Many of America’s popular year-round destinations align with the country's most populated cities and states. Every day, families, friends, and businesspeople travel to popular vacation spots like New York City and Los Angeles, where there’s already a dense population. In the summertime, many of those destinations still hold up, with a few notable exceptions. After combing through TripAdvisor, AAA, and Statista's reports about the top domestic summer destinations for U.S. travelers, we assembled a list of seven getaways (no passport required!) we think should be on your radar this year. Without further ado, our top contenders.
When the kids are out of school, it’s time for parents to make good on those promises to get them to the land of theme parks — Orlando. Here, some of the biggest attractions are, not surprisingly, Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but the amusement park Fun Spot America and Aquatica water park are also popular. Vacationers who like to keep their stomach from bouncing around too much can check out SeaWorld or Madame Tussauds wax museum, tour the 50-acre Harry P. Leu Gardens, which have more than 1,000 rose bushes, or play a round at golf clubs designed by Jack Nicklaus and Tom Fazio.
The Florida city came in third in a recent TripAdvisor survey that revealed the top destinations for U.S. travelers this summer based on booking interest, and was the first most popular pick for the year in a survey of agents at America’s largest travel agency. In other words, booking early for better deals is recommended.
Where to Stay:
Pricing for Holiday Inn Resort Orlando Suites - Waterpark
Couples and families flock to Myrtle Beach for the city’s 60-mile stretch of brown sugar-colored sand. While it’s not nearly as built up as Orlando, there are several highlights to see. It even snagged the fifth spot on TripAdvisor’s survey for top destinations for U.S. travelers this summer. Broadway at the Beach is a boardwalk-style thoroughfare peppered with attractions like Ripley’s Aquarium and the Hollywood Wax Museum. There are also face painting, gourmet dining, craft beers, jet boat rides, and the 187-foot Myrtle Beach SkyWheel, one of the tallest ferris wheels in North America. Beyond swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, travelers can also opt for riding a jetpack, Jet Ski, or parasail on the water. Land options include the Brookgreen Gardens, sprawled across more than 9,000 acres, and Hobcaw Barony wildlife refuge. For those looking for a luxury getaway, Myrtle Breach has plenty of high-end resorts with spa facilities. On the flip side, more economical choices can be found away from the water as well as in some of the chain hotels.
Where to Stay:
Pricing for Sandy Beach Resort
It’s no surprise the Big Apple made the list (coming in sixth on the TripAdvisor survey and fourth on Statista’s) for most popular destinations for U.S. travelers this summer. New York City may not have big rides or endless beaches, but there are plenty of fun festivals, historic attractions, and air-conditioned museums and theaters. Anyone who appreciates a cool breeze and impressive view can head to the Empire State Building and 30 Rockefeller Plaza observation decks. The Statue of Liberty and Circle Cruises also offer a sweeping view of the Manhattan skyline. Most Broadway musicals and plays can only be found in New York, so make sure to stop by the TKTS booth in Times Square for discounted tickets (or download the TodayTix app).
Party people and music heads have several events to consider, including Electric Zoo, Governors Ball, Central Park SummerStage, and PS1 Warmup, while art aficionados can take in some of the most famous works at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Frick Collection, Whitney Museum, and Guggenheim. For families who still want a taste of the beach and amusement park rides, though, there’s Rockaway Beach in Queens or Coney Island in Brooklyn. When you’re ready to turn in, the grand old hotels of midtown Manhattan house some of the most expensive (and comfortable) rooms in the city, but there are still plenty of small boutique finds and outer-borough bargains.
Where to Stay:
Pricing for Gramercy Park Hotel
Los Angeles, which ranked seventh on Statista’s list, offers fun for everyone — families, couples, singles, beach fanatics, and landlubbers. For little ones, there are several big theme parks in the area: Universal Studios Hollywood, Disneyland in Anaheim, Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, and Legoland in Carlsbad. Sun worshipers and surfers can scope out the Santa Monica Beach and Pier and always-groovy Venice Beach, while Hollywood fans have the option of the TCL Chinese Theatre, Hollywood Walk of Fame and, of course, the Hollywood sign (although seeing it from a distance should suffice). Gourmands should make it a point to grab a bite at eateries like Spago or Jitlada. As far as lodging goes, hotels range quite a bit, from the Beverly Hills luxury spots that can set you back about $1,000 a night to boutique spots, like Maison 140, that are a fraction of that.
Where to Stay:
Pricing for Le Parc Suite Hotel
While a trek to Maui (the second most popular getaway on Statista’s list) may not be the cheapest summer getaway, the low-key island is a relaxing and invigorating destination for those who want to unplug and decompress. A short flight from the tourist-packed Honolulu, Maui offers plenty of postcard-ready vistas that can be great for sunbathing, hiking, or just staring at for hours. Couples who want a romantic spa holiday can find it at one of the numerous luxury resorts while families seeking adventure have zip-lining, snorkeling, and scuba diving options. Ka’anapali Beach has water as clear as blue glass as well as catamarans to glide over it and Haleakala Crater boasts an otherworldly terrain and some of the rarest plants and animals on the planet. To escape the resort life, there’s the long, slow road to Hana that winds through the island with small, charming waterfalls along the way.
Where to Stay:
Pricing for Makena Beach and Golf Resort
While Chicago is known for its brisk winters, summer in the Midwest’s biggest city tends to be relatively moderate, with temperatures hovering around the 70s and 80s. Chicago, the number seven pick on Statista’s list, has plenty of great food for romantic dinners as well as attractions to keep the kids entertained. Not only are bars, dance clubs, and comedy theaters aplenty, but music fans have the choice of several events, including the Chicago Blues Festival, Millennium Summer Park Music Series, and Chicago SummerDance, the largest outdoor music and dancing series in the U.S. For families, there’s Navy Pier, which has a funhouse maze, children’s museum, ferris wheel, and Shakespeare theater. If admiring the skyline’s beautiful architecture is on your to-do list, look up from a water taxi or down from the John Hancock Center observation deck. Bonus: many of Chicago’s beautiful historic hotels are reasonably priced compared with other cities.
Where to Stay:
Pricing for Palmer House A Hilton Hotel
Fun fact: Las Vegas was the top destination in TripAdvisor’s survey (and the fifth most popular pick for the year on Statista). Anyone who thinks America’s playground is solely about gambling and showgirls hasn’t seen the casinos recently. While Vegas may always attract dudes and dudettes for a wild weekend, the city’s summer months are often more about family getaways. That means A-list entertainment, top-notch restaurants, and amenities for the kiddies. Hotel pools are a little crowded in the warmer months, but there are plenty other activities to indulge in. Blue Man Group, Circus Circus, and the Tournament of Kings at Excalibur are fun for all ages. Some of the more unusual attractions include the Mob Museum, Arctic Ice Room at Caesars Palace, and “Painting with Dolphins” at the Mirage. For a gourmet meal, restauranteurs Gordon Ramsay, Roy Ellamar, and Daniel Boulud all have outposts in Sin City. Visitors who want to brave the desert sun for an outdoor adventure can check out Red Rock Canyon, Spring Mountain Ranch State Park, and Big Cat Encounters Ranch. Just don’t forget to pack the sunscreen.
Where to Stay:
Pricing for The Mirage Hotel & Casino
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