July is prime vacation season. The kids are out of school, days are longer, and seasonal shops are open for business. Factor in a celebratory mood, and you've got more than enough reasons to get out of town. Some destinations are bound to be more crowded than usual, and that's part of the fun. Others are best-kept secrets and worth the effort it takes to find them. Whether you're exploring thawed landscapes or attending an epic Fourth of July celebration, set your sights on one of these US cities in July.
Many visitors to Rhode Island head for big cities in the summer, but in July, Bristol is the place to be. Located on Narragansett Bay, this charming New England town is only 30 minutes from Newport and Providence. You'll know you're there by the red, white, and blue traffic lines on the road, which distinguish Bristol as the "Most Patriotic Town in America." The city is also home to the oldest Fourth of July parade in the states, which has marched down Chestnut Street every Independence day since 1785. Arrive in late June when the party starts.
You might see Alaska on several summer vacation lists. That's because summer is the best time to explore the Last Frontier to appreciate everything it has to offer. From thawed hiking trails to extra hours of daylight, Alaska beckons summer tourists. July is salmon spawning season, and Seward is home to several viewing areas where you can watch the spectacle from viewing platforms. Stay in a historic building downtown, then head out for a day of fishing.
Traverse City, Michigan, is a summertime city. Located on the shores of the Grand Traverse Bay, you'll find lots of opportunities to explore the trails, bask on the beach, or spend a day fishing. In July, the National Cherry Festival is one of Michigan's most highly anticipated events. Festival-goers shop at farmer's markets, brave amusement rides, groove at outdoor concerts, and gawk at colorful floats in the parades. The cherries aren't too shabby either, with the tart fruit finding its way into pies, marinades, and countless other goods.
The Olympic Peninsula is an underrated jewel of the Pacific Northwest. From ruggedly beautiful beaches with sea stack views to the lush greenery of the Hoh Rainforest, there's raw beauty at every turn. July's climate is the warmest of the year, consistently sunny, and perfect for kayaking or hiking the forested trails. Check out Quileute Days in La Push during the third weekend in July. This two-day festival celebrates the cultural heritage of the Quileute tribe with a salmon bake, music, and traditional cuisines.
Summers on Anna Maria Island are hot, but the heat is nothing a dip in the pristine waters won't fix. Whether you're jet-skiing, surfing, or paddleboarding, there's always a reason to get your feet wet. Afterward, browse the shops in Anna Maria City, which still bears that "Old Florida" vibe. The Fourth of July celebration is one of many summer festivals in and around Anna Maria City, so don't be afraid to book during the high season.
For National Parks in Montana, July means tourist season is in full swing. Lodges and motels are open for business, hiking trails are well-traveled, and the roads are clear of snow. The warmer weather, which averages in the mid-to-high-80s, makes access to Going-to-the-Sun-Road at Glacier National Park possible. Alpine sections of the almost 12-mile-long route should be clear by July. When you're ready to head to town, go to Whitefish for the Under the Big Sky Festival, which features music and arts.
At Cumberland Island, visitors have 17 miles of protected beaches to explore. The warm July weather is perfect for swimming and strolling along the pristine white beaches, where you might spot a herd of wild horses. Learn about the island's history on a guided tour of plantation ruins along the shoreline, then head for the hiking trails for bird watching, fishing, or beachcombing. Stay at the Greyfield Inn, a converted Carnegie mansion, or camp at one of the serene campsites on the island.
July is eventful in Philadelphia, with a string of festivals and block parties to commemorate the Declaration of Independence's signing. The month begins with free concerts, community events, and outdoor movie nights. The fun doesn't end with the giant Fourth of July fireworks show, however. Sip on brews in green spaces every Wednesday through Sunday during the summer at Parks on Tap, a traveling beer garden in the beautiful outdoors. Afterward, visit the Old City District for Old City Eats!, a summer-long event featuring the best local flavors and deals.
Summer is hot, and so is the itinerary in Santa Fe during the summer. The Sante Fe Opera, one of America's premier opera festivals, runs for six weeks beginning in July. The International Folk Art Market also begins this month, attracting master folk artists from around the world. Surprisingly, New Mexico is one of the nation's oldest wine-growing regions, and Santa Fe's vineyards and wineries are worth a visit if you're in town.
The Three Rivers Festival in mid-July is one of Indiana's largest summer festivals. The nine-day celebration features Junk Food Alley, a collection of vendors who cook up the best comfort foods you could think of, from fried cupcakes to hot Wisconsin cheese. For two days, you can tour International Village, a fair that celebrates the different cultures and heritages in the Fort Wayne community. Gather at Downtown Midway in Headwaters Park to see free performances and brave a few classic carnival rides.
Portsmouth is a quintessential New England town, and the Fourth of July celebrations here are nothing short of classic American goodness. Costumed players perform historical reenactments, and the annual fireworks display is a sight to behold. The highlight of the July 4 celebrations is the naturalization ceremony at the Strawbery Banke Museum. Immigrants become naturalized citizens on the same soil where foreigners arrived almost 400 years ago. This historic community is also a bustling tourist town with acclaimed arts and culture, delicious eateries, and scenic beauty.
Paso Robles is on California's Central Coast, halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Almond and olive orchards dot the landscape, and vineyards welcome visitors to California's other wine country. Tour the wineries on foot, or take a dip in the hot springs before heading downtown. The California Mid-State Fair runs every year for 12 days at the end of July. In addition to carnival rides, delicious fair foods, and friendly competitions, the Fair also hosts some of the biggest names in music at the Main Grandstand Arena.
The nation's capital is obliged to throw an epic Fourth of July celebration, and the district does not disappoint. A free outdoor concert helps set the celebratory mood, and fireworks light up the sky over the National Mall. While daytime temperatures can get pretty hot in D.C., the weather encourages nighttime strolls along the National Mall. The monuments and memorials are stunningly lit up, and jazz music calls visitors to the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden on Friday nights.
Park City might be known as a winter destination, but that doesn't mean they can't do summer. The town's rustic vibe sets the perfect tone for a day of shopping on Main Street or enjoying the mountain views from a hot air balloon. Book your stay at the start of the month for the Fourth of July Parade and fireworks show. If you're in the mood for arts and culture, plan to arrive at the end of July for the Kimball Arts Festival. The weekend-long event features artwork, musical performances, and delectable foods.
If your vacation needs laid-back vibes and big-city excitement, look no further than Long Island. The quaint towns and upscale resorts are a 45-minute ride from Penn Station and a world away from Manhattan. Shelter Island is home to Mashomack Nature Preserve and Crescent Beach, a district for shopping and indulging in small luxuries. Jones Beach is better for families, and the West End boardwalk on Long Beach is a haven for foodies. Whale watching tours kick off in July, so head for Cupsogue Beach on Fire Island, a hot spot for humpbacks, dolphins, and harbor seals.