Before the summer ends, make sure you soak up all the seasonal fun. Here, find 16 things to do before fall arrives.
1. Take a Hike!
Need a breath of fresh air away from home? Practice social distancing and take a breather beyond the backyard with these local trails.
2. Be a Bird-Watcher
Located in Woodbridge, the Neabsco Creek Boardwalk spans just under 1 mile, and is recognized as an ideal destination for new and experienced bird-watchers alike, due to its wildlife-rich habitat. Don’t forget your binoculars, as you’re likely to see blue herons, wood ducks, mallards, red-winged blackbirds and so much more while strolling through the wetland-surrounded paths. // 15125 Blackburn Road, Woodbridge
3. Go on a Safari
While social distancing and the zoo don’t necessarily go together, this summer there is a way to get your animal fix while many zoos remain closed. Head to Roer’s Zoofari in Reston, where you can drive through the zoo. Look for giraffes, camels, bison and more to come right up to your car during a summer outing that’s sure to go down in your family’s pandemic-summer scrapbook. // from $40, note that advanced booking is required; 1228 Hunter Mill Road, Vienna
4. Find Baby Shark (Teeth)
Shark Week on TV has nothing on this beach. Skip the sunning and instead grab a sifter (any colander will do) and hunt for shark teeth at the beach in Westmoreland State Park. The kid-friendly beach and its surrounding land in Westmoreland County was under water millions of years ago, and—while the sharks that once swam there are gone (we hope!)—the fossils of their teeth are still there. Scoop up sand in the water and see what you can find. If you’re lucky, you’ll find one of the rare Megalodon teeth, which can be as big as a human hand. Visitors are allowed to take the shark teeth home that they find—which we think qualifies as the coolest summer souvenir out there. // Parking fee $7; Westmoreland State Park: 145 Cliff Road, Montross
5. Make a Splash
Spend your last days of summer lounging around the pool, whether in your backyard or on a last-minute vacation. These floats and water games will add an extra element of fun.
6. Feast Alfresco
Dining outdoors doesn’t get much better than summertime. Sure, those sunny spring days and crisp fall afternoons are great, but when the long, warm evenings spent sharing a meal turn into cool nights over cocktails, there’s sure to be memories made. Here’s a handful of places you can pass plates and enjoy the heat of the summer. Cheers!
7. Chalk it Up
Take that arts and crafts project outside. Grab a box of extra-large chalk and let your kids’ imaginations run wild.
8. Watch the Waves
Pack the car full of beach toys and snacks and take a day trip to Rehoboth Beach before the end of summer. Spend the day splashing in the ocean and make sure to stop by the popular Surf Bagel or Touch of Italy for some delicious grub before you head home. // Surf Bagel: 18675 Coastal Highway, Rehoboth Beach; Touch of Italy: 19724 Coastal Highway, Rehoboth Beach
9. Snap Some Sweeping Views
Skyline Drive—a 105.5-mile road through Shenandoah National Park—was constructed in the 1930s as a scenic destination, consisting of 75 overlooks and many drive-by vistas curious explorers could stop at to reflect. This summer, the majority of the national park’s amenities are open, as it is in the midst of a phased reopening. Should you choose to cruise through the Blue Ridge Mountains along Skyline Drive in the coming weeks, consider stopping at these noteworthy overlooks for a photo-worthy shot.
- Range View Overlook at milepost 17: Offers views to Stony Man Mountain at 2,810 feet.
- Jewell Hallow Overlook at milepost 36.5: As one of the larger overlooks, this site offers expansive scenes of life below at an elevation of 3,320 feet.
- Big Run Overlook at milepost 81: This vista opens into the park’s largest stream, making the quartz outcrops on Rocky Mountain visible on a clear day.
10. Scream for Ice Cream
What says summer more than ice cream? It’s even more fun when you make it yourself. Believe it or not, you don’t need an ice cream machine. How do you do it? Check out this hassle-free recipe, modified slightly from The New York Times cooking section’s classic recipe, guaranteed to add some originality to your next ice cream sundae.
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
- 6 large eggs
- Your choice of flavorings, to taste
- Quart and gallon freezer bags
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- Combine cream, milk, sugar and salt in a pot and simmer until sugar disappears into the concoction.
- Break egg yolks into a bowl and whisk until smooth. Add a bit of the hot cream mixture and keep whisking. Add eggs and your flavorings to the pot at medium-low heat. Continue stirring pot until the liquid coats the spoon.
- Put the mix in a cool bowl and refrigerate overnight.
- The next day, put two-thirds of a quart of your mix into a quart baggie. In a gallon baggie, put ice (about halfway full), and add ½ cup of kosher salt and mix. Add the smaller bag to the big one.
- Shake it up, baby! Making sure that the quart bag is covered with ice, so that it freezes, shake the mixture for 10 minutes. This could get messy, so we recommend getting some fresh air and doing it outside.
- Spoon out into bowls and enjoy! Repeat as necessary until you’ve used the entire mix, or reserve it for later. Add rainbow sprinkles, whipped cream, chocolate sauce and more to make it truly your own.
11. Marvel at the Marble
It’s easy to take for granted that we live in the shadow of DC’s iconic monuments and memorials. While you may not have family and friends visiting this summer to give you an excuse to hit up all the tourist sites, don’t let that stop you. Take an afternoon to walk (or bike) by all of the city’s beautiful attractions, from Mr. Lincoln to the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building.
12. Float your Boat
You don’t have to own a boat to enjoy the beauty of the Potomac River and Northern Virginia’s waterways. Here, find four companies offering boat rentals in the region. Hello, sunset cruise!
- Northern Virginia Sailing School // Woodbridge; $75-$500
- Embark DC Boat Tours // Alexandria and DC; $450 and up
- Wave Rider // Fredericksburg; $499-$699
- Potomac Boat Rentals // Woodbridge; $375-$625
13. Gimme S’more
The first recipe for s’mores was published in the 1927 guidebook, Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts. Luckily, you don’t have to be a scout to enjoy a gooey, charred marshmallow melting over chocolate between two halves of a graham cracker. All you need is a fire pit in your backyard. Not feeling outdoorsy? Use your oven’s broiler.
14. Take to the Sky
You may not be ready to take off in a plane, but you can still soar among the clouds in a hot air balloon this summer. Book a flight with Skyline Hot Air Balloons in Flint Hill. With miles of panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains (since you’ll take off at the foothills) and a breath of fresh air, the experience is sure to give your spirits a lift. // Contact for availability; $950 per two-person flight
15. Bring the Petting Zoo to You
Toward the end of the summer, when the sprinkler, endless popsicles and arts and crafts may be getting old, try My Pet Alpaca. The local company will bring its two baby alpacas, Pisco and Chewpacca, to your backyard for a decidedly unique summer afternoon. Kids have a chance to feed them, walk them, pet them and take photos. Their minders wear masks, practice social distancing and have plenty of hand sanitizer on hand. Bonus: Pisco and Chewpacca are currently sporting their summer haircuts: mohawks. // $40 for 30 minutes, $60 for one hour
16. Say Om
It’s been a stressful year. Take the time this summer to find your inner Zen and learn how to meditate. We spoke with Gina White, owner and creator of Alexandria-based Mindful Junkie, a not-for-profit organization that empowers first responders with mindfulness strategies. Here, she answers all your need-to-know questions to get you started.