We’ve all had an annual summer bucket list. Year after year, we vow to take a dream vacation, have a summer fling, achieve all our health goals, read through a stack of books, and have that movie-worthy moment with our best friends (like a Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants moment where the same pair of pants fits all of us, but no need to get too specific). Summer is the season of potential and carefree fun, so of course, we start off May with the highest of hopes.
Whether you feel like you’ve achieved everything on your bucket list in past years (we’re still searching for that pair of magical pants!), summer 2021 is going to be different. Thanks to the crazy year that was 2020, this summer will be the year we don’t take even one second for granted—just being outside or seeing friends will feel like a special occasion. To celebrate a season that will surely feel special, we’ve put together our annual summer bucket list that’s full of activities to bring you and your crew closer, help you become your best self, and make the most of what the season has to offer. Grab your cutoff shorts, throw on some SPF, and get ready to check items off of our 2021 Summer Bucket List.
Host an outdoor movie marathon
Whether your idea of “summer” is beach flicks (like Baywatch), nostalgic high school movies (Grease, anyone?), or films that make you feel like you’re back in summer camp (like Dirty Dancing, because the combo of sexy dancing and Patrick Swayze is exactly the camp we’ve all wanted to go to), host a movie marathon with your favorite summer films. Another fun summer theme is travel, like Mamma Mia! or Eat, Pray, Love, which will take you on a trip around the world from the comfort of your picnic blanket. In the mood for romance? The Last Song, Call Me By Your Name, or any of the Mary-Kate-and-Ashley-on-an-island movies are some great options. To host your own backyard movie night, all you’ll need is a good projector, a white sheet (or garage door), and some homemade popcorn.
Invest in the perfect summer sandal
After months of wearing fuzzy socks and slippers, it’s time for your freshly pedicured toes to see the light. A high-quality summer sandal can make or break the season: Will it be sturdy enough to comfortably carry you around the farmers market or county fair? Will it be stylish enough to take you from the pool to drinks on a rooftop? Whether your style is chic leather slides or of-the-moment braided shoes, invest in a pair you’ll want to wear every day and to every occasion. Not sure where to start? Check out the best summer sandals under $100 or our favorite quilted sandals for some great options.
Start an at-home herb garden
Even if you don’t think you have a green thumb, summer is the ideal time to start growing herbs (you can do it, we believe in you). Let’s talk about why: Growing produce is healthier for you, better for the earth, and easier on your wallet. It also just feels empowering to be able to whip up a pesto with basil that you grew yourself from a pot on your balcony. Talk about Martha Stewart 2.0! If you have a yard or even just a little space outside, start with the basics, like basil, mint, and chives (these herbs are easier to grow). Get a gardening toolset, a cute watering can, some planters, and get to work. If you’re in an apartment or don’t have room outdoors, grow fresh herbs on a windowsill or with a smart garden.
Take your workout outdoors
If you’re stuck in a rut because you take the same online workout class every day, the summer weather is your solution. Consider taking your HIIT circuits or yoga flow outdoors. Bring your mat and sun salutations to the park or go for a walk instead of running on the treadmill. Bonus: thanks to the longer days, warmer weather, and brighter sunlight, we often have the most energy in the summertime, so take advantage and up the intensity. Go for a hike to check out the scenery, get your surfer girl on by swimming in the waves instead of lying on the beach, or train for the marathon you’ve always wanted to run. Just don’t forget your SPF!
Make your own ice cream
Your first ice cream cone of the season is a rite of passage; it means summer is officially here. I love a rocky road or mint chip as much as the next girl, but ice cream is super easy to DIY with ingredients that are actually good for you or high-quality gourmet flavors that will upgrade your basic cone. Whether you choose to churn or freeze or blend ingredients, check out our guide to DIY ice cream (and all our favorite recipes!). And if ice cream sounds too complicated or isn’t your thing, go for popsicles. Add popsicle mixtures in molds (like this or this) and freeze for six hours (Pro Tip: If you stick one of these in a glass of Prosecco, we’d call you genius).
Hike in a national park
Have you been aching to get outside and do some exploring ever since the pandemic hit last year? Yeah, same. Take advantage of the beautiful, serene, and free views the country has to offer. You can plan a road trip and camp at a national park or visit the state park near you for a few hours of nature to soak in the lovely weather and perfect scenery. Need more motivation besides the fact that a hike is enjoyable (and free)? Being in the great outdoors can boost your mood and help ease stress to feel happier and more relaxed.
Make a beach read book list
Books deserve their own bucket list, so write down all the books you want to get through by September 1. If you need some inspo, check out the most popular beach reads, books that will make you feel like you’re on vacation, or some of our favorite thrillers. Having a book list will not only help you feel excited for all the beach days and lazy afternoons ahead, it’ll also keep you accountable when you’re tempted to ditch the book and endlessly scroll through TikTok. For fun bonus points, bring your friends into this and have book swaps throughout the summer to trade books you all want to read.
Go on a summery date (in real life)
After months of Zoom dates or Saturday nights at home, it’s time to celebrate a little more normalcy and enjoy the warmer weather. If your summer goal is to go on more first dates with all those right-swipes, schedule socially-distanced walks along the beach or a picnic in the park (safe and romantic). If you and your significant other are desperate for some quality time that isn’t spent in sweatpants and with takeout, surprise them with a movie night outdoors (see point #1), go blueberry picking, or lay out a blanket and have wine and cheese under the stars. No matter what your relationship status is, make the most of the season by getting creative with dates and take advantage of everything summer has to offer. P.S. taking your best friend on a date counts too!
“Summer clean” your home
Why should spring have all the fun? Spend a day organizing your junk drawer, donating clothes you don’t wear, and optimizing the space in your kitchen. “Summer cleaning” also doesn’t just have to be the tedious stuff: Update your decor for a happier season by trading darker home accents with more colorful accessories, add a colorful print or two to the wall, or make minor upgrades with of-the-moment trends you’re obsessing over on Instagram to brighten up your home. Minor changes like fresh flowers in vases or citrus oil in a diffuser can also make all the difference.
Take a day (or two, or three) of PTO
Remember childhood (or High School Musical 2) when summer meant vacation? Even if we’re grown-ups now (womp, womp) and don’t get a summer break from work (but like, isn’t that a great idea?), summer serves as the perfect reminder that work should be a part of your life, not your entire life. Take advantage of your PTO, whether that means taking a long weekend to go on a road trip with your friends (more on that below) or a mental health day here and there to sleep in, get outside, and enjoy life. If all else fails or if PTO isn’t an option, turn every weekend into a mini-vacation by going on day trips, touring new parts of your city, or checking off items from this bucket list.
Master your favorite summer cocktail
Who says an Aperol Spritz or Spicy Margarita is only for restaurants and bars? Take a break from rosé (unless it’s frosé!) and perfect your favorite summer cocktail at home. Not only will a Cucumber Spritzer or Ranch Water totally upgrade your basic Tuesday nights at home, but it will also be fun to play around with fresh flavors of the season like fruits, herbs, and fresh produce in a totally new way. Plus, having your friends over for some homemade French 75s might make you the coolest friend in the group—but be warned: They’ll want you to host every girls’ night from now on. For some of our favorite summer cocktail (and mocktail) recipes, click here, here, and here.
Try out a no-heat hairstyle
One of the best parts of summer is that everything is effortless. It’s the one season where we not only can get away with an easy sundress and less makeup (which is for the best because foundation sweats off in a matter of seconds), but it’s expected. Your hair goes through hell during summertime with greasy sunscreens, chlorine, or saltwater, and washing more often than usual isn’t too healthy for your beloved locks. Save your hair and try out a no-heat hairstyle that will not only be healthier but will also help you achieve that “I-woke-up-like-this” look that’s a signature of the season. Think beachy waves, textured updos, and effortless braids. If only picking a spot for dinner was that easy!
Take a day trip
Picture this: you and your best friend, a wide-open road, the convertible top down, and heart-shaped sunglasses (Thelma & Louise style). Even if the convertible is unrealistic and you look much better in round frames than heart-shaped, you get the point—summer is meant for road trips. Even if you have nowhere to go, drive around your city with a killer playlist in the background and explore areas you’ve never been to. After all, isn’t it all about the journey, not the destination? For more inspiration and motivation, check out the best road trips in your state.
Have a wifi-free weekend
One of the best parts of summer is that there’s so much to do other than watching TV or staring at your computer screen (winter, we love you, but you forced a lot of us into some major Netflix black holes). Commit to going tech-free for a weekend. Go on a hike, read a book, or spend time with friends without posting it on Instagram. No matter how you choose to spend your tech-free time, make sure to put down your phone, close your laptop, and turn off the TV to enjoy your days off work and off the grid. If you want more of a challenge, consider going on a social media break for an entire week or limiting social media to one half-hour block a day.
Find a swimsuit that makes you feel confident
Shopping for a bathing suit that works for you can be daunting and tedious. But a swimsuit is like the pair of jeans in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants: As hard as it is to find, the perfect one is magical. As much as it might not feel like it, the right bathing suit for you is out there—we promise! To start your quest, check out one of the most flattering swimsuits we’ve ever tried or the swimsuit trends you’re going to see everywhere this summer.