With a pandemic still changing the way we summer, it’s no wonder people are becoming more creative in scheduling travel itineraries that keep it close to home. For those looking for travel ideas, we’ve come up with the eight best American summer break destinations for 2021 (and one bonus option for passport holders).
Summer 2021 will have its challenges. That’s certain. COVID-19 precautions aren’t always easy nor fun. Nevertheless, with a vaccine making the rounds and tourism boards pushing to open various cities and states, flying domestically isn’t totally out of the picture, especially for the fully vaccinated.
Others will go old school, loading up the truck and hitting the road. If they’re really old school, the music will be sourced from CDs or cassettes. Bluetooth gets the job done, too.
Nobody knows for certain what the future holds in terms of the pandemic and travel regulations. As of publication, these locations might work. Travelers, backpackers, and cross-country trekkers alike should consult their destinations COVID-19 protocols before departing.
There are plenty of places to visit in the good old US of A. Our review recommends both some common-sense locales and a few hidden gems along the way.
1. Traverse City, Michigan
Break out the boating gear because sailing is on the menu in Traverse City, Michigan (as is fine wine and a little stargazing). This small-town experience offers the best of both worlds when it comes to reconnecting with nature and supporting the local shops.
Wine tasting in the summer is a refreshing activity no matter where it occurs, but it just tastes better in Traverse City, especially at Chateau Chantal. The COVID-19 policies are regularly updated on the company website, and reservations for wine flights are open.
Chateau Chantal doubles as a Bed and Breakfast, so you can certainly make a weekend of it. Men who want to dress up for the occasion can stop by Captain’s Quarters to find a sharp blazer, dress shirt, polo, or sweater. Planes, trains, and automobiles all make this an accessible mid-West spot for a USA-based summer trip, especially for those currently stationed in Chicago or on the East Coast.
2. Austin, Texas
In Texas, everything is bigger – including the rush to get visitors back on the street. Not everybody is ready to travel in Texas, but for those who are, consider making a pitstop in Austin.
Part foodie’s paradise, part buzzing music scene, Austin’s making noise. Entrepreneurs have made it a fan-favorite when it comes to a startup location, and that’s pumping funds back into the local economy. Energy, money, and pizazz, they really have it all.
For the traveler who revels in experiences, this city is a match. El Alma Cafe, for example, offers the finest in Mexican-inspired craft cocktails. The cityscape view makes an ideal backdrop for your latest selfie.
And, of course, whatever you get, don’t be afraid to order it “Top Shelf.” Tex-Mex is as authentic as gets on the Texan side of the border, so order a margarita, sit back, and enjoy.
3. Malibu, California
Hollywood’s glitz and glam are still largely on standby in Los Angeles, but about an hour and a half away, surrounded by parkland, Malibu offers a scaled-down option for travelers hoping to catch a celebrity sighting or two.
Malibu’s famous Zuma Beach keeps things out in the sun and fresh air. A day à la plage is convenient and fun. When the sun goes down, keep an eye open for a good food stand. The water’s a little brisk in the early evening, so bring a sweater if you’re to wade!
Our favorite eatery is the Sunset Restaurant. It’s currently open for in-room dining, curbside pick-up, and no contact delivery. What’s good? Try the lobster roll with the fries. Maybe a martini! Bon appétit!
4. Chicago, Illinois
A lot of people are antsy to get back into the hustle and bustle of city life. Those who know the feeling are looking forward to their next city jaunt complete with cafes, skyscrapers, and manicured gardens.
Avoiding pandemic risks in a big city are tough, but Chicago communicates changes well, and most citizens abide without issue, even in the suburbs which are worth a visit in their own right. Train-connected towns like Long Grove and Geneva never go out of style.
No trip to Chicago is complete without a few mandatory stops. First, the Art Institue, which is currently open by appointment, houses art and artifacts from around the world. Take a picture out front with the iconic Lions of Michigan Avenue.
Order an Italian beef or famous deep dish pizza and enjoy it from the comfort of your own bed. Delivery options are plentiful in this bright and airy urban environment. Mexican food is also highly recommended if in Rogers Park, Little Village, or Pilsen.
In the summer, Chicago earns its reputation as “the third coast” thanks to its picturesque beach fronts on both the north and south sides. Art, sun, and city style are all in one in the Windy City.
5. Roswell, New Mexico
Self-identified sci-fi fans, geeks, nerds, weirdos, and late-night History Channel watchers have one thing in common – they probably spent at least part of the pandemic wondering if aliens from outer space have ever made contact with Earthlings.
The International UFO Museum and Research Center may have all the answers they need. If not, the gift shop’s odds and ends at least offer some funky souvenirs, like your own Nevada UFO License.
If you want to do it big in Roswell, you can stay overnight in a dormant missile silo that has been transformed into office spaces and a two-bed, one-bath, private apartment ($315 USD/night). The room booking includes a tour of the facilities. Now that’s all access!
6. The Grand Canyon, Arizona
The American Classic: The Grand Canyon. How could we leave it off the list? Grand Canyon National Park is a popular spot in Arizona, and it’s been a famous road trip destination for ages. Retro is in right now, especially during the pandemic when leisure activities like cookouts, cakewalks, and hiking are starting to make sense again.
The oldest rocks in the park are 1.7 billion years old, and the top layer is approximately 240 million years old. This might help give the contemplative jetsetter a fresh perspective on life!
The best (coolest) way to get to the Grand Canyon is via Las Vegas where daredevils can book a helicopter tour. If flying isn’t your style, private rides are for hire. Some companies offer Hummer tours. We recommend Maverick Helicopter. They’ll have the right package for you and your crew.
7. Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville, North Carolina makes the cut at number seven. If you’ve been shaking your head at the city, beach, lake, and desert optoins, maybe it’s because you’ve been holding out for the river in the mountains. That’s Asheville, NC.
Larger than Traverse City with a population of over 90,000, you won’t feel exactly like you’re in the middle of nowhere, but serenity is within reach thanks to the scenic French Broad River. Many visitors rent cabins, rich with hot tubs and trail access, but there are plenty of high rollers who stick to golf outings and posh dinners at the Local Biltmore Estate.
The city is set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Many have made it an annual trip, citing the art scene and the ever-appealing architectural stops.
8. Burlington, Vermont
These days, people like their wardrobe style to be authentic. If you’re already thinking about 2021 winter fashion forecasts, then Burlington, Vermont is where you can buy your flannel goods and stay warm while looking good.
Burlington offers some bang for its buck, too. Tripadvisor users recommend a picnic on Lake Champlain, which might make for a chill weekend with the fellas or an afternoon retreat with someone special. A solo traveler will feel right at home in the Church Street Marketplace, an open-air shopping center that offers food, fun, and entertainment in the form of shopping, bars, and restaurants.
Bonus: Riviera Nayarit, Mexico
An April 9, 2021, CNN Report explains the current protocol in regards to traveling to Mexico. The borders are open but entrants will be required to answer a health questionnaire.
CNN explains that returning to the US is a bit trickier: “The land border between Mexico and the United States is closed for nonessential travel through at least April 21. However, air travel is allowed.”
To return to the USA, a negative COVID-19 test result must be provided, and it must have been taken within 72 hours, the report adds. This is subject to change based on CDC recommendations.
Luckily, some hotels and airports are facilitating tests, for a fee, to make them easier. Puerto Vallarta, in Jalisco, Mexico, maintains an up-to-date listing of protocols, testing locations, and official communications. Although the travel restrictions have kept most Americans within the nation’s borders, Mexico’s practically open-door policy has attracted a few snowbirds over the past year.
If Mexico’s on your travel bucket list, consider kickin’ it poolside in the lesser-known, but still glamorous, Riviera Nayarit. This seaside destination just north of Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico rivals Tulum in style and Acapulco in fun.
Travelers from LA, NYC, and the other big cities have been flocking down to resorts in Punta de Mita like the hotel W Punta de Mita. There, they revel in the sultry Pacific heat while drinking bubbles poolside. Their recent Sunset Concert Series has also been popular, with artists like Vanessa Zamora, Ruzzi, and Tessa Ia performing. The destination is sexy, secure, and within reach with a valid passport and negative COVID-19 Status.
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