21 of our Favorite Destinations for your Summer Vacation

Just like that, summer is upon us! Living in Vegas, that means we are “enjoying” hot weather and lots of pool time.  Because of the heat, and school breaks, summer is definitely our favorite time of the year to travel.  Picking a great place for a summer vacation can be difficult because there is a lot to consider.  You do not want anywhere that is going to be too hot or too crowded.  It can also be more difficult to use travel points for cheap flights and hotels in the summer.  Here are 13 of our favorite summer locations and 8 locations we are longing to visit this summer.  Hope you enjoy the list and please comment below to share your favorite summer locations so we can all be inspired!

1. san francisco

San Francisco is a great summer location and was our first real vacation together since we went there on our honeymoon 11 years ago.  It makes the list of our favorite locations for a number of reasons.  From Vegas, it is easy to get to so it makes for a great weekend getaway.  It has great weather with sunny skies and temperatures in the seventies.  Finally, there is a lot to do so it makes for an exciting vacation. The combination of history, nature, beaches, shopping and food are going to please any visitor.

Alcatraz is, of course, a must visit.  It was one of the highlights of our trip and includes a boat ride and great self-guided tours.  Self-guided tours are our favorite for learning and exploring at the pace we want.  One of our other surprising highlights was the Winchester Mansion.  We loved walking through the crazy mansion and hearing all the funny stories of why the owner had built such a weird house to pacify the ghosts of those killed by Winchester rifles.

Some of our other favorite activities included seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, walking around China Town, visiting the aquarium at the wharf and going to Six Flags.  I would have also loved catching a Giants game or visiting some of the amazing nearby beach towns like Carmel or Monterey.

2. London, England

The British Museum is still our favorite museum in the world.

London is one of our favorite cities in the world.  We love it so much, we named one of our daughters after it.  Summer is a great time to visit as you are less likely to get rain, it is not too hot and even though there are more people, we never felt crowded because there is so much to do there.

London is one of those cities where it is just fun to be there as it is so packed with character, history and attractions.  Sure, we always prefer a nearby beach in summer, but there is so much to do in London, you won’t miss the beach.  Some of our favorite places in London were the Tower Bridge, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Tower of London, Trafalgar Square, St. Paul’s, Temple Church, Westminster Abbey and the World War 2 Museum.  With so much to do, London makes the list despite lacking a beach and having, in our experience, the worst food in the world!  If you have a long enough vacation, you can even drive through England and experience more of the countryside, which remains high on our bucket list.

3. Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Unless you love the snow, summer is the only time to visit Banff National Park.  You will face a lot of crowds at the most popular locations like Lake Louise, but with so much nature, it isn’t tough to get off the beaten path and avoid the crowds.  Our experience in Banff National Park is fairly limited as most of our vacation there was spent visiting family in Calgary, but it remains one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.  Once again, there are no beaches, but water is in no short supply with awesome lakes at nearly every turn.  You also are practically guaranteed to see some wildlife.  We saw lots of deer and sheep while driving.

If you are doing this trip, we recommend flying into Calgary and spending a day there before exploring the Park and, if you have time, visiting one of the many other provincial or national parks nearby.  One caution for visiting in summer is that it can be wildfire season so make sure you are not going to get stuck with smoke ruining some of your views like happened to us.

4. Athens, Greece

Athens can get decently hot in the summer, with highs in the mid eighties to low nineties.  That is refreshing for those of us in Las Vegas, but it is not for everyone.  We went in early September and I remember it being warm, but not uncomfortable.  Plus, you need some heat if you want to enjoy the beach.

Now, Athens is not known for its beaches like the Greek Islands, but there is an  easy route along the coast from Athens that is doable on public transportation.  All but one of the beach is actually pebbles rather than sand, but the beaches are still awesome because of the sea there.  The high salt content makes it so you can relax and float on top of the water, which is more fun than you would think.

But, the beaches aren’t the reason to go to Athens.  It is all about the history and food for us.  You cannot get much more historical than seeing the Acropolis and the food in Athens remains our favorite food in the world.  We probably ate five times a day because two or three Euros would buy an amazing gyro and some gelato.

Other than the Acropolis, we really enjoyed the flea market and shopping near the Acropolis, the beaches and other historical sites like the Temple of Zeus and Kerameikos Cemetery.

5. Seattle, Washington

Seattle is basically my childhood home (I grew up just north of Seattle in Everett) so I know it pretty well, and we have had plenty of opportunities to visit in the summer.  It is also an excuse for me to head to a Mariner’s game whenever I can!  With all the rain Seattle gets in the winter, the summers are beautiful with sunshine (usually), green, the Puget Sound and lots of big mountain.

There is a lot more to love about Seattle than just the Mariners though.  Downtown Seattle is great with places to visit like Pike Place Market or the Space Needle.  There are lots of weird places to see too, like the Fremont Troll, the gum wall below Pike Place or Gasworks Park.  You have the Puget Sound all along the coast, which makes for fantastic views and ferry rides out to one of the many awesome island towns.  Finally, there are great mountains with lots of hiking, lakes and waterfalls not far from Seattle.


The big downfall in Seattle is the traffic.  It is absolutely brutal.  Seattle lies along a narrow strip of land between the water and mountains so all the traffic goes north and south and there are a lot of people during rush hour.  It is not a huge deal as long as you plan in advance and schedule around it.

6. Iceland

Iceland has become a popular destination for photographers and outdoor adventurists due in large part to the cheap flights.  We took advantage of a free thirty hour layover to spend the day in Reykyavik.  We were poor college students at the time and didn’t spend the money getting out to see some of the amazing waterfalls the Country is known for or the other famous places with black sand beaches, chunks of ice floating in the ocean or grass covered churches, but even just the day in Reykyavik was pretty awesome.

It is worth noting that, while you can find really cheap flights, Iceland is not a cheap place to stay.  Hotels are expensive, food is expensive and even the shuttle from the airport is expensive.  Regardless, it is well worth the visit. Bonus, it is home to my favorite church building in Europe, the Hallgrimskirkja.

7. Krakow, Poland

Krakow is great in the summer because the weather will be nice.  Hopefully, you can avoid some rain and you won’t have to worry about freezing.  We actually visited Krakow in the fall and it was fine, but there was a bit of rain and cold so summer would have been preferable.

Krakow really has three big things to offer.  Again, another location with no beaches, but enough other offerings to make up for that.  The biggest reason to visit Krakow is it is the best place to stay for a day trip out to Auschwitz.  We think Auschwitz is a must visit for everyone, even if you are not big WW2 history buffs like us.  It is such a somber place and is presented so well with one of the camps that has been turned into a museum and another camp that was left in ruins.  There is simply nothing to describe the feeling of visiting Auschwitz.

Also, just outside Krakow is the Wieliczka Salt Mine.  Another place that is tough to describe, this mine is unlike any mine I have ever seen.  You drop way below the surface to explore huge chambers where miners used to live and work.  The highlight is a giant cathedral featuring amazing carved images done by former mine workers.

Finally, the actual town of Krakow features a pretty great old town.  While the food was nothing special, there is a big square, some interesting buildings, a decent castle and a ton of character.  All of it leads to a pretty great day of walking and exploring town.

8. Portland and the Oregon Coast

Portland is my wife’s hometown (actually Oregon City just south of Portland) so we go at least once a year.  While that trip unfortunately falls during Christmas some years, summer is by far the best time to visit Portland.  Like Seattle, the rain typically gives away to warmer temperatures and sunny skies.

While the residents of Portland have to endure the gray and rainy fall, winter and spring, you can go in summer and reap the benefits of amazing greenery and awesome waterfalls.  Within a short drive from Portland, you can see amazing waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge, experience scenic beaches and fun towns along the coast or visit the mountains.  If you are a nature lover, this is an awesome place.  It is very similar to Seattle, but a little less people, a little less traffic and a little more weird.

9. Budapest, Hungary

We lived in Budapest for three seasons: Summer, Fall and Winter.  Winter was fun because of the Christmas markets and chimney cakes, but I think summer is the best time for an overall visit.  Even without beaches or places to swim, you can expect nice weather and plenty to see and do.

Budapest is a great city to explore.  It is famous for its bath houses and bridges over the Danube, but it has a lot more to offer.  We loved the history from World War II and the communist rule that was evident in many places such as the Terror Museum and the Jewish District.  There was also great architecture all over the city and Castle Hill is an amazing way to spend a day exploring places like Fisherman’s Bastion, Maathias Church, Buda Castle, museums, galleries and small cobble streets.

The attractions are not limited to just Castle Hill as you can go almost any direction and finds something amazing.  Some of our other favorites were the Cave Church, Parliament (which is just as impressive as its counterpart in London), the Great Market Hall and St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

10. Southern California

If you are going to Southern California, summer is the time to do it.  It does not get super hot, but is plenty warm to enjoy the fantastic beaches.  Basically the whole area from San Diego to Santa Barbara is full of great beaches.  Our personal favorite places for a visit are San Diego, Oceanside and Huntington Beach.  In fact, anytime we bring up going on vacation, our four-year old asks to go to Huntington Beach.

While you can hit some heavy traffic in San Diego or Los Angeles, it usually is not too bad once you are outside of the city.  The beaches can get packed and parking can be difficult so we always recommend staying somewhere on the beach or within walking distance if you can afford it.  The beach towns aren’t charming like those of Oregon or many other places, but you can usually find a decent board walk and few other things to do besides the beach, but really a trip to Southern California is all about the beach.

11. Seoul, South Korea

We have only spent nine hours in South Korea and that was during the middle of winter.  Even so, we really enjoyed it and thing summer would be a much better time to visit.

We spent the day in Seoul during a layover on our way home from Thailand, and it was so refreshing.  Although we loved Thailand, it was a welcome change to be somewhere so clean and efficient.  Seoul reminded me a lot of Japan so I especially loved it.  There are beautiful palaces all over, amazing culture and great food.  If you are lucky, you can catch the changing of the guard, where everyone looks like they have samurai weapons.  It is so much cooler than the changing of the guard in London.

12. Central and Northern Idaho

My parents live in central Idaho near McCall so we get to visit often.  Due to the snow in winter, my wife only agrees to visit in the summer.  That is okay because summer is beautiful there.  It is not too hot, but plenty warm enough to enjoy the many lakes and rivers.

A trip to central or northern Idaho in the summer is all about outdoor adventure.  Big mountains, scenic hikes, lake activities, ATVs, river rafting, hot springs and so much more.  There are no big attractions here, no world-famous landmarks, and that is why you should visit.  It is so underrated you will not be met with crowds or exorbitant prices.

You can enjoy my favorite day: sunrise at the lake, morning ATV riding, lunch with a huckleberry milkshake, boating or jet skiing on the lake, a steak dinner, sunset at the lake and star gazing.  A summer day doesn’t get much better than that.

13. Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park is my favorite national park.  There is so much crammed in a small area, you could easily spend a week hiking all day and not see it all.

I visited a couple years ago with a group of photographers and loved it despite getting skunked the entire week.  There are so many beautiful lakes surrounded by scenic mountain peaks.  After about two days, you actually grow numb to waterfalls because you see them around every turn it seems.

You also are going to see plenty of wildlife.  I saw plenty of deer, elk and moose, and even saw my first bear while I was there.  Also, another shout out to lots of fresh huckleberry ice cream, which is pretty much the best thing in the world.

Those are our top 13 top summer destinations that we have been and would recommend.  Since there are plenty of places we haven’t been, here is what is left on our summer bucket list.

1. Moscow, Russia

No beaches or glamorous reasons here, but this is all about avoiding the harsh winters and seeing a place we have always wanted to go where we can be comfortable out walking everywhere.  For me, Moscow (and St. Petersburg) is all about the architecture that you just can’t find anywhere else.

image by Nikita Karimov

2. Chicago, Illinois

The windy city is a place we have been close to visiting a number of times.  Everybody raves about it with the beautiful lake, busy city, great sports and famous food.  The summer is going to be your best bet for good weather in Chicago.

image by Sawyer Bengtson

3. Kauai, Hawaii

Is there a bad time to visit Hawaii?  Hopefully, you have a better chance at avoiding rain in the summer.  Kauai is the island I most want to visit so I can avoid the city and experience a little piece of heaven with its unspoiled nature and beautiful beaches.

image by Elise Colley

4. Machu Picchu, Peru

Everyone knows about Machu Picchu and everyone wants to visit.  It’s on the summer list because you want to go during the dry season to avoid those views and the hiking with the least chance of rain.

image by Nad Hamnani

5. Norway

In a recent article, I highlighted some amazing places I definitely want to visit in Norway with the help of Marco Capulli.  Summer is the best time for obvious reasons.

image by Rob Bye

6. The Bahamas

If you can avoid hurricane season, you can find relatively mild heat, cheaper prices and fantastic beaches.  Yes please!

image by Khachik Simonian

7. Bora Bora, French Polynesia

In summer, you can avoid both the hot season and rainy season.  That makes it the best time to enjoys the perfect beach vacation in a bungalow over the water.

image by Artak Petrosyan

8. Ireland

We have been planning Ireland for the past two years and just haven’t pulled the trigger yet.  Beautiful coastlines, castles and lots of green make it high on our list, but summer is the best time to avoid the rain.

image by Elias Ehmann

Be sure to share your opinions on your favorite destinations for the summer or what is on your bucket list.  Join the conversation in our Facebook group.


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