9 Last-Minute Fun Summer Vacation Ideas in the U.S.

LT Globetrotter

June 12, 2024
Lombard Street in San Francisco

Last minute travel doesn’t mean you have to settle for a lesser trip. In fact, booking your summer travel last minute often means better deals, less crowds (if visiting a destination off-season), and seeing the beauty closer to home.

Looking for travel ideas to give your summer the last-minute boost it deserves? Here are some of our favorite destinations.


Contents

Summer Fun in the City

New York City

San Francisco

Las Vegas

Summer Fun in the Sun

Florida

Outer Banks

Hawaii

Summer Fun on the Road

America's South

Pacific Coast Highway

National Parks

Choose Your Last-Minute Adventure


 

Summer Fun in the City

Though the beach is your more typical idea of a summer getaway, don’t let our great cities go under the radar. The best part? Most people are at the beach.

1. New York City

Aerial view of New York City sky line during the day

New York City gets hot and humid in the summer. The good news: the crowds tend to thin, and locals head out to the mountains and beaches. Visit The Big Apple during the summer off-season and avoid peak crowds – just remember to pack light clothing!

For such an ultra-crowded city, this is a great time to visit because you can freely explore some of the most iconic sites and get some of the toughest reservations at world-class restaurants, plus experience quicker lines at top bagel shops and delis. Here are just some of the things you can see during a last-minute summer getaway to the City That Never Sleeps.

  • The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
  • Skyscrapers such as the Empire State Building and One World Observatory
  • Museums including The Museum of Modern Art and the American Museum of Natural History
  • An actual Broadway show – right on Broadway!

Will there still be crowds? It’s New York City, so yes. But you’ll get just enough extra elbow room.

2. San Francisco

Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco at sunset

Though most likely falsely attributed to Mark Twain, the quote, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco,” still rings true. The wind comes off the water fiercely in this city, so the actual winter isn’t optimal for a visit. What better time than late summer, especially if you’re looking for an unforgettable last-minute idea.

Simply put, San Francisco is stunning. Because of the perfect weather during the summer – if a little on the chillier side – this is the time to grab a ticket to one of the city’s many outdoor festivals and events.

Other musts include:

  • The iconic Golden Gate Bridge.
  • Alcatraz Island, and once infamous federal prison.
  • Lively Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 area.
  • Lombard Street, aka “the crookedest street in the world.”

Hold onto your hat, mind the hills, and enjoy the pleasant temperatures during the summer in San Francisco.

3. Las Vegas

The Las Vegas strip lit up at night

Where the casinos, entertainment, and air conditioning are all world-class!

Experience a destination truly like nowhere else, where you’ll find some of the best shows in the world, a thrilling night life, and even fun things to do for the whole family.

Of course, the dazzling Las Vegas Strip is the centerpiece to your last-minute summer adventure to the Entertainment Capital of the World, the central hub to all-out fun at all hours. With great Las Vegas deals, you can easily find yourself dancing to one of the top DJs in the world, exploring natural wonders, exploring hidden gems, and giving your summer a boost on a big scale.

Some musts on your last-minute Las Vegas vacation include:

  • Hoover Dam, the hydroelectric power source worth fighting the summer heat to see.
  • Red Rock Canyon, just a short drive from the Strip for breathtaking scenery and adventure.
  • Fremont Street Experience for vibrant nightlife, shopping, and free live entertainment.
  • The Bellagio Fountains, the now-iconic water and light show.

Your weather app may say it’s 120 degrees in Las Vegas over the summer, but there will be less body heat from the lesser crowds, and there are so many ways to cool down anyway, making it definitely worth the visit.

Summer Fun in the Sun

It would be remiss of us not to mention some good old fashioned beach opportunities for a last-minute summer getaway. Though the Caribbean and Mexico are known for their turquoise waters and soft beaches, the U.S. has plenty of beaches for anyone looking for a quick way to set up their umbrellas in the sand.

4. Florida

Boardwalk on the beach in Florida

For a tropical getaway without breaking the bank, look no further than our own sunny paradise right at home: Florida. Of course, Florida encompasses many different experiences, especially along its 663 miles of beach. No matter what style beach getaway you’re looking for, Florida has one for you.

Here are just a few:

  • South Beach, Miami: Known for its vibrant atmosphere and Art Deco architecture, South Beach offers a lively scene with beachfront restaurants and clubs.
  • Key West: the southernmost city in the U.S. offers a variety of sandy stretches with crystal-clear waters for snorkeling, kayaking, and relaxation, plus a range of bars, restaurants, and shops along bustling Duval Street.
  • Daytona Beach: Famous for its hard-packed sand, Daytona Beach is a haven for beach driving, biking, and fishing, and the fun boardwalk features shops, arcades, and amusement park rides.

5. Outer Banks

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse at sunset

With its pristine beaches stretching for miles along the North Carolina coastline, the Outer Banks offers the perfect setting for soaking up the sun, swimming, and enjoying a range of water sports. The summer months are also ideal for exploring the Outer Banks' charming seaside towns and historic sites.

Plus:

  • Discover the storied past of the Wright Brothers at the Wright Brothers National Memorial.
  • Climb to the top of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse for panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Indulge in fresh seafood at waterfront restaurants or browse local shops for unique souvenirs.

Whether you're seeking relaxation, adventure, or a bit of both, the Outer Banks offers an easy summer coastal escape, and a great American beach destination in a pinch.

6. Hawaii

Hawaiian hula dancer on the beach of Kauai

Perhaps America’s premier paradise getaway, it’s almost shocking you can get away to Hawaii without your passport. From rushing waterfalls to lush rainforests, explore truly majestic natural surroundings.

Top reasons to visit Hawaii (if you needed any more) include:

  • Truly pristine beaches, from famous Waikiki Beach in Oahu, to Kaanapali Beach in Maui, to Hanalei Bay in Kaui, and others.
  • A vibrant culture that stems from the islands’ rich history and unique blend of Polynesian traditions.
  • Uniquely delectable dishes such as poi, Spam musubi, and loco moco.

With its warm, welcoming “aloha” spirit, Hawaii offers an unforgettable escape, blending natural beauty, adventure, and tranquility – a destination sure to instantly elevate your summer.

Summer Fun on the Road

What’s more American than a road trip? Pack the car, hit the road, and turn your summer into a road trip classic – and it doesn’t have to be along Route 66!

7. America’s South

Angel Oak Tree Near Charleston South Carolina

The American South – also hot and humid in the summer months, so you’d be avoiding peak crowds – offers endless sites and, perhaps above all else, flavors.

A fantastic road trip for foodies, the South delivers on elevated dining, comfort food, and, of course, more Waffle Houses than you can count (be sure to stop at this legendary breakfast-all-day joint).

There are many routes you can take, but if we’d have to suggest one it would be the road from Charleston, South Carolina to Savannah, Georgia. Technically just a two-hour drive if you were to do it straight on the main interstate, you’ll want to plan for several stops and scenic routes along the way.

Some musts to hit include:

  • Angel Oak Tree, a majestic 400-plus-year-old tree that twists and curls in all directions, an embodiment of the natural beauty of the South.
  • Beaufort, South Carolina, a historic town with beautiful antebellum homes, waterfront parks, and a charming downtown area.
  • Wildlife sanctuaries, including Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge in South Carolina and Savannah National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia.
  • A range of beaches, such as Folly Beach just outside Charleston, and Hilton Head Island, famous for its beautiful beaches, golf courses, outdoor activities and the iconic Harbour Town Lighthouse.

Of course, there’s more to do along this stretch of scenic road, and your Liberty Travel expert will know just which direction to point you in.

8. Pacific Coast Highway

Pacific Park during the day on the Santa Monica Pier

One of the most stunning drives you can do in the country, the Pacific Coast Highway in California runs along the sprawling coastline starting in Orange County just south of Los Angeles. The scenic drive offers breathtaking views out onto the Pacific Ocean, rugged cliffs, mega mansions, and picturesque beaches.

Key points of interest along the way include:

  • Big Sur, one of the most scenic stretches, with dramatic cliffs and ocean views, plus picture-worthy Bixby Creek Bridge (grab lunch at Nepenthe, precipitously perched on a steep cliffside).
  • The Santa Monica Pier, featuring an amusement park, aquarium, great fishing, and restaurants.
  • Monterey, renowned for its aquarium, Cannery Row, and the scenic 17-Mile Drive through Pebble Beach.
  • Carmel-by-the-Sea, a charming town with quaint cottages, art galleries, and beautiful Carmel Beach, the stuff of fairy tales.

Pro tip: end in Napa Valley to cap it all off with tours of some of America’s best wineries. If you’re on the east coast and this California road trip seems too big in a pinch, double pro tip: take a New York road trip up to the Finger Lakes where you’ll find a high-caliber wine region as well – in fact, it is known as one of the top wine regions in the world for Rieslings.  

9. National Parks

Ravens Nest Sunset on Schoodic Peninsula looking towards Arcadia National Park

Sometimes you can forget about the majestic beauty right in our own backyard. Need a last-minute summer vacation that is sure to wow? Drive out to some of our awe-inspiring National Parks.

You can read about a range of amazing National Parks this country has to offer, including the Grand Canyon, but the ones listed below are sure to make for a great last-minute summer excursion since many of their most thrilling landmarks are inaccessible during the winter.

Choose Your Last-Minute Adventure

There’s no shortage of incredible trips you can take last minute in the U.S. , from budget-friendly to total luxury. Avoid peak season in certain destinations, save on last-minute vacation deals, and turn late summer into something to remember.

 

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LT Globetrotter

As fellow travelers, our people are always on the move discovering new destinations. On the occasions they take a break from exploring, they love to write up a few stories about their adventures before they leave for the next one, so you can enjoy expert tips, news, and recommendations to use for your own travels.