Living Well

Plan the Perfect Play-cation!

By Julie Andrews

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Life is beautiful, life is short, and let's be honest: Kids and adults alike deserve a bigger serving of playtime. Why wait till that dreamy mid-July vacation to get it? With the new season unfurling all around, there are a ton of opportunities to spend fun-packed days with the family locally.

So go ahead, request your play-cation days off (you earned them!) and plan the ultimate activity-loaded three days of bonding with the family. Kick these ideas around for inspiration and tweak the plan to center on your child's budding passions.

Day 1: Culture Cue

Dedicate this day to exploring the arts in all vibrant iterations, from sculptures to dance and music. The plan: Seek creative inspiration, then replicate it.

  • 9 a.m.: Dedicate the morning to museums. Don’t limit yourself to classical paintings -- try that technology or crafts collection you’ve never seen before.
  • Noon: Break for lunch at a locally owned small business. Call ahead to see if the owner can talk with you and your child about how they created the menu, the logo and the name, and how they prepare the foods -- all creative endeavors, of course! Try to wrangle a quick tour of the kitchen too.
  • 3 p.m.: Why not coax out your inner Picasso together? The afternoon is all about participation. Take a painting class at a local arts school or studio -- or try pottery writing, dance or even improv! The sky’s the limit when exploring your creativity together. You can search classes by zip code at
  • 6 p.m.: Still up for more? Pay homage to the pros by going to dinner theater, a play, a musical or a concert.

Day 2: Outdoor Tour

This day is all about being active and exploring the great outdoors. The plan: Go out and play all day!

  • 9 a.m.: Start the day at a juice bar -- active bodies require nutrient-packed nourishment. Then rent bikes, tie on skates, toss a flying disc or grab tennis rackets and hit the park.
  • Noon: Pack a picnic lunch and leisurely munch outside.
  • 3 p.m.: In the afternoon, check out memorials to sports -- such as a baseball hall of fame or stadiums offering tours. You could also try a new sport, like handball, or take a dip at a public swimming pool.
  • 6 p.m.: Nab tickets to your child's game of choice and sport your team's colors as you cheer.

Day 3: Simple R&R

After traipsing around town for two days, it’s time to relish another favorite vacation pleasure: much-needed rest. The plan: Tune out the hustle and bustle, and get the quiet downtime that boosts bonding and wellness. It's all about cultivating appreciation for the simple delights (napping highly encouraged).

  • 9 a.m.: Skip the alarm clock and sleep in late.
  • Noon (… or maybe a little earlier): Set a cooking date and meet in the kitchen to whip up breakfast together. Strict dress code: your wackiest jammies and fluffy slippers.
  • 3 p.m.: Dive into DIY mother-daughter primping (think: manis, pedis and face masks) if you have a little girl. Or delve into hiking, garden planting or birdhouse building together. If you want to venture out, you can also take a stroll at the zoo or aquarium, or peruse a local bookstore or library and flip through magazines.
  • 6 p.m.: Watch movies with takeout requiring chopsticks and homemade popcorn. Pick a movie-marathon theme, from comedy to adventure, chick flicks or old black-and-whites. Then laugh -- or cry -- your eyes out!

Julie Andrews is a freelance writer based in New York City. She has worked at, SHAPE and Elle, and her articles have appeared on, Yahoo and MSN. She writes frequently for Ideas That Spark.

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