With balmy temperatures, long days, and endless hours of sunshine, the summer months in the USA are the best time to create some incredible memories. Whether you’re into drinking craft beer alfresco in a hipster city or if you prefer a more traditional beach resort with a boardwalk, here are the best and most beautiful places to visit in August in the USA…
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Half Moon Bay – for a dreamy summer beach vacation
Just south of San Francisco lies Half Moon Bay. Like much of the California coast, it has a pleasant climate, although the nights can be cool, and it is often foggy, but August has some of the best weather. Many of North California’s best beaches are to be found here, like Venice and Francis beaches. One of the biggest drawcards just north of the town, if you are a surfer, is Mavericks, famous for its waves that can reach 18m in height.
Half Moon Bay is only accessible via a small two-lane road, because it is situated in an area which is subject to geological stresses and has experienced many landslides. Recently, the Devil’s Slide Trail was constructed, a 2 kilometer trail that has become very popular with walkers, presenting awesome views of the dramatic coastline.
Mackinac Island, Michigan – a charming and popular August vacation spot
Maybe it is because there are no cars on the island or perhaps it is the beautifully maintained old buildings, but visiting Mackinac Island, situated in Lake Huron, is like time-traveling back into earlier days. A preferred location for the indigenous tribes from the earliest days, it became a center for the fur trade in the 17th century.
The island also played a part in the War of Independence, when the British built Fort Mackinac, and there were two battles fought here. Lovers of history can walk the towns streets and admire the Victorian buildings or visit the town’s 12 museums. There are plenty of outdoor pursuits, from sailing to strolling along the beaches. And if you have a sweet tooth, try some local fudge. There is a 3-day event towards the end of August that celebrates this local sweet treat.
Priest Lake, Idaho – a tranquil and beautiful place to visit in August
Priest Lake, and the State Park that adjoins it, is close to the Canadian border, surrounded by high mountains and fir and cedar forests, the home of black bears, a few grizzlies, moose, and whitetail deer, There are a variety of accommodation options, from resorts such as Hill’s and Elkin’s to do-it-yourself State camping grounds.
August is a great time to visit if you enjoy temperate weather (up to 29c) and want to hike, swim or fish. Fishermen always hoping to catch the Big One know that the biggest lake trout in the USA was caught here, a massive 27kg! The beauty and clarity of this lake and the rivers that feed it, as well as the breathtaking scenery, make this lake one for the bucket list.
Cambria – a gorgeous seaside village which is one of the best places to visit in August in the USA
This relaxed and welcoming beach town is midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles and a great place for anyone who loves the outdoors. Perfectly situated if you are traveling the iconic Highway One route, why not stop over here for a day or three?
August is a great time to visit, the weather is pleasant, with low rainfall, and is perfect for hiking, cycling, and swimming. Moonstone Beach offers something from everyone, from beachcombing for moonstones in the sand to a chance encounter with otters or seals. There is a mile-long boardwalk for a leisurely stroll. North of Cambria is Hearst Castle, the reason most people visit here. Close by is the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery. While it is much quieter in August, this is when the bull seals finish their molting and are to be seen lolling on the beach. Try the Coastal Bluff Trail for wonderful views of this scenic coastline and work up a hunger. Cambria is a foodie’s heaven, with every type of cuisine available and wineries a fifteen-minute drive away.
South Lake Tahoe – a place where you can hike or swim all day and party all night
While most of us think of Lake Tahoe as a winter sports destination, it has all-year round activities and fun to offer. There are many trails, ranging from children- and dog-friendly paths, to more challenging routes, so you can opt for the flat and easy Spooner Lake Hike or the day-long Mt.Tallac Trail, just 5 miles, but rising 3 000 feet.
For the intrepid, there is the 265 kilometer Tahoe Rim Trail, which you can travel on foot, or even mountain bike, or enter for the Tahoe Triathlon at the end of August.
If you still have excess energy, you can spend the nights hitting Tahoe’s nightclubs and casinos. Maybe you want something special in entertainment and Tahoe has much to offer, from Summer Concert performers like Lady Gaga at the Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena or the free concerts at Lakeview Commons.
Cannon Beach – for a relaxed August beach location
Cannon Beach takes its name from a cannon washed ashore from the US schooner Shark that ran aground. in 1846. All of Oregon’s beaches are picturesque, surrounded by hills and with rocky outcrops offshore. The most famous of these is the 72m Haystack, at Cannon Beach. The rock is home to many nesting seabirds, such as tufted puffins and murres. At low tide you can explore the tidal pools at the base of the rock.
While surfing is a popular occupation along the Oregon coast, nature watchers are always to be found around Cannon Beach or the trails in nearby Ecola State Park, hoping to see Bald Eagles or Roosevelt Elk.
This relaxed resort should be on everyone’s bucket list, National Geographic named it as one of the 100 most beautiful beaches in the world in 2013. The best weather and the most popular time to visit is towards the end of August.
Portland – one of the best US cities to visit in August
Portland is at its best in summer, which is also its peak tourist season. If you visit in August, this is one of the best times to sample the roses for which the city is famous, notably at the International Rose Test Garden, based in Washington Park, which also homes the Portland Japanese Garden.
There are also fun events, like the Pickathon Music Festival and the Soapbox Derby. The city prides itself on its bike-ability, and holds the annual Bridge Pedal in August, as one of the world’s largest group pedaling events, where families can pedal streets closed to motor traffic. If the exercise has made you hungry, you can sample food and craft beers at one of the many farmers’ markets or street fairs that operate in summer.
San Juan Islands – offers world-class whale watching and outdoor activities
Head north from Seattle to Anacortes to catch one of the Washington State Ferries that will transport you to four of the 172 islands and islets of San Juan. The weather in the islands is pretty temperate all year round, but at its best towards the end of summer. Many people come to the islands to whale watch. This is one of the regions where orcas and other whales can be seen year-round via the boat tours that set off from Friday Harbour on San Juan. Each of the four main islands have their own attractions, but Orcas and San Juan are musts if your time is limited.
San Juan is the busiest and most populated island, but still tranquil compared to the mainland. Visit the Whale Museum to learn more about these magnificent creatures, enjoy one of the local restaurants, and pick an outdoor activity, from hiking to kayaking to work those calories off.
Orcas Island is quieter and wilder, with amazing hikes, like the 6 km hike up Mt Constitution, from where, on a clear day, you can see Mt Rainier and even Vancouver.
Glacier National Park – Montana’s pristine wilderness perfect for exploring in August
This park is over 4000 square kilometers of forests and lakes, traversed by sub-ranges of the Rockies. It is at its busiest in August, but the sheer size of the Park and the ideal weather make it a great time to visit. It has been a resort area for over a century; the original hotels are now National Historic Landmarks. They were built to accommodate tourists coming to the Park via the Great Northern Railroad and the later “Going-to-the-Sun” road. Treat yourself to a night at one of these venerable resorts, like Many Glacier Hotel or Lake McDonald Lodge.
Once you are in the Park, you can indulge in your favorite nature-watching, whether it is wildlife, birding or identifying only some of over 1100 floral species. If you are lucky, the beargrass lilies will be in bloom, their white, fragrant flowers borne on tall stalks. Only to be seen in Montana and adjoining Canada, these plants still are used as medicine and for basket-making by the Blackfoot and other tribes.
Blue Lakes, Colorado – for beautiful summer scenery and wildflowers
If you are a trail enthusiast, or love wildflowers, head for the Blue Lakes Trail in summer for a visual treat. Colorado is famous for its trails, notably the 900-km long Colorado Trail, the Blue Lakes trail is a separate route in the Mt Sneffels Wilderness area in Uncompahgre National Forest. Even the drive to the trailhead is a worthy detour on its own with unforgettable views.
You can choose to traverse the whole trail or just try a short hike to the Lower Lake, which is 5 km from the trailhead and has campsites. Reaching the other two lakes is more challenging, but you will be rewarded by the outstanding views, and by the wildflowers, you will encounter along the way. Species such as Indian paintbrushes, campions, columbines, larkspur, and lupins grow along the trail from July to mid-August.
Beavers Bend Resort Park, Oklahoma’s – offers summer family fun
Beaver’s Bend is a favorite hangout for Oklahomans, with something for everyone in the family. Those who love the outdoors can kayak, hike, or ride bikes. Those who prefer more sedentary pursuits can attend arts and craft classes or even play bingo.
There is an 18-hole golf course, volleyball courts, and water-skiing on Broken Bow Lake, also a favorite spot for scuba divers (water in this area rarely gets above a bracing 15c). Nature documentaries are screened in the evenings and try some stargazing in the clear, unpolluted skies. You can even take your furry friend; leashed pets are welcome and there are even some chalets that are pet-friendly. Easily one of the best places to visit in August in the USA.
Chicago – a city that really comes alive during the summer break
Many associate Chicago with winter trips but summer is really when the city comes alive. The weather in August is sunny and glorious although you will probably want to opt for accommodation with air conditioning as the summer temperatures often reach between 26 and 33 °C. The ambiance is incredible in Chicago in the summer months and this is when the famously feisty locals have a much more upbeat and playful mood and this is evident everywhere you head from cafes to the buzzing outdoor events.
Head to the lakeside beaches for games of volleyball, dine alfresco on one of the many restaurant patios, experience one of the many magical outdoor candlelight concerts, and tour Chicago’s incredible Street Art and cool microbreweries with a craft beer in your hand. A perfect US August city trip!
Hot Springs, Arkansas – a resort city which is perfect for visiting in August
Birthplace of Bill Clinton, while the name is not very original, it is very descriptive and it’s a great place to visit in August. There are 47 springs on Hot Springs Mountain that provide the town below with 1 million gallons of water a day at a steaming 62c or 143F in temperature. This is fossil water, which is actually 4 400 years old sitting below the earth’s surface, and rainfall does not contribute.
Believing in the restorative value of the springs, the town was incorporated in 1851, and has 8 historic spas in Bathhouse Row, which are maintained by the National Park Service, together with their gardens. One of the loveliest gardens is Garvan Woodland Gardens, which has a Japanese section. The popularity of the resort created something of a building boom, even during the Great Depression, and Hot Springs is nearly as famous as Miami for its Art Deco buildings. Hot Springs is the US’s oldest park, being proclaimed in 1832.
Geneva-On-The-Lake, Ohio – well-known as “Ohio’s First Summer Resort”
The lake in the name, is Lake Erie, along which this small town sprawls. It has a very 50’s flavor, especially along the main drag, known as “the Strip”, where the legendary Eddie’s Grill has been since 1950. Once a year, in September, the Strip becomes the home of “Thunder on the Strip”, when thousands of bikers congregate (and a good reason to visit in August, if you are looking for some peace and quiet).
There’s a boardwalk, mini-golf, and plenty of amusements and things to do, from visiting the nearby wineries to hanging loose on a zipline canopy tour. There are lots of other ways to get around that are not so adrenaline-packed, from walking to using one of the golf-carts for hire. Please note that some attractions only open on Saturday and Sunday. However, the Lake is there every day for swimming, or just walking along the beach.
Pittsburgh, Philadelphia – for summer festivals, live music, cruising along the rivers and riverfront trails
A place known as the “City of Steel” does not sound like much of a tourist attraction, but Pittsburgh has radically transformed from its heavy manufacturing and steelworks days. Today it is a healthcare and education hub, with no less than 68 colleges and universities. It has a venerable history, as evidenced by the Fort Pitt Blockhouse in Point State Park, built in 1764, and there over 30 museums that can keep a visitor absorbed for a month, from the Kelso Museum of Near Eastern Archaeology to a museum dedicated to the art of Pittsburgh’s favorite son, Andy Warhol.
The city is very walkable and attractive, with its location at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, where they merge to become Ohio and where many of the city’s attractions are located. There are no less than 446 bridges in Pittsburgh, emphasizing how important the rivers are as part of the city’s infrastructure. A bit out of town, but well worth the 90-minute drive, is Frank Lloyd Wright’s house, “Fallingwater”, named the most influential house of the 20th century, and a World Heritage Site. While visiting here in August make the most of the outdoors, from enjoying the summer festivals, live music, open-air films to cruising along the rivers and the attractive riverfront trails.
The Finger Lakes, NY – traditional summer vacation fun
Covering over 23 000 square kilometers, Finger Lakes is obviously too big to explore thoroughly in a weekend, which is why we recommend several visits. The “fingers” are long, deep, and narrow glacial lakes, eleven in number (although Onondaga Lake is a 12th contender), and the region is very fertile, which has encouraged the development of many wine estates. The Finger Lake inhabitants are very fond of other tipples; you can visit craft breweries, cideries (this is also a major apple-growing region), and distilleries.
As the region is so large, it is best to pick a central spot and travel from there. Maybe you can stay in Syracuse, Ithaca or Corning (America’s Crystal City and synonymous with all things glass), or you can opt to stay in one of the resorts or camp near one of the lakes. There are lots of water activities, naturally, from canoeing to wakeboarding at a new resort near Canandaigua Lake. Hikes to suit everyone can be found, many of which take you past the waterfalls in the region. And, for those who like their nightlife, there are casinos, music festivals, and theaters. Arts and craft galleries abound if you are looking for a souvenir or merely some quiet contemplation.
Long Beach Island, New Jersey – a barrier island and summer colony along the Atlantic Ocean coast
Long Beach Island is part of a set of barrier islands that lie in front of the New Jersey coastline, along which Atlantic City can be found. For those looking for a quieter and more relaxing holiday, Long Beach is very different from its brash southern neighbor. The island itself is about 30 km long and only accessible via Route 72 from the mainland that takes one through to Ship Bottom, roughly at the midpoint of the island.
Although there are only 10 000 people who reside there permanently, the population increases tenfold in the summer months. Many of these people are from the neighboring states or have vacation houses on the island. Some of these homes are very grand, especially to the north of the island. The weather in August can be hot, but cool ocean breezes reduce the heat and humidity in the afternoons. All the beaches are welcoming and beautiful, but make sure to visit Island Beach State Park, near the Barnegat Lighthouse. The Park protects one of the state’s remaining maritime forests, and is a great place for birding and experiencing Long Island as it must have been to earlier inhabitants.
Block Island, Rhode Island – a great destination for a August summer trip
From the moment you step off the ferry on Block Island, you will feel all your tensions slip away. Located South of Rhode Island, The island is predominantly a nature reserve, with only 1000 residents, and even at the height of summer, the 25 km of beaches are relatively uncrowded. In fact, outside of the tourist season, most of the restaurants and establishments are closed. Here is the perfect place to sail, fish, swim or just laze on the beach.
At the north of the island, there is a plaque at Settler’s Rock, naming the hardy settlers who swam from their ship to the island, along with the cows they would need, giving the beach its name of Cow Cove. The dramatic Mohegan Bluffs at the south-east bear witness to a tragic event where the invading Mohegans and the Niantic inhabitants of the island clashed. The Mohegans were forced off the cliffs and fell to their deaths below. Remember to book your ferry trip well ahead, especially if you plan to take your car, but rather leave it at the harbor and use bikes and your feet to explore this delightful and scenic spot.
Berkshires, Massachusetts – emerald lawns, beautiful blossoms and humming bumblebees
The Berkshires are an inviting melange of mountains, nature, and arts. You can visit for a day or two, a month or even make them your home, for this location offers so much natural beauty intermingled with premier cultural events, such as Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for many years.
Artists of every genre have made appearances here, from Yo-yo Ma to Earth, Wind, and Fire. John Legend is expected in August 2021. Herman Melville loved the Berkshires; this is where he wrote “Moby Dick”. There are important art museums, like the Clark, in Williamsburg, that have works by Rodin, Renoir, and Degas, to name a few, as well as silver and ceramic collections that are out of this world. The natural beauty of the Berkshires can be explored via hiking trails, swimming in the numerous lakes, or whitewater rafting and ziplining to up your adrenaline levels.
Bar Harbor, Maine – popular tourist destination which makes a beautiful retreat in the summer
August is a great time to visit this tourist drawcard on Mount Desert Island. The main tourist times are around Labor Day and things start quietening down after that, but the weather is still great. There are so many things to do, but why not start with a hike up Cadillac Mountain? From its top you can get a good impression of the layout of the island; you can see both Acadia National Park and Frenchman Bay, the next places you should visit.
If you start really early, you can watch the sun rising, you will be surprised to find you are not the only one up to do this, you might even be lucky enough to spot some whales. There are whales, dolphins, seals, and puffins to be seen at this time of year; go for a trip on a catamaran for a good chance to see these animals in their natural habitat. There are lots of tasty eateries and craft breweries to try, so make sure you make the most of them!