Coolest Cities in the States
When the mercury is rising and mosquitoes start using you as their own personal buffet bar, it's time to take a breather in a cooler destination. If you still want to be in the heart of the action there's a slew of fantastic cities in the States with an incredible number of activities crammed onto their summer schedules, but where temperatures won't have you running for shade. In these seaside escapes, lakeshore gems and mountain settlements, you can give your entire attention to the vacation without having to keep a constant eye on the UV index. So forget about battling the crowds and the temperature and read on for the coolest U.S. cities to escape the heat this summer.
Oregon's outdoorsy largest city really picks up its paces when summer arrives. Local produce is showcased at the metro area's 32 farmers' markets, and festivities brighten the calendar from the Portland Rose Festival to the boisterous Oregon Brewers Festival. The waters round the city come to life in the mild weather -- Scappoose Bay, just north of Sauvie Island, is a perfect place for kayaking, the Clackamas River is known for its whitewater rafting, and windsurfers skim the Columbia River. If your visit coincides with a rain day, seek out the elegant Portland Art Museum or admire the 350 velvet "artworks" of the kitsch Velveteria. With average July and August temperature barely creeping above 80 degrees and only around an inch of Oregon's infamous rain falling each summer month, it's an idyllic time to visit The Rose City.
Summer is divine in this western Montana college town of 70,000. With school out til fall, Missoula's alternative coffeehouses, bistros, and bars are pleasantly free of crowds. On Wednesday lunchtimes, head to the arts festival at Caras Park, where you can also sample dishes from the city's best restaurants. Time your visit to coincide with August's River City Roots Festival or Symphony in the Park. There's a scintillating selection of activities nearby -- from exploring spooky ghost towns to hiking or biking the Lolo National Forest and Rattlesnake National Recreation Area. The Blackfoot and Bitterroot rivers are perfect for tubing on warm August days, but Missoula's average summer highs only hit the low to mid-80s and nights are cool.
Perched on the hem of dramatic Casco Bay, Maine's largest city is compact and easily explored. Plus points include an excellent art museum, a smorgasbord of enticing restaurants, such as Fore Street, and brew pubs like Gritty McDuff's -- the first brewpub in Maine since Prohibition when it opened in 1988 -- and eclectic vintage and book stores in the lively Arts District. Ferries beetle back and forth from Portland's working waterfront to a cluster of bay islands. Back on the mainland, lighthouses and beaches dot the coastline just outside town, and great hiking spots beckon. Portland -- the perfect New England summer destination -- saw average high temperatures in 2009 hit just 74 degrees in July and 79 degrees in August.
San Francisco, California
San Francisco is the ultimate urban summer playground with a plethora of parks where you can throw a Frisbee, some incredible hikes to the headlands, and Mount Tamalpais across the Golden Gate Bridge, as well as plenty of summer celebrations to keep things interesting. Experienced surfers looking to catch some curls during their California vacation should check out Ocean Beach in Golden Gate National Recreation Area, known for its powerful swells. It's the city's longest stretch of sand, ideal for strolls or huddling round a fire pit come nightfall. San Francisco tops the list of US's 40 cities with the lowest daily mean temperatures for June, July and August at just 61.4 degrees. The city's famed fog is prevalent in summer, billowing over the Marin Headlands in a picturesque manner and usually burning off by afternoon.
There's an abundance of neighborhood celebrations, music festivals, and arts events all summer long in the Mile High City. And summer in Denver is the ideal time and place to grab a cold one -- Colorado's largest city has no fewer than three beer festivals on its summer schedule. Free outdoor movies play in the parks and Botanic Gardens, and with 16 outdoor pools, there are plenty of places to splash around. Denver makes the list of top ten US cities with the lowest average temperatures for June, July and August, at just 70.9 degrees (it's a dry heat, there's none of that nasty humidity here.) The accessible mountains -- covered in wildflowers come summer -- offer a further drop in temperature, but if you stay in the city, Water World has 25 wet and wild rides and attractions that will cool you off in no time.
If you dream of long summer days -- really long summer days -- head to Alaska. The land of the midnight sun basks in 24 hours of daylight at the summer solstice in June. The state capital, Anchorage, is a city of 227,000-42 percent of the state's population. It sits on the Cook Inlet and offers a vibrant downtown, rich native culture and access to incredible wilderness. It's the perfect base for exploring kayak the inlet; view elk, bear and whale; hike the nearby Portage Glacier-before heading back to town to one of the fine restaurants like The Marx Bros. Cafe, a fun brewpub such as The Glacier Brewhouse, or one of the many quirky clubs like Cyrano's Off Center Playhouse. And don't forget the shopping (the state has no sales tax). Average highs are a mere 65 degrees in Anchorage in July. Low humidity and temperatures that rarely eke beyond the mid-70s make this the perfect city to chill out in.
Honolulu offers a whole host of things to do, from joining the hordes on Waikiki Beach to cooling off at outdoor bars and laid back restaurants. But you don't have to spend all your time outside, the city also has a contemporary art museum with works by the likes of Andy Warhol and Frank Stella. Don't miss the summer concert series at Waikiki Aquarium or the many music festivals on the calendar. A drive round Oahu island is a great daytrip -- discover the surfing beaches along the North Shore, tiny towns, and delicious offerings from the shrimp shacks on the way. Average high temperatures don't change much on Oahu -- going from around 80 degrees in January to 88 in August, but it feels cooler thanks to the lovely Pacific breezes. Not only does Honolulu make our list of cool cities -- it's also on the American Lung Association's list of the top ten U.S. cities with the cleanest air, so you can breathe easy when you're there.
Asheville, North Carolina
Cooling breezes sweep down over bohemian Asheville from the Blue Ridge Mountains, keeping the days balmy and summer nights deliciously warm rather than uncomfortably hot. Home to thriving theater, literary and restaurant scenes, this is the perfect temperate destination for culture vultures. Architecturally rich, many of this arty destination's coffee shops, stores, galleries and restaurants roost in art deco, beaux-arts, and neoclassical gems downtown. The mountains offer prime shady spots for picnics and cool hiking trails. Events include Bele Chere, one of the Southeast's largest street festivals, and a kaleidoscopic array of arts festivals. Perched at an altitude of 2,134 feet, things keep pretty cool around here, and mean summer temperatures hover in the 70s.
Traverse City, Michigan
Traverse City -- 120 miles from the Mackinac Bridge, 242 miles from Detroit -- is a city of 15,000 with a wonderful wealth of activities. Beaches line the nearby shores of Lake Michigan, the Sleeping Bear Dunes sit 30 miles west of town, and the Village at Grand Traverse Commons is a beautifully preserved series of historic buildings in 480 acres including shops, biking and hiking trails. Traverse City's National Cherry Festival kicks off in early July with an air show from the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels -- just one of 150 mostly free events. The peninsula is the perfect destination for foodies, renowned for its wine and ice wine (made from grapes frozen on the vine) and there are fantastic wineries, butchers, bakers, cheese makers and brewers to visit. Lake Michigan cools the towns and cities nearby and Traverse City, on Grand Traverse Bay, has an average summer high of 80 degrees through July and August.
Cleveland has a celebratory air in summer with a slew of events -- including Irish, German, Puerto Rican, and Italian Festivals; the arts and technology Ingenuity Festival; and the beer-centric Burning River Fest -- all crammed into the calendar. Add to that visits to the Botanical Garden, the Museum of Art, the Great Lakes Science Center, the Zoo and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and you'll have a packed summer itinerary. Northeast Ohio has plenty of excellent beaches, too. Pack the cooler and head for the water's edge at Edgewater Park right in the city -- you'll join swimmers, sunbathers, boaters and dog walkers on the 900-foot-wide swathe of sand. One of the top five coolest summer cities in the U.S., Cleveland enjoys an average temperature of just 69.9 degrees.
Photo Credits: Portland, Oregon - Travel Portland; Missoula - Missoula Convention & Visitors Bureau; Portland, Maine - Greater Portland Convention & Visitors Bureau; San Francisco - San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau; Denver - Denver's Division of Theatres & Arenas; Anchorage - Kenai Fjords Tours; Honolulu - Kirk Lee Aeder, Hawaii Tourism Authority; Asheville - Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau; Traverse City - Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau; Cleveland - positivelycleveland.com