How Americans Will Spend Their Time Outside This Summer

By Kevin Roth | Posted on June 6, 2016

Favorite-Summer-Activities-Infographic-FINALThe cold of last winter is now just a faded memory. The sun has come out and the warm weather is here. That can only mean that summer has arrived and it is time to go outside. 
With longer days, schools closed, and vacations scheduled, Americans are heading outside, whether it is to improve their health, connect with nature, or to meet up with some friends and family. And the place where many of these summertime activities are happening is one of many parks or recreation facilities offered by your agency.
To get a better sense as to how people across the nation are planning to spend the next couple months, NRPA asked 1,000 American adults about their favorite summertime outdoor activities. Virtually every answer they gave us are activities that will be happening at local public parks this summer.
The top five favorite summertime activities are:
  1. Having a picnic/barbeque (55 percent of survey respondents)
  2. Going for a walk/hike (49 percent)
  3. Going to the beach (40 percent)
  4. Exploring nature (36 percent)
  5. Attending festivals (30 percent)
Favorite activities differ by the age of the survey respondent. For example, the summer outdoor plans of Millennials are more likely than Baby Boomers to include going to the pool, going camping, working out (e.g., running) and playing sports. On the other hand, Boomers are more likely to make outdoor summer plans that include having a picnic/barbeque, going for a walk/hike, and exploring nature.  
Similarly, adults living with children are more likely than those without children to plan trips to the pool, schedule camping outings, get in some boating/other water activities and participate in sports. At the same time, households without children are more likely those than with children to be looking forward to picnics/barbeques, going for walks/hikes and exploring nature. 
That so many of these outdoor activities will be taking place at local public parks speaks well about our mission to serve the community. Park and recreation agency facilities provide people with free or low-cost access to the outdoors, whether it is a park in the local neighborhood or a trail network across town. Parks are open to all and bring people across differing social-economic groups together into a united community.  
The enthusiasm for outdoor activities and for local parks is not surprising as these survey findings match those from a broader report NRPA released earlier this year. That report — Americans’ Broad-Based Support for Local Recreation and Park Services — found seven in 10 Americans go to their local parks, with more than eight in 10 saying they personally benefit from their local parks and more than nine in 10 agreeing that their communities benefit from parks. This passion for local parks — and for what they offer to ourselves and to the community as a whole — spans across virtually every demographic groups.  
Local park and recreation agencies are already leaders for summertime fun. But we can further build upon this momentum by ensuring that offerings and programming at your agency’s park and recreation facilities match the needs and desire of local residents. That is where the NRPA Facility Market Reports come into play. These customized reports tell you about the residents who live a short walk or drive from your parks, fields, pools, trails or any other park and recreation facility you choose. And if you work for an NRPA Premier member agency, you can access a set number of these reports for free.
Your community is looking forward to this summer and plans to include local parks as a part of their outdoor activities. This is a tremendous opportunity to showcase all that your agency provides to its community. It’s also a great reminder to make sure you too get outside and have some fun this summer!
Kevin Roth is NRPA's Vice President of Research.