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The Guide to Summer Fun

Have a Great Break without Breaking Your Budget

By Gini Kopecky Wallace

The Bard said it: Summer's lease really does have "all too short a date." Here's how to make the most of it without depleting your savings.

Heavenly Bodies

The night sky is filled with wonders, and all you have to do to enjoy them is look up. The Perseid meteor showers peak on August 12, says Frank Cianciolo, senior program coordinator for the McDonald Observatory Visitors Center in Austin, Texas. Get away from lights and start watching after

1 a.m. You could see two or three a minute. To learn more about the Perseids and other summer events—including June's low-transiting moon, July's three-star Summer Triangle, and the gathering of four planets in August—go to, and

Glorious Gardens

"There's always something in bloom at a public garden," says Madeline Quigley, of the American Public Gardens Association. At the New York Botanical Garden, June brings roses and tree lilac; July means daylilies and hydrangea, and August brings water lilies and lotus. "Many gardens also offer activities ranging from day camps, to concerts, to evening mixers with plant-inspired cocktails." Go to to search for public gardens by city and state or scroll listings. Visit for other garden events.

Fairs and Festivals

More than 750,000 visitors flocked to the Indiana State Fair last year to enjoy the midway rides, watermelon seed-spitting contests, and more. "And that was an off year because of the heat," says public relations manager Andy Klotz. Go to for a list of state fairs and links to their sites. Go to or to learn about other festivals across the country. And make sure to check out NEA Member Benefits Click 'n Save at for ticket discounts to all sorts of other summer attractions, especially water parks!

Pick Your Pleasure

Blake Slemmer's mother often took her kids to pick-your-own farms when he was little. "We'd pick blueberries, strawberries, peaches, and apples and help her and my grandmother make applesauce," says Slemmer, a Georgia software developer who created a farm information site at, now maintained by farmers and farm visitors.

Parks and Historic Sites

"When people think about visiting a national park, they usually think of the iconic natural parks—Grand Canyon and Yellowstone," says Laura Loomis, of the National Parks Conservation Association. "But there are 391 units in the national park system, and many are little known but very fascinating. About two-thirds preserve our cultural and historic heritage, and many don't charge." Go to to research destinations such as Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Pine Springs, Texas, which boasts the world's finest fossilized coral reef, and the house in Glen Echo, Maryland, that was home to Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross.


"It's fun, it's easy, all you need is a guide and binoculars, and it's a great way to get outdoors and hang out with family and friends," says Chuck Remington, director of Field Support for Audubon's Centers and Education division. Audubon maintains more than 40 nature centers offering programs for kids and adults. Go to to find them, read about top birding trails and what to watch for in different locales (the swallow-tailed kite in Florida, the trumpeter swan in Washington state), or learn birding basics. You needn't leave home to bird-watch, says Remington. Birds are everywhere. "The endangered pied-billed grebe makes its home in Brooklyn's Prospect Park."


Whatever your interests, there's an opportunity calling to you and a number of organizations eager to help you find it. At, you can search by interest, skills, language, location, time frame, and suitability for kids, adults, families, and/or groups. "There really is something for everyone," says Erin Barnhart, manager of Volunteerism Initiatives. "And during the summer, there are so many outdoor projects that let you get outside, make a contribution, and have a good time." Example: Barnhart's recent one-day volunteer outing with friends. "We went on a hike and helped clean up trails. We had a blast." Other good sites to visit:,, and

Buzz Off! Best Ways To Keep Mosquitoes at Bay

Need ideas for fending off the pesky buggers? Retired Navy Medical Entomologist Joseph Conlon, technical advisor to the American Mosquito Control Association, reviews the options. Go to for more.


What You Can Do

Option 1 - Cover Up
Wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks whenever possible. Keep in mind that mosquitoes are drawn to dark colors and can bite through tight-fitting clothes.

Option 2 - Reduce Odors
Avoid perfumes, colognes, hair sprays, body lotions, and other scented products that may attract mosquitoes. Drinking alcohol can also attract them.

Option 3 - Be Still
Mosquitoes can detect carbon dioxide from human breath at a distance of 30 meters and home in on body heat and movement. Fidgety people make easier targets.

Joe Conlon says, "Sometimes women attract mosquitoes, possibly due to hormones. Sometimes men do, because they're larger and emit more carbon dioxide. If a woman wants to avoid bites, she should stand near a big, fidgety man—and vice versa."

TheGuide09.jpg Using Repellents

Option 1 - The Big Three
Only DEET (best), picaridin (close second) and oil of lemon eucalyptus (a plant product) are CDC-recommended as effective and EPA-approved for use on skin.

Option 2 - Lotions & Potions
Many essential oils, such as oil of clove, work only at strengths that smell bad and/or harm skin. Avon Skin-So-Soft repels slightly, mostly by creating a film barrier.

Option 3 - For Hunters & Campers
The U.S. military pre-treats camouflage outfits with permethrin, a potent repellent that lasts through multiple washings. Buy clothing at surplus stores.

Joe Conlon says, "The best repellent is the one you actually use, but caveat emptor. People make claims about all sorts of things that haven't been tested. Some swear by fabric softener sheets, but there's no evidence they work."

TheGuide12.jpg Wind, Smoke, & Fun Stuff

Option 1 - Citronella Candles & Mosquito Coils
Citronella candles don't work much better than smoke from any source. And, while coils work, they contain potent insecticides that can be toxic in enclosed spaces.

Option 2 - Wind Effects
Mosquitoes can't buck a breeze. To keep them off your deck or porch on still evenings and make it harder for them to track you, plug in an outdoor fan.

Option 3 - Gadgets & Gizmos
Electric zappers are a no-no—they mostly kill larger insects that birds and bats eat. And, while carbon-dioxide traps do work, they don't make a dent overall. Worst of all, misting systems promote resistance!

Joe Conlon says, "Salespeople say that the citrosa geranium and other plants repel mosquitoes when planted around a house. But any repellent would be in the oil, and you have to crush the leaves to get it out."

Photos: Meiko Arquillos; C Squared Studios; TV photo: Ivan Stevanovic; food items: Groff Creative, inc.

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