June isn't just the start of the summer. It's a time for celebration and connecting with nature. Summertime brings with it local festivals, annual traditions, and trucks hawking bold flavors exclusive to regional communities, so why not pack a duffel bag and experience the season in a new city? Have a taste of craft beer in a historic building, or cut loose at a free concert in the park. Witness incredible natural phenomenon, or relish the beauty of solitude in the wilderness. Whatever your vacation vibe, kick-start your summer travel plans in one of these U.S. cities.
Gatlinburg is a charming historic town at the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains. Tour the city's sites on the Free Parkway trolley, then visit the museums or shopping district. Not far from downtown Gatlinburg, another kind of wonder awaits. For two weeks, from mid-May to Mid-June, tens of thousands of fireflies gather in the darkness and flash in perfect unison. The National Park Service holds a lottery for tickets to the synchronous fireflies event. Check their website for details.
As the summer kicks off and the weather heats up in Nebraska, the city of Omaha begins to buzz with excitement. For 12 days in June, America's favorite pastime arrives in town for the College World Series, as do baseball fans from around the country. June also marks the season for the annual Omaha Beerfest. Sample hundreds of American Craft Beers and ciders while enjoying plenty of live music. For theatre lovers, the Nebraska Shakespeare event — a free festival of plays — runs from June through July.
Whether you're packing up the whole family or planning a romantic getaway, Charlotte, North Carolina, is a fail-safe destination. From festivals and sporting events to kayaking and hiking, there's always something to do in Charlotte. Foodies visit in June during the "Taste of Charlotte" event. The three-day festival spotlights local restaurants and food vendors, with live music, entertainment, and cooking demonstrations.
There's no shortage of adventure in Colorado Springs. From craft beer to a historic railway, you're sure to stay busy. Outdoor enthusiasts can hike, take a Jeep tour, or go horseback riding. Visit in June for the Pikes Peak Celtic Festival. Here, the smell of fish and chips wafts through the air as Celtic rock groups and bagpipe bands entertain the crowds. Irish dancers teach traditional Irish and Highland dancing, and visitors can sample the best of Scottish and Irish cuisine, whiskeys, and scotches.
Galveston's stunning gulf views and favorable temperatures year-round make it a prime vacation destination, but there's more to this island city than meets the eye. Galveston is where Juneteenth originated. Observed every June 19th, Juneteenth marks the anniversary of the freeing of the last slaves in Texas. Locals commemorate the holiday with educational workshops, live performances, and community bike rides. The Emancipation Trail travels 51 miles from Galveston to Houston, marking the route that former slaves walked and the places they stopped in search of better lives.
Virginia Beach's historic landmarks and fun, coastal vibe make this seaside Virginia city a dynamic and memorable destination. Stroll along the scenic waterfront on the three-mile boardwalk, or head for Pungo, an agricultural community in the countryside, for a hearty southern meal. The summertime is the start of traditions like the North American Sand Soccer Championship. The internationally recognized tournament transforms the oceanfront into a soccer field and arena for beach sports. The second weekend of June also marks the start of Sandstock, a music festival featuring tribute artists performing Woodstock-era classics.
Tupelo, Mississippi, is the hometown of music legend Elvis Presley, and it doesn't just sit on the laurels of this distinction. The vibrant city pays tribute to the King of Rock and Roll every June during the Elvis Presley Festival. Performances by blues, gospel, and country musicians set the mood for workshops, an Elvis-themed 5K race, and the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist competition. A bike-and pedestrian-friendly trail connects you to downtown, where you can eat like a king. Nothing says southern loving like barbecue, fresh seafood, and fried dill pickles — a Mississippi creation.
If you crave some valuable beach time without the resort crowds, head for The Great Lakes in Wisconsin. Door County resides on a peninsula that stretches for miles between the fresh waters of Green Bay and Lake Michigan. June begins a season of traditional community celebrations in the small towns and villages on the shoreline. Honor Ephraim's Scandanavian roots by welcoming summer at the Fyr Bal Festival. Sturgeon Bay hosts the Door County Wine Festival, while Bailey's Harbor is home to the regional beer festival, a celebration of Wisconsin's best cuisines and brews.
Alaska is a challenging landscape that rewards handsomely. Travelers can't beat the panoramic views, a virtually untouched landscape, and the beauty of solitude in nature. The best time to see it is mid-May to mid-September, and June hits that sweet spot of warm, non-rainy weather and long days. In Anchorage, the summer sun sets after 11 P.M., giving visitors and locals over 19 hours of daylight on the summer solstice. Celebrate at the Summer Solstice Festival, then find locally-made souvenirs and crafts at the Anchorage Market.
The San Francisco Pride Celebration and Parade is one of the oldest and largest LGBTQ+ pride events in America. Commemorating the start of the gay rights movement in New York City's Greenwich Village, the event is a chance to educate the community and appreciate LGBTQ+ culture. It takes place the last weekend of June each year, with several exhibitions and a parade through downtown San Francisco.
Depending on who you ask, Greenville, North Carolina, is either a growing city or a charming college town. Regardless, the home of East Carolina University manages to be a dynamic, ever-evolving urban center with a friendly hometown spirit. June brings free rides on the open-air trolley and a weekly free concert series, as well as seasonal local flavors. Hike in one of Greenville's more than 20 recreation areas, or go kayaking along the South Tar River Greenway.
Wine enthusiasts, take note: the new frontier of wine-making is in the wild beauty of Southwestern Idaho. The area's unique climate produces several varieties that you can taste during Idaho Wine Month in June. The Idaho Shakespeare Festival also comes to town at the start of the season. All summer long, guests can witness the magic of live theater in a beautiful outdoor amphitheater.
Chicago is the city that made blues famous, and there's no better place to indulge in these historic vibes than the Chicago Blues Festival. The free musical event features local and widely-known musicians performing on outdoor stages at Millennium Park. It's the largest free blues festival in the world, one you won't want to miss if you're a fan of blues, jazz, and rock and roll.
New York welcomes summer with a slew of celebrations and activities to keep you entertained. The Taste of Times Square event brings the best foods from local restaurants to the streets of Manhattan. The National Puerto Rican Day Parade brings the community together to celebrate cultural heritage, while the Museum Mile Festival extends gallery hours to encourage fine art appreciation.
The small town of Elkhart, Indiana, is sometimes known as "The City With a Heart." One reason is the Elkhart Jazz Festival, a weekend of over 100 jazz performances, good food, and small-town hospitality. The festival wouldn't be possible without the generosity of the local volunteers, making the annual event a true gem of a celebration. After a weekend of entertainment, head for the Midwest Museum of American Art or the Wellfield Botanic Gardens. You can also take a day trip to South Bend, which is less than 25 miles away.