Beat the Heat with These 3 Summer Vacation Ideas

Is summer too hot to handle? Don’t sweat it—these getaways will help you turn down the temperature.

Close-up of a family of four in red life jackets canoeing on a lake

by NEA Member Benefits

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Escape the summer heat with a getaway to a cooler clime. We have recommendations on where to go—and what to do while you’re there.

Vinalhaven, Maine

 Refreshing ocean breezes are abundant in Vinalhaven—since you’re never far from shore. At less than 24 square miles and with roughly 1,000 residents, the island is more than an hour by ferry from the town of Rockland, midway up the coast in Maine.

Because the ocean is so cold out here, you may prefer a dip in one of several quarries on the island, which have warmer, calmer waters. Try Lawson or Booth quarries. After you work up on appetite enjoying the water, check out some of the island’s great food options. Right off the ferry is Greet’s Eats, a food truck serving the Best Lobster Roll in Maine (so says Down East magazine). Hit Downstreet Market for good, strong coffee and delicious baked pastries, or the Haven for something a little more upscale.

There aren’t many hotels here to choose from, but the Tidewater Motel is a solid choice for a waterfront room, while the Libby House and Payne Homestead offer cozier stays. And make sure you pack a jacket—nights and evenings can get chilly, even in the summer.

Upper Peninsula, Michigan

 When the heat and humidity have you wiping your brow, it’s time to head north to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, or “U.P.” The U.P. is large—so you probably won’t see it all in one trip. But this makes for a great excuse to come back!

First things first: Hit the water. The rivers and lakes up here are ideal for kayaking and canoeing. Or for a different type of water experience, visit idyllic, tree-shaded Tahquemenon Falls State Park. With a drop of 50 feet and a 200-foot-wide span, the upper falls are among the largest west of the Mississippi. There are also dozens of hiking trails, great camping sites and spots for enjoying a picnic by the rushing water.

Adrenaline junkies should head to Drummond Island. Here, you get your thrills on an ATV, the go-anywhere buggies you’ll need to careen across a mostly unspoiled expanse of land popularly known as “Michigan’s Ultimate Playground.”

Hungry? Check out St. Ignace’s Clyde’s Drive-In, home of many Michiganders’ favorite burgers.

There are a variety of beautiful resorts to choose from across the U.P., such as Mackinac Island’s Mission Point Resort or Island House Hotel. But many would say the best place to spend the night is at one of the campgrounds that abound around the region.

Santa Cruz, California

 Of the three getaways highlighted here, Santa Cruz may offer the most activities. Start with a visit to the town’s Beach Boardwalk on Main Beach, one of the oldest operating seaside amusement parks. Salty breezes combine with tall rides that offer unforgettable panoramic views.

Want to hit the beach but avoid the crowds? Skip Main Beach and head to Sunset or Seacliff instead. If you enjoy water activities, rentals for surfers, windsurfers and kitesurfers abound. But bring (or plan to rent) a wetsuit—the Northern California waters are notoriously chilly.

If you’re looking for a break from the salt and spray, head inland. Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park in nearby Felton is home to giant redwoods, plus miles of excellent hiking trails. Or take a more urbane view of the countryside with a visit to a winery for a delightful afternoon outing.

Be sure to make time to sample some local cuisine—there are countless options. Locals swear by Linda’s Seabreeze Cafe and Santa Cruz Diner for breakfast and lunch, and for dinner, keep things California casual at the Crow’s Nest, which offers lovely ocean views, or Soif, a popular wine bar.

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