The Best USA Road Trips In July
It’s no secret that when summertime rolls around, we start daydreaming of all the road trips we want to take. White sandy beaches, stunning waterfalls, scenic drives with the top down on a jeep? Find a good playlist and you’re making memories to last a lifetime. Here are the best places to travel in July in the United States!
P.S. In the US, the 4th of July is a national holiday, and even when it falls on a weekend – we’re typically rewarded with an extra day off that weekend. It’s one of the busiest times to travel during the summer so make sure you plan ahead!!
A Gilmore Girls Adventure in Connecticut
Starting with a more off-the-beaten-path location for your summer road trip – consider Connecticut! Home to the birthplace of the American hamburger, miles of sandy beaches, and the inspiration for Gilmore Girls – you’ll find plenty to do in this tiny state.
Starting your road trip from New York City, you can enter Connecticut within an hour by car (45 minutes by train). From there, start driving North to the tiny towns of Leightfield like Washinton and Bantam that inspired Amy Sherman-Palladino to create the idyllic Stars Hollow. You’ll immediately find yourself immersed in a very Gilmore Girls vibe! These tiny towns were the inspiration for the show with charming shops around every corner and not a Starbucks in sight!
After getting your Gilmore Girls fix, head about 40 minutes east to Lake Campounce, America’s oldest theme park! Operating since 1846, Lake Compounce has a waterpark and regular rides for a refreshing break from the summer heat.
Once you’ve eaten all the cotton candy your stomach can handle, hop back in the car and head to Gilette Castle State Park! Perched on the beautiful Connecticut River, Gilette Castle is a mid-evil fortress completed in 1919, and open to the public. The over 140-acre grounds would be breathtaking to walk through at dusk!
Following a tour of the delightful Gilette castle, take your summer road trip to the coast, starting with the charming town of Old Saybrook. Along with lighthouses dotting the shore, you’ll soon run into Connecticut’s pristine, two-mile-long Hammonasset Beach. Before continuing on your journey down the coast, we highly recommend spending an afternoon lounging here! It’s one of the best places to travel to in July for uncrowded beaches! (But maybe not 4th of July…)
- Make sure you grab a lobster roll while in Connecticut! If you’ve never experienced one before – your summer road trip won’t be complete without one of these New England native delicacies. Lobster meat slathered in mayonnaise, butter, and lemon juice sauce on a fresh hot dog bun is one of the most delicious things you’ll eat in the Northeast!
Eat your lobster roll, catch some sun, and then continue down the coast to New Haven. New Haven is home to two of the things America is most famous for: Yale University and the American Hamburger!!
- Yale University: Why would you want to stroll through a college campus? Not only was it the college stomping grounds for our favorite young Gilmore Girl, Rory, the grounds themselves are also picturesque. Founded in 1701, you can take a guided tour through the historic 136 acres of architectural masterpieces!
- Louis Lunch: The birthplace of the American Hamburger according to Congress!! Established in 1895 – this 4th generation family business still serves their burgers on white toast, with only cheese onion, and tomatoes for garnishes.
Ideal Road Trip Time: 3-4 Days
Explore ‘The Nation’s Summer Capitol’ : Delaware
The second smallest state in the US, Delaware was the first to become an official state of the US, having signed the constitution in 1787! Home to 28 miles of shoreline, historic forts, and cypress swamps, Delaware makes for a perfect budget-friendly USA destination in July.
When you think of beaches in the United States – most people think of Florida, California, and Hawaii. Delaware, however, is considered ‘The Nation’s Summer Capitol’ because a mass exodus occurs from Washington D.C. to their sandy shores every year! There is even a 40 year old National Sandcastle Building Contest in mid-July at Delaware Seashore State Park… we would definitely participate and let the good-natured competitiveness take over!
- Most Popular Beaches in Delaware: Broadkill Beach, Fenwick Island, Lewes Beach, Cape Henlopen State Park, and Delaware Seashore State Park
other Than The Beach
When you’re done frolicking in the Atlantic, you can head to a few more of Delaware’s claims to fame.
- Fort Delaware State Park: A ‘living museum’ complete with live cannon demonstrations and period re-enactments of blacksmiths, soldiers, and commanders who lived at Fort Delaware during the Civil War!
- Dogfish Head Brewery – home to one of Ev’s favorite beers: the Dogfish 120 Minute IPA! Since Ev used to live close, he’s actually been to this brewery quite a few times and said the best part is their restaurant!
- Trap Pond State Park: The home of Delaware’s Cyprus Tree Swamp – this location is famous for kayaking on the East Coast!
Ideal Road Trip Time: 3 Days
Be Pleasantly Surprised in Kansas
Home to the Kansas City Chiefs, Monument Rocks State Park, and some of the prettiest sunsets in the USA, Kansas should be on your bucket list for July. It’s one of those states people often skip over on road trips – we definitely have for years! After the last few years though, we’ve started to look at all of the not so Instagrammed places to travel this summer. Here are a few stops throughout this Midwest State we’d love:
- Visit Lavender Farms Near Topeka: Kansas is a breeding ground for these stunning lavender farms! There are quite a few throughout Kansas but these are the top-rated: The Lavender Patch Farm, Gertie’s Lavender Farm, and Washington Creek Lavender.
- Mushroom State Park: These odd formations only exist in one other place in the US!
- Monument Rocks: The perfect road trip stop along I-70 when you’re driving across the state. (Try to catch it at sunset!)
The 29th biggest city in the United States and home to a to of craft breweries, an NFL team, and air-conditioned museums when you need to cool off during your travel this summer! Here are a few things you can do during your summer road trip through Kansas City:
- Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que – Ranked #2 in the country, you’ll have to stop in and grab brunt ends and slow-smoked brisket!
- Kansas City Chiefs NFL Football Game: A top-ranking NFL team! Whether or not you’re specifically into sports, it’s always fun to go to live events. Get a hot dog and an ice-cold beer!
- Nelson Atkins Museum of Art: One of the biggest art museums in the country, this museum holds of thirty-five thousand works!!
- Percheron Rooftop Beer Garden: The best views of the city and stunning at sunset.
Ideal Road Trip Time: 4 Days
Across The Plains of Iowa
If you’re looking for budget-friendly destinations to travel to this summer, add Iowa to your list for the best places to travel in July. Here are a few of our favorite itinerary items for a road trip through the birthplace of cornhole:
- For the hiker: Northwest Iowa is home to the mountainous region of Decorah and Iowas Great River Road Trails.
- Pella Historical Village District would be fun to walk through on an afternoon and see the historic Vermeer Windmill. Surrounding thousands of tulips, this village looks like it’s straight out of Holland.
- The Influence – Selfie Museum – The first one of its kind in the US – this museum explores selfie culture and its effects on humanity. We’re sure it’s interesting… but also sounds like a fun place to get out and enjoy air-conditioning!
- National Balloon Classic: At the end of July and into the first week of August, hundreds of hot air balloons will take to the skies over Iowa! Bring a picnic blanket and enjoy watching them all glow at sunset for a perfect way to end your July road trip through Iowa!
Ideal Road Trip Time: 3 Days
The Lush Forests of Kentucky
Kentucky is one of those states that Instagram just hasn’t discovered yet. We’ve lived here for a few years together and are just now seeing all that it has to offer! From waterfalls, incredibly lush forests, and hiking to die for – it’s one of the USA’s best places to travel in July.
Get your FREE Kentucky Summer Bucket List Guide Below!
For a few of our favorite Kentucky activities this summer, check out these posts:
- The Ultimate Kentucky Summer Bucket List
- Waterfalls of Southern Daniel Boone National Park
- Best Taco’s In Louisville Kentucky
There are so many places to explore in Kentucky, so we recommend hitting a few highlights like the Daniel Boone National Forest, Red River Gorge, and Louisville! (There’s so much to see and do in Louisville – it’s our biggest city! Get all of our Louisville guides here.)
Don’t forget to check out our gear guide for waterfall hiking! You’ll need it for exploring over 700 waterfalls that call Kentucky home!
Ideal Road Trip Time: 5 Days
A Watery Wilderness Adventure in WISCONSIN
Wisconsin should be on every avid outdoor adventurer’s bucket list in July. Perched on the Canadian-United States border, Wisconsin also straddles two of the great lakes: Lake Superior and Lake Michigan. This area of the country is famous for its epic hiking and kayaking with some of the clearest water through the United States.
These are our bucket list outdoor adventures throughout Wisconsin:
- Apostle Islands Sea Caves: A premier kayaking destination in the USA! Truly in our top ten bucket list experiences we want to have in the USA.
- Witches Gulch
- Devil’s Lake State Park- Named the prettiest place in Wisconsin by a few travel publications!
- Ice Age Trail – 1,200 Miles through Wisconsin’s prairies and forests.
- Interstate State Park – Along the stunning St.Croix National Scenic Riverway
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly hiking destination, Wisconsin should also be one of your go-tos because the weather is perfect for camping. With their dryer summer season hovering in the 80s during the day, and 50’s at night – you can hike in relatively warm weather, and cuddle up at night by the fire! (Camping is the most budget-friendly way to travel!)
Ideal Road Trip Time: 4 Days
Explore Minnesota’s Wild Side
Did you know that Minnesota has ninety thousand miles of shoreline? That’s more than California, Florida and Hawaii have combined! Not only will you find incredibly clean beaches springing out of Minnesota’s pristine wilderness, but you’ll also find epic scenery and hiking around every turn. There is no end to the number of gorgeous photography destinations for the avid photographer too!
If we were planning a summer road trip in July through Minnesota, this would be our itinerary:
- Mall of America – Day 1: Located in Minneapolis, this is the biggest mall in the United States with over 4.3 miles of storefronts! (And a small theme park located inside!)
- City of Duluth – Day 2: Perched on the edge of Lake Michigan and arguably one of the prettiest
- Itasca State Park – Day 3: – One of the prettiest parks in Minnesota with a ton of magnificent hiking adventures!
- Boundary Waters – Day 4: – We’ve read it’s a life-changing experience to kayak here!
- Whitewater Rafting – Day 5: In the land of 10,000 lakes, Class III rapids are a no-joke adventure sure to help you cool off this July!
Ideal Road Trip Time: 5 Days
Relax At Indiana Dunes State Park
The last but not least stop on your summer road trip in July should be the Indiana Dunes State Park. With some of the bluest (cleanest) waters on the Great Lakes, miles of sandy beaches, and being only 30 minutes from Chicago – it’s really a perfect stop. So what is there to do at the Dunes?
- 50 Miles of Hiking Trails
- 15 Miles of Sandy Beaches
- Rare bird watching – Take a virtual tour here!
Not to mention it would be great to camp here, making this another budget-friendly USA destination this July! The temperatures in this area, combined with the cool breezes flowing off of Lake Michigan mean you won’t be too hot at night, even in the dead of summer.
This is the second destination we’ve shared as some of the best places to travel in July, and for good reason! It’s incredibly scenic and if you’re looking to take a longer trip – just add in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Kentucky to avoid the crowds and take in these beautiful states. (You’ll probably need about 2 weeks for a trip like that!)
Ideal Road Trip Time: 2 Days
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Did you find inspiration for all the best places to travel in July? We have a few more guides for where to travel this summer, fall, and winter.
- The Best Places To Travel in February
- Where To Travel This Summer in August
- Best Places To Catch Fall Foliage in September
- The Best Destinations To Enjoy this December
If you’ve found this post helpful, save it for later to aid you in planning! Drop us any planning questions in the comments below.
Until next time friends,