Surprising Summer Escapes
If you're feeling warm-weather wanderlust and want to travel this summer, you have a couple options.
Of course, you could always book a trip to a super-popular summer tourist destination (hello, Disney World), wait in long lines, roast in the hot, humid weather, and generally feel miserable and frustrated during what’s supposed to be a relaxing vacation.
On the other hand, you could look for something that’s a little more off-the-beaten-path or unexpected — a trip to Africa to see a stampede of millions of wildebeests, perhaps, or a jaunt through Iceland to experience a place where the summer sun never sets (literally).
These 15 destinations around the world are perfect for summer travel — and some of them might just surprise you. What are you waiting for?
Victoria, British Columbia
Why it’s a summer surprise: Though you might picture all of Canada as a snowy, winter wonderland that’s best for skiing or other cold-weather activities, it’s insanely beautiful here in the summer months.
Summer temps: 50s and 60s
To-do list: Prepare your senses for a feast: When you visit in June, July and August, you’ll see dazzling colors, smell hundreds of types of flowers and enjoy cool sea breezes on your skin.
Located on the southernmost tip of Vancouver Island, Victoria is home to the breathtaking Butchart Gardens, where you’ll find more than 900 varieties of plants and flowers in bloom. The gardens are full of rich, vibrant colors in the summer, so you’ll want to have your camera at the ready.
You can also wander through the floating homes at Fisherman’s Wharf, then grab the best fish and chips in town at Red Fish Blue Fish, an unpretentious little food stand along the water.
Hottest summer event: Saturday night fireworks show at Butchart Gardens
Why it’s a summer surprise: It’s no secret that Jackson is a shredder’s paradise (for the uninitiated, that’s slang for hardcore skiers and snowboarders) — Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has the longest continuous vertical rise of any ski area in the United States.
But hear us out: This mountain town is just as enticing in the summer months.
Summer temps: 70s and low 80s
To-do list: Jackson is the perfect launch point for visiting both Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park. On top of that, you can play outdoors until you’ve had your fill — fly fishing, hiking, trail running, camping, whitewater rafting, standup paddleboarding and camping are just a few of your options.
Don’t feel like roughing it? You can still experience that rough-and-tumble Wyoming charm by “glamping” at places like Rustic Inn Creekside Resort and Spa, which has individual cabins right along the Snake River.
Hottest summer event: June’s Jackson Hole Food & Wine Summer Festival, when local cuisine, wine, spirits and craft beers take center stage during tastings, classes and more
Why it’s a summer surprise: Though you might be inclined to visit Germany in the winter to hit up its festive Christmas markets, summer weather here is dreamy and moderate, and there are tons of outdoor bars, restaurants and activities to pursue.
Summer temps: Upper 60s to upper 70s
To-do list: Located along the beautiful Rhine River, Mainz is a charming German city with historical architecture and modern amenities. The weather is perfect for strolling along the Rhine with a gelato in hand. Plus, Germany’s serene wine region is not far away if you feel like venturing out.
If you need to cool off, you can always pop inside the well-designed and highly informative Gutenberg Museum, which details the life and work of Johann Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press.
The city’s main square is also lined with patios for drinking beer and people-watching. And it’s home to a farmers market, so you can pick up some fresh pastries, produce and flowers for an authentic German experience.
Hottest summer event: Summer in the City, a series of genre-spanning concerts that take place throughout Mainz, from its historic citadel to the Rhine-front Cassian Carl barge
Why it’s a summer surprise: Though you might be hesitant to visit the Caribbean during the summer months, when hot humidity is the norm, it’s actually the perfect antidote to an especially brutal winter in the states and other cold-weather locales. Sure, temperatures will be slightly higher than other times of year, but not by much.
Summer temps: High 70s and 80s
To-do list: Cool off during regular afternoon showers and take advantage of the nearly empty beaches, world-renowned scuba-diving sites and other activities. On top of that, visiting the Cayman Islands won’t break the bank in the summer, since it’s technically the offseason and luxury resorts offer stellar deals.
Relaxing on the beach is a must, of course, but if you get tired of lounging about, there’s so much more to do here. At the Kimpton Seafire Resort & Spa, for instance, you’ll have a hard time choosing between all the activities — standup paddleboarding, snorkeling, kayaking, jet skiing, sailing, beach yoga, the list goes on. You can even borrow a GoPro underwater camera to document all your adventures.
Hottest summer event: Always Summer Saturdays at the Royal Palms, featuring musical performances and food and drink specials under the Caribbean sun
Why it’s a summer surprise: While you might consider visiting Iceland in the fall, winter or early spring to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights, there’s a lot to be said for visiting in the summer, when the weather is mild and you won’t be hamstrung by hours of darkness.
Summer temps: Upper 50s and lower 60s
To-do list: Summer is incredible in Iceland, Reykjavik included. For starters, you can really make the most out of your trip, especially if you’re short on time, because the sun is up for at least 20 hours a day — sometimes 24 hours a day — in the summer. It’s called the “Midnight sun” and it’s pretty spectacular (if you don’t mind losing a tiny bit of sleep).
Because the weather is so gorgeous here, you may be battling with other visitors for the best accommodations and activities, but there’s plenty for everyone to do and see. You can go whale-watching, hiking, biking and soaking in a thermal spa, to name just a few options.
Hottest summer event: Summer Solstice; on June 21, in the pagan tradition, revelers celebrate Iceland’s longest day with bonfires, walking tours and an Old Norse feast.
Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Why it’s a summer surprise: Like Jackson, Wyoming, Steamboat Springs is best known as a winter playground for skiers and snowboarders. But in the summer, ahhh, Steamboat is downright gorgeous.
Summer temps: 70s and 80s
To-do list: Looking for some summertime color? Check out the town’s spectacular flowers, in bloom everywhere in the Yampa Valley during the summer months.
Plus, Steamboat Springs has a country Western vibe to it, so visiting during the summer means you can pretend you’re a cowboy or cowgirl. Get your yee-haw on at Vista Verde Ranch, an all-inclusive dude ranch that offers activities including horseback riding, mountain biking, climbing, hiking, paddleboarding, yoga and more (OK, to be fair, this place is equally as awesome during the winter).
Hottest summer event: Wildflower Wanders, a weekly event from late June to late August featuring a naturalist-guided tour of the area’s gorgeous wildflowers
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Why it’s a summer surprise: Nova Scotia might conjure up images of freezing North Atlantic breezes, but it’s actually a very pleasant place to be from June to September.
Summer temps: Upper 60s and lower 70s (yes, if you are close to the ocean, it will be a bit cooler and breezy, but it’s nothing that a light sweater can’t solve!)
To-do list: Take advantage of Halifax’s many bars, breweries and nightclubs. Enjoy a leisurely summer stroll along the boardwalk, visit the stunning grounds at the Halifax Public Gardens, go fishing, play some golf or take a bike ride.
Halifax, which is home to roughly 400,000 people, also has tons of opportunities to explore maritime history.
Hottest summer event: You won’t want to skip the Halifax Jazz Festival, which combines the absolute best summer activities into one six-day event — music on the Halifax waterfront, what could be better?
Why it’s a summer surprise: Though it’s dutifully taught in geography class, many forget that the seasons are flipped on the other side of the world. This makes summer the perfect time to visit Sydney, as it’s when temperatures are nice and cool, providing a reprieve from hot weather.
Summer temps: Generally around 50 degrees (pack a light jacket)
To-do list: One of the best reasons to visit Sydney during the summer months? Whale-watching. During Australia’s winter, thousands of humpback whales travel north to warmer waters to give birth to calves. You can catch a glimpse of some 20,000 humpback males from the shore or on an excursion. You might also spot minke whales and orcas.
And while it may be too chilly for a swim, the weather is still nice enough for a trip to Bondi Beach, where you can relax on the sand or take a walk along the Bondi-to-Coogee coastal trail.
Hottest summer event: Held in late May and early June, Vivid Sydney is a three-week citywide event featuring seminars, performances and light installations. The discussion topics are fairly weighty, covering everything from climate change to the future of sex.
Taos, New Mexico
Why it’s a summer surprise: New Mexico is mostly a dry, hot desert, but you can find cooler hidden gems here during the summer months — if you know where to look. Though Taos is renowned for its Ski Valley attractions during the winter, it’s actually one of the state’s best summertime spots.
Summer temps: Low- to mid-80s
To-do list: An artsy, friendly mountain community at 6,900 feet in elevation, Taos offers tons to do during the summer. After a day of mountain biking or rafting, you can relax in natural hot springs like the ones at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs. You can also go llama-trekking — basically hiking and camping with llamas carrying your gear.
Don’t leave without visiting Taos Pueblo, a Pueblo Indian settlement and UNESCO World Heritage site.
Hottest summer event: Las Fiestas de Taos is an annual cultural event in July celebrating the city’s two patron saints: Santa Ana and Santiago. You can expect a royal pageant, a parade and lots of live performances.
Why it’s a summer surprise: Alaska’s snowy environs and towering glaciers make people think of winter, but summer is arguably the best time to visit. Like other far-north destinations, Anchorage gets lots of sunlight hours during the summer months (15 to 20 hours, depending on the month). That means you’ll have plenty of time to squeeze in all the exploring you want to do during your visit — and there’s so much to do outdoors here.
Summer temps: Generally around 70 degrees
To-do list: Fishing, four-wheeling, kayaking, golfing, rafting and climbing are popular during the summer months, along with wildlife viewing and cruises. One of the most memorable ways to take in the summer landscapes is by going on a “flightseeing” tour on a small aircraft.
Believe it or not, you can also still go on a dog-sledding expedition during the summer months!
Hottest summer event: The Anchorage Downtown Summer Solstice Festival is an annual celebration of the solstice, complete with live music, a basketball tournament, chalk art, activities for kids, food trucks, performances and more.
Why it’s a summer surprise: You might think summer would be too hot and humid for a trip to Budapest, but the weather is surprisingly mild here in June, July and August. It’s a great time to take advantage of all the outdoor patios and activities Budapest has to offer.
Summer temps: 70s and 80s
To-do list: Budapest comes to life during the summer months, with festivals, events and concerts galore. Walk or cruise along the Danube River in comfort, or enjoy a soak or splash in one of Budapest’s outdoor baths and pools, including the 18 pools at the popular Széchenyi Spa.
The city, which is home to 1.7 million people, is also perfect to explore by bike or on foot during the temperate summer months.
Hottest summer event: It’s hard to pick just one...so we won’t. The annual Sziget Festival in early August features top performing artists and musicians on Óbuda Island. There’s also the month-long Summer Music Festival at Vajdahunyad Castle, as well as the celebration of St. Stephen’s Day in August.
Why it’s a summer surprise: When you think of Aspen you likely envision dark-green evergreen trees, powdery white snow and a cup of steaming hot cocoa. And while yes, the skiing at Aspen Snowmass is some of the best in the world, this place should also be on your summer bucket list.
Summer temps: 50s to 70s
To-do list: Not only will you pay a fraction of the price to stay in this luxury mountain region during the summer, but you’ll also experience Colorado’s gorgeous summer weather firsthand.
Once the snow melts, places like Viceroy Snowmass, a luxury ski resort at the base of Aspen Snowmass, blossom into bustling launchpads for summer activities in the Roaring Fork Valley, ranging from paintballing and fly fishing to music festivals and disc golf.
Plus, Aspen and the surrounding areas are incredibly dog-friendly, so you can plan a vacation that your dog will love, too.
Hottest summer event: Held at the end of the summer, the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience has showcased performances from artists like Weezer, John Mayer, Sting and more.
Why it’s a summer surprise: While you may be thinking about snow and ice when you picture the Alps, this region of the world is really something special in the summer.
Summer temps: Low- to mid-70s
To-do list: Lucerne can serve as the perfect home base for exploring the Swiss Alps. It’s located along idyllic Lake Lucerne, nestled among mountains and foothills, which means there’s beauty everywhere you turn.
Summers in Lucerne are warm and rejuvenating, and it’s an ideal time to take in everything the town has to offer — arts and culture, medieval architecture, modern shopping areas, and sunny plazas for eating and drinking. Take a day trip to Mount Pilatus for panoramic views of the city or visit Chapel Bridge, one of the oldest wooden footbridges in Europe.
Hottest summer event: The annual 9-day Blue Balls Festival in July attracts 100,000 people to more than 100 music and art events. It’s one of Switzerland’s largest festivals, featuring pop, rock, soul, funk, jazz, blues and other styles of music, as well as movies, art, photography and lectures.
Acadia National Park, Maine
Why it’s a summer surprise: Travelers generally pencil in their New England trips for the fall, when colorful foliage is in full bloom. Our advice? Go once in the fall and another time in the summer, when places like Maine's Acadia National Park offer new delights.
Summer temps: 50s to 70s
To-do list: You could just wander around with no plans at all and find much to love in one of America's most naturally blessed national parks. But if you really want to ensure a memorable experience, carve out time to explore Sand Beach, flanked by pink-granite walls, and Thunder Hole, a semi-submerged cave that sprays spectacular bursts of water.
Hottest summer event: The Bar Harbor Music Festival in the town nearest to the park has been entertaining the masses with jazz, opera and classical music for over 50 years each July.
Southern Kenya and Northern Tanzania
Why it’s a summer surprise: Though you might assume that Africa is hot and dry all year long, the summer months are actually a bit cooler in Kenya and not as rainy as other times of the year.
Summer temps: High 60s to low 80s
To-do list: When you visit southern Kenya and northern Tanzania during the summer months, you’ll catch a glimpse of one of the most spectacular natural wonders on earth: the wildebeest migration.
Roughly 2 million wildebeests, zebra and gazelles head north each summer (typically during July and August) to the Masai Mara in Kenya as part of their annual migration cycle. They walk an average of 6 miles per day, searching for fresh grass to graze on.