1. Go to the drive-in.
Movies have always been escapist: During the Great Depression, audiences flocked to cinemas in an attempt to forget their worries, at least for a while. Today, as the pandemic continues, drive-in theaters have been popping up all over. In Astoria, Queens, the Bel Aire Diner started one in its parking lot, while Walmart has turned parking lots at 160 of its Supercenter locations into outdoor movie theaters with free showings through Oct. 21.
Many drive-ins have created new rules for this season. The Family Drive-In Theater in Stephens City, Va., caps its capacity at 50 percent, and spaces at Walmart’s shows have to be reserved in advance. You will likely have to socially distance at the concession stand.
But even with new rules in place, an evening at the drive-in feels like a normal summer activity. People spread out, have picnics, sit in their open S.U.V. trunks (or truck beds) sipping a beverage or even play a game of cornhole. Everyone is six feet apart, but it’s still a communal experience — a rarity right now. And as a bonus on Labor Day weekend, some theaters are even showing a new release: “Unhinged,” with Russell Crowe. The website www.driveinmovie.com is a good starting point to find a location near you. JUSTIN REDMAN
2. Cut your own bouquet.
With large-scale weddings and events canceled for the foreseeable future, many flower farmers across the country have opened their fields for the first time to people who want to cut their own blossoms. In the spring, Lynne Vinkovic of Rose Lane Farms in Los Angeles, who usually provides flowers to florists and event designers, began receiving calls from her social media followers asking if they could come to the farm and grab a handful of garden roses. Before she knew it, she had transitioned to a “you cut” farm. “We’re a working farm, just over an acre, with 2,000 rose bushes,” Ms. Vinkovic said. “We’re not picture- perfect, but at this moment we offer an escape.”
This weekend, visitors can enjoy clipping their own bouquets full of fall favorites such as zinnias, sunflowers, celosia, phlox and marigolds. At the Farmer’s Daughter garden center in South Kingston, R.I., you-cut dahlia fields — imagine an endless sea of blooms ranging from rich burgundy and bright crimson to warm coral and golden champagne — reach their bountiful peak in late September, and will remain open to visitors until the first frost. Most farms require masks and social distancing, and provide sanitized clippers and buckets. Local farmers’ market networks are a good starting point when trying to find a you-cut field near you. CHRISTINE CHITNIS
3. Rent a backyard pool.
If the thought of going a whole summer without taking a dip in a pool is adding to your pandemic malaise, there is still hope.
An app called Swimply allows you to book a private pool at someone’s home for an hour or more. You don’t have to worry about mingling with crowds and exposing your family to the coronavirus. Leave your mask in your beach bag. For one glorious afternoon, cool off and take a break from worrying about whether schools will reopen.
The service is surprisingly simple. You enter your ZIP code and scroll through a list of tantalizing pools — some feature lounge chairs and basketball hoops — across the country. You can search a specific date and time, or request amenities like a hot tub. A rental in the suburbs of New York City can cost from $30 to $120 an hour — a splurge for many families, but worth it for some who have been stuck indoors for months.
The company says it has added safety precautions, including limiting the number of swimmers for each rental and leaving an hour gap between bookings so the owner has time to clean before the next swimmers arrive.
The informal instructions for entry can be a bit unnerving. “Go around the front of the house. Pool is up the stairs out back,” read one listing in the Poconos. And depending on the location of your home base, there might not be a ton of inventory so you might have to take a bit of a drive.
But at a time when we are all worried about getting close to strangers, the owner stays inside and lets you enjoy their pool. You can text over the app if you have any questions. EMMA G. FITZSIMMONS
4. Visit an outdoor brewery.
Instead of sipping I.P.A.s at home, quench your thirst at the source. Many breweries are revamping outdoor space for socially distant drinking, installing sanitizer stations and incorporating new protocols to put you at ease while hoisting pints.
Drinking beer at a brewery can “remind you of a time when things were normal,” said Chris O’Leary, a beer aficionado who has visited more than 2,000 breweries and runs Brew York, a guide to beer in New York City.
Plan ahead, as many breweries now have limited capacity and require reservations. Also check the website for updated regulations; for example, kids may no longer be allowed. Expect to wear a mask whenever you’re not seated and to pay with credit cards. Many breweries also have customers order through their phones. Instead of glassware, you’ll probably drink pilsners from a disposable plastic cup and bus your table to minimize contact.
Follow the rules and you’ll enjoy fresh air and beer at Highland Brewing, in Asheville, N.C., where the 40-acre property features a grassy meadow. In New York’s Hudson Valley, sunflowers bloom at Arrowood Farm Brewery, and its low-alcohol Porch Beer contains homegrown hops. Jester King Brewery, in Austin, Texas, is now a 165-acre nature preserve offering farmhouse ales beside a goat barn.
Safety and hospitality are now key ingredients at breweries. “They’re trying harder than ever to win over their customers,” Mr. O’Leary said. JOSHUA M. BERNSTEIN
5. Ride an electric bike.
Sometimes, to get out of a rut, you need a little push.
Biking is a great mode of socially distant travel, but riding a bike can be tiring and limit you to your own neighborhood. An electric bike lets you travel much farther — and easily tackle one of the nastiest words in biking: hills.
And they’re a blast to ride. Hopping on one feels like taking your training wheels off for the first time, except that invisible push by a parent comes from a motor that powers the wheels.
E-bikes typically top out at around 20 miles an hour, depending on the type of bike, and they can usually run for about 40 miles on one charge. They can be rented from many bike rental shops and are part of many cities’ ride share programs. Lyft, which operates the largest bikeshare program in the country, has e-bikes in New York City, Chicago, Minneapolis and the Bay Area. While the company said it sanitizes high-contact surfaces during regular maintenance, you could go one step further and use your own wipes to clean off the handlebars.
Pedego, a chain of 140 independently owned local electric-bike shops in the United States and Canada, is requiring masks indoors and sterilizing bikes. Some locations are renting bikes by appointment only to facilitate social distancing. Or you can call your local bike shop to ask about e-bike availability and learn about their policies before you arrive.
Make sure to follow safety rules (helmets!), and be aware that e-bike regulations vary between states; for more information about local laws, visit peopleforbikes.org. JONATHAN WOLFE
6. Float down a river.
If you can’t find a pool and are tired of running through your sprinkler to cool down, why not spend the day on the water, relaxing on a raft or an inner-tube? Tubing is a refreshing way to spend a lazy day outdoors with a few friends or family while keeping socially distanced from others.
Trips typically range from three hours to all day, depending on the route and how many stops you make. Companies often give you a choice of renting a tube, raft, kayak or canoe, but check beforehand to see what your options are, what equipment will be provided and if there are restrictions on alcohol and coolers. With rafting outfits all across the country — from the Delaware River on the East Coast, the Current River in Missouri and the Snoqualmie River in Washington — great floating options are available in most regions. Searching online by location is a good place to start.
These days, many tubing companies have taken extra health and safety precautions, like sanitizing tubes and life vests between uses, requiring masks while customers wait in line and not filling shuttles to capacity. You can often find what companies are doing to keep the activity safe on their website. Be sure to pack a lunch and some cold drinks, but once you are on the water, just enjoy. Take a break every now and then to do some swimming. And stop halfway through the float to have your picnic on the side of the river. You’ve earned it. CHRISTY HARMON
7. Eat at a pizza farm.
One kind of business is having a banner summer, though you may not have heard of it: the pizza farm. Already popular in the Upper Midwest, farms that serve wood-fired pizza topped with homegrown produce are open on summer evenings across the country.
If you’re craving a picnic, but tired of cooking, a visit to a pizza farm can scratch that itch. At some places, the pizza is basic — handfuls of cherry tomatoes and mozzarella, with maybe a few leaves of basil from the herb garden. But most farms like to show off (and use up) their produce, so the toppings can include caramelized onions, fresh zucchini, roasted squash and the like.
And as you’re sitting on your blanket in the fields, watching the sun set over the tomato plants and listening to the cows, you might notice that the pizza farm is sending you a message: Remember how your food is produced, and support the local farmers who do it. Pizza is a great teaching tool because even a farmer working just an acre or two can produce all the ingredients: wheat for the dough, tomatoes and herbs for the sauce, cows for the cheese — and even pigs, for sausage and pepperoni.
This year, the picnic blankets are socially distanced, and masks and reservations are generally required. For maximum enjoyment, bring a blanket and camp chairs, and your own drinks, plates, cups, paper towels and bug spray.
There’s no comprehensive database, but the Last Night’s Pizza Box website has about 50 farms listed. A Facebook or Google search helps. JULIA MOSKIN