Top 10 U.S. Summer Road Trip Vacation Destinations

Americans are still planning to travel this summer despite rising gas prices. Check out the top ten road trip destinations for this vacation season.

Despite inflation and rising gas prices, many Americans are hitting the road this summer. Some would say it’s the summer of COVID revenge travel. According to Allianz, there are ten cities that stood out in a recent study on rental car travel destinations. Check out the top ten places Americans are road-tripping to this vacation season!

1. Orlando, Florida

orlando florida

It is no mystery that Orlando, Florida is a great place to visit for a summer vacation. Of course, Orlando is known for having out-of-this-world theme parks like Disney World, Universal, and Sea World. But the real Florida lies in the beautiful beaches and fantastic state parks, which are only about an hour’s drive from downtown Orlando!  

Beaches Near Orlando

The east coast beaches like New Smyrna, Cocoa, and Daytona Beach have the best waves for surfers. If you are looking for an epic day trip to see crystal clear water and white sand, head to the west coast and the Gulf of Mexico. Clearwater and St. Petersburg beaches are about 2 hours from downtown Orlando and will give you that paradise feeling all day long! Head out early to pick a good spot on the beach, and don’t forget your chairs, umbrella, and sunscreen. After relaxing in the waves, be sure to try some fresh seafood!

Old Florida

For that “old Florida” feeling, Homosassa Springs and Blue Spring State Parks have manatee refuges where you can meander along boardwalks to spot these elusive creatures in their natural habitat. And DeLeon Springs State Park offers a swimming area, tons of shade, boat tours, and make-your-own pancakes with all the toppings inside a historic sugar mill (kids love this!).

Recommended by Erin of SuperSimpleSaltyLife.com

2. Denver, Colorado

Denver, Colorado

Denver is also the jumping off point to the Rocky Mountains where Colorado boasts hiking trails, mountain biking, water sports, and iconic summer festivals.

Day Trip to Garden of the Gods

Planning a day trip from Denver? You could choose to explore the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, hike a 14-er, attend a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater, visit Breckenridge or Vail along the I-70 mountain corridor, or hop a train to Glenwood Springs for a hot springs getaway.

Estes Park Day Trip

Ideally, you’ll want to discover the hidden gem of Estes Park, the gateway to the Rockies. Estes Park is a 90-minute drive from Denver and the perfect way to spend a day… or two.

While in Estes Park, you can tour the Stanley Hotel, stroll along the River Walk, meander through tourist shops, take on the Rainbow Slide, sample fudge and ice cream, ride the Estes Park Aerial Tramway, and see numerous wildlife sightings. 

Rocky Mountain National Park

If you plan to enter Rocky Mountain National Park, and you should, you will need to make reservations in advance. The park features numerous hiking trails for all skill levels, picturesque lakes, elk sightings, and Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous paved road in the United States.

Recommended by Jolayne of SimplyJolayne.com

2. Las Vegas, Nevada

Venetian in Las Vegas

Las Vegas is a big, unique city with tons of things to do and is a perfect summer destination. While it may be a bit hot in the desert, the pools are always refreshing, and the air conditioning is always on in the casinos! 

Las Vegas Strip

The variety of casinos along the Las Vegas Strip can entice any traveler with the hope of winning big. Each hotel provides something unique for visitors from the iconic Luxor pyramid to the fun and bubbly Circus Circus. Each hotel has its own unique selling point, like the roller coaster at New York New York or the gondola rides at the Venetian! 

Non-Gambling Activities

There are plenty of non-gambling things to do in Las Vegas for travelers who would rather spend their money elsewhere. Adrenaline junkies should visit the top of the Stratosphere Hotel for a variety of daredevil rides or even the opportunity to jump off the building with SkyJump!

Shows in Las Vegas have an air of magic unlike anywhere else in the world. Cirque de Soleil captivates while musicians entertain. Fremont Street provides more affordable casinos while being home to the world’s largest slot machine (which also has a zipline!). No trip to Vegas is complete without seeing the Bellagio fountains!

Day Trips from Las Vegas

If the city is overwhelming, there are plenty of things to do off the Las Vegas strip as well as day trips from the city. You can visit the Hoover Dam for a glimpse into America’s past. Red Rock Canyon has beautiful hikes to show off the area’s nature. Check out the petroglyphs, which are estimated to be over 800 years old! 

Recommended by Pamela of DirectionallyChallengedTraveler.com

4. Los Angeles, California

Top 10 U.S. Summer Road Trip Vacation Destinations

One of the best destinations for this summer is to add a Los Angeles itinerary to your bucket list!

Get To The Beach

Los Angeles weather is amazing all year long, but summertime is really the best time of the year to head to the beaches in LA. It may still be cool, but you have a better chance of hot days and the water is a little warmer than the rest of the year.

Besides soaking in the sun, the beaches in LA offer so many fun activities for everyone. From kayaking to kiteboarding, surfing to water-skiing, sailing to sport fishing, summer is the best time to be out on the Pacific Ocean. 

Lots of Attractions

With tons of festivals, events, musical performances, theme parks, and top-notch museums, there’s no shortage of fun things for visitors and locals alike to enjoy this summer in LA. There are lots of fun attractions and activities so you won’t be short of things to do. The hardest part will be deciding what to do first!  

Catalina Island Day Trip

If you are looking for a fun day trip, you can take the Ferry to Catalina Island. It is just a short 1-hour ferryboat ride away is an island that looks more like something you’d see along the Amalfi Coast of Italy than something you’d expect to find in Los Angeles. 

Recommended by Paula of PaulaPinsthePlanet.com

5. Portland, Oregon

Top 10 U.S. Summer Road Trip Vacation Destinations

The best time to visit Portland is from June through August when the consistently warm weather allows the city’s outdoor culture to flourish. In addition, summer is the time when roses are in full bloom. Days in Portland’s summers are warm (average high temperature of 78° F) and humidity is low. Rain is rare, and evenings are long. In June and July, the sun does not set until about 9 p.m., so you can spend hours strolling the city.

Things To Do in Portland

One of the best things to do in Portland in the summer is to rent a bike and use it to sightsee the city. Portland is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the U.S., with an extensive network of bike paths and plenty of rental bikes for you to actively explore the city.

Portland Gardens

Also, be sure to visit the International Rose Test Garden and the Portland Japanese Garden. Portland is known as the “City of Roses,” and summer is the best time to enjoy them. The parks are located close to each other in Washington Park in Portland’s West Hills.

Donuts

Don’t forget to try some of the most famous donuts in the US. So visit Blue Star Donuts or the famous original Voodoo Donut store. And if you like books, check Powell’s City of Books – it’s the World’s Largest Independent Bookstore.

Riverfront Loop

Take an evening stroll in downtown Portland with the River Waterfront Loop. As you walk through Waterfront Park, you can admire industrial but modern buildings, the downtown skyline, and fabulous bridges. There are 12 bridges over the Willamette River. They are brilliantly lit and look beautiful in the evening.

Day Trip to Multnomah Falls

One of the best ideas for a day trip from Portland is a trip to the Columbia River Gorge with Multnomah Falls. Oregon’s tallest waterfall, Multnomah Falls is breathtaking and an icon of the Pacific Northwest. There are also a variety of hiking trails in the Columbia River Gorge.

Recommended by Agnes of TheVanEscape.com

6. Honolulu, Hawaii

Top 10 U.S. Summer Road Trip Vacation Destinations

If you’re looking for the perfect summer vacation destination, look no further than Honolulu! Located on the gorgeous island of Oahu in Hawaii, Honolulu is the perfect destination for someone looking for gorgeous beaches, fun hikes, and great food.

Things To Do in Honolulu

Honolulu is located on Oahu’s south shore. There are plenty of things to add to your Oahu bucket list that are in and around Honolulu. Waikiki is the city’s tourism center, featuring plenty of resorts with great beaches and dining.

The Pearl Harbor National Memorial is located about 20-minutes from Honolulu. Visiting is a must to learn more about the 1941 attack and its aftermath. Another unique thing to do in Honolulu is to take a Hawaiian cooking class, where you can learn how to make traditional Hawaiian foods before enjoying them for yourself.

Hiking in Honolulu

There are loads of hiking trails around Honolulu, with Diamond Head being the most famous. The hike isn’t too difficult, and you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views of Waikiki and the southern coast. Make sure to treat yourself after the hike with a pineapple Dole Whip!

Exploring Honolulu

Make sure to spend a day exploring the rest of Oahu outside of Honolulu. Oahu’s North Shore is a great place for a day trip, with beautiful beaches and great surfing. Stop at Matsumoto in Haleiwa for the best shave ice on the island!

Recommended by Sydney of AWorldinReach.com

7. Boston, Massachusetts

things to do in boston

Boston is a fantastic city to visit with lots of things to do in the summer. It is filled with significant history, an amazing food scene, awesome shopping, and lovely parks and other green spaces to enjoy. Of course, it is located right on the ocean so it also offers lots of great water activities and restaurants with fresh delicious seafood.

Boston is a very pedestrian friendly city that encourages you to walk and explore. It also has an excellent public transportation system for those days when your feet need a bit of a break and you just want to get to your destination. 

Boston Food Tour

One of the best things to do in Boston is to take a food tour. The Boston Secret Food Tour is a half-day tour that leads you through several parts of Boston, including the incredible Italian district. While doing so, you are sampling incredible food that is significant to Boston. For example, a lobster roll made from lobster only caught hours before, or a cannoli from one of the first bakeries in the USA offering them.  

Freedom Trail

Another great way to spend some time in Boston is to take the “Freedom Trail”. This is a 2.5 mile walk that connects 16 nationally significant historic sites. You can download an app and tour it yourself, or take one of the free walking tours offered daily.

Day Trip to Hanover, NH

If you are keen to take a road trip, consider visiting Hanover, New Hampshire, where Dartmouth College is located. It is only 2 ½ hours away. Hanover is the quintessential small College town with a wonderful Main Street filled with cute boutiques, bars, and restaurants. While there, you can book a tour of Dartmouth and see this pretty campus filled with some of its incredible historic buildings.

If you only have one day in Boston with your family, check out this Boston itinerary that’s great for families.

Recommended by Nicole of GoFarGrowClose.com

8. Seattle, Washington

seattle, washington

Summer is by far the best time to visit the seemingly year-round gloomy Seattle. The clouds have rolled away, the rain has come to a halt (for the most part!), and the sunshine is out in the Pacific Northwest. So why not pack your bags this summer for a fantastic U.S. vacation to Seattle. The best time to visit, with the best things to do in Seattle, is from the beginning of July-September. 

Pike Place Market

Kick off your Seattle vacation by hitting Bacco Cafe for breakfast from local and organic ingredients at the Pike Place Market, always an itinerary staple! After you eat, wander around and gaze at the fresh bouquets , join the spectators, dodge the flying fish, or hunt down Rachel the Pig for a selfie (a bronze pig) near the Market Center sign. 

Popular Attractions

Afterward, visit the Space Needle or the Chihuly Glass and Garden Museum (search for a combo ticket if you want to see both) and grab lunch from Homegrown for fresh salads (it’s a locals’ favorite)! 

Take the rest of the afternoon to relax at the unique Gas Works Park with a perfect view of the Seattle Skyline. This park is home to industrial old rust-colored gas facilities that are oddly enough quite nice to look at because of the contrast it has against the green grass and the water.

Leavenworth Day Trip

Venture out of the city for a road trip from Seattle to Leavenworth, a historically German town located about 2 hours driving from Seattle, perfect for a day trip! You can try authentic German beer and sausages, visit the fun shops, or even hike at one of several impressive mountain hikes right outside of town. 

Recommended by Rachel of ChelseyExplores.Com

9. Kahului, Hawaii

Top 10 U.S. Summer Road Trip Vacation Destinations

Kahului is the largest town on the island of Maui, and most vacationers don’t spend much time here except to fly in and out of the airport. It is known as the non-touristy part of Maui. However, there are plenty of wonderful things to do in Kahului, from experiencing local culture to shopping and dining out. So, whether you’re looking for a fun day trip or a place to stay for a while, Kahului should be on your Maui travel list!

Things To Do in Kahului, HI

Kahului is a great place to explore during the summer. There are wonderful things to do and see in this vibrant town, especially if you want to experience Maui like a local. Check out local artists and other forms of Hawaiian culture near Wailuku at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Also, visit the Maui Nui Botanical Gardens. Kanaha Beach Park is close by, and most tourists don’t even know about it.

Exploring Maui

One of the best things about Kahului is its central location, which makes it easy to get to all the other fantastic spots on Maui. Maui’s well-known Kaanapali Beach is roughly an hour’s drive away. Drive the famous Road to Hana to the Kipahulu District of Haleakala National Park and hike the Pipiwai Trail through a bamboo forest. Plan another day trip to Big Beach in Makena.

There are endless day trips to explore from Kahului, making it the perfect summer destination. Add Kahului to your next Maui adventure if you want to experience Maui like a local.

Recommended by Ashlee of TheHappinessFunction.com

10. San Diego, California

Gaslamp Quarter San Diego

San Diego is a beautiful beach and port city located in southern California. The weather is perfect nearly year-round. The coldest month is December with temperatures ranging from the mid-60s to the low 50s.

San Diego has 70 miles of gorgeous coastline and is also home to Naval Base San Diego. From beaches and seafood to museums and day trips, San Diego is an excellent place for a family vacation.

Things To Do in San Diego

Visit the U.S.S Midway Museum, a decommissioned aircraft carrier open to the public. Take a self-guided tour through in each deck and check out the thirty restored aircraft and helicopters. Be sure to check out the flight simulators, too!

The Gaslamp Quarter is known as the Historic Heart of San Diego and is a lively neighborhood known for it’s restaurants, bars, nightclubs, galleries, theatres, shopping and more.

Head over to Little Italy and experience some of the best food in San Diego. You’ll find cute cafes, upscale restaurants, and delicious brunch spots. Once you’ve filled up on good food, check out all of the boutique shops.

Day Trips from San Diego

Found about halfway between San Diego Los Ángeles, Orange County makes for a great day trip. Home to gorgeous vistas, cultural and historic landmarks and some of the best surfing in Southern California. Orange County is a truly beautiful region.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alexandrea Sumuel

Alexandrea Sumuel is the founder of Wander With Alex, where she provides vacationers and travel enthusiasts with trip ideas, travel guides, news, and itineraries. She travels to experience, eat, and explore-- and, on occasion, escape! Alex’s mission is to help people travel better.

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