo!), I tried to compile a list of activities that one might not usually think of (unless one was drinking Mountain Dew at midnight), or put a twist on the ordinary.
1. Discover Geocaching: It’s pronounced Geo-Cashing. I had NEVER heard of this until one of my friends from college, Eric Sader, suggested we try it one night (clearly we were out of beer). All you need is internet access, a map or GPS device, and a sense of adventure (or at least the motivation to leave your house). On the Geocaching website you pick a challenge, write down the coordinates, then go to that site to search for the geocache. A geocache is a container filled with random items, sometimes even money, and a piece of paper where geocachers record when they found the geocache. The rule though is you take what you find but leave something behind. So not only do you get to feel like Indian Jones scavenging for treasure, you can also use this as an opportunity to get rid of that awful Christmas present from Aunt Mildred. There are different levels to geocaching – simple one-site caches where you go to a site, search around, and find the geocache. Others are multi-site challenges, where you find a geocache with a clue to the next one, until you come to the end and find the treasure. It sounds easy, but that night we ended up hiking in unmarked forest around the local lake, hoping wolves weren’t native to Kansas. It’s definitely mentally and physically challenging, and gives you a great story to tell.
You can register for free at http://www.geocaching.com, or purchase a Premium Membership for $10/year or $3/3 months. You then have access to geocaching challenges across the world, with access to special features if you have the Premium Membership.
2. Try a New Sport or Fitness Class: Pick a new activity either because it’s too hot to do your usual sport outside or because it’s too nice out to do your usual sport indoors. It’s always awkward to try something you have no idea about, but it can also give you new motivation to stay active or it may tip you onto a hidden talent you have. I have discovered two new activities and widened my workout repertoire by going outside my comfort zone. My usual routine is running accompanied by weightlifting. Because I have so much endurance and strength, people assume I’m good at any sport. I wish. When I tried Zumba and Raquetball, I felt so silly. Running sounds hard to people, but it’s really simple: put one foot in front of the other. If you want to be a better runner: run faster. Zumba and Raquetball involve A LOT of coordination, something I’m going to have to ask Santa for some more of. I have endurance, strength, and the mental capacity to tell myself running for 13.1 miles is fun, but I can’t tell my left from my right or hit a ball with a large object for the life of me. It was a challenge and, especially in Zumba, I felt like a purple giraffe in a petting zoo. But I have FUN! I love learning how to express myself to music, and I love the satisfaction I get when I whip the raquetball and it makes this awesome BAZINGA! sound. Plus, because I know I have no skill, there’s no pressure to be good. I just enjoy learning something new, and it’s also a way to meet new people. So go out and try something completely different from what you’re used to. It’s a great way to cross-train, to find something for those days when you can’t take the usual routine anymore, and to strengthen your confidence, giving you the knowledge that you can tackle and achieve something new.
3. Go to a “Hole-in-the-Wall” Restaurant or Bar: Really challenge yourself on this. It CANNOT be a chain cafe, bar or restaurant. It has to genuinely be a place you’ve never heard of, or maybe you’ve always passed by but never gave it a second thought. Preferably something you’re not even sure what kind of food or drink it serves. It’s going to be the kind of place where you would think twice before trying, but why not? How do you know they don’t have the best sushi in town? How do you know you don’t like sushi to begin with? A gym member where I work told me about sushi at the asian market across the street. I ventured in one day having no idea what most of the stuff in that store was, but I found the sushi. 20 pieces of Gimbab for $5. That’s a steal, especially compared to the $6-plus 12-piece sushi you get at grocery stores, none of which can even compare to how this tastes. My boyfriend and I ventured into a Korean place nearby one day with a name I still can’t pronounce and menu items I’m still not sure what they all are, but the food was SO GOOD. And you knew it was authentic because we are usually the only Caucasian people in there. But these have turned into some of my favorite places, and the people you see there or the experiences you have are sometimes the most memorable. As a huge food addict, I’ve learned the best stuff is not always the most popular or advertised. Same with bars. Who wants to hang out at an overcrowded, overpriced place like Brothers? Or Johnny’s? I found a tiny authentic Irish pub (as in it had more culture than just a couple of Guinness posters and a four-leaf clover in the window) in St. Louis. The music was great (Flogging Molly), the beer was actually Irish brands, and the people were so friendly – the entire atmosphere was genuine drink up and have a good time.
4. Go to the Farmer’s Market in Your Area: A great way to support local business/farmers and to meet new people. It’s also a great way to try new foods or products, and you get them fresh or homemade! It’s amazing what you can find there – honey soap, local wine, fresh thick slices of bacon, dug-up last night potatoes, and even weird plants like rhubarb (so amazing in pie!). Many booths also sell foods ready to eat, like baked goods or hot coffee. Most markets are also downtown and can lead you to interesting stores or restaurants, hidden gems you might not have found otherwise.
5. Adopt a Small Child for a Day: Okay, you don’t literally go out and adopt a small child. By this I mean either babysit or volunteer to hang out with children of either your relatives, close friends, or do a Big Brothers, Big Sisters mentoring program. This gets you to try activities you might normally rule out, especially if you don’t have kids. By participating in kids’ activities, you kind of get to re-live your childhood, and remember the excitement in doing activities like going roller skating or playing games at a carnival. Also, the kids learn from you (right from wrong, Mountain Dew from off-brands) and you learn from them (how to pronounce dinosaur names or names of Pokemon) – at the very least they are entertaining to watch. Being around children reminds you to enjoy the simple things; you’ll get joy from their joy. You also have a great excuse to stop somewhere and get ice cream or cookies 🙂
6. Go to a Sporting Event, Especially for a Less Popular Sport or Minor League Team: Here in Kansas City, we have professional teams, but they are definitely not at the top of the list (a.k.a. The Royals). However, because our teams are not top of the line, this means tickets are usually more accessible and affordable. Besides the Royals, we also have a soccer team with a brand-new state-of-the-art stadium that’s also now being used for concerts, and we have a minor league baseball team near the racetrack and outdoor mall. Going to smaller games is not only cheaper, but it can also be more fun. Our minor league stadium has a better selection of concessions plus the atmosphere is relaxed and fun and the audience is more engaged because the seating is closer to the game and not so huge; it’s also close to other entertainment at the outdoor mall. I am not a big sports fan, and I usually figure out how well my team is doing based on the crowd cheering, but I enjoy being at a game. For me, if the atmosphere is fun, the game will be fun as well. There’s all sorts of entertainment to be found when an inning gets boring. Also, one of the best fireworks displays I’ve ever seen was after the Iowa Cubs minor league game. By going to a smaller event like this, not only will you feel closer to the game, but you also will enjoy the unique features in the event. I always judge a stadium by one important factor: does it carry Pepsi products so I can do the Dew?
7. Make Someone a Mixed CD: I know this sounds so 90s and dorky, but hear me out. Mixed CDs/tapes don’t just have to be for your fifth-grade crush anymore. Create a playlist that defines someone, gets you pumped up for an event, goes with a theme party, etc. You can use the CD as a present or a random surprise. Maybe make a funny playlist and leave the mixed CD in a geocache for someone else to discover. I always enjoyed organizing playlists in a way that made certain songs compliment each other or that were ironic together (example: Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” followed by Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” or The Wanted’s “Glad You Came” followed with N*SYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye”). Music can just get you in the right mood. I especially like my running playlists that keep me motivated or making fun lists a friend will enjoy on a long roadtrip.
8. Host a Game Night: Game Nights are a great way to get friends, food, and fun together (and alliteration!). Have everyone bring their favorite game, food, or drink. You can make a theme for the night like poker night, board games, or outdated video games (who doesn’t love an old fashioned MarioKart 64 brawl? Ok yeah, maybe just me, but you get the idea). This is also where you can use that special playlist you made. I hosted many a game night, and it always produced a great time and fun stories. You can also make money if you do a buy-in for the poker games. Some great group games to try are poker, Apples to Apples, Balderdash, Slapjack (also called Egyptian Rat), CatchPhrase, Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, Scattergories, and multi-player video games.
9. Use the Library: As an English major and nerd, I love to go to the library regularly. So I’m always surprised when people don’t know how awesome this place is. Besides books, you can check out books on CD (great for travel), CDs, DVDs, and video games. FOR FREE! They also usually have bulletin boards or programs with local events and activities to participate in and always have lots of computers with tons of information to access. So whether you want to discover some new form of entertainment, read the book then watch the movie, or try a videogame before you buy it, you can get it at the library. Or use their plethora of information to find other awesome activities to do and places to visit this summer.
10. Local Beer or Wine Tour: Find a local distillery, winery, or brewery and learn how your favorite drink is made. You can usually sample many drinks too before you decide to buy. It’s a cool way to learn new facts, try new drinks, and also support local businesses. I always associate California with being wine country, but Missouri and Kansas both have a fair share of wineries, and Kansas City is home to Boulevard Brewery, which is rapidly gaining popularity throughout the states. Check out what’s in your area that you never knew about!
I hope you enjoy at least one thing on this list. Please feel free to share with me and other readers your summer to dew ideas below in the comments. I look forward to hearing from you and enjoy your summer!