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4 Classic Midwest Summer Activities You Need to Experience

Nothing beats summer in the Midwest. In an area of the country that experiences winter for about half the year, warm weather and sunny days are impossible to take for granted. Midwest summers are notoriously beautiful, as we are blessed with comfortable temperatures (think: 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit on average) and mid-level humidity.

No matter where I travel, there’s just something about Midwest summers. When June comes around, you’ll find the majority of Midwesterners outdoors, looking for any excuse to embrace the sunshine. As the days heat up, many of us will head for the water or out of town to lake houses further north to experience that aspirational lake life. 

If you want to experience a taste of a Midwest summer, I have a few recommendations for activities that can give you a sense of what the hype is all about.

Classic Midwest Summer Activities

Cook an entire meal over the campfire

Nobody does camping the way that Midwesterners do camping. We’re all about simplicity, focusing on nature instead of our actual campsite. At the end of the day, we make choices based on function, which is why learning how to cook a campfire meal is a key skill for the Midwest camper. Through a simple Google search (or an experimental mindset) you’ll find that you can cook just about anything over the campfire, from scrambled eggs and hot dogs to steak and even chocolate cake.

Tube down a river

Ask nearly any Midwesterner about their favorite thing to do on the water in the summer and you’ll hear this: tubing. Though tubing can also mean being pulled behind a boat on an inner tube, we prefer the more relaxed option - gathering up a group of your friends, packing a cooler with your favorite beverages, forming a tube caravan, and floating down a river. We’re partial to Sugar River here in Wisconsin, but we’re sure you can find a river close to you that is perfect for this activity. 

Play a hand of sheepshead or euchre while drinking an Old Fashioned 

Supper club culture is huge in the Midwest, and some of those iconic traditions have found their way into our idea of a perfect summer day. When I think of a day spent in a cabin up north in the summer, that vision always ends with a round of cards, a bit of a sunburn from a day spent on the water, a well-mixed drink in hand, and the singular sounds of frogs croaking in the distance, fireflies lighting up the dark from time to time.

Swim (or boat!) on the Great Lakes

The Midwest is home to the 21% of the world’s freshwater supply in the Great Lakes, and our proximity to these beautiful resources is pretty advantageous in the summer months. We hit the road and head to our nearest Great Lake, find a beach, and spend the day soaking up the sun and jumping headfirst into the clear water. If we’re lucky enough, we have access to a boat and can take part in water sports or leisurely glide through the water in a pontoon.

Midwest summers are iconic, and for good reason. Because we spend so much of the year dealing with cooler temperatures (and even blizzard conditions), we do everything possible to take advantage of warmer summer months, to enjoy the beautiful weather, and get out in nature. Try the activities I’ve listed above to get a taste of Midwest summer for yourself.

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