Along with all the joys of summer come some serious downsides. Mosquitoes. Humidity. And, of course, heat. That’s especially true this year, as scorching weather sweeps across the country.
If you’re finding the season too hot to handle, consider escaping to a destination with perfectly pleasant temperatures. You can enjoy the outdoors without cranky kids or prickly heat rash.
From San Diego on the West Coast to Maine on the East Coast, here are six spots for cool summer breaks—complete with recommendations on where to eat, sleep and play.
Denali National Park, Alaska
With snow-capped mountains, clear blue skies, and plenty of wildlife, Denali National Park is a spectacular destination to visit in summer. Highs only reach 64 degrees and lows only descend to about 42 degrees, so you can enjoy hiking, fishing, wildlife watching, and other unforgettable family adventures without the risk of overheating (or frostbite). Set off on a hike to Horseshoe Lake or watch a dog sled demonstration and visit some Alaskan huskies. The Park is also home to the Alaskan Railroad, which you can ride on a scenic tour with the family. Denali Cabins, located a few miles south of the entrance, is a great base camp for your Alaskan adventure. Dine at Black Bear Café, a top spot for breakfast with a vegan menu; Black Diamond Grill serves up Alaskan-style dishes in a casual setting.
San Diego, California
Even when other parts of the western United States get steamy, San Diego keeps its cool: The SoCal city has an average daily temperature of 75 degrees between June and August. San Diego overflowing with kid-friendly attractions such as San Diego Zoo and Legoland California. Spend the day at Balboa Park, home to Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, a carousel, a mini train kids can ride, and much more. Bed down at the Hotel del Coronado (shown above), a beachfront landmark that offers bonfires, surf lessons, and an excellent kids’ activity center. Eat at the retro Corvette Diner, which has a 5000-square-foot game area, and the Crack Shack, a gem in Little Italy that dishes up fantastic fried chicken.
The Catskills, New York
The Catskills region, located a couple of hours’ drive north of New York City, has long been a place for urbanites to escape. It’s home to the Catskills Mountains as well as lakes, rivers, and waterfalls that are ripe for exploring, and has an average high temperature of around 70 degrees. I’ve spent many a weekend there with my kids. Enjoy an epic adventure on the Catskill Mountain Railroad, zoom through the trees on Hunter Mountain’s zipline—the longest and highest in North America—or go for a dip at the bottom of the Kaaterskill Falls. Stony Creek Farmstead in Walton offers cozy platform tents that sleep six. Youngsters can have fun collecting eggs for breakfast and helping milk the cows. The Diamond Mills Hotel in Saugerties has views of Esopus Falls and is walking distance to restaurants and shops. Get your nosh on at Mama’s Boy Burgers in Tannersville and the Catskill Mountain Country Store & Restaurant in Windham, which serves eight different kinds of French pancakes.
Acadia National Park, Maine
For a breezy break, park it on Maine’s North Atlantic Coast, where temperatures linger in the mid-70s. Acadia National Park is home to Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the East Coast, which you can climb for stunning views of the park (or access by car if you have younger kids). Enjoy a picnic on Sand Beach or listen out for the booms that result at Thunder Hole when waves crash into a cave at the base of coastal rocks. While there are plenty of campsites in the park, families who prefer glamping can now opt for Under Canvas Acadia, a newly opened waterfront spot with tented accommodation in Surrey.
Summer tends to feel like a time to get out of the city, but Seattle is one of the coolest, in more ways than one. Average daily highs are in low 70s in the warm months. Browse the produce and prepared foods at Pike Place Market, where you’ll also find the Giant Shoe Museum (basically what it sounds like). Ride the elevator to top the Space Needle, then take in a rainbow of colors at Chihuly Garden and Glass. Kids will love the Seattle Aquarium; to see marine life in the wild, spend a day on on a whale-watching tour. It may be a splurge, but the Four Seasons Seattle gets high marks from traveling families; amenities include an infinity pool, babysitting, and milk and cookies for kids. For dinner, The Pink Door on Post Alley serves seasonal Italian fare and has a fun atmosphere; the Crab Pot specializes in seafood and ordering the Seafest is a must.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Old Faithful, Yellowstone’s famous geyser, reaches temperatures of over 350 degrees. But America’s first national park is generally much cooler than other parts of the country. Average maximum temperatures of around 70 degrees make it easy for your tribe to explore without breaking a sweat. Visit Mammoth Hot Springs, go hiking, or sign up the kids to the park’s superb junior ranger program. There’s also biking, horseback riding, and whitewater rafting. Old Faithful Lodge Cabins, built in the 1920s, is right next to the geyser and offers rustic cottages and a main lobby with a food court.