Well, there’s no getting around it – summer’s about to arrive. After months of blissful cold and weeks of glorious rain and mud everywhere you look, we’re about to be stuck with sunshine and clear skies for a few months. And trust me, I know how depressing that is. Personally I wish we could live year-round with gray piles of slush and snow mounded up in parking lots everywhere; the thrill of clomping my boots together every time I want to enter my own home is something I shouldn’t have to give up every year. And seriously, who doesn’t like the flu?
But until some wild-haired evil scientist figures out how to stop the sun’s revolution around the Earth (I married a scientist, can’t you tell?), we’re stuck with summer. You may even be planning a vacation to help take you avoid the responsibility of inviting your friends over for a backyard barbecue. But where to go? What kind of vacation could possibly help you forget about how horrible the next few months are going to be?
Everybody’s going to tell you to go to Disneyworld, and by ‘everybody’ I mean Disney. Some people will try to sell you on Vegas or Arizona by telling you that it’s only a ‘dry heat’ there, which I find hilarious because my oven cooks food for me by employing a dry heat. But I want to steer you in a different direction, if for no other reason than because I needed a set-up for the next paragraph and so I had to find a couple examples to throw away in this paragraph.
So here they are, my five recommendations for cities you should think about visiting this summer. They won’t help you completely forget about summer, but they should help you tolerate it.
Of course you can do Bourbon Street if your favorite part of vacationing is to make bad decisions and then attempt to drink enough to completely forget that you ever made those bad decisions. But there’s a lot more to New Orleans than Mardi Gras. Jackson Square is an American Montmartre with street artists, magicians, tarot card readers and plenty of other entertainments; Frenchmen’s Quarter has free live music every night of the week; and the Garden District will appease anyone who likes staring at houses they probably can’t afford to live in. I just got back from my first non-Bourbon-Street visit to the Big Easy, and I’m already eager to go back. New Orleans does suffer from a ‘wet heat,’ though. Make sure to pack a raincoat, then wear it between your body and your clothes so that your clothes don’t get wet.
The best city in Texas. (That’s right, Austin, I said it.) Temperature-wise it’s cooler than you would expect a city in Texas to be, mostly because there are also far more trees here than you’d think could survive in Texas. The Riverwalk snakes through downtown and could occupy you for a few days all by itself. There’s the Alamo, of course, which as we all learned in history class is the place where the first Americans rented their cars; and the King William district will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Oh, and did I mention that it’s better than Austin? I have to make sure I say that a couple times, since Austin loves telling everyone how great it is. It’s OK, Austin. Don’t think of yourself as second-best. Think of yourself as the first loser.
This is a terrible city to visit if your idea of a good vacation is to go somewhere ugly. For those of you who have never been, the city itself is surprisingly flat and easy to walk around – but head 10 minutes to the west and you’ll start rising into the foothills of the Rockies. There are so many places to go hiking that I’m not going to bother telling you that Red Rocks and Garden of the Gods are my two favorites, and the 16th street pedestrian mall is 1.25 miles of bars and restaurants and plenty of adorable shops where men can follow closely behind the women they love. Oh, and the streets run in alphabetical order, so it’s hard to get lost.
Portland’s unofficial motto is “Keep Portland Weird,” and they have succeeded, because absolutely nothing could make this place normal. From bars that play country music on Monday and death metal on Tuesday to vegan-friendly strip clubs, Portland has more people with tattoos than without them, and those people all have beards that flow gloriously behind them as they ride their bicycles to everywhere. The hiking along the Columbia River is spectacular so long as you don’t mind a bit of a climb, and if you get yourself far enough into the woods then you’ll feel like might actually see a dinosaur. Oh, and if you don’t mind waiting in line, check out Voodoo Donuts. I was in Portland for three days staying at a hotel that faced this mystical donut emporium, and I never once failed to see a line out the door – including at 3am. I can only assume the donuts are sprinkled with cocaine. Try one and find out!
If your vision of Lake Michigan is the Chicago portion of it, then you’ve never really seen Lake Michigan. Traverse City sits in the northwest of the mitten part of Michigan and has views of the lake that will make you feel like you’re staring at the Mediterranean. The whole Michigan coastline of Lake Michigan is sandy beaches and huge sand dunes that really have no business being there, but it’s awesome that they are. And Traverse City itself has plenty of wineries and a ridiculous amount of cheese and cherry and fudge stores. And really, what kind of vacation is complete without fudge?
So there you go. I hope this list helps inspire you to find a place to escape the dreadful gloriousness of summer. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go buy some more ice. I’m never going to get my igloo finished if I keep writing.
Traverse City (cropped)
Thanks for the great props for Portland. Let me know the next time you’re in town.