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Best U.S. Cities for Summer Vacations

Ready to pack your bags and head out on a summer vacation? From beach cities and national parks to historical sites and beyond, there are a ton of great vacation spots across the U.S. to choose from! To help figure out which one is right for your next trip, check out this list of the 11 best cities for a summer vacation in America.

  • Anchorage, AK
  • Chicago, IL
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Nashville, TN
  • Orlando, FL
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Portland, OR
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Seattle, WA
  • Tucson, AZ
  • Washington, DC

Anchorage, AK

  • Average High Temperature in Summer: 65 degrees
  • Average Nightly Hotel Cost: $186

Alaska may not be the first place you think of when it comes to summer destinations, but where better to spend your vacation than the Land of the Midnight Sun? Anchorage has 24 hours of sunlight in the summer months, but without the heat of some other popular vacation spots in the U.S. One of the best places to enjoy this mild weather is Chugach State Park, where you can camp, hike, and take in stunning mountain views. Visitors can order up fresh seafood from Kincaid Grill or grab a pizza from the local favorite from Moose’s Tooth. The Anchorage Museum is also a great place to visit and has permanent exhibitions dedicated to Alaskan culture, as well as traveling exhibits centered on everything from fossils to contemporary art. See animals from around the world at the Alaska Zoo or get up close and personal with local wildlife on one of the local whale watching tours. Witness another natural wonder—a bore tide—during the new or full moon phases. And it wouldn’t be an Alaskan vacation without trying summer dogsledding!

Chicago, IL

Aerial View of Chicago, IL. Photo by Instagram user @khasapis

Photo via @khasapis

  • Average High Temperature in Summer: 81 degrees
  • Average Nightly Hotel Cost: $225

The Windy City has long been known for its delicious deep-dish pizza, stunning 1920s architecture, and iconic public art, but visitors are bound to find plenty of hidden gems during their summer vacation in Chicago. The city is home to all-ages attractions like Wizard of Oz-themed Oz Park and the Lincoln Park Zoo—perfect activities for families on summer vacation. See one of the city’s most iconic public art pieces, Cloud Gate, which is better known as “The Bean.” Or visit another locally beloved Chicago attraction, Shedd Aquarium, to see everything from tropical fish to penguins and more. Stroll along Navy Pier to shop, eat, or ride the famous Centennial Wheel. Speaking of classic Chicago spots—head out to the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field to catch a Cubs (MLB) game! Once you’ve worked up an appetite, snag a deep-dish pizza at any one of the best pizza places in Chicago. The Garfield Park Conservatory is another must-see in Chicago, and it’s one of the nation’s largest botanical conservatories. Chicago is also home to a variety of great annual events like the Taste of Chicago and Lollapalooza. All in all, Chicago is one of the best vacation destinations in America for those looking for a taste of big-city life!

Las Vegas, NV

Aerial Nighttime view of Las Vegas, NV. Photo by Instagram user @claytonhaam

Photo via @claytonhaam

  • Average High Temperature in Summer: 104 degrees
  • Average Nightly Hotel Cost: $263

Hot weather and an even hotter nightlife await in Las Vegas—one of the best places for couples and child-free travelers! While there are plenty of family-friendly things to do in Vegas, the city is most notable for its casinos, bars, and live music. If you prefer a high-energy vacation, you can get your adrenaline fix by riding the Big Apple Coaster at New York-New York Hotel & Casino. Or take a break from the action and watch the Fountains of Bellagio‘s gorgeous water shows. Of course, no Las Vegas vacation would be complete without a unique dining experience at restaurants like Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen, where guests can try dishes inspired by the TV show. Keep in mind that there are tons of things to do outside of The Strip as well. More entertainment and activities await on Fremont Street, also affectionately known as Glitter Gulch. When you’re ready for a break from the nightlife, check out some of the city’s other fascinating attractions like the waterslide that runs straight through a shark tank at the Golden Nugget. Get out and test your golf game at the Arnold Palmer-designed Angel Park Golf Club or any of Las Vegas’ many golf courses, which offer gorgeous views of The Strip, desert, and the Valley. Or you can take a break from the Vegas heat and hit one of Vegas’ iconic shopping options! Those thinking of investing in vacation rental homes should consider Vegas, too, since the city is among the best in the nation for short-term vacation rentals!

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Nashville, TN

Downtown Nashville Skyline at Dusk. Photo by Instagram user @xplr.nash

Photo via @xplr.nash

  • Average High Temperature in Summer: 89 degrees
  • Average Nightly Hotel Cost: $158

Country and rock n’ roll collide in one of the best cities in the South, Nashville! Music City offers one of the best summer vacations in the U.S., thanks to its warm weather, great food, and fun all-ages activities. During your stay, be sure to check out must-sees like the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum—and don’t forget to also swing by smaller attractions like the Bluebird Cafe. Best of all, Nashville has all kinds of free live music to enjoy, as well as opportunities to see local acts at the bars and restaurants that line Lower Broadway Street. Listen to honky-tonk at the popular Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge or head to Robert’s Western World for live country and greasy-spoon bites like a Fried Bologna Sandwich. In addition to being a great place to relax with the whole family and one of the top spots in America for bachelorette parties, Nashville is also a prime spot for romantic summer getaways! Couples can head to Love Circle for a relaxing evening and views of the skyline. And if you want a reason to come back to Nashville more often, the city is a great option for people looking to invest in vacation rentals or vacation homes!

Orlando, FL

  • Average High Temperature in Summer: 92 degrees
  • Average Nightly Hotel Cost: $225

Theme parks like Universal Studios, Disney World, and Sea World are what draw many domestic travelers to Orlando, but there are several other reasons why it’s one of the best vacation spots in the U.S. In addition to experiencing the magic at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter or frolicking with your kids through the Magic Kingdom, your summer vacation in Orlando might include visits to unique attractions like Madame Tussauds Orlando and Gatorland. As for food, you’ll have tons of options, as Orlando is home to a variety of great restaurants, from high-end eateries to low-key diners. While Florida may be hot, frequent rain helps cool things down, making for a very comfortable climate overall. This helps make outdoor activities like strolls through the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens even more enjoyable. Since there are such large attractions in Orlando, sometimes requiring families to say for multiple days at a time, the city is an excellent option for investing in a vacation rental of your own—especially with Florida’s low property tax rate!

Philadelphia, PA

  • Average High Temperature in Summer: 87 degrees
  • Average Nightly Hotel Cost: $190

As one of America’s oldest cities, Philadelphia is a history lover’s dream. The weather in the summer can be fairly hot, but many of the best things to do in Philly are indoors, including visiting historical sites like The Liberty Bell Center, Independence Hall, and Betsy Ross House. However, you don’t need to be a history buff to enjoy a summer vacation in the City of Brotherly Love. Philadelphia is a very family-friendly vacation spot as well, with all-ages attractions like the Please Touch Museum and the Spruce Street Harbor Park, where families can relax in hammocks, dine outdoors, and explore the floating gardens. Meanwhile, foodies will love sampling Philly’s signature cheesesteaks at iconic eateries like Pat’s King of Steaks or Geno’s Steaks—both of which claim to have the best Philly Cheesesteak in the city, so take the opportunity to find out which one is! If you love music, you’ll definitely dig live music venues like Paris Bistro & Jazz Cafe or seeing Broadway shows at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. And be sure to keep the fun going by taking part in some local events while visiting like the Blue Cross RiverRink Summerfest and the Philadelphia Latino Film Festival!

Portland, OR

Downtown Portland, OR During the Day. Photo by Instagram user @carson.shoots

Photo via @carson.shoots

  • Average High Temperature in Summer: 81 degrees
  • Average Nightly Hotel Cost: $152

Hip, artsy, and home to surprisingly affordable lodging for travelers, Portland is among America’s best cities for summer vacation! The majestic Mount Hood provides a natural backdrop for this Pacific Northwest city, where urban amenities and green space are both abundant. Check out Portland staple, Powell’s City of Books, a legendary establishment with a massive selection of books, gifts, and more. Sample unique confections at the original Voodoo Doughnut, which serves everything from maple bacon pastries to bubblegum-flavored donuts. Hit up Fried Egg I’m in Love, where they dish up—you guessed it—fried egg-based dishes. Don’t forget to visit some of the city’s famous microbreweries like Old Town Brewing and Widmer Brothers. Or get your caffeine fix at some of Portland’s best coffee shops, including Stumptown Coffee Roasters. Let everyone know where you traveled by getting a photo under the famous “Keep Portland Weird” mural! And in the spirit of Portland’s “weirdness,” hike out to the Witch’s Castle, a mysterious stone structure located in the middle of the woods. Guests visiting Portland for summer vacation can enjoy more nature at spots like Portland Japanese Garden, where you can stroll among scenic waterfalls and lush greenery. Or fully immerse yourself in the area’s natural beauty by hiking Portland’s many great trails!

San Francisco, CA

View of the Bay Bridge in San Francisco, CA at Dusk. Photo by Instagram user @bersonphotos

Photo via @bersonphotos

  • Average High Temperature in Summer: 70 degrees
  • Average Nightly Hotel Cost: $206

San Francisco is one of the best coastal vacation spots in the U.S. The city has miles upon miles of sandy shores along its border, including Ocean Beach and China Beach. And no trip would be complete without a visit to the city’s famous Golden Gate Bridge! You can walk the length on your own, go on a guided tour, and check out the gift shop to pick up souvenirs for friends and family back home. Not far from the bridge is Alcatraz, the famous and now-retired prison that once held notorious criminals like Al Capone, where you can get tickets to several types of tours, including small group tours at night! For more fun along the coast, head to PIER 39, where you can shop, dine on fresh seafood, and watch sea lions sunbathe on rocky outcroppings in the marina. While you’re there, check out Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghirardelli Square. Meanwhile, sports fans can cheer on the city’s beloved Giants (MLB) at Oracle Park, rated the nation’s best ballpark. Of course, don’t forget to check out San Francisco’s LGBTQ history and culture. The nation’s “Gay Mecca” hosts amazing LGBTQ celebrations throughout the year, including the world-renowned San Francisco Pride!

Seattle, WA

View of Downtown Seattle, WA, With the Space Needle in View. Photo by Instagram user @gritsandrice

Photo via @gritsandrice

  • Average High Temperature in Summer: 73 degrees
  • Average Nightly Hotel Cost: $189

If you’re looking for a summer vacation with outdoor recreation, Seattle is the place to be! From mountains to waterfronts and forests, the Emerald City is the perfect spot for outdoorsy travelers, thanks to its close proximity to Mount Rainier National Park and Olympic National Park. Go hiking along the Lighthouse Loop Trail in Discovery Park. Take a ferry for the wildlife-viewing, gorgeous views, and other tours of Puget Sound. Green space isn’t all Seattle has to offer, though. Tourists can dine stories-high above the city from the Space Needle, an iconic American sightseeing spot that offers amazing views of the city. Or for a more down-to-earth dining experience, check out local gems like bar-butcher shop-restaurant combo The Shambles, where you can sample meats and cheeses that are part of delicious charcuterie boards. Find even more places to eat, shop, catch live music, and more at the Seattle Center. Or make your way to the famous Pike Place Market—one of the oldest farmers markets in the U.S.—for local food, collectibles, books, and other unique shopping opportunities. While you’re in Seattle, don’t forget to stop by quirky attractions like the Museum of Pop Culture or Chihuly Garden & Glass.

Tucson, AZ

View of Downtown Tucson, AZ from up on Tucson Mountain Park. Photo by Instagram user @catsphotoshoot

Photo via @catsphotoshoot

  • Average High Temperature in Summer: 101 degrees
  • Average Nightly Hotel Cost: $141

Looking forward to some summer heat? Tucson‘s sunny climate will make an ideal setting for your summer vacation plans! Families on vacation in Tucson can beat the heat at local waterpark Funtasticks Family Fun Park or spend some time at other kid-friendly spots like Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures and Reid Park Zoo! While in Tucson, be sure to immerse yourself in Southwestern culture with the Arizona History Museum, historic El Presidio District, and Barrio Historico District, where you’ll find everything from local art to interesting shops. Treat yourself to authentic Mexican cuisine at Mariscos Chihuahua or grab an incredible breakfast from Baja Cafe. Head out to the Catalina Foothills to visit the legendary art galleries or hit a quick nine at one of the Catalina Foothills’ great golf courses. Enjoy the great outdoors at Saguaro National Park, which is just 18 minutes outside of Tuscon and a popular destination for hiking and camping. Visitors to the park can marvel at the largest cacti in the nation, hike out to see prehistoric petroglyphs, and stay out under the Sonoran Desert skies. And if you’re bringing any four-legged family members along on your vacation, you’ll be happy to know that Tucson is among the best U.S. cities for dogs and has plenty of dog-friendly vacation activities!

Washington, DC

Aerial View of the National Mall in Washington, DC. Photo by Instagram user @k.eye.m.eye

Photo via @k.eye.m.eye

  • Average High Temperature in Summer: 87 degrees
  • Average Nightly Hotel Cost: $181

Of all the top vacation spots in America, Washington, DC is one of the best for travelers with an affinity for historical sites, museums, and art. Between the Smithsonian National Museums, National Portrait Gallery, National Museum of African American History & Culture, and more, DC has over 70 unique museums to visit. The nation’s capital is also home to some of the best Fourth of July celebrations in the country, including A Capitol Fourth and several other fireworks displays throughout the city—so tourists going on vacation during Independence Day should definitely put DC on their to-visit list! Foodies can also find plenty to do in DC, including foodie favorites like Ben’s Chili Bowl and Wagshal’s. There are several great places to shop throughout the city, too, including shopping districts in Georgetown and CityCenterDC. Get outside at one of the many parks within the city itself like the National Mall & Memorial Park, where you can walk to iconic structures like the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. And while you’re visiting the capital, don’t forget to schedule tours for the White House and Capitol building!

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Travel and weather statistics from Budget Your Trip and US Climate Data

Summer Vacations 11 Best U.S. Cities

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