9 Beach-Free Summer Travel Destinations

Skip the sands and peak-season crowds in these vibrant locales this season.

By Kimberly Wilson, ContributorJuly 13, 2017
By Kimberly Wilson, ContributorJuly 13, 2017, at 1:16 p.m.
U.S. News & World Report

9 Beach-Free Summer Travel Destinations

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Austria, Tyrol, Tannheimer Tal, young couple hiking on mountain trail
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Plan a relaxing mountain, desert, wine or city break.

Every year, when summertime rolls around, many travelers escape to the beach as a much-awaited annual rite of passage. And while there is nothing wrong with planning a vacation in a tropical paradise, there are plenty of other fun and desirable options that don't require you to lounge out on the beach or stake your umbrella in the sand. For an unconventional vacation sans sandy toes and sunbathing, consider these nine great alternative summer getaway ideas.

Vineyards
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Sonoma, California

A laid-back alternative to Napa Valley, Sonoma County is the present-day epicenter of California wine country cool. If you want to escape the touristy crowds that make the pilgrimage to Napa in the summer months, but also experience world-class vineyards, farm-to-table dining destinations and leisure attractions, set your sights on Sonoma. The area now features top-tier hotels, including Graton Resort & Casino. From the bustling Santa Rosa to the quaint Glen Ellen, Sonoma County comprises 22 cities brimming with 19th-century history. For those looking to take their adventures outdoors, Sonoma is also home to a number of state parks ripe for hiking, camping and fishing.

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Plan a relaxing mountain, desert, wine or city break.

Every year, when summertime rolls around, many travelers escape to the beach as a much-awaited annual rite of passage. And while there is nothing wrong with planning a vacation in a tropical paradise, there are plenty of other fun and desirable options that don't require you to lounge out on the beach or stake your umbrella in the sand. For an unconventional vacation sans sandy toes and sunbathing, consider these nine great alternative summer getaway ideas.

Sonoma, California

A laid-back alternative to Napa Valley, Sonoma County is the present-day epicenter of California wine country cool. If you want to escape the touristy crowds that make the pilgrimage to Napa in the summer months, but also experience world-class vineyards, farm-to-table dining destinations and leisure attractions, set your sights on Sonoma. The area now features top-tier hotels, including Graton Resort & Casino. From the bustling Santa Rosa to the quaint Glen Ellen, Sonoma County comprises 22 cities brimming with 19th-century history. For those looking to take their adventures outdoors, Sonoma is also home to a number of state parks ripe for hiking, camping and fishing.

Minneapolis

Minneapolis is an under-the-radar Midwestern gem that's known for its music and theater scene, great restaurants, breweries and art galleries galore. If you want to experience the hustle and bustle of a big city along with suburban charm, put Minneapolis on your radar. The city's urban thrills are balanced by outdoor splendors, including scenic national parks, lakes and 200 miles of bike trails. For an ideal place to stay, consider Le Méridien Chambers Minneapolis, which is located in the heart of the city's theater district, or its sister property, W Minneapolis - The Foshay, where you can channel the Roaring '20s while sipping on cocktails at the Prohibition Bar.

Washington, District of Columbia

Our nation's capital is ideal for culture vultures and history buffs. You could easily spend hours exploring the National Mall, home to some of the country's most iconic monuments and museums, before hitting local bars and mingling with locals along the U Street Corridor. If you would rather catch a ballgame, head to Nationals Park and explore the waterfront at the National Harbor, which boasts the brand-new MGM National Harbor. And of course, no D.C. visit is complete without visiting the White House and the Capitol Building, or strolling through Georgetown to enjoy excellent shopping and restaurants.

Las Vegas

With indoor clubs, shops, spas and casinos, Sin City makes it easy to take a break from the summer heat. While the most pleasant seasons to visit are spring and fall, summer offers an appealing time to catch glitzy spectacles along the Strip and take in the over-the-top Vegas pool scene, where you'll find everything from lazy rivers to shark tanks to the world's biggest DJs. Whether you want to plan a romantic retreat or a vacation with friends, Las Vegas offers no shortage of entertainment options. And with diverse outdoor adventures to pick from away from the Strip (think: hiking and zip lining), there are plenty of diversions for active types.

Adairsville, Georgia

Set in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Adairsville's Barnsley Resort is where cottage-style accommodations, outdoor adventure and Southern comfort come together. At this 3,300-acre resort, you'll find a world-class Fazio-designed golf course. Plus, you can partake in bird hunting, horseback riding and hiking along picturesque trails, making it easy to kick back and recharge. Travelers can also explore the resort's rolling landscape on foot or bike, with options ranging from a strenuous hike through the Wolf Cave Loop to a leisurely stroll through the ruins of a 1840s estate. Cap the night off under the stars while toasting s'mores around one of the many fire pits sprinkled throughout the resort.

Cle Elum, Washington

Pack your bags and head to Suncadia Resort, just about 80 miles southeast of Seattle, for a relaxing mountain retreat far removed from crowded beaches. Stay at the cozy 18-room property or rent a large luxury home. For some fun, hit the 40-plus miles of trails or try out one of the many outdoor group adventures like a one-of-a-kind Wilderness Survival Scenario. Visit Swiftwater Cellars, the on-site winery, for a tasting of locally made wines and an artisan meal made with local ingredients. End the day by cozying up with spiked hot cocoa and roasted marshmallows at one of the many fire pits located throughout the property.

Lake Tahoe, California

For an outside-the-box vacation, swap the beach for the lake this summer. Lake Tahoe offers top-notch resorts, a wide array of outdoor activities and versatile dining venues. And then there's the astounding beauty of North America's largest alpine lake. Carve out some time to hike around Emerald Bay State Park; if that doesn't get your adrenaline pumping, there's always the ropes course at Tahoe Treetop Adventure Parks. Tahoe's selection of indoor activity is also unparalleled, and the spas at both The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe and the Resort at Squaw Creek are exemplary. Choose the former for a luxurious getaway and the latter if you're traveling with young children.

The Finger Lakes, New York

The Finger Lakes region is just an hour by plane and three to four hours by car, bus or train from New York City, making it a great destination for an easy weekend escape. The 11 Finger Lakes were created by the retreat of massive glaciers that covered the northeast. And there are so many ways to enjoy the diverse areas, from boating to fishing to swimming to paddleboarding to jet skiing. But one of the best ways to pass the time is sitting with loved ones and soaking in the beauty of the lake as the wind passes over the cool water and the sun drops down.

Indian Wells, California

Aside from the flourishing festival scene, this California retreat invites visitors to enjoy lazy days by one of the pools, hit the surrounding trails and take daring rides on Jeep excursions of the San Andreas fault line. If you're looking for a modern retreat, head to Miramonte Resort & Spa, A Destination Resort, a desert oasis in the heart of Coachella Valley. Craving more activity? Head to Joshua Tree for a once-in-a-lifetime rock-climbing adventure followed by an indulgent treatment at the spa. At the end of the day, retreat to a fire pit to watch the sun go down over the surrounding Santa Rosa Mountains.

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Kimberly Wilson, Contributor

Kimberly N. Wilson is a NYC-based travel/lifestyle writer and social media strategist. She is ...  Read more

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