Northeast

Photo by A. Ricketts/Visit Philadelphia

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philly shakes off the pandemic blues this summer with a lively mix of American history, music, art, and new flavors. In May, the encyclopedic Philadelphia Museum of Art unveiled its Frank Gehry redesign, showcasing lighter, airier interior spaces, new galleries, and gift shops featuring local crafts. The Early American Galleries embrace Latin American art and the contributions of enslaved Africans. New Grit: Art and Philly Now, through August 22, exhibits artists with strong links to the city, such as Judith Schaechter and Alex Da Corte.

The 59 ½ annual Philadelphia Folk Festival goes pocket-sized and hybrid August 21–22, with live events at the Spring Mountain Ski Area outside Philadelphia. Take a break at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, on the city’s southwestern edge, which preserves freshwater marshlands and offers prime bird watching. — Julia Klein

Thinking about planning a trip? Read more in Why You Should Visit Philadelphia This Summer.

Southeast

Courtesty of Jaleo DC

Washington, D.C.

After a year of lockdown and political turmoil, the nation’s capital is officially back in business. Across the region, which includes Maryland to the north and Virginia to the south, residents have achieved 70 percent COVID vaccination rates, and Mayor Bowser is “pushing hard” to reach the remaining 30 percent. Visitors are asked to follow local protocols, including masking on public transit and in federal buildings, but there’s currently no citywide mask mandate in place.

And people are out and about: enjoying the city’s glorious rooftop bars, like Hedy’s Rooftop and the Thompson’s Anchovy Social at the Yards; vibrant waterfront neighborhoods like the Wharf and Buzzard Point; and best of all, the 500-plus “streateries,” or street dining destinations akin to those that have popped up in NYC, creating a café culture that previously didn’t exist—and keeping businesses alive through the pandemic. The mayor has proposed a bill to allow outdoor dining for the rest of the year and for six-month stretches in 2022 and 2023. — Laura Dannen Redman

Thinking about planning a trip? Read more in Why You Should Visit Washington, D.C. This Summer.

Southwest

Photo by Mel Willis/Local Projects

Tulsa, Oklahoma

In May, all eyes were on Tulsa as the city marked the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. The attack—in which mobs of white residents attacked Black residents and businesses in the city’s 35-block Greenwood District—is believed to be the single deadliest and most destructive act of racial violence in U.S. history, and its scars are still evident in Oklahoma’s second-largest city, which sits on the Arkansas River. But for travelers looking to understand what it means to see “America,” perhaps there is no better city than one like Tulsa, which is looking forward while reckoning with the legacy of its past.

On May 28, Tulsa debuted its new Pathway to Hope walking path—which connects core sites in the district; in early July, the much-awaited Greenwood Rising—a history center that will commemorate the legacy of Tulsa’s Black Wall Street—will open its doors. Elsewhere in the city, Dylan fans will want to head straight to the new-as-of-2021 Bob Dylan Archive at the University of Tulsa, which comprises 6,000 items, including writings, memorabilia, and recordings. (Though famous folk singer Woody Guthrie was born one hour south of Tulsa, in Okemah, his archives are also in Tulsa, housed in the Woody Guthrie Center, which bills itself as a “repository for Woody’s writings, art, and songs.”) — Katherine LaGrave

Thinking about planning a trip? Read more in Why You Should Visit Tulsa This Summer.

West

Photo by Jeff Fierberg

Denver, Colorado

Three hundred days of sunshine, low humidity, and no bugs—just some of the reasons that metro Denver lives outdoors. Other reasons: more than 150 craft breweries with beer gardens (check out the Denver Beer Trail map to get your bearings), outdoor film venues (try a dive-in movie at the Elitch Gardens water park), and 850 miles of paved bike trails, including the new outdoor art–focused 5280 Trail connecting Denver’s inner-city neighborhoods.

During the day, Red Rocks (a Denver Mountain Park), bordered by sandstone formations, is popular for hiking trails. At night, it’s all about the music. Everyone from Yo-Yo Ma to Wiz Khalifa has performed in this acoustically perfect natural amphitheater. Early risers can join 2,500 fitness-focused down-doggers for Yoga on the Rocks (weekend mornings at 7 a.m.). — Irene Rawlings

Thinking about planning a trip? Read more in Why You Should Visit Denver This Summer.

Photo by Stacy Keck

San Diego, California

San Diego’s flip-flop friendly climate makes it inviting in any season of any year, but summer 2021 is an especially good time to head to this stretch of Pacific coast. New happenings abound: The world-famous zoo is opening the Kenneth C. Griffin Komodo Kingdom and a new hummingbird habitat and has extended its hours until September 6 (9 a.m.–8 p.m.); the Candlelight Concert Series lands in SD, with works from Vivaldi and Mozart et al. performed at various locations; and San Diego Pride runs from July 10 to 18 across the city.

Horse racing fans can get back to the Del Mar Racetrack from July 16 to September 6, and art lovers can choose between a new Wild and Beautiful sculpture exhibition at the San Diego Botanic Garden in nearby Encinitas or photorealistic drawings by Ana de Alvear and Cranach to Canaletto: Masterpieces from the Bemberg Foundation at the San Diego Museum of Art. In Balboa Park, an evergreen destination in both senses of the word, the Mingei International Museum will reopen, newly expanded after a three-year closure, displaying folk art and design. — Tim Chester

Thinking about planning a trip? Read more in Why You Should Visit San Diego This Summer.

Courtesy of Palisociety

San Francisco, California

The first city in the United States to issue a shelter-in-place order last year in response to the coronavirus could also be the first U.S. city to reach herd immunity, with more than 70 percent of residents vaccinated as of mid-June. The Bay Area officially reopened in full on June 15 (in line with the state of California’s reopening), and locals and travelers are emerging to a city transformed by parklets fanning out on sidewalks in front of restaurants, a host of new exhibits and indoor and outdoor experiences, and a downtown area still largely void of office workers.

Summers in San Francisco are notoriously cold and foggy (yes, yes, the Twain quote is true), but for travelers who may have left their heart in this cool, gray city, now’s the time to explore largely free of the hordes of tourists who descend during more typical years. Here are a few of the best things to do in San Francisco this summer, from locals who are so happy to be out and about. — Julia Cosgrove

Thinking about planning a trip? Read more in Why You Should Visit San Francisco This Summer.

Courtesy of Kimpton Palladian Hotel

Seattle, Washington

Seattle may have a rainy reputation, but each summer the Emerald City’s gray skies give way to several months of the most perfect, mild, sunny days—and locals know not to waste a minute of it. Join in with an outdoorsy adventure like kayaking on Puget Sound, biking the Burke-Gilman Trail to Gas Works Park, picnicking while admiring a view of the Space Needle in Volunteer Park (also home to the Asian Art Museum), or hiking in the expansive, 534-acre Discovery Park.

For a more urban, outdoor adventure, go art-spotting at Olympic Sculpture Park, walk the new Market to MOHAI pedestrian corridor, completed in 2020, while learning about Seattle history, or catch a Shakespeare in the Park performance by GreenStage (July 9 to August 14).

Thinking about planning a trip? Read more in Why You Should Visit Seattle This Summer.