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8 Summer Destinations That Aren’t the Beach

Two women laughing while eating cotton candy at a summer fair
astarot/Shutterstock

The beach might be a classic summertime destination, but that doesn’t mean it’s for you. Here are eight other things you can do instead of heading for the shore.

Can I tell you a secret? I don’t love the beach. I mean, it’s beautiful, for sure. But it’s also full of sand and sun and, when the weather is nice, tons of other people. If you’re like me and don’t like scorching heat and shaking sand out of every single thing you own, then you’re probably in search of other fun summer activities. Thankfully, many things to do in the summer don’t involve surf and sand.

Ride the Coasters at the Amusement Park

At the amusement park, you’ll skip the sand, but still soak up the sun. After all, nothing says “summer” like waiting in line for hours to go on a two-minute ride.

In all seriousness, the amusement park is a great place to spend a summer day, especially if you have kids. Amusement parks have plenty to, well, amuse you, including rides, games, shows, and food options. A trip to your local amusement park can cost a lot, though, so if you’re looking to save, trying packing a lunch.

To save even further, skip the big established amusement parks and hit up smaller venues, or even wait for a fair to pass through. The rides are a lot smaller, but so is the cost.

Spend a Day (or a Night) at the Museum

Museums are a great place to beat the summer heat. In addition to being air-conditioned (museums need to be temperature-controlled to protect their collections), museums offer a plethora of activities, from browsing the halls to presentations and even food and wine nights.

If you have kids, try looking for youth programming. Most museums offer special programs for the little ones. You can also find a tour company to customize your experience for you.

Check Out Your Local Bookstore

Bookstores are another great place to get a reprieve from the summer sun. Large chains like Barnes & Noble often have cafes inside where you can grab a bite to eat or a frothy drink. Both large chains and smaller, local bookstores often have programming like book clubs and author talks if you’re interested in something a bit more structured as well as recurring events—like game or craft nights—to draw people in.

Stroll the Farmers Market

woman shopping at a farmers market
MinDof/Shutterstock

The farmers market is a great place to spend your Saturday or Sunday morning. In addition to fresh produce, farmers markets often sell tasty treats, offer specialty goods like handmade jewelry or furniture, and have performances by local artists. Stroll by yourself or take the family for a laid-back, relaxing outing.

To get additional value out of your local market, check to see if they have night sessions mid-week. When a farmers market has a night session, live entertainment, different foods and vendors, and more are often part of the experience.

Catch the Latest Blockbuster at the Movie Theater

Summer is a great time to catch up on the latest big screen releases. Whether you’re seeing the newest Marvel movie or catching something independent, the movie theater is a great place to cool down and kill a few hours on a hot summer day (or night).

If you want a variation on the theme, check to see if your local Parks and Rec department sponsors movies in the park or if any local beer gardens or the like have movie nights.

Day Drink at the Vineyard

If you’re of drinking age, a day trip to the vineyard is a great way to let loose with your friends in a low-key way. Most vineyards offer free or low-cost tastings, and you can buy what you enjoy later. Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy with your new bottle after the tasting.

Make sure you set up a designated driver beforehand, or make a weekend of it and stay on the vineyard property!

Check Out the Creatures at the Zoo

Whether you have kids or not, the zoo is a great place to enjoy on a hot summer day. Stroll the different ecosystems and try not to get too jealous of the animals cooling off in their exhibit pools.

Many zoos have specific days of the week when they offer lower-priced admission, so check your local zoo’s website before you go to save a few bucks.

Visit Nearby Historical Sites

Most locations have a plethora of historical sites within a 90-minute radius from authors’ houses to presidential libraries to battlefields. Depending on the site, you may be there for a few hours, or the entire day.

Book a tour or explore on your own—either way, you’ll learn something new.


Plenty summertime activities don’t involve going to the beach. Do you have other favorites we missed? Sound off in the comments!

Hayley Milliman Hayley Milliman
Hayley is a former Teach for America teacher turned curriculum developer and writer. Over the past five years, she's written hundreds of articles on everything from education to personal finance to history. She's co-author of the book Museum Hack's Guide to History's Fiercest Females. Read Full Bio »

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