- When it comes to summer travel destinations in the US, the amount of great options can seem endless – but each state boasts one can’t-miss activity.
- Take a midnight hike up Flattop in Alaska to celebrate the Summer Solstice – much of the state sees 24 hours of light for most of the summer.
- Catching a Red Sox game at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts, is a must.
From catching a concert at Colorado’s legendary Red Rocks venue to horseback riding through Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, here’s the best summer activity to do in every state.
ALABAMA: Explore the whimsical tree carvings at Orr Park.
Alabama’s Orr Park’s primary mission is to get folks back into nature, and from its myriad of fantastical tree carvings (courtesy of artist Tim Tingle) to its two, kid-friendly playgrounds, there are plenty of charming areas to explore and get in touch with the great outdoors this summer.
ALASKA: Take a midnight hike up Flattop in Alaska to celebrate the Summer Solstice.
ARIZONA: Hike the Grand Canyon.
One of the seven natural wonders of the world, the geological masterpiece that is the Grand Canyon offers hikers breathtaking views that are impossible to beat. Plus, if you’re feeling daring, you can now zip line 1,000 feet above the Grand Canyon.
ARKANSAS: Stroll through the Garvan Woodland Gardens to Anthony Chapel.
The Garvan Woodland Gardens is a 210-acre botanical garden located on a peninsula on Lake Hamilton just outside of Hot Springs, Arkansas. Flowers and waterfalls abound, but the real showstopper is Anthony Chapel, a truly awe-inspiring structure that consists of mostly floor-to-ceiling glass walls.
CALIFORNIA: Listen to the Wave Organ in the San Francisco Bay.
Located on a jetty in the San Francisco Bay, The Wave Organ is a beautiful art installation that harnesses the power of the ocean – more specifically, the power of the ocean’s waves – to create its haunting acoustics.
COLORADO: Go to an outdoor show at Red Rocks.
At 30,000-square-feet, Denver’s scenic Red Rocks Park & Amphitheater features breathtaking ochre sandstone more than 280 million years in the making. Needless to say, you’re bound to remember a concert at Red Rocks for the rest of your life.
CONNECTICUT: Go tubing down the Farmington River.
Farmington River tubers travel across three sets of rapids and cover 2.5 miles on the wild and thrilling ride down the water.
DELAWARE: Visit the iconic Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk.
The Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk is only one mile long, but it’s packed with nostalgic attractions that hearken back to its glory days: buy a handful of salt water taffy and enjoy a game of mini-golf as you gaze out at the scenic ocean views.
FLORIDA: Visit Disney World.
Disney World is a must year-round, but it’s particularly nice on a blue-skied summer day.
GEORGIA: Eat at the Ponce City Market.
Yes, the Ponce City Market is considered a “tourist trap” – but it’s one that’s definitely worth a visit. Not only is the market Zagat-approved, but if you brave the crowds you’ll be rewarded with both a smorgasbord of culinary delights, and a new amusement park.
HAWAII: Go snorkelling on Molokini.
Several miles off the south Maui coastline, Molokini is a crescent-shaped islet that’s surrounded by gorgeous, clear Hawaiian water – which means it’s the perfect location to go snorkelling and check out some sea creatures.
IDAHO: Watch a movie at the Spud Drive-In Theatre.
The Spud Drive-In Theatre is literally what it sounds like – a 1950s style drive-in movie theatre whose entrance sign features a massive potato on the back of a flat-bed truck. Come for the whimsy, stay for the concessions, and enjoy the show.
ILLINOIS: Enjoy a hot dog and a baseball game at Wrigley Field.
Chicago-style hot dogs are a classic summer food, and there’s no better place to enjoy one than at a Cubs game at historic Wrigley Field. Thanks to the Cubs’ World Series win in 2016, they’re actually a team that people now want to see. And even if you don’t like baseball, you’ll enjoy the ballpark’s atmosphere.
INDIANA: Check out the giant dunes at Indiana Dunes State Park.
The national park runs along the southern shore of Lake Michigan for almost 25 miles, and covers around 15,000 acres. Some of the sand dunes are more than 200 ft high!
IOWA: Explore the Grotto of the Redemption.
The Grotto of the Redemption is a man-made religious shrine in West Bend, Iowa, that many consider to be the unofficial eighth wonder of the world. An astonishing number of precious stones, including crystals, rose quartz, and more, are embedded into the grotto’s walls.
KANSAS: Marvel at the Monument Rocks.
You need not travel all the way to England for the Stonehenge experience. The Monument Rocks in Kansas, which range up to 70 feet high, are natural large chalk formations that look remarkably like the famous prehistoric monument in Europe.
If you’re into natural wonders, check out the most breathtaking natural wonder in every state.
KENTUCKY: Sample some whiskey on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
LOUISIANA: Pay tribute to Louis Armstrong at the Satchmo SummerFest.
The Satchmo SummerFest began as a one-off tribute to the late Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong in honour of his 100th birthday, but due to its massive popularity, the three-day festival in early August is now an annual event full of food, dancing, and, of course, jazz. The festival will be happening on July 31-August 2, 2020.
MAINE: Drive the Park Loop Road at Acadia National Park.
Park Loop Road is a 27-mile scenic drive along the coast and through Acadia National Park, and will allow travellers to drink in their fair share of ocean and mountain views, all from the comfort of their car.
MARYLAND: Check out an exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum.
The mission of the American Visionary Art Museum is to prioritise and highlight the work of self-taught artists; therefore, every trip to the museum will yield a different and unique experience.
MASSACHUSETTS: Catch a Red Sox game at Fenway Park.
Baseball is America’s so-called past time, and there’s no better place to experience all the sport has to offer than at Fenway, where “dreams are made, traditions are celebrated, and baseball is forever.” Grab some peanuts and Crackerjacks, and root for your team.
MICHIGAN: Explore amazing sandstone caves by kayak on Lake Superior.
Did you know that you can explore amazing sandstone caves by kayak on Lake Superior? The 42 mile-long Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is located on the shore of Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and visitors can view breathtaking scenery – such as waterfalls, sand dunes, and rock formations – via kayak.
MINNESOTA: Find the Hidden Beach.
Per Atlas Obscura, the Hidden Beach in Minnesota used to be the Twin Cities’ sole nude beach; and while it no longer advertises itself as such, there’s still plenty to recommend the charming spot, which is a local favourite in the summer.
Have fun people-watching, or go roll around in the Hidden Beach’s mud pit, before rinsing yourself clean in the water.
MISSISSIPPI: Celebrate the King at the annual Tupelo Elvis Festival.
MISSOURI: Gambol around the interactive St. Louis City Museum.
More a gigantic adult jungle gym than a traditional museum, the 600,000 square-foot St. Louis City Museum encourages visitors to interact with its exhibits: that means climbing on statues, touching things with your hands, and playing amongst the artwork is all fair game. What’s more, the rooftop is open during the warm weather months.
MONTANA: Sleep under the stars in Glacier National Park.
Known as the Crown of the Continent, Glacier National Park boasts more than 700 miles of hiking trails, as well as plenty of breathtaking scenery like Hidden Lake and Going-to-the-Sun Road. Take it all in while hiking or biking during the day, and then spend the night sleeping under the stars in a tent – the park offers backcountry camping for inexpensive fees.
NEBRASKA: Get up close and personal with your favourite animals at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.
You won’t run out of animals to see at the Henry Doorly Zoo. Home to over 1,000 species spanning from gorillas to butterflies, this 160-acre spot features North America’s largest indoor rainforest and the world’s largest indoor desert. If sea creatures aren’t your thing, there’s an aquarium too.
NEVADA: Party at one of Vegas’ epic pools.
The best way to embrace Sin City (and its accompanying summer temperatures) is to party by the pool. Many of Vegas’ big name resorts have large pools that host concerts throughout the summer. Daylight, in the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, is a popular spot, as well as the Encore Beach Club.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Soar above the clouds in a hot air balloon.
New Hampshire is a beautiful state from the ground, but it’s even more stunning from above. Companies like High 5 Ballooning offer hot air balloon rides that provide unparalleled views of the Merrimack River Valley, White Mountains, Atlantic Ocean, and even Boston’s skyline.
NEW JERSEY: Spend a day at the Jersey Shore.
In recent years pop culture has highlighted the Jersey Shore’s not-so-classy side, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that this 140-mile ocean strip is one of Jersey’s biggest draws in the summer, thanks to endless beaches and boardwalks. If you’re more into nightlife, head to Atlantic City for some gambling.
NEW MEXICO: Sled on Dunes at the White Sands National Monument.
Covering 275 square miles of desert, the White Sands National Monument is the largest deposit of gypsum in the world. The sand is just like snow when it comes to sledding – so grab a plastic saucer sled at the gift shop and enjoy the exhilarating ride down the dunes.
NEW YORK: Grab a drink at Westlight and enjoy the best views of Manhattan.
Although there are a plethora of rooftop bars throughout Manhattan, you’ll get the best views of the entire borough from the other side of the East River – i.e. Brooklyn. Westlight is part of the William Vale Hotel and sits 22 floors up. The best views are from outside obviously, but the inside is surrounded by glass, so no matter where you sit you’ll be happy with the scenery.
NORTH CAROLINA: Climb the 257 steps up to the top of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
North Carolina is home to the tallest brick lighthouse in North America – the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.The 208-foot-tall lighthouse is climbable, and once you reach the top you’ll be rewarded with great views of Cape Point.
NORTH DAKOTA: Bike the scenic Maah Daah Hey Trail.
The longest single-track mountain biking trail in the US, the Maah Daah Hey Trail covers close to 200 miles of terrain and is separated into nine trail units, all of which vary in difficulty. The trail connects the northern and southern ends of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, so bikers will get to see everything from prairie to badlands.
OHIO: Ride one of Cedar Point’s many thrilling roller coasters.
The Roller Coaster Capital of the World makes for a great summer destination. Home to 18 roller coasters – including one that’s the tallest, longest, and fastest in the world – as well as a waterpark, you’ll never run out of activities at Cedar Point.
OKLAHOMA: Watch a movie at the Admiral Twin Drive-In Theatre.
There aren’t many drive-in theatres left in the US, but Tulsa has the Admiral Twin. Admission is only $US7 for adults and $US3 for kids. Kick back with a burger, hot dog, or nachos, and catch a movie as well as a beautiful sunset.
OREGON: Dive into Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the US.
An eruption almost 8,000 years ago is what formed Crater Lake, which, at 1,943 feet deep, is the deepest lake in the country. The lake seems to float on top of the Cascade Mountain Range, so it’s stunning just to look at. If you want to go for a swim, take the Cleetwood Cove Trail leading down to the part of the shore that’s safe for swimmers.
PENNSYLVANIA: Catch fireflies at the PA Firefly Festival.
Feel like a kid again at the PA Firefly Festival, which will be held on Saturday, June 27th in the Allegheny National Forest area. The festival is held during a time when over 15 species of fireflies mate, providing for a breathtaking night-time display of lights.
RHODE ISLAND: Watch fires burn along Providence’s three rivers during WaterFire.
A truly unique experience that you won’t find elsewhere, WaterFire is one of Providence’s most popular summer events, and takes place on various Saturdays throughout the summer. The festival features fire sculpture installations that float atop Providence’s three rivers.
SOUTH CAROLINA: Tour America’s oldest public gardens at Magnolia Plantation.
Magnolia Plantation dates back to 1676, and its gardens have been open to visitors since the late 1800s. You’ll feel like you’ve entered a completely different world as you stroll along the charming bridges and gaze up at the hanging greenery.
SOUTH DAKOTA: Walk in the footsteps of ancient mammals at Badlands National Park.
Badlands National Park was once home to mammals like the saber-toothed cat and the rhinoceros. Now a gorgeous geologic deposit that boasts a wide variety of fossils, this 244,000-acre national park is a must-see.
TENNESSEE: Listen to some of your favourite artists at Bonnaroo.
With a lineup that includes hundreds of artists, Bonnaroo (June 11-14, 2020) is one of the America’s biggest music festivals, and it’s no surprise that it’s held just outside of Nashville, which is also known as “Music City.”
Although the city is known for its love of country music in particular, Bonnaroo’s 10 stages play host to all kinds of genres.
TEXAS: Chow down on some of the best barbecue in the country at Franklin in Austin.
Lines for Franklin start early in the morning, so if you want to savour some of the country’s best barbecue, you’ll have to plan for it – but it will be worth it. The restaurant’s website proudly touts the fact that Anthony Bourdain called their brisket the “finest” he’s ever had.
UTAH: Soak in mineral-rich water at the Mystic Hot Springs in Monroe.
Originally made into a resort in the late 19th century, Mystic Hot Springs has been soothing visitors for decades. The springs feature multiple bathtubs and pools that are built right into the rocks and are filled with water that’s rich in calcium, magnesium, and iron. Temperatures between 98 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
VERMONT: Tour Ben & Jerry’s Waterbury Factory and see how they make their ice cream.
Eating ice cream every day is totally acceptable in the summer, which is why it’s such a great season. Satisfy your sweet-tooth cravings with a tour of Ben & Jerry’s Waterbury Factory.The 30-minute guided tour ends with a stop at the scoop shop, where you’ll have plenty of opportunities for sampling.
VIRGINIA: Explore the majestic Shenandoah Caverns.
Exploring the Shenandoah Caverns is an ideal way to escape the summer heat, considering the caves hover around 56 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. The hour-long tour covers one mile and 17 different caverns, all of which display wondrous geologic formations that you’ll never believe were formed naturally.
WASHINGTON: Cruise around San Juan Island and see whales.
The waters surrounding San Juan Island are ideal for whale watching, and the summer months offer a higher chance of catching a glimpse of the magnificent creatures compared to other months throughout the year (especially April through October). There are a number of tour companies that offer cruises for this exact purpose.
WEST VIRGINIA: Golf at one of America’s most renowned courses at the Greenbrier.
The Greenbrier has a rich history that started back in 1778, when the resort first welcomed guests who were drawn to its natural mineral springs. Throughout the years, the Greenbrier has welcomed 27 US presidents, and its golf courses have been played by greats like Arnold Palmer and Phil Mickelson. Try your hand at one of the five courses and take in the beautiful mountain scenery surrounding the resort.
WISCONSIN: Tour the New Glarus Brewing Company, one of the state’s many craft breweries.
Wisconsin is home to an impressive number of craft breweries, like the New Glarus Brewing Company, which has produced multiple award-winning beers. The town itself is quite picturesque, too: Founded by Swiss immigrants, it’s filled with cute wooden chalets and looks like it belongs in Europe rather than the Midwest.
WYOMING: Horseback ride through Yellowstone National Park.
Between hot springs, geysers, waterfalls, and diverse wildlife, there are ample reasons to visit Yellowstone National Park. For a more unique tour of the park, try seeing it by horseback. Numerous companies offer guided tours.
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