Your Summer Food and Drink Bucket List
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50 Things You Need to Eat, Drink and Do This Summer

We’ve got your summer bucket list
Your Summer Food and Drink Bucket List
ViewApart / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Summer is the best. The days are warmer, longer and just happier. In addition to beach days and family vacations, summer is also one of the best seasons for eating and drinking. There’s ample produce ripe for the picking (and cooking), and it’s prime patio season for restaurants, bars, breweries and wineries.

Your Summer Foodie Bucket List Checklist

It can be hard to know where to even start with the summertime culinary fun, but don’t worry, we have your summer foodie bucket list of 50 fun and filling activities. Want a cute printable version to hang on the fridge? Click here.

'Cook' an entire meal without cooking

Make an entire meal without cooking
Courtesy of Emily Paster

Summer is hot and summer is busy. So forget the oven and make your entire meal out of no-cook dishes for hot days. Think poke, cucumber salad, crudite and more refreshing summertime dishes.

Grill

Grill
Katherine Martinelli/The Daily Meal

Turning on your oven in the summer is a major drag so cook as many meals as you can outside! It doesn’t matter if you want to grill chicken, steak, shrimp or all three on kebabs.

Reinvent the salad

Reinvent the salad
Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune; Shannon Kinsella/food styling

Salads are a great summertime dinner: they’re light, easy to make and don’t require much cooking. But don’t relegate yourself to a grilled chicken salad every night of the week, have some fun with your salad recipes. If you’re bored with lettuce, try these creative twists on a “salad.”

Perfect your guacamole recipe

Perfect your guacamole recipe
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Guacamole is a go-to party food any time of the year, but there’s something especially satisfying about this creamy, cold dip in the summertime. Learn the basics of making a great guac and then play around with the flavors. Mix in tomatoes or jalapenos, or get more creative with roasted garlic, bacon or beans in your avocado dip. 

Make salsa

Make salsa
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Salsa is the perfect summertime snack. It’s refreshing, it’s fresh, and it can be made entirely from fresh seasonal produce. Don’t believe us? Try these easy summer salsa and dip recipes.

Eat a lobster roll

Eat a lobster roll
Eberly Film Labs/The Daily Meal, styling by Shannon Kinsella

Lobster rolls are one of the best sandwiches, period, and they’re a fitting beachy eat for the summer. Get some crustaceans, make your own lobster roll this summer and recreate the feeling of being at a seafood shack.

Try a new kind of sausage on the grill

Try a new kind of sausage on the grill
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We love a good bratwurst as much as the next person, but take this summer to go to a local butcher or an international grocery store to try a new-to-you type of sausage to make on the grill. So whether you get a cherry-stuffed sausage, longaniza, chorizo, or even plant-based, think beyond brats and Italian sausage this summer.

Craft an all-vegan meal

Make an all-vegan meal
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It’s never been more exciting to be a plant-based eater than it is right now, so channel Meatless Monday this summer by making some incredible vegan eats. Of course, you can still have all those summery flavors with some grilled vegetable and fruit recipes.

Whip up a batch of cold soup

Make a cold soup
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You may think of soups and stews as a hot, hearty meal for winter months, but soups can also be a refreshing, light meal for the hottest days of the year. Gazpacho is a total summer classic, but you can also make black bean soup and vegetable soup for cool meals.

Pickle something

Pickle something
Jacqui Wedewer/The Daily Meal

Nothing goes with chargrilled burgers or hot dogs quite like pickled veggies so pickle something yourself this summer using your garden’s bounty! Bread and butter pickles are a classic option, but if you aren’t feeling cucumbers, you can pickle green beans, jalapenos, onions or cauliflower.

Make ice pops

Make ice pops
Courtesy of Choose Cherries

Why buy ice pops at the grocery store when you can make them yourself? You can recreate many favorite frozen treats at home, whether you like a fudge bar, strawberry lemonade pop or cherry popsicle. Making these is fun for the whole family.

Bake a pie

Bake a pie
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Summer’s plentiful produce and many holidays combined only mean one thing: it’s pie season. Bake some of the best-ever pies this summer, like a strawberry pie, blackberry pie, cherry pie or key lime pie.

Build an icebox cake

Make an icebox cake
Courtesy of Chelsea Lords

Icebox cakes — old-fashioned, no-bake desserts — are the perfect sweet to take to any gathering (or eat alone) during the hottest months of the year. So whip up this retro recipe and enjoy!

Make ice cream

Make ice cream
Courtesy of McCormick

Everyone loves ice cream! But did you know you can easily make this summertime dessert at home? You don’t need an ice cream maker to do it, either. You can keep it simple with a strawberry soft serve or a kid-friendly cake batter ice cream, or get creative with PB&J-inspired ice cream or a unique goat cheese ice cream.

Cook dessert on the grill

Grill dessert
Courtesy of McCormick

You’ve grilled your meats and veggies but there’s a certain pleasure in grilling your desserts, too. You can keep it simple and make grilled watermelon or grilled mango, or have a fun night with a grilled s’more skillet.

Pick your own fruit

Pick your own fruit
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You may associate picking your own fruit with apples in the fall, but you still can head to an orchard in the summer and get any number of berries straight off the vine. Of course, nothing is better than a sun-kissed strawberry or blueberry you picked yourself.

Buy your groceries at a farmers market

Buy your groceries at a farmers market
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There’s a certain pleasure in shopping and cooking locally so talk to the vendors at your farmers market and buy some new-to-you seasonal ingredients. Then make your dinner completely from regional produce and proteins. You’ll be surprised how pronounced and fresh the flavors are.

Grow your garden

Grow your garden
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If you haven’t gotten around to it yet, summer is the time to get your garden growing. Beans, cucumbers, peppers, gourds, pumpkins and tomatoes are all classic home-garden plants. Of course, planting herbs like parsley, cilantro, dill and mint can be total game-changers, adding a lot of freshness to your weeknight meals.

Pick the perfect watermelon

Pick the perfect watermelon
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Summer is the best season for fruit, and refreshing, sweet and hydrating watermelon is the best kind of summer eat. But before you buy this big ol’ fruit, it’s important to know how to pick the perfect watermelon.

Cook with cherries

Eat cherries
Courtesy of In The Raw® brand

Few fruits compare to cherries in the summer. They’re tart, sweet and bite-sized, making for perfect summertime snacking. Prefer your fruit cooked? Luckily, cherries are the base for some delicious desserts.

Bake with blueberries

Bake with blueberries
Jacqui Wedewer/The Daily Meal

Blueberries are a nutritious and delicious summertime fruit, but these little gems shine when incorporated in delicious baked goods. So get your apron on and whip up some blueberry banana bread, blueberry muffins and blueberry scones.

Eat all the fresh tomatoes

Eat all the fresh tomatoes
Courtesy of Seasonal Cravings

When summer comes around, gardens and farmers markets are practically overflowing with vine-ripened tomatoes. Use them to their fullest by prepping a simple basil and tomato salad or a crisp tomato and cucumber salad. If you want tomatoes to shine as the main course, use them for that viral tomato and feta pasta recipe or in a homemade tomato sauce for pasta.

Grill corn

Grill corn
Eberly Film Labs for The Daily Meal; Shannon Kinsella/food styling

If there’s one dish that’s 100% summer, it’s grilled corn. Get some fresh corn from a farm stand or farmers market, soak it in saltwater and throw it on the grill for super charred yet super tender kernels. Even better: serve it with some chile butter.

Explore the wild world of edible flowers

Explore the wild world of edible flowers
Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune

Flowers in your garden aren’t just for vases; they can make flavorful and beautiful additions to your dishes and drinks. Explore the world of edible flowers and make violet lemonade, rose petal vodka or candied flowers for cakes.

Cook over an open fire

Cook over an open fire
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Whether or not you actually get around to camping this summer, find a friend with a firepit in their yard, grab some roasting sticks or a cast iron pie cooker and get to cooking. You can go old-school and roast some hot dogs over the fire or get fancy and make hand pies or mini pizzas in your cast iron.

Fish

Fish
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Getting out on a boat in the summertime is all fine and good, but you can be productive while boating! Consider learning to fish this summer and heading out on the lake. Then you can turn your catch into a summertime seafood dinner.

Roast marshmallows and make s’mores

Roast marshmallows and make s’mores
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Make this the summer of perfect s’mores by building a fire in your yard, sitting around with skewers and toasting your marshmallows to perfection. Then, build a classic treat with a milk chocolate bar and a graham cracker. If you don’t have a yard for a fire, don’t worry, you can make toasted marshmallow s’mores in your oven.

Picnic

Picnic
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Head to the local park and spend a day eating and drinking outdoors. Pack some classic picnic foods like pasta salad, ham sandwiches, fruit skewers and hand pies. You can also turn your summertime picnic into a romantic affair with these picnic recipes perfect for a date.

Drink outside

Drink outside
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There’s a particular pleasure in drinking outside in the summertime. An ice-cold beer or freshly-made cocktail tastes better on a back deck. It’s even better if you’re drinking something frozen.

Mix up some margs

Mix up some margs
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While you’re indulging in some summertime sips, make sure to add “learn how to make a marvelous margarita” to your summertime to-do list. After you master the basics, you can level up to flavored margaritas and spicy margaritas.

Try a new-to-you wine style

Try a new-to-you wine style
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If you’re the kind of person who always drinks moscato or pinot noir, it’s time to expand your wine palate. Try a new-to-you wine this summer, like Zweigelt, Chianti or Gewurztraminer. You can even dip your toe into the world of sustainable wine for earth-friendly drinking.

Try a new-to-you beer style

Try a new-to-you beer style
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There’s way more to beer than Bud Light and Guinness. Stroll down your grocery store aisles and pick up a six-pack of a local beer you haven’t tried before, like a shandy, IPA or red ale. You may just be surprised by all of the different kinds of beer available.

Make (and drink) sangria

Make (and drink) sangria
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Sangria and summer are a perfect pair, and the best part of this wine-based cocktail is that it’s incredibly customizable. Grab your favorite wine (red or white will work fabulously!), some juice, some brandy and your favorite fruit and get to town mixing it up!

Learn the art of mocktails

Learn the art of mocktails
Courtesy of Erin Ward/Carmine’s

Not every drink needs to have alcohol in it, and you’d be surprised how creative you can get with zero-proof cocktails (also known as mocktails). Perfect for kids, pregnant women or those who prefer not to drink booze, mocktails are refreshing and fun for summer.

Make your own cold brew

Make your own cold brew
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Drinking hot coffee during the summer can be a little rough, but you don’t necessarily have to go to a cafe to get a refreshing, strong cold brew. Learn how to make cold brew at home, or if you want something simpler, try dalgona coffee.

Stir up some lemonade

Make lemonade
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Nothing says summertime like an ice-cold lemonade, and you can make this classic beverage easily. If you want to shake up your lemonade, consider adding raspberry or other fruit purees to the mix or making it a little boozy with some tequila, bourbon or vodka.

Make your own iced tea

Make your own iced tea
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A cup of tea in the afternoon is a simple pleasure, but in the summer, the best tea is iced tea. Make iced tea and keep a pitcher in your fridge or go old-school and brew sun tea in the yard. If you like a lot of sugar in your midday pick-me-up, you can’t go wrong with a classic Southern sweet tea.

Host a potluck

Host a potluck
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Everyone loves a dinner party, but few love preparing every last thing themselves. The solution: A good old-fashioned potluck. If you’re hosting, supply an entree and an impressive dessert. Let your friends bring the rest.

Bring a winning dish to a potluck

Bring a winning dish to a potluck
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The only thing better than hosting a potluck is going to one. And the best part of going to a potluck is bringing the dish that everybody raves about. Just make sure you know the best dishes to bring to a party.

Have an oyster happy hour

Have an oyster happy hour
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Oyster happy hours are a signature summer experience, but you don’t have to go to a restaurant for shellfish and a crisp bottle of white wine. Instead, have friends bring over the vino and prep oysters yourself at home for a real good time.

Eat your way around a theme park

Eat your way around a theme park
Carolyn Menyes/The Daily Meal

If you’re getting back into travel mode, it’s hard to beat a good theme park vacation. And sure, riding Space Mountain is fine and good, but you haven’t really lived until you’ve eaten your way around Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. If you find yourself on the West Coast, make sure you know the best restaurants at Disneyland Park, too. If you can’t make it to Disney, that’s OK; you can recreate their famous Dole Whip at home with just a few ingredients.

Cook brunch

Cook brunch
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Sure, you’ve heard of hosting a dinner party, but hosting brunch is a category all its own — especially when you can get creative with our 50 best brunch recipes.

Go out to brunch

Go out to brunch
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There’s a particular joy in brunch. It combines the best parts of breakfast and the best parts of lunch — and adds a whole bunch of booze. This summer, live it up with the best brunch in your area.

Try a new restaurant (and eat outdoors)

Try a new restaurant (and eat outdoors)
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You don’t have to travel far to find an amazing new restaurant, nor do you have to spend a ton of money. Instead, explore your area, find a great new eatery with a giant patio, and enjoy a meal outdoors that you didn’t have to cook yourself.

Grab lunch from a food truck

Eat from a food truck
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There’s a special kind of joy in eating at a food truck, especially when they have niche and unusual offerings. Waffle sandwiches, Mexican street corn, and outrageous burgers all make for perfect summer eats.

Eat carnival foods

Eat carnival foods
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Local county fairs and carnivals have lots of delights like ferris wheels and sideshow games but we’re partial to fair foods. You know the kinds: cotton candy, funnel cakes and lemon ices. Before you head out, make sure to brush up on how one deep-fries butter and the definition of  a hot beef sundae.

Visit a brewery

Go to a brewery
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There are many breweries to explore around the country, and you may just be surprised by how close one is to you. So grab some friends and grab a pint of something local and delicious.

Fill up on some BBQ

Fill up on some BBQ
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Barbecue just tastes better in the summer. If you can, smoke some Texas-style brisket at home. But if you’d rather leave it up to the pros, we don’t blame you. Just make sure you know your regional BBQ styles before diving into that pulled pork!

Grab an ice cream cone

Grab an ice cream cone
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If you didn’t have ice cream, did your summer even count? We didn’t think so. Whether you grab it from a truck or a local ice cream stand, make sure you cool down with something sweet this summer. And if you’re not sure what flavor to get — because that decision sure can be overwhelming — consider trying the most popular ice cream flavor in your state.

Go to a drive-in restaurant

Go to a drive-in restaurant

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There’s something especially nostalgic about a drive-in restaurant. Milkshakes and burgers in paper wrappers delivered by teens running around a parking lot just taste better. Though drive-ins may feel like a relic of another era, there are plenty of old-school drive-ins you can still pull up to.

More from The Daily Meal:

Our 50 Best Grilling Recipes

No-Cook Side Dishes for Summer Barbecues and Weeknight Dinners

Foods You Should Never Serve at a Cookout

Summer Recipes to Try on the Grill

4-Ingredient Entrees Perfect for Busy Weeknights