For many people, it’s a familiar story: You want to squeeze a fun and exciting trip into your summer — but you don’t know where to go.
Sure, there’s the usual travel suspects like national parks and big American cities, plus popular international destinations like Paris. But what about places a bit farther off the beaten path?
Alexander Howard, senior editor at Lonely Planet, has been thinking about that very subject and has a list of locations to consider adding to your itinerary if you’re itching to explore.
“There’s a lot of great destinations here in the U.S., and increasingly it’s easier for U.S. travelers to get abroad,” Howard (@AlexMHoward) tells Here & Now‘s Jeremy Hobson. “There are newer flights to Europe that make exploring that continent even better. So the options are really wide open.”
Leading off Howard’s list is Arkansas — “a fascinating state.”
“For one thing, it’s a great place to explore the outdoors,” Howard says. “In the northern part of the state, of course, it has the Ozark Mountains, and a good entry point there is the Ozark Highlands Trail.”
There’s also the Arkansas River Trail, an 88-mile bike loop connecting the capital, Little Rock, to surrounding communities.
“[Little Rock] itself is great because it’s got a fantastic restaurant and beer scene, and it’s all kind of confined into a really tiny town,” Howard says.
One more stop to hit in the capital is the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum.
Green Bay, Wisconsin
Green Bay is a great place to be this summer in part because the city is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its beloved professional football team, the Green Bay Packers.
“There’s going to be all sorts of celebrations and events … running through the official anniversary on August 11th,” Howard says. “And there’s been a lot of development downtown, especially around the stadium itself, this place called Titletown, which is a large park and a public plaza, [with] a lot of restaurants and shops to check out.”
Black Hills, South Dakota
South Dakota and its Black Hills are perhaps best known for the four presidents peering down from Mount Rushmore. But Howard says there are other interesting trips to take in the area — including to the world’s largest mountain carving.
“The massive Crazy Horse Memorial is an interesting counterpoint to Mount Rushmore,” he says. “The Black Hills National Forest has dozens of places to go camping, and you can sleep among the pines and then go hiking first thing in the morning.”
South Dakota is also home to one of Howard’s favorite summer events: the annual buffalo roundup at Custer State Park.
“This is where a lot of cowboys and cowgirls get on horseback and round up the buffalo herd, which is one of the world’s largest,” he says.
Finger Lakes, New York
An upstate New York region long known for rolling hills and slender lakes, Howard says the Finger Lakes are also coming into their own when it comes to wine.
“The area’s wine region is really getting the recognition that I think it deserves, finally. There’s some great wine trails around Cayuga Lake and Seneca Lake,” he says.
Howard also recommends the small lakeside town of Skaneateles, which boasts a charming Main Street chock full of cafés and shops.
Nova Scotia, Canada
This Canadian Maritime province shines in summer, Howard says.
“The provincial capital, Halifax, has kind of come into its own with a fantastic food and drink scene, there’s an increasing number of summer festivals like the Halifax Jazz Festival,” he says. “But elsewhere in the province, there are places like the Cabot Trail, which is an excellent road trip — one of my favorites in North America. The road winds around these coastal mountains and there’s tons of stops for viewpoints and hiking trails.”
Summer is also whale-watching season, and Nova Scotia offers visitors a chance to board a boat and observe Atlantic pilot and minke whales in their natural habitats.
Valle de Bravo, Mexico
Valle de Bravo, a lakeside town west of Mexico City with cobblestone streets and well-preserved colonial buildings, remains relatively unknown for many American travelers, Howard explains.
“Previously it was the vacation home [for] a lot of Mexico City’s elites. But there’s been an increasing number of hotels and Airbnbs that have made it more accessible for the rest of us,” he says.
Being next to a lake, activity options are in abundance, Howard says — from water sports to paragliding.
Slovenia in summer “captures a lot of the best parts of Europe,” Howard says.
“It’s got this historic, laid-back capital, Ljubljana, and there are elsewhere these alpine peaks and pristine lakes,” he says. “One of my favorite photographic spots is called Lake Bled, which is known for its 17th-century church that’s sitting right atop an island in the center of this lake. It’s just beautiful.”
Copenhagen — the chic, dynamic capital of Denmark — topped Lonely Planet’s annual best in travel list for 2019.
“It’s kind of the undisputed cool kid of the region,” Howard says. “It’s known for its design, and you can see it in these tiny, super-hip clothing labels, or the world-famous design and furniture and lighting shops. But of course the food scene is great. It’s got 15 Michelin-starred restaurants, like Noma, which has recently moved into a new location that features an urban farm.”
Northumberland National Park, U.K.
About halfway between London and Edinburgh is Northumberland National Park, a land of castles and dark sky reserves. It’s also home to an attraction that’s sure to catch the eye of would-be witches and wizards.
“There’s more castles per square mile than anywhere else in Britain, because it’s kind of right between Scotland and England,” Howard explains. “One of them, Alnwick Castle, was actually a stand-in for Hogwarts in the ‘Harry Potter’ movies. So any ‘Harry Potter’ fans can go check that out.”
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Howard calls Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, “a feast for the senses.”
“There’s historic monuments, giant skyscrapers, these huge shopping malls and an incredible street food scene,” he says. “The whole city is a fascinating mix of Malay and Chinese and Indian communities.”
He recommends a few can’t-miss stops: a visit to the top of the city’s trademark Petronas Towers, checking out the Islamic Arts Museum and snacking your way through the bustling Jalan Alor market’s various food vendors.
This article was originally published on WBUR.org.