Summer Night Adventures

7 Summer night adventure ideas for your family.

By Courtney Johnson
Explore Ambassador

Here are 7 Summer night adventure ideas for your family to try.


Catch a Firefly or Two

A rite of passage for kids in summer, fireflies (also known as lightning bugs in some areas) are fun to hunt. Grab a net or a jar and head out around dusk when fireflies tend to be most active while the air is still warm. They prefer tall grasses and wet and humid areas and come out between June and September. The glow of their tails should indicate where they are. If it is a cooler evening, or past dusk, you can attract fireflies by mimicking their light patterns with a flashlight. No fireflies by you? Toads and frogs also come out at night, making for some prime, slimy fun.


Go for a Sunset Hike

There is nothing like wrapping up the day catching the sun as it sinks behind the horizon (or mountains). Pick a hiking or walking trail that you are familiar with that is wide open and free from obstacles (think roots and rocks). Bring a headlamp or two to help you navigate back to the trailhead. Celebrating the summer solstice is the perfect opportunity for catching a sunset. Another fun night adventure is getting up before the sun rises to catch it coming up over the horizon.


Hunt for Night Animals

There are many animals that only come out at night, making them nocturnal. Don a headlamp or grab a flashlight and head outside to see what you can find lurking in the night. If you have a headlamp or flashlight with a red filter, you may be able to spot animals more easily without scaring them away. Put on those listening ears, talk with a quiet voice and search for owls perching in a tree or bats flying overhead. Look for the reflective (glowing) eyes of deer, raccoons, foxes or your neighbor’s cat on the hunt. Open-space areas and even your neighborhood are perfect places for hunting.


Look to the Skies

Have you ever just laid back and looked up at the clouds? Why not try that at night and search the sky for shooting stars? Head to the plains or mountains for better viewing away from light pollution. Grab a blanket, lie down, look up and let your eyes adjust for a period of time (10 to 15 minutes). Pretty soon, you will be able to see more and more stars. Use an app like SkyView Lite to help you locate constellations, planets and even the space station as it passes by.

In August, the Perseids put on quite an annual show in the night sky. Sky events change from summer to summer, but the summer of 2021 has quite a lot of celestial happenings including a super moon, solar eclipse and the Delta Aquarids meteor shower. Look for special events at International Dark Sky Parks, and state and national parks close to home.


Play Old-School Games

Bring back some nostalgia and teach your kids classic after-dark games. Have a night where you don’t have to be home when the street lights come on, and break out the flashlights for a classic game of Flashlight Tag. Nothing says a summer night like playing Ghost in the Graveyard or Grandmother’s Footsteps. If you have a large group, Fugitives and Cops is a game that can last for hours.


Take a Full-Moon Paddle

Whether you choose an SUP, kayak or canoe, paddling under the moonlight is a memorable experience. Outfitters around the country offer these nights as special events where rental equipment (and sometimes wine or dinner) is included. You can also just head out on a full-moon night and paddle on your own. Just be sure that the body of water you choose to visit is open past sunset.


Visit a National Park at Night

Weather permitting, most national parks and many national monuments in the U.S. are open 24 hours a day. This means visitors can come and experience the park at night. In fact, astronomer, author and artist Dr. Tyler Nordgren created a slogan stating, “Half the park is after dark.” Activities range from catching a sunrise or sunset and searching the night skies to hunting for night animals and attending a ranger program. There are over 20 national parks and monuments that are recognized as International Dark Sky Parks in the U.S., including Natural Bridges Monument, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Grand Canyon National Park and the newest Mesa Verde National Park. Kids ages 5 to 12 can even earn a special Junior Ranger Night Explorers badge by completing an activity booklet available at visitor centers or online. Visitor centers are not open 24 hours, so plan accordingly.

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