With summer just around the corner, you’ve already begun daydreaming of ways you’ll spend your time off and places you’ll visit with your family. But before you book, be sure to consider the peak season for each locale, along with the special activities each destination offers. Here are a few vacation hot spots to add to your list, along with the very best times to visit:
1. San Juan Islands
The San Juan Islands in Washington State are a short drive north of Seattle. While the Pacific Northwest has a reputation for gloomy skies and constant rain, in the summer months, the sun beats back those clouds to make northwestern Washington one of the best hidden gems in the U.S.
The San Juan Islands are accessible by ferry, though reservations are recommended. The islands are known for whale watching, sea kayaking, hiking and cycling. In August, Orcas Island plays host to the Doe Bay Fest, a local music festival at the beautiful Doe Bay Resort. Musicians from all over the country apply to play this festival, and with such limited space, tickets sell out quickly.
2. Austin, Texas
Austin, Texas is known for its flourishing musical and cultural scenes. From performance theaters like Zach Theatre, to Segway tours of the city, and some of the best barbecue spots in the South, Austin has a lot to offer. While the mid-summer months can be excruciatingly hot, the later summer months see a drop in temperature to the mid-80s.
If you’re a music buff, South by Southwest is one of the best music festivals in the country and takes place each year in the early spring. Musicians from all over the world come to play it. While Austin is oftentimes literally too hot to handle, in the spring and fall it becomes a visitor’s paradise.
3. Ludington State Park
Wedged between Lake Michigan and Hamlin Lake, Ludington State Park covers nearly 5,300 acres. From miles of dune beaches to the smooth and clear Big Sable River, which is perfect for tubing, this state park is truly a hidden gem. With trails for hiking and biking in the summertime, this park has something for everyone and miles to explore the wonders of nature.
While this is a lesser known state park than others in the country, campsites and cabins fill up quickly. It’s a good idea to reserve your spot months in advance as Ludington State Park has been a favorite summer vacation destination in the Great Lakes area for decades.
4. Arcata, California
Arcata is a little known town bordering the Redwoods of Northern California. The locals of this town focus on the preservation of the neighboring forests, and with local food growers keeping the population of this small Humboldt County town supplied with a variety of fresh and delicious foods, there are plenty of reasons to make a stop in this unique community.
In late June, join the locals for Oysterfest, where 12,000 festival goers inhabit the city center to eat oysters, listen to an assortment of music, and indulge in a variety of libations. If you want to get out of the town and experience the Redwoods, tours are available where participants wear harnesses to scale the giant trees for ziplining fun.