Many Dads like to celebrate Father's Day with a backyard barbecue and a beer. Before the big meal, work up an appetite with some outdoor fun. Get the gang involved in kicking a soccer ball, hiking through the woods, or splashing in the water with Dad.
• Toss a Ball. If Dad is a sports fan, get the whole family involved in playing his favorite game. Gather sporting equipment such as kickballs, soccer balls, footballs, basketballs or Frisbees, and head to your favorite park or field. Most local schools have a soccer field or baseball diamond on the grounds that are likely to be unoccupied on a Sunday. Many playgrounds also offer a field or open space for playing sports. Consider the field behind the playground at Laurel Street Park (1841 Laurel St.) or the large grassy area next to the playground at Lefleur's Bluff State Park (2140 Riverside Drive) as an ideal location for family sporting fun. Don't forget the sunscreen!
• Take a Hike. Pack a cooler with snacks and drinks. Put on socks, sturdy walking shoes and insect repellent. Throw the camera and the kids into the car and head out for a hike at a local natural area. Kids of all ages can enjoy taking a family walk. For smaller children, plan ahead and bring a wagon, stroller or carrier if you are hoping to take a longer walk. Consider creating a scavenger-hunt for older kids to find certain kinds of natural artifacts, animals and landmarks.
The Cypress Swamp trail on the Natchez Trace north of the reservoir offers a scenic drive and a short hike through shaded swamps. The Ridgeland multi-use trail (which starts at the Reservoir Outlook on the Natchez Trace and runs for 13.5 miles to near Livingston Road) offers a longer hike, and its paved paths offer easy access for families with young children in strollers. A slightly more rugged trail runs between Mayes Lake and the Museum of Natural Science in Lefleur's Bluff State Park. Strollers won't work well on this hike, but children of most ages will enjoy the wooded trails running alongside the lake and river. The Clinton Community Nature Center (617 Dunton Road, Clinton) and Strawberry Patch Park (217 St. Augustine Drive, Madison) also offer some nice walking paths. All the trails listed are relatively shady and can be enjoyed even during the hottest part of the day.
• Hit the Water. Boating and fishing opportunities abound in the Jackson metro area. Bring life jackets, fishing poles, snacks and sunscreen and take Dad to his favorite body of water. Popular places to launch canoes, kayaks and other watercraft include the Ross Barnett Reservoir and Mayes Lake at Lefleur's Bluff State Park. Other exciting water options around town include splashing at the beach along the Pearl River just below the reservoir's spillway or running around at the splash pad at Renaissance (1000 Highland Colony Parkway, Ridgeland) or the new Shiloh Splash Pad (322 Shiloh Road, Brandon).