Summer vacation is in full swing, with many looking to soak up the remaining sunny days with their nearest and dearest. The question is, where to go?
This year, a majority of Americans—63%, to be exact—have plans to get away for summer vacation, according to Vacasa’s 2022 Summer Travel Trends report. And, with nearly three in four travelers planning to keep their vacation within the U.S., you may need to look beyond the most well-known domestic destinations if your travel plans are still in the works. But that’s what we’re here for.
One way to make an epic getaway happen before the summer season closes is to consider alternative destinations to the busier mainstays—the hidden gems and the corners less traveled. Our Vacasa experts combed through booking data to recommend the best alternatives to summer destination hot spots, where guests can still find summer vacation rentals. From an under-the-radar barrier island in Florida to SoCal’s unofficial adventure capital, these less-crowded destinations promise to check just as many boxes on your summer travel list.
Myrtle Beach is well-loved by visitors for its white sand beaches and massive boardwalk that rivals Virginia Beach’s oceanfront esplanade, with the benefit of more lodging options this time of year. Offering both outdoor adventure and sleepy sun-soaked days, South Carolina’s Atlantic Coast is the ideal family-friendly getaway.
Take a stroll through the Grand Strand’s famed boardwalk, where sandy beaches are the backdrop to boutique shopping and live music. It’s easy to spend a day sunbathing and shell collecting, but those looking to make some waves can choose between surf lessons, paddleboard excursions, and even moonlit kayak tours. Dress up or dress down for one of the many waterfront restaurants in Murrells Inlet, where award-winning hush puppies and towering seafood platters await.
If you’re craving crisp mountain air this summer, Blue Ridge offers views as breathtaking as Gatlinburg’s, with a more small-town feel that allows for some extra breathing room from crowds. The resort town, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountain region, is within driving distance to most cities in the Southeast, making it an easy summer escape to unplug and reconnect with nature.
Take your morning coffee with a view of the blue-hazed mountains before getting an early start hiking to a local waterfall, tubing down a lazy river, or whitewater rafting. Though Blue Ridge stays true to its roots, the area is also home to a number of upscale shops and award-winning craft breweries and wineries that offer a well-deserved wind-down after a day of outdoor adventure.
Fernandina Beach, a charming beach town just outside of Jacksonville on North Florida’s Amelia Island, is a hidden gem that shares a similar draw to the more well-known Outer Banks region: Both have abundant native wildlife and miles of undeveloped beaches that feel untouched by time.
The pristine coastline is a nature-lover's paradise, perfect for birdwatching, eco-bike excursions, and wildlife kayak tours. Fernandina Beach is one of the few Florida beaches with horseback riding, so don’t miss a chance for a sunset gallop. Step back in time with a stroll under century-old Spanish moss-draped trees or take a dip in the calm waters of the Atlantic Ocean, where the average water temperature is a welcoming 82 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer.
While Lake Chelan reigns as the quintessential Northwest lake escape, Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains makes a compelling alternative with its clear blue skies and seven-mile lake brimming with summertime activity (and yes, the occasional bear!).
Two hours outside of Los Angeles, Big Bear Lake is SoCal’s summer alpine playground, with every water sport you can imagine—from beginner paddle board lessons to advanced water skiing and everything in between. Nicknamed the “cycling capital of SoCal,” Big Bear Lake is also home to hundreds of miles of cross-country trails, as well as the 8,000-foot-high Summit Bike Park. Stay in a lakefront home—ranging from small and quaint to grand estates—and wake up to stunning mountain and lake views each morning.
While both Sun Valley and Steamboat Springs are popular ski resort getaways, Steamboat Springs offers smaller summertime crowds, plus the added bonus of an Old West vibe (rodeo and dude ranches, anyone?) and an avid cycling culture that earns Steamboat Springs the nickname “Bike Town USA.” But really, the town motto sums it up best: “Come for the winter, stay for the summer.”
An easy three-hour drive from Denver, there is no shortage of outdoor activities for every type of traveler in your group, from peaceful hiking trails and hot air ballooning to the rare alpine golfing. However, a Steamboat Springs trip is not complete without a soak in its famous geothermal hot springs, where mineral-rich water can be therapeutic after a day of mountain fun.