Summer weather spurs searches for amusement parks, paddleboarding, July 4th fireworks

·6 min read

Corrections & Clarifications: An earlier version of this story omitted COVID-related modifications to this year's Boston Pops Firework Spectacular and Washington's Capitol Fourth fireworks events.

Summer only officially began Sunday but much of America has already had sunshine and vacation on their minds for weeks.

The latest Google search trends show folks are ready to unwind outside and dive back into activities, even with a crowd, as more of the country gets vaccinated and opens up.

July 4th celebrations return

Celebrating independence has a renewed meaning as we begin to emerge from the pandemic, and online users are already searching for ways to make America’s birthday special. Search terms "July 4th activities near me" and "what to do on July 4th" have been trending on and off since late May.

Washington's Capitol Fourth celebration is returning this year as a pre-recorded show due to the pandemic with a live fireworks presentation.
Washington's Capitol Fourth celebration is returning this year as a pre-recorded show due to the pandemic with a live fireworks presentation.

After much deliberation, the Boston Pops Firework Spectacular is returning this year with some modifications like audience size limitations, and Washington's A Capitol Fourth is coming back as a pre-recorded televised and streaming event with a live fireworks display. Many other cities are ready to get cracking. From Tampa to Toledo, Austin to Jersey City, officials are planning the return of fireworks displays. Cue "The Overture of 1812!"

Cool off for free at these public pools

The 800,000-gallon Venetian Pool once served as a backdrop to sales pitches from politicians William Jennings Bryant about the virtues of owning Florida real estate.
The 800,000-gallon Venetian Pool once served as a backdrop to sales pitches from politicians William Jennings Bryant about the virtues of owning Florida real estate.

When the temperature heats up, the searches for places to take a dip or make a splash rise right along with it. Public pools offer affordable family fun and some even come with water park style amenities from slides, to snack bars.

Take the Coral Gables Venetian Pool in Florida, for example. Created in the 1920s, it’s fed by an underground aquifer and features waterfalls and lookout towers. (Admission for city residents is around $11; tickets for nonresidents start around $32.)

Others offer an oasis in the city, like the Rosedale Pool in Washington, complete with slides, a shallow splash area and lap swimming. (Admission is free with proof of DC residency; nonresidents can pick up a pass for under $10 per person.) To maximize your fun at any of these community pools, remember the early bird gets the best poolside lounger.

Cool off at an urban splash pad

The International Fountain at the Seattle Center is expected to reopen in July.
The International Fountain at the Seattle Center is expected to reopen in July.

You don’t have to break the bank to make a splash with your family. Your kiddos can cool off at a community splash pad for free. Splash pads such as the Brooklyn Bridge Park Water Lab, the Seattle Center International Fountain (closed until the end of June for maintenance) and the Dinosaur Place splash pad in Oakdale, Connecticut, offer breaks from the heat close to home. Why drive to the beach when you can head downtown and let the kids burn off steam on the steamiest of days?

Soak up nature while river tubing

Looking to ride out the heat on the river? Tubing is a great way to soak up nature. Spots like Green River Cove Tubing in Saluda, North Carolina, and Saco River Tubing in Conway, New Hampshire, are getting increased attention right now from vacationers surfing the web for summer getaway ideas.

Before you book your trip, make sure the length of the tour is right for you. They can range from just 2-4 hours up to full-day excursions. Tour companies should provide rentals of tubes and safety gear along with information about the river depth and current. There are often sandy beaches and rope swings along the way, so give yourself enough time to explore.

Try stand-up paddleboarding

Work up a sweat, jump off and swim. Paddleboarding is a great way to stay fit and have some fun on the water. Searches for "paddle boarding near me" are up as folks also research the best boards to buy. The most popular SUP boards for recreational use are 10-11 feet long and 32-34 inches wide. If stability is a high priority for you, you'll want to go wider, but know that it might make for a slower ride.

And don’t limit yourself to beaches or rural waterways. Many cities offer paddleboard tours. Chattanooga, Tennessee, even offers yoga on paddleboards. Also, wellness resorts like Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Massachusetts, offer yoga classes on boards too. Yup, you’ll probably be going for a swim, planned or not. Namaste.

Get your thrills at amusement parks

Searches for amusement parks are up. Searches for Hersheypark in Pennsylvania, for example, are up significantly. Then again, chocolate and roller coasters are a perfect pairing.

Another pair? Amusement parks and reservation requirements, which have been instituted at many parks nationwide as a way to control crowds and operate safely during the pandemic. Those two combined are fueling internet searches galore, so if you want to book a trip to Disney, Legoland or Seaworld, this is not the summer to wait until the last minute.

► Lifting mask mandates: Disneyland among California theme parks lifting mask requirements for vaccinated guests

Don’t forget about smaller, local amusement parks for unique adventures. For a taste of old Florida, hit the water park at Weeki Wachee Springs, complete with a live mermaid show. Or check out Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, perched on a Colorado mountaintop, followed by a cave tour. Looking for a seaside attraction? The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has operated since 1907 and has rides that are national historic landmarks.

Go retro at a drive-in movie theaters

Get a true taste of Americana with a trip to your nearest drive-in, which enjoyed a renaissance last summer during COVID. You can find the nostalgia of movie sound pumped through your FM radio at places like the Paramount south of Los Angeles. And theaters like Showboat Drive outside Houston tend to mix and match classics with new films. Skyway Drive in Wisconsin’s Door County offers double features and local flavors like chilled cherry juice. Fort Lauderdale, Florida’s Swap Shop claims to be the world’s largest drive-in, with 14 screens, flea market and arcade.

Feast on state fair food

'Tis the season for fair food like corn dogs, funnel cakes and deep-fried oreos.
'Tis the season for fair food like corn dogs, funnel cakes and deep-fried oreos.

Speaking of classic retro fun, the search is on for some deep-fried Oreos, funnel cakes and carnival rides. Many states and counties are once again holding their local festivals. Whether you’re on the hunt for the craziest new fried foods, some awesome agriculture, there’s no better spot to win your sweetheart a giant teddy bear, or go buy yourself a corn dog. August tends to be the prime time for big state fairs but some hit in June, rearranged because of pandemic cancellations.

Experience Old Faithful

Need to unwind away from it all? You might not be exactly alone if you head to Yellowstone. It’s a top bucket list destination for many campers, and RVs are welcome within Yellowstone. There are 12 campgrounds within the park, 5 of which take reservations. Even though there are 2,000 sites within the park it’s not always easy to find a vacancy during the busy summer months. Early mornings and evenings are the best chances to see wildlife and avoid the crowds around the geothermal attractions.

Summer travel tech to the rescue: Get help finding rental cars and campsites

► Summer travel 2021: Should you take a trip this year? Here's how to decide

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What to do this summer: Paddleboarding, theme parks, splash pads