After such a historical year, this summer is the perfect time to explore the gems we have here at home in the good ol’ USA. Though foreign travel is still restricted due to COVID, there are so many unique experiences we have here at home. With open air adventures in mind, we’ve picked our favorite places in the East, Midwest, and West worthy of your summer adventures.
Maine is our Mainstay
With one of the most comfortable summer climates in America, Maine is our happy place. Its long days are warm, with July’s peak averaging 70 degrees, complemented by comfortably cool summer nights. Come mid-June to see the pink and purple lupines transform the landscape, just before Queen Anne’s Lace makes her seasonal debut.
Whether you hear the ocean or forest calling, Maine’s majesty answers. 1500 miles of coastline promise a beautiful communion with nature. West Quoddy Head Lighthouse, the most easternpoint in the United States, is an especially beautiful place to catch the sunrise.
Hikes across Maine may lead you to waterfalls or deep woods, and each can be searched by skill level via Maine Trail Finder. Complete the Maine experience by heading “upta camp” and renting a cabin on a lake. Options abound on the 6000 lakes and ponds in Maine.
Whale watching in Maine is a favorite summer pastime, as is puffin watching! Although puffins are usually found in Iceland and Norway, summer brings the puffins to Maine’s Eastern Egg Rock, where they lay eggs and raise their young until August. Take a cruise leaving from Boothbay Harbor or New Harbor to see this adorable and endangered species.
There are so many charming seaside villages and small towns to explore in Maine, from Blue Hill and Castine to Stonington and Camden. And of course, the best part of Maine is the lobster, especially sweet and fresh from the deep Atlantic. When ordering soft shell lobster, locals say to forgo the tools and simply dig and enjoy!
Florida’s Destin: A Unique Destination
Destin sparkles at the northwest corner of the sunshine state, making it an easier drive than the Keys, which are another 10 hours south. Though warm, humidity is tapered in June and July compared to August. Destin’s beaches are opulent, with soft white sands kissing teal waters. But there’s so much more that makes this beach destination unique!
Crab Island offers one of the most distinct boating experiences in America. Rent a boat or take a cruise out to the massive sandbar, where you can float or walk upon the shallow waters. Dine at a floating restaurant or wait for a mobile food vendor to come to you by boat. Enjoy the other “floating” attractions, such as the obstacle courses, to make for an experience you won’t forget.
On land, be delighted by Baytowne Wharf, a charming village perfect for strolling and exploring. In the summer, Baytowne Wharf features nearly nightly events: Monday’s hydroflight show, Tuesday’s fireworks, Wednesday’s concerts, and Thursday’s magic show.
The golfing is, of course, superb in Destin, with nearly endless choices. If you are short on time, however, enjoy Golf Garden of Destin’s 29 par golf course. There’s fun for the entire family here, with putt-putt perfect for the grandkids too.
America’s Favorite Drive is Blue
Summer calls for road trips, and our favorite runs from Asheville, NC through Tennessee, taking the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Smoky Mountains. Known as “America’s Favorite Drive,” Blue Ridge is the longest linear park in America, running 469 miles upon the spine of this chain of the Appalachian Mountains. The journey here is a spectacular destination itself. Be greeted by expansive mountain views and easy hiking trails - all without any admission fee.
Some make the drive as a daytrip, while others take several days, since there are so many stunning stops along the way. GPS can be limited here, so the milepost system on this drive is your best bet for locating spots of interest. The numbers grow as you are heading south.
Here are some of our favorite mileposts, but there really are too many to choose from!
- Milepost 334 is Little Switzerland, which is a rare food stop along the Parkway. With a population of 46, this tiny and picturesque village is great for refueling on food and strolling the shops, especially through Little Switzerland’s Book and Beans.
- Milepost 404.5 is Mills River Valley Overlook, a beautiful place to watch the sunrise over the valley’s fog to illuminate many mountain ridges.
- Milepost 417 is Looking Glass Rock Overlook. When the rock’s granite surface is covered by water or ice, the light reflection is stunning. From here, there’s a hike for ¾ a mile that will bring you to Skinny Dip Falls. We recommend taking the Mountains-To-Sea Trail (start with the steps near the start of the trail and then go left), which has some rocks and a handful of climbs, but should not be too challenging for those who are active. You’ll be rewarded with lush waterfall cascades and swimming holes.
The Blueridge Parkway Foundation offers free printable maps and a guide with descriptions of all the mileposts. As soon as you begin exploring, you’ll quickly see why this is America’s Favorite Drive!
To access your ASA travel discounts for trips to Roaming Coastal Maine and other adventures, visit Collette Travel and sign up for your next trip!
Are you looking to head west? Be inspired by our Midwest and West travel guides coming soon to plan the perfect adventure this summer!