There’s something particularly intoxicating about the idea of summer vacations. They’ve been enshrined as an American pop culture legend—Will Smith’s song “Summertime,” the Go Go’s “Vacation,” the movie Dirty Dancing, the musical Grease. Like Christmas, its clichés still somehow retain meaning and evoke response no matter how often they’re repeated: the smell of sunscreen, the sizzle of a charcoal grill, the sound of music floating out an open car window, the first taste of chilled rosé. (Don’t forget the rosé.)
With or without school aged-children, people do most of their traveling over summer. Peak season just about everywhere, prices will be higher and crowds somehow more crowded. But you’ll also experience landscapes, communities, and events in ways you can’t any other time of the year, from North Carolina’s balmy Outer Banks to Maine’s summer food festivals. Whether you’re looking to go north to beat the heat, or south to soak up the sun, Travel + Leisure has you covered (metaphorically—you will still need to wear sunscreen) as you plan your perfect summer vacation.
Go salmon fishing in Alaska, or camp across the spectacular National Parks system. Comb American beach towns—at their height in the summer—from Provincetown to Cape May and from Hatteras to Key West. Get a taste for cities in the summer time: bring a towel to Chicago’s lakeshore beaches or New York’s many free park concerts. Experience outdoor art: see theater from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, opera at the Glimmerglass Festival in Cooperstown, New York, and classical music at Tanglewood in the Berkshires. Rent a car for a drive up to California’s wine country, or a lengthy cross-country road trip. Bike through the lavender fields of Provence, farther afield, or the flower-filled alpine meadows of Switzerland. Don't be fooled by the tropes. Just because it's a summer vacation doesn't mean you'll necessarily wind up poolside. You can even always go skiing in the Andes!