Best Summer Vacation Spots in the USA for 2024

Summer is the perfect time to use those vacation days, whether you dream of exploring bustling cities, iconic national parks, serene beaches, or quaint small towns. To determine the best summer getaways in the USA, U.S. News evaluated factors such as affordability, weather, and the range of activities available, along with feedback from travelers and experts. Do you agree with our picks? Cast your vote below to have a say in next year’s rankings.”

1) Glacier National Park

Montana’s Glacier National Park is renowned for its breathtaking natural wonders, boasting over 700 lakes, nearly 200 waterfalls, and sprawling mountain ranges across more than 1 million acres. July and August are the prime – and peak – months to explore this must-see destination, with average daytime temperatures in the low 80s, though higher elevations may still have cooler temperatures and snow. During these months, the famed Going-to-the-Sun Road is typically fully accessible. Immerse yourself in the park’s beauty by driving along its scenic routes, paddling on its serene lakes, and trekking along its numerous picturesque trails.

2) Yellowstone National Park

Each summer, Yellowstone National Park beckons nature enthusiasts to witness the spectacular eruptions of Old Faithful, explore the vast Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, marvel at the Grand Prismatic Spring’s vibrant colors, and spot wildlife such as grizzly bears and bison. Spread across Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, the park’s trails, lodges, and visitor centers are at their busiest during this season. Yet, those who venture into the crowds are rewarded with perfect temperatures (average highs in the 70s and 80s). Additionally, nearby towns come alive with exciting events, including the Cody Stampede Rodeo and the Wild West Arts Fest, adding to the summer’s allure.

3) San Diego

San Diego, with its abundance of beaches (including Coronado, Mission, and Pacific), the museum-rich Balboa Park, and the globally acclaimed zoo, stands as a captivating summer getaway for both families and those seeking relaxation. Moreover, the city boasts a distinguished culinary and beverage scene, featuring authentic Mexican fare and over 150 craft breweries. To immerse yourself in San Diego’s flavors, savor a meal in Little Italy or La Jolla, or embark on a beer or food tour. For near-ideal weather conditions, plan your visit for July or August, once the “June Gloom” clouds have dispersed.

4) Grand Canyon National Park

Although summer is the peak season for visiting Arizona’s Grand Canyon, don’t let the crowds deter you from planning a visit. Opt for the North Rim for a less congested experience, where you can revel in scenic drives and extensive hiking trails. If you’re drawn to the South Rim, think about parking your car and discovering the area by bike. Bear in mind that temperatures within the canyon soar higher than at the rim, frequently exceeding 100 degrees. Consequently, the park recommends avoiding hikes between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the summer months.

5) Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming beckons travelers with its captivating beauty, formidable rock climbing paths, serene float trips, and over 250 miles of hiking trails during the summer season. Spanning approximately 310,000 acres, the park offers an economical escape with abundant campsites. Visitors can bypass costly park eateries by stocking up on provisions at a Jackson Hole grocery store before entering the park. Alternatively, indulge in some of Jackson Hole’s top dining establishments (a morning treat from Persephone Bakery is a must) either before or after exploring the trails. Additionally, aspiring naturalists can engage in summer ranger-led programs that feature geological and cultural presentations.

6) Kiawah Island

Nestled approximately 20 miles from the historic charm of Charleston, South Carolina, Kiawah Island offers a summer paradise with 10 miles of pristine sandy beaches, over 30 miles of bike trails, and five world-class golf courses. Though temperatures can soar into the sweltering 80s and 90s, you can find respite by swimming or boogie boarding at Kiawah Beachwalker Park. For those seeking retail therapy, Freshfields Village provides an array of shops and eateries. Additionally, the island comes alive with seasonal festivities, including dive-in movie nights, free music evenings, and oyster roasts, adding to the allure of this coastal retreat.

7) Zion National Park

Every summer, Utah’s pioneering national park, Zion, beckons legions of outdoor enthusiasts, drawn by the prime season for the park’s legendary water hikes like The Narrows. To aid your exploration during the scorching heat, with temperatures soaring to the upper 90s or low 100s, the park’s shuttle service operates throughout the season. Seasoned climbers can ascend the towering 2,000-foot sandstone cliffs, while hikers can traverse popular trails like the Canyon Overlook and Watchman. As darkness falls, this International Dark Sky Park transforms into a celestial wonderland, offering stargazers a mesmerizing view of the Milky Way.

8) Bar Harbor

Bar Harbor, Maine, a serene haven celebrated for its coastal splendor, bursts into life during the summer with delightful temperatures in the 70s. As the entry point to Acadia National Park, the town attracts enthusiasts eager to hike, bike, boat, and immerse themselves in the breathtaking landscapes. Main Street in Bar Harbor is a vibrant hub of shops, ice cream parlors, art galleries, pubs, and eateries dishing out New England favorites such as lobster rolls and clam chowder. For a leisurely post-dining experience, a stroll along the Shore Path is simply perfect.

9) Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Spanning over 520,000 acres, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an ideal summer retreat for those who love the outdoors. This affordable haven, requiring only a modest parking fee, sits along the Tennessee-North Carolina border and is home to stunning waterfalls, prime fishing spots, picturesque drives, and thrilling hikes (including over 70 miles of the renowned Appalachian Trail). With evening temperatures in the 60s and 70s, it’s a perfect spot for camping. Make sure to visit one of the four visitor centers to learn about the park’s history, grab trail maps, and discover the ranger-led programs available.

Read Also: Best Places To Visit In The USA

10) Outer Banks

The Outer Banks is the epitome of a family vacation destination, bustling with beachgoers seeking relaxation during the summer. This North Carolina locale is brimming with activities for children and teenagers, from fishing and windsurfing to boogie boarding and various kiting adventures like kiteboarding, hang gliding, and traditional kite flying. History buffs will find the Outer Banks intriguing, as it is the site of the Wright Brothers’ first flight and the mysterious disappearance of the Roanoke Island colonists. Moreover, visitors can explore numerous lighthouses and enjoy the expansive, pristine beaches.

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