Fun things to do during the summer holidays

It’s summer time already. The temperature is rising, the economy is still tight and the kids are out of school. It’s time to go to the pool, watch movies and have sleep-overs. But after a few days, you will get tired of all that. If you are scratching your heads on how to keep yourself and your kids entertained this summer without breaking your budget, I have a few ideas for you that involve food, travel and volunteerism.

Go

Plan a road trip to a nearby destination. Pack everyone into your car and head to a lake or beach. Rent a summer home for the week where you can cook your own food and play games. Even if you don’t have anything planned, here are some ideas for last minute trips.

Travel exchange programs are also a great way to stay for free in another city, or even country. Families can exchange homes, stay on farms, or be guests at no charge.

If you have decided to stay put this summer, you are in for a staycation. Which means you can be a tourist in your city and plan to do activities that you would otherwise do while travelling. Lodging and travel costs excluded of course.

Eat

Take a break from the regular summer camps and enrolls in a cooking camp. Learn to be a Food Network star or improve your awareness of food and nutrition. Kids and teens would also learn to work in teams and cooperate with one another.

Cooking with family at home can also be a lot of fun. Get the kids together for a fun day of making pasta, gelato, sushi or chocolate from scratch. It can be a rewarding learning experience that will bring the family together.

Give

There is no shortage of volunteering opportunities in every city. Enroll in a project or associate yourself with a cause. Make it a daily/ weekly schedule to visit an old home, children’s hospital or women’s shelter. Some of these can be quite entertaining as well, such as leading arts and crafts, sporting activities for other kids. Many charities are looking for interns during the summer who can help them with day-to-day administrative things, organizing events, etc.

By the end of summer, you would have used your time effectively to impact the lives of people and feel good about yourself.

If you have any ideas of your own to share, please leave a comment below.

Stepping back into history in Vienna

If you want to step back in time, go to Vienna in Austria.  I visited in summer of 2008 and was plesantly surprised. Surely there are many old cities around the world but what was special here is that the 18th century buildings looked brand new. They were so well maintained that you felt like they have just come up around you. Horse drawn carriages and cobblestone roads were still the norm here. There were cafes and bars at each corner where famous artists, writers and poets have created masterpieces. “Oh that’s where Mozart wrote his music ….and that’s where Rainer drew his painting” the guide would exclaim.vienna parliament

The gardens in front of the Parliament building were magnificent without any pretence. It was summer; the weather was perfect and the flowers in full bloom. As in most European cities, there were street artists, little galleries, fresh food stalls and tiny shops, that further added to the drama.

I did watch an orchestra perform at the same theatre where Mozart used to play. Nothing seemed to have changed with time here. The New Years Eve orchestra in Vienna is world famous and sold out months in advance. There are also tons of museums to choose from and most of them are free to enter.

Mozart theater ViennaThe best part was the festival that was taking place in front of the parliament building. Every night, a different concert or movie would take place. But there was a food pavilion set up to cater the attendees. There were about 20 stalls of vendors offering drinks and food that would put any food festival to shame! As someone who has this notion that Austrian food is mainly “meat and potatoes”, I was pleasantly surprised. There was fusion of Italian, German, Hungarian, Mediterranean, Spanish, Chinese and much more. I had some of the best mushroom dumplings with goulash for under $10.

Austria remains to be one of my favorite destinations in the world and I hope to return there someday soon.