15 Best Summer Weekend Getaways You’ll Want to Book This Second
Why hello, Summer Fridays! Here's how to make the most of all 15 of your summer weekends.
Niagara Falls, New York
Niagara Falls is a bucket list item for many people and summer is a fantastic time to explore this stunning example of nature’s best work. Niagara Falls is actually made of three falls—you can see all of them from the Observation Tower at Niagara Falls State Park on the U.S. side or take to the skies for a view from the cockpit of a helicopter. Plan to get wet as you ride into Horseshoe Falls on the classic Maid of the Mist or get really wet exploring Niagara’s Cave of the Winds. Bring your passport to walk over to the Canada side for a spin on the Niagara SkyWheel. Niagara Falls isn’t the only place with breathtaking views—here are more scenic getaways in every state.
Cleveland has so much to offer, from hiking at Cuyahoga Valley National Park to exploring seven floors of music history at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. DC Comics fans will love the new exhibit at the Cleveland Public Library, “Superman: From Cleveland to Krypton,” where you can learn all about the superhero’s Cleveland origins. Head to Balance & Brews for yoga inside a brewery before settling in at The Schofield. Ask about a loaner guitar for a late-night jam session. Grilled cheese lovers, look no further than Melt Bar & Grilled. It’s an absolute must in Cleveland.
Rapid City, South Dakota
Try Rapid City for a weekend getaway filled with history and national treasures, like Mount Rushmore. Though the four presidents are, of course, a highlight, there’s much more to do in this town. Go on a Jeep tour in search of antelope, bison, and prairie dogs at Custer State Park, then head to Badlands National Park to hike the popular Door, Notch, and Window trails. Settle in at Pinnacles Overlook for a fantastic sunset. Stroll the downtown area where life-size bronze statues of past presidents occupy every corner. Start your weekend early to enjoy music, food and kids’ activities every Thursday night in-town during the summer.
Head to Williamsburg in Virginia’s Historic Triangle where you can rent period costumes in Colonial Williamsburg and spend time learning a trade, like wooden barrel making. You can even sit on a jury as part of a mock witch trial or go on an evening ghost walk. Beyond historical attractions, plan to walk in the treetops at Go Ape, hunt for fossils at York River State Park, and ride all the rides at Busch Gardens, including the new wooden roller coaster, InvadR. Book a stay at Kingsmill Resort where kids will love the pool with its water slide and lazy river.
Key West, Florida
Fly into Miami and enjoy the three-hour drive across the Florida Keys to Key West, making stops along the way for snorkeling at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo and sea turtles at the Turtle Hospital in Marathon. Even better, rent an RV and set up your home for the weekend on Big Pine Key at Sunshine Key RV Resort. On Key West, snap a selfie at the Southernmost Point and bask in one of the best sunsets around at Mallory Square where jugglers and acrobats perform nightly. Try to go in July for the annual Key Lime Festival. If you’re looking for a place that’s more under-the-radar, don’t miss the coolest secret locations in every state.
New Orleans may not seem like a top choice for a summer weekend, but there are plenty of ways to enjoy summer in the Big Easy. Don’t miss the National World War II Museum, which wins raves from locals and visitors alike. Explore the history of Mardi Gras at Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World where you can see parade floats up close. As a bonus, it’s indoors and the guided tour includes a free slice of King Cake. In August, enjoy Coolinary New Orleans, a celebration of all that is amazing about food in New Orleans. Hello, Shrimp Po-Boys. Look for three-course lunches for $20 and three-course dinners for $35. If New Orleans is on your destination bucket list, you may want to add these 50 iconic adventures from each state as well.
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Colorado Springs is a true paradise for outdoor lovers. Take the Pikes Peak Cog Railway to the summit of Pikes Peak, then race to get in line for “world-famous donuts” at Pikes Peak Summit House. Rumor has it, these donuts don’t taste the same unless they are eaten at the summit elevation. Next, explore the dramatic red rocks at the Garden of the Gods before enjoying the hiking trails at Broadmoor Seven Falls. Go whitewater rafting along the Arkansas River, then settle in after a fun day of play at Cheyenne Mountain Resort.
There’s so much to see in Orlando that you may need more than a long weekend to do it all. For starters, Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon at Universal Orlando enables guests to experience the “world’s first-ever flying theatre,” as well as learn the history of The Tonight Show. Then there’s the Universal’s Volcano Bay water park and Pandora: World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. LEGOLAND Beach Retreat, an adorable, bungalow-style resort, has overnight bookings.
Of course, Branson is well-known for Silver Dollar City, an 1880s-themed adventure park, as well as all kinds of dinner shows, but there’s so much more. Head to Dogwood Canyon Nature Park for waterfalls, ancient burial caves, and fishing for rainbow trout, as well as biking and hiking along nature trails. Take a cruise on Table Rock Lake, visit Dick’s 5 & 10, one of the last “five and dime” shops in the country and make time for blackberry cobbler at Farmhouse Restaurant. Kids will love staying in a log cabin at Thousand Hills Resort. For vacations on a dime, don’t miss the most affordable U.S. destinations.
Bypass the Las Vegas Strip for a weekend getaway in Henderson for a relaxing oasis that’s perfect for exploring area rock formations and ancient petroglyphs, even desert wildlife. Set out hiking on your own along the Rainbow Vista Trail at Valley of Fire State Park or book a half-day guided tour of Red Rock Canyon. On Lake Las Vegas, rent a stand-up paddleboard, a kayak, or even an electric pedal boat.
Traverse City, Michigan
Michigan’s Sunset Coast just calls out to you, making summer the perfect time to pack up the car and head to Traverse City for a beach getaway. Enjoy clean, sandy beaches, scenic drives along Highway M-22 through quaint villages and vineyards, and even a few stops along the Traverse City Ale Trail. Make time for Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, home to 64 miles of beaches, coves and islands on the Leelanau Peninsula. Book a stay at Hotel Indigo in downtown Traverse City, the only hotel with a rooftop bar on West Grand Traverse Bay. Before booking a flight to Michigan, here’s how to get the best airfare possible.
Brunswick Islands, North Carolina
For an alternative to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, look no further than North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. Climb the Oak Island Lighthouse on Caswell Beach, kayak the Intracoastal Waterway and dig in to batter-fried shrimp, clams, and oysters in Calabash, the “Seafood Capital of the World.” Reconnect with your inner self and write down your deepest thoughts on a journal at the Kindred Spirit Mailbox on Bird Island. There’s a beach for everyone too, like Holden Beach, which is just right for families eager to go crabbing and watch dolphins play. Don’t miss the best wineries to visit in America.
Huntington Beach, California
Known as “Surf City USA,” surfing is what you do when in Huntington Beach. Book a surf lesson at HB Surf School, then take a stroll along the Surfing Walk of Fame. Next, take a walk along the Huntington Beach Pier to play (or just watch) a few rounds of beach volleyball. Go late in the afternoon since the pier is also one of the best places to enjoy a colorful Surf City sunset. Plan on a beach bonfire with hot dogs and s’mores at one of more than 500 concrete fire rings. If beaches aren’t your thing, check out other best spots for weekend getaways in every state in America.
Known for its craft brews, plan to sample the best of Bend along the Bend Ale Trail. Stop in various breweries on your own, or try a half-day tour on board the Bend Brew Bus—be sure to collect stamps to fill your Bend Ale Trail Passport. In summer, hike along the trails at Pilot Butte or go tubing or stand-up paddleboarding on the Deschutes River. Exploring Central Oregon’s lava caves with hard hats and head lamps is also a must. Book a stay in a yurt at Bend-Sunriver RV Campground.
Wildwood, New Jersey
A stroll along a classic beach boardwalk is a must in summer, so head to Wildwood for a legendary boardwalk that stretches more than two miles. Make stops at each of the three Morey’s Piers for arcade games, bumper cars, and swing rides, as well as the newly refurbished Great Nor’Easter roller coaster on Surfside Pier. Soak in the sun on some of the best beaches around and snap a selfie with the iconic WILDWOODS sign dubbed “The Hollywood Sign of the East Coast.” Now that you’ve got the inside scoop on weekend getaways in the summer, make sure you learn about the most underrated travel destinations in the world.