Summer activities offer fun, affordable ways to spend days
Opportunities for adventure, entertainnment and enlightenment abound in the long days of summer stretching out before us like a beach blanket.
Many of us have already made our bigger plans — a trip to Lake Tahoe, or to see relatives in Pennsylvania, maybe a cruise to Alaska.
But what about all those other days and evenings of leisure when you’ll be home?
Not to worry! The County of Santa Clara has a multitude of summer activities, programs and events for people of every age and inclination, none of which will break the bank. Newsbeat scoured many County websites to identify tips about what to do this summer, as well as resources to get you through the hot months safely. Just follow the links.
The very good outdoors
We would have titled this section “the great outdoors,” but there are some caveats and precautions we wanted to pass along as a reminder that certain (very manageable) hazards come along with summer activities.
Yes, we’re lucky in Santa Clara County to enjoy enviably low humidity, sea breezes that act as natural air conditioning, and spectacular scenery and amenities at our 28 regional County parks.
The Santa Clara County Department of Parks and Recreation hosts an abundance of summer activities just a short distance from any given corner of the county.
Go to ParkHere.org (or here for the Spanish version) for a full color brochure with an overview of each of the parks, complete with a handy matrix of summer activities that interest you, as well as a great map to orient you to where each park is located. Or use the interactive park finder.
So, what activities are there? Not much. Just easy, moderate and strenuous hiking, mountain biking (and velodrome), power boating, paddle boating/kayaking, camping (reservations), group camping, picnicking, group picnicking, fishing from a boat or onshore. Oh, and there’s a shooting range, a motorcycle park, horseback riding, golfing, historical sites, and on- and off-leash spots for the mutt.
What will you see? Just places dominated by redwoods, lakes and streams, rolling grasslands studded with oaks, all sorts of wildlife, scenic views of the valley, narrow-gauge train rides, mining ruins and a mining museum (or here).
But first, those caveats and tips for playing safely outdoors, just as we promised: beware of toxic algae blooms and ticks. Bring insect repellent, plenty of water and snacks, wear sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat.
And be sure to carry a trail map. There are plenty of places in the parks with no cellphone service. Tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back. If you get lost, stay put.
That should be enough to get you started. So go take a hike. And we mean that in the nicest possible way.
A whole summer of lounging around doing a whole lot of nothing leads to what researchers call the summer slump — where achievement actually declines between the end of school and the start of the new year. You don’t want that.
- County Library
To combat the slide, the Santa Clara County Library System has put together a wealth of programs to not merely get the kids out of the house, but also to flex those mental muscles. The calendar is searchable and sortable, and each event can be downloaded to your phone calendar.
Yes, there’s storytime for the little ones, but there are things for teens and adults, as well, such as conversational English for people trying to learn the language, book clubs for adults, computer skills workshops, arts and crafts, fitness classes and more.
Want to know what else is great about the long days of summer sunlight? Abundant, fresh, local produce for your table.
- Shop at the farmers markets
So head down to the county-certified farmers market near your home or work. You’ll be helping local growers, who grossed about $317 million in 2017. Preserving farmland, a big part of the County of Santa Clara’s innovative climate resilience plan.
You’ll get freshly picked, vine-ripened produce at a price that eliminates the middleman. As you support local farmers and the local economy, you can chat up the growers and find out where the food came from, how it was grown and how to prepare it.
- Dine out with confidence
You won’t be eating at home every night this summer, probably, especially when the weather is scorching. The County has your back there, too. Before you venture out to a restaurant you haven’t tried before, you might want to check out its handy inspection reports via the SCCDineOut app.
You know what’s not so great about summer eating and summer vacation? Not having enough to eat. A lack of access to healthy food is a growing problem for kids who are eligible for free and reduced price lunches at school.
- Don’t go hungry
That’s why the Santa Clara County Library District, the YMCA of Silicon Valley, and Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties are bringing free, nutritious meals to families South Santa Clara County again this summer through Aug. 2.
The Lunch in the Library program helps to fill that gap. Last summer SCCLD served 5,783 kids meals and 796 adults, a 42% increase from 2017. The federally-sponsored lunches will be served at Morgan Hill Library, Gilroy Library and the SCCLD Bookmobile’s program at San Martin/Gwinn Elementary School in San Martin.
“Childhood hunger is all too common in the summer,” said Mary Hoshiko Haughey, senior vice president of operations for the YMCA of Silicon Valley. “We are happy to help feed these families. No one should go hungry just because school is out.”
Eating at the library? Talk about brain food!
- Make a backyard compost pile
Composting is a year-round activity — at least for the worms and micro-organisms that happily do the rotten work of turning table scraps, yard waste and paper into a marvelous fertilizer. They couldn’t care less what season it is. But they can’t do their job unless you do yours, and summer is a good time to learn how to make a backyard compost pile.
What other time of the year do you and your kids have time on your hands to learn the ins and outs of this fun, cheap, easy and earth-friendly way of making great fertilizer for your plants and veggie garden?
Luckily, the UC Cooperative Extension Service’s Santa Clara County program offers regular workshops.
Our weather in the South Bay is generally fantastic for summer activities. But there are times when it’s dangerously hot, especially for very young children and older people who have no air conditioning. On such days, going for a nice, relaxing swim might be just the thing. Not everyone, however, has access to a pool when they could most use it. If that’s the case, the next best thing may be to head over to any of the seven oh-so-cool community libraries to escape the worst of the furnace.
But if you can’t do that, you can take a cool shower or bath, and you must drink plenty of water even if you don’t feel thirsty. For a list of more cooling centers and hot-weather survival tips from the County of Santa Clara, go here. And if you know anyone who’s vulnerable, please check up on them.
Just as parents need to spend time bonding with a new baby, so too do families need to spend time with their new pet. That’s what makes summer a great time to adopt a puppy or kitten. You’ll all have more time to train the animal than you would at any other time of the year, and there may be more people around to pitch in. Why not stop by the no-kill County Animal Shelter in San Martin and let the friendly staff help you pick out your next companion?
The County of Santa Clara provides an immense array of services, but few of them are of the high profile variety like the Sheriff’s Office and County Fire.
Some of these County agencies provide safety net services that never have occasion have the misfortune to need in our prosperous region. They feed the poor, heal and comfort the sick in mind and body, clothe and shelter the naked and homeless. At least some of these you might hear about occasionally.
But then there is a whole other set of services that most of us never think about and/or take for granted. They quietly monitor and suppress disease-carrying vectors like mosquitoes. Routine inspections protect consumers from unscrupulous trade and tainted food. County workers keep our waterways pollution-free and help fight climate change.
Many County programs, however, are highly reliant on community partners and volunteers. Without them, either the services would be nonexistent, far less effective or far more expensive. And we’d all be the worse for it.
So why not use these summer days to give a little something back by volunteering for a County program? Lots of people think about it and never do it. Some may figure the problems are so big that their efforts wouldn’t amount to much. Others may be torn about what they want to work on, or whether they have the skills or fortitude required.
Whatever the reason for hesitation, there is no reason not to start somewhere. After all, some pretty smart people have noted that acts of selflessness are their own reward.
As Mahatma Gandhi put it: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”