Don’t get us wrong, it can certainly be fun and exciting to visit America’s hot spots from Yosemite to New York City, but occasionally there’s just something about finding one of those lesser-known hidden gems. So, if you’re wondering what you should do for summer 2022, look no further. We tapped the travel experts for experiences you need to add to your summer bucket list—while avoiding crowds of tourists. It’s time to trade your typical travel plans for some new destinations. Trust us, you don’t want to miss these experiences.
What destinations should you put on a summer bucket list?
If you’re currently planning a summer getaway and looking to discover off-the-beaten-path and underrated vacation locations in the USA, keep reading for some great treasures to add to your bucket list!
Debra Schroeder, travel expert and founder of Traveling Well for Less recommends:
Lynden, Washington—This Dutch-themed town is budget-friendly and an easy day trip from Seattle. If Europe is out of the question, Lynden is a great way to experience a little taste of Dutch culture without having to fly to the Netherlands. Take a stroll down Front Street to see the full-sized Dutch windmill and explore antique stores, Dutch and German restaurants, jewelry and other specialty shops. You can also pop by the Lynden Pioneer Museum to immerse yourself in the history of Lynden and Whatcom County. One other fun fact — Lynden, WA is the largest producer of raspberries in the nation.
Alamogordo, New Mexico—Alamogordo is a tiny town at the base of the Sacramento Mountains and offers an abundance of outdoor activities, as well as plenty of museums to check out like the New Mexico Museum of Space History or the Tularosa Basin Museum of History. Most visitors stay in Alamogordo to be minutes from bucket list-worthy White Sands National Park — the world’s largest gypsum dunefield offers 275 square miles of pure white “sand” and is quite the sight to see!
Florence, Alabama—Designer shopping, amazing food and culture are a few surprising things to discover in Florence, Alabama. If you decide to take a trip here, make sure to note that Florence is also home to the Fame Recording Studioswhere music industry greats like Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, The Rolling Stones and Cher have all recorded.
Peter Delle, head of marketing of Onsite Planning recommends:
Badlands National Park, South Dakota—The Badlands is one of the lesser visited national parks in the United States (about a million visitors per year compared with a whopping 15 million traveling to Smoky Mountains National Park), but that certainly doesn’t make it any less worthy. It’s a beautiful park with plenty of access to nature that is limited in other national parks because of the high amount of traffic. Camping under the stars is a great bucket list item or family trip idea. Oh, and don’t forget to keep an eye out for the free-roaming herds of bighorn sheep, and other various wildlife like bison, prairie dogs and burrowing owls.
Chico & Petaluma, California—Many wine lovers are already familiar with Northern California's Napa and Sonoma counties as bucket list destinations, but beer lovers may be surprised to know that Northern California still has plenty to offer. Chico, a hidden gem in the Sacramento Valley region of Northern California, is the birthplace of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., and has played quite the role in America’s craft beer revolution. Beer is certainly not all, though. It’s also home to Bidwell Park, a remarkable 3,670 acre park in the center of the city that offers hiking and biking trails, picnic areas and swimming holes. Petaluma, also located in Northern California, is home to several breweries including Lagunitas and the gateway to some of Sonoma County's well known attractions including the California Cheese Trail.
Tucker County, West Virginia—Another location that’s likely not on your list (but should be) is Tucker County in West Virginia. Blackwater Falls State Park in particular is a hidden vaca spot in the Allegheny Mountains which is home to a stunning 57-foot waterfall where you can take in its amber-tinted water with all its glory (the beautiful color is due to the tannic acid from hemlock and red spruce leaves. This park is a perfect getaway for outdoor enthusiasts whether it be with a significant other, friends or family.
Barbara Winard, travel expert and writer recommends:
New Castle, Delaware—New Castle in Delaware is bursting with American history from its days as a Dutch settlement in 1651, and while it is chock-full of great places for all ages to visit, it remains a bit off the tourist track and is rarely crowded — New Castle’s rich history, gorgeous old buildings and charming gardens can’t be beat for a solo, couple or family destination this summer. Check out the iconic Jessop’s Tavern on the main drag which is housed in a nearly 350-year-old building where you’ll find more than 200 varieties of Belgian beer, as well as others from around the USA and the world. Another favorite hangout of mine is the nearby and relatively new Mercury Café, also housed in a historic building where you can sit in the charming garden or in the light-filled back room and feast on delicious vegetarian fare, alcoholic and non-alcoholic concoctions and coffee or exotic blends of tea. There are several other great restaurants in town, as well as antiques, art and even steampunk hats at Opera House Art & Antiques.
Wildwood Crest, New Jersey—Another possibility to consider in the northeast is Wildwood Crest, a town “down the shore” in New Jersey that’s just south of its more famous cousin, Wildwood. Doo Wop is alive and well here, and for those unfamiliar with the term, it is a style of music popular in the 1950s and 60s with tight harmonies (think The Platters or The Temptations). In architecture, Doo Wop style features plastic palm trees, jet-age images, Las Vegas neon signs and some colonial revival kitsch. The Wildwoods are home to one of the largest collections of 1950s & 1960s commercial architecture in the country — you can see the lights shining on the colorful motels lining the streets as you walk or drive down Wildwood Crest's lively Ocean Avenue.
You’ll easily be able to visit nearby Wildwood to experience Splash Zone Water Park, Morey’s Piers and Beachfront Water Park, Raging Waters and the Wildwoods Convention Center — after working up an appetite, you may want to chow down in style at the Doo Wop Dineror the Surfside West Diner. Finally, if you’re up for a quick road trip, you can head on over to Cape May which has great restaurants, beaches and a beautiful lighthouse.
Sue Davies, co-founder and author at Travel For Life Now recommends:
Cooperstown, New York—The majority of visitors come to Cooperstown to check out the National Baseball Hall of Fame (no doubt a bucket list destination for baseball fans of all ages), but there is so much more to this village. The Glimmerglass Festivalbrings world class opera to town every summer and be sure to stop by the Fenimore Art Museum which has an extensive American Indian art collection. For families, The Farmers’ Museum and Fly Creek Cider Mill & Orchard are two worthy spots among many other possibilities. To get in your dose of fresh air, outdoor activities abound in and around Otsego Lake, and finally, for artisanal spirits, visit the Cooperstown Distillery or the Ommegang Brewery.
Corning, New York—Another treasure in upstate New York is Corning — aka “America’s most fun small town.” The Corning Museum of Glass is a must — it brings the history, science and beauty of glass to life where you’ll be able to experience glass blowing demonstrations, hands-on workshops and a gift shop full of wondrous creations. The Gaffer District, a short walk from the glass museum, is dotted with shops and restaurants. Finally, wine and outdoor lovers will enjoy the Finger Lakes region (a group of eleven, roughly north-south lakes) which is only an hour’s drive away.