Skip to content


7 of America’s Best Lake Vacation Getaways

When it’s hot outside, there’s nothing like a lake vacation.

Wow, it’s hot out there. Makes me wish I was on a houseboat floating along, soaking in a cool breeze and dangling my feet over the side. While summertime is known for the family beach vacation, many families are packing up and heading to the lake.  Why?  Well isn’t it obvious…no sharks, seaweed or jellyfish.  And there are so many different choices for accommodations:  the typical lake cottage, camping, luxury resort, B&B or lodge.  You can pretty much design your own experience with temperature/elevation, adventure, family fun or party vibe.  I’m thinking mine will be a cozy little cottage on a crystal clear lake in the mountains, with extra helpings of peace and quiet.

Here are few ideas to get you moving toward the dock:

Finger Lakes Region, NY

With 11 lakes to choose from, each with its own distinct personality, you are sure to find a lake you love in New York’s Finger Lakes region. It might, however, take a few trips before you discover every single one and all that the communities surrounding them have to offer. The region spans 9,000 square miles, stretching across Syracuse to Rochester in the north and nearly as far south as the Pennsylvania border. The cities, towns, and small villages are as unique as the lakes themselves offering an oasis for many Northeast city dwellers, though its international crowd is growing too. Enjoy all the amenities nature has to offer, from hiking the Finger Lakes National Forest to swimming and other water sports, as well as endless farm-to-table options and a lovely wine region to bask in.


Crater Lake, Oregon

This lake has so many unique features, you have to put it toward the top of the list.  Are you the type that’s always trying to take the perfect landscape photo? If so, Crater Lake will inspire your inner creativity with its deep blue pureness and mountain backdrop.  Go during the summer (although it’s a short season) and you’ll experience one magical day after another in the cool and clean mountain air.  Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the US at 1,943 feet and has some of the clearest water found anywhere in the world.  You’ll want to plan some time to hike around the lake to get a perfect view of Wizard Island (a cinder cone) and you can either camp or stay at the Crater Lake Lodge.  Take your kids to enjoy everything the lake has to offer, plus see some cool lava formations and built-in geology lessons while exploring the park.

7 of America's Best Lake Vacation Getaways

Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

This backwoods lake has all the makings of a fun family vacation.  In addition to boating, bass fishing, hiking, and golf, you can relax at Spa Shiki with a regular massage or more exotic treatments like the Amai Chocolate Body Wrap.  If you’re tired of the same old jet ski routine, try something different like Parasailing or Stand Up Paddle (SUP) Boarding.  Nearby is Big Surf water park where your kids can whirl and twirl down the white water rapids while you lazily float down a 600-foot river.  And if you need more activities, try the petting zoo, mini-golf, laser tag, bowling, and more.  Stay at The Lodge of Four Seasons so dad can book his tee time and meet everyone for lunch!

6 of America's Best Lake Vacation Getaways

Lake Havasu, Arizona

Feel like going off-road to explore the wilderness?  Lake Havasu has a lot to offer both in and around the water.  When you’ve had your fill of water sports, rent a Jeep and tour the rocky surroundings, or take a hot air balloon high over the lake to see how everything looks from way up above.  If you’re like me and always looking for the perfect hike, then you love the treks offered around Lake Havasu.  Trails around the lake showcase the stunning Arizona scenery and depending on your mood and skill level, there is something for everyone.  And be sure to check out London Bridge, where you can spend the night or book a Segway tour to see the sights and beautiful surroundings.

6 of America's Best Lake Vacation Getaways

Flathead Lake, Montana

What beats cool temperatures, wild horses, and magnificent mountain views?  Flathead Lake is pretty and nearly perfect for the adventure lover and those looking to chill out on a boat.  The lake is nearly 28 miles long and 15 miles wide, providing you with 188 square miles of lake to enjoy.  One of the best things to do is horseback riding, which is very popular in the area.  You’ll get a great guide and it’s an easy way to get around and see all the scenery and wildlife.  If you’re looking for something that makes your heart pound, then book one of the rafting adventures.  And from what I’ve heard, the fishing is pretty good too!!  The lake has the added benefit of being close to Glacier National Park (roughly an hour), so you can extend your stay and go on to explore one of the finest national parks in the US.

6 of America's Best Lake Vacation Getaways

Lake Chelan, Washington

If you like wineries, gourmet restaurants, and small-town charm, then this is your dream lake getaway.  I think I could move in for the summer and never get bored!  Top of the list is of course the boating and water sports, but then afterward head to a wine tasting experience at one of the 20 wineries in the area.  You’ll discover some not-so-well-known vintages and many of the wineries serve amazing food to complete the culinary experience.  The little ones will have so much fun at Lake Chelan’s fun bowling center, dad can go play a round of golf and mom can hit the spa for some much-needed rejuvenation.  Count me in!

6 of America's Best Lake Vacation Getaways

Lake Oconee, Georgia

Located halfway between Atlanta and Augusta, Lake Oconee has something for the more rustic nature-seekers and refined luxury types.  You can elect to stay at The Ritz Carlton Lodge and enjoy the lake from a luxurious lounger or secure a campsite for you and your boat along the beautiful banks of Lake Oconee.  While golf is one of the big attractions of this area (being so close to Augusta), there are many family-friendly activities and musical events.  Head out for a day of shopping where the boutiques offer decorative antiques, fashion, and jewelry.  If you are a fan of geocaching, it’s really popular at Lake Oconee.  There are 189 active caches that are cultivated by local geocachers to make it that much more fun to hunt and seek.

6 of America's Best Lake Vacation Getaways

Does your family prefer lakes or oceans, or both? Share in the comments!

Read more:

9 Best Boardwalks for Summertime Fun

7 Great American Cities for July 4th Fireworks

11 Things to Do With Kids in London

Beat the Heat: 7 Wild Waterparks

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Great post and information! And timely too!

    I just spent a long weekend @ Lake Oconee (in a lakefront home less than 3 minutes by boat to the Ritz Carlton and your description of the lake area was spot on.

    (The smores at the Ritz were awesome!)

  2. I second all your comments, having been to all except Georgia, and would love to be there. Recently at Flathead lake… wow, what a wonder…

  3. I was surprised you didn’t have Lake Tahoe in your list. 99.9% pure water, and high up in the Sierras. Lake Tahoe is unbelievably beautiful!!

  4. How about the Iowa Great Lakes? The crown jewel is West Okoboji, a glacial lake 134 feet deep, underground spring-fed and an unexpected treat. A great family vacation. Check it out. Located in northwest Iowa, just shy of the Minnesota border.

    1. As a life long resident of the Lake Michigan area, the real Great Lakes were overlooked. From Indiana Dunes National Seashore, to Door County, WI, to Isle Royale National Park to Mackinac Island to the Thousand Islands area, there are so many places to explore within the Great Lakes Basin.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top