As summer rounds the corner into Labor Day, travelers rush to squeeze the last drops of sunshine out of the season. This year, skip the usual barbecue-and-beach getaway for an outdoor excursion that truly does justice to those glorious, warm days of late summer and early fall. Need a little inspiration? IgoUgo members recommend their favorite ways (and favorite places) to get outside and stretch those sunlight hours—without a beach in sight.
Soak up the late-summer sun in America’s national parks
Beat the heat—and get the country’s most spectacular landscapes all to yourself—by visiting national parks after the crowds have gone home. IgoUgo members love Utah’s Zion National Park for its “luminescent red canyons” and plentiful campgrounds; Rocky Mountain National Park for its variety of hiking trails and dramatic ranges (hint: late summer and fall bring the area’s best weather); and Montana’s Glacier National Park for its untamed beauty and vast, sparkling lakes. Looking for an easier weekend trip? Don’t neglect your nearby state parks, either; South Dakota’s Custer State Park, with its scenic drives and “begging burros,” won over one traveler who planned a half-day excursion and left wishing for more.
Head back to the Wild West at a dude ranch
Who needs the beach when you can spend your days riding the range? IgoUgo members head west for trail rides lined with wildflowers in Scottsdale, lope rides in Tucson, post-ride campfires and country music in Texas, and even whitewater rafting at an old-time ranch in Grand Teton National Park. “The wranglers are expert at matching a horse to a rider so that you can safely enjoy your outing,” said one visitor to Tucson’s White Stallion Ranch. “There are no phones or television to interrupt the silence of the surrounding desert here,” said another guest. “Only the singing of the birds outside your casita window may break the peace now and then.” Our bet? You’ll hardly miss the crashing waves.
Enjoy the catch of the summer
Good things come to those who wait, as any fishing enthusiast can attest. IgoUgo members know that late summer is prime time to take the bait in the Deep South (where bigeye tuna, wahoo, and king mackerel swarm the warm waters offshore); Wyoming and Montana (where fly-fishing thrives); and Key West (where the summer temperatures cool to facilitate fly-fishing for bonefish). Fishing overseas? Head to South Africa for September and October trout season, and be sure to get a taste of the day’s delicious yields. Wherever you cast your rod, this classic pastime will have you hooked just in time to prep your catch for Labor Day grilling.
Spend the day out at the ball game
Hot dogs, sunflower seeds, and home runs: is there a better recipe for a fun-filled afternoon? Luckily, baseball season keeps going strong long after the summer months are over, and IgoUgo members recommend taking full advantage of the extra innings. Snap up some Major League tickets to see the Anaheim Angels, the New York Yankees, or the Seattle Mariners score some runs. For a more accessible (and affordable) way to cover your bases, support your regional Minor League teams: IgoUgo baseball fans have cheered on the El Paso Diablos and the Boise Hawks. And if you’re a true baseball nut, don’t miss the National Baseball Hall of Fame in pretty Cooperstown, New York, to indulge your love of America’s favorite sport.
Coast into fall at an amusement park
Throw your hands in the air for some end-of-summer thrills: the crowds clear at amusement parks when school is back in session. Take advantage of the shorter lines and milder temperatures at New Jersey’s Six Flags Great Adventure, Finland’s youngster-geared Moominworld, or the Sandusky, Ohio, roller-coaster capital Cedar Point. “For a roller-coaster junkie like me,” says one traveler to the Sandusky landmark, “it’s a little slice of heaven.” For a beach alternative at the beach, hit up Atlantis at Paradise Island’s marine exhibits, where the Bahamas’ colorful ocean landscape comes to life in a setting where you’d be hard-pressed not to have fun. And for a bittersweet touch of nostalgia, visit Coney Island’s famed Astroland in what may be its final summer.
Experience the ocean’s best star sightings
If it’s just not summer without a trip to the ocean, look beyond the beach (literally) for a more memorable experience. Late summer and early fall are prime whale-watching season in South Africa (Hermanus is a playground for the rare southern right whale); Australia (where right whales visit and humpbacks show off in the waters of Hervey Bay); and the Pacific Northwest (IgoUgo members rave about the San Juan Islands, where Orca sightings are common). On the east coast, summer vacationers who’ve had their fill of the beach spot humpback, right, and minke whales along Cape Cod; a plethora of excursions are available to see these magnificent mammals up close. We’ll spare you the “whale of a time” jokes, but it would be a “breach” of the summer-fun code to miss this experience.
Explore a new landscape on two wheels
The wind in your hair, beautiful scenery rolling by…there’s no better or more accessible way to explore a destination than by bicycle, especially as the summer heat abates. Pennsylvania’s mountain ridges and verdant valleys, South Carolina’s ocean trails, and England’s historical cycleways are among IgoUgo members’ favorites. Cyclists skilled enough to take in jaw-dropping landscapes and still maintain their balance should head to Yellowstone, while serious athletes will thrill at Provence’s Mount Ventoux, a 21km uphill slice of the Tour de France route that one traveler described as “one of the harder physical feats I have attempted (and accomplished) on vacation.” One look at his reward, and you’ll understand why he was glad he did.
Head off to the races (or just take the reigns)
For some, the onset of fall signals a new school year and colorful, changing landscapes. For equestrian enthusiasts, it signals the start of racing season. Raise IgoUgo members’ bets at Vancouver’s Hastings Park, Kentucky’s Keeneland, and Hong Kong’s Shatin. If you’d rather place your bets on a horseback ride of your own, saddle up at a nearby stable (IgoUgo sources recommend Jasper National Park’s Pyramid Riding Stables), or slide into one adventurous rider’s stirrups at a rural fazenda (working ranch) in Brazil’s picturesque Pantanal region. “I was rather surprised by how much I enjoyed it,” said the first-time rider of his wildlife-spotting excursion. Riders and racing aficionados alike should make a point to visit Nashville’s Belle Meade Plantation, a historic Southern estate where generations of horseracing champions were born and raised.
Keep the good times afloat on the water
As the summer heat slowly dissipates, create your own breeze by taking to the water. IgoUgo members set sail for spectacular scenery of every sort aboard fjord cruises in Norway, rented motorboats on Granville Island in Vancouver, traditional punts in the storied college town of Oxford, and privately guided sampan boats in Hong Kong. For more active types, there’s kayaking the Colorado River, tubing on the Shenandoah in West Virginia, or canoeing the Saco River in New Hampshire. And for more active imaginations, there’s the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (the largest in the world), where prospective boat buyers and dreamers can browse a staggering array of top-of-the-line vessels.
Celebrate local flavor at a fair or festival
Don’t mourn the end of summer—celebrate it. State fairs and local festivals pop up all over the US in fall, celebrating each region’s unique charms. IgoUgo members have gone local at the Greater Gulf State Fair in Mobile, Alabama (one fair-goer described it as “one of the biggest setups of rides and games” she’d ever seen); the State Fair of Texas in Dallas (recommended by a native Dallas-ite); and the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, when colorful hot-air balloons dot the southwestern sky for an entire week. Even Hawaii is eager to prove that there’s more to love than its beautiful beaches: the annual Aloha Festivals kick off in September, offering a chance to experience the 50th state’s rich culture and heritage.
Do you have a great tip for celebrating summer’s last days? Tell us about it! Log in or register to discuss blog topics on the IgoUgo Forums.