Seven Unique Summer Vacation Ideas

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Welcome to “Best Summer Ever,” your guide to making the most of the sunny season. Whether your idea of a perfect summer is embarking on epic adventures or blissfully doing as little as possible (preferably somewhere with good air conditioning), we’ve got you covered, because the best summer doesn’t just happen. You have to make it happen.

Summer is upon us, and now is the time to lock in your vacation plans. A trip to the beach is always a safe bet, as are the usual resorts, amusement parks, and family events, but what if you branched out and tried something new? Here are seven unique vacation ideas to switch up your experience this summer.

Visit a ski resort

Ski resorts aren’t just for winter skiing anymore. Many ski areas are open nearly year-round and offer a wide range of warm-weather activities from hiking and biking trails to gondola and zip-line rides. Plus, mountain towns host festivals and events throughout the summer, such as the GoPro Mountain Games in Vail, Colo., the food and wine-focused Summer Festival in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and outdoor concert series held right on the slopes.

Rent a houseboat on Airbnb

Instead of settling for a lake house, book a stay on the water—literally. Airbnb has a whole category of houseboats for rent, so you can choose from places like Key West, Texas’s Eagle Mountain Lake, and a cabin right on the Mississippi. Note that houseboats are usually permanently docked, so you probably won’t be able to take your floating accommodation for a joy ride. However, many offer amenities like paddle boards and kayaks to enjoy the surrounding water.

Drive Route 66

Route 66 is a classic American road as one of the original numbered highways established in 1926 and later memorialized in pop culture. The route connected Chicago to Los Angeles via Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. While much of the original road has been decommissioned, there are sections that remain, and you can still cover the route via bypass roads. Use a Route 66 trip planner to map out the classic motels, ghost towns, and unique roadside attractions, such as Cadillac Ranch and the Midpoint Cafe.

Visit an animal sanctuary (and volunteer if you can)

If you love animals, consider visiting and lending a hand at a sanctuary that rescues and rehabilitates animals ranging from cats and dogs to horses, pigs, and turkeys. Some sanctuaries—like Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah—offer volunteer opportunities and overnight stays right on the property.

Hike to an overnight yurt or hut stay

Hut-to-hut hiking is a classic high alpine activity in Europe, where you can adventure across breathtaking scenery during the day and rest at cushy lodges with hearty food (and your luggage is already waiting) at night. There is also a growing network of huts in the U.S. that offer everything from rustic, bare-bones shelter to full-service dining and luxury accommodations. In some areas, you can also connect multiple huts for a multi-day adventure.

Book a museum sleepover

If you have kids, consider planning a trip around an actual night at the museum. A number of museums around the world offer sleepover experiences that allow visitors to see the museum after-hours, participate in special educational activities, and camp out in the galleries.

Play tourist in your own city

A relaxing staycation is one option for a budget-friendly, travel-free experience, but if you’re staying home, consider seeing your city through a visitor’s eyes. Check out popular tourist sites you typically avoid, learn about your city’s history, talk to a stranger in a coffee shop, spend the night in a hotel, wander the streets—you get the idea. You may see your home with fresh eyes.

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