There’s so much pressure to get away from it all during summer. Do you battle it out for a spot on the beach? Or queue up (again and again) at an amusement park? Shuffle with the herds or tourists through a Western European capital? Nope. There’s a better way to do summer vacation. In fact, there are six.
Here are a half-dozen suggestions for unlikely but welcoming destinations for your next summer sojourn.
For the Adrenaline Junkie
A luxurious winter wonderland, this elevated and alluring Colorado town is more typically known for its snowfall and fireside evenings. But visit long after the thaw in summer, and a whole new place opens up, complete with ample activities that the entire family can enjoy.
Hike the easy Rio Grande Trail, which follows a now-defunct 19th-century railway line. Or try the slightly more difficult Smuggler Mountain Trail, a six-mile pathway that affords stunning valley and mountain views.
And if strolling through coniferous forests doesn’t offer enough adventure, adrenaline junkies should point themselves to Aspen Paragliding for a flight through the Colorado sky or Aspen Whitewater Rafting.
For the Wine Sipper
Finger Lakes Region, New York State
The wine regions of central and northern California may get all the glory, but those in the know head to the Finger Lakes region in upstate New York. The Finger Lakes, named because of their narrow, elongated shape, like human digits, are a marriage of wine tasting and water sports, creating the ideal cocktail of summertime fun.
Base yourself in the college town of Ithaca and then head north, stopping at one of the many wineries for tastings (be sure to visit Goose Watch Winery for its excellent sparkling white). Then hop on the True Love, an historic boat operated by Schooner Excursions. The two-hour sunset sail around stunning Seneca Lake is a feast for the eyes and the taste buds as wine and above-average hors d’oeuvres are offered on board.
For the History Buff
When you tell friends and family you’re spending your summer vacation in Minsk, expect to get a blank stare in return. Is that some kind of furry animal, they might ask? No, it’s the off-the-radar capital of Belarus, a country wedged between Poland and Russia and on the verge of becoming the metropolis to explore in Europe.
The country recently relaxed its once-stringent visa requirements, now allowing travelers to stay for up to five days visa free. Wander the wide streets of this intriguing capital, taking in the blocks-long Stalinist architectural wonders; stand on the anachronistic intersection of Marx and Engels Streets; and gawk at the plus-sized statues of Soviet heroes from the Cold War era.
This is a holiday that any history buff will never forget.
For the Traveler Who Wants to Channel Their Inner Hippie
Santa Cruz, California
Mark Twain famously said that the coldest winter he ever spent was summer in San Francisco. So avoid the “cool gray city of love” and head 75 miles south to Santa Cruz, a seaside university town with a large surfer and hippie population.
Start your visit by hopping on the Giant Dipper, a rollercoaster from 1924, at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and then stroll down Pacific Avenue, a narrow street flanked by boutiques, bookstores and charming cafés, where street buskers perform and the local hippie-leaning residents like to hang out.
Amble along W. Cliff Drive to spy some surfers catching the waves and even stop into the Surfing Museum, located in an old lighthouse.
For the Healthy Nature Nut (and Foodie)
Black Forest, Germany
Known as the Schwarzwald, literally “Black Forest” in German, this fabled dark-green swath of land in southwestern Germany is a great way to position yourself in the center of Europe yet feel like you’ve beat the throngs of summertime tourists.
Head to the village of Baiersbronn, famed for its dining scene (it holds a collective eight Michelin stars) and for the wild hot springs that course through its pine-and-spruce-clad hills.
Do a hike with the chef of Rosengarten, foraging for local herbs, and then head back to his restaurant for a feast of local delights, grazing on the herbs you just picked. Or take a tour of the Monkey 47 distillery, which uses local wild ingredients for its award-winning gin.
And then take a day to relax at the famed and historic Cassiopeia Therme, a luxurious spa in the small town of Badenweiler.
For the Skier Who Can’t Wait Until Winter
Valle Nevado, Chile
Who says you can’t go snow skiing in summer? You just have to head to where it’s winter: the Southern Hemisphere. And for skiers who just can’t wait, point your skis to Chile’s iconic ski resort, Valle Nevado, about a two-hour drive from the capital, Santiago.
Here every level of skier can enjoy the slopes, which are set in the heart of the incredible Andes Mountains. The resort offers ample amounts of modern conveniences, including plenty of après ski options.