25 Ideas for Your Best Summer Ever

By Travel + Leisure Staff
6/14/2014 10:08:51 AM

Summer vacation-the memories and anticipation keep you going all year long.

It's the most exhilarating season, when places gleam in the sunlight and work overtime so that travelers can make the most of their free time. There's a dizzying lineup of concerts, art fairs, craft-beer tastings, new heart-pounding roller coasters, ball games, and boardwalk amusements just waiting.

And after a rough winter in the U.S., Americans are eager to get packing. Adobe's Travel 2014 Report predicts that $61 billion will be spent on travel this summer through online bookings, a 15 percent growth over last year. Airlines for America is forecasting the busiest summer in six years, and, according to the American Express Travel survey of travel counselors, the average summer trip will be 10 days, up from seven in 2013.

So, where to go? Our national parks are calling both campers and glampers, particularly in California, where Yosemite celebrates its 150th birthday this summer (set up your tent at Tuolumne Meadows or book a room at The Ahwahnee). It's a few hours' drive southwest to the nation's newest park, Pinnacles, where condors soar overhead.

Even in big cities, you can embrace the outdoors by exploring on two wheels, perhaps pedaling along the eight-mile Indianapolis Cultural Trail or joining New York's Bikeable Feast, which combines a 90-minute ride with dinner at North Brooklyn Farms. Or get your dose of fresh air over cocktails at a new rooftop bar.

If you're feeling nostalgic, head for the tree house at Wisconsin's Camp Wandawega and sign up for canoeing and archery. And save at least one lazy weekend for the beach.

There's comfort in returning, like the tide, to a familiar destination, yet summer also brings out the spirit of adventure. This could be the year you take that big road trip-in a rental Airstream-or learn to surf in Honolulu or check another state off your list.

In a recent Twitter chat (#TL_Chat), we asked for three words to describe traveling in the U.S.A. this summer. "Fried, hot, friendly," tweeted Marji Stevens. "Splash, nosh, exhale," tweeted Jeanne Fratello (though perhaps not in that order). Katie Wire chimed in with "Beaches, mountains & (delicious) food," while Johnny Volk prefers "Baseball, burgers and beer," and chef Rick Bayless declared, "Go somewhere new!"

Whatever your definition of summer, we have you covered.

Related Links:
America's Best Road Trips
Vote for America's Favorite Places
Best Beach Gadgets and Gear

Tides Beach Club

Stay in a Stylish Seaside Inn

These New England properties put a decidedly design-conscious spin on the traditional B&B.

Salt House Inn, Provincetown, MA: Free parking and Wi-Fi are two of the perks at this 15-room Cape Cod inn, where vintage rackets and curiosities hang over each bed. Every morning, a blackboard offers the weather forecast alongside what's for breakfast.

Tides Beach Club, Kennebunkport, ME: The rambling, gabled Victorian is the only hotel on Goose Rocks Beach. Inside, 21 small-yet-inviting rooms have a breezy air (Jonathan Adler furnished two suites), and there's a buzzing restaurant and bar.

Courtesy of Six Flags Great America

Ride the Newest Roller Coasters

Coney Island introduced the 65-mile-per-hour Thunderbolt over Memorial Day weekend, its first custom-built coaster since the 1927 debut of the wooden-track Cyclone. Ohio's Kings Island unleashed the Banshee in April. And Disney World's Fantasyland expansion was completed with the opening of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train roller coaster. But roller-coaster cognoscenti know 2014 belongs to one beast, Six Flag Chicago's aptly named Goliath. Leave it to coaster nerds to debate whether it qualifies as a true wooden ride (it has a steel superstructure) and instead know this: with an insanely sheer 85-degree drop from 180 feet, top speeds of 72 miles per hour, and a few inversions, it's one hell of a scary, record-breaking ride.

Nancy S. Mueller

Go on Safari in Montana

Find out what the untouched West was like at Montana's Kestrel Camp (open May through October; all-inclusive), which has five immaculately appointed yurts set within the expanse of the American Prairie Reserve. Still in its infancy, the project aims to one day preserve a half-million acres of rolling grassland along the Missouri River; until this year, the yurts were open only to donors. In a homegrown take on the classic African safari, guests accompany naturalists on expeditions to view elk, pronghorn antelope, and bison.

Continue Reading on >