Feet hanging off side of dock over water

What Makes Summer Special?

Close to a third of us call summer our favorite season. So we asked what you love most about the summer months—and dug up a few fun summer facts.

The official first day of summer is the summer solstice, or the longest day of the year, when the sun reaches its highest position in the sky. But way before that exact day, most of us have already kicked into summer mode - enjoying bare feet, fireflies, and [fill in the blank].

"For me, the perfect summer is all about lots of productive fishing days," says Tom Gumpel, head baker at Panera Bread®. "I get on my sailboat and I'm out in the ocean in about 15 minutes. I try to spend as much time out there as possible."

Here's what our Panera fans on Facebook shared as their favorite features of summer.

"Barbecue, baseball, and floating in the pool for hours."
—Gayle B.

"Beach, longer days, great food, and the frozen lemonade."
—Mary G.

"Lots of long run/walks in the sun and playing in the pool with my daughters. Steamed crabs on the weekends with family. Popsicles after dinner on the deck. And of course, Saturday morning bagels and tea at Panera!"
—Kelly W.-B.

"Strawberry poppy seed salad."
—Brenda K.

"Family, sun, and fun!!!"
—Sheila N.-P.

"Travel! This summer's plans: San Diego, Denver, Vegas, retracing Route 66, antiquing in Iowa, and visiting grandchildren in Wisconsin."
—Barbara W.

"Tons of outdoor concerts."
—Katharine A.

"Cookouts. Yard sales!!! Family vacations!"
—Tam S.

"Gardening...coffee with friends...road trip to anywhere...sitting on the deck...lunching at Panera..."
—Pam B.

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A Few Fun Summer Facts

Solstice derives from a combination of Latin words meaning "sun" + "to stand still."

The best place for a watermelon is on your counter. Let it ripen on your countertop for about a week, which nearly doubles the melon's lycopene and beta-carotene levels, according to a USDA study. Pop it in the fridge a day before eating.

A skipped stone should be pitched at a 20-degree upward angle when it hits the water to produce the maximum number of "bounces," according to a study in Nature. Russell Byars of Pennsylvania, who set the world record for 51 skips in 2007, recommends a flat, roundish stone with a notch or a point.