15 Underrated Summer Travel Spots Where You Can Avoid Crowds and Get a Good Deal

These incredible destinations can help you avoid crowds and save cash.

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Updated May 28, 2024
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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

Richard/Adobe orca whales in san juan

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.

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Lake Lure, North Carolina

Chansak Joe A./Adobe Beautiful picture of Chimney Rock State Park and Lake Lure in North Carolina,USA in fall season

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.

Clearwater, Florida

artiom.photo/Adobe Panorama view of city of Florida with beautiful sight of hotels and resorts on Island, blue-Turquoise Ocean water in a sunny day.

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

Mary Ellen Tysinger/Wirestock Creators/Adobe vineyard rows in mendocino county

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

Andrew Potter/Adobe A fly fisher standing on a rock at the edge of Gallatin River with beautiful trees on both sides in 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

Michael/Adobe Beautiful sight of sunset on the 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

franzeldr/Adobe Tourists enjoting their vacations at Slide rock park bei Sedona, Arizona in USA

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

Krzysztof Wiktor/Adobe A stuning shot of Mount Hood at Sunset with a number of trees in the front of image.

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

restlesskath/Adobe  View from above of historical wild west town of Deadwood with hotels,resorts and numerous pine trees, in South Dakota USA.

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

pink candy/Adobe A view of lake surrounded by greenery and trees around it at Thousand islands

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

John Chandler Media/Adobe A view of Alpine lake surrounded by massive mountains and trees in 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, Vermont

Don Landwehrle/Adobe farm landscape with mt mansfield

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

Long Shadows/Adobe  Red wine in glasses with cheese and grapes Against a beautiful view of lake from balcony nearing dusk.

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, Colorado

Flat Nine Photo/Adobe A beautiful view of Aspen Wilderness Flowers with icy mountains in the background

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, Wyoming

aceshot/Adobe An abandoned, vintage barn in Mormon row with Grand Tetons in the background located in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

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.

Bottom line

Prostock-studio/Adobe Excited couple using laptop to book tickets and hotel online, preparing for vacations and packing suitcases.

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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Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore

Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore is a seasoned freelance writer who also teaches writing courses at Rutgers University. She's based in Jersey City and enjoys travel, live music and, of course, spending quality time with her pup.