Sure, it’s the middle of winter…but all the more reason to start daydreaming about a sun-soaked vacation somewhere far away. (And maybe even acting on those designs, since accommodations do fill up fast.) Here, a roundup of summer vacation ideas that includes everything from Mediterranean beach stays to once-in-a-lifetime wildlife viewing experiences in the mountains.
20 Summer Vacation Ideas to Try This Year, Whether You Want a City Escape, Beach Getaway or Nature Retreat
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- Why We Recommend It: natural beauty, wildlife viewing, outdoor activities
- Where to Stay: Lake McDonald Lodge, Raven’s Nest Treehouse
Head to Glacier National Park in the summer for stunning natural beauty and sunny-but-mild 70 degree weather. From July to September, all the wildflowers are in bloom, the roads are plowed and opportunities for outdoor recreation are abundant on this 1 million-acre swath of protected land. Awesome wildlife viewing is practically guaranteed (moose!) and the gorgeous landscape of pristine alpine lakes, cascading waterfalls and lush forested peaks is picture perfect. It’s also worth noting that Glacier National Park has rugged and luxury accommodations alike, and plenty of fine dining options, too.
- Why We Recommend It: scenic, couples retreat, ocean views
- Where to Stay: Hilltop Villa in Carmel Valley, Big Sur Coast Cliff House
Big Sur, the crown jewel of California’s Central Coast, is a rugged stretch of undeveloped coastline where the St. Lucia mountains meet the Pacific Ocean. Windswept cliffs with breathtaking, scenic views of the ocean are just a stone’s throw away from the region’s Redwood forests, and it all starts with a drive up Highway 1…so bring your best roadtrip playlist, friends, and consider leaving the kids behind, lest the ‘are we there yets’ ruin the magic. The rural calm and powerful natural beauty of Big Sur make it one of the best destinations for an intimate vacation with someone special.
- Why We Recommend It: wildlife viewing, natural beauty, outdoor activities
- Where to Stay: Craighead Cabin, Signal Mountain Lodge
Here, another must-see national park for nature enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers. Grand Teton National Park is home to the namesake and oh-so majestic mountain range and the incredible biodiversity it boasts. Bears, mountain lions, beavers, and reptiles are among the wildlife you can spot whilst exploring the rocky peaks and lush valleys of the park, and outdoor activities include hiking, biking, fishing, boating and even romantic scenic drives.
- Why We Recommend It: scenic beaches, couples retreat, historic architecture
- Where to Stay: Hotel Zubieta, Sea Coast Lekeitio Apartment
Located in the Basque region, halfway between San Sebastian and Bilbao, is the small fishing village of Lekeitio—one of Spain’s best kept secrets. Lekeitio has gorgeous gothic architecture, a vibrant town center with bars and restaurants galore and, most notably, long stretches of beach that look out onto San Nicolas, a tiny island that can be accessed by foot from Lekeitio’s beaches when the tide is low. (Hint: Once you’re done sunbathing be sure to hike up to the island’s lookout point for spectacular views of the Basque coastline.)
- Why We Recommend It: popular beach getaway, family-friendly, lots of dining and shopping options, nightlife
- Where to Stay: Spirit Bear Lake Guesthouse, Chicks Beach Getaway
This popular resort town at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay has multiple ocean beaches and an impressive 3 mile long boardwalk that features numerous shops, restaurants and museums, as well as an outdoor performance venue and an oceanfront playground. Historical sites, family-friendly activities, world-class dining experiences, a thriving nightlife scene…Virginia Beach really has it all.
- Why We Recommend It: natural beauty, Mediterranean beaches, historic
- Where to Stay: Sinium Luxury Villa, Old Town Apartment in Kerkira
Lush tree-lined cliffs, sundrenched olive groves, unspoilt beaches and bluer-than-blue waters combine to create a particularly stunning natural landscape on this very special Ionian island. Despite being an immensely popular tourist destination, Corfu still has plenty of secluded spots where you can escape the bustle of the town and enjoy a quiet day in paradise. That said, no visit would be complete without some time spent strolling the Old Town of Corfu, a protected UNESCO heritage site with historic Venetian fortresses and a whole lot of romantic charm.
- Why We Recommend It: scenic beaches, laidback vibes, cultural attractions, nightlife
- Where to Stay: Orli La Jolla, La Valencia Hotel
Calling all beach bums: The quintessential SoCal experience awaits in San Diego, where the pace is slow, the beaches are pristine and the sun is always shining. There’s more to San Diego than surf culture, though. For starters, this city is home to the world famous San Diego Zoo, the Wild Animal Park, Sea World and Balboa Park, an urban cultural park featuring beautiful gardens and 15 different museums to explore. Oh, and did we mention the food scene is pretty stellar, too? And that’s true whether you’re in the market for a Michelin star dining experience or sticking to a food truck budget.
- Why We Recommend It: calm freshwater beaches, family-friendly, wine tasting
- Where to Stay: The Holiday House, Modern Historic Firehouse in TC
Mario Batali, Kid Rock, Michael Moore, Eminem and Madonna are among the celebrities who are known to spend their summers in Traverse City…and it’s not hard to see why. You’ll be treated to tranquil freshwater beaches, top-notch vineyards, locally grown agriculture served at renowned farm-to-fork restaurants, and more when you pay a visit to this beloved vacation spot in Northern Michigan. If you need some help planning your itinerary, a few ideas include enjoying the natural beauty of the region with a visit to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, soaking up some culture at one of the city’s many art centers and live performance venues, and shopping ‘til you drop at the historic Village at Grand Traverse Commons.
- Why We Recommend It: marine life viewing, quiet beaches, natural beauty, outdoor activities
- Where to Stay: Haro Sunset House, Snug Harbor Resort & Marina
When you hear San Juan Islands, you probably don’t think of Washington…but that’s exactly where you’ll find the gateway to this prized archipelago in the Pacific Northwest. Located between mainland Washington and Vancouver Island, the San Juan Islands are a submerged mountain range consisting of over a 100 tiny islands—and at least three of them (San Juan Island, Lopez Island and Orcas Island) are beckoning you to visit. Accept the invitation and your stay will include whale watching, kayaking, biking, hiking, lounging on quiet beaches, exploring lush forests and all the other trappings of a perfect vacation.
10. Positano, Italy
- Why We Recommend It: Mediterranean beaches, couples retreat, scenic
- Where to Stay: Villa Paradiso, Hotel Poseidon
Celebrities, jetsetters and everyday tourists flock to this charming Italian village on the Amalfi coast during the summer months, when the weather is hot, dry and almost always sunny. The buildings are nestled in steep hillside cliffs with stunning views of the ocean, the streets of town are perfumed with the scent of lemon groves and lined with boutiques, cafes and romantic restaurants, and the Spiaggia Grande—the city’s most popular beach—is an oh-so glamorous place to bask in the sun with a cocktail in hand. If you’re looking for a romantic getaway, picturesque Positano checks all the boxes. That said, if you can take your summer vacation a tad early, we suggest visiting in May for beautiful weather and blooming flowers, plus fewer crowds and better prices.
11. Portland, Maine
- Why We Recommend It: historic architecture, cultural attractions, quiet beaches
- Where to Stay: Oceanfront Guest Suite, Skolfield Inn
Scenic cruises and whale watching tours, cobblestone streets lined with boutiques in the Old Port District, Victorian mansions, sandy beaches with gentle surf and, of course, as much lobster as you can eat…let’s just say Maine’s biggest city has quite a lot going for it. Psst: If you’re traveling with kids in tow, be sure to check out the highly interactive Children’s Museum of Maine before you head home.
12. Antalya, Turkey
- Why We Recommend It: natural beauty, Mediterranean beaches, historic sites, outdoor activities
- Where to Stay: Cozy Flat by the Beach, Crowne Plaza Antalya
Antalya is a breathtakingly beautiful, Mediterranean destination on Turkey’s famous Turquoise Coast that boasts scenic beaches, natural wonders, ancient Roman ruins and a plethora of outdoor activities, including coastal hikes and boating adventures. The airfare is nothing to shake a stick at—but if you can swing it, you’ll get a lot of bang for your buck once you arrive.
- Why We Recommend It: family-friendly, cultural attractions, excellent food, welcoming vibes
- Where to Stay: Private House by Canals, Hotel Kong Arthur
Also known as the City of Fairytales, Copenhagen has earned a reputation for being the happiest and most livable city in the world. Denmark’s capital is famously bike and pedestrian-friendly, which means exploring the cobblestone streets, green parks, picturesque canals and historic architecture is a total breeze. The only bad thing about a vacation to Copenhagen is that you probably won’t want to leave. That said, if a permanent move isn’t a possibility, at least be sure to hit up the Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen Zoo and every street food vendor you can find before you say goodbye.
- Why We Recommend It: popular beach getaway, family-friendly, resort-style accommodations, outdoor activities, nightlife
- Where to Stay: Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island, Rustic Anchor Condo
Hilton Head is a historic island off the coast of South Carolina with over 12 scintillating miles of shoreline, more swanky resorts than you can count and a boatload of activities on offer for the whole family. Kid-friendly attractions (aside from the beach, that is) include arcade games and mini golf at Adventure Cove, and the Coastal Discovery Museum, which has interactive educational exhibits relating to both the region’s history and wildlife. As for the romantic experiences to be had at Hilton Head, there are horseback riding and bird watching excursions, kayaking adventures, spa treatments and memorable, waterfront dining experiences available to visitors.
- Why We Recommend It: couples retreat, cultural attractions, welcoming vibes, picturesque
- Where to Stay: McMillan Inn, River Street Inn
Forget about the urban hubbub of Atlanta, Georgia and head to Savannah instead for a more relaxed, Southern-style vacation with an extra helping of hospitality and charm. There’s plenty of arts and culture to be found in the Starland District and a lazy beach day awaits on Tybee Island; or just take a leisurely walk down the sun-dabbled, cobblestone streets that are shaded by oak trees and lined with well-preserved mansions—either way, a trip to Savannah is a recipe for true romance.
16. Colmar, France
- Why We Recommend It: scenic, couples retreat, historic sites, wine tasting
- Where to Stay: La Maison des Têtes, Le Jardin d’Eden
Colmar is a lesser known gem in the Alsace region of France with a dreamy town center that features flower-lined canals, cobbled streets, quaint, pastel-colored houses, and scenic surroundings speckled with medieval castles and expansive vineyards. (Hint: Wine tasting here is an absolute must.)
- Why We Recommend It: historic architecture, popular beach getaway, scenic, nightlife
- Where to Stay: Newport Treehouse, Beech Tree Inn & Cottage
This popular vacation destination on the “Classic Coast” of Rhode Island is home to historic Colonial architecture, charming waterfront fishing wharves, untouched beaches and an idyllic natural landscape. There are also noteworthy restaurants, wineries and breweries, plus a vibrant nightlife scene that belies the serene setting and laid back vibes of the town.
- Why We Recommend It: wildlife viewing, natural beauty, water activities, outdoor activities
- Where to Stay: Ecolodge Valle Negro, Semilla Verde Boutique Hotel
When it comes to spectacular wildlife viewing, there are very few places on Earth that rival the Galapagos Islands—an incredibly biodiverse, volcanic archipelago off the coast of Ecuador. Get up close-and-personal with a variety of marine life on boat tours and snorkeling or diving expeditions, and enjoy scenic hikes that feature everything from iguanas to flamingos. The sightseeing here is endless, as are the opportunities for outdoor recreation. File this one under ‘bucket list destinations.’
- Why We Recommend It: popular beach getaway, cultural attractions, hip vibes
- Where to Stay: Hollander Hotel, Modern Living Heated Pool House
St. Petersburg, also known as the Sunshine City, is decidedly more hip than the rest of the Tampa area. It’s also the closest thing to San Diego you can find on the East Coast—namely because of its award-winning beaches, consistently pleasant weather, and numerous cultural attractions, including the world-renowned Salvador Dali Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Mahaffey Theater, which is home to the Florida Orchestra. Soak up the sun, wash it down with some culture (and maybe a boardwalk brew), and call it a day.
- Why We Recommend It: Mediterranean beaches, natural beauty, couples retreat, water activities
- Where to Stay: La Casetta di Nona Lea, Holiday Home Studenac
Many Croatian vacations begin in Dubrovnik, but the cool kids know that an even better Balkan experience can be found on Losinj Island, where the climate is mild, the water is crystal clear and the Mediterranean scenery is swoon-worthy. Best of all, Losinj Island has many secluded spots for visitors to enjoy an intimate experience—including not only quiet beaches, but also hiking, cycling and walking routes with staggering views—and enough water recreation to fill an entire itinerary.