I don’t care how old you are, summer is meant for barreling down water slides, eating ice cream faster than it melts, and staying outside until the setting sun signals it’s time for dinner. Memories of summers past swirl up thoughts of swaying on the grassy lawn at outdoor concerts, getting the guts to ride roller coasters, and maybe even taking your first swig of an iced cold beer on a sweltering afternoon.
Summer memories are so sweet, so why not recreate them? To help you conjure up those summertime vibes, we’ve found this summer’s it-cities with the coolest events and grand openings happening this year, from first annual festivals to brewery launches. We looked at places that will make your kids go nuts with excitement, and cities where you can toast to the freedom of summer 2017.
We further broke down our list of the top summer vacation destinations into three categories: the first section covering kid-friendly places, the second focusing on adult-only hot spots, and third including all-ages fun. Whether you’re young or young at heart, your summer 2017 plans just got a pick-me-up.
The kid-centric variety
A family vacation that you and the kids can agree on
Everyone knows Orlando is the mecca for all things kid-friendly, but you might be surprised at how much you’ll enjoy the newest summer attractions. The House of Mouse is unveiling Pandora—The World of Avatar, a whimsical wonderland, where you can fly on the back of mountain banshees and take river journeys through a bioluminescent rainforest. But if you’d rather bask on the shores of Waturi Beach while your kids plummet 70 feet down the Ko’okiri Body Plunge, consider Universal’s newest Volcano Bay your summer sweet spot.
The 21+ vibes
A valid ID is your ticket to fun in these destinations
The summer temperatures in Vegas are hot—but the party scene is even hotter—and The Aquatic Club is turning up the heat. It may be the newest pool on the scene, but its retro parties and vintage-inspired fare are throwing it back to cooler times. Find your chill at a poolside cabana, and then pick your nighttime party poison: Mariah Carey, The Who, and Backstreet Boys are all taking up summer residencies in this city of sin. As for some sizzling eateries, swanky new restaurants like Chica and Blue Ribbon launched this spring, so get ahead of the curve and make reservations before the crowds.
Lake County, California
Just north of Napa, Lake County is perhaps the lesser known Cali wine country, but that just means more wine and fewer crowds for you. With over 30 wineries and the largest natural lake in the state, this getaway is what summer dreams are made of. Spend a balmy afternoon sipping chilled sauvignon blanc with your girlfriends or pop a bottle of cab on a vineyard picnic with your honey. But come July 1, you’ll want to save your palate for the Red, White, & Blues summer event. This Fourth of July barbecue at Brassfield Estate is uncorking 30 of the region’s ultimate vinos for you to sip, sample, and vote for your favorite.
If the crack of a beer can opening is your soundtrack to summertime, then Colorado Springs is your refuge. Three new breweries—Lost Friend Brewing Company, Goat Patch Brewing Co., and Deuces Wild Brewery—are all set to pump the kegs and open their doors this season. Meanwhile, the annual Feast of St. Arnold (June 10) and The Springs Beer Fest (August 5) are on the calendar for another boozy bout. Even the city’s first annual Music Fest (August 11) will have its own beer tent, making it nearly impossible not to sample what’s brewing in Colorado Springs.
Fun for all
There’s no age restrictions at these summer attractions
Big Summit Prairie, Oregon
Roughly two hours east of Bend, Big Summit Prairie is playing host to the Oregon Eclipse, a 7-day extravaganza celebrating the total solar eclipse. Perhaps the most perfect place to see a lunar phenomenon, the private ranch sprawls out across 55,000 acres in the Ochoco National Forest—miles away from civilization—giving you a front-row view of the sky show. To build up to the excitement, this whimsical festival will unleash live music, theater performances, hot air balloon rides, and even a life-sized tarot card room to inspire and entertain you over the course of the week.
If the scorching sun is making you want to hole up indoors, find your way to the air-conditioned halls of The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown. For a limited time only, the Picasso Encounters exhibition will be on display, celebrating three paintings and 35 of the artist’s innovative prints. The nearby Williams College Museum of Art also has a temporary installation of its own, Robert Rauschenberg: Autobiography. Open through August 17, this display explores Rauschenberg’s way of life through documents and artwork. For an even higher dose of art and culture, get tickets for the Williamstown Theatre Festival, which has a packed performance schedule, running from June to mid-August.
If your appetite generally determines your travel plans, then allow it to lead you to West Hartfood—we mean Hartford. This New England town is serving up its first Food and Wine Festival (June 17), where more than 30 local restaurants and countless Connecticut wineries and breweries are on the menu. We’re not saying skip breakfast, but you’ll want to leave plenty of room in your belly for a day’s worth of sampling the area’s finest fare. And when the summertime temps make you dream of ice cream, be on the lookout for Milkcraft, a brand-new location that will concoct frozen treats from a mixture of milk, raw ingredients, and liquid nitrogen for a unique “cow to cone” experience.
Are you planning to attend any events this summer?