View of the marina in Friday Harbor on San Juan...

View of the marina in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island in Washington State. Credit: LightRocket via Getty Images/Wolfgang Kaehler

Hawaii, California, Portugal — some places are fabulous to visit all year round. But not everywhere can be so lucky.

Take, for example, the Midwest.

For much of the year, this cluster of the country gets hit with harsh winters, severe springs and over-too-fast falls. But come summer? The Midwest bursts to life with festivals, lake days and firefly-flecked nights.

Nowhere is this more true than Chicago, where residents pour outside to patios and parks at the first sign of warmth. By June, the beaches along Lake Michigan, which sit steps from skyscrapers, are filled with visitors and locals.

“It’s truly magnetic,” said Helen Nguyen, founder of Preserve Travel, who has lived there for the past three years.

The Midwest is not the only part of America to experience this peak summer phenomenon. Here are six places across the country (and Canada) that appreciate the extra sunshine the most.


Catch a Chicago Cubs or Chicago White Sox game at Wrigley...

Catch a Chicago Cubs or Chicago White Sox game at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois.  Credit: Getty Images/Michael Reaves

Arctic air swirls through Chicago with a vengeance in the winter, and the whipping cold keeps its grip on the city through the spring. Locals are rewarded with a summer so glorious you can feel the energy in the air.

“Everyone’s out,” Nguyen said. “The city feel so alive.”

There are free events and activities all summer long, from fireworks at Navy Pier every Wednesday and Saturday, to music festivals and museum days.

But for all-time summer vibes, head to the ballpark to eat a Chicago dog and see the Cubs or the White Sox play.

San Juan Islands, Washington

A jewel of the Pacific Northwest, the San Juan Islands “are truly something special,” said Mark Williams, co-author of the LGBTQIA+ travel book “Out in the World.”

During warmer months, the Salish Sea is teeming with Chinook salmon, orcas and kayakers. Three main islands connected by ferry celebrate the artistic community with gallery walks (San Juan and Lopez islands), an arts festival (San Juan Island) and studio tours (Orcas and Lopez islands).

Farmers spotlight their produce, including a pear discovered by an Orcas Island grower, at markets and farm-to-table establishments.

For a wisp of winter without the cold, climb to the top of Mount Constitution on Orcas Island. The islands’ highest point affords views of Vancouver, the mainland and the snow-capped peaks of Mount Baker and Mount Rainier.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

The grounds at Bishop’s Lodge in Santa Fe, NM.

The grounds at Bishop’s Lodge in Santa Fe, NM. Credit: For The Washington Post/Ramsay de Give

While its Southwest neighbors struggle with extreme heat, Santa Fe keeps relatively cool in the summer. Lindsay Messina, co-founder of Fioraé Luxury Travel, says visitors can expect average highs in the 80s.

All summer long, the city teems with art shows, live music, outdoor movies, artisan markets, and beer, food and wine festivals. Once the sun goes down, look up; Santa Fe is a premiere stargazing destination.

The region’s celestial beauty is best appreciated outside the city from one of New Mexico’s “dark sky parks,” certified by the International Dark Sky Association. Or you can hop on Santa Fe’s new StarGazer train. During the two-hour tour, train riders have access to an outdoor open-air flatbed car for an unobstructed view.

In August, the 102nd Santa Fe Indian Market features jewelry, pottery, textiles, paintings, sculptures and other creative works by more than 1,000 artists from at least 200 Native American tribes. Indigenous musicians will also perform on stages in Santa Fe Plaza and food vendors will sell fry bread, Frito pies and Pueblo stews.

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

The Strawbery Banke Museum in New Hampshire. 

The Strawbery Banke Museum in New Hampshire.  Credit: REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images/REDA&CO

Angela Hughes, owner of Trips & Ships Luxury Travel, recommends the centuries-old seaport town for “its unique blend of historical charm, cultural richness and scenic beauty.”

Sightseeing cruises putter around the Piscataqua River, a liquid state line shared with Maine, and the Isles of Shoals, a nine-pack of islands 6 miles off the coast. For history buffs, the Strawbery Banke Museum is like a Yankee Williamsburg, with costumed “role players” and artisans demonstrating traditional crafts.

The guided tour calendar for the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire fills up during the summer, or if you prefer to walk at your own pace, follow the map to the two dozen downtown sites.

In Prescott Park, theater fans can discover high-caliber productions at the Players’ Ring, but without the sweaty Broadway masses.

Camden, Maine

After spending the winter months getting buried under snowstorm after snowstorm, Maine transforms into the poster child for the quintessential East Coast summer.

Most visitors flock to Portland for the piping hot food scene or north to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. For less traffic, try Camden on Penobscot Bay along Maine’s MidCoast.

The town has cool restaurants and wine shops, quaint ice cream stands and plenty of places to buy lobster-themed paraphernalia. Stay in one of Camden’s many historic inns or rough it at a campsite in nearby Camden State Park, which is within walking distance of the town.

Quebec City

The Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré is a basilica along the Saint Lawrence River...

The Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré is a basilica along the Saint Lawrence River in Quebec. Credit: Getty Images/ablokhin

The provincial capital of Quebec is often touted as an alternative for Paris. The dupe is especially important this summer, when the City of Light hosts the Olympics (and a horde of additional visitors).

Similar to its European counterpart, the city’s outdoor cafes, gardens and parks flourish in warmer months. A section of the St. Charles River trail, which runs from Lake Saint-Charles to the Old Port, switches from cross-country skiing to inline skating and cycling.

On the St. Lawrence River, shuttles transport visitors to such attractions as Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, a cathedral touted as the oldest pilgrimage site in North America.

For a dip, the Promenade Samuel-De Champlain recently opened a section called Station de la Plage, which features an Olympic-size infinity pool with a sandy beach along the river banks.

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