Summer is underway in the Northern Hemisphere according to the calendar and weather, even though this year might be somewhat different. Getting outdoors to enjoy the season feels especially important right now, so we've rounded up ten of the best places to travel in July that might be just a road trip away, depending on your home base.
In the Northeast, the shores of Rhode Island and the mountains of Vermont offer fresh air, outdoor activities, and good, old-fashioned summer fun. Further south, travelers can celebrate Independence Day in historic Baltimore and Charleston. A visit to Tulsa, a former stop on Route 66, would also be a reminder of vintage Americana.
The warm water of Florida’s Gulf Coast and the bonus of seashell souvenirs make a visit to the Fort Myers and Sanibel Island area a pleasant summer idea. Maui’s waves and breezes are also warm, if you’re seeking tropical surroundings a bit further away. The mountains of Colorado ski towns are just as inviting in summer, and Reno and Lake Tahoe, also popular winter destinations, are delightful in summer. Santa Fe is paradise for art lovers, and the July weather is perfect there, too.
Wherever your summer travels take you this year, we suggest checking local health guidelines and researching hotels, restaurants, and attractions to make sure they will be open when you visit because the coronavirus pandemic is constantly evolving. With that in mind, here are the 10 best places to travel in July.
1. Newport, Rhode Island
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Just about three hours from New York and about half that drive time from Boston, Newport is the ideal place to enjoy sea breezes, beach days, ocean views, and just being outdoors. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely walk, a bike ride, or a challenging hike, you’ll find your perfect trail in Newport. The famed Cliff Walk, Audubon Nature Center, and East Bay Bike Path are just a few of the options. For a change of scenery from the beach or walking paths, visitors can tour historic mansions built by the country’s wealthiest families in the late 19th century. Take a boat tour of Newport Harbor to learn about its history and enjoy cool ocean air at the same time, or browse the artisan shops and casual eateries in the Broadway District.
Deciding where to stay will be part of the fun, and you’ll find many lodging options including The Wayfinder Hotel, just opened with an extensive collection of local art. The historic Hotel Viking, set atop Newport’s Historic Hill neighborhood, offers renovated guest rooms and a rooftop bar with 360-degree ocean views. The luxury boutique Chanler at Cliff Walk, once a New York congressman’s family retreat, features 20 uniquely-designed rooms with a vintage atmosphere. Surrounded by Narragansett Bay, Gurney’s Newport Resort & Marina is just minutes from downtown Newport. The Vanderbilt, dating to 1909, is a meticulously restored Newport mansion.
2. Reno and Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Combining these two destinations is a great way to visit the largest alpine lake in North America and the Biggest Little City in the World. Reno officially adopted the slogan in 1929 and proudly displays it on a street-spanning sign downtown. Visitors will also notice Reno’s public art, from murals to the 70-foot-wide “BELIEVE” and life-sized “Space Whale.” Art lovers will want to explore The Nevada Museum of Art and for car fans, the National Automobile Museum is a must-visit. Gaming casinos, concert venues, breweries, and bars provide lots to do at night. Stay in The Jesse, a six-room boutique hotel or Whitney Peak Hotel in the center of downtown.
Just an hour or so to the south is Lake Tahoe, split almost down the middle between California and Nevada. Crystal blue water surrounded by tall green pines beckons visitors to water sports like kayaking, paddleboarding, jet skiing, or just calmly cruising and enjoying the scenery. Take a scenic gondola ride for panoramic views or relax on a sandy beach. In North Lake Tahoe’s Incline Village, stay at the waterfront Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe with its Grand Lodge Casino, heated pool, and spa. Further south at Stateline, the luxurious Edgewood Tahoe Resort offers rustic elegance, three dining venues, a private beach, and a spa. The Edgewood Tahoe golf course is home to the annual American Century Championship, a celebrity tournament that raises funds for local and national charities, this year scheduled for July 7-12.
3. Tulsa, Oklahoma
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Oklahoma’s second largest city, Tulsa is warm in summer with temperatures reaching the low 90’s. Set along the Arkansas River, the city offers expansive outdoor spaces like Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area, Tulsa’s River Parks, and The Gathering Place, with nearly 70 acres of free activities spanning the Arkansas River waterfront. The park, just opened in September 2018, includes playgrounds with tunnels, pirate ships, suspended bridges, a Skate Bowl, water sports, trails, and three restaurants. Dogs have parks in Tulsa too, with two Biscuit Acres Bark Parks, each with separate areas for large and small dogs, doggie drinking fountains, and a dog rinse area.
Tulsa’s story includes its location on historic Route 66, and a stop at quirky Buck Atom’s Cosmic Curios should be on every visitor’s itinerary. Also recalling Tulsa’s Route 66 history, the luxury boutique Campbell Hotel offers rooms inspired by the area’s past, including the Art Deco room, the Route 66 room, and the Lunar Eclipse room. Tulsa is home to art deco buildings dating to the 1920’s boom years of Oklahoma’s oil industry. The Boston Avenue Methodist Church, overlooking Route 66, is a fine example of the style. Tulsa’s Art District’s historic buildings are now home to galleries, theaters, restaurants, and bars. The Philbrook Museum of Art and the Gilcrease Museum are among Tulsa’s many cultural attractions.
4. Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel Island, Florida
July is warm in southwest Florida, ideal for spending lazy days at the beach. Sanibel and Captiva, along with several other barrier islands, are set on Florida’s coast in the Gulf of Mexico. Their location makes them an ideal spot for collecting the seashells that wash up on their shores, including conch, whelk, cockle, scallop, and others. Many visitors travel to the area specifically to gather the shells, which is fine as long as they’re careful not to take any that are still occupied by a live creature. The historic Sanibel Lighthouse (dating back to 1884) is another attraction, and its beacon still glows for the safety of ships in the area.
Sightseeing cruises, deep sea fishing expeditions, snorkeling, kayaking, and sailing are other ways to enjoy the warm Gulf waters around the barrier islands. Visitors might even be lucky enough to spot a manatee. These friendly animals enjoy swimming in the warm sea and can be seen in Tarpon Bay during summer. The J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge covers 7,600 acres and serves as home to 51 types of reptiles and amphibians, 32 mammal species, and hundreds of species of birds. Hiking and biking trails, observation towers, a four-mile scenic drive, and nature cruises offer many ways to experience the area’s wildlife. For a taste of Fort Myers history, visit the winter estates of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison to see their homes, laboratory, and museum.
5. Barnard, Vermont
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Fresh mountain air, bright sunshine, nature hikes, and outdoor activities sound better than ever. Barnard, located in the Green Mountains of central Vermont, with history dating pre-Revolutionary War, maintains its charm and small town appeal. Feast and Field Farmers Market hosts a weekly gathering of farmers, artists, educators, and performers on the grounds of historic Clark Farm. Silver Lake State Park sits on the northern shores of the 84-acre lake, a popular destination for day trips and camping. Kayaks, canoes, and paddle boats are available to rent, and facilities include bathrooms, showers, and playgrounds. Visitors enjoy fishing, hiking, and swimming in the clean waters of Silver Lake, and leashed dogs are welcome.
Established in 1832, the authentic General Store is a staple in town, and locals and tourists alike are warmly welcomed. Conveniently located on the shores of Silver Lake, it is a must-stop for delicious sandwiches, renowned breakfasts, ice cream, local beer, wine, and various necessities. For visitors seeking rustic luxury, Twin Farms, an all-inclusive five-star resort, offers amenities that include private cottages, exceptional farm-to-table culinary options, plentiful outdoor activities, a spa, and a fitness center. Set on 300 acres of meadows and woodlands overlooking the Green Mountains, the resort features 20 unique accommodations. Nearby popular towns such as Woodstock, Bethel, and Royalton offer additional options for dining, sightseeing, and activities.
6. Colorado Ski Towns
This summer, probably even more than usual, we’ll be looking to spend vacation time outdoors. Towns and resorts that fill with skiers and winter sports fans are beautiful warm weather destinations, too. In Breckenridge, more than 100 miles of hiking and biking trails offer opportunities for enjoying its scenery and mountains. Whitewater rafting, fly fishing, paddleboarding, kayaking, and boating on the area’s rivers, streams, and lakes are perfect summer activities. Places to stay range from campgrounds to luxury accommodations, including One Ski Hill Place and the new, pet-friendly Gravity Haus.
In Aspen, hiking is popular in summer, and visitors can take a ride on the Silver Queen Gondola to the 11,212 foot top of Aspen Mountain. Golf, whitewater rafting in the Roaring Fork River, and enjoying the town keep summer visitors busy. Stay at the historic, luxe Hotel Jerome, stylish Aspen Meadows Resort, or choose The Little Nell for five-star comfort, convenient location, and superb dining.
Vail is also lovely in summer, and adventure fans will want to experience the Forest Flyer Mountain Coaster, zipline above treetops, or try whitewater rafting. Vail hotels include The Arrabelle, The Lodge at Vail, and Vail Marriott Mountain Resort. Game Creek Chalet, a private lodge, sleeps up to ten guests. Ski towns like Durango, Crested Butte, Telluride, Silverton, and Steamboat are also ideal summer playgrounds.
7. Baltimore, Maryland
Summertime in Baltimore brings to mind beaches, amusement parks, baseball, and food, especially Maryland crabs. This summer unites Americans, cautiously and carefully, in the patriotic city where Francis Scott Key penned "The Star-Spangled Banner" during the War of 1812.
Baltimore usually hosts a number of celebrations for July 4, but several have been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Events that are currently still scheduled include the annual Independence Day pet parade and Red, White and Zoo Day at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore (although this is subject to change). While this diverse city has no shortage of fine hotels, the historic Ivy Hotel, a renovated 19th century mansion, offers its guests a unique, world-class experience as the only Relais & Chateaux property in Maryland. The boutique Sagamore Pendry Baltimore on Recreation Pier is another great option.
8. Charleston, South Carolina
History, charm, vintage architecture, beaches, harbor, and waterfront dining make a summer visit to Charleston an ideal vacation or long weekend getaway. Stroll among the pastel homes of Rainbow Row, the longest stretch of Georgian houses in the country, visit the South Carolina Aquarium, or enjoy summer breezes aboard a harbor cruise. Learn about Charleston’s history, art, and architecture with Bulldog Tours or take a walking food tour, tasting along the way, chatting with chefs, and visiting the city’s local markets.
9. Maui, Hawaii
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The second largest of the Hawaiian islands, Maui offers many ways to enjoy its beauty and varied terrain. There are beaches, mountains, rainforests, farms, ranches, and quaint towns. The Haleakala volcano in the island’s southeast is home to a national park where visitors flock to watch the sunrise and sunset (reservation required), to hike, or to take thrilling downhill bike rides. Away from hotel pools, beaches, and golf courses, Maui’s upcountry is cool, often misty, and inviting. There’s a winery, goat farm, restaurants, and the town of Makawao, a reminder of the paniolo or cowboys of Maui who still hold a rodeo every July 4.
On the island’s west side, resort areas of Kaanapali and Kapalua offer luxurious hotels and the town of Lahaina with restaurants, shops, and ocean views. The Montage Kapalua Bay, Kaanapali Beach Hotel, Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa, and The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua are excellent options in the West Maui beach area. South Maui, on the island’s southwestern coast, boasts views of Lanai, Molokini, and Kahoolawe, as well as sunny beaches and the Maui Ocean Center aquarium. The Wailea resort community features a host of luxurious hotels, condos, and private homes, along with restaurants, shops, and golf courses. The Andaz Maui at Wailea and The Four Seasons Maui at Wailea are two of the lovely properties in the resort area. While your trip to Maui is in the planning stages, you can get into the spirit with these ideas from Four Seasons Hawaii. Create a lei while you listen to Hawaiian music via a specially-curated Spotify playlist and dream of your Maui vacation.
10. Santa Fe, New Mexico
July is the perfect time to hike to the higher elevations and cooler temperatures of the mountains near Santa Fe. Dog-friendly Nambe Lake, with its crystal clear water, is a favorite and somewhat challenging destination. A less demanding sunset hike on the Dorothy Stewart Trails offers sweeping views of Santa Fe and neighboring mountain ranges. Sante Fe has inspired generations of artists and art lovers. The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, and Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return are among many delightful excursions. Stroll along Canyon Road, a half-mile stretch of over 100 galleries, art studios, and public art installations.
The secluded Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado, located on 57 acres in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains overlooking the Rio Grande River Valley, provides an incomparable experience. From private, fully-equipped casitas to exquisite farm-to-table dining options, craft cocktails, and local brews at Terra Restaurant and Terra Bar, guests enjoy five-star indulgences. The Spa sits on a spiritual vortex, said to create balance and harmony in the body. Additional amenities include an infinity pool, hot tub, gym, and yoga and meditation classes. The on-site Adventure by Design program offers a wide selection of private guided experiences, and the Experience More resort credit provides special savings from now through 2021.