The 10 Best Summer Vacation Destinations in America
To Do: Go to a Cape Cod League baseball game. College all-stars play in the nation's premier amateur league, which has launched the careers of many professional athletes. Games are free and played at small local fields, so they have the comfy Little League atmosphere with some major-league talent.
To See: The Cape Cod National Seashore encompasses almost 40 miles of beaches and trails on the eastern edge of the Cape—the view from the 155-year-old Highland Lighthouse is a must-see.
To Eat: You can't go to New England in summertime without indulging in seafood. Try a cup of clam chowder or tie on a bib and take a crack at a fresh lobster.
To Stay: Chatham is centrally located and the easiest home base for touring Cape Cod. But be warned, the town's quaint charm and island feel may mean you'll never want to leave.
For more information, visit Cape Cod's official website.
To Do: Tap into your animal instincts at the Lincoln Park Zoo. It's free, and it houses 230 different species of animals. Finish the day with a ride in the swanlike paddle boats or take a turn on the Endangered Species Carousel.
To See:: Enjoy the view from the Skydeck at the Sears Tower, the nation's tallest building. On a clear day, you can see across Lake Michigan into Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin.
To Eat:: The Windy City is famous for its pizza—deep dish, of course. It was invented at Chicago's Pizzeria Uno in the early '40s. Today, mouthwatering variations on the pan pizza theme abound.
To Stay:: Book a hotel overlooking the lake—you'll get a priceless view with some fun people-watching on the side.
For more information, visit Chicago's official website.
To Do: Take the house tour—even if your kids haven't heard of Elvis, they'll get a kick out of the flashy décor and flamboyant costumes. Round out your musical adventure with a trip to Memphis's Rock 'n' Soul Museum.
To See:: Elvis's famed Pink Cadillac in the Car Museum, his collection of gold records and career memorabilia in the Trophy Room and his two custom jets are favorite sights on the grounds tour.
To Eat:: Try the King's favorite—peanut butter and banana sandwiches—or get some Southern flavor with a taste of Memphis barbecue.
To Stay:: If you want to really immerse yourself in Rock 'n' Roll, you can stay at—where else?—the Heartbreak Hotel.
For more information, visit Graceland's official website.
To Do: Hike the Bright Angel Trail, the most popular route into the canyon and—since it's equipped with water, rest rooms and lots of shade—the most comfortable path in the summertime.
To See: The sheer size of the canyon is awe-inspiring; one look over the edge and you'll see why it's worth the trip.
To Eat: Forego restaurants and experience the beauty of the canyon with a sunset picnic on the Canyon's rim.
To Stay: There are plenty of lodging options inside Grand Canyon park, but plan ahead! Rooms fill up six to 12 months in advance. To save money, stay outside the park in the cities of Williams, Flagstaff or Cameron.
For more information, visit the Grand Canyon's official website.
To Do: Go to the night show at the memorial's outdoor amphitheater, which includes a talk from a park ranger, the film Freedom: America's Lasting Legacy and the lighting of the memorial.
To See: The presidents are the main attraction at Mount Rushmore. First, get a panoramic view of the sculpture from the Grand View Terrace. Then, follow the Presidential Trail to the base of the carving, where you can appreciate the grandeur of the 60-foot heads.
To Eat: There's only one restaurant at the park, so consider brown-bagging it.
To Stay: Rapid City, about 25 miles from Mount Rushmore, has a variety of places to stay no matter your budget.
For more information, visit Mount Rushmore's official website.
To Do: Take a bay cruise to Alcatraz, the legendary maximum security prison that once housed Al Capone. An audio tour of The Rock, which operated from 1934 to 1963, is a favorite of adults and kids alike, especially the captivating tales of inmates who tried to escape.
To See: Known as "the crookedest street in the world," Lombard Street is a block full of hairpin turns at an incredibly steep incline. Driving down it can be a traffic nightmare, but walking it is a great time—and a great workout!
To Eat: San Francisco is a culinary playground, but, as any local will tell you, if you only eat one thing, make it a burrito. Taquerias are plentiful, and most serve irresistible authentic burritos for only a few dollars each.
To Stay: Pass on big hotels in Union Square—a popular, but mostly theatre- and business-filled district—for a smaller bed-and-breakfast in the Marina neighborhood.
For more information, visit San Francisco's official website.
To Do: Explore the Palace of the Governors, built in 1610 as New Mexico's government building and now the state history museum. Start your day with a Santa Fe history lesson in the museum, then walk along the south side of the palace, where Native American artisans representing 41 different tribes sell handmade goods.
To See: Santa Fe is perhaps most famous as the home to artist Georgia O'Keefe, and the museum dedicated to her art is the sight to see in Santa Fe. The permanent collection houses almost 3,000 of her works, and you don't have to be an art connoisseur to appreciate their beauty.
To Eat: New Mexican cuisine is a variation of Mexican food, but it distinguishes itself most notably with its heavy use of green chilies. While you're in town, try the classic New Mexican dish of Frito pie—a mixture of fritos and chili.
To Stay: Pass on the pricier hotels of downtown Santa Fe and head about five miles north, where hotel options, varying from full-service spas to cozy bed-and-breakfasts, are just as pleasant but much more affordable.
For more information, visit Santa Fe's official website.
To Do: Sign up for Operation Spy at the International Spy Museum. See if you can crack the case as you take on the role of a U.S. intelligence officer on an international mission that's based on real-life case files.
To See: Wait until nighttime to visit the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials. Both are beautifully lit up at night, and the crowds and heat dissipate in the evening.
To Eat: Pack a picnic lunch and eat it on the National Mall, the almost-two-mile park that stretches from the U.S. Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial.
To Stay: Washington, D.C., is extremely hot in the summer, so opt for a hotel in the heart of the city, which will minimize transportation time to most sightseeing destinations.
For more information, visit the official Washington, D.C. website.
To Do: Meet George Washington or Thomas Jefferson when you visit Revolutionary City, an interactive street theater that combines short skits with streetwide events. You'll be a part of the action—be it the collapse of the royal government or the creation of a nation.
To See: Political buildings and colonial homes make for fascinating sightseeing. Highlights include the printing office and bindery, the blacksmith and the governor's palace.
To Eat: Dine at a restored 18th-century tavern. The wait staff wears the clothing of the time period, and you can eat old-school dishes like Welsh Rarebit and Pottage Pye (for pickier eaters, the taverns offer some more modern fare).
To Stay: Spend the summer nights in a colonial house, each of which has its own unique history and furniture of the era.
For more information, visit Colonial Williamsburg's official website.
To Do: Go on a hike in the early morning, when animals—including bison, elk and mountain goat—are most likely to be feeding in public view.
To See: Old Faithful, located in the Upper Geyser Basin in south Yellowstone, erupts about every 90 minutes, shooting up to 8,400 gallons of boiling water approximately 150 feet in the air.
To Eat: Seeing Old Faithful once won’t be enough, so enjoy a second (or third, or fourth) viewing over a bite to eat at one of Yellowstone's geyser-side eateries.
To Stay: Make a reservation early to camp out in one of the park's 12 campgrounds.
For more information, visit Yellowstone National Park's official website.
Keep Reading: Exploring small-town USA