The Ultimate Summer-in-California Bucket List 

Summertime in California bingo card with graphic icons
(Illustration by California News Press)

(+ a free printable “Summertime in California” bingo card!)

School’s out and summer is officially here, so it’s time to get outdoors and enjoy all that the sunniest season has to offer. In California, we’re spoiled with incredible opportunities for outdoor fun, from beach days to mountain hikes, and sometimes just a nice neighborhood stroll. Summertime’s best treats beckon as well, so be sure to support your local strawberry grower, churro vendor or winemaker. 

Early summer is primetime, with oodles of daylight and still some weeks to go before the heat gets really intense. Cram in as many of our California bucket list items as you can while the season is as pleasant as can be. And just for fun, here’s a free, printable “Summertime in California” bingo card to help you make the most of it. 

Summertime in California bingo card with graphic icons

Summertime in California Bingo Card Key

Here’s the key to all the items you could be checking off to complete our Summertime in California bucket list.

Graphic icon of a tree, a square on the summer in California bingo card bucket list

Hug a Tree

Show some appreciation for the magnificent trees that beautify our landscapes, provide shade and habitats for countless creatures, and produce the very oxygen we breathe. You don’t have to literally hug a tree, but this summer, seek out some beautiful specimens and show them some mindful admiration. 

Did you know? California is home to the tallest trees in the world (coast redwoods), the largest living organisms on Earth (giant sequoias) and the oldest known organism on Earth (a bristlecone pine named Methuselah). 

Graphic icon of strawberries on the summer in California bingo card bucket list

Eat Strawberries

Summer is peak strawberry season, when the deliciously sweet and juicy fruit puts all other seasons’ offerings to shame. Stop by a roadside farm stand for the freshest berries, or grab a California-grown pack from the supermarket. Then, the race is on to wash and eat them before they turn bad – an avoidable tragedy! 

Strawberries are one of California’s most important crops, and the third-highest grossing product in the state. California farmers produce 90% of all the fresh strawberries grown in the United States. Major strawberry growing regions are in California are Salinas, Watsonville, Santa Maria, Oxnard and Orange County. Ventura County celebrates the crop each year with its California Strawberry Festival.

Graphic icon of mountains, featured on the summer in California bingo card and bucket list

Go to the Mountains

All of California is within a reasonable driving distance of at least one mountain range, where cooler temperatures call out to anyone suffering in the summer heat. Nowhere experiences this more dramatically than the Coachella Valley, where a remarkable gondola can whisk you up 6,000 feet from triple-digit misery to the cool, shady forests of Mount San Jacinto in a matter of minutes. 

Summer is the off-season for ski resort destinations like Big Bear, Mammoth Mountain and Lake Tahoe, but it’s an exceptional time to experience the majesty of the mountains. 

Graphic icon of a California poppy, featured on the summer in California bingo card and bucket list

Spot a California Poppy

California’s official state flower, with its bright orange color symbolizing the Golden State, might be at its peak in springtime, but you can still spot the beautiful beacons throughout the summer.

Look out for them along the sides of roads, across meadows and any open spaces, in local parks, and often private gardens as well. As the state flower, they also feature widely in logos and decorative motifs.

Graphic icon of a selfie stick in front of the Hollywood Sign, featured on the summer in California bingo card and bucket list

Take a Selfie in Front of a Landmark

You can take a selfie anywhere at all, but doing it in front of an iconic landmark is always a satisfying moment. Selfies can feel frivolous, but photos are the best way to capture memories of special times and places. They’re undeniably enjoyable to look through and share.

So, bring your selfie stick and practice the art of getting your own face and a famous landmark all within the same shot. Just a few photogenic gems include the Hollywood Sign in Griffith Park,  the Golden Gate Bridge (head to the Presidio Tunnel Tops for unrivaled views), and any waterfall. 

Graphic icon of flowers in a botanical garden, featured on the summer in California bingo card and bucket list

Stroll a Botanical Garden

If you can spare a little of your leisure time, embrace the idea that summertime is for strolling. You don’t want to walk too fast when it’s warm, and it’s delightful to wander through nature-rich spaces without any inclination to rush.

Botanical gardens are ideal for this type of sojourn, and perfect for photography, too. Check out these 12 beautiful botanical gardens in California and plan to visit one soon. 

Graphic icon of hiking boots, featured on the summer in California bingo card and bucket list

Go for a Hike

A kajillion or so miles of hiking trails are some of California’s greatest assets for outdoor adventures. Famous long-distance treks in the state include the Pacific Crest Trail, the John Muir Trail and the Tahoe Rim Trail. Such expeditions aren’t for most, but there are always shorter sections for day hikes. Plus, you have plentiful trails to discover close to home, wherever in the state that is.

Bring water, sun protection and sturdy footwear, and soak in the health and wellness benefits of even just a mile or two of hiking in the great outdoors.

Graphic icon of tacos, featured on the summer in California bingo card and bucket list

Eat Fish Tacos

Eating tacos this summer is not a tall order. You can do it. Probably more than once. They don’t have to be fish tacos, but those grilled or fried seafood morsels, spiked with lemon and soft against the crunch of slaw, are a true taste of summer.

Bonus points if you can see the ocean while you eat. 

Graphic icon of a thermometer reading 100 degrees, featured on the summer in California bingo card and bucket list

First 100°+ Day

It might have already happened, but the first time you see 100°F or higher on your dashboard, the local weather report, or the nearest bank’s electronic sign, stamp this summertime benchmark on your bingo card.

Climate crisis aside (because why would we want to address that?), increasing temperatures are always a good go-to for a small talk situation. 

Graphic icon of half dome in Yosemite national park, featured on the summer in California bingo card and bucket list

Visit a National or State Park

It’s not a competition, but California definitely has the best national parks and a pretty remarkable state park system as well. Summer is the only season when access to all nine national parks is relatively easy, although you might save that Death Valley trip for a less deadly season. Joshua Tree gets toasty, too.

Lassen Volcanic, Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon parks are only fully snow-free for a short time in summer. Channel Islands, Pinnacles and Redwood national parks are glorious year-round, but early summer is primetime for visitors.

Don’t forget California’s State Parks – all 279 of them. This summer there’s even a brand-new park to put on your list. Dos Rios State Park, the newest state park in California, opened in the Central Valley and is ready for summer visitors. We also love Olompali State Historic Park in the bay area. 

Graphic icon of a boat, featured on the summer in California bingo card and bucket list

Go on a Boat

It could be a speedboat, a kayak, SUP, rowboat, swan boat, luxury yacht… any boat at all, on any body of water. Feel the breeze, the splashes, the feeling of being in perfect balance between air and water, the sun above and cool depths below. You can’t beat the pleasure of being on a boat in summertime.

Head to a lake – perhaps Lake San Marcos in San Diego County, or the historic M.S. Dixie paddle-wheeler on Lake Tahoe – or ride one of the state’s meandering rivers on an inner tube. If you’re in the Bay Area, how about a sunset sail in Sausalito

Graphic icon of the In-N-Out burger logo, featured on the summer in California bingo card and bucket list

Eat at In-N-Out

Sure, you can get a good burger anywhere this summer, but is it an iconic burger? Is it available animal style? Can you double-double it up? Do they also sell an incredible milkshake? Are their fries made from potatoes cut within eyeshot of the ordering line? No. For that, it has to be In-N-Out. 

Did you know that In-N-Out, one of SoCal’s most beloved burger chains, was founded in 1948 in Baldwin Park? The chain has now grown to over 300 locations across the west, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to check this item off on your summertime in California bucket list. 

Graphic icon of a US-101 sign, featured on the summer in California bingo card and bucket list

Travel on US-101

Coastal dwellers might drive on US Route 101 daily, associating it with a dreaded commute or day-to-day errands. But for summer travels, try to appreciate the route as a transportation triumph – an invitation to drive along the entire Pacific coast of California (and beyond!). 

OK, driving the entire coast is quite the trip – US-101 runs from the heart of Los Angeles all the way to the Oregon border – but you can pick any section and hit the road. Some especially beautiful stretches take you through the Santa Ynez Mountains, across the Golden Gate Bridge, through the wine country around the Russian River, and into Humboldt Redwoods State Park. 

Graphic icon of a road trip, featured on the summer in California bingo card and bucket list

Road Trip!

A summertime rite of passage, road trips are all but essential for anyone with a little time to spare and some wanderlust to satisfy. The best things about road trips are the chance to be spontaneous, customize every part of your itinerary, and visit multiple destinations with ease.

Head to your long-time favorite getaway spots, or find somewhere new on our list of seven must-see destinations in California

Graphic icon of a beer glass, featured on the summer in California bingo card and bucket list

Drink a Local Brew

California wines get a lot of attention, but beer drinkers are spoiled for choice here as well. Every region boasts its own local microbrew scene, with San Diego and San Francisco hosting some of the better known California breweries.

Visit a local brewery for a sample session, find a restaurant with lots of local brews on tap, or take a look at the local labels available at the store. You might discover a new favorite.

Graphic icon of the Interstate 5 sign, featured on the summer in California bingo card and bucket list

Travel on I-5

It’s nobody’s favorite freeway (why do the big trucks have to pass each other so slowly – is it fun for them?) but driving on Interstate 5 is the fastest way to travel north or south through the heart of California. Fortunately, the destinations you can access via I-5 are more appealing than the road.

Sacramento is full of top tourist attractions and has a celebrated dining scene. Downtown San Diego is 5-adjacent. So is Modesto with its murals and almond orchards, and Visalia, a historic city and gateway to the Sierras.

Graphic icon of a beach scene, featured on the summer in California bingo card and bucket list

Beach Day

California’s coastline is 3,427 miles long and features almost every type of beach you could desire: secluded and windswept; golden sands around a balmy cove; beaches flanked by dramatic rock formations; and hot spots lined with ice cream vendors, surf shacks and crowds of playful sun-seekers.

Plan a day trip or weekend away to a famous California beach town like Laguna Beach, Malibu, Ventura/Oxnard, Pismo or Santa Cruz. Or, just head west and don’t stop until you see the sand.

Graphic icon of a swimmer, featured on the summer in California bingo card and bucket list

Go Swimming

The bingo square for swimming doesn’t require you to actually swim laps. Lounging in a pool counts as well. Simply submerge yourself in an artificial body of water and beat the heat.

If you don’t have access to a pool, try your local recreation center or YMCA. Some resorts offer day passes to locals.

Graphic icon of a roller coaster, a square on the summer in California bingo card bucket list

Visit a Theme Park

A day at a theme park offers classic summertime fun, and Californians have plenty of options to consider.

In Southern California, there’s Legoland, Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Universal Studios and Six Flags Magic Mountain. There’s a Six Flags in Vallejo, too. The Bay Area has the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, Great America and Gilroy Gardens. These are just a few of the top theme parks in California.

Graphic icon of a bear in a pool, featured on the summer in California bingo card and bucket list

Bear in a Pool Sighting

A favorite summertime tradition in California is seeing a bear take a soak in someone’s backyard pool on the local news. It’s adorable! It’s kind of scary for the homeowner and anyone living nearby!

Bears – they’re just like us, but they don’t have to ask nicely before taking a cool dip a neighbor’s pool. 

Graphic icon of churros, featured on the summer in California bingo card and bucket list

Eat Churros

Want a sweet summertime treat? How about a donut-prism stick or three? Churros are delicious, but even more so when you eat them during a fun summer outing.

Combine this bingo-card square with another one, perhaps walking on a pier, going to the beach, or hitting the theme park. 

Graphic icon of a pier, featured on the summer in California bingo card and bucket list

Walk Along a Pier

What is the true purpose of a pier? Boating logistics? Fishing? No – it’s giving people a place to walk over the water, peek at the depths between weathered wooden boards, and feel the ocean breeze at its finest.

There are some iconic and visitor-friendly piers along the California coast, among them Santa Monica Pier with its theme park, Santa Barbara’s Stearns Wharf with museums, restaurants and souvenir shops, and San Francisco’s famous Pier 39, jam-packed with tourist attractions. You might prefer a more minimalist, crowd-free pier walking experience, and there are plenty of options for that as well. (RIP, Seacliff pier.)

Graphic icon of a wine bottle and glasses as a square on the summer in California bingo card bucket list

Go Wine Tasting

End your summer singing “thank you for your wine, California” after sampling some of the world-class wines produced across the state. You could visit the most famous wine country in California around Napa and Calistoga, but don’t overlook the various other wine regions. They span from SoCal’s Temecula to Paso Robles along the Central Coast and beyond.

There are also certainly some great wine bars in your hometown. You also have the option to pick up a few local labels and host your own tasting session. Let’s be clear: this is different to just drinking wine at home; it’s a sophisticated wine-tasting experience.

Graphic icon representing brunch, featured on the summer in California bingo card and bucket list


This one’s easy to check off your summer in California bucket list – eat brunch! Ideally with friends at a charming cafe, sitting outdoors in the sunshine, sipping some kind of elaborate drinks with garnishes. 

Did we miss any essential summer-in-California experiences? Let us know in the comments below.

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