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View of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

Best U.S. Cities for Summer Vacations

Planning a summer vacation? From beach cities and national parks to historical sites and beyond, there are plenty of great vacation spots in the U.S.! To help figure out which one is right for your next trip, check out this list of the 11 best cities for summer vacations.

Anchorage, AK

  • Average High Temperature in Summer: 65 degrees
  • Average Nightly Hotel Cost: $183

Alaska may not be the first place you think of when it comes to summer destinations, but there’s no better place to escape the summer heat than the Land of the Midnight Sun. Anchorage has 24 hours of sunlight in the summer months without the intense heat of some other popular vacation spots in the U.S. One of the best places in Anchorage to enjoy mild weather is Chugach State Park, where you can camp, hike, and take in stunning mountain views. Visitors can order fresh Alaskan seafood like AK Halibut from Kincaid Grill or grab slices of the Elf on the Shelf pizza from the local favorite Moose’s Tooth. Immerse yourself in Alaskan culture by visiting the Anchorage Museum, which displays rotating exhibits displaying the full diversity of Alaska Native Art. See Alaskan polar bears and other animals from around the world at the Alaska Zoo, or get up close and personal with Anchorage wildlife on local whale-watching tours. While on the water, witness another natural wonder—a bore tide—during the new or full moon phases. Or try summer dog sledding while vacationing in Anchorage!

Boston, MA

  • Average High Temperature in Summer: 81 degrees
  • Average Nightly Hotel Cost: $233

Known as the historic capital of the U.S., Boston is one of the best places to live on the East Coast—but it’s also a fantastic summer vacation destination. Nicknamed The Walking City, Boston is considered a pedestrian paradise where roughly 45% of residents walk or use public transit—making its attractions easily accessible, as well. Visit 16 historic sites spanning from Boston Common to the Bunker Hill Monument by walking down Freedom Trail. Grab tickets for a Boston Red Sox (MLB) game at historic Boston location Fenway Park, the oldest MLB stadium still in use. On a sunny day, stop by gorilla or lion exhibits at the Franklin Park Zoo—and on a rainy one, admire bird species like green aracaris, sunbitterns, and gouldian finches at the enclosed Bird’s World! Stroll along Atlantic Avenue for delicious seafood dining with stunning lake views at local Boston waterfront restaurants like Joe’s Waterfront and The Daily Catch. Get closer to the seaside by taking on sightseeing cruises at Boston Harbor. And for a memorable summer vacation in Beantown, attend Boston summer events at the Hatch Memorial Shell like the famous Boston Pops July 4th Concert.

Charleston, SC

  • Average High Temperature in Summer: 91 degrees
  • Average Nightly Hotel Cost: $180

From breathing in the beautiful seaside at Sullivan’s Island Beach or Folly Beach on a Charleston Harbor tour, to swinging by rooftop bars—there are plenty ways to enjoy a summer vacation in Charleston. Wake up bright and early for fresh summer peaches, squashes, and sweet corn at Charleston’s Farmers Market at Marion Square—or enjoy live entertainment while visiting local vendors at West Ashley Park at the West Ashley Farmers Market. Bike from Charleston to nearby areas like Savannah and appreciate the gorgeous beaches, rivers, and idyllic country views on the way with Charleston Bicycle Tours. Rock out at summer concerts with live music on the Charleston beachfront at Party at the Point. Scarf down peanuts and hot dogs while rooting on the Charleston RiverDogs (MiLB) at Joe Riley Park. After the sun sets, Charleston nightlife keeps the party going—experience the stunning Charleston skyline while drinking a Sippin’ Seville at The Rooftop or savoring a Crispy Chicken B.L.T. at Pavilion Bar. Or go brewery hopping in the Charleston Brewery District at spots like Revelry Brewing, Edmund’s Oast, and Munkle Brewing.

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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: $161

The Windy City has long been known for its delicious deep-dish pizza, stunning 1920s architecture, and iconic public art. Still, visitors are bound to find plenty of hidden gems during their summer vacation in Chicago. The city is home to all-ages attractions like the Wizard of Oz-themed Oz Park and the Lincoln Park Zoo, which are perfect activities for families on summer vacation. Walk down to Millennium Park in the heart of Downtown Chicago to see Cloud Gate, better known as “The Bean“—or visit another locally-beloved Chicago attraction and see everything from tropical fish to penguins at Shedd Aquarium. Stroll along Navy Pier to shop, eat, or ride the famous Centennial Wheel. Experience another classic Chicago spot and 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. Visit one of the largest complete dinosaur skeletons, other fossils, and evolutionary exhibits in the Griffin Halls of the Evolving Planet at The Field Museum. Chicago is also home to a variety of great annual summer events like 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!

Honolulu, HI

  • Average High Temperature in Summer: 88 degrees
  • Average Nightly Hotel Cost: $274

With a tropical climate, lush landscape, and community spirit, Honolulu is one of America’s safest cities—and a top summer vacation destination for families and adults. The Big Pineapple boasts a vibrant arts scene with local street art and murals along Farrington Highway showcasing the beauty, legends, and nature of the Wai’anae Coast in the Valley of Rainbows. For outdoor recreation, try hiking Honolulu trails, or biking from historic Aloha Stadium to Waipahu on the scenic Pearl Harbor Bike Path. Trek to the edge of a volcano for panoramic views of Oahu and the Diamond Head Lighthouse at the famous Diamond Head State Monument. Zipline over tree tops and waterfalls at Jurassic Valley Zipline. Root for all the pups competing on surfboards and paddleboards in Hawaii’s only dog/pet surfing competition during Duke’s Ocean Fest in August. Sit back and sunbathe on beautiful Honolulu beaches like Waikiki Beach, Kailua Beach, and Sandy Beach. Wrap up an adventurous day by experiencing an authentic Honolulu luau in the evening while eating fresh Ahi Shoyu Poke at the Polynesian Cultural Center.

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: $96

Hot weather and an even hotter nightlife await in Las Vegas—one of the best vacation spots 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. In fact, Las Vegas is home to an array of residency artists who headline events on a regular basis. If you prefer a high-energy summer vacation, get your adrenaline fix riding the Big Apple Coaster at New York-New York Hotel & Casino. Find a more relaxing vacation experience can appreciate the Fountains of Bellagio‘s gorgeous water shows. No Las Vegas vacation would be complete without a unique dining experience at restaurants like Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen, where guests can try signature dishes inspired by the TV show. Some of the best things to do in Vegas lie along Fremont Street, like taking a ride above Sin City at the SlotZilla Zipline. Of course, there are plenty of other fascinating Las Vegas attractions to check out, like the waterslide running straight through a shark tank at the Golden Nugget. Avid golfers can practice their swing at the Arnold Palmer-designed Angel Park Golf Club or any number of Las Vegas golf courses, which offer gorgeous views of The Strip, and across the Valley. A summer trip to Sin City wouldn’t be complete without visiting some of the best shopping in Vegas! In addition to eclectic shops and boutiques, tourists in Las Vegas can find designer and luxury stores selling top brands.

Orlando, FL

  • Average High Temperature in Summer: 92 degrees
  • Average Nightly Hotel Cost: $288

Theme parks like Universal Studios and Walt Disney World—as well as water parks like Volcano Bay and Aquatica—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 attractions like Madame Tussauds Orlando and Gatorland. As for food, you’ll have tons of options, as there are a variety of great Orlando restaurants, from high-end eateries to low-key diners. For amazing Italian food in Orlando like Antipasto della Casa, Insalata Caprese, and Linguine e Vongole, check out Enzo’s on the Lake. Enjoy the tropical climate with outdoor activities in Orlando like checking out over 350 animals representing over 100 species at Central Florida Zoo! Or take a stroll through the Harry P. Leu Gardens to explore a botanical oasis in the heart of O-Town. Since there are so many attractions in Orlando, families wanting to stay for longer periods of time or come back regularly can take advantage of Florida’s low property tax rate and invest in a vacation rental home!

Portland, ME

  • Average High Temperature in Summer: 79 degrees
  • Average Nightly Hotel Cost: $288

Portland, Maine is a romantic New England Suncoast town, lined with cobblestone paths and featuring scenic waterfront views. Experience The Forest City for yourself by walking down the historic streets of Old Port and stepping into some of the best restaurants in Portland—serving Portland seafood like Maine Lobster Rolls with Tuna Tacos at the Old Port Sea Grill and Wood-Grilled Marinated Squid with Maine Oysters at the Fore Street Restaurant. In addition to dining in, get homegrown summer fruits and vegetables straight from the source at the Portland Farmer’s Market. After satisfying your inner foodie, stop by the Portland Museum of Art to browse works from renowned artists like David C. Driskell, or take your little ones to one of the interactive exhibits or traveling shows at the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine. Admire Forest City’s natural beauty above Portland’s bustling harbor at the Portland Observatory on Munjoy Hill. Or leave land behind altogether and set sail for a Windjammer adventure at Portland Schooner Co. or take a ferry down to Peaks Island on Casco Bay—740 acres of rugged beauty featuring the oldest lighthouse in Maine, the Portland Head Light.

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: $184

San Francisco is one of the best coastal vacation spots in the U.S. Although San Fran boasts a cooler climate, it features miles upon miles of sandy shores along its border for trails, picnics, and bonfires, including Ocean Beach and China Beach. Plus, no trip would be complete without a visit to the city’s famous Golden Gate Bridge! Walk the length on your own or go on a guided tour of must-see locations like the Painted Ladies in Alamo Square. Not far from the bridge, get tickets to a tour of Alcatraz—one of the most famous American prisons that once held notorious criminals like Al Capone! For more fun along the coast, head to PIER 39, where you can shop, dine on fresh seafood, and watch sea lions sunbathe in the marina. While there, check out San Fransisco whale tours near Fisherman’s Wharf and explore local artisans and breweries on Ghirardelli Square. Meanwhile, fans can cheer on San Fransisco sports teams like 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 in the summer!

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: 72 degrees
  • Average Nightly Hotel Cost: $185

If you’re looking for a summer vacation with outdoor recreation and urban experiences, Seattle is the place to be! From mountains to waterfronts and forests, the Emerald City is one of the best vacation spots for outdoor activities, 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 tour by ferry to see wildlife, gorgeous views, and the water of Puget Sound. However, green space isn’t all Seattle has to offer. Tourists can dine stories high above the city from the Space Needle—an iconic American sightseeing spot, offering amazing views of the Seattle skyline. Or for a more down-to-earth dining experience, check out hidden gems in Seattle like bar-butcher shop-restaurant The Shambles, where you can sample meats and cheeses on delicious charcuterie boards. Find additional places to eat, shop, catch live music, and more at the Seattle Center. Make sure to stop by the famous Pike Place Market—one of the oldest farmers markets in America—for local eateries, craft shops, and other unique vendors, as well as the world-famous Pike Place Fish Market! Don’t forget to also stop by quirky Seattle attractions like the Museum of Pop Culture or Chihuly Garden & Glass before your vacation’s over!

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: $185

Of all the top vacation spots in America, Washington, DC is one of the best for travelers with a love 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 area—so tourists going on vacation during Independence Day should definitely put DC on their to-visit list! Foodies can also find plenty of spots to check out in DC, including foodie favorites like Thip Khao and Shibuya Eatery. There are several great places to shop, 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 Washington Monument. Because this is such a fantastic summer vacation for students, families, and young adults, it’s best to schedule tours of the White House and Capitol building a few months before traveling!

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

Summer Vacations 11 Best U.S. Cities