Blaze News original: 7 most underrated summer travel ideas in the US

Summer is right around the corner, and that means planning for a wondrous summer vacation that will provide cherished memories for a lifetime. Maybe you want to avoid travel destinations with overwhelming crowds, or perhaps you want to discover a new summer vacation spot that could be your annual retreat with your family. This travel guide will provide you with some of the most underrated summer travel ideas in the U.S.

Travel experts suggest that you should book your summer vacation around mid-April to ensure that you snag the best accommodations before prices rise due to higher demand.

So without further ado, check out these underrated summer travel ideas so that you can start planning the best vacation for 2024.

Asheville, North Carolina

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Nestled amid the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains lies the intriguing and inviting city of Asheville, North Carolina. This Appalachian gem offers a bevy of experiences to satisfy your palate, quench your desire for the arts, and indulge your sense of exploration.

This vibrant city offers a community of culinary collaborators crafting a delectable array of cuisines that will have you drooling — including James Beard Award-winning chefs. Asheville is rich in gastronomy — treat your taste buds to barbecue, Spanish tapas, Southern eats, and French dishes.

Asheville is also a beer drinker’s paradise, and it is the city with the second-most breweries per capita. Last year, Asheville was ranked as the No. 4 place on Craft Beer and Brewing magazine’s Readers’ Choice Favorite Beer Cities survey after notching the top spot in 2022.

After you’ve stuffed yourself with all the gourmet fare, you can burn off those delicious calories by walking and hiking the scenic trails of the Blue Ridge Parkway — America’s longest linear park. The breathtaking park features cascading waterfalls, a tapestry of natural sights, and hidden Appalachian Mountain treasures.

For the hard-core explorer, visit the picturesque Pisgah National Forest and enjoy panoramic vistas from atop the summit of Mount Mitchell — the highest peak east of the Mississippi River.

No trip to Asheville is complete without visiting the historic Biltmore Estate. Constructed in 1895, this Châteauesque-style mansion was the majestic home of George Washington Vanderbilt II.

The Biltmore House boasts 250 rooms, encompasses 178,926 square feet, and is the largest privately owned home in the United States. The Biltmore House houses treasured artwork by Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and John Singer Sargent and features a centuries-old Italian Renaissance wellhead from Venice, Italy.

Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

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Travel to Colonial Williamsburg, where you can step into a living, breathing museum that gives you a time-traveling glimpse into American history.

This 301-acre historical area features cobblestone streets and hundreds of meticulously restored and recreated buildings from the 18th century when Williamsburg was the capital of the colony of Virginia and named in honor of King William III.

Williamsburg was a revolutionary hotbed, where anti-British sentiment festered and the protests against Britain’s Stamp Act spawned the “no taxation without representation” movement.

In 1776, Virginia’s Declaration of Rights was introduced by George Mason in Williamsburg and called for American independence from Britain. Thomas Jefferson drew inspiration from the declaration and used it as inspiration when drafting the United States Bill of Rights.

There is no shortage of attractions that are a quick drive or a day trip away from Williamsburg:

  • Another town preserved from the colonial era is Smithfield, Virginia.
  • You can visit historic Jamestown — the first permanent British settlement.
  • You can travel to St. John’s Church, where Patrick Henry delivered his infamous “Give me liberty or give me death” speech in Richmond, Virginia.
  • Relive the final major battle of the American Revolutionary War at the Yorktown Battlefield.
  • Spend the day thrill-seeking on daring roller coasters at the Busch Gardens Williamsburg amusement park.
  • Take a trip to Norfolk to visit the Nauticus maritime-themed museum and the U.S.S. Wisconsin — one of the largest battleships ever constructed by the U.S. Navy.
  • Soak up the sun with a relaxing day at Virginia Beach.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

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Situated about 40 miles southeast of Knoxville, Gatlinburg presents a diverse variety of activities for travelers of all ages.

Get in touch with nature when visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Of the 63 national parks across the country, Great Smoky Mountains National Park has the most visitors, and it isn’t even close. The idyllic Tennessee park attracted nearly 13.3 million visitors in 2023. The next most-visited park was Grand Canyon National Park with 4.7 million visitors. Prepare for an exhilarating hike because the park boasts more than 800 miles of hiking trails. While you’re hiking, keep your eyes open for the incredible diversity of plants and animals at the park. There are more than 17,000 species documented at the park, and researchers estimate there are an additional 30,000 — 80,000 species that live there.

Ogle sweeping landscape vistas of the stunning Great Smoky Mountains while riding on the Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway — one of the largest tramway systems in the United States.

Challenge yourself to walk across the imposing SkyBridge — the longest pedestrian cable bridge in North America.

For the thrill-seeker, there are roller coasters, zip lines, whitewater rafting, haunted house attractions, and ghost tours.

For those who want to relax, there is also world-class golf, fishing, and bird-watching.

A handful of moonshine distilleries let you travel back to the days of bootleg spirits.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

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Jackson Hole is most notably known as a winter wonderland destination for skiing, but the valley in Wyoming also makes for an underrated summer travel idea.

Jackson Hole offers a remarkable retreat for nature lovers with nearby Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park.

The Aerial Tram gently glides 4,139 vertical feet in just 12 minutes to give you picturesque 360-degree views of the Tetons.

Bicycle enthusiasts can explore the immaculate Jackson Hole valley with more than 56 miles of paved pathways and 115 miles of mountain bike trails.

Cosplay as a cowboy by traversing the Wild West in a chuckwagon, by stagecoach, or horseback.

A trip to the Cowboy State would not be complete without a good old-fashioned shoot-out. Every night from Memorial Day, there is a re-enactment of a Wild West shootout in the town square.

For those who are firearm aficionados or who want to learn how to handle a gun, there is a gun range where you can be taught how to safely handle firearms.

Jackson Hole is widely regarded as a world-class destination for fly fishing with several pristine rivers.

Mackinac Island, Michigan

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Mackinac Island is a charming vacation destination located between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas with the stunning backdrop of the crystal-clear waters of Lake Huron.

Mackinac Island enchants summer visitors with its magnificent beaches, quaint shops, Victorian-era architecture, cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriage tours, and delectable fudge.

You can visit Fort Mackinac, the fortification built by the British during the American Revolution. Americans captured the fort in 1796, but the English recaptured it during the first land engagement of the War of 1812 in the United States. Fort Mackinac was returned to the U.S. after the war. You can also see Fort Holmes, which was a small British outpost that was constructed after the Americans captured Fort Mackinac.

Get your camera ready to snap a photo of Arch Rock — a stunning natural limestone formation located 146 feet above the shores of Lake Huron.

Mackinac Island State Park boasts beautiful limestone bluffs, verdant woodlands, fragrant meadows of vibrant wildflowers, and unblemished blue water.

San Juan Islands, Washington

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Embark on an unforgettable adventure to the San Juan Islands, where you’ll discover one-of-a-kind natural beauty and wonder.

The San Juan Islands consist of 172 islands in the Salish Sea between the state of Washington and Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

This Pacific Northwest paradise is known for its untouched grandeur and diverse wildlife. Live this unique island life with captivating coastal scenery and lush forests.

The San Juan archipelago offers countless water-based activities such as boat charters, whale-watching, island-hopping, fishing, and kayaking.

The extraordinary wildlife available for your viewing pleasure includes orcas, humpback whales, porpoises, sea lions, river otters, harbor seals, herons, and bald eagles.

Explore the many historic lighthouses that stand high above the rugged coastline.

Several restaurants on the San Juan Islands pride themselves on offering sustainable farm-to-table dining. The restaurant chefs focus on seasonal ingredients that are sourced directly from farms, orchards, and fisheries on the islands.

St. Augustine, Florida

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Near the northeast coast of Florida sits St. Augustine — the oldest city in the country. St. Augustine — also known as the “Ancient City” and the “Old City” — was founded by Spanish explorers in 1565 and is the oldest continuously inhabited European-established settlement in the continental United States.

One of the most iconic tourist attractions in St. Augustine is the Castillo de San Marcos fort. This star-shaped fortification was constructed by the Spanish Empire in 1695, making it the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States. The defensive fort is situated on the western shore of Matanzas Bay and is constructed from coquina — a form of limestone composed of shell fragments and coral. Over the years, the fort has been occupied by the Spanish, British, and Americans. The Castillo de San Marcos fort is now a national monument for visitors to harken back to the days of cannons and the Spanish colonial rule of Florida.

Another famous St. Augustine attraction is the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. According to legend, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León touched ground in the area of St. Augustine in search of a mythical spring that was said to provide eternal youth to those who drank from it.

One of the eye-catching buildings in the Floridian city is Flagler College — named after Henry Morrison Flagler, a prominent industrialist, railroad magnate, co-founder of Standard Oil, and early developer of Florida’s Atlantic coast in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

St. Augustine welcomes visitors with inviting cafes, shops, and restaurants.

Sugar sand beaches and sapphire waters await beachgoers at nearby St. Augustine Beach and Anastasia State Park.

Travelers can drive 40 miles north to visit Jacksonville.

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