By: Kristin Bugden
Kristin Bugden is a New Jersey-based mom and communications consultant. She loves to write, take barre classes and believes in a good reality television binge-watching session. Here, she shares the best U.S. cities to visit this summer.
There’s no better time to use up some of those vacation days than summer and the United States offers plenty of options to consider thanks to its vast geography. While that’s a good thing, it can be hard to narrow down exactly where to go, so we turned to a few experts on their top suggestions. Find your best pick, pack your essentials (including Vital Proteins Collagen Water to stay hydrated on all your walks!) and enjoy a new adventure. Safe travels!
Denver, Colorado and Richmond, Virginia: Recommended by Jeff Allen, Co-Founder of The Vacation Hunt
Denver is one of our top go-to cities really any time of year! The mountains provide beautiful scenery in all four seasons, but summer is the ideal time to enjoy the weather in the Rockies with a great hike. We recommend visiting Rocky Mountain National Park, Mount Evans, and for a fun day trip, a hike in the Guanella Pass with a stop in the Victorian mining town of Georgetown. In Denver, the restaurants on Larimer Square and along the 16th Street Mall give you tons of dining options, and there are plenty of other attractions in the city from world-class museums to kicking back and enjoying a late evening baseball game at Coors Field! A fun place to stay close to downtown is the possibly haunted-mansion-turned-bed-and-breakfast, The Patterson Inn.
Richmond itself is a historic city on the James River that offers some notable buildings to explore and is home to a fantastic art museum, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, which has the largest collection of rare Fabergé eggs in the United States. The city also has a fun dining and nightlife district on the waterfront, Carytown, which is great for a little self-guided food tour or late-night live music. Outside of Richmond, tons of spots in central Virginia make for fantastic day trips, such as hiking and winery-hopping the slopes and valleys of the Shenandoah Mountains; becoming immersed in colonial history at the historic Jamestown and Williamsburg settlements; or experiencing the thrills of Busch Gardens. A great place to stay in Richmond is the historic 5-star Jefferson Hotel.
Phoenix, Arizona; Palo Alto, California; and Portland, Oregon: Suggested by Susan Lanier-Graham, Editor-in-Chief and Founder of WanderWithWonder.com
While Arizona is plenty hot in the summer, there are some amazing deals available for families. Phoenix and Scottsdale have some of the best resorts in the country and rooms that can be hundreds of dollars in high season are typically a fraction of the cost in the summer months. If you want pool-side fun with a touch of luxury, I recommend booking at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, where they have fantastic summer events from Memorial Day through Labor Day, complete with fireworks on Friday and Saturday nights. Another family favorite is JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort. There’s a great spa at both resorts, and parents can tuck kiddos into the kids’ club and have some time to themselves. If you’re looking for a more adult-themed stay, I recommend Four Seasons Resort at Troon in Scottsdale or Royal Palms Resort in Phoenix.
If you prefer to stay downtown, I recommend either the Kimpton Hotel Palomar (with a hot rooftop pool scene in the summer months) or the Residence Inn by Marriott Phoenix Downtown. Both are right on the Light Rail Line, located at CityCenter. If you’re looking for a great spot for happy hour, drinks, and a mountain view, I recommend Jade Bar at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain. While in Phoenix, the must-do things for the summer months are the Musical Instrument Museum (my favorite museum anywhere in the world), Heard Museum in downtown Phoenix (highlights Native American history), and a drive two hours north to Sedona. It’s probably my favorite “happy place” in the world, with gorgeous red rock canyons and mountain streams.
Everyone knows about Silicon Valley and visiting there can be a great vacation. It’s a beautiful area that stretches from the San Francisco Bay on one side to the Pacific Ocean on the other. There’s a lot to do here and the weather is just about perfect in the summer. For starters, I love the Computer History Museum, which is a great way to spend a morning. For those of us who grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s, it is a walk through our childhoods and early adult years, but also provides a glimpse into the future of computing. I also recommend walking around the Stanford University campus which offers free tours and is home to a great art museum called the Cantor Arts Center.
Make sure to also get out into the countryside. Stop by historic Filoli Gardens where you can walk through flowering gardens and drive along Highway 1 to get a beautiful view of the coast. There are also gorgeous farms in this area, some with self-pick options, as well as plenty of wineries along the way. One of my favorite hotels anywhere is in Palo Alto, called The Clement. This is a luxurious, all-inclusive hotel experience and the food is superb. Another hotel option right in Palo Alto is Dinah’s Garden Hotel, which offers fun themed rooms and a great pool area. Just out front of Dinah’s is an amazing place to eat dinner called The Sea by Alexander’s where you can find a beautiful blend of Pacific coast dishes and Asian flavors.
Portland is a fabulous city, especially in the warmer months when the sun comes out and all the farmers markets are active. I recommend staying at the Porter Portland Hotel or Hotel Rose if you want to be right in the middle of the action. There are so many great things to do in Portland and a plethora of fantastic restaurants, not to mention the food trucks. While in Portland, you must head south through the Willamette Valley for some wine tasting. I also suggest heading to Multnomah Falls, just east of the city on I-84, which is a majestic waterfall that you can see with an easy hike. My favorite part of Oregon is the coast, about 90 minutes east of the city. There is so much to do up and down the coast and you must stop in at the Tillamook Creamery where you can take a tour of this factory that makes cheese, butter, and ice cream.
Boston, Massachusetts and San Francisco, California: Recommended by Eileen Ogintz, Creator of Taking the Kids which includes a Kid’s Guide series to major American cities and national parks
Boston offers a variety of fun activities for the whole family throughout the summertime. For example, go whale watching and visit the terrific New England Aquarium. Learn American History by taking a walk on the Freedom Trail, shop for souvenirs at historic Faneuil Hall, or watch a ball game at Fenway Park – one of the oldest in the country. You can’t leave the city without enjoying some lobster rolls and other seafood, so head on over to the Quincy Market Food Colonnade to get your fill. For a fun hotel idea, stay at the Fairmont Copley Place in Boston and you can take the resident pooch for a walk.
Another family-friendly vacation option is San Francisco, which offers tons to do and is a fun place to get kids to try new foods thanks to a plethora of options. Make sure to hit the interactive Exploratorium, a must-see museum, and learn the history of San Francisco through bread at Boudin Bakery (definitely try the chowder in a sourdough bowl while here). Other necessary activities include visiting the Presidio, the largest national park in an urban area. Be sure to also check out the Ferry Building, which is home to one of the country’s best farmers markets, and of course, ride a cable car. I’d suggest a suite hotel like Embassy Suites or Staybridge Suites for more space and free breakfast, but if you’re after independent options, the Argonaut or the Inn at the Presidio offer a different experience.