12 sizzling summer places to visit in 2017

Basking in this year’s best summer destinations in the US

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 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

Orlando, Florida


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.

Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

In Wisconsin Dells, the Waterpark Capital of the World, you won’t sweat when the mercury starts to rise. Home to four glorious water parks—including Noah’s Ark, one of the largest in the nation—this city brings the water works. As summer rolls around, get your chills and thrills at Kalahari Resort. Not only does it have the state’s largest indoor water park, but this season the outdoor section of the park is revealing The Smoke That Thunders, a brand new, swirly, twirl-y water slide that will have you and your kids lining up for a second (and third!) go-around.

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

As a kid, summer vacation was practically synonymous with fighting for the front-row seat on the wildest coasters and spinning on the dizzy rides until you felt sick, but who says that’s gotta stop? Join your own kids at OKC’s Frontier City, and be one of the first to shoot down the theme park’s newest water park attraction: Gully Washer. Hold on tight to your swimsuit because this 2017 addition looms six stories tall with three exhilarating slides! For more childlike wonderment, look to the skies for the city’s first Oklahoma Balloon Festival (August 30 to September 4), where the horizon will flutter with vibrantly patterned hot air balloons.

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

As if the beauty of the Smokies wasn’t enough to enchant you and your family in this mountain town, Dollywood is adding to the allure with its new 2017 experiences. Step right up to the terrifying Drop Line that will make you shudder as you free fall from 200 feet in the air. Then train your kids to love the excitement of thrashing around on a wooden track, as you hop aboard the Whistle Punk Chaser, the park’s newest junior coaster. Prefer keeping your feet on solid ground? For a limited time only, the Titanic Museum is showcasing costumes from the famous film in honor of the movie’s 20th anniversary—never let go, Jack!

The 21+ vibes
A valid ID is your ticket to fun in these destinations

Las Vegas, Nevada


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.

Colorado Springs, Colorado


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.

Louisville, Kentucky

You may be eying Kentucky for its bourbon, but you’ll leave town talking about its craft beer. This June 24, Louisville is hosting its inaugural Kentucky Craft Bash, where more than 30 breweries are joining forces for the largest suds celebration in the state. During the ultimate taproom experience, you’ll get to sneak samples of exclusive and experimental brews, giving you some major cred in the KY beer scene. But if you’re still feeling thirsty come August, quench your thirst at the Kentucky State Fair, which is hosting a Kentucky Bourbon, Bites, and Brew Tent; Bourbon World area; and Party on the Midway Tent.

Fun for all
There’s no age restrictions at these summer attractions

Centre Hall, Pennsylvania

Centre Hall is putting itself center stage as it hosts the first ever Karoondinha Music & Arts Festival (July 21-23). The Ka-Ha lineup is coming in strong with top acts from Chance the Rapper to John Legend. More than 80 artists are designing magical installations in “The Land of Shining Waters” (the fest’s tribal namesake), while yoga, dance, and meditation workshops welcome you to free your mind and body. For more bites of sound throughout the summer, the local Centre County Grange Fair is hosting nightly concerts (August 18-26) with bands like Street Corner Symphony and Motown Sounds of Touch.

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.

Williamstown, Massachusetts


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.

West Hartford, Connecticut


If your appetite generally determines your travel plans, then allow it to lead you 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?

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Chloe Mulliner

As a staff writer for Expedia, Chloe Mulliner is dedicated to providing top travel tips for your jaunts around the world. She believes there are adventures to be had on every inch of the globe from surf spots on the Peruvian coast to the charming villages of the English countryside. Chloe specializes in showcasing all the must-see attractions on your travel wish list. She lives by the belief that every adventure is a story worth sharing.