Keep Sunny Summer Vibes Going at 5 Weekend Destinations Across the U.S.By Jay Gentile
The end of summer is rarely a highly anticipated affair, but stretching out the season’s good times is totally possible. You can still enjoy classic summer activities, from lakes and beaches to national parks and historic sites, well into the latter part of the season on a late-summer weekend getaway. Just be sure to check for any travel restrictions or closures before heading out on your trip.
Here are five U.S. destinations adept at keeping those summer vibes going over a long weekend well spent.
In the words of a certain “Zoolander” character, Denver is “so hot right now.” Thanks to a booming cultural scene led by the art-focused RiNo neighborhood and a wealth of outdoor adventure just outside the city, Denver might just be America’s preeminent combination of the urban and natural worlds.
In the city, start your day with a takeout breakfast burrito from legendary local hangout Pete’s Kitchen, which you can devour in either Denver’s massive City Park or the more neighborhood-centric Cheesman Park, both located within easy walking distance of the landmark diner. From either spot, hop an electric scooter and head downtown to stroll the historic LoDo neighborhood or people-watch on the 16th Street Mall.
Outside the Colorado capital a world of outdoor adventure awaits. Head northwest toward Rocky Mountain National Park — stopping off to explore the endlessly charming college town of Boulder — before heading onward toward one of America’s most spectacular national parks.
“Music City” may be known for country music and the classic, neon-illuminated honky-tonk bars and celebrity-owned clubs of Lower Broadway, but these days, Nashville cultivates a more diverse music scene as it continues to establish itself as a dominant cultural and commercial engine of the American South.
No trip to the Tennessee capital is complete without tangling with Nashville’s trademark “hot chicken,” a craze that has swept the nation in recent years, and is best enjoyed at low-key local hangs like Prince’s and Arnold’s — where you can order your grub to go and take it with you to enjoy in one of the city’s many different parks.
When looking to escape even further into nature, the 21,000-acre Cheatham Wildlife Management Area sits just west of the city, brimming with serene forest, and road warriors will find plenty to enjoy along the gorgeous, 444-mile Natchez Trace Parkway that starts just outside of town.
While it’s debatable whether “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (as the long-running FX show is titled), what isn’t up for debate is that Philly is a criminally underrated destination for a fun-filled weekend in the summer and beyond. Known for cheesesteaks and overzealous sports fans (as well as their teams’ mascots), this more affordable and less pretentious alternative to other East Coast cities keeps things lively, including the historic Colonial sites of Old City and the notorious dive bars of South Philly.
Those looking to keep the party outdoors can take advantage of the nation’s largest public art program, Mural Arts Philadelphia, best viewed on a limited-capacity tour, or the wildly colorful mosaics and funky outdoor space at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens.
Outside the city, weekend warriors can continue their immersion into American history by touring the expansive grounds of Valley Forge National Historical Park or get lost in the vast wilderness of the Poconos Mountains, one of the finest expanses of natural splendor in the Eastern U.S.
Outer Banks, North Carolina
Long before the Outer Banks was memorialized in the Netflix series of the same name, this 200-mile stretch of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina was serving as a popular vacation retreat for weary urbanites looking to roam miles of picturesque open beach.
Wild horses can be seen trotting the sand in spots like Ocracoke Island, while six lighthouses dot the shore, including the iconic Cape Hatteras Light Station.
Outdoor activities abound, such as the scenic beaches of local communities such as Kitty Hawk (of Wright Brothers fame) or the sand dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. Whether you’re hang gliding, off-roading, surfing some of the gnarliest waves on the East Coast or just kicking back in the sand, the Outer Banks knows how to do summer right.
Napa Valley, California
Not only is the world-famous wine growing region of Napa Valley home to more than 400 wineries, but its location just 90 minutes north of San Francisco also makes it one of the more popular tourist destinations in California.
A weekend here is a weekend spent immersed in some of the world’s finest food and wine, best enjoyed at locations like the historic Stags’ Leap Winery, offering tours of its romantic grounds and tastings by appointment only. (They also offer “porchside pickup” if you’d rather uncork your bottle in an open field during a picnic — check the website for current schedules.)
But as great as the food and wine is here, don’t forget to spend time immersed in the bountiful nature that surrounds this highly Instagrammable environment, like the rolling hills and castle-like wineries, as well as swimming and water-skiing in nearby Lake Berryessa. Of course, if you really want to get away from it all, rent your own hot air balloon for an unforgettable escape.