30 ways to seize the end of summer

We took the kids to Schulze Lake in Eagan, stood at the water’s edge and experienced a magical summer evening opening up before us.  

It was one of those nights when you notice the cast of the light and the warmth of the breeze, when you sink your toes into the sand and time slows, when the kids can just be kids…and so can the adults.

It felt like a storybook scene, as if Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn could’ve marched around the bend at any moment. The kids pranced about in their linen rompers and launched our homemade wooden raft. It felt old-fashioned, timeless – no screens in sight. Just sand, sticks and seaweed.

As it should be.

As summer allows.  

“Summer will end soon enough, and childhood as well.”

-George R. R. Martin

We hired the intrepid Rebecca Zenefski to photograph the experience. I wanted to document Jane and Archie’s first trip to Schulze Beach, to capture this moment in time – the glory of summer’s end, of our almost-sitting baby, of finding our groove as a family of five.

Rebecca has an amazing eye and quick lens. She caught the entire scene, drawing out the rich textures and golden light. It helps that she’s unendingly patient and fun, leading games with the girls and building a quick rapport.

We came home a sandy mess – exhausted, hungry and triumphant.  

The girls will be talking about our beach trip for some time. It didn’t feel like a photo shoot; it felt like an adventure. #everybodywins

It compels me to make the most of these final weeks of summer before the busier clip of fall kicks in.

Whether you count summer’s end as the first day back to school, Labor Day or its official closing on Sept. 22, here’s a list of low-cost, toddler-friendly ways to sweeten its final stretch.

  1. Go to the beach.   
  2. Run through the sprinkler.
  3. Explore a county fair.  
  4. Have a lemonade stand.
  5. Eat watermelon outside.
  6. Feed the ducks.
  7. Make water balloons.
  8. Stay up late to star gaze.
  9. Go fishing.
  10. See a drive-in movie
  11. Visit a greenhouse.
  12. Be barefoot outside.
  13. Head to Como Zoo for the free Blooming Butterflies exhibit (running through Labor Day), carousel and the free foam parties (also running through Labor Day). If you go on Sunday, Aug. 20 you can also witness the Japanese Obon Festival.
  14. Sprawl on the grass and study the clouds.
  15. Feast at the state fair.
  16. Grill out. (Don’t forget the potato chips.)
  17. Take in an outdoor concert.
  18. Experience the horse racing at Canterbury. Sunday is family day, including free pony rides and face painting.  
  19. Have popsicles.
  20. Hang out at the library.
  21. Watch a Saints game.
  22. Hit up a splash pad.
  23. Read a book outside. (Here are some recommendations. And here’s my favorite from childhood.)
  24. Go to a farmers market.
  25. Make smoothies.
  26. Picnic by a fountain. Consider Rice Park in St. Paul, Irvine Park in St. Paul or the Arboretum in Chanhassen.
  27. Go to an outdoor pool.
  28. Visit a nature center like Dodge in West St. Paul.
  29. Track down an ice cream truck. You can text the Milk Mart serving the Woodbury/Inver Grove Heights region or use the app.
  30. Head to a state park.


 Christina Ries is a freelance writer who lives with her husband and three young children in Inver Grove Heights. Write her at christina@mnparent.com.


Charmed reviews are entirely the author's opinion. Special thanks to the following vendors for supplying complimentary samples for review and photography: