Best US Cities for Summer Vacations

With June quickly approaching and the temperatures warming across the States, there’s no denying that soon summer will be upon us. If you have school-aged children, the exact start-date of summer as you know it probably coincides with the last day of school (a beautiful and terrifying day). You may suddenly be wondering just what to do with your family this summer. It’s the season for family vacations, but where to?

Our favorite destinations for the summer of 2014 offer the perfect combination of outdoor recreation, cultural attractions, high-quality entertainment, and even a bit of education. Sound expensive? Don’t worry; we also have US attraction discounts to keep your wallet as satisfied as you are.

If you’re on the West Coast or have always wanted to go, San Diego and Los Angeles are the forerunners. Southern California’s relaxing beach town vibe is just the kind of atmosphere that will help you wind down and enjoy your time off. Perhaps even the kids will catch on to the mellowed out mood.

San Diego Mission Beach best US Cities for Summer Vacation

San Diego’s Mission Beach.

Both cities are chalk full of attractions and entertainment of all sorts. San Diego’s Balboa Park (an attraction in itself) plays host to dozens of attractions, including the world-famous San Diego Zoo, where panda bears play and bonobos show off their intellect. You’ll also find a plethora of museums here, such as the San Diego Museum of Man, the San Diego Natural History Museum, the San Diego Museum of Art, and the Model Railroad Museum—among many others.

However, you must also make time for a bit of beach hopping and outdoor adventure. Hop aboard a San Diego Harbor Tour or paddle around La Jolla Cove in your kayak with La Jolla Bike and Kayak Tours. Keep your Go San Diego Card attractions pass in hand for free admission to these top attractions, plus special discounts at select attractions and restaurants.

Head up north slightly to Los Angeles, and you’ll find yourself in the city of showbiz in its prime. A trip to Universal Studios Hollywood is always an exciting time, and this summer you’ll enjoy new attractions like Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and its complementary play zone, Super Silly Fun Land. You can also make good use of your Go Los Angeles Card attractions pass in the popular Santa Monica beach community at Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier, the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, and a Santa Monica bike rental for a beautiful ride along Ocean Front Walk.

Millennium Park - best US cities for Summer Vacation

Come to Chicago to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Millennium Park!

In the Midwest, Chicago is the summer hot spot of choice. There’s a lot going on this summer, so your Go Chicago Card attractions pass will come in handy. The city’s newest and most beloved public space, Millennium Park, is celebrating its 10th anniversary, so expect ample showcases of arts, culture, design, music, and more. The annual Jazz Fest celebration will be held here in August, featuring world-class jazz musicians.

While Navy Pier is currently undergoing renovations, these should be finished soon, just in time for the summer crowds. The Midwest’s most popular attractions hosts a fireworks display every Wednesday and Saturday throughout the summer, lighting up the sky above Lake Michigan. It’s also the perfect season to enjoy an Architecture River Cruise or marvel at the views on a Skyline Lake Tour.

Alas, the East Coast has its own unique summer energy. New York, you know we’d never forget about you. Summer is without a doubt NYC’s busiest season, and we can’t blame everyone for wanting to be part of the action. Numerous cultural, ethnic, and just plain fun festivals take to the streets—the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party, Museum Mile Festival, National Puerto Rican Day Parade, Make Music New York, and Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade come to mind.

Statue of Liberty Sunset - Best US Cities for Summer Vacation

Lady Liberty just after the sun sets.

Use your New York Explorer Pass to skip the lines and get convenient access to top summer attractions like the Top of the Rock, the Empire State Building, and the awe-inspiring Statue of Liberty Night Cruise.

Looking for more US attraction discounts in these cities and others across the country? Make sure to visit Smart Destinations to see what discount attractions, special offers, and convenient perks your family will receive when you travel with your attraction passes in hand.

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