Planning fun activities is an essential part of Scouting. However, there are so many great options out there that you might be wondering which troop excursion ideas are worth trying. In this article, I’ll share with you my favorite ideas for outings and events that you can plan with your fellow Scouts!
What Are The Best BSA Troop Activities? The best activities to do in Scouting are those that your troop will be most excited to attend. A great starting point is to gauge interest and consider outings like visiting landmarks, holding service projects, learning merit badge skills, or practicing wilderness survival.
PS. This article is a collaboration between Eagle Scouts, Chandler M, and Cole 🙂
Between the two of us, we’ve participated in practically all of the most popular Scouting activities out there. So, get ready to hear which ones we liked the best, along with some tips for when you’re planning these sorts of outings in your own troop!
Buckle up, because these first 10 suggestions are some of the most popular troop activities of all time! Then, I’ve got some rapid-fire activity ideas that’ll give any Scout a fun and memorable excursion. Definitely share a few of your favorite ideas at your next troop meeting, as this is a great starting point for planning your next epic troop adventure!
10 Best Scout Outing Activity Ideas
Local Historical Tours and Landmarks
No matter where you live in the U.S., there’s bound to be something of historical significance right around the corner. That’s why local historical tours are a great way to understand more about your community and why it exists today! Whether it’s through old factories, battlegrounds, forts, or a multitude of other key landmarks, I can guarantee your troop outing will be interesting.
However, tours can be a little hard to find so you may need to do some online research or ask a Scout leader if they have any suggestions. When looking for historical tours in my area, I Googled “historical tours (my city)” and saw some great options. You can also search “historic landmarks near me” for a broader list.
When planning a local historical tour with your troop, avoid busy days such as Memorial Day, Labor Day, and other national holidays. These are typically peak times for local tours and will very likely make your trip more hectic and expensive.
Tours often offer discounts for large groups — especially Scouts! Make sure to ask about this when considering your options. Also, if the tour is of a battleground or other military installation, they may even have camping on-site, which can be a great way to extend your trip and dive deeper into the location’s rich history! 🙂
Cole here — When I was a Scout, my troop and I had the privilege of camping aboard the USS Battleship Missouri after a tour. This was an unbelievably cool experience, and only possible because we were a part of Scouting! Make sure to call into cool places and ask about their options. You might find some really amazing outings that way!
When researching potential landmarks to visit, it is important to gauge everyone’s interest before planning the trip. Some things may not interest Scouts as much as others, and that’s OK. Planning around your fellow Scouts’ interests is key to having a successful outing!
Last but not least, many local historical sites also have volunteer work available. This could be a great way to see some of the lesser-known aspects of a location. If you’re interested in seeing a historical site, and also getting some extra service hours, make sure to ask about volunteering when you call in!
Lock-ins are another extremely popular choice for troop outings — and for good reason! During a lock-in, you and your fellow Scouts can have a fun night indoors playing games, hanging out, eating food, and doing whatever other activities you can think of. This is a great change of pace from ‘roughing it’ at camps, and is the perfect opportunity to create some awesome memories!
Chandler here — Once in a while, my troop would hold a lock-in after a service outing. That way, we’d be able to do some tiring, positive community service and then decompress without the effort of needing to set up camp. Having infrequent lock-ins was a nice reward, allowing us to have some relaxing fun as a troop!
In my troop, lock-ins were always a competition to see who could stay up the longest. Most Scouts wouldn’t bring sleeping bags or pillows so they could fight the tiredness and have fun with everyone else!
Lock-ins are a time to share some fun ideas with your patrol, gauge interest in what others would want to participate in, and have a blast while doing it! Some people would even bring full gaming setups so a bunch of people could play something competitive, while others would get into some casual board/card games.
The biggest plus of a lock-in is getting the chance to know some of your fellow Scouts better. A bit of a different dynamic than camping in the dark, at lock-ins we could stay up into the early hours of the morning just hanging out and having a grand time. Because of this, Lock-ins were where I made some of my best friends in Scouting! 😀
One of the most underrated Scouts BSA excursions is a visit to a nature preserve. While these may not provide camping, they do offer important lessons on conservation as well as a beautiful pocket of wilderness close to home.
Nature preserves are scattered all around the country, and I guarantee there’s at least one close to you. Just search “nature preserve near me” to find a few options! By organizing a troop trip to your local preserve you’ll be able to witness a wide range of animals and plants in their natural habitats.
Nature preserves were some of my favorite outings when I was a Scout! These troop trips gave me the unique chance to explore some cool and interesting areas that I otherwise would never have found. Plus, visiting with a bunch of Scout buddies makes the experience even more worthwhile!
A nature preserve also offers Scouts a great opportunity to complete a variety of merit badges. There are several badges that require Scouts to investigate nature in some form, such as Mammal Study and the Eagle-required Environmental Science badge. Employees at a preserve are a great resource for answering questions and understanding badge requirements.
Best of all, more often than not, nature preserves are available for free to the general public. This makes a nature preserve a cheap and easy trip, especially for new Scouts looking to join in on the fun without spending from their Scout accounts!
Soup Kitchens or Shelters
Service is something that you’ll be doing a lot of in Scouting. That’s why volunteering at a soup kitchen or shelter is a great way to get involved in the community. Plus, you’ll encounter individuals that have had vastly different life experiences than you! Service always opened my eyes to new and diverse groups of people I wouldn’t normally meet.
Soup kitchens or shelters are great places for an all-day service outing, as they allow Scouts to provide a necessary service for their community and take a peek beyond their own social bubble. Especially if your troop is working on the new Citizenship in Society badge, this type of service will kick off some great discussions and teach your Scouts a ton!
When I did this type of service, I always met the most interesting people. Being able to sit down and have a snack with someone who lived a completely different life than mine, listen to their story, and take in their sage advice was truly a one-of-a-kind opportunity.
This trip doesn’t just need to be serving food either! You can also plan a Scout skit night to provide some fun entertainment for everyone or set up a drive to distribute supplies for the needy. There are so many different ways you can spin this outing, and it will always be extremely appreciated, educational, and useful to your community.
Planning this trip is easy and will never cost you anything! All you’ll need to do is get in contact with the kitchen or shelter in order to schedule a day that works best for your troop. Make sure to ask what groups have done in the past that have been most appreciated. This outing is a great experience for Scouts, and can really open their eyes to the joy of serving others!
Merit Badge University
This is another educational and fun outing idea that my troop used to do a lot. A Merit Badge University is typically something done in collaboration with multiple troops in order to provide valuable merit badge lessons for Scouts. These are great ways to meet Scouts from other troops, while taking on a new merit badge and learning a ton.
When planning a Merit Badge University, Scouts should be able to sign up for the merit badges that they wish to take ahead of time. Sometimes though, there may only be 1 badge being taught if it’s held on a smaller scale. This is usually an all-day activity, so make sure your troop has something prepared for lunch.
When my troop did our Merit Badge University, I could typically finish the day with multiple new merit badges! Our Citizen in the Community class even included a mock trial where I got to play an unruly crowd member and was escorted out.
You’ll need to recruit merit badge counselors for this, as well as someone to teach the merit badge and sign off requirements once finished. Summer or Winter camps are a great place to talk with other troops to see if they’ve done any Merit Badge Universities near your area.
As a troop outing, merit badge classes are especially great as Scouts can often earn 2 or 3 merit badges in a day. That makes these events perfect for new Scouts who are looking to get some early merit badges knocked out, as well as for older Scouts who need to get specific Eagle-required badges done.
Local festivals are another way to get your troop out in the community and exposed to something new. Many festivals are themed around something, whether that’s a specific ethnicity in your area, some sort of art form, or a special genre of music.
A festival is a great opportunity for many Scouts to try new things. Usually, there’s music, great food available, and even different types of fun activities that you wouldn’t normally have the chance to do. 🙂
Cole here — My troop would regularly voulunteer at a local Okinawan festival. There, we’d help to direct traffic, assist vendors transporting things, and represent Scouting as a group. We even had the opportunity to participate in the dances, eat some delicious food, and learn more about the wonderful culture!
Chandler here — I loved cultural festivals with my troop as they were an amazing opportunity to try some unique and fantastic food. I’m always looking for a chance to expand my horizons and usually eat more than I should there!
Festivals are also another opportunity for service. These types of events are always looking for volunteers for a variety of jobs. This will give your troop some visibility in your community, allow Scouts to meet others while in uniform, and provide a valuable service to your area!
Scouts who play instruments or who want to perform a skit may even have the opportunity to do so in front of an audience at one of these events! That’s why local events and festivals are such fun and rewarding outreach opportunities that your troop definitely shouldn’t pass up.
Just like quite a few of the other Scout outing ideas we mentioned, museums can also offer some new insight into your area. Whether it’s science, history, art, or geography, at museums you’ll often discover cool things about your state that you never would’ve learned otherwise! 😀
Plus, museums make great trips because many of them are free or extremely cheap for large groups of Scouts. Some may not even require a reservation, making rescheduling the trip easy if that becomes a necessity.
Museum outings are especially great if the Scouts in your troop have specific interests. Often, you’ll have a few Scouts who are extremely passionate about aviation, science, hunting, or a multitude of other things. By visiting a museum, you can encourage those Scouts to dive deeper into their interests and share their passions with their troop buddies.
Overnight stays at museums might even be an option as well! Quite a few museums have programs where groups can “camp” inside the museum overnight, sleeping between exhibits. Make sure to ask if this is possible, as museum lock-ins are always a fun and interesting experience that not many others can say they’ve done.
This might come as a surprise, but the U.S. Military does a lot for Scouts! In fact, many military bases offer classes, tours, or camping options for troops who are interested. This is an especially great opportunity for Scouts who are interested in a future career with our armed forces.
Some bases even have military museums that you can visit! These typically offer great information that you can’t find elsewhere. Servicemen and women on base provide tours, giving you an opportunity to look at things most people never get to see.
Chandler here — My troop did a yearly trip to Wright Patterson Airforce Base near Dayton, Ohio where we got to see planes used in every war. We also got the opportunity to try out a VR parachuting training simulation because we were Scouts!
As a big history nut, I can tell you these were some of my favorite trips! I was able to see historical artifacts, and even talk to experts about time periods that stoked my curiosity. Plus, learning about our military directly from enlisted people was a unique and eye-opening experience that I still remember today.
Troop movie nights are also a great idea if you’re looking for a casual outing that doesn’t require too much planning. While you shouldn’t hold these all the time, it’s fun to change things up every once in a while and participate in activities that are less ‘rugged’ alongside your Scout buddies. 😛
A safe bet for a movie night is to pick the latest superhero movie. Most Scouts enjoy watching whatever Marvel or DC is releasing, so those types of films are easy crowd-pleasers. Alternatively, you could hold a movie night where you hold your lock-ins, and watch one of the Scout Citizenship Merit Badge Movies!
A great way to kick off planning for this outing is to start a poll in your troop on which movies they would want to see. Google Forms is my tool of choice for this. However, keep in mind that the titles would need to be appropriate for your audience, so I suggest not considering anything above PG-13.
Holding a movie night is a relaxing and enjoyable way to introduce younger Scouts to your troop, especially if you hold it after a service project or before a potluck dinner. In any case, movie nights are often quick and easy outings that can even be planned on a weeknight since no one will be out too late.
Wilderness Survival Trips
Wilderness outings are especially fun for more advanced Scouts but can be a great idea for Scouts of all ages, especially if your troop is learning survival skills. Essentially, a wilderness survival trip involves Scouts working together to build shelters from limited materials, setting fires without accelerants, and using only their environment to survive the night!
A survival trip could also help build relationships between younger and older Scouts, as these trips are usually 1-night and tend not to fall under typical patrol-structured campouts. Instead, all Scouts work together, so this is a great time for leaders to teach survival skills using the EDGE method!
Cole Here — I’ve been on a few wilderness survival trips and can tell you firsthand that they’re an experience like no other! My troop hiked to an unmarked clearing to set up base, ate MREs, and really felt like our survival skills were put to the test. Plus, instead of using tents, we cobbled together our tarps and set up an elevated open-air shelter!
Finding an area to have an outing like this shouldn’t be too hard either. You can Google “backcountry hiking (your area)” to see if there are any nearby non-campsite camping options. Every Scout should try wilderness survival camping at least once, so make sure to suggest this outing to your troop!
Also, feel free to tweak the gear recommendations to suit your Scouts. While some Scouts may elect to keep the survival more intense, the Scouts who want to should be allowed to pack in non-perishable food and other items they feel are necessary. This won’t be Survivorman levels of difficulty, just a fun way to test some basic survival skills!
Rapid-Fire Bonus Troop Outing Ideas
While we just covered a ton of great troop outing ideas, there are still so many more possibilities! That’s why right now I’ll be giving you even more rapid-fire suggestions that you might be able to use as inspiration for your next awesome troop activity. 🙂
For simplicity, I’ll be breaking this part into 2 topics: service and fun. There are so many ways you can get out and about in your community through service — and learn a ton while doing it! So first, let’s cover some of the best service projects your troop could look into doing, and then it’ll be time for some fun Scouting activity ideas!
BSA Troop Service Project Ideas
I’ve mentioned specific service outings a few times already, but there are plenty of other opportunities for service in your area besides what we covered. In fact, you can even ask your troop to brainstorm some causes you’d like to help. Here’s a quick list of my favorite ideas though:
- Plan an environmental conservation project, such as restoring a hiking trail or planting a native species garden.
- On holidays like Memorial Day, clean up cemeteries and place small flags next to the gravesites of veterans to honor them for their sacrifice.
- Organize a community clean-up day to pick up litter in parks, streets, or public areas.
- Schedule a visit to a children’s hospital where Scouts can interact with patients, play games, and provide a cheerful distraction.
- Volunteer on an American Indian reservation. You’ll have a great opportunity to learn about the tribe’s rich culture, and maybe even be able to start earning your Indian Lore badge!
I’d suggest picking a service project where you can get a lot of commitment for participation from your troop. This may require a poll during one of your meetings to see what people are interested in. This way, your troop will be able to show out in force and really support a cause that matters!
You can also try reaching out to local non-profits to see what needs to be done in your area. Building these relationships is a great way to show that your troop cares about your community, and may even result in some Eagle project idea opportunities down the road. 🙂
Now, it’s time for more rapid-fire service project ideas:
- Collect gently used sports equipment from the community and donate it to schools or local centers that lack resources.
- Visit local senior centers to organize activities, socialize, and help elderly residents with necessary household tasks.
- Partner with a local animal shelter or rescue organization to help with animal care or adoption events.
- Support veterans by organizing a care package drive, visiting a VA hospital to spend time with patients, or hosting a fundraising event.
- Hold a workshop at a local event to educate community members about disaster preparedness, covering important skills like first aid, emergency planning, and evacuation procedures.
In addition to all of these great ideas, your troop could rally behind an Eagle Scout candidate to help get their Eagle Project completed. You could even consider supporting other troops with their Eagle projects, which would kick off some wonderful inter-troop relationships! The sky is truly the limit when it comes to impact-driven service projects you can do as a troop. 🙂
Fun BSA Troop Outing Ideas
Now that we talked about service, it’s time to talk about fun! First and foremost, my #1 tip for you is that in the summer, lakes and other bodies of water are always a blast for Scouts. You can have fun with friends, relax, learn some water safety, and even knock out a few merit badges! 😀
When the weather is right and school is out, this can make for a great extended trip and a great bonding experience for Scouts. There is also a multitude of learning opportunities to be had on these trips as well including swimming lessons, fishing, cooking, boating, and many more.
Chandler here — Our lake trip was a highlight of my Scouting journey! The day was always spent tubing and fishing, and afterward we were treated to BBQ and every type of dessert that could be made in a Dutch oven! These trips are as close to a vacation as I ever got in Scouts.
An excursion to a body of water will require some planning though. You’ll want to make sure that the appropriate safety precautions are in place, enough chaperones are available to attend, and there are activities for every Scout, regardless of swimming ability. That’s why, below are some other great alternatives of things to do and places to visit:
- Participating in a high ropes course or zip-lining adventure
- Visiting Rock-climbing or bouldering gyms
- Taking a photography outing (and earning the Photography merit badge!)
- White-water rafting
- Bowling as a troop
- Conduct leadership-building exercises
- Playing paintball or laser tag (we did this once in my troop but it may not be right for everyone)
- Going to an ice-skating or roller-blading ring
- Cultural exchange events
- Outdoor cooking competitions
- Canoeing or kayaking on a scenic body of water
- Visiting a farm to learn about sustainability (and earning the Sustainability merit badge!)
- Geocaching or orienteering
- Going stargazing and learning some astronomy
- Taking a fishing trip (and earning the Fishing merit badge!)
- In cold climates, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing
- In warm climates, snorkeling or a beach day
Whether it’s lock-ins, community service, a museum excursion, or any of the other wonderful activities that can be done with your troop, Scouting offers so many possibilities for learning and growth! I hope you try at least a few of these outing ideas to have even more exciting troop adventures!
My challenge for you now is to help shape the direction of your troop by sharing this list with a Scout buddy and suggesting one of these activities at your next meeting. Scouting is what you make of it, which is why it’s so important to always be trying new things! 🙂
Thanks so much for dropping by ScoutSmarts, and for making our world a better place through your service in Scouting! If you enjoyed learning about Scouting activity highlights, I’d highly recommend also checking out any of the following articles if they spark your interest:
- The Essential Camp Packing List: A Scout’s Trek Gear Checklist
- Scout Camp Planning: Schedules, Activities, And Gear
- The FASTEST Way To Reach Eagle Scout: A 2-Year Timeline
- 67 Epic Scouting Quotes To Keep Scouts Prepared And Inspired
- Scout Camping Activities: 5 Outdoor Games Your Troop Will Love
That’s all for now! Hope to see you back here again soon. Until next time, I’m wishing you all the best on your epic Scouting journey! 😀