‘When I Was a Kid’: Gen Z Will Never Understand The Joy Of Summer In The ’90s

By: Lilli Keeve | Published: Oct 24, 2023

Kids today find it hard to imagine life in the ’90s. There were no phones to stare at 24/7, and no reason to stay inside all day with multiple screens. Technology had not yet consumed teenagers.

In the ’90s, there was more outdoor activity for teens; kids today are missing out on some of the awesome ways there were to spend summer decades ago.


Parents felt safe sending the kids outside to play; the world was just less terrifying then. So kids would go out in the morning, find their friends, and spend the day biking, playing games, and swimming.


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Kids could hang out until dinner time without parents worrying they’d been kidnapped. They knew their children were together, chatting, snacking, and simply being free. Life was good with no homework or tests to study for.


Technology vs Outdoors

In the ’90s, technology was far from what it is today. There was no social media to follow, and the computers were slow, with only intermittent connectivity. You had to wait a long time for games to load, and then the computer wasn’t always powerful enough to handle the game itself.


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If you wanted to play that first version of Nintendo, you needed to drag the equipment and wires around the house until you could find a quiet place to play. So most kids wandered outside to find their friends.


Music is the language of teenagers, and teens in the 90s were just as addicted to their favorite songs and artists as they are today. They followed their idols, memorized the songs, and kept up with the latest music news.


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The big difference between today and the 90s was that none of the music was digital. Kids spent hours watching MTV music videos and kept up with upcoming concerts. It was a full-time job, as was irritating their parents with loud boomboxes.

The Best Movies

The ’90s featured blockbusters that are still classics and fun to watch. Movies like The Lion King, Forrest Gump, and Jurassic Park were beloved, and kids would go back to see them two or three times.


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Movies weren’t available “on demand,” and there were no streaming sites. You went to the movie theater to watch a movie. When you got home, after your parents were asleep, you could catch a forbidden movie like The Blair Witch Project if you found it listed in the TV Guide.

No Documentation Possible

There was no social media in the ’90s. “Social” meant being with friends and “media” meant watching TV. No Instagram, no Facebook, no Twitter. You spent your day without a phone in your pocket, enjoying whatever happened.

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No one was taking photos of friends doing crazy things, so you’d tell your family or friends about the incident. Maybe your Mom told someone else’s Mom, but that was as far as social media went. Unfortunately, that kind of summer freedom isn’t possible anymore.


Rollerskating Was All The Craze

While the popularity of rollerskating may have started before the 1990s, the craze certainly skyrocketed in this decade. Many kids spent their time either indoors at a rollerskating rink or outdoors testing out their fresh moves.

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Plus, if you learned to skate backward, then you were a super awesome kid. You would earn major high-fives and cool points if you mastered that maneuver.


Slumber Parties With Friends

Of course, there was no school to interrupt the freedom of summer. Kids and teens could do whatever they wanted and there were (usually) not many restrictions.

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Slumber parties were a big thing in the ’90s. Inviting your gal pals over for some pizza, popcorn, and some good flicks was so much fun. And, you got to talk about all the juicy gossip!


Spending Time At The Mall

It’s only natural that kids would become antsy just being at home all day long. The mall was the perfect refuge to hang out with friends and shop.

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When parents had enough of their kids, they would drop them at the mall where they would spend hours and hours of their day. It was the natural habitat of a ’90s kid. You also had to get an Orange Julius or it wasn’t a true mall trip.


Staying In The Pool For Way Too Long

One of the best ways to cool off during a ’90s summer was to relax and splash around in the pool. Kids would usually stay in the water for such a long time that everything would prune up.

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You were extra lucky if you were that kid who had a pool in their backyard. But, if you didn’t possess that luxury, then you begged your mom to take you to the local community pool or country club!


Being At The Water Park All Day

Another alternative to the pool was hanging out at the closest water park. Getting soaked with your friends and going on the rides was quite possibly the most fun thing to do to beat the summer heat.

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If you were hungry, you’d get some Dippin Dots or corn dogs that only cost $2. Also, you’d try and figure out how to cut the long line to get to your favorite slide.


Taking Roadtrips With Your Family

You can’t think of a ’90s summer without going on at least one family road trip and kids were obsessed with them back then. The trusty family station wagon would be the go-to source of transportation, or, if you were ever so lucky, a Chevy Van with built-in chairs and table.

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While on the road, you would have to play “The Alphabet Game” or tune out the world and your screaming siblings by listening to your Walkman (or Discman).


Camping In The Great Outdoors

Even though you may have been horrible at pitching a tent, at least you made up for it with your incredible S’mores roasting skills. Your enjoyment of camping all depended on how good your parents were at the whole thing.

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Either you reveled in spending time in the great and beautiful outdoors and would look forward to the next trip, or you avoided it entirely for the rest of your life.


Using Up All Your Quarters At The Arcade

Back in the ’90s, some kids practically lived at the arcade. They would spend their free time either alone or with their buddies at this haven of ultimate fun.

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From the pinging, buzzing, dinging, and ringing — the sounds and sights were neverending. And, it might have been that one summer when you got the highest score at Pac-Man.


Boogie Boarding At The Beach

Not every kid may have enjoyed trips to the beach (we feel bad for them), but heading to the sand during the summer was the ultimate rite of passage for some ’90s kids. If you weren’t completely landlocked, then going to the beach was a definite possibility.

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Before sliding into the glorious water, you’d put Sun-In your hair, drop your Velcro paddle-and-ball sets by your beach towel, and head straight for the breakers with your boogie board.


Riding Rollercoasters Until You Got Sick

If you were that fortunate soul in the ’90s who lived close to an amusement park, then you would make a direct beeline for the rollercoasters. Kids would ride rollercoasters until their brains felt like scrambled eggs (or until they were green in the face!)

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Afterward, the best thing to do was grab some cheese fries, shoot a water gun and win a giant stuffed animal. Then, you’d do it all over again!


Doing Nothing But Straight Chillin'

While doing fun and exciting things was always rad for ’90s kids in the summer, sometimes just being at home with absolutely nothing planned, was also ideal. From watching cartoons or other TV shows to talking with friends on the phone, the world was your oyster.

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For some of you mischievous kids, you probably prank-called your teachers (or, parents, if you were feeling devious and extra bored).


Carrying A Pager Everywhere You Went

So, Gen-Z, there were these things back in the day called pagers. They were sort of like cell phones in terms of communication, except much simpler and without all the bells and whistles the devices have today.

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The most a pager would show is a phone number or some sort of transmitted text on a small screen. Needless to say, pagers were everywhere in the ’90s.


Waiting In Long Lines To Buy Concert Tickets

In the ’90s, you couldn’t just buy concert tickets online…you had to go in person to purchase them. Wow, imagine that! The ’90s youth would have to go to their local Ticketmaster or the concert venue to buy their tickets.

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The coolest part though is that your friends would go with you and you’d make it a fun time.


Going To Blockbuster With Friends Or Family

Can you believe that there used to be actual video stores where you rented movies from? In the ’90s, if you wanted to watch a movie, you couldn’t just stream something from your computer. Going to a Blockbuster to search for that new release was a whole thing in those days.

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It was also fun to browse the aisles and look at all the movie covers. Even if you chose to rent the same movie over and over again, it was something to do to kill some time!