Summer is in full force, friends. Say hello to tank tops and tan-lines, muggy nights and lightning bugs. And sweaty armpits (that natural deodorant isn’t so great right about now). Unless you stay indoors in a climate-controlled, constant 73 degrees, let’s all just admit that being outside is going to require at least a small degree of discomfort for anyone who does not enjoy perspiring profusely under the hot, beating sun.
I remember my summers as a child being hot and sweaty but filled with adventure and fun and…. dirt. I didn’t worry about ticks when I was rolling pell mell, full speed down a grassy hill. I didn’t care if the creek bed’s mud squished between my toes and then left tracks through the kitchen (before getting lost somewhere in the carpet). And I certainly didn’t fret over walking around with chlorine green hair from swimming at the neighbor’s pool too much.
Getting dirty, being carefree, and having imaginative adventures is so important to the healthy development of our kids, but while I want to give them that same fun, as suburbanites, we have less opportunity in our own neighborhood. And if I’m going to be honest, I really don’t want to sweat my way through their summer memories at playgrounds with little shade.
To add hot, sticky insult to injury, my youngest daughter doesn’t like splash pads or most swimming pools, thereby omitting most of my staying cool methods.
None of us want to be housebound all summer or wilting in the great outdoors (you can tell cold weather runs through our blood). So, out of sheer self-preservation, we have started frequenting the “shadier” sides of town. Since I like to stick relatively close to home for most of these adventures, we tend to explore the North Dayton/Englewood area.
Here are my top 5 favorite places to have fun and still beat the heat (sort of):
Englewood Metro Parks Nature Play Area
In the East Park of Englewood Metro Parks near the Patty Shelter, there is a nature play area, perfect for entertaining all ages. My daughter loves the slide built into the hill, but her favorite part is wading in the shaded creek play area, looking for crawdads and climbing over the tree branch bridges. The park even provides buckets and shovels for more wet, muddy exploration.
Charleston Falls Preserves
Charleston Falls is technically in Tipp City, but still a close gem that we like to visit. We take the shadier trails leading straight towards the falls. Opt to walk down to the falls, through the mist, and keep hiking to explore a few caves along the trail. If your little one tires out easily, take the trail to the right after the caves to cool off in a creek on your way back to the entrance (there is a bridge if you don’t want to get your feet wet).
Carriage Hill Metro Parks
Carriage Hill is where we like to go to enjoy seeing the farm animals before cooling off in their museum and indoor play area. The park showcases farm life in the 1880’s, so we go there on days I want to add in a little history with our play.
The Children’s Discovery Garden at Wegerzyn is ah-mazing and one of my family’s favorite places to go. This is one of the few free water attractions that my daughter enjoys because there is no major splashing in the man-made creek and waterfall area for play. We usually spend about an hour going through the fossil cave over and over (and over) again before hitting the sandbox area – another cooler choice. On days we aren’t so worried about staying cool, we also explore the other parts of the garden.
Ok, so this option is slightly cheating, but sometimes there’s just no place like home. Clearly sprinklers, water balloon fights, and slip and slides are great backyard options to beat the heat; however, I’m working with a girl who doesn’t like to get her face wet. So, we do water play adventures instead: fishing in a swimming pool, excavating princess figurines from ice blocks, painting the sidewalk/patio with food-coloring tinted ice cubes, and setting up the baby pool at the base of the backyard slide (if you have one). And one of our favorite stay cool activities is just sitting in a patio chair with our feet soaking in the baby pool, slurping popsicles and giggling together about nothing and everything.
Where are your favorite beat-the-heat places to explore when splash pads and pools aren’t an option?