Honking horns, crowded trails, and crying kids: Memorial Day is approaching, and people are flocking to the great outdoors. But if the stress and hassle of fighting crowds at campsites doesn't light your fire, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy nature over the holiday.
Just being outside is good for people: research indicates that those who spend at least two hours outdoors per week were significantly more likely to report positive health and well-being than those who didn't spend any time outside. So, skip the stress this Memorial Day and try out one of these off the beaten path suggestions for a fun, calm, and memorable weekend experience.
Visit Quirky Places
Instead of hitting up your area's local park, historical spot, or tourist attraction, try out something a little different—like visiting a fish hatchery. Many states have multiple fish hatchery locations open to the public. New York, for example, operates 12 fish hatcheries that raise millions of brook, brown, and rainbow trout annually for distribution into more than 1,200 public streams, rivers, lakes and ponds across the state. Hatcheries usually have information about the fish on display and plenty of viewing opportunities.
Plant a Garden
Gardening has a ton of wellness benefits: it can boost your mood, provide a way to exercise, increase Vitamin D, and of course bring the satisfaction of cultivating a lovely flower or vegetable garden. Memorial Day weekend is the perfect time to start a garden that can last a lifetime. It's early enough in the spring that the plants have time to grow, but late enough that the threat of an overnight frost is most likely past.
It doesn't matter what type of garden you choose to make. The point is to get those hands in the dirt and reap the benefits of the work!
Start a DIY Project
If there is a project that you've been meaning to get to but never quite seem to have the time, utilize Memorial Day weekend to finally get it done. Maybe it's building a DIY hunting blind or creating some custom camouflage for the waterfowl boat; tackle whatever needs your attention and gets you outside.
Host a Cookout
A surefire way to spend Memorial Day with only the people you really want to is to play host. Hosting a cookout can be a fantastic way to bring folks together to mingle, relax, and eat. Change things up by making it a potluck and encouraging everyone to bring something culturally significant to them. That way, people get to experience new flavors while learning more about each other. A shared meal is a recipe for happiness, according to researchers at the University of Oxford, who found that those who eat socially tend to feel more satisfied with life.
Have a Staycation
Instead of skipping town, enjoy time spent locally with a staycation. That means all the relaxation of a trip without the fuss of travel, plus a chance to enjoy your own community. A fun staycation could include hanging out in your own backyard or checking out local spots that you usually don't have time to explore. Try a restaurant that offers outdoor seating, take a hike at a local park, or try out a new fishing hole.
Try a New Trail
Grab a map and find a trail that you've never explored before. Make sure it is not one of the main routes that end up on every "best places to hike" list online. Those spots are favorites for a reason—but they're not so great if avoiding crowds is the goal. Choose one that has little to no press, pack up your hiking essentials, and enjoy the new scenery.
Go Camping—at Home
Get the benefits of sleeping under the stars without the frustration of a public campground by pitching a tent right in the backyard. This can be an awesome way to spend the weekend. The comforts of home are within reach, and yet the family can spend the night singing songs around the campfire and gazing up at the night sky. Win-win!
Pick Up Trash
One way to spend the weekend doing something good would be to organize a trash pickup challenge. Make it a good-natured competition and involve neighbors, friends, and family. Whatever group can fill up the most garbage bags wins! You'll all get the feel-good endorphins that come from good deeds, it's a chance to increase your conservation efforts, and you get to have fun.