Got an itch for a travel adventure? Well, there’s no better time to scratch it than summer — especially in the United States! It’s the ideal season to get out and explore almost every part of the country.
Unfortunately, summer is also the prime vacation season in America and you’ll find many destinations overrun with crowds at that time of year. Hence, the eternally-effective travel hack to schedule a trip to any popular U.S. vacation spot in the non-summer months. Visiting a place in the off-season means there won’t be many people around and the costs will be lower.
But there’s a flip side to that rule: If you want to avoid crowds and save money on a trip in the summer, pick a destination or event that’s under the radar. A less mainstream trip can have the same benefits as traveling in the off-season but still within everyone’s favorite time of year for U.S. traveling. The challenge is finding out where those off-the-beaten-path trips might be.
Here are some awesome summer trips to take in the U.S. that most people (including you) probably don’t know about.
Visit Glacier National Park in Montana
The American national parks system is an institution unlike any other in the world. It includes more than 50 million acres of protected land and wilderness you can visit for a once-in-a-lifetime experience that’s extremely affordable. Most people visit the world-famous parks, such as Yellowstone, Yosemite, or Grand Teton, but Glacier National Park is special in its own right. Located in northwest Montana, Glacier National Park may seem fairly far-flung trip, but you can reach it easily thanks to the nearby Glacier Park International Airport in Kalispell. Several major airlines regularly fly to and from there through midwestern hubs like Denver and Salt Lake City. Some even operate seasonal routes directly flying there from Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. After landing, you just need to rent a car and drive the roughly last 30 miles of the journey.
The obvious star of the show at the park is the stunning glaciers. You can take in the best views by driving the famous 50-mile-long Going-to-the-Sun Road. The park also boasts more than 700 miles of hiking and biking trails. Want to see some mountain goats in their natural habitat? Check out the Oberlin Bend! Kids will marvel during your drive through the West Tunnel through the mountains. The nearby town of Columbia Falls offers a great home base for exploring this often overlooked national treasure.
Jam Out at San Francisco’s Stern Grove Festival
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There’s nothing quite like a summer music festival! Dancing and partying to live music while you’re outside is a great way to have fun with friends, as well as make new ones. You may be drawn to popular festivals that feature big-name artists, like Coachella or Governor’s Ball, but that’s where you’ll also encounter big-time crowds and prices.
A good alternative to consider is the Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco. The annual festival boasts the distinction of being the longest-running free outdoor concert series. It features a wide variety of musical acts and runs from mid-June to mid-August. The performances are every weekend at the Sigmund Stern Grove Park in the city’s Sunset district at 19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard. No matter your musical taste, you’re sure to find something up your alley on the schedule. Of course, you don’t have to focus the entirety of your summer trip on attending the festival. There’s plenty of other beautiful things to see and exciting places to go in beatiful city by the bay.
Bring the Family to Knoebels Amusement Resort in Pennsylvania
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Summer tips to amusement parks are the cornerstone of family vacations in the US. But rather than work out the complicated and costly logistics of a group trip (with kids!) to Walt Disney World in Florida or Six Flags Great America in Illinois, consider Knoebels Amusement Resort in Pennsylvania. This quaint, family-owned park is the largest admission-free part in America and, despite all the competition from major corporations, is consistently ranked as one of the top family amusement parks in the country. It features everything from rides aimed at small children to thrilling rollercoasters, plus attractions the whole family can enjoy together. So, no matter what, there’s something for everyone.
Nestled into the scenic Poconos, Knoebels is less than a three-hour drive from either New York or Philadelphia. You will love spending time at this charming theme park that gives you the flexibility to pay per ride or buy an all-day pass. Guests can stay off-site or book a classic log cabin or cottage at the Knoebels Park Campground for easy access in and out of the park.
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Crack Things Up at the Maine Lobster Festival
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No summer is complete without a visit to a food festival. And while you could find some cheap flights in June to nosh at world-famous food and wine fests in Los Angeles and New Orleans, we have another suggestion: The Maine Lobster Festival. It’s a food festival unlike any other, with carnival rides, musical performances, games, and (of course) the famous Maine lobster served in a myriad of forms. Other fun events associated with this festival include a parade, a road race, and arts and crafts booths. The annual festival is held in the idyllic coastal town of Rockland, Maine. It usually takes place during the first weekend of August starting on Wednesday and wrapping up on Sunday. It’s the time of the year when the weather in Rockland typically boasts moderate temperatures and dry conditions, which are perfect for indulging in a lobster feast.
Close Out the Summer at the Minnesota State Fair
It’s not exactly accurate to call one of the largest state fairs in the country “under the radar.” But if you’re not from Minnesota or the Midwest, you’ve probably never been to or heard of the Minnesota State Fair. And that’s a shame, because this state fair is the gold standard. Taking place across 12 days every year (ending on Labor day) in St. Paul, the “the Great Minnesota Get-Together” is one of the most beloved events of the summer for locals and visitors. You can nosh on all of your favorite fair foods, try your luck with the carnival games, and enjoy the many different rides and attractions. There are also a number of educational and hands-on exhibits, including many featuring live farm animals, but the stage of the fair’s grandstand is often the main show. You’ll find some of the hottest names in music headlining there on the fair’s schedule. It’s safe to say that this is a trip to take when you want to end your summer on a bang!
Know of any other awesome summer trips to take in the US that are under the radar for us to add to this list? Tell us about them in the comments below!