Tim McDonough

Tim McDonough

Summer is here, and that means it’s time to head out the door for some sun and fun.

With COVID-19 restrictions being lifted in many states, summer travel should see a big increase following the many “staycations” people settled for in 2020.

According to Tripadvisor, “Over two-thirds of Americans (67%) are planning to travel this summer (June 1-Aug. 31), which is a 17% increase from those who traveled this spring (March 1-May 31).”

Thinking about taking off, but not sure where to go? No worries, Jamie Moore of familyvacationcritic.com has put together a list of the 15 best summer vacations in the United States.

There isn’t room here to list all 15, (spoiler alert, Walt Disney World is No. 1), so here are a few for those who like to go to the beach, for those who enjoy history, and those who seek adventure.

Outer Banks, N.C.

“If your ultimate family vacation is one spent wearing flip flops every day, then head for North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Nearly entirely free of big box stores and fast food, Highway 12 links a stretch of barrier islands where you’re never far from a beautiful sandy beach.

“Kids can walk up the hill to the windy spot where the Wright Brothers first flew. Ocean breezes power kite boarding and keep kids cool as they play on the East Coast’s largest sand dune or climb lighthouse staircases along the coast. Discover maritime history listening to stories of shipwrecks, rescues, and Blackbeard the pirate at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum.”

The Florida Keys

“Rent a Jeep, crank up some Jimmy Buffett tunes, and take the kids on a tropical road trip. With its 42 bridges, the 113-mile Overseas Highway suspends drivers in paradise for much of the route through the Florida Keys to Key West. Snorkel with dolphins at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo.

“Book a reef fishing charter or hand-feed tarpon from the dock in Islamorada at Robbie’s Marina. Once you reach Key West, visit the 40-some cats (many with six toes!) at the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum. Don’t miss sunset celebrations at Mallory Square and selfies at Mile Marker Zero.”

Williamsburg, Va.

“No place in America beats Williamsburg for a family vacation that’s all about time travel. Several interactive attractions in the city take your kids back to America’s colonial roots. Explore the 17th-century ships and colonial fort at the Jamestown Settlement.

“The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown has a Continental Army tent to walk through and an artillery demonstration. Older kids can fire 18th-century firearms and try to hit a target at the Colonial Williamsburg musket range.

“For younger children, costumed interpreters in Colonial Williamsburg engage kids in horse-drawn carriage rides, colonial games, and chores like soap making and candle dipping. Break from history for roller coasters at Busch Gardens and waterslides at Water Country USA.”

West Michigan’s lakeshore

“When the warm sun sparkles across Lake Michigan as far as the eye can see, it’s easy to imagine you’re vacationing by the ocean — but at a fraction of the price. The beach towns along the west Michigan lakeshore are a Midwesterner’s dream come true.

“Spend lazy days on sandy beaches, take boat cruises, or explore maritime museums and lighthouses. Your family can hop from one beach town to another along US 31’s West Michigan Pike or stay put.

“At Silver Lake, race dune buggies around the mountainous sand dunes. South Haven is known for its homemade ice cream and U-pick berry farms. Visiting the town of Holland, with rows upon rows of tulips and a wooden shoe factory, is like a mini European vacation.”

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