Essential Summer (The Circle Link-Up)featured

Essential Summer {the ponytail diaries}

What makes summer summer? Earlier this week I was wondering if I was being overly nostalgic or romanticizing the summers when I was a kid. After all, there were a lot of long days of boredom, filled with arguing with my brothers over whose turn it was to play MarioKart or whining to my parents because none of my friends were in town. There was also the massive heat wave that mercifully happened when I had my license and a car and I spent literally days shuffling back and forth between Barnes & Noble and Panera because those businesses had A/C.

But certain things always happened that punctuated summer — the vacations, the special events, the days that broke up the monotony and heat.

Want summer to feel like summer? According to me (and I’m an expert on this), you need:

Essential Summer {the ponytail diaries}

Time by the water

Lake, river, ocean, it doesn’t matter. A significant number of hours (preferably all jammed into one week) should be spent in a bikini, head buried in a trashy magazine, debating whether or not you’re hot enough to handle to frigid water. (Time on the water, as in, on a boat, raft, kayak, paddleboard/surfboard, or some other vessel that floats, is also essential.)

A good camping trip or two

I’m a recent convert to camping and I cannot wait to spend several nights in a tent this summer. You need a few days of skipping showers and eating outside and smelling like campfire smoke.

Also required: S’mores. (You’re killing me Smalls!)


At some point when I was a kid, my city stopped doing fireworks shows completely, so we had to start getting creative about seeing fireworks on the Fourth of July. I’ve seen them at county fairs and ball games and friends’ backyards and once, I took our dogs up to a street that overlooks the South Bay where I could see three separate fireworks shows from verrrrry far away.

An all-night movie marathon

Recommended titles: The Sandlot. Sixteen Candles. Dirty Dancing. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Roman Holiday. Harry Potter. The Goonies. Pirates of the Caribbean. National Lampoon’s Vacation. Ghostbusters. Grease. Make sure to have plenty of popcorn, drinks, and Rice Krispy treats on hand.

Essential Summer {the ponytail diaries}


Summer hikes can be tricky, I know, because of the potential heat. So you have to be smart about picking a trail and go early (leaving you plenty of time post-hike to stop at a brewery for lunch).

A ballgame

Day games are the best, when you can sit in the bleachers and enjoy some beer and garlic fries and a friendly game of mound ball.


Really, eating (and drinking) outdoors. Can be done at home or before a ballgame/concert.

County fair

It’s a long (and admittedly ridiculous) story, but I boycott the SD County Fair, but I loved going to the Alameda County Fair growing up. My parents would make us wait until the end of the day to go on the rides, so we’d go to the model train exhibit, see all the animals (the smelly part), watch the pig races, walk through the exhibition hall that displayed everything from decorated cakes to artwork to random collections people shared, eat some greasy fried food, watch the hypnotist or one of the free concerts, and then go ride the roller coaster and ferris wheel and that giant swing (which I think was always my favorite) and the bumper cars. And we’d convince my parents to buy us a bunch of cheap crap from the souvenir stands like princess hats and those invisible dog leashes and keychains with our initials on them. Oh, fairs are the best.

Essential Summer {the ponytail diaries}

Outdoor concerts

Whether it’s at a street fair or an outdoor amphitheater or a bar with a patio. Music. Outside. Dancing + singing along encouraged too.

Slurpees, popsicles, Otter Pops

Anything frozen and pumped full of sugar and artificial coloring.

Read an entire book outside in a single afternoon

Preferably in a hammock.


I guess any amusement park will do, but if you can make it to the Magic Kingdom for a day or two…well, you should. You need to spend a day where you could easily walk up to 10 miles without even noticing it, while eating kettle corn and churros and mouse-shaped ice cream sandwiches and soft pretzels and Dole Whip. Get to Splash Mountain early so you have plenty of time to dry off in the sun. Spend an hour playing on Tom Sawyer island, get photos with as many characters as you can, go on the “big rides” at night during the parades when the lines are shorter. And then you need to end the day with ice creams cones at the Carnation Plaza (except it’s not there any more. Sad face).

Linking up with Kiki for The Circle this month!

What are your summer essentials?
photo credits: Jason Ahrns // Ken Colwell // camknows (grilling) // Presidio of Monterey // Megan Trace // Jon Delorey // cc // modified in photoshop
  • Yes! All of these are such great ideas. I especially love the s’more part and the time by the water part. 🙂 Perfect!

    • Thanks Jenna! I was at a wedding a couple weeks ago that had a s’mores station towards the end of the night and it was just perfect 🙂

  • your list of what to do in Disney’s magic kingdom is spot on but i’m loving the whole list!

    • I love comparing how different people “do” Disneyland. Like my brother insists on eating churros from the vendor outside Tower of Terror in California Adventure — he claims those are the best churros in both parks.

  • YESSSSS! I am so with you and Jenna. Your list screams summertime. I’m especially with you on the movie marathon (I’ve never really done one before and they sound perfect for the hot summer afternoons!). 🙂

    Happy Summer and thanks for linking up! I love reading your posts!!

    • Thanks Kiki! I’m trying to convince my husband on a movie marathon. I think one day I might just build a fort in the living room before he comes home and have the movies cued up and ready to go 🙂