Budget Travel

11 Amazing Summer Vacations

For hiking, sailing, swimming, and scenery, Lake Tahoe strikes the perfect balance between adventure and relaxation. 

Though it's best known for the iconic Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach also offers surfing, bird-watching, and easy access to Ecola State Park's old-growth rainforest, stunning rock formations, and sweeping lighthouse views.

With lush green hills, fertile farmland, and some 6,800 miles of dramatic coastline studded with pristine beaches and sandstone cliffs, there's more to Prince Edward Island than mussels and Anne of Green Gables

The centerpiece of Utah and Arizona's 1.25-million-acre Glen Canyon Recreation Area, Lake Powell is the country’s second-largest man-made reservoir.

Between Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial, the Guinness Book of World Records largest reptile zoo, a dinosaur museum, an amusement park dedicated to kiddie lit, and an indoor/outdoor pool naturally filled with 87-degree mineral water, a road trip to the Black Hills is the quintessential family vacation. 

With more than 4,700 archaeological sites, from cliff dwellings to mesa-top pithouses and pueblo, Mesa Verde celebrates the lives of the Ancestral Puebloans who called the area home for more than 700 years. 

There are more than 15,000 lakes in the state of Wisconsin, and one of them is bound to be a perfect match for the vacation of your dreams. 

A historic mountain-resort town with eight naturally carbonated mineral springs, a spiritual, holistic feel, and a vibrant artistic side, Manitou Springs makes for a great summer escape. 

A visit to Los Angeles is incomplete without people-watching at Santa Monica Pier, photo ops at the Hollywood sign, and sunbathing at Laguna Beach.

Spanning nearly 1,600 acres of dazzling Montana wilderness, there’s no shortage of outdoor adventure at Glacier National Park. 

With a network of free museums, paid museums, historical monuments, and a diverse dining scene, our nation's capital is a never-ending font of educational opportunity. 

​There's still time to plan an epic summer vacation, and each of these incredible destinations will stay with you forever.​

The days of summer are dwindling, but there's still time for one more epic vacation. From road trips out west to gorgeous lake shores to affordable cities, we've got you covered—each of our picks will help you make memories, with or without the souvenirs. 

Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada

For hiking, sailing, swimming, and scenery, Lake Tahoe, on the border of California and Nevada, strikes the perfect balance between adventure and relaxation. This high-altitude lake isn't slowing down in its old age—at two million years old, the jewel of the Sierra Mountains boasts state and county parks galore and beautiful beaches fit for summery activities of all stripes. Relax in one of the picturesque towns on the north shore, or hit the south shore for crowds, casino action, and good deals on room rates. (visitinglaketahoe.com)

Cannon Beach, Oregon

Sixth on Budget Travel's list of 10 Coolest Small Towns in America 2017, Oregon's Cannon Beach is best known for the instantly recognizable Haystack Rock, but there's more to this oceanside hamlet than its giant boulder. With easy access to Ecola State Park's old-growth rainforest, stunning rock formations, and sweeping views of historic Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, plus 363 miles of shoreline dotted with accommodations both humble and posh, excellent surfing spots, and unbridled bird-watching, there's more than enough to fill your days with here. (cannonbeach.org)

Prince Edward Island, Canada

With lush green hills, fertile farmland, and some 6,800 miles of dramatic coastline studded with pristine beaches and sandstone cliffs, the island forever linked with Anne of Green Gables is a destination in its own right. Take a drive along a winding, red-clay scenic heritage road, spend some time at the beach or on the golf course, and cap it all off with a day on a fishing dory or a lobster boat. The seafood here is justifiably renowned—go for fresh lobster, oysters, or fish, or try those famed PEI mussels in situ. (tourismpei.com)

Lake Powell, Arizona and Utah

The country’s second-largest man-made reservoir, Lake Powell is part of the scenic Glen Canyon Recreation Area, which covers 1.25 million acres between Utah and Arizona. It makes a great base of operations for surveying the surrounding area. Visit Rainbow Bridge National Monument, one of the world’s largest natural stone bridges; tour the unforgettable Antelope Canyon, check out the Vermillion Cliffs, or just rent a houseboat and stay put for some kayaking, wakeboarding, and fishing. (lakepowell.com)

Black Hills, South Dakota

A road trip to the Black Hills is the quintessential family vacation. Keystone’s Mount Rushmore is the obvious must, but don't miss the jaw-dropping Crazy Horse Memorial either. (It’s still a work in progress: The Lakota Sioux Warrior’s 87½-foot-tall face was completed in 1998, and workers have been chipping away at the 219-foot-high horse’s head ever since.) Other must-stops include Reptile Gardens and the Dinosaur Museum right next door; Bear Country USA, where black bears, bobcats, and more roam; Storybook Island, a free amusement park dedicated to legends of children’s literature; and Evans Plunge Mineral Springs, an indoor/outdoor pool filled with 87-degree spring water. (blackhillsbadlands.com)

Mesa Verde, Colorado

Established as a national park by Teddy Roosevelt in 1906, Mesa Verde celebrates the lives of the Ancestral Puebloans who called the Four Corners region home from 550 A.D. to 1300 A.D. Explore more than 4,700 archaeological sites, from cliff dwellings to mesa-top pithouses and pueblos, or take a guided tour for a deeper understanding of the architectural, horticultural, cultural, and religious aspects of the Ancestral Pueblan day-to-day. (nps.gov/meve

Waterfront Wisconsin

There are more than 15,000 lakes in the state of Wisconsin, and one of them is bound to be a match for the vacation of your dreams. Choose one with a boat landing or a beach, one located on public lands or parks, or one that’s stocked with your favorite fish (bass, trout, walleye, or sturgeon, perhaps?), then rent a cabin and prepare for serious relaxation. (travelwisconsin.com)

Manitou Springs, Colorado

A historic mountain-resort town with eight naturally carbonated mineral springs, a holistic, spiritual feel, and a vibrant artistic side, Manitou Springs makes a great summer escape. Hike the Garden of the Gods, a registered National Natural Landmark; check out Seven Falls, a stunning series of waterfalls in a 1,250-foot-wall box canyon; take a ride on the Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway for views from 14,000 feet, or white-knuckle it over the country’s highest suspension bridge at Royal Gorge. Adrenaline adverse? Try a horseback ride or a picnic lunch at the base of Pikes Peak. (manitousprings.org)

Los Angeles, California

You wouldn’t necessarily consider the City of Angels a prime family-vacation destination, but between Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm, not to mention people-watching at Santa Monica Pier, photo ops at the Hollywood sign, and sunbathing at Laguna Beach, it’s well worth a second thought. Bonus: The weather’s great too. (discoverlosangeles.com)

Glacier National Park, Montana

Spanning nearly 1,600 acres of dazzling Montana wilderness, there’s no shortage of outdoor adventure at Glacier National Park. Book a cabin on the shores of Lake McDonald or rough it in a tent; take a hike, go white-water rafting, kayaking, or zip-lining, and don’t forget a scenic tour of Going-to-the-Sun Road in a restored red bus from the 1930s. (nps.gov/glac)

Washington, D.C.

With a network of free museums covering everything from the air and space program to American art to postal history to African American culture to one of the largest collections of Native American artifacts in the world, not to mention stellar non-Smithsonian institutions like the gardens at Dumbarton Oaks, the bonsai collection at the National Arboretum, and the journalism deep-dive at the Newseum, D.C. is a never-ending font of educational opportunity. Don a disguise at the International Spy Museum, dig into the multicultural dining scene, or catch a Nationals game, but just make sure your GPS is in working order—the city’s layout is notoriously difficult to navigate. (washington.org)

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