Best Summer Vacations
For many, the desire to travel peaks when summer rolls around. And with so many places experiencing warmer weather and longer days, it's hard to decide which vacation is right for you. To help you narrow down your options, U.S. News weighed factors like activities and entertainment options, lodging, dining venues and weather to determine the best summer trips. Use this list to help you plan your vacation, and don't forget to vote for your favorite spots below.
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What makes Rome such a great summer destination is that so many of its iconic landmarks are outside. Visitors can soak up the history and scenery at the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Trevi Fountain, as well as the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona and Gianicolo Hill, all under the Roman sun. While Rome's romantic architecture and alluring culture is heavenly with the right weather, know that summer is extremely busy. Hotels will be pricey and attractions will be congested with fellow travelers. To have a little piece of Roma to yourself, visit top attractions early in the morning.
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Weather in the high 70s makes summer the best time to wander the City of Light. Dine alfresco at a cafe along the Champs-Élysées, watch the lively locals move through the popular Le Marais neighborhood or have a picnic at the Luxembourg Gardens or on the lawns in front of the Eiffel Tower itself. The only cons: You'll encounter some crowds and even higher prices on hotel rooms, from the average to the luxurious, so you may want to consider a vacation rental. To avoid bumping elbows with hordes of tourists, plan to visit world-renowned attractions such as the Louvre first thing in the morning.
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Although you'll have to contend with other sightseers, you'll find that Florence's outdoor cafes, picturesque piazzas and Renaissance architecture shines brightest in the summer. Plus, average temperatures sit in the 70s and 80s. Travelers can meander through the beautiful Boboli Gardens, soak up the sun atop the grand Duomo or catch a sunset at Piazza Michelangelo. Because this is peak travel season in Florence, you should secure your hotel or vacation rental well in advance.
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The Grand Canyon is a popular place to travel during the summer because the North Rim, which closes during the winter months, is open for business. This makes way for double the amount of adventures. First-time visitors should hit up the South Rim first, where they'll find popular lookouts, trailheads and amenities, including Grand Canyon Village and the Rim Trail. Keep in mind that because school is out during this time, families flock to the Grand Canyon for vacation. As such, it's best to book accommodations several months to a year in advance.
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Because Quebec City sees such harsh winters, tourists from all over head to this picturesque Canadian destination during the summer, where daytime temperatures reach the high 70s. Though once you take a look around the city in the sun, you'll see why people pay the extra coin to enjoy Quebec City this time of year. The destination's already beautiful attractions become even more magical, including the romantic Old Québec, Montmorency Falls Park and Terrassee Dufferin, the latter of which offers spectacular views of the St. Lawrence River.
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Visiting the world's first national park during the summer has its perks. You'll have access to the entire park (certain areas are closed during colder months) and most of the park's events and programs are held during this time. The caveat? You'll have to contend with other travelers reveling at Yellowstone on vacation. However, if you plan ahead and book camping sites or accommodations well in advance, you'll be able to marvel at this national park's beauty.
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San Diego has enough outdoor attractions to satisfy all kinds of travelers. Families will enjoy the world-famous San Diego Zoo, while nature lovers can admire the impressive landscapes that make up Torrey Pines State Reserve. History lovers will enjoy a tour aboard the USS Midway Museum, while those looking to party will have a ball in the Gaslamp Quarter. No matter what type of traveler you identify as, the eye-catching architecture and beautiful gardens that make up Balboa Park won't disappoint. And as for the beaches, San Diego's variety of shorelines means you'll never be bored.
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Edinburgh's northern U.K. location means that warm weather is rare. Summer is the only time of the year where highs reach the mid-60s in this destination. The city also hosts the renowned Edinburgh Fringe Festival (one of the world's largest arts festivals) each summer, drawing visitors from around the globe. Aside from this fun summer event, travelers can experience Edinburgh's verdant, sun-soaked landscape. You'll find the best views from outdoor attractions like Arthur's Seat, Calton Hill and the Royal Botanic Garden.
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Because of coral bleaching caused by climate changes, you should get to the Great Barrier Reef ASAP. Diving and snorkeling are still as scenic as can be in the reef area located between the Capricorn Coast and Fraser Island. However, you don't have to be a diver to fully enjoy the Great Barrier Reef. Sailing the blue ocean and kicking back on one of the beautiful Whitsunday Islands beaches will no doubt satisfy relaxation seekers. You can also get to know some of Australia's animals at Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas and Hartley's Crocodile Adventures.
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The Windy City comes alive during the summer thanks to its incredible lineup of festivals, including Taste of Chicago, the Chicago Fringe Festival, Lollapalooza and more. If you can't snag tickets to any of these events, the city's many things to do and see will no doubt keep you busy. Travelers can take a Chicago Architecture River Cruise under the sun, walk to iconic city spots like Millennium Park and Grant Park, or catch a baseball game at Wrigley Field. Keep in mind, because of the favorable weather, Chicago flights and hotel rates will likely be high.
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A trip to Dublin in the summer is a must for those who are searching for a time to visit when the weather is comfortable. It's only during the summer that Ireland's capital reaches highs of 60 degrees during the day. During this time, outdoor attractions like St. Stephen's Green, Phoenix Park and Dublin Zoo shine even brighter. The warmer weather also makes strolls to other iconic city attractions, such as St. Patrick's Cathedral and Trinity College, all the more enjoyable. At night, hit up the renowned Temple Bar and its surrounding pubs for a rowdy good time.
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Bar Harbor#12 in Best Summer Vacations
Bar Harbor's proximity to the stunning Acadia National Park and other New England destinations makes it a superb spot to hang your hat in the summer. While the distance to the park is no doubt one of Bar Harbor's selling points, you should save room on your itinerary to explore this charming coastal town. Venture down the quaint Main Street, where you'll find plenty of seafood restaurants, ice cream shops, art galleries and more. Then, book a boat tour around or to the nearby Bar Island or take a walk along the scenic Shore Path for awe-inspiring views of the Atlantic Ocean.
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Singapore is one of Asia's most dynamic cities. Here, the people are diverse, the culture is rich and the things to do are endless. Admire the city's skyline from atop the Gardens by the Bay nature park, the Singapore Flyer or at Marina Bay, then explore the famous Merlion Park. For dinner, grab grub in Chinatown or Little India or head to the famous Newton Food Centre for delicious street food. In addition to offering great options for food and a bevy of outdoor attractions, the destination hosts the Great Singapore Sale every summer, meaning shoppers will find deals on a variety of retail items, from technology to designer duds.
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Soaking up the history of the Freedom Trail and enjoying city parks like Boston Common and Boston Public Garden are much more pleasant when daytime temperatures hover in the 70s and 80s. Summer is also when Beantown comes alive with frequent baseball games at Fenway Park (popular with families) and outdoor events like Boston Pride and Boston Harborfest. Considering this is the most pleasant time to visit the city weather-wise, hotel rates and airfare will be high, so you'll want to book in advance.
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Grand Teton is truly at its best in the summer. During this time, all trails and roads are open, outdoor activity options like boating, fishing and horseback riding abound and there are a handful of exciting ranger-led programs scheduled throughout the season. For further exploration, travel to the scenic Jenny Lake, drive down Teton Park Road for an eyeful of the namesake Teton Range or, if you're up for a challenge, hike the famous Cascade Canyon Trail.
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Due to its popularity with snowbirds and during Carnival, Curacao doesn't attract as many visitors in the summer as it does in the winter. This, in combination with its nearly 90 degree highs, makes summer an excellent time to kick back, unwind and savor the island's incredible beaches and awesome water sports activities. In addition to stunning shorelines, Curacao is home to the colorful Handelskade neighborhood and Christoffel National Park, which offers both easy and challenging hikes.
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Machu Picchu#17 in Best Summer Vacations
Summer features fewer rain showers in the Peruvian mountains and daytime highs in the 60s, meaning experienced hikers will have terrific conditions for trekking the Inca Trail. Non-hikers can still enjoy the iconic Lost City of the Incas, but keep in mind that trail spots (and admission tickets) are limited and require advance reservations. Because of the incredible weather during this time of year, you should expect this UNESCO World Heritage Site and the nearby city of Cusco to be busier than usual.
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This normally chilly city is not only the warmest but also the least rainy during the summer, so expect to rub elbows with lots of fellow tourists. The Pacific Northwest scenery you'll behold on a summer vacation, and in perfect weather, will be worth it, though. You can see Puget Sound by boat, hike various trails at Discovery Park or nearby Mount Si and capture the perfect photo of the city's skyline atop Kerry Park. If you want to visit other top attractions, such as the Space Needle and Pike Place Market, be sure to arrive early to avoid heavy crowds.
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Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, locals and tourists swarm Cape Cod's 40 miles of picturesque beaches – and for good reason. Daytime temperatures in New England are commonly in the 70s, giving the area a chance to thaw after chilly winters. In addition to relaxing on the sand, travelers can plan a scenic bike ride along The Cape Cod Rail Trail with the family or wander through the serene Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge. To ensure availability (especially on weekends), reserve your hotel rooms or vacation rentals as soon as possible.
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June through August make up part of Kruger National Park's dry season, when wildlife-viewing opportunities are generally at their best. With less vegetation and fewer watering holes, animals like zebras and hippos are easier to spot while on a game drive or bush walk. What's more, mosquitoes won't bother you as much during the day. Keep in mind that this national park is huge – 5 million acres to be exact – so be strategic as to where you choose to hang your hat. First-time visitors should opt to stay in the Marula region, where you'll find the park's closest airport.
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