Our family had some big milestones in 2015. My grandma turned 80 years old and my grandparents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. My family is big on celebrations that get everyone back together. For my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary, they took the whole family on a trip to Alaska. This time, they wanted to do something a little different. Because the family has grown by two husbands, five kids, and one fiancé since 2005, we decided to put together a summer family reunion at Okoboji, IA.
If you have an opportunity to get your family together this summer, definitely try it! Now, my family is pretty lucky because my grandparents live in a resort community, and it’s where my cousins and I grew up.
However, you can probably adapt our plan for your family, too.
Step One: Pick a date
My grandma’s birthday and grandparents’ anniversary is in the summer. That’s also when it was the easiest for family members’ schedules to match up. And the weather in Okoboji is definitely best in the summer. If you know you want to do outdoor activities, then summer is probably your best bet, too.
Step Two: Pick a location
We celebrated in Okoboji, IA, which is a fun resort area where my grandparents live. It’s also where most of us grew up. We’re all located within four hours of Okoboji, so it was fairly easy for us all to travel there. Most of us stayed in a resort so we could have our own space but still be at the same location. If you’re able to stay at family members’ houses or rent a house together, that could help save on expenses.
Step Three: Plan your activities
Below is our schedule for our family reunion. Tailor your activities to the age groups of family members, their mobility, interests, etc. If there are little kids in the family, make sure to build in time for naps. Remember to make a plan, but stay flexible. You could build in time for family members to pick what they want to do – whether going out for brunch in a small group, or to a movie, bowling, shopping, ice cream, etc.
Day One – Arnold’s Park Amusement Park and Birthday Dinner
- We drove to Okoboji in the morning and arrived at a local favorite, Taco House, for lunch with my sister’s family of five.
- We went straight from lunch to the Arnold’s Park Amusement Park, which was very fun for the kids.
- We checked into the hotel later and then met the whole family in my grandparents’ suite for dinner. We had a great deli buffet from a local café and delicious cupcakes from a local bakery. That evening, we celebrated my grandma’s 80th birthday with gifts and stories.
Day Two – Water Park and Anniversary Dinner
- After breakfast in my grandparents’ suite, we had fun at the resort’s pool.
- My mom and I were able to sneak off to brunch with the baby while my husband stayed with our daughter at the water park. These fun little activities in small groups help family members connect with each other and do what they enjoy.
- After some post-water park showers and lunch, we had a little down time for naps.
- In the late afternoon, we headed over to my grandparents’ house for a big family photo. It’s not very often that we get our family of 20 all together, so we took this opportunity to get a family picture. My aunt had arranged a professional photographer to get a group photo and smaller family photos.
- After the pictures, we had a delicious dinner catered by a local restaurant.
- That evening, my grandparents told stories of their engagement and wedding. My grandma still has a bunch of beautiful items from then that she showed us, including her wedding gown.
- My aunt ordered a beautiful replica of my grandparents’ wedding cake for our celebration, which was a delicious end to a fun day.
Day Three – Beach Day, Grill Out and Summer Theatre
- On the third day of our reunion, after breakfast in my grandparents’ suite, we headed to my aunt and uncle’s beach house for swimming. They have a great house with a sandy beach on the lake. It was fun for the kids to play in the sand and the water.
- My uncle grilled hamburgers and we had a delicious lunch.
- That evening, a small group of us went to the local summer theatre, Okoboji Summer Theatre, which is fantastic.
- The other family members who stayed at the lake house took a boat ride to end the night.
Day Four – Church, Lunch, and Boat Ride
- On our final day, after church, we had lunch at one of our family’s favorite restaurants, the Gingham Inn. They are famous for their fried chicken, which we get family style.
- Then we ended the reunion with a beautiful boat ride on the lake.
Everyone had such a good time connecting with each other and enjoying our resort town that we’re going to do some version of this summer family reunion every year, even if not all of the family members can attend. It’s tricky to put schedules together, but it’s still important to connect with whoever is available. In the future, we’ll probably do a more relaxed version of this reunion so there’s more flexibility.
It is so much fun to celebrate these milestones and get the whole family together. I hope that you can make it work with your family, too!