Summer Vacation Ideas in the United States

Seeing the wildflowers while hiking to a glacier, and guided night walk tour at the National Mall. These are my vacation memories, but they don’t happen unless you start dreaming and planning.  This is the time of year to plan your summer vacation.  Start envisioning your summer and a time to get away.  I will be sharing my past summer vacations and give ideas on what to do and where to go to help you plan your vacation.

We mostly take a vacation in the summer. Then we don’t have to take the kids out of school and this is the time to enjoy the summer sun. If you live in the south you may need to get some cooler temperatures up north.

Many outdoor activities like camping or hiking need to happen with good summer temperatures. A lake vacation isn’t the best when it’s cold out.  I can’t guarantee you perfect temperatures, but summer is a good time to vacation.

As our kids were getting older, we wrote a list of where we wanted to go on summer vacations.  We planned out each year, saved money and went.  The vacations are great memories and experiences we now have in our memory banks.

Hiking at a MN State Park

Minnesota State Parks

When the kids were little, we camped in a tent at state parks. Minnesota has a variety of state parks with many outdoor activities and different scenery.  

The Minnesota State parks we camped at were: Itasca State Park, Gooseberry Falls State Park, McCarthy Beach State Park, Lake Bemidji State Park, Savanna Portage State Park, Father Hennepin State Park, Mille Lacs Kathio State Park, Maplewood State Park, Jay Cooke State Park, Interstate State Park, St. Croix State Park, Frontenac State Park and Forestville/Mystery Caves State Park, and Bear Head Lake State Park.    Here is a MN State Park Link.

If you plan on camping on the weekends, you must make reservations at least one year to six months in advance.   Sunday to Wednesdays are usually pretty open but not during events in the area or holidays. Plan way ahead and make reservations for a tent site, an RV site or a cabin.  

Tent Camping

When we vacationed in another state, longer than three nights, we usually stayed in camping cabins. Camping cabins have bunk beds, a full bed and a counter all in one room.  Camping cabins are at KOAs and some State Parks. If it rains at least you are dry.   KOA campground Link 

As the kids got older and our trips were farther away, we stayed in hotels, private rentals or resorts that didn’t require a week stay.   Every trip will be a bit different to plan based on the ages of your kids and what you like to do and see.

If we were camping or stayed in a camping cabin we usually ate out of a cooler and used camping gear to cook.  When we stayed in a hotel, resort rental or home rental, we could purchase our food and use the refrigerator/kitchen provided. 

If we ate out it was only one meal a day.   We usually ate breakfast on our own and ate either lunch or dinner out.  In the next blog I will focus on menus and foods you can eat on vacation.

Paul Bunyan and Babe

Places to Go and What to See/Do

South Dakota- One-week vacation-

Mt Rushmore

Wall Drug in the town of Wall, Black Hills, Badlands, Rapid City, Custer State Park Hiking, Mount Rushmore, Hike Harney Peak, Cathedral Spires, and a Custer Park Buffalo Safari.  

We met friends in the middle of vacation and did things together plus stayed in camping cabins near at a KOA in the area.   We drove to South Dakota and on the way we stayed in the Badlands one night and with other friends in Rapid City. 

National World War 2 Memorial
National World War 2 Memorial

Washington DC- Two-week vacation

We drove and stayed in Michigan at friends along the way.  Stayed four nights at a hotel in Washington DC and took public transit to all the National sites.

Loved the guided night walk tour around the National Mall.  Rented bikes around the National Mall. Visited Mt Vernon-Washington’s house, Science and National History Smithsonian, 4th of July concert and Parade, The Mint Tour,  and the National Archive- where we saw the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. We went to the Ford Theater, Arlington National Cemetery, Robert E. Lee Residence, and Air and Space Smithsonian.

You will need to make reservations ahead to the Ford Theater, The Mint and White House tours. Arrive at opening hours to make sure you have enough time to see everything.  We were not able to do a White House tour since they had a government shut down at that time. Yes, the last three Presidents shut down the government.

We also went to the Gettysburg, Pennsylvania reenactment battle and Anniversary Celebration. We spent a few beach days at Virginia Beach and Old Williamsburg town for a day.  We stayed in hotels near these areas.    

Gettysburg
Vietnam Memorial
Virginia Beach

Michigan- One-week vacation

Visit Holland Beach, Ludington Beach and the lighthouses, drive around Lake Michigan with stops at Sleeping Bear Dunes State Park and Mackinac Island. We rented bikes and biked around the Island with our kids. We only spent a day on the Island.  

We stayed in a camping cabin and a hotel for the other nights.   Michigan has the best cherries, so if you are there during cherry season make sure to stop and get some.

Lake Superior- Madeline Island
Lake Superior- Madeline Island

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore-Madeline Island; Bayfield, Wisconsin.  Four-day vacation

Take Ferry to Madeline Island from Bayfield, Wisconsin. Take your Car over or go for a day trip. Walk the streets and see shops and Restaurants.  If you take your car, drive to Big Bay State Park for beach time, Hiking or walking the boardwalk.  Swim if it’s really Hot. Lake Superior water is very cold.   

One trip we camped for three nights at the state park on Madeline Island and had fun hiking, biking and hanging out at the beach.

Sailboat

We found a captain of a sailboat and he took us on our first sailing adventure near Madeline Island.   This was a life time experience. Ask at the marina for sunset sailboat rides.   

The first time we went to Bayfield it was for our Anniversary and we stayed at a bed and breakfast. Bayfield has the best fruits to pick and we picked the best blueberries the first part of August with family.  They also grow cherries, and apples and more.

Blueberries
Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods, Colorado

Colorado- Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs- One-week vacation

Make hotel reservations ahead of time or you will sleep in your car. True story: We booked all our places to stay such as a cabin rental and a camping cabin except the first night. We were going to play it by ear and stay in Denver.

We did not realize that it was the baseball tournament, and every room in the city was booked.  So, we headed to our destination Colorado Springs, and that whole town was booked.  We parked our minivan in the Walmart parking lot and went to sleep.   It was something we will always remember thus always reminding us to make reservations ahead of time in the summer. Thankfully the rest of our stay was booked ahead.

Zoo

The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is now my favorite Zoo. Go to coffee shops, old Colorado City, Olympic Training Center and Museum, Focus on the Family Tour, and the Airforce Academy Tour.

When visiting Manitou Springs, you can shop, and hike the Incline. Start early in the day if you want to do the Incline, or it gets hot. Do the Pikes Peak Cog Railway or just drive up Pikes Peak. Finally, the Garden of the Gods is beautiful.

Hanging Lake
Hanging Lake

Our second trip to Colorado was with no kids. We flew and rented a car and drove to Aspen/Snowmass Area.  In Aspen area, we went hiking and took a Gondola ride up Aspen Mountain, and saw the City of Aspen. Go to Maroon Bells and Maroon Lake. We hiked to Cathedral Lake, which is a medium to difficult hike and took us six hours round trip. Bring your hiking poles and snacks.

In Glenwood Springs we rented bikes and biked down the Canyon along the Colorado River. This was a 15- mile bike ride with a stop to hike Hanging Lake Trail.  We soaked all evening in the Iron Mountain Mineral Pools. The Mineral Pools are amazing.  We drove Independence Pass and stopped at the – Continental divide and ended up in Colorado Springs.  

Bike Ride

Places to stay in Snowmass are reasonable in the summer if you book six months ahead. We stayed in a ski chalet condo with an outdoor swimming pool and hot tub for only $100 a night.  

Grand Canyon
South Rim Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon- One-week vacation in October during school vacation

We Flew to Las Vegas and rented a minivan for a week.  First stop is Walmart for food and off to Hoover Dam.  We stayed at the South Rim Grand Canyon.  Grand Canyon busses take you to all the viewing spots. We took in a sunset in the evening. We Hiked a couple mornings with a park ranger down the canyon in two areas 1.5 miles down and then 1.5 miles up.

We experienced a canyon sunrise where we saw condors and then drove to Lake Powel. In Lake Powel we toured the Dam and did a floating tour on the Colorado River. We visited Antelope Canyon in Arizona and Zion National Park in Utah. We drove back to Las Vegas and Flew home.  We essentially made a loop around the Canyon.

Condor in the morning
Sulphur Pools Yellowstone

Yellowstone/Glacier National Parks- Two-week vacation

On this vacation, we stayed in camping cabins and a yurt.  We stopped at Devils Tower and then a rodeo in Cody, Wyoming.  We spent a few days seeing the Yellowstone National Park sights and hiked. The highlight of Yellowstone National Park was the Boiling River. The Yellow River and the Boiling River meet to make hot tub temperatures. We also river rafted down the Yellow River. We stayed at a Holiday Resort in Wyoming.   Near Glacier National Park we stayed in a Yurt at a Campground.

Yurt near Glacier National Park

Glacier is one of my favorite National Parks and I loved the hiking, the wild flowers of July and water falls.

Hiking at Glacier National Park

One day we hiked to a Glacier and back which was a 7-mile round trip hike. The kids made it with an ice-cream bribe. We stayed at a KOA near St. Mary’s and on the way home we stopped at Medora, North Dakota to see Teddy Roosevelt National Park.

I hope you got some ideas for your next summer vacation.   It will indeed take some planning.   Book ahead and plan your week out with some rest and travel days. There is so much of the world that is to be seen and reflects the Glory of our God.  Enjoy life and nature.

Glacier National Park

Next blog I will talk about food and menus for traveling/vacationing with a family or as a couple.

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Summer Vacation Ideas in the United States: Start planning that trip with these Ideas.
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