Courtesy of National Aquarium

From Maine to California, Montana to Texas, T+L spotlights where to play, eat, and sleep this summer

Have a Close Encounter at the Aquarium

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Sure, the zoo has all those cute newborn baby animals, but inside the aquarium, you can marvel at all kinds of creatures—while cooling off in air conditioning. Atlanta’s Georgia Aquarium is the world’s largest; its five themed galleries include tropical coral reefs, beluga whales and black-footed penguins from low-temperature habitats, and the Ocean Voyager, a giant viewing tank and tunnel filled with hammerheads, stingrays, and whale sharks. The Premium Day Pass, which you can purchase in advance, includes admission to all galleries and the “4D” movie theater. Baltimore’s National Aquarium made waves in summer 2013 with the opening of its Blacktip Reef, which sustains a delicate coral reef ecosystem. Visitors observe the marine life (look out for the 500-pound green sea turtle) through a 27-foot window that curves out into the exhibit. It provides a 160-degree panoramic underwater view that would impress even Jacques Cousteau.

25 Ideas for Your Best Summer Ever

Have a Close Encounter at the Aquarium

Sure, the zoo has all those cute newborn baby animals, but inside the aquarium, you can marvel at all kinds of creatures—while cooling off in air conditioning. Atlanta’s Georgia Aquarium is the world’s largest; its five themed galleries include tropical coral reefs, beluga whales and black-footed penguins from low-temperature habitats, and the Ocean Voyager, a giant viewing tank and tunnel filled with hammerheads, stingrays, and whale sharks. The Premium Day Pass, which you can purchase in advance, includes admission to all galleries and the “4D” movie theater. Baltimore’s National Aquarium made waves in summer 2013 with the opening of its Blacktip Reef, which sustains a delicate coral reef ecosystem. Visitors observe the marine life (look out for the 500-pound green sea turtle) through a 27-foot window that curves out into the exhibit. It provides a 160-degree panoramic underwater view that would impress even Jacques Cousteau.

Courtesy of National Aquarium

25 Ideas for Your Best Summer Ever

Summer vacation—the memories and anticipation keep you going all year long.

It’s the most exhilarating season, when places gleam in the sunlight and work overtime so that travelers can make the most of their free time. There’s a dizzying lineup of concerts, art fairs, craft-beer tastings, new heart-pounding roller coasters, ball games, and boardwalk amusements just waiting.

And after a rough winter in the U.S., Americans are eager to get packing. Adobe’s Travel 2014 Report predicts that $61 billion will be spent on travel this summer through online bookings, a 15 percent growth over last year. Airlines for America is forecasting the busiest summer in six years, and, according to the American Express Travel survey of travel counselors, the average summer trip will be 10 days, up from seven in 2013.

So, where to go? Our national parks are calling both campers and glampers, particularly in California, where Yosemite celebrates its 150th birthday this summer (set up your tent at Tuolumne Meadows or book a room at The Ahwahnee). It’s a few hours’ drive southwest to the nation’s newest park, Pinnacles, where condors soar overhead.

Even in big cities, you can embrace the outdoors by exploring on two wheels, perhaps pedaling along the eight-mile Indianapolis Cultural Trail or joining New York’s Bikeable Feast, which combines a 90-minute ride with dinner at North Brooklyn Farms. Or get your dose of fresh air over cocktails at a new rooftop bar.

If you’re feeling nostalgic, head for the tree house at Wisconsin’s Camp Wandawega and sign up for canoeing and archery. And save at least one lazy weekend for the beach.

There’s comfort in returning, like the tide, to a familiar destination, yet summer also brings out the spirit of adventure. This could be the year you take that big road trip—in a rental Airstream—or learn to surf in Honolulu or check another state off your list.

In a recent Twitter chat (#TL_Chat), we asked for three words to describe traveling in the U.S.A. this summer. “Fried, hot, friendly,” tweeted Marji Stevens. “Splash, nosh, exhale,” tweeted Jeanne Fratello (though perhaps not in that order). Katie Wire chimed in with “Beaches, mountains & (delicious) food,” while Johnny Volk prefers “Baseball, burgers and beer,” and chef Rick Bayless declared, “Go somewhere new!”

Whatever your definition of summer, we have you covered.

Contributors: Kate Appleton, Kristina Ensminger, Rachel Felder, Peter J. Frank, Jacqueline Gifford, Jaime Gillin, Peter Jon Lindberg, Doug Mack, Francine Maroukian, Nicola McCormack, Mario Mercado, Heidi Mitchell, Brooke Porter Katz, Bret Stetka, Nate Storey, Jeff Wise.

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