Looking to mix up your vacations this year? From coast to coast, the U.S. is filled with amazing cities, parks, and islands to explore. Consider visiting one of these 15 fabulous off the beaten path places this year. We promise, you can't go wrong with any of these spectacular spots.
15 Top Destinations for an Off-the-Beaten-Path Vacation
1. Joshua Tree, California
Location: 74485 National Park Drive, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277
Located in southeastern California, Joshua Tree National Park is comprised of a vast landscape with a variety of plants and animals that is sure to attract all nature lovers. Escape the city life and enjoy a relaxing weekend soaking in the fresh air and camping under the stars.
When to visit: April through October
2. St. Augustine, Florida
Overshadowed by its neighboring sisters, Orlando and Miami, St. Augustine is desirable in its own right. Not only is St. Augustine the oldest city in America, but it has something to offer for everyone in the family, including art galleries, museums, theaters and live music, delicious dining options, an outlet mall, horse drawn carriage rides, 42-miles of beaches, and is also home to the World Golf Hall of Fame.
When to visit: Year round, but if you want to avoid the crowds steer clear of June-August
3. Asheville, North Carolina
Location: Western North Carolina mountains
Get whisked away from the hustle of routine life and enjoy an amazing outdoor weekend in beautiful Asheville, North Carolina. From hiking the Appalachian Trail, and enjoying an afternoon on the golf course, to stargazing in the valley surrounded by 6,000+ ft mountainous peaks, and participating in one of their many festivals throughout the year, this quaint town is sure to keep you entertained. And its dog friendly!
When to visit: March to November
4. June Lake, California
Location: Eastern Sierra Mountains
In the shadow of its sister mountain, Mammoth, June Lake has developed its own fan base and draw to its beautiful small town flair. During the summer months, explore June’s hiking and biking trails, relax at Double Eagle Spa, and wrap up the day at June Lake Brewery. Be sure to come back for winter as June Mountain Ski Resort has enough fun for the whole family and typically offers powder runs all day!
5. Tybee Island, Georgia
Location: Southeast shores of Georgia
When the summer months become too hot and crowded, consider visiting Tybee Island, less than 20 miles from Savannah. Tybee Island has a stunning three-mile stretch of sandy beach that is rarely over-crowded. Fantastic accommodations and excellent recreational activities make this the perfect summer vacation for the entire family.
When to visit: May through August
6. Huntsville, Alabama
You’ve probably heard of Huntsville as the home of the always popular Kid’s Space Camp. But did you know they’re known for their wide variety of local breweries as well? Plan your trip to coincide with the Rocket City annual Brewfest and enjoy the tastes of local and regional brews while the kids learn about outer space.
When to visit: May through September
7. Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
Are you a water park enthusiast? Then Wisconsin Dells is for you. The Dells have dozens of waterparks to choose from and are sure to please every water bug. If dry land is more your speed, don’t fret. The Dells also offer countless outdoor activities including hiking, ziplining, and amusement parks. Be sure to check out their dining and nightlife options as well.
When to visit: Before mid-June or after Labor Day
8. The Wave - North Coyote Buttes, AZ
Mesmerizing sandstone formations create the allusion of a surfers paradise, hence the name The Wave. Whether a novice hiker or trail runner, take your pick along the six to eight miles of stunning trails throughout The Wave and soak in the warmth of the sun and the captivating landscape along the Paria Canyon, dating back to 160 to 180 million years ago. Tip: You must obtain a permit to hike The Wave by applying online. It can be challenging, but it’s worth it!
When to visit: April to October
9. Buffalo, New York
Buffalo, New York? That’s right. Close proximity to Niagara Falls, outdoor activities at Lake Erie, and the beautiful wine regions are sure to offer relaxation with just enough entertainment to keep your senses happy.
When to visit: June through August
10. Nevada Northern Railway Ride - Ely, Nevada
Are you a train enthusiast? Do you prefer to travel via rail over other modes of transportation? The Nevada Northern Railway is a National Historic Landmark and offers passengers a scenic ride through Central Nevada mountain ranges. In addition to the ride, you can also spend the night in a caboose or be an engineer for the day to truly see what it was like working the copper mining region 100 years ago. Be sure to check out their themed tours for Haunted Ghost Train and the Polar Express.
11. Ely, Nevada
Location: Wahweap or Antelope Point Marina
Grab the kids and a houseboat and kickstart your family vacation with a week on the lake. Lake Powell, bordering Utah and Arizona, has seemingly never ending water ways winding throughout offering endless recreational activities. From wake boarding, water skiing, jet skis, fishing, and hiking there is something for everyone. Once you’ve had your fill, watch the sun set over the cliffs and end the day with star gazing and a bon fire.
12. Lake Chelan, Washington
Do you love wine but are looking for another alternative to Napa Valley and Sonoma? Consider heading to the Northwest and experiencing beautiful Chelan, Washington where the ‘lake effect’ has given local winemakers the opportunity to produce more wine despite the cooler region. With over 15 local wineries in the Lake Chelan area, you are certain to find your fill of delicious vintages. The outdoor recreation options are endless and the views won’t disappoint either.
When to visit: May through September
13. Lake of the Ozarks - Central Missouri, Missouri
Is fishing your game? Then a vacation to Lake of the Ozarks is a must. With over 1,150 miles of shoreline access, you’ll have your pick of bluegill, large mouth bass, and walleye to keep you busy. More of a land lover? Don’t fret. There are 12 trails for you to explore the Ozark Caverns, including a cave tour complete with lanterns. Golfing, shopping, and countless recreational and entertainment options are abound. Need more? The Isle of Capri Casino is a great stop for the night owls.
When to visit: March to November
14. Perdido Key - Pensacola, Florida
With beautiful beaches, endangered wildlife sightings, hiking trails, ship wreck scuba dives, and so much more, it’s no surprise that this ‘hidden’ beach is a favorite secret vacation destination. Perdido Key or ‘Lost Key’ borders northwest Florida and southeast Alabama, giving this barrier island a warm tropical temperate off the Gulf of Mexico. This secluded beach paradise should be on every beach lovers list.
15. Moab, Utah
Originally gained popularity for its extreme outdoor activities, Moab has adopted a more refined approach. Now home to world-class wineries tucked inside sandstone canyons, these wineries are made with local vines accompanied with delicious locally grown eats. Explore along the Colorado River, take a scenic ride through the bike trails, sip on some fine wine and you’ve got yourself the perfect getaway.
When to visit: April through May & September through October
This article was written by Deena Betcher and edited by Lexi Perman.
Image by Chelsea Bock.