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18 Offbeat Summer Vacation Destinations Across America

When planning a summer getaway, you may want to head to the most popular destinations. However, if you skip the popular destinations, you come across under-the-radar locales. These are perfect for a memorable and refreshing trip. This article explores underrated vacation spots across the United States for an idyllic summer escape.

Coastal Maine

Cape Elizabeth, Maine, USA at Portland Head Light.

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Maine’s rugged coastline provides a serene backdrop for relaxed summer days. 

Bar Harbor, a town in Maine, has seaside trails and whale watching. On the other hand, Portland, another city in Maine, has lighthouses and lobster shacks. There are also many options in the city. 

Quaint inns and charming B&Bs amplify the local flavor. Take advantage of Acadia National Park’s stunning vistas and outdoor adventures.

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

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Michigan’s remote upper peninsula offers shorelines, waterfalls, and islands. Rent a kayak and paddle to secluded beaches along Lake Superior. Tour lighthouses and shipwrecks. Hike through verdant forests to roaring falls. Marquette and Munising make excellent home bases.

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Stockton, California

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This desert park impresses visitors with mysterious rock formations and iconic Joshua trees—camp under clear, starry nights. You can explore on foot or bike and enjoy epic sunrises and sunsets. Palm Springs, an hour from the park, promises trendy shops, pools, and cocktail bars.

Outer Banks, North Carolina

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North Carolina’s remote barrier islands hold unspoiled beaches, small villages, and untamed scenery. You can also watch wild horses run free. 

Climb the striped Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and hang out in laidback beach towns. 

Block Island, Rhode Island

Touro Synagogue, America's oldest synagogue, in Newport, Rhode Island.

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This island escape in the Atlantic Ocean boasts 17 miles of pristine shoreline. It has dramatic bluffs and picturesque lighthouses. Slow down and settle in for beachfront relaxation. Explore wildlife refuges, hike rolling hills, or rent bikes to pedal around the island. Relaxation reigns here.

Utah’s National Parks

Rooftop view of a suburb of Salt Lake City, Utah. Rooftop view of a suburb of Salt Lake City, Utah with houses nestled amongst green trees and a distant mountain range

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From Arches to Zion, Utah’s “Mighty 5” national parks astound visitors. They feature unique terra-cotta canyons, towering stone arches, and sprawling desert landscapes. Experience serene stillness while hiking the Narrows at Zion. Gaze at Delicate Arch. Avoid summer crowds by exploring lesser-known state parks.

Buffalo, New York

Manhattan, new york, USA, city

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Buffalo provides a low-cost summer city getaway. Architecture buffs admire designs by Frank Lloyd Wright and H.H. Richardson. Foodies indulge in authentic wings and local ice cream. Check out free concerts in Canalside, or take a lake cruise. Nearby Niagara Falls delights families.

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Portland Oregon Downtown City Skyline with Historic Hawthorne Bridge Across Willamette River at Sunset

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Dramatic cliffs and roaring waterfalls make the Columbia River Gorge ripe for outdoor adventure. Hike through fragrant pine forests or along the river and raft on the white water rapids. Do try locally grown fruit from roadside stands. Small towns like Hood River are a must-visit.

Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee

Rainbow Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennesse, in early summer.

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park provides travelers with a picture perfect spot with lush green mountains and misty blue ridges. 

You have a chance to explore the history in Cades Cove, visit the homesteads and spot wildlife like bears and elk. Hike and bike 800 miles of trails to stunning waterfalls and scenic mountain ranges. Nearby Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg promise family fun.

Adirondacks, New York

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In upstate New York, the Adirondacks hosts over 3,000 pristine lakes and also boasts the tallest peak in the state. You have the opportunity to backpack and camp in the deep woods. Stay in a lakefront cabin to boat and fish. Shop and dine in small towns like Lake Placid, renowned for winter sports.

Glacier National Park, Montana

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Glacier National Park impresses visitors with snowcapped peaks. It has alpine forests and jewel-toned lakes. You can spend time spotting wild mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and a bear. Drive the scenic Going-to-the-Sun Road for breathtaking vistas, boat and fish on pristine Flathead Lake south of the park.

San Juan Islands, Washington

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You can spend summer island hopping around the San Juan archipelago to find your perfect refuge. Relax in Friday Harbor, kayak by whale pods, or hike Orcas Island. Visit local farms, wineries, and galleries. Camp or stay at a laidback B&B. 

Lasqueti Island promises total seclusion and tranquility.

Portland, Maine

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Coastal Portland offers lighthouses, an active harbor, lobster rolls, and a Victorian ambiance. Join a sailing cruise or hop on a ferry to explore nearby islands. Tour the ornate Victorian mansions. Browse the farmer’s market and art galleries in the Arts District. Seafood straight from Maine waters astounds foodies.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

The home along Rainbow Row in Charleston, South Carolina.  These Georgian style homes are brightly painted in direct sunlight.

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Myrtle Beach provides the quintessential Carolina beach escape. It doesn’t have the crowds of Charleston or Hilton Head. Play in the Atlantic waves or take thrilling water slides at Wild Water & Wheels. Get active on bike trails or golf at 100+ area courses. Fresh seafood and southern hospitality are everywhere in this spot.

Walla Walla, Washington

Washington, DC at the Tidal Basin and Jefferson Memorial during the spring cherry blossom season.

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Walla Walla’s wine scene draws visitors to the Southeast corner of Washington. Over 100 wineries produce renowned Cabernets and Syrahs through sustainable, artisanal techniques. Visit the best vineyards set amidst stunning scenery and sample vintage wines at cozy tasting rooms. The walkable historic downtown bursts with trendy galleries, cafés, and boutiques.

New River Gorge, West Virginia

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You can witness the sheer sandstone cliffs tower 900 feet – the one thing that makes West Virginia’s New River Gorge dramatic. You can explore over 1,400 rock climbing routes or walk the longest single-arch bridge in the Western Hemisphere. Raft on Class IV rapids for an adrenaline rush. Hike and mountain bike on abundant wilderness trails.

Northern Michigan

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Michigan’s northern lower peninsula promises uncrowded beaches and crystal-clear lakes. It also has lush forests and small towns. Soak up the summer sun along miles of Lake Michigan shoreline. You can opt to boat, swim, and camp at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Traverse City and Petoskey make excellent home bases.

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA downtown skyline at twilight.

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Oklahoma City provides an affordable and friendly summer getaway. Splash in the water playground at the Bricktown Canal or explore the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Taste bold barbecue flavors and explore outdoor art installations around this revitalized city.