The country has waited through snow, wind, cold, and rain, and as of June 21, summer will officially be here. Can you taste the cocktails with little umbrellas, smell the charcoal burning on the grill, and hear the sound of gentle ocean waves? Whatever your summer plans, don't let the first day go by without doing something to kick off the season.
Summer is prime time to add more fruit to a diet. Some good ones to try include mango, passion fruit, and papaya, although more common blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries have tons of antioxidants. Feeling adventurous? Perhaps a local store stocks something exotic such as dragon fruit, mangosteen, or carambola (commonly known as starfruit).
An end to the cold and wet weather of winter and spring brings a welcome return to the outdoors. The National Park Service has a state-by-state list of properties including historical sites, forests, islands, and other natural spaces to check out. Or type a home address into an online map (such as Google Maps) and search for "parks" using the "Nearby" function.
Tired of the same boring terrain? Find a new park to visit and see if it offers hiking trails. City dwellers are bound to find walking paths nearby, perhaps on reclaimed train tracks. Step outside your comfort zone and try a new trail or follow a favorite path in a new direction.
Map out an itinerary around the city, checking out beautiful summer sites. No bike? Don't worry -- in most cities it's possible to rent for a day for very little money. There may be bike tours happening nearby or groups to join. Bigger cities are experimenting with municipal bike-rental programs that can make it easy to investigate without much investment.
To avoid turning on the oven and heating up the house, fire up the grill. Go beyond the traditional hamburger and try something new for the first day of summer, such as a side dish or a meat such as swordfish. Throw some summer-ripe peaches or other fruit on the grill for a sweet treat.
If you've got a gang to play with, organize a game of flag football or softball. If it's just you and a buddy, throw a Frisbee or kick a soccer ball back and forth.
While young kids particularly enjoy seed spitting contests, the young at heart do too. Get a big watermelon, cut it into slices, and chow down in the backyard, spitting out the seeds as far as possible. Competitive spirits may want to use a tape measure for judging.
Find a wide open space (to avoid getting hung up on a tree) and celebrate summer by flying a kite. Starter kites are relatively cheap; there may even be some at the dollar store. A dirt-cheap, impromptu version can be made with string and a plastic grocery bag: Just tie the string around both handles and let children run with the "kite" flying behind them. It might seem too easy and cheap to be true, but they will love it.
Freshen up your living space with fresh flowers. Pick a variety from the yard and create a pretty display for a table or mantel. It's small and cheap, but a great way to bring summer into a home.
If there's no time or room to enjoy home-grown food, take advantage of someone else's. Hit up a local farmers market and delight in the fresh fruit and vegetable offerings. In many places, markets happen all days of the week during summer months, and good crops mean lower prices.
While it may be tempting to stay up late in the summer with more daylight time, it's important to keep a good sleep schedule. If bedtime has been creeping later, indulge in a nap on the first day of summer -- preferably by a pool or on a beach, or at least in a hammock in the backyard.
Eye protection from the sun is a must year-round, but especially in the summer months. Mark the first day of summer with a new pair of sunglasses. It's not necessary to spend a fortune to accessorize with style and protect your eyes. A good pair of sunglasses can be had for less than $50. Just be sure they are labeled as having 100 percent UV protection, or UV400.
Summer always starts with big plans, but follow-through is key. Create an index card for each item on your summer bucket list and put it in a jar. Make sure to draw from the jar regularly to cross off an item.