Hot, beachy destinations — like Miami, Honolulu, or Los Angeles — tend to get a lot of attention from tourists year round, including in the summer.
But there are many fantastic summer travel destinations across the U.S. where you can avoid big crowds — and maybe even boost your bank account by saving a few bucks.
To help you plan, here are 15 destinations you may not know about that deserve a visit in the summer months.
San Juan Islands, Washington
Those looking for a lesser-known destination on the West Coast should check out the San Juan Islands in Washington.
The islands are known for mild temperatures, beautiful views, and wildlife. Summer is also the prime whale-watching time in the area. Guests can hop in a kayak or book a whale-watching tour.
Lake Lure, North Carolina
Lake Lure is in the Blue Ridge Mountains region of North Carolina, about 27 miles from Asheville.
Visitors can take a dip in the lake on a hot day or climb 300-plus feet to the top of Chimney Rock for breathtaking views of the area from above.
A fun bonus: Several movies, including Dirty Dancing and The Last of the Mohicans, were filmed in the area.
Pro tip: When traveling, make sure to carry a credit card that can help you earn travel rewards or other perks.
While Florida is typically a popular summer destination, Clearwater has the benefit of flying a bit further under the radar than spots such as Miami or Orlando.
The city is located in the Tampa Bay area and boasts gorgeous white-sand beaches, beautiful blue water, and plenty of nightlife and kids' attractions to keep the whole family entertained.
Mendocino County, California
Napa Valley probably comes to mind first when you think of California wine country.
But a lesser-known area along California’s coast, Mendocino County, has its own thriving wine scene. It’s home to 40 wineries, plus miles of hiking trails among beautiful redwoods.
The area is also known for its health and wellness attractions: Visitors can find peace and serenity at local spas, outdoor meditation opportunities, and more.
Big Sky, Montana
Montana’s Big Sky may be known as a winter skiing destination, but there is plenty of fun to be had in the summer months as well.
Visitors can enjoy white-water rafting, fly fishing, miles of hiking trails, or picnicking among the wildflower fields. The summer also features live music, farmers markets, and weekly rodeos.
Moosehead Lake, Maine
Outdoorsy types looking to avoid crowds should consider Moosehead Lake in Maine.
The lake is the state’s largest body of water, covering an area of about 75,000 acres. The area is excellent for hiking, kayaking, wildlife photography, and — you guessed it — catching a glimpse of a moose up close and personal.
Slide Rock State Park, Arizona
The name says it all for this incredible Arizona summer destination.
Slide Rock State Park is located within Oak Creek Canyon, which is north of Sedona. It is named for an 80-foot-long natural waterslide made of sandstone that visitors can glide down.
Aside from the slide, the park has plenty of trails, fishing areas, incredible views, and an area where visitors can swim in the creek and watch others glide down the natural wonder.
Mount Hood, Oregon
If you love to ski, this is one of the only places in the U.S. where you can do it in the summer. Timberline Lodge in Oregon has North America's longest ski and snowboard season.
The lodge typically has skiable conditions for 10 months out of the year — and there are plenty of opportunities for hiking and other activities in the area to keep vacationers entertained.
The Black Hills, South Dakota
Certain areas of the Black Hills can get very crowded in the summer months, since it is home to Mount Rushmore.
However, Black Hills National Forest has more natural beauty to offer — and travelers trying to avoid crowds can still explore local hiking trails, lakes, caves, incredible wildlife, and more.
Thousand Islands, New York
All the way at the top of New York state, the Thousand Islands region consists of hundreds of miles of coastline between the U.S. and Canada.
Visitors can visit fascinating local museums, check out one of many local wineries or breweries, enjoy the eclectic food scene, or take a boat tour to explore the area’s beauty.
Great Basin National Park, Nevada
Great Basin National Park — located near Baker, Nevada — is particularly beautiful in the summertime. Guests will be in awe of Wheeler Peak, and ambitious visitors may even want to try hiking all 13,063 feet of it.
The area also offers astronomy programs and breathtaking views of the vast night sky.
Stowe is another ski destination that is ideal for soaking up charm while avoiding big crowds.
Visitors can enjoy more than 50 miles of biking trails, incredible hikes, the beauty of Lake Mansfield, and the delightful small-town vibes. It’s also home to beer halls and breweries.
Finger Lakes, New York
Upstate New York has many great summer destinations — whether you’re looking for camping, casinos, or wine country.
The Finger Lakes region gets its name from the 11 lakes that run through the area. It has plenty of natural beauty to offer, including wine trails where visitors can do some delicious tastings. The area is known for its rieslings.
Aspen may be known as a popular (and expensive) winter destination for skiers, but the area also has plenty to offer in the summer.
The area boasts miles of incredible hiking trails, plenty of water recreation on the Roaring Fork River, famed restaurants, and a thriving arts scene.
Jackson, often called Jackson Hole, is mostly known as a ski town. However, the stunning area can be a blast any time of year.
Visitors can enjoy hiking trails, beautiful views of the Tetons, and a lively downtown area. What’s more, visitors in the summer can likely save big over what they would pay in the winter.
Hitting a hot spot during its off-season is a great way to save money when vacation planning. Sure, it would be great to hit Aspen’s ski slopes in the winter, but it will be both crowded and expensive.
Summer vacationers who get a bit creative with their destinations can end up saving big.
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Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
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