The key to getting through the next few months? Learn to love winter. While every…
There is so much talk about eating seasonally. Why not take that same approach to travel? Destinations simply shine at certain times of the year. With that in mind, here are a few destinations you should consider in August.
Route 66 in Illinois
Now, Route 66 is almost 2,500 miles long and spans eight states. You can’t do all of it in the month of August even if you tried! However, you can narrow it down to one section, and I can’t think of a better section than its beginnings in Illinois. This whole section can be done in 3 days; just fly into Chicago to rent your car and then fly out of St. Louis, Missouri. Grab your best friend for the perfect kind of travel, tunes, and talking vacation.
Why Go Now? Historic Route 66 is iconic for any music lover. Just imagine avoiding all the last-minute summer vacation crowds for wide-open spaces. Plus, you’ll have 14 hours of daylight so no need to worry about having to drive in the dark and plan your arrivals and departures too strictly.
Where to Eat: Grab a classic burger, fries, and shake at Polk-a-Dot Drive-In. It’s a classic roadside diner that’ll make you feel like you’re right back in the 1950s and 60s.
Play Like it’s the 80s: At first glance, McClean will seem like a typical 1800s midwestern town. But go inside each building you’ll discover each one is an arcade with all the best video games from the 70s and 80s. Just make sure you bring enough quarters to play!
Where to Stay: Keep up the fun and stay in one of the rental places that are part of Hotel Arcadia. Each place has an arcade theme and its own private games.
Begin with the Blues: The Blues Brothers that is. A must-stop is Old Joliet Prison where the film began with John Belushi as Jake “Joliet” Blues’ release from prison. You can even get a tour with the former warden and get the inside scoop on what it was like to work with Dan Aykroyd, Belushi, and John Landis.
Get Cultured: You don’t want to miss the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum or the Route History Museum while in Springfield.
Stretch Your Legs: Directly across the river from St. Louis in Collinsville, Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site is the largest and most complex pre-Columbian settlement outside of Mexico. Part of early Mississippian culture from 800-1600 CE, there are still tons of archaeological remnants today. Be sure to check out any of the 120 mounds as well as the ancient Woodhenges and climb Monk’s Mound for a truly incredible view.
Chattanooga is the perfect blend of city and country adventures. Right at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, spend your days enjoying a place that’s truly inspired by both its history and its proximity to nature.
Why Go Now? When families plan getaways, they don’t necessarily think of cities. Chattanooga in August is the perfect time if you’re hoping for fewer crowds and lower hotel prices – especially if you can manage to go during the week. Weekends are still going to be quite popular.
Where to Stay: Stay at the Choo Choo Hotel, of course! Once a train station, the Beaux Arts hotel takes inspiration from its locomotive past. It’s not only a hotel but also a huge complex with tons of things to do and places to eat.
Where to Eat: Do NOT miss the fried fish at Uncle Larry’s Restaurant. He’s been perfecting the recipe since he was just 12 years old, and it shows.
Drive Around: Rent an electric SwinCar and mosey about at the beautiful Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center. Not only are you keeping things environmentally friendly, you’re also going to LOVE driving around and not having any car engine buzzing loudly in your ears.
Under the River…: Learn all about the creatures that call the Tennessee River home at the Tennessee Aquarium. It’s one of the largest freshwater aquariums in the world and has the largest turtle display in North America. There’s a good reason it’s often cited as one of the top things to do in Chattanooga.
…And Up in the Sky: Take in the whimsy at Rocky City while being able to see out to seven different states. You can also try your hand at High Point Climbing & Fitness where they have a 60ft outdoor climbing wall that’ll really give you the best view in Chattanooga.
St. Augustine, FL
St. Augustine, Florida is great for families but it’s even better as a romantic getaway in August. The beautiful architecture and historic nature of the city make it a more relaxing Florida destination – perfect for couples looking for a little weekend away.
Why Go Now? This is the most relaxed month of the summer season. St. John County, in which St. Augustine is located, is back in school this time of year, so there are a lot fewer crowds and families. Be sure to fly into Jacksonville so you can avoid the theme park crowds at the Orlando Airport and the international travelers at the Miami Airport.
Where to Stay: Go for adults-only at The Collector Luxury Inn & Gardens. This hotel is spread over a series of historic homes and buildings from the 18th century and also has a private bar just for guests. Add to the romance by strolling through the courtyards at night.
Where to Eat: You have to at least grab some nachos at Flagler College. Once a huge luxury resort, the college is easily one of the most beautiful places in the country. The dining hall alone has 40 original Tiffany stained-glass windows. For something that won’t have you running into college kids returning from summer break, check out Asado Life. It’s an open-air restaurant located right along the river and celebrates the art of asado, a type of South American style of barbecuing. Truly a mouthwatering experience.
Where to Take Your Long, Romantic Walk: St. Augustine has a number of beautiful beaches but the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (or GTM Reserve for short) is particularly perfect. Before you leave, make sure to keep an eye out for unique souvenirs.
Get Cultured: Plan a visit to Castillo San Marcos National Monument. Within these coquina walls are 450 years of stories and history that pre-date the United States itself.
Where to Shop: Check out pedestrian-only St. George Street. Start at Old City Gate and continue beyond Plaza de la Constitucion for Lincolnville Historic District. Besides historic attractions and cool restaurants, there are a number of locally-owned boutiques perfect for browsing.
One of my favorite places in the whole world – coastal Maine is truly special in the summer season. Even if you’re partner never wants to go anywhere, you can convince them to come here. I’ve grown up spending summers here, and the rocky landscapes never cease to amaze me. Get out on the water, take in as much lobster (and melted butter!) as you can, and always make time for Acadia National Park.
Why Go Now? While early August is still peak season, you’ll actually see crowds thin out during the last two weeks as kids head back to school. I remember seeing crowds drop off in mid-August back when I was a waitress in my teens! Another bonus? Rental homes, which have a 7-day minimum in peak season, will begin softening this stance around now.
Where to Stay: One of the best areas to stay is in Bar Harbor. It’s a charming town right near Acadia, so it’s a perfect gateway town to the park. For the best rates, though, check closer to Portland, ME, or Portsmouth, NH.
Where to Eat: You’ve gotta go to Flo’s Hot Dogs. I’ve been going here since I was only 12 years old and even had their pigs in a blanket at my wedding. Be sure to get Flo’s special – just trust me. If you’re with a group, gather for a lobster bake at Chauncey Creek. You can bring anything not on the menu, and they’ll provide the lobster, bibs, and melted butter!
Run, Forrest, Run: Be like Forrest Gump and visit Marshall Point Lighthouse. It’s been around since 1858 and was featured in the iconic Tom Hanks movie during his looooong run around America.
Lighthouse Hop: In addition to Marshall Point, there are 50 stunning lighthouses in Maine. My personal favorite? Nubble Light – it’s just storybook beautiful.
Where to Drink: Grab a beer at Tributary Brewing in Kittery. Owner, Tod Mott, is a legend in this state and has been in the brewery world for over three decades.
Wild Beauty in a Park: No visit to coastal Maine is complete without spending time in Acadia National Park. For the tallest point, head up Cadillac Mountain. Don’t miss the popovers at Jordan Pond House!
For an Epic Walk: Opt to stroll along Marginal Way. It runs along Ogunquit Coast and you’ll have big, beautiful beach homes to one side and the ocean to your other. Save for the end of your trip as a way to recalibrate before getting ready to head back to the real world.
On the Water: Trust me, with those water temperatures, you won’t want to spend long swimming in Maine. At the end of August when the ocean is as warm as it’ll ever be, you can still expect temps around 52F. However, you absolutely want to find a way onto the water. My best tip? Book a cruise with Bass Harbor Island Cruises. They’ll take you all around the coast and to a number of beautiful lighthouses. If you’re lucky, you might see some seal pups!
Letchworth State Park
Spanning two counties in Western New York, Letchworth State Park is known as the Grand Canyon of the East. It stretches about 17 miles along the Genesee River and has three major waterfalls – Lower, Middle, and Upper Falls. It’s a gorgeous park that still feels under the radar, so no need to plan at least a year in advance just to visit.
Why Go Now? Unlike many major national parks where you’re already too late if you’ve waited until now to plan your trip, Letchworth still has accommodations available IN the park! It’s only an hour from either Buffalo or Rochester airports, and you’ll have access to two Great Lakes and the beautiful Finger Lakes region.
Where to Stay: Check out either Glen Iris Inn or the park cabins if you want to stay in Letchworth. It overlooks Middle Falls!
Walk a Mile…: Literally! Of the 66 miles of trails in Letchworth, the most special mile has to be the Autism Nature Trail. It’s the first of its kind in the United States and features multiple stations and pavilions that are designed to help visitors increase sensory perception and practice both balance and motor skills. Another key factor is that the environment is designed to be peaceful and calming. If you get lost by any chance, look for the little rock snowmen to help guide you.
Where to Eat: Okay, you can’t eat there necessarily, but you can purchase all the Monks’ Bread goods at the Abbey of the Genesee. Yes, this abbey is home to the monks of the Monks’ Bread brand, and they’ve been baking bread since 1953.
Enjoy Some Art: In Mount Morris, a gateway village for Letchworth, is a beautiful mural by Shawn Dunwoody. It’s between Main and Chapel streets and features a number of famous historical figures that have made the town what it is today – including Francis Bellamy who penned a certain poem every student in America knows by heart now.
Get Cultured: Spend some time at the Genesee Country Village and Museum to see what life was like in the 19th century. Full of cultural interpreters and workshops, it’s the largest of its kind in New York. You also don’t want to miss Clara Barton Chapter #1 which is where she held the first local society meeting of the American Red Cross on August 22, 1881.
St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador
One of the most eastern places in North America, St. John’s offers history, nature, wildlife, and culture. Here’s why you should go.
Why go now? Iceland, Ireland, Norway, England, France, and Denmark are travel destinations that are likely on your radar. But what if I told you that you could experience all of these cultures and environments in one place? Add in great weather, and boom! Vacation perfection.
Where to stay: In a city as quaint as St. John’s, you’d expect a few idyllic B&Bs… and you’d be correct. Check out Leaside Manor (link) or the Roses for a more intimate accommodation experience.
Where to eat: Merchant Tavern (link) is a nod to the global merchants that made the original St. John’s settlement possible. Try the fish and chips; pan-roasted cod; fresh pasta; and raw bar selections.
Where to shop: Find textiles, pottery, jewelry, paintings, and more at the Craft Council of Newfoundland & Labrador (link), a non-profit shop and gallery all about supporting local artists.
Weird fact: Did you know Newfoundland has its own time zone? Newfoundland Time. And it’s an hour and a half later than Eastern Standard Time.
Get cultured: Modern melds with the historic throughout St. John’s. Experience it for yourself at The Rooms. This public cultural space boasts breathtaking harbor and city views and houses the province’s most extensive collection of artifacts, art, and archival records.
Candy without the calories: When you think of places with brightly colored houses, you think Caribbean, not Canada. Downtown St. John’s is known for its striking Jellybean Row houses, and clapboard homes in vibrant reds, yellows, blues, and pinks.
Old-timey fun: Quidi Vidi Village feels a world away from modern times, but it’s really a short walk from downtown St. John’s. Lovingly called “The Gut” by locals, this historic fishing village entices locals and tourists with its beautiful sunsets.
With its rich blue waters, white sand beaches, and nothing but water on the horizon, it’s easy to see why this area is called the Caribbean of the North. Here’s how to make the most of your time in Northern Michigan.
Where to stay: So many beautiful places to stay in this area, it’s hard to pick just one! If you’re looking to explore Sleeping Bear Dunes and Traverse City, drop your bags at Sugar Beach. In Petoskey, you’ll find anything from elegant guest rooms to spacious apartments at Bay Harbor. Also, lots of great camping to be had! Explore your options here.
Where to eat: From breakfast at the Grand Traverse Pie Company to Asian-inspired food at Alliance Restaurant, there’s no shortage of great places to grab a bite. Art’s Tavern in Glen Arbor offers excellent burgers in a no-frills atmosphere.
Where to drink: If you’re into wine, northwest Michigan is home to over 60 wineries. Check out the Leelanau Peninsula for some lovely vineyards, including 45 North, Big Little Wines, and Mawby, known for their bubbles. Across the bay, you’ll find Bonobo Winery, a lovely spot owned by HGTV star Connor Oosterhouse and wife, actress Amy Smart.
Get outside: Good Morning America named Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore the most beautiful spot in America. Who am I to argue? With turquoise water, blue sky, and towering sand dunes, this 64-mile curve of breathtaking beaches, forests, meadows and lakes can’t be missed.
Cute small-town alert! Head to the “Tip of the Mitt” (aka the top of Michigan—you’ll notice locals regularly use their palms to denote locations within the state). Stop in Petoskey’s downtown, which overlooks Lake Michigan and offers terrific shopping and Harbor Springs.
The touristy thing that is soooo worth it: You must must must take the ferry to the famous Mackinac Island. It’s one of my favorite places in the country. I adore any place where no cars are allowed (here’s my travel guide to the island). Simply leave your car on the mainland and head over for the day or even overnight.
Quirky stop: Visit Saint Ignace’s Mystery Spot, an area where gravity, allegedly, seems to have gone haywire. Is it a natural phenomenon… or a cheesy tourist roadside stop? Hmm… maybe both.
North Cascades National Park
Love hiking, kayaking, and stunning alpine views? Those are just a few reasons why you should plan a visit to Northwest Washington’s North Cascades National Park, aka the American Alps.
Why visit now? Though the season is short (there’s often snow and ice on the peaks until July!), it’s really where this park shines.
Where to stay: Book a lakeside room or cabin at the Lodge at Stehekin. Accommodations are basic, but the surroundings make this one of the most jaw-dropping hotels in the country. The tiny old-school frontier community (population: 75) is only accessible by float plane, hiking, horseback, or boat (book the Lady of the Lake ferry). There’s no cell service and only one public satellite phone available in the valley. You won’t find groceries here (so come prepared!), but the lodge does have a restaurant and general store. There’s also a great pastry shop, ranch, and lots of camping.
Interesting fact: Though one of the least visited National Parks, it’s a mere 2.5-hour drive from Seattle… why not spend a few days in the city, then head up here for some fresh mountain air?
Claim to fame: With about 300 within its borders, North Cascades has the most glaciers of any National Park outside of Alaska.
Where to hike: 400 miles of trails mean there’s something for every ability. The 1.8-mile trek to Lake Dorothy boasts views of the lake and granite cliffs—there are a few trails that shoot off from here, offering a little more solitude. Families will love the short hikes from Rainy Pass, including the one-mile long Rainy Lake trail, the two-mile Lake Ann route, plus a handful of other longer loops featuring views into the Glacier Peak Wilderness and Stephen Mather Wilderness areas.
Nightlife: Head to the nearby quiet town of Newhalem for a Skagit Hydroelectric Project history lesson. Built in the 1920s, Ladder Creek Falls is illuminated with all the colors of the rainbow, coupled with music. It’s a fun way to spend an evening.
Read more about North Cascades here.