The temperature is going up. The sun is feeling hotter. This is the time of year when your mind turns to the water. Unless you live close to an ocean, you may be thinking that a lake day is in your future.
There are hundreds of lakes across the country. Finding one to visit is the easy part. What do you do when you get there, though? The last thing you want after packing up the life jackets and water wings is to have bored kids again an hour after arrival. Don’t stress — there’s a lot more to do than just jump in and swim.
From water sports to cooking to games, lake trips offer activities galore. If you need some ideas, check out these seven options to maximize your fun and your relaxation.
1. Get Onto a Paddleboard
If you’ve ever gotten up to enjoy the lake sunrise, you’ve probably seen them. They’re the early risers who glide gracefully across the lake’s surface on stand-up paddleboards. While fans of SUP boards can take to the water anytime, of course, there’s something special about enjoying the morning calm.
Admittedly, it takes some balance and core strength to stand up on a paddleboard and not topple into the water. Once you figure it out, though, SUP boards can be a fun way to explore the lake and get a great workout. If you’re stable enough, carry a waterproof speaker and bring your lake playlist with you. You can even take the family dog along!
2. Cast a Line
If you’re an expert fisherman, a lake trip is a prime opportunity to fill your cooler with the catch of the day. Even if you’ve never picked up a pole, consider giving it a shot. You might not catch anything — fish can play hard to get — but you’ll have fun trying.
To prepare, stop by a sporting goods store for a fishing license, a pole, hooks, and bait. Then your next decision is whether you want to fish off the dock, the bank, or a boat. If the latter suits your fancy, look into renting a rowboat for a few hours.
Finally, don’t forget to check whether the lake you’re visiting has a catch-and-release policy. You may be dreaming of pan-fried walleye, but you’re not always allowed to keep the fish.
3. Dive Into Water Sports
When you picture a lake day, some type of water sport and a life jacket probably pop to mind. There are so many water sports to choose from, deciding which to do might be tough. If you’re interested in anything with a little speed, consider renting a wakesurfing boat or a jet ski. Before you head out, though, check the boat license requirements for your state.
So once you’ve rented your watercraft, what are your options? With a boat, think about water skiing, wakeboarding, or tubing. If you’d rather zip around the lake and try some Figure 8s, think about a jet ski. They’re great for dipping into the smaller coves where you can see more wildlife.
4. Set Up Camp
Water sports are great, but maybe they’re not your thing. That’s OK. There are plenty of other things to do lakeside. If you simply like waking up to the sound of water lapping against the shore, set up a campsite on the bank. You can enjoy a cup of coffee brewed on your camping stove while watching the sunrise.
Lake camping can help you disconnect for a couple of days. You can spend time playing games or exploring nature with your family. The cell signal might disappear, but you can use your smartphone camera to capture fun memories. Just be sure you’re camping in a designated area and that you control and put out any campfires you start.
5. Play Games
Speaking of games, there’s no shortage of pastimes that can be transported to the lake. A game of gin rummy or a hilarious round of charades can keep you entertained in the evenings. Don’t forget about daytime games, though. Backyard and beach games are just as much — or even more — fun lakeside.
Setting up a cornhole set or horseshoe rings on your campsite is simple. If the lakeshore has some wide-open spaces, consider kicking around a soccer ball or tossing a football. Lakes that are part of county parks also frequently have sand volleyball courts and tennis courts you can use.
Games like these will keep you active and entertained, but don’t forget the best part. When you get hot and sweaty, cooling off is as easy as jumping in the lake!
6. Go Hiking
If you’ve been in the water so long your feet are turning prune-like, consider toweling them off and donning some hiking boots. The scenery surrounding most lakes can make for a beautiful, relaxing walk. Grab a water bottle and a hiking buddy and explore your lakeside environs.
If you’re headed to a more popular lake, paved trials might be available. They’ll offer an easier stroll with more navigational aids and less mud. Enjoy watching all the skiers and tubers from your on-shore vantage point.
7. Make an Outdoor Dinner
A lake day or weekend vacay is a great time to engage in some al fresco cooking and dining. Grab a picnic basket and bring all your supplies with you. You’ll be set to make a rustic 5-star meal. Be sure you clean up once you’re done, though, unless you want to feed the ants, too!
Lots of lakes and campsites have publicly available grills. Just bring your own charcoal and heat up some burgers, hot dogs, or veggie kabobs. Be sure to bring a blanket with you. If there are picnic tables available, it can be your tablecloth. If there aren’t, find a shady patch and use your blanket as a ground-level tabletop.
If you’re feeling the need to relax and get in touch with nature, look no further than a lake trip. It can last an afternoon or a weekend. You can enjoy an evening campfire or a day of jumping wakes behind a boat. Whatever you choose, trying some of these activities will put a smile on your face.