It’s school holiday time, which makes it peak summer in the Northern Hemisphere. But don’t assume you need to follow the traditional path of a beach getaway or the same cabin rental you’ve always booked.
Why not head inland to Pennsylvania’s second city for a distinctive celebration of July 4? Or try surfing in Asia’s latest hanging-ten hotspot? Then again, it’s the perfect time to explore one of the smaller Caribbean nations and gorge on more than forty different kinds of mango.
You deserve a vacation this month, and we have ten places that are well worth visiting in July.
Khao Lak, Thailand
July is great for: surfing in a lesser-known spot
Sure, it’s worth visiting this area, about an hour’s drive north of better-known Phuket on the Andaman Coast, for its intriguing history. Mining of the tin-rich area nearby made it a cash-rich corner of the country in times past, deeding it today a raft of charming buildings in the Takua Pa Old Town, many of them now rehabbed into appealing cafes and boutiques.
But the real draw is the water beyond the golden sands here: between May and November, surf jockeys both local and international flock here to catch the waves—the swell is appealingly steady—as the sport begins to gain traction in the area, and they’re increasingly the core crowd here. Hang out at the beloved longstanding Memories Beach Bar if you want to meet a few of the grizzled vets; newbies can rent boards and hire instructors easily, but there are also great reef and point breaks for seasoned pros.
It’s not just the ocean, though: the interior waterways have earned the Phang Nga province the nickname of Little Amazon, filled with waterfalls and virgin jungle trails. Head to Khao Sok National Park for the day to go canoeing on the manmade Cheow Lan Lake.
Where to stay: Avani+ Khao Lak Resort
Book now: Avani+ Khao Lak Resort
Avani+ Khao Lak Resort sits on a white sand beach, with an assortment of rooms and private villas, plus four swimming pools and five onsite restaurants.
How to get to Khao Lak
It’s a long way, and all the harder given that Thai Airways still hasn’t got the right to fly stateside. The best option: consider one of the Middle Eastern carriers, like Qatar via Doha, so you can break up the journey and stretch your legs in one of the plush UAE hubs.
July is great for: celebrating America’s birthday
File under no brainer. Where better to celebrate America’s birthday than the nation’s capital (though make sure to pack plenty of linen, as the humidity can be brutal in summertime)? The hub of celebrations is, of course, the National Mall, where the annual fireworks show takes place, preceded by the star-studded, totally free Capitol Fourth concert—past headliners have included Gladys Knight, Tony Bennett, Stevie Wonder, and Dolly Parton plus military bands and classic orchestras.
The Independence Day Parade takes place on Constitution Avenue that morning, too, and head over to the National Archives for a special day-long event: re-enactors channel historical figures like the Washingtons to help bring America’s biography to life, and visitors can even sign reproductions of the Declaration of Independence.
Where to stay: Rosewood Washington, D.C.
Book now: Rosewood Washington, D.C.
Rosewood’s local outpost added an oh-so-DC option eighteen months ago, with six standalone townhouses allowing anyone to channel their inner Olivia Pope, with private entrances and courtyards secluded from prying eyes.
How to get to Washington, D.C.
There are flights to IAD and DCA from countless airports, but East Coasters can check both Greyhound bus and Amtrak service for a more sustainably-minded alternative.
July is great for: a coastal counterpart to the crowded Med
Hvar is often eclipsed among foreign visitors by Games of Thrones-bolstered Dubrovnik, but Croatians cherish this breezy, historic island of cobblestoned streets and UNESCO-endorsed heritage.
Hvar is a charmingly retro getaway miles from the cookie-cutter waterfronts of the nearby Mediterranean. Come in July for its Lavender Festival, which takes place over two days in the tiny, 14th-century village of Velo Grablje. The community once produced the herb en masse for consumption along the Dalmatian Coast, so expect everything from a craft fair to dry stone-walling workshops, as well as the chance to watch oil being painstakingly attracted from the freshly harvested bunches of the herb. Another thing to look out for while you’re on the island is aloe lace, an ethereal riff on the classic lace made throughout Croatia which local nuns weave from the plant’s stringy leaves.
Where to stay: Riva Marina Hvar Hotel
Book now: Riva Marina Hvar Hotel
The 100-room Riva Marina reopened last month after a gut renovation, intended better to suggest its perch right on the Adriatic Coast in the heart of Hvar’s Old Town. Think hammocks, swaying palm trees, and private terraces.
How to get to Hvar
United Airlines is running a seasonal direct flight four times weekly from Newark to Croatia’s coast in Dubrovnik; hop a short ferry from there to Hvar.
July is great for: fireworks and Fort Pitt
As if you needed any excuse to visit Pennsylvania’s charming second city, which is as obsessed with the arts as it is with sports. Come to check out a showcase for Prodigal Son Andy Warhol at his namesake museum (look out for his obsessive collections of ephemera on the main floor) and even out of season, the Steelers reign supreme; count the number of people in black and gold on any day as you stroll through the pleasantly buzzy downtown.
In July, though, the ‘burgh of the best places to fête Independence Day. Festivities here bring the city downtown to Point State Park, which overlooks the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers to form the Ohio River. During the day’s celebrations, listen to live music, get your face painted, see 18th-century reenactors at Fort Pitt, eat plenty of snacks, or stake out a spot on the grass and bring a picnic (note: no alcohol is allowed in the park). The night culminates with a jaw-dropping fireworks display over the water.
Where to stay: Industrialist Hotel
Book now: Industrialist Hotel
The aptly named Industrialist Hotel, which opened a few months ago in a 1902-built skyscraper in the central business district, has lush, retro interiors that nod to the heyday of Carnegie and co.
How to get to Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh is well connected across the country. Look at options on low-cost carrier Allegiant, which uses PIT as one of its bases, and USAir merger partner American Airlines.
July is great for: an alternative Independence Day
Come celebrate an alternative Independence Day this month in this Caribbean Island nation, which celebrates almost 50 years of splitting from British colonial rule on July 10th this year. For the first ten days of the month, the country revels in parties and parades, the peak of which is the summer iteration of Junkanoo, a Bahamian fiesta with more than a whiff of Mardi Gras; expect lots of dancing to music that’s heavy on cowbells, goatskin drums, and brass. More well known as a Christmas period bash, it’s also held here over Independence Day; the biggest such bash is in downtown Nassau.
Otherwise, towards the end of the month, head over to the small island of Bimini, best known for the superb fishing in its adjoining waters (Ernest Hemingway was a fan). The Boating Fling that takes place in July brings a chance to fish the drop-off where currents bring bait into the Bahamas banks. Cross your fingers to land some impressive Blue Marlin: it runs from Fort Lauderdale over the period July 28-31.
Where to stay: The Cove
Book now: The Cove
Indulge in some R&R at the 27-room resort The Cove, a 40-acre retreat on the island of Eleuthera, with not one, but two private beaches.
How to get to the Bahamas
Nassau, the main airport for the country, has direct flights from almost every major hub airport stateside.
July is great for: mango-gorging in a quiet corner of the Caribbean
St. Kitts and Nevis were yoked together into an uneasy alliance as the two islands emerged from colonial dominion in 1983, and even today the larger, first-named island often eclipses its smaller neighbor. All international flights, for example, land in St. Kitts, and require a transfer by boat or plane across the barely two-mile channel to the almost 36-sq. mile sister spot.
It’s a pity, as Nevis retains a genuine Caribbean warmth with a tourism infrastructure that dovetails subtly with daily life. Come here this month for the Nevis Mango Festival, a celebration in early July of one of the island’s easiest to grow crops (there are 44 varieties thriving here.) Restaurants and bars across the island embrace the chance to riff on all things mango, offering everything from cook-along classes to mango-heavy dinners. There’s even a showcase for Nevisian chefs to prove their particular aptitude and originality with the fruit—it’s the climax of the bash on the final day, and samples will be passed around.
Where to stay: The Four Seasons Nevis
Book now: The Four Seasons Nevis
The Four Seasons Nevis was the five-star hotelier’s first outpost in the Caribbean and has its own three miles of beachfront plus an 18-hole Robert Trent Jones II golf course.
How to get to Nevis
Take one of the American Airlines flights from New York, Miami, or Charlotte, or Delta from Atlanta to St. Kitts. The ride across to Nevis by boat is a thrilling, but brief, 15 minutes or so in a motorboat.
July is great for: avant-garde art in an old French town
Yes, Avignon is a historic French town in Provence. It’s where several Popes, starting with Clement V, fled under attack in Rome centuries ago, setting up an almost fifty-year period when two men claimed God’s Papal primacy. That’s left an impressive legacy of expensive, old buildings all around, but don’t assume Avignon’s a fusty city stuck in the past. The contemporary art scene here is especially vibrant, underwritten in part by renowned gallerist Yvon Lambert, a local lad made good who donated a huge hoard of work to his namesake foundation and is showcased in a sleek building that was once City Hall.
This month, the arts take center stage for the 76th edition of the Festival d’Avignon, which has been championing the performance scene since shortly after World War II. It’s known for a terrific assortment of shows, from high-brow to rollickingly populist, taking place in 20 different locations around the city, most of them historic and outdoors; even better, plenty of them are free. It runs from 7-26 July, so consider coming over on the 14th to experience the bonus of Bastille Day, when the Tricolore will be waving from almost every window amid street fairs and firework displays.
Where to stay: Hotel Crillon Le Brave
Book now: Hotel Crillon Le Brave
Hotel Crillon Le Brave was created from a cluster of ten 17th and 18th-century buildings pieced haphazardly together to offer 34 suites plus a spa, outdoor pool, and, of course, a terraced pétanque court.
How to get to Avignon
There’s a direct flight from JFK to Nice on the Côte d’Azur operated by Delta-Air France. Rent a car for a scenic three-hour drive from there, or enjoy the countryside rattling by on a train.
July is great for: al fresco concerts in the countryside
Music is pivotal to Lucca’s history. The small town close to Tuscany’s coastal riviera was the birthplace of composer Giacomo Puccini, the champion of verismo opera born in the middle of the 19th century. As an adherent of this ethos, he opted to tell grittier stories than the fairytale-like plots that were then conventional. He’s lauded in an annual festival here, which starts in mid-July and runs 13 evenings through late August, with performances of his shows including Madama Butterfly and Tosca in an open-air setting in the dreamy waterfront town of Torre del Lago nearby, where Puccini lived as an adult.
If you’d rather sing along, opt for a concert that’s part of another standalone fest, Lucca’s Summer Festival, which runs for the first three weeks of the month on several city center sites. It’s been staged here since the late 1980s, and attracts a surprising roster of pop royalty, keen—who wouldn’t be?—for any excuse for a trip to Tuscany in summer. So far, 2022’s lineup announcements have touted John Legend, Justin Bieber, Robert Plant, and even Celine Dion.
Where to stay: Grand Universe Lucca
Book now: Grand Universe Lucca
The 55-room Grand Universe Lucca opened 18 months ago in the center of the city, a one-time palazzo from the 16th century right next to the Piazza Napoleone and the city’s Puccini-endorsed Opera House.
How to get to Lucca
While Pisa is the closest airport to Lucca, flying to nearby Florence may be easier considering that it has one-stop flights from several US gateways, including Houston, Chicago-O’Hare, and Miami.
St. Moritz, Switzerland
July is great for: taking to the slopes in a totally new way
It’s easy to assume that the Swiss mountains are only of interest when they’re carpeted in fresh powder, but that’s a rookie mistake. In fact, they’re just as appealing (whisper it: perhaps even more) in summer, when the fresh air is breezy and consistently in the high 60s, and the countryside is at its most bucolic. Come here to hike Corviglia, a moderately challenging two-hour jaunt—hop the Chantarella funicular from the town center to start—or take the cable car up to Piz Nair, 10,000 feet above sea level. The Via Gastronomica trail is an easier journey and interspersed with a three-course meal across three different restaurants; book ahead for 60 CHF (around $62) per person.
And this month, the Festival da Jazz takes place here. Back for the first time full throttle in two years and with no less than sixty concerts or so on its line-up, expect a combination of international names at the Main Stage at the Dracula Club, with free concerts from young talents in al fresco shows. The open-air, almost four-week bash has welcomed folks like Joss Stone and Zucchero in the past, but 2022’s line-up is still yet to be announced.
Where to stay: The Kulm
Book now: The Kulm
The Kulm is one of the resort’s landmarks and has been for more than 160 years: the 21,000 sq ft spa is the ultimate après-ski—or summertime—spot for indulgence.
How to get to St. Moritz
Swiss flies direct from JFK to Zurich, then it’s a 2 ½ hour drive or a scenic train ride to reach St Moritz.
July is great for: embracing the state’s eclectic heritage
It’s sunny season this month on the Aloha State’s rainfall-prone island, whose eastern side can receive between 40-60" per year. This month, though, visitors can explore with less risk and no need to carry a rain poncho on every hike. Don’t miss the chance to explore Kōke’e State Park and walk around the rim of Waimea Canyon, an eight-mile-long adventure.
Come for the final ten days of the month and you can enjoy Kōloa Plantation Days, which nods to the multi-ethnic workforce brought here to work on the sugar plantations.
On the island’s south shore, close to the location of the first such plantation founded in 1835, a family-friendly, mostly free fiesta aims to educate and entertain. Expect live music and cultural events, craft demos, nature walks, and even watercolor painting workshops, all aiming to celebrate the diversity of immigrants who imported their culture here, whether from Japan and the Philippines or the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean.
Where to stay: Ko’a Kea Hotel & Resort
Book now: Ko’a Kea Hotel & Resort
Ko’a Kea Hotel & Resort just underwent a $5 million overhaul, sprucing up the rooms and property on Po’ipu Beach; don’t miss a dip in the lava rock hot tub.
How to get to Kauai
Look for flights to Kauai’s Lihue airport on the trio of legacy carriers, plus Hawaiian, Alaska, and WestJet—ideal for West Coasters, though from the East Coast, it might be easier to head to Honolulu and connect intrastate.