We understand. And that’s why we’ve put together a list of some of the coolest vacation spots in the country—destinations that are literally cool, even in the middle of July. So load up the car and head out to one of these seven “cool” locations.
1. San Francisco, California
San Francisco is known for being a bit unusual, and that applies to more than just the local (counter-) culture. The weather is also contrary to most cities. The warmest time of year is in the fall, and it ranks as the coldest U.S. city during the summer. As Mark Twain supposedly once put it, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” With average summer highs in the mid-60s, though, the Bay Area is more refreshingly cool than “cold.”
There are also plenty of cool things to see and do here, from visiting Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge to touring the vineyards in nearby Napa Valley.
2. Glacier National Park, Montana
The name kind of gives it away, right? Not only is this Montana destination way up north (it borders a sister park in Canada) and way up in the Rocky Mountains, but it is famous for having more than two dozen icy glaciers. It also has some 200 waterfalls and 700 lakes, though frigid water temperatures make swimming an adventure only for the brave.
The renowned Going-to-the-Sun Road offers stunning scenic views, but is only fully open from late June (sometimes early July) through September. That’s because it takes most of April, May, and June for snowplows to clear off the drifts that can reach 80 feet in depth. If you’re looking to go snow skiing in summer, this is your place.
3. Mackinac Island, Michigan
Located in the Great Lakes between the upper and lower Michigan peninsulas, Mackinac Island is a cool place to visit for multiple reasons. Since cars are prohibited on the island—only horse-drawn carriages are allowed—a trip to Mackinac is like a trip back in time. The entire island is a National Historic Landmark, and several buildings have their own separate Landmark designations. One such building, the 127-year-old Grand Hotel, has hosted everyone from Thomas Edison to Vladimir Putin.
Summer highlights on the island include sailboat races, a 10-day lilac festival, and an annual stone-skipping tournament. But the real highlight for us is the weather: the average high temperature for June through September is a perfect 72 degrees.
4. Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
Want to cool off at a waterpark? Wisconsin Dells is the place to go.
Billed as the “waterpark capital of the world,” this community of just a few thousand residents somehow hosts 30 waterparks. They include the largest outdoor waterpark in the country, Noah’s Ark, and the second-largest indoor waterpark at the Kalahari Resort. (Strangely enough, the town also has the world’s largest Trojan horse and the largest pink flamingo.)
Besides waterparks, Wisconsin Dells offers boat tours and rentals of different kinds, including amphibious “Duck” trucks. These allow you to see the namesake Dells of the Wisconsin River, which feature cliffs and unusual rock formations rising as high as 100 feet above the waterline.
5. Cascade, Colorado
Ready for winter? Kids can’t wait until Christmas? Then why not take them to Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole—which, strangely enough, is located in Colorado. The small mountain town of Cascade is home to the North Pole, a family theme park where the theme is Christmas. The kid-friendly rides include the Candy Cane Coaster, the Peppermint Slide, and Santa’s Sleigh Ride. Santa is there, of course, with his elves working as park employees. It’s kitschy cool, but kids like it.
Cascade also serves as the entrance for the Pikes Peak Highway, which allows you to drive to an elevation of over 14,000 feet. The average high temperature at the summit is only 48 degrees in July and August (and just 39 degrees in June or September).
If you want to go down instead of up, the Cave of the Winds is also nearby, with underground temperatures in the 50s. However, the Cave of the Winds is tiny compared to:
6. Mammoth Cave, Kentucky
To get out of the hot summer sun, you can either stay indoors all day, or go underground. And nowhere is there more “underground” than at Mammoth Cave National Park.
Mammoth Cave is by far the longest cave system in the world, with over 400 miles of subterranean tunnels, caverns, and rivers. There are a dozen different underground tours you can take during the summer, the longest of which is five miles. And because it’s deep underground, the temperatures stay in the mid 50s to low 60s year-round. Aboveground activities include fishing, canoeing, camping, hiking, and horseback riding.
7. Anchorage, Alaska
We can’t really make a list like this without including Alaska. And though the state’s largest city is along the southern coast, it has cooler summer temperatures (highs average in the low 60s) than some cities further north, such as Fairbanks. Anchorage is a major port for popular Alaskan cruises, and is the starting point for scenic road trips such as the Seward Highway or Denali National Park. And with 19 hours of summer sunlight each day, there’s plenty of time to see the sights.
If that’s not enough for your tastes, you can always catch a flight up to Barrow, Alaska, the farthest north city in the country. The average July high temperature there is in the 40s and the sun doesn’t set—at all—between mid-May and the end of July.
Can’t make it to one of these cool vacation spots this summer? Well, at least we can dream—and relax in some cold air conditioning.