The City Space

Cultivating Urban Understanding

The Magic of Summer Saturdays

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Larsens Fish Market, Menemsha, Martha's Vineyard

Picture the last time you had a truly wonderful Saturday this summer.

I think summer Saturdays are magical. The city wakes up in waves, with the rising of the sun inviting the first surge of dog-walkers and joggers out onto the sidewalks and into the parks. A few hours later, older couples and families with children venture down the block to their neighborhood coffee shop or bakery, lingering over the last muffin crumbs on the plate, chatting with neighbors and friends. The farmers’ markets set up their white tents and welcome the next wave of shoppers, eager for fresh produce and conversation. Saturdays are open with possibility. If you’re a kid, you might choose to play at the local park or run around the neighborhood with your friends. Adults might finally take time for their hobbies, reading books from the library, working on building projects, practicing musical instruments or sharpening their basketball skills. As the day comes to a close, we dive into cooking comforting meals for our families, or heading out to the neighborhood diner for a burger or pizza. Sunday hasn’t come yet—with its pressures of the impending Monday and chores at hand—and the workweek is melting away. The city is alive, but calm and present.

I tell this story of the magical summer Saturday because, to me, it is a perfect picture of what cities and towns could be all week long, and it’s proof that they’re capable of it. Even in my little college town of Walla Walla, WA, which was empty and quiet six days of the week, Saturdays always brought a new energy and vibrance into the space. In particular, here are a few of the positive summer Saturday trends I’ve noticed in cities all over the country, and would love to see blossom throughout the week:

  • We choose to walk or bike instead of drive. With more time on our hands and quite likely, an exhaustion from driving back and forth to work all week, we often choose to stick closer to home and use our feet to get where we need to go. The environment is better off and so is our health.
  • We frequent local businesses and markets in our neighborhoods. We get our shopping done without having to jump in the car, and they get our business more than they might during the week. It’s a win-win.
  • We linger. We hang out at cafes, at parks playing ball, and on the waterfront, feeling a sense of calm and starting to notice everything our towns have to offer.
  • Some of us choose to spend our weekends caring for our gardens and houses (if we have them). It may not always be fun, but it transforms our cities into beautiful, inviting places.
  • We visit with our neighbors, friends and family members. We bake pie and take it to grandma’s house where we enjoy an afternoon snack and share stories from the week. We beckon our neighbors across the street to join us on the porch for a glass of lemonade or beer. This warmth is extended towards others because a day of rest gives us the time and energy to do so.

What each of these aspects point towards is an atmosphere of leisure and plenty, which enables us to support local businesses and spend time with one another on a deeper level than we do during the hecticness of the week. Saturday can be the day when we engage in simple but powerful community-building activities like beautifying our streets and actually saying “hi” to our neighbors when we encounter them on the block. These actions incrementally add up to more positive places.

I realize I’m being idealistic right now, and that on many weekends, Saturdays look a lot different from this. Maybe they’re full of driving the kids from music lessons to soccer practice to Target. Maybe Saturday means going to work. Maybe Saturdays seem like an endless list of chores and tasks that just won’t let up. But maybe also, you yearn for a weekend that is more peaceful and warm. If our cities looked and felt like this all week long, we could have that. I understand we can’t all play at the park when it’s 20 degrees out, or sit around sipping beer when there’s work to be done, but we don’t need to completely give ourselves over to the regiment of to-do lists or weather or whatever else might distract us from living the lives we want to lead.

If we took simple steps like utilizing public spaces more often, frequenting our local businesses, and walking instead of driving on occasion, we could welcome that Saturday spirit into our everyday lives. It takes nothing more than a reorientation of mindset.

So what do you think? Can we live like it’s Saturday all week long?

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