Summer is arguably the best time to travel in the United States, thanks to warm weather (finally), longer days, and school being out of session. But where to go? Luckily, the United States is a geographically diverse country with a lot of options for intrepid summer travelers across the budget spectrum. We rounded up eight U.S. destinations that pack an extra punch from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Check them out and get going!
Due to heavy snowfall and the isolated location, it’s common for West Yellowstone to be (mostly) inaccessible until early summer, when hiking conditions become ideal with highs in the 70s. The park’s animals (like elk, moose, wolves, bears, and bison) are on the move and calving season brings a spectacular chance to see baby animals. Thawed rivers also bring access to white water rafting and fly fishing. One word of warning, accommodations fill up quickly — so making advance reservations is a must.
A Kid-Friendly Hotel Pick:
Many New Yorkers get through long city winters by counting down the days until they can kick off summer Fridays and long weekends in the sunny Hamptons. Montauk Harbor is quieter than downtown Montauk, but still within walking distance of popular Gosman’s Dock. The restaurants along the harbor offer summer favorites like fresh seafood, and some restaurants host live music in the evenings. Beaches fill up with surfers, tourists, and scenesters, but it’s all part of the fun and the water is much clearer and cleaner here than the beaches at Coney Island or off the Rockaways. If the Hamptons are good enough for Ina Garten, they’re good enough for us.
A Boutique Hotel Pick:
Locals call Wisconsin Dells “the Disney World of the Midwest,” but most of the Dells’ outdoor water parks, duck rides, candy shops, and restaurants don’t open until school lets out towards the end of May. From then until Labor Day, the little city on the Wisconsin River overflows with families who are hyper focused on getting the absolute most out of their summer vacation. Noah’s Ark Water Park offers 51 cutting-edge waterslides and Mirror Lake State Park provides a picturesque spot to camp. Gambling is available year-round at the ever popular Ho-Chunk Gaming Wisconsin Dells.
A Kid-Friendly Hotel Pick:
Two words: lobster rolls. Lobsters are harvested year-round in Maine, but the season really kicks off in June and prices drop for soft-shell lobsters. Tourists (and locals) can easily buy fresh lobster straight from fisherman on the docks in Portland, or post up at the myriad of seafood restaurants in the city. Commercial Street runs along the edge of the city’s downtown district along for easy access to quaint shops. Once you’ve had your fill of lobster, Portland also has six lighthouses within 20 minutes of the city. Moose and whale sightings are common occurrences.
A Value Hotel Pick:
Families won’t run out of things to do on a summer trip to San Diego. Between the seals on La Jolla Beach, swimming in the Pacific (which can be quite chilly in the winter months), and visiting the San Diego Zoo and Legoland, there are almost endless outdoor activities to keep little ones entertained. Old Town in Mission Valley is a must-see for history and architect lovers; it displays original Spanish structures from when the settlement was founded in the 18th century. Those looking for a little more adventure can easily take the train from San Diego to Tijuana for a day trip.
A Romantic Hotel Pick:
Most people automatically assume Colorado is best visited in the colder months for skiing and other winter recreation sports. But summer brings a huge variety of fun events to Denver, like the Underground Music Showcase, Buffalo Bill Days, and the Chalk Art Festival. Hiking, fishing, horseback riding, and whitewater rafting are also on offer in the summer months. The lack of humidity and temperatures that rarely go into the ’90s are a welcome relief.
A Boutique Hotel Pick:
Summer is the dry season in Honolulu and flights to Oahu are usually much cheaper than to other Hawaiian islands. Seasonal family-friendly activities include the state fair, international hula competition, and the Honolulu night market, along with the island’s year-round swimming, snorkeling, and surfing. Honolulu — and its famous beach, Waikiki — are on many travelers’ bucket lists, and summer is definitely one of the best times to visit. While popular with travelers because of the school holidays, the summer season isn’t quite as busy as December through April, the winter months on the U.S. mainland. Though it should be noted that the weather is nice year-round!
A Luxury Hotel Pick:
American vacationers have been flocking to Cape May in the summer since Victorian times — in fact, the area is home to a National Historic District with nearly 600 preserved Victorian buildings. But most people aren’t here for the architecture, they’re here for the beaches. The water and sand are some of the cleanest around, and there’s fast access to fishing, boat rentals, water sports activities, and restaurants. Sunset Beach offers, you guessed it, beautiful sunsets.
A Historic Hotel Pick:
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