6 Outdoor Activity Ideas for Your Next Summer Friend-Date

Say no to another barbecue and do these instead.

PHOTOS: SHUTTERSTOCK; DESIGN BY MARISSA DICKSON

It’s the summer of re-socialization and we can’t wait to spend some in-person quality time with the friends and co-workers that we’ve only spoken to through a screen for the last year. But after a full day of working from home, cross-legged on our couches, the last thing we want to do is go sit at a restaurant, or awkwardly yell to each other over drinks at the bar. That’s why we’ve strategized a few active friend-date ideas to suggest the next time someone wants to “get together after work” this summer that will keep the conversation flowing. Because after a year of being cooped up inside, nothing feels better than having a genuinely good laugh with friends outdoors… and few things loosen you up faster than a little competition. 

Upgrade your barbecue and host a backyard tournament 

Beyond IRL conversations and a dedicated workspace, the pandemic taught us that backyards (even teeny ones) are not to be underestimated. And, if you’re lucky enough to have your own little patch of green space, you should be spending as much time soaking up the sunshine on it… full stop. Instead of bringing the group over for just burgers and dogs invite friends over with the added incentive of drinks and a backyard game tournament. Cornhole is straightforward enough for complete newbies to still get in on, but don’t forget classics like horseshoes or bocce, either. To make it extra fun, set your own house rules, like "You must have drink in hand" and provide your guests with a house drink when they walk in the door. A pitcher of Cape Codder is easy enough to make — all you need is ice, Ocean Spray® Cranberry Juice Cocktail, vodka, and lemon juice — and it's refreshing and perfect for a sunny day outside. Plus, after a few it makes it easier to laugh over how great (or, let’s be real, terrible) your throw is. 

Hunt down a local swimming hole 

A day at the beach is great… unless you’re sitting in standstill traffic trying to get there, fighting for a spot on the sand, only to realize you forgot to bring cash for a daily pass. Nix all that by heading to a local swimming hole instead: you may need to swap your flip flops for hiking boots to get there, but the “adventure” is half the fun. Pro tip: head out on a weekday if you can swing it, the best spots can get crowded on gorgeous summer weekends, and nothing ruins a day out faster than not being able to find parking. 

Channel your inner kid with a bike ride 

Can you remember the last time you just went biking for fun? Let me tell you, nothing feels more nostalgic than going on a joy ride with no destination in mind. Plus, with all the bike share services provided in cities across the country, it’s an affordable way for you to spend some QT with a friend. So make plans to meet up after work to explore your town or city, just be sure to wear comfy shoes and bring your phone in case you get a little lost. 

But the best part of a leisurely bike ride? It's a low-stress situation that doesn't require a ton of small talk — A.K.A. the perfect way to get reacquainted with a friend you haven't seen in a while. 

Play hookie and go tubing 

This is more of a “summer Friday” activity, but if you have a group of friends looking to get together, duck out of work early and suggest tubing down a river. Most prime spots have companies nearby that make it easy to rent a tube for the day and once launched, you’ll just be able to float down the river until you find a place you want to anchor. Veterans know that the best way to enjoy this activity is with a cooler of drinks that will float right alongside you — stock yours with a frozen bottle of Ocean Spray® Cran-Lemonade®. As it thaws you can pour the slushy liquid into your rambler with gin for refreshing cocktails on-the-move (no extra ice required). And while drinks are the most important part of this summer activity, SPF is a very close second. 

Join (or start) a Spikeball league 

In a quest to meet new neighbors (I, like many others, moved last year), I’ve discovered that it only takes stumbling into a local park during a summer evening to feel instantly transported back to your college quad. There is always a group of people partaking in some type of game, but the one the rallies the biggest crowd would have to be Spikeball. Invest in your own Spikeball kit and grab a friend to kick off your own game. You'll just need to pick up two more people to play a match. Before you start stressing, you don’t need to be an actual athlete to play in a pick-up game of Spikeball, (plus, socializing with strangers is so much easier when you’re bonding over a missed spike or an awesome fake). Don't forget to bring a mini-cooler filled with Ocean Spray® Cran-Energy Raz ®  to reward your new friends after the match. 

Go for an easy hike . . . also known as a walk

If you’re like me (read: not athletic), the word “hike” triggers immediate shudders, but there are likely a ton of walking paths near you that make for pretty, scenic strolls. Bonus: the “let’s go for a walk” suggestion works for any time of day. A morning coffee walk or a quick stroll during lunch is the perfect suggestion for co-workers who just want to touch base, plus you have the built-in excuse of “time to get back to work” when the conversation dries up. But if you really like the person, suggest going after work instead. Pack a backpack of snacks and a thermos of summery Ocean Spray ® mocktails to stop and enjoy along the way.