When taking a summer vacation, most people jet off to somewhere beachside to soak in the ocean or to European metropolises like Paris or Berlin. And who’s blaming them? Certainly not me—I head off to the ocean with my surfboard every chance I get and absolutely plan on visiting Paris some day. But for travelers seeking the summer vacation road less traveled, consider a domestic lake vacay instead.
The thing with lake trips is that they can be whatever you want—part of an urban hustle or a secluded experience in the middle of nowhere. The best part, though, might be the cost. You’ll certainly shell out less to check out a lake in the States than you will to fly yourself across the pond.
Have I sold you yet? Check out these six gems and if you aren’t on board yet, I bet you will be by the time you reach the end.
1. Nevada and California’s Lake Tahoe
Let everyone else trot off to Lake Tahoe in the winter—summer is the time to go if you want a unique experience of this popular destination. The blend of mountains and beach are hard to beat and besides the usual lake offerings you can bungee jump or hang-glide if you want to punctuate your relaxation with some thrills. King’s beach is the perfect sandy spot to catch some rays and relax during the day. Head to Tahoe City if you want a taste of the local nightlife.
2. Idaho’s Coeur D’Alene Lake
I’ve never understood how this spot seems to continue to fly under the radar. I think anyone who has been to Coeur D’Alene Lake will agree that it’s simply stunning. Whether you want to roll in high style and shack up in a fancy resort or you want to camp your days away as close to nature as you can, anything is possible along these mountain-backed and tree-filled shores. There are a lot of vacation rentals on the lake, so long term stays (which you’ll likely want to do once you experience it) are an option too.
3. Oregon’s Crater Lake
Crater Lake is nestled in a national park of the same name, formed by the collapse of a once mighty peak thanks to a roaring volcanic eruption over 7,000 years ago. Today it’s a popular spot with hikers, campers, artists, scientists, and nature enthusiasts of all stripes who want to enjoy a glimpse of the lake that’s often invisible during the winter and more precipitous times. There’s a lodge in the premises as well if camping isn’t your thing (sometimes vacations mean treating yourself, right?).
4. New York’s Finger Lakes
Any wine lovers out there? If you’re nodding yes as you pour yourself a glass while reading this, then New York’s Finger Lakes and their surrounding region will delight you. Located squarely in the area’s wine country, the Finger Lakes are not only a lovely choice for an east coast lake escape, but you can take part in things like making your own glass of wine and drinking local vino the entire time you’re there. If you want to branch out from wine consumption, there’s hiking galore and a music festival every year for a few days in July. If you want to keep wine in the picture, there are plenty of events that center around wine like pairing dinners and singles mixers.
5. Minneapolis’ Chain of Lakes
This city comes alive in the summer. After months of cold weather hibernation, Minnesotans get excited at the first sign of warm weather and they don’t waste one second of it until it’s gone again. Adjacent to Minneapolis’ bustling Uptown neighborhood is Lake Calhoun, Lake of the Isles, Cedar Lake, Brownie Lake, and Lake Harriet which together are known as the Chain of Lakes.
All summer long you’ll find people hanging out at the beaches and swimming, paddle boarding, canoeing, and kayaking on the water. The lakes are also popular spots for volleyball, hammocking, and outdoor yoga. Each lake is encircled by separate walking and biking paths along which you’ll find people running, walking their dogs, rollerblading, and just generally enjoying life.