27 Best Summer Vacations in the USA (Sun, Fun, and Endless Adventure!)

Last Updated on January 02, 2023 by Nikki Jain

When looking for the best summer vacation in the US, you don’t have to look very hard. It’s interesting how small the window is in most people’s lives. Not purposefully, of course. But it's easy to forget that there is a massive amount of territory out there to explore. 

If you ever get up on an airplane and get a window seat, you'll see just how small cities really are, at least in comparison to the vast wilderness and natural real estate of the country. It doesn't take long to realize a vast world of exploration and adventure is awaiting you.

The best summer vacation spots in the US are so vast and numerous that it's worth breaking down into something more manageable. Hence our list of 27. For what it's worth, these places stand out amongst their peers, and if you're looking for a fantastic summer vacation spot, some or all of these should be high on your list.

The Most Amazing Places to Visit During Summer in the USA

Best Summer Vacations in the USA

Any one of these places would also make a good winter vacation spot, but there's something special about the summer months. This is especially true for the Rocky Mountains, whose lonely peaks know no summer solace. Or Yellowstone, where the changing seasons are both welcome and harsh in their own way.

Here is a list of the great summer vacations in the USA to consider.

Best Summer Vacation Ideas in the USA

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1: Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon, Arizona
Grand Canyon | Depositphotos/Maridav

The Grand Canyon is one of the greatest wonders of nature on the planet, carved over eons by the Colorado River and weather phenomena, both small and large. At its deepest, the Grand Canyon is one mile deep, and the average width is ten miles.

According to historians, 40% of the Earth’s history is contained in the rock, a gigantic history book written in schist stone. As far as summer vacation ideas in the US go, there’s no better place to explore the vastness of the planet and see just how small we really are.

While it's fun to visit in any season, the Grand Canyon’s South and North Rim are truly enjoyable in the summer months, especially the Trail of Time or a three-hour trip across the canyon’s rim on the back of a donkey. Raft trips and kayaking are especially fun in the sun.

Accommodation: Where to stay near Grand Canyon

Also Read: The Best Things To Do in the Grand Canyon

2: Mackinac Island, Michigan

Mackinac Island, Michigan
Mackinac Island | Depositphotos/Mike.S.Deemer

Unless you're climatized, the northern states are best to visit in the heart of the summer, and one of the best summer vacation spots in the US is Mackinac Island, Michigan.

Starting in June, temperatures stabilize in the 70s and remain through the middle of August. You can only traverse Mackinac Island via bicycle or foot, so you will grow to appreciate those cool summer breezes blowing in from the Great Lakes.

The island offers 70 miles of hiking trails, horseback riding, and bicycling, all activities that are best in the summer. The island is also home to a lot of history, including Fort Mackinac. In the summer, the historian and explorer in you always feel freer to explore.

Accommodation: Where to stay in Mackinac Island

3: Door County, Wisconsin

Door County, Wisconsin
Door County | Depositphotos/KennethKeifer

Wisconsin is another state that’s best to visit in the summer unless you really enjoy those winter chills and mountains of ice along the sides of the roads. If you’re pining for good summer vacation ideas in the US, Door County has a lot to offer.

Door County is a cherry place, so prepare yourself to be inundated with everything cherry, including all the jams, pies, and desserts you could want. If you love cherries, you'll adore Door County.

Another great summer destination is Washington Island, and you can reach it by ferry. The island has enough to explore to last the entirety of your vacation, including over 100 square miles of real estate, and it's an extremely popular spot for bikers.

Accommodation: Where to stay in Door County

4: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Yellowstone National Park | Depositphotos/Wirepec

Everybody is familiar with Yellowstone, but it's best to visit this natural wonder in the Summer months. While every season in Yellowstone has something to offer, it gets quite cold and harsh in the winter. Besides, Yellowstone’s park amenities are wide open only in the summer.

The month of August is the best time to go if you want to see the wildlife at its fullest and most vibrant. Everything that creeps and crawls in Yellowstone is out and about in August. Plus, all the hiking trails are open, and this is where you can truly explore the wildlife.

Kayaking and hiking are the two most popular adventure activities in Yellowstone as the Summer months wear on. However, even if you bring your kayak, be prepared for heavy crowds. Outside of that, Yellowstone will easily make for one of the best Summer vacations in the US.

Accommodation: Where to stay near Yellowstone

5: Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

It doesn’t matter who you ask. If you want to visit Cape Cod, everyone will recommend the summer season. Of course, the summer season is the busiest, but that shouldn't serve as a detraction.

The biggest reason to visit in the summer is the beach. No beach is truly delightful outside of Summer. Besides, the Summer Concert Series only starts on Martha’s Vineyard in the summer. The local seafood and dining industry is in full swing.

It's often said that the “lower elbow” of the Cape is the best place to be in the summer since it's positively covered in shops and restaurants. If you’re an Airbnb aficionado, many local residents open up their homes. If you’re up for a day on the beach, the Cape Cod National Seashore is the best, especially for surfers.

Accommodation: Where to stay in Cape Cod

Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Cape Cod

6: Outer Banks, North Carolina

Outer Banks, North Carolina
Outer Banks | Depositphotos/digidream

The Outer Banks is one of the most popular summer destinations in the USA. If you have kids, there are so many accommodations for them in the Outer Banks it's hard to list them all. Since summer observes school time off, traveling to the Outer Banks is highly convenient.

Like Cape Cod, Airbnb is big in the Outer Banks and the surrounding areas. Even without that, lodging options are immense. Visiting the Outer Banks in the summer is all about the beaches and the outstanding seafood restaurants that dot the narrow strip as it feeds into the Atlantic.

Be sure to check out all of the upcoming Outer Banks events before you go. They are numerous and always changing–everything from concerts to festivals.

Accommodation: Where to stay in Outer Banks

7: Maui, Hawaii

Maui, Hawaii
Stunning Beach View in Maui | Depositphotos/MNStudio

Traveling to Hawaii in the summer, at least as an idea, is a no-brainer. Hawaii is gorgeous and tropical at any time of the year, but it's incredibly fantastic in the Summer. If you've never snorkeled before, it's an absolute must in Maui.

Even as you look down from the surface of the water to a depth of 50’, the water is crystal clear and abundant with colorful displays from the sea bed wildlife and fish. If you’re lucky, you may even spot dolphins or whales, though the latter tend to pass through during the winter. 

The crystal clear water is one of the things that place Maui on the “best places to visit in Summer in the USA” list. But the food is also outstanding, as well as the local accommodations. It's also the part of the year when the water is at its calmest, so prepare for a lot of swimming.

Accommodation: Where to stay in Maui

Also Read: Best Tropical Destinations in the US

8: Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Rocky Mountain National Park | Depositphotos/haveseen

If you’ve never experienced knee-deep snow when the temperatures are in the 60s, you’re missing out. One of the only places you can find that kind of weirdness is in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

Not to mention the fact that it's a jaw-droppingly beautiful place to visit. The Alpine Lakes are incredible, and at an elevation of 14,000’, you’ll experience the wonders of huge lakes in a whole new way.

Trail Ridge Road is one of the most scenic drives you will ever experience, and suffice it to say; it's not a drive you want to take in the winter. The fact that it's as open and varied for family accommodations as it is for solo adventurers puts Rocky Mountain National Park in the top ten list of summer destinations in the US

Accommodation: Where to stay in Estes Park

Also Read: Best Things To Do in Estes Park

9: Jekyll Island, Georgia

Jekyll Island, Georgia
Jekyll Island | Depositphotos/appalachianview

It's not something right out of a Robert Louis Stevenson story, but it is one of the best places to visit in the summer in the USA. Jekyll Island is best known for its sugar-white beach sand, very similar to what you will find on the Florida Panhandle.

The Millionaire’s Village will cater to history enthusiasts, as it's a 240-acre site with more than 30 historic landmarks. Once upon a time, Millionaire’s Village was what Martha’s Vineyard and areas of Silicon Valley are today.

The Georgia Sea Turtle Center is a fantastic option for kids or turtle lovers alike, and the historic district is loaded with activities, restaurants, and various shops. You can also take a comfortable horse carriage tour through the area.

Accommodation: Where to stay in Jekyll Island

10: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Myrtle Beach Boardwalk | Dreamstime/Sean Pavone

If you live in South Carolina or its neighboring states, you know where and what Myrtle Beach is. It's one of the most popular destinations in the area, especially in the summer. As far as summer destinations in the USA go, Myrtle Beach is easily one of the top spots.

The extensive beach is part of the reason but far from the only one. There is also a giant amusement park, more dining opportunities than you can imagine, and summer festivals galore.

You’ll also find the best hotel deals in the summer unless you opt for Airbnb. If you can catch Myrtle Beach in time to attend the Wings Over Myrtle Beach Air Show, you won’t regret it.

Accommodation: Where to stay in Myrtle Beach

Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Myrtle Beach

11: Upper Peninsula, Michigan

Upper Peninsula, Michigan

The biggest reason to travel to the Upper Peninsula in the summer is to experience the highest peaks in Michigan without freezing your tail off. The Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park and Brockway Mountain Drive are the go-to spots for aerial views.

Island hopping is another fun Summer activity on the Upper Peninsula; prepare yourself for many of them. Each one has something to offer as well. Mackinac Island, one of the above-listed destinations, is a part of the island hopping trip.

If it gets too hot, visit the mines on the Keweenaw Peninsula. The mines are long abandoned, but once, they offered massive quantities of copper. There are several of them, including the Iron Mountain Iron Mine, the Delaware Copper Mine, and the Quincy Mine.

Accommodation: Where to stay in Upper Peninsula

12: Portland, Maine

Portland, Maine
Beautiful lighthouse in Portland, Maine | Depositphotos/rixipix

One of the best USA Summer vacation spots is found in Portland, Maine. On its own, it sounds like any other city throughout the country, but Portland is anything but.

What makes Portland so alluring is the fact that nothing is alluring about it, at least not on the surface. Portland is one of those places where people aren't going out of their way to impress you or throw huge tourism adverts your way.

It's just a beautiful place that stays cool in the summer and has some really delicious seafood. Peak’s Island is a fantastic destination, with over 720 acres to explore.

If you want to experience some old-school nostalgia, the Portland Schooner Co. offers Schooner tours on the water. You can also take a self-guided tour of the Portland Freedom Trail.

Accommodation: Where to stay in Portland

Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Portland

13: Sonoma/Napa Valley, California

Sonoma/Napa Valley, California

Napa Valley is a wine lover's dream. If there is one thing about wine, it's that it's best enjoyed in the Summer. Napa Valley and the Sonoma area are world-famous for their wine distilleries and offerings and for a good reason.

Another good reason to make this your American Summer vacation is the mineral springs. While the state of Florida trumps all states when it comes to natural springs, the mineral springs in Napa Valley are incredible in their own right and best experienced in the heat of the Summer.

Napa Valley also offers an incredibly fun summer activity–hot air balloon rides. There's something about hovering 1,000 feet up, watching the sunset on the verdant green of a wine valley landscape.

Accommodation: Where to stay in Napa Valley

Also Read: The Best Weekend Trips for the Wine Lover

14: Panama City Beach, Florida

Panama City Beach, Florida
Panama City Beach | Dreamstime/Kevin Ruck

There is nothing in the World quite as incredible as the sugar-white sands of the Florida panhandle. Panama City Beach is a popular destination for spring breakers, but they are largely gone by the time Summer rolls around.

Panama City is home to some of the best seafood restaurants in the state, along with some of the most beautiful beach line views of the Gulf of Mexico. Panama City Beach offers tours, boat rides, swim with the dolphins tours, parasailing, and more.

The Sea Dragon Pirate Cruise is fun for the whole family, and if you're a golfer, you'll find the golf courses in Panama City Beach are incredible. The nightlife in Panama City Beach is like no other, with live music and mini-festivals around every corner.

Accommodation: Where to stay in Panama City Beach

Also Read: The Best Beaches in Florida

15: Virginia Beach, Virginia

Virginia Beach, Virginia
Virginia Beach Boardwalk | Depositphotos/SherryVSmith

If boating, kayaking, surfing, parasailing, and stand-up paddleboarding are your thing, there is no better place than Virginia Beach, Virginia. It's far enough north that Summer is the best season to hit up the beach and enjoy everything the local community has to offer.

The Virginia Beach Parks are numerous and offer all kinds of Summer activities and tours. Hiking and biking are nearly as prevalent as seafaring activities. Summer fireworks and Live! On Atlantic is both summer shows only and a blast to attend.

Virginia Beach also has some of the best dining around, all the way down to the local ice cream shops that dot the area. Vegetarians and Vegans will love the plant-based food offerings in the surrounding restaurants as well.

Accommodation: Where to stay in Virginia Beach

Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Virginia Beach

16: Anchorage, Alaska

Anchorage, Alaska
Picturesque mountain view in Anchorage | Depositphotos/Christiannafzger

You have to go to a place like Anchorage, Alaska, if you really want to commune with nature. Most cities in Alaska are inaccessible by vehicle, so everything leans toward a careful balance between people and nature.

The National Parks in Alaska are some of the best in the world, with stunning views, moose, elk, bears, and more. The city itself is unlike any other and defies the concept of the quintessential American city.

What makes Alaska one of the best places to visit during the Summer is the temperature. A balmy 65 degrees is about as warm as it gets. If you truly want to see a once-in-a-lifetime view, travel to Flattop Mountain. It's a tough little climb for the uninitiated but well worth the effort.

Accommodation: Where to stay in Anchorage

Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Anchorage

17: Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Gatlinburg is a stunning destination for summertime revelers. It's a great vacation spot in the Summer because of all the natural activities it offers. The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is the country's most visited National Park, probably because of the incredible scenery and weather.

The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a great place to start before making your way up to the Gatlinburg Space Needle for panoramic countryside views. The Gatlinburg Farmer's Market lasts from May to October if you're in the mood for the freshest produce. The Summer Music offerings are numerous and spread out throughout the city. Almost anywhere you go offers great food and fantastic entertainment.

Accommodation: Where to stay in Gatlinburg

Also Read: Best Things To Do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

18: Santa Catalina Island, California

Santa Catalina Island, California
Santa Catalina Island | Depositphotos/maryrprentice

Santa Catalina Island is a fantastic Summer vacation spot in America because it's like stepping out of the desert into a cool, breezy room. Santa Catalina Island has the cool ocean breeze to thank for its near-perfect climate, and you'll find many reasons to enjoy it.

It's an outstanding destination for scuba divers and snorkelers, with remarkably clear and pristine waters. You'll find kayaking, parasailing, jet skiing, and more if you're into recreational and extreme sports.

There is a lot of wildlife on Santa Catalina as well, and both the Dolphin & Sea Lion Excursion, along with the Jeep Eco Tours, will place you within arms reach of the natural beauty of the island and its many inhabitants.

Accommodation: Where to stay in Santa Catalina Island

19: Block Island, Rhode Island

Block Island, Rhode Island

Block Island is one of the premier destinations in New England, especially in the Summer. You can only access the island by taking the Block Island Ferry across. But you may not want to take the ferry back once you're there.

Ballard’s is one of the most popular bars on the East Coast and generally the first destination of every visitor to the island. In fact, you can fill an entire day with activities without ever leaving Ballards.

The Mohegan Bluffs are gorgeous year-round but especially during the summer months. There's also the historic lighthouse on the island, known as the North Light. It's essentially a museum in and of itself and a top-rated destination.

Accommodation: Where to stay in Block Island

Address: Block Island, RI

20: New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans, Louisiana
Jackson Square in New Orleans | Depositphotos/sepavone

New Orleans is an entirely different kind of summer vacation, especially with its french heritage and outstanding cajun food. The city is a fine example of Louisiana plant life, with large streamers of Spanish Moss hanging from nearly every branch on every oak tree.

As degrading as Hollywood movies try to make swamps, they are lovely places, especially if you visit in the early morning hours or late in the evening. New Orleans is one of the best food destinations in the entire US. The city is almost constantly in a state of celebration for one thing or the other, so there is plenty to see and do at all times, day or night.

If you’re hoping for one of the best vacations in the United States in Summer, New Orleans is always a hit and never a miss.

Accommodation: Where to stay in New Orleans

Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in New Orleans

21: Finger Lakes, New York

Finger Lakes, New York
Finger Lakes | Depositphotos/lhboucault

All the way back to the north side of the United States is yet another of the best Summer getaways in the USA–the Finger Lakes. The Finger Lakes have a lot in common with Napa Valley. The area is also one of the best wine destinations in the country.

When you're not taste-testing vintage wines, you'll find all the outdoor adventures you can handle on the lakes themselves, including kayaking, parasailing, jet skiing, recreational boating, fishing, and sailing.

Elmira is known throughout the country as "Mark Twain's stomping grounds." Almost all of his novels were based on the area. Mark Twain often summered there in the Finger Lakes region, so there is plenty of history to find.

Accommodation: Where to stay in Finger Lakes

22: Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Some of the world's most renowned restaurants are situated in the heart of Santa Fe, New Mexico. If you enjoy spending your summer vacations fine dining, Santa Fe is easily the best choice of the bunch.

It’s also a great place to take the kids, with the Santa Fe Children’s Museum, The Railyard District, and the Bandelier National Monument catering to the little ones.

Adults will find plenty to love about these destinations as well. Santa Fe has a lot to offer nature lovers, with fantastic hiking trails and incredible views surrounding the city. Mountain biking is quite popular in Santa Fe, as well as fishing and hiking.

Accommodation: Where to stay in Santa Fe

Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Santa Fe

23: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Love Park in Philadelphia | Depositphotos/erix2005

Philadelphia is the natural destination for a history buff. The heart of the nation's history resides in Philadelphia, along with many founding documents and historic literature from the Revolutionary War.

The Made in America Festival takes place in Philadelphia every year, along with an incredible Fourth of July show and just about every exhibition you can possibly imagine at the Franklin Institute.

The Wawa Welcome Center offers 16 straight days of celebrations that cover a wide variety of events and meanings. If you’re headed to Philadelphia for your Summer vacation, be sure to catch the Wawa Welcome Center at the beginning.

Accommodation: Where to stay in Philadelphia

Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Philadelphia

24: Glacier National Park, Montana

Glacier National Park, Montana
Glacier National Park | Depositphotos/kamchatka

Glacier National Park is also known as the site of the World's first international peace agreement. It was really just a thing between the US and Canada, but that shouldn't stop you from enjoying more than just the historical significance of this beautiful slice of paradise.

If you like history, however, there is a ton of native history to explore throughout the area. Glacier National Park is a place of solitude and one of the world's best-preserved ecosystems, with everything remaining the way it has been for thousands of years.

If you’re itching for peace and solitude, along with one of the best summer vacations in the US, there is no better option than Glacier National Park. The Great Northern Resort is a fantastic place to unwind and sleep between adventures.

Accommodation: Where to stay near Glacier National Park

25: San Juan Islands, Washington

San Juan Islands, Washington
San Juan Islands | Depositphotos/dspguy

The San Juan Islands cater to outdoor aficionados. It's one of the best places in the country to go hiking, mountain biking, camping, or cross-country trekking.

The islands dotted throughout the area are phenomenal places to explore from a kayak. Kayaks, canoes, and small boats are the best ways to take it all in since you're as close to the water and the area around you as possible in those types of watercraft.

You can find everything you need to know about kayaking around the San Juan Islands through KELP (Kayak Education and Leadership Program). Surprisingly, you will find that the local area is all about agriculture, with multiple farmlands available and open to visitors throughout the Summer months.

Accommodation: Where to stay in San Juan Islands

26: Park City, Utah

Park City, Utah
Park City View | Depositphotos/sepavone

Park City, Utah, is certainly not a "stand-out" name when it comes to summer vacation options within the United States. However, it definitely should be because it's a fantastic option that belongs on any Summer vacationing list.

Park City is lush, rolling hills and a small mountain community straight out of The Shire in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The rivers and creeks throughout the area are pristine and beautiful, seemingly undisturbed from the places they established thousands of years ago.

Historic Main Street, local concerts, and fine dining are enough to entice Summer visitors. If you happen to be in the area, you should also visit Park Silly on a Sunday and bring the kids along for the ride.

Accommodation: Where to stay in Park City

27: Chicago, Illinois

Chicago, Illinois
Chicago cityscape | Depositphotos/sepavone

Chicago is known as a windy city, and it certainly fits that description. However, that's a problem for winter, and you're here for the Summer fun possibilities.

During the warm season, Chicago is a fantastic vacation destination, especially if you want to experience authentic pizza. Not that stuff you order online whenever you come up empty on dinner ideas.

When most people think about Chicago, they don't think about beaches, but the beaches in Chicago are a fun place to be. Boat cruises and outdoor dining are fantastic options during your stay, and you'll find that many people enjoy the outdoor dining life to the extreme.

If you go during the Summer, be sure to land in Chicago during Festival Season, which is an absolute blast.

Accommodation: Where to stay in Chicago

Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Chicago

FAQs about the Best Summer Vacations Spots in the USA

What are the good states to visit in the summer?

That's a difficult answer because it relies entirely on individual preferences. If you love the beach, the Florida Panhandle, and Hawaii. If you love nature, Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming. If you love the cities, take your pick out of California.

What are some of the best summer vacation spots in the USA for families?

The Florida Key, any number of the over one thousand natural springs in Florida, and Disney World Orlando are hard to beat. There is also the Grand Canyon in Arizona, The Outer Banks in North Carolina, and Lakeshore in West Michigan.

What are some of the best summer vacation spots in the USA for couples?

Wow, there are so many options to throw out here. The Florida Keys are probably the number one spot for tropical romance, or possibly Maui, Hawaii. The Blue Ridge Mountains are another excellent destination for couples. It's located in Helen, Georgia.

What are the best cool weather summer vacations in the USA?

To find cool weather in the summer in the US, you have to head north or climb. The Smoky Mountains are smaller than the Rockies, but they're far more beautiful and cool in the summer. Places like Asheville, North Carolina, and The Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee are excellent choices.

Final Thoughts on the best summer vacations in the US

There you have it, the top 27 best summer vacation ideas in the United States. There are a lot more than what you find on this list, and it takes a bit of nitpicking to sort out the wheat from the chafe. However, if you're looking for the best, look no further than these fantastic places.

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