There’s nothing more American than hitting the open road. Windows down, music blaring, and a cooler full of beer in the back seat (for later, of course). Road trips are the quintessential way to capitalize on the season’s long days and balmy nights, and some of the most beautiful vacay destinations to enjoy this season can be experienced stateside. Sure the game has changed — smartphones have all but rendered crumpled maps obsolete — but one essential question remains: Where to go? Look no further, my friend. Below, I’ve picked ten of the best places to visit in the U.S. during the Summer. And the best part: you can drive to each one.
California’s Channel Islands
For something a little different than a weekend in wine country or a drive down the Pacific Coast Highway, head to the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California for a weekend of kayaking, snorkeling, or hiking. The picturesque setting will instantly put you in vacation mode. Just be aware that the islands are actually a national park, so there are no hotels on site. But you can stay in nearby Santa Barbara or even camp on the island if you’re up for an adventure.
Beach lovers, look no further: Cape Cod is the Summer destination for you. Race Point Beach in Provincetown is one of the area’s go-to spots. Another must-see is Nauset Light Beach located directly by Cape Cod’s most famous landmark, Nauset Lighthouse. In the evenings, enjoy downtown Provincetown’s charming sights, particularly on Commercial street, filled with restaurants, bars and clubs.
Charleston, South Carolina
Food and beaches are two of the main reasons this Southern city should be on your Summer vacation list because, honestly, what else could you possibly need? Charleston offers a distinctive old-world flavor of the American South with a fascinating history, miles of deserted sandy beaches, and colonial architecture. It’s definitely a cultural gem. Cuisine is another big draw — get ready to eat your weight in shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes, and other veggies like okra and collard greens all while enjoying the scenery. And here’s a great guide for a girls’ weekend!
Coeur D’ Alene, Idaho
Perched at 2,200 feet and just off Interstate 90, the town of Coeur d’Alene holds and easy, laid-back magic built for tourism and a choose-your-own-adventure sort of destination. Step out of a downtown hotel and turn one direction for bistros, beer bars, and quaint small-town shopping. Or, head the other direction to spend the day hiking, kayaking, golfing and so much more. You can even take a biplane to whisk you above Lake Coeur d’Alene. There Summer events include art walks, weekly farmer’s market, and weekly concerts in Coeur d’Alene City Park and Sherman Square Park just to name a few.
Dunton Hot Springs, Colorado
For a totally unique vacay, head to the old mining town of Dunton Hot Springs in Colorado which has been converted into a rustic yet totally luxurious retreat that’s perfect for an active Summer getaway or spa retreat. This Rocky Mountain town was once a mining location but is now a small resort with a limited number of cabins for a super-intimate feel. There are lots of hiking trails and more than enough land to explore, stables for horseback riding, and even a local vineyard to visit. It’s the perfect place for nature lovers to get out into the fresh air, relax and let loose.
Leaving the mainland for the 120-mile-long island chain of Florida’s Keys, you’ll enter a paradise of beach bars, water sports, and Jimmy Buffett fans. From Key Largo to Key West, the overseas highway strings the islands together like beads running past lighthouses, underwater coral-reef parks, and across 7 Mil Bridge — one of the longest bridges in the world!
Havasu Falls, Arizona
It’s hard to believe that such a breathtaking waterfall can exist in the middle of the desert! Thankfully, Havasu Falls is no mirage. The area’s namesake and most spectacular waterfall cascades down 100 feet of red rock into a vibrant, blue pool. The falls are located in a remote region of the Grand Canyon and can only be accessed through a 10-mile hike. The entry fee to the park is $35 per person and the overnight camping fee is even lower at $17 per person each night, making it a great location for those of us trying to save money! With a population of 52,000, this hidden Southwest gem goes big with Summer-inspired opportunities: from fishing and sailing to dozens of restaurants offering a view of the lake while you dine.
If you’re wanting to escape the Texas heat, head to the wide open spaces of Jackson, Wyoming. The breathtaking nature of the area during Summer and the many restaurants, galleries and shops, rest assured there is no shortage of things to do! You could whitewater raft down the rapids of the Snake River, or enjoy the river in a less-dangerous, more relaxing way (you have been driving for hours after all) and leisurely float down fourteen miles of the river.
Savannah’s picturesque scenery is best enjoyed during Summer. A walk along the waterfront River Street is filled with shops, restaurants, and all of the little quirks that make this city so unique: iron-gated homes with colorful doors, cobblestone streets, Victorian homes, and rows of oak trees. In the evening, enjoy a sunset at Tybee Island Beach for a relaxed, quiet stroll to the beach’s lighthouse.
Although Sedona is best known for (and frequently lampooned) its spiritual vibes, the town — filled with galleries, upscale restaurants, and spa-laden resorts — is not only for the wide-eyed mystics. And given Sedona’s many Native American sites and dreamscape-like terrain, the area does seem to have a certain power to it. I’d love to take a hike on the Brins Mesa Trail down into Soldier Pass. Maybe look out on the sandstone turrets rising above the forest. And then eavesdrop as a self-anointed shaman at the Seven Sacred Pools explains the flow of energy from the Earth’s core to the area’s vortexes. You can see why this is on my Road Trip Bucket List.
Taos, New Mexico
If you’re looking for a weekend filled with outdoor adventures, head to this Northern New Mexico city for a funky vacation in a Southwestern landscape. Taos, New Mexico is a vibrant community about an hour and a half from Santa Fe. At the heart of the town, you’ll find more art galleries and chile dishes than you’d think possible for a population of just over 5,700. And beyond the city limits, you’ll find ample opportunity for adventure with loads of hiking and whitewater rafting.
Traverse City, Michigan
For unpredictable, quirky experiences, consider booking your getaway to this small town located in Michigan’s lower peninsula. Travel agent and co-founder of YTravel Blog, Caroline Makepeace, says this region has been the number on recommended destination for the Summer season. “It is a rising destination making its mark for quality wines, farm-to-table restaurants, and its own Michael Moore-founded film festival,” she shares. Nearby, there’s Sleep Bear Dunes National Lakeshore where you can explore 64 miles of vistas, freshwater beaches, hiking trails, and forested wilderness islands.
Yellow Springs, Ohio
Known for its hippie vibes and outdoor attractions, Yellow Springs has gained a reputation for being a nature and arts destination in Ohio. This unique little town offers artsy shops, local eateries, and small town living at its finest. But the nature scene thrives here, too! The Yellow Spring at the Glen Helen Nature Preserve covers 1,000 acres and features a 25-mile network of footpaths where you can see 400-year-old trees and limestone cliffs with waterfalls and overhangs. Just five minutes from Yellow Springs, you’ll find the historic site of Clifton Mill with a quaint restaurant.