5 Family-Friendly Parks & Rec Activities for 2020

Your citizens are trendy, just like your community. While there will always be a place for flag football, senior swim and youth basketball in your parks and recreation catalog, citizens are looking for new, trendy activities to help them break their fitness routine and get their kids excited about being outdoors and off their smartphones. By incorporating new and non-traditional sports, activities, lessons and events into your recreation planning, you'll position your department to engage existing and new customers and boost revenue. Here are the five hottest, family-friendly parks and rec activities that inclusive rec departments are adopting in 2020.

Food Truck Fests

No matter where your community is located, food trucks are a big thing. IBISWorld reports that the food truck industry will hit $1.1 billion in 2022. Thanks to the popularity of movies and cooking competitions depicting the food truck craze, citizens across the nation, from small suburban towns to megacities, are in love with food on-the-go.

Latch on to the food truck craze by bringing a mobile truck fest to your community. Not only will it engage citizens, but it will also help your administration show its support for local businesses. While you can certainly host your food truck event in warm summer months, food trucks have no seasonality. Smart cities are bringing their food truck events indoors by holding festivals inside convention centers and empty warehouses. By capitalizing on food truck mania, you'll unite your community through a unique event that brings neighbors together with inspiring entrepreneurs.


If your community already holds outdoor scavenger hunts, bring a new, digital component by building a geocaching event. The benefit of a scavenger hunt with a digital foundation is that it engages young people (and even adults) who want to get outdoors but innately resist activities that separate them from a Wi-Fi signal.

Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure-hunting activity that uses GPS-enabled devices to allow participants to navigate a set of coordinates to attempt to find a specific object, or "geocache," that has been hidden in the designated location by game-makers. The "geocache" is the treasure and the prize, but it is not the reason for playing the game. Geocachers are all about the hunt, as it gives outdoor enthusiasts a chance to explore the world, visit new places and explore off-the-beaten-path locations, all while testing their knowledge and skills. While many geocachers take the prize when found, others leave it in the same area to allow others to experience the satisfaction of discovery too. In this way, the game can be played in perpetuity.

Geocaching has been growing in popularity since the Pokémon GO craze of 2016. By promoting a digital community event that gets citizens outside and exploring your community's natural resources, you'll be introducing your gorgeous parks to a new demographic of residents, and giving them the kind of positive experience that will keep them coming back.

A Local World's Fair

In 2018, Disney World's Epcot hosted 13.444 million guests, ranking it as the fourth-most-visited theme park in North America and the seventh-most-visited theme park in the world. One of the most popular attractions at Epcot is the World Showcase. With eleven countries represented throughout the area, visitors get to dine on French food under a faux Eiffel Tower in "France," skip over to "Mexico" to ride the Gran Fiesta Tour in a recreated pre-Colombian pyramid, and shop souvenirs from "Japan" at the Mitsukoshi Department Store.

What attracts so many visitors to The World Showcase is the opportunity to be immersed in a wide variety of different cultures in one afternoon. Smart communities can bring this kind of cultural exploration to their citizens by creating a world's fair event for a day or a weekend.

Start your planning process by partnering with local cultural organizations in your area to bring food, music, dance, crafts, and games to your event. Not only will you be fostering cultural awareness and appreciation within your community, but you will also be showing your local cultural organizations how much your administration appreciates their unique contributions to your community.

Kite Festivals

If you remember the pure exhilaration of flying a kite as a child, then you can undoubtedly envision what a day of colorful kite-flying excitement could do for your citizens. Kite festivals are sweeping the nation from Washington, D.C., to Washington state. This family-friendly event offers a wide variety of activities and engaging experiences. Here are just a few engaging elements you could incorporate into your kite festival:

  • Invite little kids to design their kites with colorful tissue paper, markers, felt decorations and string, and then ask your elected officials to vote on design winners.
  • Hold kite-flying contests for individual age groups.
  • Invite local bakeries to sell kite-shaped treats and local artisans to sell custom crafts.
  • Incorporate a photography contest by inviting any participant of any age to snap a photo with their digital phone and tag your event on social media.
  • Invite families to bring picnic lunches and blankets and lay outside on the park grass watching the colorful creations fly across the sky.

What we love about kite flying festivals is their ability to involve a wide variety of citizens, regardless of their interests. From local business leaders to families with kids, to those looking for a relaxing afternoon event, everyone can get involved.

Touch-a-Truck Events

Touch-a-truck events are family-friendly exhibitions that allow children to explore a variety of vehicles and machinery and to meet the people who build, protect and serve their hometowns. Not only do touch-a-truck events bring families together, but they also allow citizens to meet and thank the public workers who are everyday heroes. Consider such hands-on exhibits for children in your community as:

  • Climb aboard a fire truck and talk to your local firefighter.
  • Meet your local police officers and sit inside a police car or helicopter.
  • Step up into a DPW garbage truck and see what the view of the road looks like from the cockpit.
  • Touch and explore local construction and rescue vehicles include dump trucks, cement trucks and ambulances.

In addition to local vehicles on display for young people to explore, incorporate food, bounce houses, souvenirs and games. Give the everyday heroes in your community a chance to receive the praise they deserve directly from those they serve with this family-friendly event.

The best part of incorporating new events into your community is gauging the reaction, deciding what activities you want to repeat annually, and how you can better improve your marketing and promotions. Your citizens will value knowing that their local leaders are continually working to bring engaging experiences to the community and will benefit from collaboration, cultural appreciation and local flavor.



As the product manager and subject matter expert for CivicRec®, Brian Stapleton is primarily responsible for ensuring our parks and recreation clients are fully leveraging all the flexible features and modern functionality offered by our local government recreation management software. Brian stays immersed in the trends and technologies impacting parks and recreation departments so that he can serve as a critical link between the CivicRec product development and service delivery teams to ensure our products continue to evolve as the needs of local government evolve.



Brian Stapleton