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The Ultimate Summer 2024 Bucket List for Hostellers

Summer’s always better with a bucket list. Whether you’re feeling nostalgic, adventurous, reflective, or ambitious this summer, this list will help you make the most of it all over the U.S.

1. Go Swimming

a polaroid photo of Ohio Street Beach in Chicago, IL.

From the Pacific to the Atlantic (and even in between), try cooling off at one of these seven sweet spots to go swimming this summer.

2. Bonfire with S’mores

a polaroid of a hand with light blue nail polish holding a s'more in front of a bonfire

Head west to Ocean Beach in San Francisco or Ocean Beach (unrelated) in San Diego to light up the night. Both beaches offer free first-come, first-served access to dedicated fire rings on the sand. Just bring your own firewood and s’more fixings, and remember to pack out anything you pack in. If your aspirations outpace your motivation to build your own fire, try roasting your marshmallows over the fire pit in HI Hyannis Hostel’s backyard.

3. Keep a Journal

a polaroid of a woman in a white dress writing in a journal while sitting on a black-and-white-striped bench

You’re going to want to remember this summer in all its detailed glory. So if you haven’t already, it’s time to start a journal – especially while you’re traveling.

4. Learn a New Language

dozens of colorful international flags hanging from the ceiling

Not sure which one to choose? Meeting people from other countries is great inspiration.

5. Make a New Friend

a young woman holds up her fingers in a peace sign while riding piggy-back on her friend's back on the street at nighttime

In fact, while you’re learning about travelers from other countries and cultures, you may just find yourself with a new friend to go visit abroad so you can practice your language skills.

6. Go on a Road Trip

a polaroid taken from the back seat of a car on a roadtrip

Whether you’re looking for planning tips or itineraries, we’ve got a few suggestions.

7. Go for a Hike

a woman in a baseball hat, tank top, and shorts sits on a boulder at the top of a mountain in San Diego

Sunset Cliffs in San Diego, Bernal Heights Hill in San Francisco, and Spectacle Island in Boston are perfect intro-level hikes that will give you amazing views without draining your energy for the whole day. For something more challenging, try Mount Tamalpais (just north of San Francisco), Temescal Canyon in Los Angeles, or Mission Trails Regional Park (about 20 minutes from HI San Diego Downtown Hostel).

8. Go Kayaking

a polaroid taken from behind of a woman with a ponytail kayaking at sunset with the Boston skyline in the background

We love the city skyline views you get while paddling the Chicago River in Chicago and the Charles River in Boston.

9. Build a Sandcastle

a polaroid of an intricate sandcastle

San Diego’s Coronado Beach is arguably one of the best places in the world to build a sandcastle: it even hosts a competition for master sand sculptors every summer during its annual Sun & Sea Festival. From HI San Diego Downtown Hostel, grab a bus or ferry to Coronado Island for some serious artistic inspiration during the week of the festival, or try your own hand at sandcastle construction any time on the beach in front of the famous Hotel del Coronado.

10. Go to a Music Festival

a polaroid photo of a young man on a friend's shoulders in a crowd at a music festival with stage lights in front of him

Lollapalooza, Boston Calling, Governor’s Ball, Outside Lands… if you’ve got tickets, we’ve got the best places for you and your friends to crash in Chicago, Boston, NYC, and San Francisco.

11. Stargazing

a polaroid photo of stars coming out in the dark blue night sky over a fluffy white cloud

About 50 miles south of San Francisco, you’ll find the 116-foot-tall Pigeon Point Lighthouse on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Why’s it such a perfect spot for stargazing? HI Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel, which sits at the foot of the lighthouse, has created a dark-sky environment that minimizes light pollution, benefiting local wildlife and visiting stargazers alike.

12. Have a Picnic

a white picnic blanket with glasses of rose wine, a baguette, and a cutting board covered in olives and crackers

Try the Boston Public Garden, NYC’s Central Park, or Millennium Park in Chicago for that classic oasis-in-a-big-city experience. In New Orleans, venture out to lovely City Park (you can even make a whole day of it), and in San Francisco, try Alamo Square Park, a neighborhood favorite overlooking some of the city’s most famous scenery.

13. Watch a Sunrise

a hand holding up a seashell on the beach with sunrise in the background

Outer Cape Cod is uniquely positioned so you can watch the sun both rise and set over the ocean. Early in the morning, watch the sunrise on the shores of the Atlantic. Later in the evening, head over to the beaches along Cape Cod Bay for spectacular sunset viewing. In the afternoon, relax on secluded Ballston Beach just downhill from nearby HI Truro Hostel.

14. Beach Volleyball

a polaroid photo of a group of people playing beach volleyball with palm trees in the background

OK, tell the truth: do sports on the beach immediately make you think of Top Gun? There’s a reason those beach volleyball and football scenes take place in San Diego. If you want to reenact them, the city’s Ocean Beach volleyball courts are your best bet.

15. Learn How to Surf

a polaroid photo of surfboard fins pointing up in the sane

Spend a few hours taking a beginner’s lesson through one of the surf schools at Pacific Beach, Mission Beach, or Ocean Beach in San Diego. Summer’s the perfect time to try surfing here for the first time, since the waves are typically smaller this time of year and the water’s warmer. In Northern California, Linda Mar beach in Pacifica is also a favorite among beginner surfers. Book a lesson at Norcal Surf Shop (it includes a wetsuit, board, and instruction), then grab lunch afterwards at the world’s most beautiful Taco Bell, right on the beach. It’s just a quick drive from HI Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel, where you can wake up to the waves of the Pacific right outside your window.

16. See a Drive-In Movie

a polaroid photo of the marquee at the wellfleet drive-in theater in cape cod MA

Few activities are as nostalgic as going to a drive-in movie, even if you’ve never been to one in your life (they are pretty hard to find these days). In the town of Wellfleet on Outer Cape Cod, you’ll find one of the last of its kind: a 1957 gem where you can see a double feature, grab an ice cream cone, and even play a round of mini golf.

17. Go on a Boat

a polaroid photo of a public ferry on the water going by the Manhattan Bridge in New York City

It’s wild that in New York City, you can get some of the best sightseeing done just by riding public transportation. During the summer, don’t skip a ride on one of the city’s very scenic (and very cheap) public ferries. The Staten Island Ferry gets you a great view of the Statue of Liberty, and the Governor’s Island Ferry whisks you out to a spectacular city park with panoramic views of Lower Manhattan. For more views of Manhattan and Brooklyn from the water, check out NYC Ferry system’s East River route.

18. Bike Rides

a polaroid photo of a man riding across the brooklyn bridge on a citibike bike share bicycle

Can we suggest you start with a ride across the Brooklyn Bridge? If you’re looking for something longer, the Marvin Braude Bike Trail connects Santa Monica to Los Angeles’s other beach communities with 22 miles of flat, mostly waterfront paved path.

19. Berry Picking

Pick your own strawberries, blackberries, and more at one of several “U-Pick” farms near HI Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel. If you’d rather cut right to the part where you’re eating, you’ll find lots of roadside farm stands in the area, too, selling whatever’s in season.

20. Whale Watching

a polaroid photo of a breaching humpback whale

June, July, and August are prime months for spotting humpback whales off the coast of Cape Cod. Naturalist-guided cruises leave from Provincetown and Barnstable, a quick drive from HI Truro Hostel and HI Hyannis Hostel, respectively.

21. Thrift Shopping

a polaroid of three young women shopping at a thriftstore

Get a few blocks off of Bourbon Street and you’ll discover New Orleans is the thrifting paradise you never saw coming. In San Francisco, spend a morning browsing half a dozen amazing second-hand stores along upper Haight Street and you’ll be in a prime location to spend the rest of the day relaxing in Golden Gate Park.