10 Cities for Summer Travel
Are you taking a trip this summer? If not, don't worry, we can't all leisurely gallivant around the globe all year long. If you are, I've compiled some of my more recent trips (anything older than three years was not listed) to give you a leg up on making your must see, do, and eat lists. If you are like me, the research part before a trip can be exhausting, so any head start can hopefully ease your googling pains.
For a full list of places I've blogged about you can refer to the City Guide menu of my site, which also includes local cities in Florida for weekend explorations when your PTO time is all gone.
Probably my favorite city with a bearable driving distance from Orlando is Atlanta. If at all possible I try to hit up the ATL once a year, even if it's just for a quick three-day weekend because it's the closest city to me that I consider a true foodie city. Street art abounds in ATL as does touristy attractions like the aquarium, Coca-Cola museum, and Skyview Atlanta. Take your time visiting each neighborhood because they all have their own vibe. Add Little Five Points, Cabbagetown, Old Fourth Ward, and Virginia-Highland to your list. Don't let the tales of bad traffic deter you, for every trip I've taken to Atlanta I think I've gotten stuck in traffic once and that was on my way into the city. I'm not saying it doesn't exist, I'm saying the back roads are your friend. Make sure to check out Decatur while you are there which has a sweet little downtown nook.
Asheville was a cute, small, and quirky city to visit. Not top on my list, but if you are able to go while the leaves are changing and drive through the Blue Ridge Parkway it's certainly worth a road trip. The city wasn't huge but there was plenty of food, quaint streets to stroll and tons of breweries. I chose to stay in an AirBNB near the city which turned out to be a nice way to have easy access to see both the city sights and bits of nature. If hiking isn't exactly your jam, you can get low-key into nature at the Asheville Botanical Garden.
I wouldn't recommend anyone go to Charleston for more than a few days mainly because there isn't a vast amount of things to do (unless you just really dig the city). Charleston has a lot of charm and is easily walk-able. Coffee shops abound and local boutiques mixed in with national chains line the popular King Street. Note that if you visit over the weekend that overlaps into Monday, I noticed several local businesses were not open on Monday. If you are into historical tours they have several for you to enjoy. A car isn't necessary in Charleston, so eat all the seafood you can and walk the whole city.
Denver appeared to be a city under major construction at every turn. For being nestled near the mountains and home to several outdoor activities, the city was quite dirty and they had a pretty startling homeless population. Now, Denver in the Winter may be different from Denver in the Spring, so perhaps I was seeing it in a less desirable state. Despite the cons, the city was home to several markets, local shops, good food, and plenty of coffee. Leaving the city to visit Boulder was probably the best decision I made. Needless to say, a car is necessary here to get away from the city and see nature.
Fior Gelato (Boulder)
Next Door Eatery (Boulder)
Mile High Comics
The Wizards Chest
Twist & Shout Records
If I'm being honest, Nashville is not my favorite city. Granted, this feeling is based on a four day weekend, but the people were not very hospitable, and often it took hipster nonsense to a whole new level. The city seemed very uneven, split between new growth and gentrification. Despite not falling in love with the city I did find some great places to eat and bits of charm here and there. Spend some time searching antique shops on Charlotte Avenue and strolling the shops on 12th Avenue. I would absolutely recommend getting a car while visiting Nashville.
Worth checking out:
Oooooh Miami. The traffic is probably the worst I've dealt with in any major city, so bring all your chill pills. Some of the best and most authentic spots are nowhere near the area of Miami most people visit for vacation. Further inland away from the posh hotels and glitzy shops is where you will find amazing hole-in-the-wall food. If that isn't the Miami you want to experience you visit South Beach, Midtown, the Design District and Wynwood. If you live in Florida, surely you are driving down, but if not the city is easily covered with an Uber or Lyft.
NEW YORK CITY
What could I possibly say about NYC to anyone that has been. Of course I love it, loud sirens, screaming people, garbage on the sidewalks and all. Take your time and learn how to navigate the subway, taxi's are expensive and most useful at the end of a long day to get back to home base. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge at least once and spend some time in Brooklyn. Also if you walk back into Manhattan on the Williamsburg bridge as the sun sets, the pink bridge has this incredibly photographic glow. I always try to fly into LaGuardia if I can and I've stayed in hotels all over Manhattan, but I'm partial to staying in Midtown because of easy walking access to a lot of areas and nearby subway lines.
Doughnut Plant (Best doughnuts in the city IMHO)
Urbanspace Vanderbilt (Food Hall)
Sweet Chick (Brooklyn)
Sweatshop Coffee (Brooklyn)
Angelo's Coal Oven Pizzeria
Believe it or not, Savannah is a pretty stress free, four-hour drive to the north. On multiple trips to Savannah I still find it a struggle to call it a foodie destination (full disclosure I eat at Collins Quarter multiple times when I visit), but there are definitely some solid spots to dine. It's not all about food here, since Savannah is rich in gorgeous architecture and southern charm. Thanks to the number of historical sites in the city there are plenty of tours throughout the year. My favorite has been the educational trolley tours. Not only do you get a lot of information about the history of the city, but it's a great way to see everything without a car. In the summer Savannah can get quite hot, but don't fear, they have an open container law that allows you to grab an alcoholic beverage and enjoy as your stroll the streets within in the limits of the Historic District. If you have time to leave the city, the Historic Wormsloe site is very picturesque. There are plenty of pictureque spots, my favorite being golden hour at the Thunderbird Inn. This is another city I wouldn't recommend staying for more than a few days, but if you can squeeze a Charleston and Savannah exploration in one trip you'll be happy you did.
Toronto was and still is one of my favorite cities. It feels like Seattle and a bit of New York with so much to do, see, and eat. When I visited, I stayed for six days and I feel like I barely put a dent in everything the city had to offer. There are several neighborhoods offering different cultures found in this melting pot, not to mention street art galore. Some of my favorite neighborhoods include Trinity-Bellwoods and Chinatown. Even though the city is walk-able I'd recommend renting a car to see as much of it as you can for at least half of your trip. If you stay in the summer months, check with any rentals that they have central A/C running. Some buildings don't turn it on until a certain time during the summer. Locals are extremely friendly so engage them and ask them for recommendations to find hidden gems. Street art lovers and vintage hunters, Toronto is for you!
Let me tell you, Houston is a true gem. I had no idea what to expect and they city just keep giving. Good food, culture, street art, and the cherry on top was the truly hospitable people. I'd go back in a hot second. The city is massive and sprawling, so a car is absolutely needed here. People warned me about the traffic, but there are plenty of back roads to take so don't be too fearful of spending your vacation in traffic.