As the summer approaches, you need to decide where to go on holiday, even if for a couple of days, to enjoy the good weather and those sights, sounds, smells, and tastes that only come with summer. That’s why I’ve paired up with a few travel bloggers to show you the best summer vacation spots in the US!
No matter what kind of traveler you are, you’ll certainly find a trip for your taste here. From mountains to beaches, national parks, city trips, and more! It will be difficult to choose only one. Sorry, not sorry.
Best Summer Vacation Spots in the US
from Megan at Red Around the World
If you love the outdoors, Utah is perfect for you. In southern Utah you can roam among the cactus and sagebrush in the desert, then drive five hours north and be enjoying the cooler temperatures surrounded by pine trees and alpine lakes. It literally has it all. While it may get insanely hot here in the summer, 100+ F, it’s still a great destination.
I’ve lived here for three summers now and visited the summer before I moved here, too. It’s the perfect road trip destination because there are so many national parks, national monuments, recreation areas, state parks, and other hikes so close together. Even if you don’t like hiking, the scenery is worth seeing. It almost feels otherworldly in places. Even the drives between parks are hard to beat, and that’s usually the most boring part, scenery wise. if you’ve never seen the desert, this is a great place for your desert experience.
Some of the highlights are walking among the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon, hiking to Delicate Arch in Arches, running with the goblins in Goblin Valley, and being awestruck by the scenery in Zion. Whether it’s your first visit or your fiftieth, it’s hard to not be blown away by the landscapes.
from Michelle at Harbors & Havens
There’s no bad time to visit the Hawaiian Islands, as long as you’re into swaying palm trees, gorgeous sandy beaches, and warm sea breezes. But if you’re heading to Kauai, summer is an ideal time to enjoy the best of all the natural features the Garden Island has to offer.
The northernmost of the archipelago, Kauai’s diverse landscape includes everything from lush, tropical rainforests and towering waterfalls to deep canyons painted in red and green. The picturesque Na Pali Coast to the northwest offers breathtaking hiking trails along the rugged shoreline and above the clouds, while plentiful sandy beaches like Hanalei Bay and Poipu provide spots to spread out and relax under the beaming sun.
Summer is the dry season on Kauai, making outdoor adventures and sightseeing flights to see the remote interior of the island more feasible. The ocean is calmer during this time of year, too, perfect for snorkeling and splashing around in the waves on warm afternoons that heat up into the mid-80s. And while summer may be on the heels of winter as the peak tourist season, the crowds tend to stay lower on this laid-back island full of small towns than on its more popular neighbors of Oahu and Maui.
Photo by Michelle
from Jasmine at A Great Big Hunk of World
Portland, Maine is one of those destinations that while popular, doesn’t often receive the recognition it deserves as a prime summer vacation spot. I’ll even admit, that I didn’t visit with the highest of expectations. However, Portland has easily become one of my favorite destinations and for many reasons.
While I was visiting with a group of friends at the time, Portland is the type of location that is perfect for a couple, a family of all ages, or even someone traveling on their own. In just two days, we took part in a sunrise kayak tour, where we came within a few feet of a herd of playful seals; took a leisurely but scenic hike around Bradbury Mountain State Park, and rode on a schooner through the Casco Bay.
In terms of food, Portland offers an array of options, from dining on lobster and fresh fish on the rocky shore of Cape Elizabeth to the Holy Donut, which offers delicious donuts made entirely from potato flour. Portland is truly one of those classic seaside towns that will make you feel nostalgic even if it’s your first time visiting, and being only a six-hour drive from New York makes it super convenient for those in the northeast looking for a quick but eventful getaway.
Photo by Jasmine
Jekyll Island, Georgia
from Carrie at Maple & Maps
With quiet beaches, gorgeous scenery, and lots of Southern charm, Jekyll Island, Georgia, is the perfect place for a summer escape. While many other beach destinations in the Southeast have become overdeveloped and commercialized, Jekyll Island remains relatively untouched.
A highlight of any trip to Jekyll Island is a visit to Driftwood Beach. As the sea continues to erode the beach, it has left behind a graveyard of dead trees. The resulting landscape is hauntingly beautiful.
While Driftwood Beach’s unique scenery is breathtaking at any time of day, the views are best at sunrise and sunset. Be sure to take your camera along, since you will want to snap a photo every 3 seconds. Just be wary when entering the water, since the strong current and submerged branches can be dangerous for swimmers.
For swimming, kayaking, and sunbathing, head to Great Dunes Beach. The wide, calm beach is sparsely populated even during peak summer months.
Once you’ve gotten your fill of the sun and sand, take some time to explore the island’s historic landmarks. Be sure to visit the Horton House, built by Major William Horton in 1743, and the Jekyll Island Club Resort, a once exclusive club boasting members as famous as J.P. Morgan and Joseph Pulitzer.
For families traveling with young children, a visit to the Summer Waves waterpark is a must.
Photo by Carrie
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
from Heidi at Fly Away U
If you’re looking for one the most beautiful national parks the US has to offer; then you don’t want to miss the Rocky Mountain National Park. Towering snow-covered peaks greet you long before you enter the park, many over 12,000 feet tall. Inside, winding roads and trails (over 300 miles of them), old pine forests, wildlife, wildflowers, lakes, and views that go for miles – literally suck you into a land of wonder and intrigue.
See subalpine and alpine terrains, as you stare into distant vistas from the Trail Ridge Road, which winds for miles above 12,000 feet and crosses the Continental Divide. If that’s a little too high, seek out the two giant elk herds in the lower meadowlands. Just don’t get too close and keep a safe distance! But do make sure you take plenty of photos.
In the summer, soak up the warm days and cool nights in front of a fire in your reserved campsite. And in the fall snap gorgeous photos of the golden aspen groves flowing down the mountainsides. And if camping isn’t your style, stop into Estes Park, located just outside the east gates, for hot meals and soft beds. While there, don’t miss seeing the Stanley Hotel from Stephen King’s The Shining and more elk.
While in the park, don’t miss one of our favorite trails, the Bear Lake Trail. It’s short, easily accessible and has fantastic views of the surrounding peaks, including Longs Peak the highest in the park at 14, 259 feet.
Photo by Heidi
New Orleans, Louisiana
from Michelle at That Texas Couple
You cannot have a top list of best summer vacation spots in the US and not include New Orleans. New Orleans is a fascinating mix of people, sights, and sounds that cannot be found anywhere else in the United States, or possibly the world. Known for fabulous food, great music, and friendly people, New Orleans is sure to steal your heart.
Take time to explore the historic French Quarter with its gorgeous wrought iron balconies overlooking the gas-lit streets below. Wander in and out of the art galleries and antique shops on Royal before heading to Café du Monde for a world famous beignet and café au lait. After stopping to take a selfie in front of the iconic Jackson Square, walk the Mississippi Riverfront and check out one of New Orleans’ historical steam boats. Spend the evening enjoying the music scene at Preservation Hall or one of the many clubs on Frenchmen Street.
Keep in mind that there is so much more to New Orleans than just the French Quarter. Take the trolley into the Garden District to see the many gorgeous mansions that call NOLA home. You might just catch a glimpse of Sandra Bullock or Beyoncé since they both own homes here! While you’re in the Garden District, treat yourself to lunch at Commander’s Palace and enjoy white glove service with 25-cent martinis!
New Orleans has plenty to keep you busy for days and to make you want to return again and again. For that reason, a great New Orleans itinerary is definitely needed. Granted, you will definitely experience some southern heat during the summer months, but do not let that deter you from visiting this eclectic city!
Photo by Michelle
Yosemite National Park, California
from Allison at She Dreams of Alpine
Yosemite National Park in California is one of the United States most iconic national parks. Thousands of people flock to it every year to see the dramatic, glacially formed, tall granite walls that make up the entrance of Yosemite Valley and are part of the epic Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.
The summer months are the best and most accessible times to visit the park as the roads and most hikes should all be open, campsites will be active, and Yosemite village will be in full swing. Some of Yosemite’s main attractions include hiking to the top of Half Dome, river rafting in the Merced River, standing at the base of Yosemite’s tallest granite wall, El Capitan, hiking to upper, lower and middle Yosemite Falls, and driving up to Glacier Point to grab a beautiful photograph of the entire valley.
Just be sure to check with a park ranger before your visit as most popular hikes in the valley require hiking permits which can be obtained ahead of time or during your visit depending on availability.
Every type of explorer can come here and enjoy what Yosemite has to offer. Whether your aim is beautiful photography, day hikes, or even multi-day backpacking adventures into the thick of Yosemite, you will not be disappointed. In fact, you will most likely leave here wishing you had more time to explore its charms.
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
from Maggie at Pink Caddy Travelogue
If you’re looking for a summer vacation away from the crowds and cities, Shenandoah National Park is the place to go. Only 50 miles from Washington D.C., it provides a perfect respite from the hectic hustle-and-bustle life inside the Beltway. With over 200,000 acres of protected wilderness, it’s the perfect getaway for families, couples, and solo travelers alike. In the summertime, the wildflowers are blooming and the lush, green scenery Virginia is known for is on full display, making this the perfect time to visit.
The main attraction in Shenandoah is Skyline Drive. The National Scenic Byway travels along the crest of the Blue Ridge for 100 miles between Front Royal and Rockfish Gap, where it connects to the Blue Ridge Parkway. There are dozens of overlooks providing vistas of the lush rolling hills of Virginia’s Piedmont to the east and the Shenandoah Valley to the west. It’s most popular in the fall when the leaves are changing, so the summer is the perfect time to enjoy it without as many fellow tourists.
The park is also a hiker’s paradise, naturally. There are over 500 miles of backcountry trails, include 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail, ranging from easy “walks-in-the-woods” to more moderate and strenuous treks. There are also places for horseback riding and bicycling. There are two main resorts in the park, Skyland, and Big Meadows, for those who want a getaway in nature without being too rustic. But there are also a number of campgrounds.
Assateague Island, Maryland & Virginia
from Meghan at Meghan the Traveling Teacher
Assateague Island has to be one of my favorite spots in the summer. It’s situated on the Maryland and Virginia border making it very accessible to many people especially if you’re coming from Washington, DC or somewhere else along the East Coast. Assateague is known for something very unique and special – wild horses! Wild horses live all over the island in groups and they are truly wild.
Once a summer they all move from the island to the mainland during the pony swim in July to shield them from the cold as the summer ends. It is an incredible experience to get to see in real life.
Just be careful when you see these wild horses, they are known to bite and hurt people because they are truly wild animals. While there, make sure you take a swim on the beautiful beach, go on a fun bike ride through the marsh to spot ponies, lighthouse house, and eat lots of seafood. Assateague is the perfect summer getaway!
Photo by Meghan
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
from Cali at Cali On The Go
Cape Cod holds some of my fondest summer memories. Geographically, it looks like a hooked finger telling you to, “come hither,” and in reality, a destination that allows you to escape the hustle and bustle of Boston and the rest of Massachusetts.
When driving, the Bourne and Sagamore bridges are landmarks that transport you into vacationland filled with sea breezes, sunsets, and beaches with water that will never be warm enough to swim comfortably. You don’t go to the Cape for a tropical vacation. Cape Cod is cute.
There are cute cottages with shingled siding. There are cute shops where you go to support the local small business owner. There are cute restaurants with clever yet gimmicky names like Crepe Cod. You rent bikes and ride the rail trail, consume salt water taffy till you burst, and seek out the “dunes on the Cape” made famous by the “if you like pina coladas” song.
You can find some of the world’s freshest seafood, including a famous New England lobster roll. Lobster manages to sneak its way into every dish: mac and cheese, quesadillas, soup, etc. And let me tell you, I don’t hate it! Cape Cod provides a sensory overload. The sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the Cape just scream summer.
Photo by Cali
Have you ever been to any of those destinations? If so, to which one(s)? What other destination would you add to this list? I’m curious, drop your answer in the comments!
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