Chicago is one of the most compelling cities in America, boasting big-time shopping, entertainment, and dining to rival marquee coastal cities such as New York and San Francisco. The one problem? Temperatures during the winter (which can honestly run from October to May) often hover below zero, making the city a bit less exciting to visit than the number of fabulous attractions might suggest. In the summer, however, Chicago becomes a perfectly temperate playground, offering visitors the opportunity to stroll the famed Michigan Avenue (check out the beloved Ralph’s restaurant at Ralph Lauren) and explore the world-class Art Institute of Chicago without shivering in down parkas.
While the rest of the country may be battling a heat wave, Providence, Rhode Island, remains largely, blissfully inured to this fact thanks to its enviable location along the coast. But that’s not the only reason to visit the lovely college town enclave. The city has a wholly unique and sublimely beautiful festival every summer called WaterFire, in which bonfires are lit along the city’s three rivers from May through September. With Brown University bringing a heavy dose of intellectual and artistic firepower to Providence, you can also expect incredible lectures, inventive food, and experimental art on a break in this lovely city.
In a city that is famous for being as rainy and grey as London most of the year, Seattle is famously outdoorsy when summer weather finally hits. The city’s location right on the water offers a multitude of activities and some of the best views of nature from an urban space, including panoramas of Mount Rainier, which is usually hidden behind the clouds. Take a ride in a seaplane to see the beautiful islands around Seattle, and if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, make a stop in the San Juan Islands for lunch before piloting back for a tour of the Space Needle and a stop at the original Starbucks, where you’ll want your coffee iced, of course.
Although there are plenty of reasons to love Portland, Maine—its laid-back vibe, excellent coffeehouse scene, and stellar bookshops come to mind—the very best reason to love this city is summer specific: lobster rolls. Portland is arguably the most quintessential of locations to get this most classic of New England dishes. And since it’s summer, don’t forget to get the lobster roll served cold—i.e., with lots of mayonnaise instead of drowning in butter—and then find a spot along the harbor to kick back with your roll and a cold beer to enjoy.
Step off the plane in Aspen, and you’ll swear you were in Switzerland instead—the mountain scenery is just that stunning. But hiking in the temperate Aspen climes is far from the only thing this Colorado mountain city has to offer in the summer. Take a gondola ride to the top of Ajax Mountain, and try hang gliding. Take in a lecture at the Aspen Ideas Festival, and drink rosé at the Aspen Food and Wine Festival. Or go shopping at Gorsuch, the go-to location for serious fashion in this seriously stylish city.
Alaska is best known for its stunning wildlife, so to have the best chance of seeing it in all of its glory, come during the summer. You’ll get great views around Denali National Park—keep an eye out for the caribou, who won’t be hunkering down against the cold during the warmer months of June through August. Head to the giant farmer’s market that takes place every Saturday during the summer in Anchorage, and make sure to try local favorite SteamDot Coffee.
Even the most diehard of Boston fans might admit that winter is not the time to visit Beantown since its chilly temperatures and snow drifts might limit your activities strictly to those that you could do indoors. But come summer, and you’ll be able to enjoy a lobster roll at The Barking Crab, a Red Sox game, and a stroll along the Freedom Trail, before heading out to the Cape for a day trip if you’d like.