Ready to mix it up for this years’ summer trip? Take a peek at the 12 best summer vacation ideas in the US for some destination inspiration around the nation.
Don’t settle for the same old locations you’ve visited time and time again – you’re overdue for a first-time visit to a new city with surprises around every corner.
This year is the perfect time to broaden your horizons and use your summer trip to get to know some cool new-to-you spots in the US!
What Are Some Cool Summer Vacation Spots in the US?
The United States is huge with thousands of visit-worthy cities and towns from coast to coast (and even further out in Hawaii and Alaska).
But the sheer size of this proud and diverse nation makes it a little harder to pinpoint exactly where you want to head for summer vacation.
Checking out some cool summer vacation spots in the US is a great way to get some inspiration to point you in the right direction!
Everyone’s idea of the ideal summer vacation is a little different, so we wanted to create a list of summer vacation ideas in the US that went far beyond beaches and bars.
Some do seek out classic beaches and laid-back towns. Others look for scenic parks for outdoor recreation. Lively cities, historic tours, and famous landmarks are popular, too.
You’ll find all of these options and more in our list of the 12 best summer vacation ideas in the US, including:
- Seafood and Sailing in Cape Cod
- Gawking at Geysers in Yellowstone
- Surfing and Sunsets in Oahu
- Theme Park Hopping in Orlando
- Fame and Food Trucks in Los Angeles
- Fly Fishing and Rafting in Vail
- Shelling and Sandcastles in Myrtle Beach
- Hiking and Wildlife in Denali National Park
- Sips and Trolley Tours in Savannah
- Beachy Family Fun in San Diego
- Monuments and Museums in Washington, DC
- Wildlife Safari in Grand Teton National Park
No matter what you’re going for this summer, there’s a destination on this list that will deliver. You’ll rediscover your appreciation for this nation of ours by the time you’re heading home!
The 12 Greatest Summer Vacation Ideas in the US
Spend your summer dining on fresh seafood, meandering through famous national parks, sharing sunsets with the ones you love, and exploring some of the nation’s coolest cities.
Check out these fresh, captivating summer vacation ideas in the US!
1. Seafood and Sailing in Cape Cod
The quintessential New England seaside town, Cape Cod is the spot for a laid-back vacation with lots of time spent on the shore, eating seafood, sailing, and touring galleries.
You’ll find an abundance of art galleries and museums to check out, like the Cape Cod Museum of Art and the fun Whydah Pirate Museum, to spend a few hours out of the sand.
Farmer’s markets will be packed with fresh, summer produce that pairs nicely with lobster, clams, fish, and scallops. It’s the perfect time of year to visit a winery or go on a lighthouse tour.
Where to Stay in Cape Cod
- Sandcastle Resort: Oceanfront with a private beach and views of the Cape Cod Bay and Provincetown Harbor, this beachy little resort has a heated pool and tennis courts onsite.
- Surfside Hotel and Suites: This hotel is oceanfront with views of the Cape Cod Bay has on onsite bar and outdoor fire pit for cozy nights. It’s close to lots of popular attractions!
2. Gawking at Geysers in Yellowstone National Park
It’s a fact that summer is the best time to visit Yellowstone and this is a must-see spot with trails winding past gorgeous scenery, amazing geysers, and abundant wildlife.
You’ll see the fascinating Old Faithful (it spouts every 1-2 hours) and 500+ geysers and 10,000+ other geothermal features around the park. Grizzlies, bison, wolves, and elk can be seen in the summer.
The trails leading to the best views in the park are well-worn, like Fairy Falls Trail and the Point Sublime Trail, and many lead you past gushing waterfalls.
Where to Stay in Yellowstone
- Camping: Camping is the best way to experience Yellowstone by far. Madison Campground and Mammoth Campground are some of the best (close to the main sights) and can be reserved in advance online.
- Under Canvas Yellowstone: Stay in a tent with a wood stove and shower with an awesome restaurant and bar on the property for your use. It’s close to the best fishing and hiking trails!
3. Surfing and Sunsets in Oahu
Hawaii’s Oahu is home to the state’s capital, Honolulu, and it’s one of the most rewarding summer vacation spots in the US. From surfing to incredible sunsets, Oahu is top-notch.
This is where the famous, massive waves of the North Shore can be found along with paradisiacal Waikiki Beach (where the Diamond Head volcanic crater is a stunning backdrop).
Cocktails on the beach, swimming, snorkeling, and huge waves to gentle surf in the secluded lagoons make Oahu a favorite summer vacay spot.
Be sure to check out Kahanamoku Beach and Haleiwa Beach Park while you’re here to get away from the crowds!
Where to Stay in Oahu
- Imperial Hawaii Resort: Close to Waikiki Beach and attractions, this resort has a kitchenette in every room and bonuses like a pool, sauna, and free beach equipment rentals.
- Prince Waikiki: Get a taste of luxury in a quieter part of the island near Ala Moana Beach. Onsite Hawaiian and international dining, top-tier rooms, equipment rentals, and a pool make it a great choice.
4. Theme Park Hopping in Orlando
Orlando is the nation’s best spot for theme parks where vacation planning is a little easier – grab your tickets and show up to take advantage of as many rides, shops, and restaurants as possible!
Park hopping in Orlando might be the perfect summer trip if any of the area’s parks align with your interests. Disney’s 4 parks, Universal Studios, Fun Spot America Theme Parks, SeaWorld, and more are options.
You’ll be able to cool off at water parks and on fun water rides while ducking into the A/C and shade at shops and restaurants in each park. Head an hour away to Cocoa or Daytona Beach to mix things up!
Where to Stay in Orlando
- Buena Vista Suites Orlando: Located in Walt Disney World, this resort is affordable and packed with amenities and fun facilities for the entire family with convenient proximity to your park adventures.
- JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort & Spa: This 4-star hotel runs daily shuttles to the Disney parks and offers top-reviewed breakfast and spacious rooms for guests with lots of amenities onsite.
5. Fame and Food Trucks in Los Angeles
Chasing fame – okay, touring the city and spotting celebrities along the way – in Los Angeles can be an awesome way to spend your summer vacation.
See the Hollywood sign, Sunset Strip, and the Walk of Fame to find the stars of your favorite stars. The Getty art museum, movie studios, and museums dedicated to film, music, and TV are great ways to spend time in L.A.
Dine on gourmet offerings at L.A.’s finest international restaurants or fill up at food trucks serving up sandwiches, tacos, sweet treats, and bowls California style.
Where to Stay in Los Angeles
- W Hollywood: Luxe and delivering top-tier service to guests, this hotel is conveniently located in Hollywood with an onsite restaurant and services from transportation to room service.
- Omni Los Angeles Hotel California Plaza: Right across from the Museum of Contemporary Art downtown, this hotel has a pool and spa to help you relax after a full day touring the city.
6. Fly Fishing and Rafting in Vail
Colorado’s high-altitude, mountainous scenery is a haven for snow sports, but it’s a real gem in the summer months when everything’s green and teeming with life and color.
You can go hiking, white water rafting, fly fishing, and attend concerts on balmy summer nights. Vail Valley food tours are a great way to get to know the vibes of Vail.
Visit breweries and bars, listen to great local and big-name talent at Gerald Ford Amphitheater, and take advantage of Vail’s thriving arts and culinary scenes while you’re in town!
Where to Stay in Vail
- Tivoli Lodge: A daily chef-attended breakfast that’s highly rated by guests is a highlight of staying at this gorgeous lodge near Gondola One with majestic mountain views.
- Sitzmark Lodge: Your room comes with a balcony and some have fireplaces and sitting areas. A pool, hot tub, and daily continental breakfast are offered in this hotel in the center of Vail Village.
7. Shelling and Sandcastles in Myrtle Beach
Myrtle Beach is an excellent summer vacation destination for families with so much to offer both kids and adults. Its vast stretch of beaches and range of hotel options makes it a winner.
Myrtle Beach Boardwalk and Promenade provide endless hours of fun right by the beach downtown with the SkyWheel, Family Kingdom Amusement Park, Ripley’s museum, and snack and food booths galore.
Play mini golf, go shelling, swim in the ocean, take a boat cruise, try a ropes course, eat your way through the city, and enjoy live music on the beach.
Where to Stay in Myrtle Beach
- Holiday Inn at the Pavilion: This kid-friendly hotel is located downtown in Myrtle Beach so you’re close to everything fun! A lazy river and pool are onsite and it’s just steps from the SkyWheel.
- Beach Cove Resort: Enjoy views of the ocean from your private balcony at this resort with 3 pools, its own restaurant, and a game room and special pool for kids.
8. Hiking and Wildlife in Denali National Park
Spend your summer vacation soaking up the incredible mountain scenery and seclusion of Alaska’s greatest treasure: Denali National Park. Summer is the prime time to visit.
North America’s highest peak (over 20,300 feet) is inside the 6-million acre park, where you can see bears, moose, elk, eagles, and more roaming the wilderness.
You’ll get to take a train ride on the Alaska Railroad to get into the park, which only adds to the fun. Fish, hike, swim, take photos, check out visitor centers, and discover hidden coves untouched by mankind.
Where to Stay in Denali National Park
- Denali Cabins: Pick your base camp from 46 cedar cabins with convenient access to the onsite Prey Pub and Eatery for delicious grub in the wilderness. It’s cozy, but book early for summer!
- Denali Backcountry Lodge: This luxury lodge can only be reached by air and was named one of National Geographic’s top 10 adventure lodges in the world. Book early for summer availability and enjoy the wild wonder of the park!
9. Sips and Trolley Tours in Savannah
In the heart of the steamy South, Savannah is simply sublime in summer. This charming old city has cobblestone streets and Spanish moss to set the tone for your trip.
Savannah is full of character and buzzing with restaurants, downtown shops, art galleries, “haunted” historic homes you can tour, museums, and waterfront concerts for those sweet, summer nights.
Hop-On Hop-Off Trolley Tours in the city make it easy to explore and you’re sure to appreciate a walking or culinary tour of the downtown area.
Where to Stay in Savannah
- The Marshall House: This old and slightly-spooky downtown hotel is Savannah personified with Southern charm and period decor that takes you back in time with the comforts of the modern day.
- JW Marriott Savannah Plant Riverside District Hotel: Swanky and set on the waterfront, this luxury hotel is downtown and tastefully decorated with rooms overlooking the city and river.
10. Beachy Family Fun in San Diego
San Diego is such a great place for summer vacays, especially if you’re traveling with kids. The number of attractions, restaurants, and beautiful, warm beaches make it ideal.
There’s so much to get into in San Diego – locals call it Daygo – like the San Diego Zoo, electric bike tours, endless food trucks, beach volleyball, pier fishing, and more.
History buffs will love the USS Midway Museum, while foodies can appreciate events like the Tequila, Tacos, and Tombstones Culinary Tour through the Old Town.
Where to Stay in San Diego
- Best Western Cabrillo Garden Inn: Located in the prime Balboa Park neighborhood where you’ll be close to everything, this mid-range hotel is an affordable and comfortable home base for your trip.
- Blue Sea Beach Hotel: This Mission Beach hotel is right by the water for the ultimate convenience if you’re planning on lots of beach days. You’ll love the pool overlooking the ocean!
11. Monuments and Museums in Washington, DC
Put an educational, historic twist on your summer trip with a visit to Washington, DC! Our nation’s capital is easily one of the best summer vacation ideas in the US.
Hit all the highlights while you’re here: Capitol Hill, the White House, the Smithsonian, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, World War II Memorial, and more.
There’s plenty of tasty grub to try around the city like Old Ebbitt Grill for breakfast and tavern food and the swanky The Dabney for 5-star fine dining. Nightlife is big on U-Street Corridor all summer long!
Where to Stay in DC
- Riggs Washington DC: If you’re lucky enough to score a room, this is the top-rated boutique hotel in DC and it’s filled with historic memorabilia from past presidents. A rooftop bar and onsite cafe add to the charm.
- Dupont Circle Hotel: The only hotel in this popular neighborhood, you’ll be right among the best restaurants, nightlife, and attractions with an onsite French cafe.
12. Wildlife Safari in Grand Teton National Park
Turn your summer vacation into a safari by visiting Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming! Let the mountains, wildlife, and outdoor recreation set the scene for the perfect trip.
It’s an all-American summer here, with hiking, swimming, fishing, sailing, and windsurfing filling up your days. Jackson Lake is the perfect spot to cool off on hot days!
Book the Grand Teton Wildlife Safari to spot the park’s abundant animals in their natural habitat. There are great dining options in the park, like Jenny Lake Lodge Dining Room and Deadman’s Bar.
Where to Stay in Grand Teton National Park
- Jenny Lake Campground: Pitch your tent close to Jenny Lake among the evergreens with a camp store, food storage locker, and fire grates to help your spot feel like temporary home.
- Colter Bay Cabins: Take the luxury up a notch and stay at one of the lakefront cabins on Jackson Lake in the park. Choose from 200+ log cabins or a cool tent-cabin.
Frequently Asked Questions
While you’re letting those summer vacation ideas in the US marinate, take a look at the most frequently asked questions other travelers had below.
What is the most popular US summer destination?
Mackinac Island, Michigan was named the #1 most popular US summer destination for 2023 by USA Today.
Cape Cod, Yellowstone National Park, and Oahu, Hawaii are other popular destinations for summer trips.
What is a good state to visit in the summer?
Any of the coastal states are obvious choices for good states to visit in the summer (Florida, California, South Carolina, etc.) but tons of interior states offer refreshing takes on the classic summer trip.
Colorado, Georgia, Alaska, Washington DC, and Wyoming are some of the best states to visit in the summer months for their outdoor recreation, concerts, tours, museums, landmarks, and gorgeous scenery.
What is the most popular summer vacation location?
Cancun, Mexico is one of the most popular summer vacation locations in the world, attracting nearly 2 million travelers each summer.
In the US, Florida and California beaches, New England beaches, national parks, and busy cities inland are always popular for summer trips.
How can I spend summer in the USA?
Spend summer in the USA enjoying fun outdoor recreation, like swimming, fishing, hiking, rock climbing, boating, and white water rafting. Trips to cool cities you haven’t been to will ignite your curiosity and lend an air of novelty to your summer.
Booking a cabin or camping in a national or state park, taking a river cruise, enjoying culinary or museum tours, and attending concerts are all part of summer in the USA.
How can I spend my summer vacation easily?
You can enjoy a low-key, lazy summer vacation without all the work of planning and booking a jam-packed trip! Set your sights on a nearby location or settle on a “stay-cation” in your city.
Make time for outdoor activities on sunny days, see movies and try new restaurants, plan a picnic, host a barbecue with friends, plan a night to stargaze, hike local trails, and visit local museums and shops you’ve never been to.
So, What Are the Best Summer Vacation Ideas in the US?
From filling up on fresh-caught seafood and sailing in charming Cape Cod to taking a wildlife safari in the scenic Grand Teton National Park, there are plenty of amazing ways to spend your next summer vacation.
Whether you’re after beaches, great nightlife, natural beauty, lively city tours, outdoor recreation, or a little of everything, there’s a destination on this list that’ll serve you well.