Beat The Summer Heat As Temperatures Soar In These Cooler Locales

Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco

The warmer months are upon us and all across the country Americans are hitting the road or the airways to take their long-awaited summer vacation. But not all travelers will want to spend their well-deserved time off in scorching heat or unbearable humidity. Instead, by selecting a destination that’s known to have a cooler summer climate as well as with plenty of fun things to do and great places to stay, vacationers will likely have a far better experience, especially if traveling by car. For a few suggestions, here are five great American cities to beat the heat this year on a summer getaway.

University of Michigan Law School Quadangle - great spot for a summer visit
University of Michigan Law School Quadangle

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Among the cities with the coldest annual temperatures, Detroit also ranks as one of the cities with the lowest normal daily maximum summer temperatures. In fact, during the height of summer, the Motor City only has an average high of 83 degrees with a low of a very mild 64 degrees. But just 30 minutes away, Ann Arbor is a city that definitely should not be missed, especially with ongoing special events happening all summer and more importantly, a cool vibe and a food and wine scene that’s arguably much better than its far larger neighbor to the west. Just the sixth largest city in Michigan, Ann Arbor is best known as a college town and home to the University of Michigan, one of the best public universities in the country as well as the enormous Michigan Stadium, largest sports stadium in the country and second largest in the world. But, in addition to amazing attractions on campus such as the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, University of Michigan Art Museum, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology and the Harry Potteresque Law School Quadrangle, the city once known as Ann’s Arbor has several great things to see and do, and all to enjoy with mild temperatures all summer. Take for instance the other leading attractions like Mattahei Botanical Gardens, Washington Street Gallery, Michigan Theater, Gallup Park for kayaking and the vibrant Main Street area that Bob Seeger once sang about. Among the leading events coming up this summer are Michigan Elvisfest in Ypsilanti’s historic Depot Town, Ann Arbor Street Art Fair and the Ann Arbor Art Fair, recently named the best art fair in the country. Of course there is no shortage for dining in a rising foodie city like Ann Arbor, including the famous Zingerman’s Delicatessen and the James Beard Award-winning Zingerman’s Roadhouse, the French-fusion restaurant Mikette Bistro and Bar, the French-New American Taste Kitchen and restaurants with James Beard Award-winning chefs, like Standard Bistro & Larder and the Slurping Turtle. For lodging, top choices include the Graduate Ann Arbor, Residence Inn Ann Arbor, the Bell Tower and the Kensington Hotel.

Denver, Colorado

With summer highs in the mid 80s or more, it may come as a surprise that Denver ranks among the top five American cities with the lowest normal daily minimum temperatures. But the primary reasons behind these mild temperatures are actually quite simple – Denver’s semi-arid, high desert climate with very low humidity and an altitude of 5,280 feet above sea level, which lends to the city’s claim of more annual hours of sunshine than Miami or San Diego. Although there are several exceptional spots to visit outside of the city, particularly Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, University of Colorado in Boulder and Grand County’s Winter Park, there are plenty of great things to do right within the Mile High City. This includes Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies, pedestrian-friendly 16th Street MallDenver ZooColorado State Capitol and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, currently hosting the extraordinary Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition through September 3. Of course, Denver also has a wealth of outdoor activities like cycling, hiking and kayaking and outstanding events all summer long, like the Denver County Fair, with goat yoga and a beer and wine fest, Colorado Dragon Boat FestivalDenver International Festival  and the biggest event of the summer, A Taste of Colorado over Labor Day weekend. Among the top recommendations for lodging are Brown Palace Hotel and Spa, the ART, a hotel named best hotel in Colorado, the landmark Oxford Hotel and the dazzling new Crawford Hotel at historic Union Station.

Portland, Oregon

Portland is a great city to visit any time of the year but there’s no better time to visit than in the summer. Nicknamed the City of Roses, Portland has a daily summer mean of 67 degrees, but that doesn’t mean temperatures won’t reach 80 and above. Even then, visitors can enjoy many of this vibrant city’s leading attractions, the world famous International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park, Portland Japanese GardenPittock MansionPortland Museum of Art and the beloved Powell’s City of Books, the largest independent bookstore in the world. Visitors should also consider traveling outside of the city, especially along the Columbia River Gorge to see the famous Multnomah Falls, a wine tour of the Willamette Valley, a trip to the breathtaking Oregon coast, a luxury steamboat ride onboard the American Empress, or a day trip to the city of Vancouver, Washington, just north across the Columbia River from Portland. If that’s not all, Portland will also feature several important summer events, like the Oregon Zoo Summer Concerts featuring leading artists like Melissa Etheridge, Billy Idol and the Roots, the Waterfront Blues Festival featuring George Thorogood, the Revivalists and more, Oregon Brewers Festival and the Pickathon indie roots music festival. As the largest city in Oregon, Portland offers several lodging options, including upscale hotels like the Duniway Portlandthe Nines, the Sentinel and the Heathman Hotel.

San Francisco, California

Despite its reputation as an expensive city, San Francisco is a great place to visit and especially for visitors seeking a cooler climate. In fact, San Francisco consistently ranks at the top amongst all major American cities with the coolest summer temperatures. Although the crowds will definitely be larger, visitors will always want to visit the city’s most famous attractions, like Alcatraz IslandChinatown, the largest outside of Asia, Fisherman’s Wharf  and Pier 39AT&T Park, the home of the San Francisco Giants and perhaps most famously, the landmark Golden Gate Bridge, believed to be the world’s most photographed bridge. Additionally, San Francisco will host a number of special events all summer long, like the 4th of July Celebration at the Pier,the 45th Annual Nihonmachi Street Fair in Japantown, free concerts at the annual Stern Grove Festival with upcoming appearances from the San Francisco Symphony and the legendary Ronnie Spector and the Ronettes, the enormous Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival and Eat Drink SF by far the finest food and wine festival in the city. For lodging, visitors may be surprised how affordable the weekday rates can be, especially when booking last minute reservations through reliable booking sites like Expedia, Kayak and Trivago, as well as last minute travel apps like San Francisco’s own HotelTonight. Recommended hotels include the MarkerGalleria Park HotelHotel Zoe and Hotel Zephyr or even pricier spots like the Argonaut HotelHotel Vitale and the St Regis San Francisco.

Seattle, Washington

As the largest city in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle ranks just below San Francisco for perfectly cool summers, with an average of 65 degrees between June and August. While there will be a slight chance of rain, the Emerald City offers all sorts of fun activities to enjoy, particularly because of its location between spectcular Puget Sound and Lake Washington, as well as its close proximity to its many evergreen forests. For instance, visitors can enjoy a boat tour from Seattle Harbor, kayaking at places like Discovery Park Lake Union, a ferryboat ride to Bainbridge Island or even a day trip to Mount Rainier. However, the most famous attractions are right within the city, such as Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners, the always lively Pike Place Market, summer festivals like Bite of SeattleSeattle Street Food Festival and Seafair, and last but not least, the iconic Space Needle, which recently had a $100 million “spacelift” and features a vastly improved observation deck complete with glass floors that allow brave visitors a chance to peer 520 feet down to street level, as well as additional new attractions like the new Virtual Reality Bar. Seattle offers a wide range of hotels and includes such popular favorites as Inn at the MarketThompson SeattleMotif Seattle and the luxe Edgewater Hotel, well known for hosting rock music legends over its storied history, like Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, David Bowie and the Beatles.

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Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer covering national/international travel for CBS Local and all things San Francisco for CBS San Francisco. In 2012, he received a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. He is also a member of the Freelance Council of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW).