- It’s safe to say summer is one of the best times of year to explore new places in and beyond your neighbourhood, city, or state.
- Summer is a popular time for fairs and festivals in the United States, like the Taste of Chicago, the Iowa State Fair, and the New Jersey Festival of Ballooning.
- From Alabama to Wyoming and every state in between, the US is filled with amazing parks, well-loved food spots, and opportunities to explore and celebrate summertime.
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Whether you’re a nature buff or a foodie (or both), summer in the US is the perfect time to make new memories in and beyond your neighbourhood, city, or state. The summer months are a time for traditions and travels, and each state does summer a little differently.
From the breathtaking natural wonders of the West Coast to food festivals, fairs, and community celebrations on the East Coast, here’s a glimpse of what summer looks like in every state.
Southern Alabama, situated on the Gulf of Mexico, is home to 32 miles of beaches, according to Smithsonian Magazine.
From late May to late July, the sky above Alaska stays bright for most of the night, but the weather can be anything but predictable, according to the state’s official website. In addition to long hours of sunlight, the summer months in Alaska also offer prime opportunities to see bears.
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is known for its gorgeous sandstone structures that tower between 400 to 1,000 feet above the desert ground, according to the park’s official website.
Bull Shoals, a popular fishing and camping destination in the Arkansas Ozark Mountains region, is home to the state’s largest lake. Visitors flock to the Ozarks to enjoy everything from horseback riding, biking, bird-watching, and hiking.
California’s Huntington Beach has sunny weather for most of the year, because according to the city’s official website, annual rainfall is less than 12 inches. During the summer months, however, the weather is even more perfect, as temperatures rarely exceed 85 degrees.
Colorado’s Elk Mountains have vibrant wildflowers that bloom on the rocks, according to Colorado Outward Bound School.
A glass house structure in New Canaan, Connecticut, has become a famous and beautiful gathering spot in the summer. The structure, called the Glass House, was designed by American architect Philip Johnson.
Delaware’s Atlantic Ocean beaches have been quintessential summer destinations for decades, according to Delaware’s state website.
Florida is home to some of the top-ranked beaches in the nation, according to TripAdvisor’s 2019 Travellers’ Choice awards for the Top 25 Beaches in the US.
The beauty of summer in Hawaii is best experienced at none other than one of the state’s many spectacular beaches. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is a bay on the island of Oahu that’s protected by the state of Hawaii as a sacred nature post. According to several travellers who left reviews on TripAdvisor, Hanauma Bay is also a great location for snorkelling.
One of Idaho’s most picturesque natural wonders is Arrowrock Reservoir, an 18-mile canyon reservoir perfect for summer activities like windsurfing, canoeing, boating, and fishing, according to Recreation.gov.
The Taste of Chicago, a huge culinary festival in Chicago’s Grant Park, has been a foodie’s paradise and summer tradition since 1980, according to the City of Chicago website.
Indiana Dunes National Park is a unique Midwestern summer destination. Visitors can hike 50 miles of trails along sand dunes and wetlands along Lake Michigan, according to the National Park Service.
Established in 1854, the Iowa State Fair is a summer tradition rooted in history. Every August in Des Moines, the state fair attracts people from around the world. Since 2017, the 11-day fair has had more than 1 million visitors, according to its official website.
In August, Grinter Sunflower Farm in Lawrence, Kansas, attracts thousands of visitors who flock to see the rows of sunflowers in full bloom, according to the The Kansas City Star.
New Orleans’ annual Satchmo SummerFest is a three-day jazz festival that celebrates the late Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong.
Acadia National Park in Maine is one of the nation’s top 10 most popular national parks, according to the National Park Service. Each year, it sees more than 3.3 million visitors, according to the NPS.
Mackinac Island is a Michigan island on Lake Huron, one of the Great Lakes. Mackinac is known for its authentic 18th and 19th century feel; cars aren’t allowed on the island, so visitors and locals travel by bike or horse and buggies, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.
The Minnesota State Fair, known by natives as the “Great Minnesota Get-Together,” has been held every year since 1859 with only five exceptions. The fairgrounds make up 322 acres, and according to the fair’s website, one of its famous food booths, the Corn Roast, uses 25,000 ears of corn each day of the fair.
Summer in Mississippi may mean exploring coastal relics like the Biloxi lighthouse, the only lighthouse in the US that is situated in the middle of a four-lane highway, according to FEMA. Mississippi is also home to historical sites that tell the story of the Gulf Coast, like the Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library in Biloxi.
Summer in St. Louis, Missouri, wouldn’t be complete without a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game. The Cardinals are the oldest major league baseball team west of the Mississippi River, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.
Montana’s Glacier National Park has more than 700 miles of trails and plenty of spots to hike and kayak within the park, according to the National Park Service. Peak visitor months are July and August because of the area’s warm afternoons and cooler nights, according to US News Travel.
Nebraska is home to a wide array of national grasslands and forests that also expand into parts of South Dakota. In the summer, the beautifully preserved public lands and trails are picturesque destinations for campers and nature enthusiasts.
Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, had its 19th annual sand sculpting competition in June 2019 on Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year.
New Jersey’s QuickChek Festival of Ballooning is the largest summer hot air balloon festival in North America, according to the US Hot Air Balloon Team.
The Santa Fe Plaza is a registered historic district by the National Park Service. The plaza district is light-filled and beautiful. It’s also the spot of the city’s annual Spanish Market, held in July.
Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, is a quintessential summer spot in New York. In June 1884, Coney Island opened the first roller coaster in America, according to the History Channel. The iconic park is also thought of as the birthplace of the hot dog, the History Channel reports.
The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in Cape Point, North Carolina, is the tallest brick lighthouse in North America. Visitors can climb the 208-foot-tall structure and enjoy a gorgeous sunset view from the top.
North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park is not only filled with cotton-candy sunrise and sunsets during the summer, but it’s also home to wildlife like elk, horses, bison, prairie dogs, and antelope, according to a retired National Park Service officer who contributed to a Frommers article.
The West Side Market in Cleveland, Ohio, is a sprawling food hall rooted in history. In the summer, shoppers and foodies can find an outdoor produce section in addition to the year-round food stands, including everything from falafel to pickles.
The Pacific Northwest is known by many for being rainy year-round, but Portland, Oregon, has consistently warm weather from June to August, according to US News Travel. Portland is filled with beautiful gardens, like the Portland Japanese Garden, that make the summer months even more picturesque.
With its rich past and ties to turning points in US history, Pennsylvania is full of cities and towns that make exploring the state exciting and educational – but another popular urban spot in Philadelphia, called the Oval, hosts family friendly events and community gatherings that unite the community during the summer.
The town Bristol in Rhode Island hosts what is reportedly the nation’s oldest Fourth of July parade, according to Bristol historian Richard V. Simpson. Simpson told Mental Floss that the first celebration in 1785 was a small affair with less than two-dozen attendees. Today, Bristol’s Fourth of July celebration begins on Flag Day (June 14) with local events leading up to the Independence Day parade, which stretches 2.5 miles through the town.
One of the Charleston, South Carolina’s most well-known (and most photographed) landmarks is Rainbow Row, a line of pastel-painted houses affectionately named for their colourful façades. According to Charleston Magazine, the street of 13 adjoining houses were labelled Rainbow Row in the 1930s, when a resident decided to paint her house pink as a nod to Caribbean architecture.
Summers in South Dakota’s Badlands National Park can be dry and hot – but they’re also breathtakingly beautiful. The Badlands, according to the National Park Foundation, have campgrounds and areas dedicated to wildlife restoration, and the vast land filled with gorgeous rock formations and wide-open views is a well-loved part of the state for residents and visitors alike.
Located in the heart of Memphis, Beale Street has been a vibrant spot for music, community, and food since the early 20th century, according to Memphis Heritage.
The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is a botanical garden with a stunning array of natural plants and species. Its mission is to conserve native plants and support human health and happiness, according to its website.
Utah’s Natural Bridges National Monument has breathtaking cliffs and canyons at every corner, making it a stunning hiking destination.
Vermont’s Lake Champlain region became a popular recreational spot after World War II and is now a well-loved area for both visitors and residents, according to the Lake Champlain Land Trust.
Summer in Virginia can mean driving through parts of the breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains, exploring national landmarks and museums in Washington, DC, or basking in the sun in coastal Virginia Beach.
The Gum Wall, a giant wall that is exactly what it sounds like, is a popular spot near Pike Place Market, a historic farmers market and cultural area in Seattle. According to a press release from Pike Place Market, in 2015, the Gum Wall was cleaned for the first time in 20 years.
Summersville Lake is West Virginia’s largest lake, according to the Summersville official website, making it an ideal summer spot for boating, water-skiing, fishing, and swimming.
Summer at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming is the peak season for camping and visitors. The National Park Service website recommends visiting during July or August for prime weather for boating and horseback riding.
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