Things to Do in Summer
In the early days of May, it's easy to see summer as an endless opportunity. It's finally stopped snowing, going outside no longer requires wearing a slightly-altered sleeping bag, and—could it be?—fresh cherries and rhubarb are being piled onto farmer's market tables country-wide. On the horizon are endless weekends spent floating on a lake or hiking the American wilds or combing the beaches for shells.
Except, really, summer is terribly finite. There are only so many weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day, after all, and any weekend spent in air conditioned environs seems ungrateful at best. That's why you've got to approach summer travel planning with vigor—leave no Friday night rosé-less, no brunch strawberry-less. In short: no summer day wasted.
To make it easier, we've planned out a perfect summer. Think of it as a check-list of sorts; a shortcut to winning the season. The national parks, for example, offer ample opportunity for fair-weathered fun—be that animal-watching, backpacking, or a mini road trip.
Speaking of leisurely drives, an end-of-summer road trip is all but a must—and don't worry, we have plenty ideas for those vacations, too. Whether you're leaving from Boston or Maui's Paia, road trips are becoming increasingly more affordable, plus have an other-era tint that makes every moment feel life-changing.
Then, of course, there are beaches, state fairs, and waterfalls. There are corndogs and summer shandies and potato salad. There are icy cocktails, farm-to-table restaurants, and barbeque spread on gingham table cloths.
And, really, that's just the beginning. For more things to do in the summer, read on.
Take a Weekend Getaway to a Beach Town
As if you needed any more convincing that a beach vacation should top your summer to-do list, the benefits of being by the water are now backed by science. Whether you're hitting up the sands of Greece, Tulum, or Delaware, spending time by the water is proven to lower levels of "psychological distress." Time to get packing.
Go on a Road Trip
When the urge to travel strikes, hitting the road (assuming you have a car) is one of the easiest ways to indulge your spontaneous mood. Magnificent roads are never far—routes that meander through forests, cruise along the coast, and climb over mountain passes. From the dramatic Oregon coast to the shady lanes of New England, there are countless drives suited to summertime. Get inspired by our road-trip coverage, including America’s favorite drives, the world's most scenic roads, and (for a bit later) best drives for fall foliage.
Ride a Waterslide
Adrenaline junkies will want to take a ride on one of the world’s craziest waterslides—and there have been some doozies opening lately. In Philadelphia, for instance, a group called Slide the City is installing a 1,000-foot slide on the Rocky steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Meanwhile, folks near Waco, Texas can take a trip to the BSR Cable Park to experience The Royal Flush, a trio of slides that shoot people out into a 15-foot-deep pool. The most thrilling of the three? A slide that ends with a 100-foot free-for-all drop.
Go to a State Fair
New York held America’s first fair in 1841 to promote agriculture. Livestock, vegetable-growing, and recipe showdowns sprung up at other fairs and are still major draws, sometimes with modern-day revisions. Today, fairgoers can sample the fattiest, most questionably edible, strangest state fair food—much of which falls into one of two genres: “deep-fried” or “on a stick”—and then participate in some wacky state fair contests.
Take a Dip in a Swimming Hole
In summertime, when the mercury reaches the tip of the thermometer, the best place to cool down is an old-fashioned swimming hole. These often-secluded natural pools are the perfect antidote to crowded pools with sunscreen-slathered kids or water parks with $5 sodas. They offer a dose of classic Americana, with sunny days measured by cannonballs and good friends. So grab your swimsuit, a towel, and a pair of water shoes, and jump in at some of America’s best swimming holes.
Visit a National Park
There are 59 national parks in the United States, all of them oases of majestic beauty that support a remarkable variety of plants and animals. The marquee parks—Yellowstone, Yosemite—are well worth visiting for their glorious views, landmark lodges, stargazing opportunities, and some of the best wildlife spotting in America. But there are others worth seeking out. Michigan’s gloriously isolated Isle Royale National Park on Lake Superior gets barely 15,000 visitors a year, and there are many more underrated national parks to add to your bucket list. So strap on your boots and get ready to hit the nature trails of some of our national treasures.
Lounge at a Cool Swimming Pool
The coolest pools have blossomed into imaginative works of art that flaunt a wow factor—be it a pool elevator, hidden grotto, or magnificent view. For example, Maui’s 25,700-square-foot Grand Wailea Canyon Activity Pool is home to the world’s first water elevator, in which swimmers are lifted to the surface in a sealed chamber. This summer, dive into a pool that will inspire more than just a dip—some of the world’s coolest plunge pools and best swimming pool views may just inspire a whole vacation.