By Patricia Doherty
Updated: April 23, 2019
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We have a few ways to go in the middle of summer. Embrace the warm weather, seek the air-conditioned indoors, escape to the beach, or satisfy that seasonal urge to get away. Then the question is where to go. For family vacations, a pool is usually a requirement along with lots to keep everyone busy. Solo or friends trips have different prerequisites.

Music festivals can be a magnet to attract travelers to new destinations. For a relatively less traveled country with an established event, think about Slovakia and the annual Pohoda Festival that welcomes visitors from around the world. The Montreux Jazz Festival on Lake Geneva in Switzerland is set in one of the most beautiful locales in the world and features a range of musical genres and performers. Another kind of festival, also headlining popular artists, is the annual Frontier Days event in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Rodeo competitions, country singers, and a carnival atmosphere make it another sought-after July destination.

Families and lovers of the outdoors will enjoy a visit to Lake Placid, New York, known for its winter sports but just as appealing in summer. Set in the Adirondacks, the lakeside location provides activities and events from July 4 celebrations to barbecue competitions and horse shows. There’s always something happening in San Diego, with the baseball park right in town, Sea World, the Zoo, Balboa Park, and of course, the ocean and bayfront beaches. Williamsburg, Virginia is the place for traditional Independence Day celebrations and history.

If your goal is to escape the hot weather or make the most of every summer day, consider getting to know Trondheim, Norway where the days are long and the weather is cool. This historic area among the fjords offers water sports, delicious food, and quaint neighborhoods to explore. To really get away from summer, head to the southern hemisphere and Victoria, Australia’s mountain ski resorts where you can get into winter sports or just enjoy the après-ski atmosphere and snowy scenery. Lion King fans awaiting the July release of the film’s remake might want to take advantage of east Africa’s dry season with a safari through the Serengeti. Land in one of the world’s newest airports while you combine a visit to historic Istanbul with a stay at a luxurious seaside resort in one trip to Turkey.

Wherever your July vacation takes you, this mid-summer month is time to break out of the routine, even for a long weekend or staycation. Perhaps these ideas will stir your imagination and inspire you to start making plans.

Lake Geneva, Switzerland

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Pleasant temperatures in the high 70s and mild evenings make July a lovely — and popular — time to visit “the Swiss Riviera” of Lake Geneva. This year, the Fete des Vignerons, the Winegrowers’ Festival, will attract hundreds of thousands of visitors from July 18-Aug. 11. Held about once every 20 years, the festival celebrates Swiss wine and culture in the town of Vevey, in the heart of the Lavaux wine region where grapes have been planted since Roman times. A hike or stroll among the hilly, terraced vineyards of the region is a great pleasure in summer even if you’re not there for tasting. Lakeside Vevey was once home to Charlie Chaplin, and a museum there commemorates his family life and work. Along the lake, the next town of Montreux will feature its annual Jazz Festival from June 28-July 13 with music of every genre from jazz to rock and country to pop. Freddie Mercury of Queen composed and recorded his last album in Montreux, and a bronze statue stands at the lakeside promenade in his memory, perpetually decorated with flowers by his faithful fans. In Lausanne, the iconic Beau-Rivage Palace offers classic comfort, and their Montreux steamboat turns into a floating restaurant during summer. Not far away, where the Rhone meets Lake Geneva, is the Mandarin Oriental, Geneva with five-star luxury, mountain views, and peaceful river vistas.

Trencin, Slovakia

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If you enjoy finding under-the-radar destinations and attending outdoor music festivals, you’ll want to know about Trencin and the annual Pohoda Festival. In the western part of the country, about two hours by car or train from the capital city of Bratislava and about three hours from Vienna, Trencin is home to the magnificent 11th century Trencin Castle, one of hundreds of medieval castles and chateaux in the Slovak Republic. The Pohoda Festival, on July 11-13, is described as a “music and arts festival with an international acclaim, where alternative, indie, electronica, world music, and punk meet classical; alongside literature, dance, visual art, film, and theater.” Held near the ancient castle on a former military airfield surrounded by three of the Western Carpathian Mountains, the festival would be an ideal introduction to this central European country. The Slovak Republic has seen growth in its tourism industry over the last 25 years since it gained independence. Quaint villages, historic towns, mountain ski resorts, national parks, and welcoming citizens make Slovakia a destination worth visiting. The High Tatra Mountains feature streams, caves, hiking trails, and snowy winters. Slovakia also boasts hot springs, spa towns, wineries, breweries, rich food, and attractive prices. 

Greater Williamsburg, Virginia

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Jamestown, Yorktown, and Williamsburg form this historic area of Virginia, a perfect place to explore and celebrate Independence Day on July 4, 2019. In Yorktown, the American Revolution Museum tells the story of the nation’s beginnings through artifacts, interactive exhibits, films, and recreated settings. Jamestown Settlement commemorates the site of America’s first permanent English colony with re-creations of a ship that sailed from England in 1607, a life-sized colonists’ fort, Powhatan Indian village, and costumed historical interpreters who tell stories of daily life in 17th century Jamestown. For a full day of July 4 celebrations, visit Colonial Williamsburg, beginning with a public reading of the Declaration of Independence at the Capitol West Balcony and ending with evening fireworks. There’s lots to do all summer in Williamsburg even if you don’t make it there for the Fourth. Bike trails along the York River, guided horseback tours through the woods, and hiking trails are there for outdoor activities. Kayak, canoe, fish, or swim at local beaches. The Williamsburg Tasting Trail boasts wineries, breweries, distilleries, and breathtaking scenery. Busch Gardens, with rides, a water park, and shows, is perfect family entertainment.

Cheyenne, Wyoming

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Cheyenne, on the southern border of Wyoming, is the state’s capital and a true western-style town. Each year Cheyenne Frontier Days takes place, billed as the world’s largest rodeo and western celebration, this year from July 19-28. Professional bull riding, steer wrestling, roping, carnival, art show, and top entertainment including Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Rascal Flatts, and others are just a few of the attractions. There’s a Native American village with handicrafts, traditional dancing, storytelling, and music. Cheyenne is also a place for what they call “trainiacs,” fans of railroads and their history. This year marks 150 years since the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in Cheyenne, and the Cheyenne Depot Museum tells stories of the construction of the railroad in a building donated by the Union Pacific. The world’s largest steam locomotive, one of only eight remaining Big Boys, can be seen in Cheyenne’s Holliday Park. Even the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens has a historic locomotive on display. The Historic Governor’s Mansion in Cheyenne was home to the nation’s first female governor, Nellie Tayloe Ross, who served from 1925-1927 before becoming director of the U.S. Mint. Rocky Mountain National Park is less than 100 miles away.

Trondheim, Norway

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Norway’s third largest city is set among fjords on central Norway’s coast. July’s long days and moderate temperatures in the mid-60s make it a great time to visit the city, said to have been founded in 997 A.D. by Viking King Olav. Nature is a great attraction in summer, with hiking trails, water sports, and beaches (with chilly water temperatures). Nidaros Cathedral is Norway’s National Shrine, built over the tomb of St. Olav the Holy. Construction began in 1070, and restoration from a destructive fire began in the mid-1800s and continues today. Three pipe organs, magnificent stained glass windows, and its Gothic style make it a must-see. Colorful wooden houses, coffee shops, cobblestone streets, and cafes invite strolling through Trondheim’s neighborhoods. Visitors can see the city from the Nidelva River on a boat or kayak. Museums covering music, art, science, history, and culture make learning about Norway interesting and fun. Rockheim, a museum of popular music, features interactive exhibits, and Ringve focuses on musical instruments and history. The luxurious and historic Britannia, in the heart of Trondheim, opened its doors in 1870 and once again in 2019 after a major renovation. 

Victoria, Australia

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Let’s not forget that while we’re enjoying hot July weather, there’s snow and skiing in the the Southern Hemisphere. Near Melbourne in southeast Australia, Victoria’s largest alpine resort, Falls Creek, features more than 1,000 acres of skiing terrain, including downhill and snowboarding, for all skill levels as well as snowshoe and cross country trails, terrain parks, and night skiing. With 90 runs and 14 lifts, there’s something for everyone. Fly or drive from Melbourne, the closest major international airport. Mt. Hotham, Australia’s highest alpine village in the Victorian Alps of the Great Dividing Range, also offers all levels of winter sports during its season from about early June through September. The village is located on the mountaintop, with 13 chair lifts, three terrain parks, and miles of cross country skiing. There’s tobogganing, dog sled tours, snow mobile rides, spas, restaurants, and bars. Perisher Ski Resort in Kosciuszko National Park offers more than 100 groomed trails along with cross-country ski trails and five terrain parks. With Vail Resorts 2019 Epic Australia Pass, skiers will have unlimited access to these ski areas. Before or after you hit the slopes, be sure to spend time in Melbourne. Take in the panorama from the Eureka Skydeck, the highest viewing platform in the Southern Hemisphere. Visit Melbourne’s museums, zoo, aquarium, and enjoy historic St. Kilda’s Pier for views of the Melbourne skyline and Port Phillip Bay.

Lake Placid, New York

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Lake Placid, in the Adirondacks of upstate New York, is well known for snow sports and for hosting the Winter Olympics, but it’s also an ideal vacation spot in summer. Hiking trails, beaches, biking, and relaxing with a book are favorite warm weather activities. Farmers’ markets bring a bounty of fresh fruit and vegetables (summer corn!) each week, and those in the know look for sour cherries during July’s short season. The “I Love New York” Horse Show from July 1-7 is the second of two prestigious equine events in Lake Placid, featuring world class riders in a hunter and jumper competition. Independence Day is celebrated with a parade through downtown, live entertainment at Mid’s Park, and fireworks set to music. The “I Love BBQ Festival” follows from July 5-7, attracting the best competitors in the country. Food, entertainment, and children’s activities make this a most enjoyable annual charity event. Of course, water sports like water skiing, wakeboarding, and boating are popular. Lodging includes campgrounds, cottages, bed and breakfasts, hotels, and motels. On the luxury end, Whiteface Lodge combines rustic charm with a spa, fitness center, indoor and outdoor heated pools, outdoor hot tubs, movie theater, and children’s programs, and nightly s’mores by the campfire.

Tanzania

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If the upcoming July release of "The Lion King" remake has you thinking about a trip to see a real Simba, Timon, or Mufasa in their native habitat, it might be time to experience your first safari. July, in dry season, is considered one of the top wildlife viewing months in Tanzania with the best chance of seeing the wildebeest migration in the Serengeti. Established in 1951, Serengeti National Park is home to huge herds of wildebeest, gazelles, and zebras that migrate when their grazing lands disappear in the dry season. In addition to these animals, lions, hyenas, giraffes, cheetahs, leopards, and baboons occupy the area along with rhinos, hippos, and hundreds of species of birds. Organized all-inclusive safaris make travel to the popular areas of Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park convenient, especially for first-time visitors. As an example, Original Travel’s “Ultimate Tanzania” includes these locales, plus a chance to snorkel off the coast of Zanzibar, with options on price and lodging levels. A variety of itineraries available through Thomson Safaris offer tours that pass through Ngorongoro Crater and visit the privately owned Eastern Serengeti Nature Refuge where guests can walk with zebras and giraffes or go on night drives to see animals up close.

San Diego, California

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San Diego’s mild coastal weather is just one of the reasons to head to this southern California city in July. Whether you want to sit on a quiet beach or check out the crowds at Comic-Con, watch a baseball game or thoroughbred horse race, browse museums or picnic in a park, you’ll find something to keep you happy in San Diego. There are miles of beaches, lively downtown and urban areas, and Balboa Park, home to museums, theaters, gardens, and the fabulous San Diego Zoo. A full-day barely covers all the zoo has to offer, from a guided bus tour, animal shows and films, children’s play areas, to special programs like overnight experiences and early morning photo expeditions. The spectacular July 4 Fireworks Show begins at 9 p.m. with a choreographed display from barges placed in more than five locations. Catch the last few days of the San Diego County Fair at the Del Mar Fairgrounds before it closes on July 4. The thoroughbred racing season opens July 17 at Del Mar Racetrack, with concerts every Friday after the last race throughout the summer. Lodging ranges from beachfront to downtown at all price levels from the Gaslamp District Pendry to the downtown Manchester Grand Hyatt and boutique Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa.

Istanbul and Bodrum, Turkey

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Temperatures are moderate in Istanbul’s summer, ranging from the mid-80s in the daytime to the mid-60s at night. Operations began in Istanbul’s new airport in April, with plans to become one of the largest in the world, so you’ll be one of the first to experience the modern facility. Istanbul, once known as Constantinople and Byzantium, has been the capital of the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires during its thousands of years of history. Museums, churches, mosques, and monuments testify to its background and strategic importance in the area. Hagia Sofia, a museum built as a church and then a mosque, is an architectural wonder and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dolmabahce Palace, one of the most glamourous in the world, is open for tours five days a week. Cruise the Bosphorus Strait for more views of the the ancient city, and be sure to visit the Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world and one of Istanbul’s most visited attractions. When you’ve finished exploring Istanbul, head to the new airport for a one-hour Turkish Airlines flight to Bodrum, a port and seaside resort city. Then relax at the luxurious Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum overlooking the Aegean with private beaches, pools, water sports, and international cuisine.

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