7 inspired ideas for a 4th of July vacation
Looking to make a break for it for the 4th of July holiday weekend or another long summer weekend? The options are endless — you just need to decide if it’s a USA road trip you’re after or a hop-skip-jump over the Atlantic.
The warm weather travel season officially kicked off Memorial Day weekend, but statistics from AAA indicate that more Americans travel later in the summer: Last year, for example, 41.3 million Americans traveled around Memorial Day, while a projected 46.9 million traveled around Independence Day.
Most Americans opt for a road trip, according to AAA, but ambitious travelers needn’t rule out Canada or even parts of Europe.
CNN rounded up seven possibilities, ranging from a couple of less-trodden international destinations to a few slightly under-the-radar US spots and some in between. All have one thing in common: They’re perfect for a minisummer escape on July 4th weekend or later in the summer.
Big Sur, California
Nearly two years after landslides shut down a section of California’s historic Highway 1 and closed off Big Sur to travelers, visitors are back to revel in the awe-inspiring natural beauty of the mystical expanse of California shoreline.
Located between San Francisco and Los Angeles, travelers come here to get away. The area enjoys a remoteness not easy to come by these days: Cell reception is spotty at best, and the nearest big grocery store is at least an hour’s drive away.
While they’re cut off from the rest of the world, visitors can take in the panoramas of the rugged coasts and witness the dramatic, crashing waves of the Pacific from nearly every vantage point. Also worth checking out is Bixby Creek Bridge, a stunning piece of architecture, and the hiking trails and coastal beaches of Garrapata State Park, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and Point Lobos State Natural Preserve.
Big Sur has rustic and luxurious hotels, from the sustainable accommodations at the modest but comfortable Glen Oaks Big Sur to the posh, celebrity-favorite Post Ranch Inn. A treatment in the spa, set in the middle of the forest, is the icing on the cake.
Garrapata State Park, 34500 CA-1, Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA 93923, +1 831 624 4909
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, 52801 California State Route 1, Big Sur ,CA 93920, +1 831 667 1112
Point Lobos State Natural Preserve, 58 Riley Ranch Road, Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA 93923, +1 831 624 4909
Glen Oaks, 47080 Highway 1, Big Sur, CA 93920, +1 831 667 2105
Post Ranch Inn, 47900 Highway 1, Big Sur, CA 93920, +1 831 667 2200
Buffalo, New York
As soon as summer hits, this city on the shores of Lake Erie in upstate New York comes alive. Happy to shed its winter coat in favor of blue skies and outdoor seating at many a restaurant and bar along Elmwood Avenue, just north of downtown, Buffalo soars in summer.
Architecture buffs will find no shortage of areas to explore.
From the Tudor mansions around Delaware Park to the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Darwin D. Martin House and a little further afoot, Graycliff, overlooking the lake, the city teems with majestic architectural works. Both Lloyd Wright buildings offer tours of the properties’ meticulously restored interiors and expansive grounds. Cap off the Wright tours with a visit to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, where a collection of modern and contemporary art awaits.
Those wanting a dose of art in the form of poetry or outdoor installations (courtesy of students from SUNY Buffalo) should head straight to Silo City, a historic grain elevator complex refashioned as a cultural community, complete with a food and drink venue.
And on that note: Travelers whose primary motivation is eating and drinking are in good hands. While you can’t go far without finding excellent chicken wings (they were birthed here, after all), relative newcomers Black Sheep and Dobutsu deserve attention, too.
Finally, if your long weekend should extend to a Tuesday, you won’t want to miss Larkin Square’s food truck lineup. Nosh on something from Ted’s (footlong with onion rings) or Lloyd (braised beef taco) while you listen to free live music.
For a truly special stay, reserve a room at Hotel Henry, another of the city’s architectural masterpieces.
Delaware Park, 83 Parkside Ave., Buffalo, NY 14214, +1 716 838 1249
Darwin D. Martin House, 125 Jewett Parkway, Buffalo, NY 14214, +1 877 377 3858
Graycliff, 6472 Old Lake Shore Road, Derby, NY 14047, +1 716 947 9217
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 1285 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo, NY 14222, +1 716 882 8700
Silo City, 105 Silo City Row, Buffalo, NY 14203
Black Sheep, 367 Connecticut St., Buffalo, NY 14213, +1 716 884 1100
Dobutsu, 500 Seneca St., Suite 119, Buffalo, NY 14204, +1 716 322 6004
Larkin Square, 745 Seneca St., Buffalo, NY 14210, +1 716 362 2665
Hotel Henry, 444 Forest Ave., Buffalo, NY 14213, +1 716 882 1970
The birthplace of the bubbly and a UNESCO World Heritage site, France’s Champagne region is just 45 minutes from Paris by train. It has long been popular with day-trippers, but there’s plenty to entice travelers into a multiday stay.
Oenophiles can visit some of the 450 Champagne producers and cooperatives for tastings and tours. From the highly reputable Moet & Chandon and to under-the-radar Henriet-Bazin, there’s something to satisfy every type of sipper.
But it’s not a lost cause for teetotalers; history buffs can visit Reims Cathedral, an imposing medieval Roman Catholic site dating back to the 13th century. Fitness fanatics, meanwhile, can take advantage of the long stretches of uncrowded roads for scenic bike rides and runs. A hot air balloon ride, a boat ride down the Marne River or horseback riding through the valley are also on offer here.
Then there are the restaurants, worth a trip in and of themselves. One of the hottest tables is the three-Michelin starred L’Assiette Champenoise in Reims, which serves creative French cuisine using seasonal produce.
For the spendy set, the new Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa is the “it” place to stay. Built like a contemporary amphitheater with 49 chic rooms, the property boasts a Michelin-starred restaurant Le Royal, a sprawling spa, a bar with more than 200 bottles of Champagne and a fleet of electric bikes for guests.
Moet & Chandon, 20 avenue de Champagne, 51200, Epernay, France, +33 3 26 51 20 20
Henriet-Bazin, 9 rue des Mises, 51380 Villers-Marmery, France, +33 03 26 84 07 79
L’Assiette Champenoise, 40 avenue Paul Vaillant-Couturier, 51430 Tinqueux, France, +33 0 3 26 84 64 64
Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa, 9 rue de la republique, 51160 Champillon, France, +33 3 26 52 87 11
At close to 800 square miles, the Cotswolds, a less than three-hour drive from London, is sprawling, but visitors can still tackle at least a small part of it on a short getaway. The region’s beauty — think fields of meadows full of blooming daffodils and dozens of quintessential Jane Austen-era villages with stone houses shining underneath the sun — is especially vibrant in summer.
Days can be spent in the region exploring some of the historic houses such as Berkeley Castle and Blenheim Palace, built in the 18th century and designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Outdoor pursuits — long, meandering walks from one village to the next, biking along the country roads, fishing, golfing and horseback riding — add to the area’s allure.
Cheltenham, one of the largest cities in the Cotswolds, is full of diversions, too. The minimetropolis is known for its photograph-worthy Regency era architecture, dating back to the early 19th century and distinguished by elegant looking buildings with white stucco facades. And, it’s home to buzzy restaurants and festivals, including ones for science and literature.
The region’s accommodation scene, which once included mainly stuffy, formal hotels, has gotten hip in recent years. The Wild Rabbit, a modern inn in Chipping Norton with an excellent restaurant to boot, is one example. Bolderfacers, including Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, favor Soho Farmhouse, a 100-acre estate in Oxfordshire.
Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire, 13 9PJ, United Kingdom, +44 01453 810303
Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, OX20 1PP, United Kingdom, +44 1993 810530
The Wild Rabbit, Church Street, Kingham, Oxfordshire, OX7 6YA, United Kingdom, +44 01608 658389
Soho Farmhouse, Great Tew, Chipping Norton, OX7 4JS, United Kingdom, +44 01608 691 000
Providence, Rhode Island
Providence’s flourishing arts and culinary scenes are nearly on par with major urban areas around the world.
Over the past decade, the city’s downtown has been transformed into an open-air museum with murals and sculptures. One example is WaterFire, a multisensory art installation composed of a series of more than 80 bonfires that seem to float in the three rivers flowing through the city. This showpiece will burn bright on July 20 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.
Performance art is also a draw: The Providence Fringe Festival, running from July 21 to 28, features performances by emerging and established artists. The lineup includes everything from improv comedy to variety shows with music and drag.
Then there’s the culinary scene. The popular Providence Restaurant Weeks, where diners can enjoy three-course affordable meals at otherwise pricey restaurants, runs from July 7 to 20.
But visitors will eat well no matter when they visit. Waterman Grille, set on the Blackstone River and serving French influenced cuisine with New England produce, is one of the most coveted reservations in town and for good reason: The cocktail list is creative, and the steaks, cooked on a wood-fired grill, are a standout.
WaterFire, 4 N Main St., Providence, RI 02903, +1 401 273 1155
The Providence Fringe Festival, 40 Sonoma Court, Providence, RI 02909, +1 401 400 7100
Providence Restaurant Weeks, Downtown Providence, RI 02903, +1 401 456 2000
Waterman Grille, 4 Richmond Square, Providence, RI 02906, +1 401 521 9229
St. Michaels, Maryland
Only a 90-minute drive or 45-minute boat ride from the nation’s capital, the historic seaside town of St. Michaels is home to picturesque landscapes, rich heritage and waterside adventures. Known as “the town that fooled the British” during the War of 1812 when it faked a blackout to prevent an attack, it’s an ideal getaway for anyone interested in sailing, golf, history and seafood.
The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum is among the top attractions. Visitors can learn about the region’s history and culture by exploring its 12 exhibition buildings, checking out the fleet of historical boats and taking a narrated cruise highlighting life on the Eastern Shore.
Exploring the charming downtown filled with antique shops and seafood restaurants such as The Crab Claw, famous for its crab clusters, is another way to while away the afternoon.
The microdistillery Lyon Distilling Co., which produces an impressive range of rums, is also worth checking out.
To stay, there are plenty of family-run bed and breakfasts. For luxury seekers, the winning choice is Inn at Perry Cabin. Home to a prestigious fleet of vintage sailboats, golf course, a spa and a restaurant serving regional cuisine, it’s a retreat in and of itself, and no one will blame you if you choose not to venture far from the property.
The Crab Claw, 304 Burns St., St. Michaels, MD 21663, +1 410 745 2900
Lyon Distilling Co., 605 S. Talbot St. #6, St. Michaels, MD 21663, +1 443 333 9181
Inn at Perry Cabin, 308 Watkins Lane, St. Michaels, MD 21663, +1 888 805 8885
Canada’s largest city is a global entertainment and cultural hub worthy of serious attention. Centrally located between New York City, Chicago and Montreal, the metropolis is a 90-minute flight for much of the US and Canadian population. It’s known for its diversity — more than 50% of the residents were born outside the country — and this shows up in the city’s events, restaurants and shops.
Featuring more than 30 festivals in July and August alone, including ones for jazz, Caribbean culture, beer and local cuisine, summer is a prime time to appreciate what Toronto has to offer.
Outdoor pursuits aren’t usually the first thing people think of when they hear big city, but Toronto’s strong in this category. Visitors can bike or hike in Rouge Park, the country’s only urban national park, and canoe around the Toronto Islands.
Thrill seekers shouldn’t miss the attraction called EdgeWalk, a 30-minute walk outside and 116 stories above the city on a five-foot long ledge atop the iconic CN Tower.
The markets (we recommend Kensington Market, Gerrard India Bazaar and Evergreen Brick Works), selling everything from handmade goods by local artisans and antiques to spices and craft beers on tap, are another draw.
Hotel-wise, the Kimpton Saint George and St. Regis (the brand’s only property in Canada), both downtown, are the newest additions to the lineup of the town’s many luxury properties.
EdgeWalk, CN Tower 290 Bremner Blvd., Toronto, ON M5V 3L9, Canada, +1 416 86 86937
Kimpton Saint George, 280 Bloor St. W, Toronto, ON M5S 1V8, Canada, +1 888 563 2004
St. Regis, 325 Bay St., Toronto, ON M5H 4G3, Canada, +1 416 306 5800
Stacey Lastoe contributed additional reporting to this story.