Best Summer Vacations
For many, the desire to travel peaks when summer rolls around. But 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 decide the best summer vacations. Use this list to help you plan your vacation, and don't forget to vote for your favorite spots below. (Note: Some of the below destinations may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Check with the CDC and the U.S. Department of State before traveling.)
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Summer transforms Vancouver into a mecca of festivals and outdoor activities. Visit at the beginning of July to celebrate Canada Day – complete with free events and parades – or plan your trip around June's International Jazz Festival or August's Pride Parade. Late summer brings the city's Celebration of Light, a dazzling fireworks competition over the English Bay. No matter which month you choose to visit, you can enjoy hiking at Stanley Park, sunbathing at Kitsilano Beach and other outdoor activities in glorious 70-degree weather. Just remember, you'll likely pay more for lodging during the warmer months.
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Weather in the high 70s makes summer the best time to wander through the City of Light. Dine alfresco at a cafe along the Champs-Élysées, watch 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. The only cons: bigger crowds and higher prices on hotel rooms. You may want to consider a vacation rental to save money, and you should plan to visit world-renowned attractions like the Louvre first thing in the morning to avoid hordes of tourists.
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San Diego offers enough outdoor attractions to satisfy all kinds of summer travelers. Families will enjoy exploring the famous San Diego Zoo, while nature lovers can admire the impressive landscapes that form Torrey Pines State Reserve. History buffs should take a tour of the USS Midway Museum, while vacationers looking to party will have a ball in the Gaslamp Quarter. No matter what type of traveler you are, 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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Rome is a great summer destination because 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 are heavenly with the right weather, know that summer is extremely busy. Hotels will be pricey, and fellow travelers will pack into attractions. To have a little piece of Roma to yourself, visit top attractions early 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. Average temperatures range from the mid-60s at night to the low 90s in the day. You can meander through the beautiful Boboli Gardens, soak up some sun atop the grand Duomo or catch a sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo. Because summer is this Italian destination's peak travel season, you should secure your hotel or vacation rental well in advance.
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Because of coral bleaching caused by climate change, you should visit the Great Barrier Reef ASAP. Diving and snorkeling are still extremely scenic at hot spots like Osprey Reef and Heron Island. However, you don't have to be a diver to enjoy the Great Barrier Reef fully. 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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Edinburgh's northern U.K. location means that warm weather is rare. In fact, summer is the only time of year when highs in this destination reach the mid-60s. Each summer, the city hosts the renowned Edinburgh Fringe Festival (one of the world's largest arts festivals), 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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Montreux#8 in Best Summer Vacations
Situated directly on Lake Geneva, the Swiss town of Montreux makes a great summer vacation destination thanks to its pleasant temperatures in the 70s and abundance of outdoor activities. When the weather warms up, hike through caves to the scenic outlook at Rochers de Naye peak. Or, spend a more leisurely afternoon on a panoramic wine tour through the Lavaux Vineyard Terraces, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After wandering through Old Town, visitors craving more nature can admire Gorges du Chauderon, a scenic waterfall with clearly marked trails to explore.
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Visiting the world's first national park in summer has its perks. You'll have access to the entire park (certain areas are closed in winter), and Yellowstone holds most of its events and programs during this time. The caveat? You'll have to contend with masses of other travelers reveling at Yellowstone on vacation. Be sure to book camping sites or other accommodations well in advance to marvel at this national park's beauty stress-free.
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The Windy City comes alive every summer thanks to warm weather and its incredible lineup of festivals, including Taste of Chicago and Lollapalooza. If you can't snag tickets to these events (or simply aren't interested), the city's many things to do and see will no doubt keep you busy. You 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, Chicago flights and hotel rates will likely be high due to the favorable weather.
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A trip to Dublin in summer is a must for those who want to visit when the weather is comfortable. It's only once summertime rolls around that Ireland's capital reaches highs of 60 degrees during the day. Plus, 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, Maine's proximity to Acadia National Park and other New England destinations makes it a superb spot to hang your hat in summer. While the distance to the park is undoubtedly 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 and art galleries. Then, book a boat tour around or to nearby Bar Island, or take a walk along the scenic Shore Path for awe-inspiring views of the Atlantic Ocean.
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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 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. Be sure to book in advance.
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Grand Teton is truly at its best in summer. During this time, all trails and roads are open, outdoor activities 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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The Grand Canyon is a popular place to travel in summer because the North Rim, which closes in winter, is open for business. The additional area makes space 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 Desert View. Keep in mind that because school is out during this time, families flock to the Grand Canyon. As such, it's best to book accommodations several months to a year in advance.
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Machu Picchu#16 in Best Summer Vacations
Summer features fewer rain showers than other seasons in the Peruvian mountains, plus daytime highs in the 70s and 80s. This pleasant weather means experienced hikers will have terrific conditions for trekking the Inca Trail. Non-hikers can still enjoy this iconic locale, but keep in mind that trail spots (and admission tickets) are limited and require 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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Because Quebec City sees such harsh winters, tourists from all over head to the picturesque Canadian destination in summer. Once you bask in the 70-degree daytime temperatures and take a look around this city in the sun, you'll understand why people pay the extra coin to visit during this time of year. The destination's already beautiful attractions, including romantic Old Québec and Montmorency Falls Park, are an especially magical sight on warmer days. Before you journey home, be sure to head to Terrasse Dufferin for spectacular views of the St. Lawrence River.
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Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, locals and tourists swarm Cape Cod's 40 miles of national seashore – and for good reason. Daytime temperatures in this New England town commonly reach the 70s come summer, giving the area a chance to thaw after the chilly winter. In addition to relaxing on the sand, travelers can plan a scenic bike ride along the Cape Cod Rail Trail or wander through the serene Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge. To ensure availability (especially on weekends), reserve your hotel rooms or vacation rentals as early as possible.
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June through August (winter in the Southern Hemisphere) 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 – almost 5 million acres – so be strategic with where you choose to hang your hat. First-time visitors should opt to stay in the Marula region, which contains the park's main airport.
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Get down in London town for your next summer vacation. Spend your days picnicking in Hyde Park, touring the grounds of Buckingham Palace (open to the public for 10 weeks in the summer) and sipping cocktails on the city's rooftop bars. Or, admire London's green spaces from above with a ride on the London Eye. Though temperatures historically sit in the 70s during these warmer months, heat waves bringing weather in the 90s aren't unprecedented. If you're willing to contend with some heat – and the crowds the season brings – you are guaranteed to have an excellent trip.
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