Samantha Brown Says These Are The Best Destinations For A Summer Vacation

Samantha Brown has hosted many travel shows on PBS and the Travel Channel, such as "Great Vacation Homes," "Samantha Brown's Places to Love," and "Passport to Europe." She's also been to a whopping 62 countries and nearly all the U.S. states, so it goes without saying that she knows where to go when school's out. You might want to follow in her steps, especially if you yearn for summer vacations that allow you to relax and explore a new destination. 

To the travel expert, there's no better time to travel than June through August. It's when the weather is pleasant, and everyone is looking to get outside and engage in fun activities. If you're bringing the entire gang, this is Brown's solution for packing efficiently for the whole family. Make sure you also follow her clever tips to avoid tourist traps on your journey. It's now time for inspiration — here are Brown's top spots for a summer vacation from Alaska to Australia. 

Inside Passage of Alaska

Icy waters can make traversing the Inside Passage of Alaska impossible during the winter months, but in the summer, the 500-mile region is a hotspot for cruises of all sizes. This is because daytime temperatures usually stay in the low to mid 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and the sun shines in specific areas for 17½ hours daily. For this reason, Brown thinks it makes the perfect summer trip, plus it's stunning. "The Inside Passage of Alaska is truly like stepping into the most beautiful painting you've ever seen," Brown writes in her blog. Throughout their journeys here, visitors will see fjords and glaciers, as well as the largest temperate rainforest on the planet, all in their natural splendor.

Brown saw this herself on a Holland America cruise to the Inside Passage of Alaska. She enjoyed dog sledding and visited the Sealaska Heritage Institute, a museum that shares the rich history of the Southeast Alaska Native people who continue to call the area home. Brown also basked in the glory of Glacier Bay National Park, one of the biggest protected natural areas in the world, which is home to glaciers that are gaining ice rather than losing it. She also went on a whale-watching boat, where she saw humpback whales.

Donegal, Ireland

Around 7 million people visited the Emerald Isle in 2022, but a mere fraction of those travelers added Donegal to their itinerary — at their loss. Brown writes, "The Northern Headlands, located at the very tip-top of the country, remains one of the most virtually unexplored, ruggedly beautiful and remote places I've visited." Summer is a great time to go since it's one of the few times the country maintains a pleasant climate. Even in July, the hottest month of the year in Donegal, it only gets up to an average of 64 degrees Fahrenheit. 

One of the best ways to enjoy the great outdoors in Donegal is to go to the Slieve League cliffs, which are double the height of the well-known Cliffs of Moher. Since they're more difficult to access than the Cliffs of Moher, they retain their natural beauty and are less touristy. Visitors can even kayak around the cliffs, taking in their 2,000-foot summits.

Another way that Brown recommends that people see the beauty of nature in Donegal is to take a horseback ride to some of the scenic regions, such as Tullagh Bay, a half-moon-shaped, picturesque beach where people can fish and swim. But Brown isn't the only person — or even celebrity — inspired by the lush, green landscapes of Donegal. Poet William Butler Yeats was from Donegal, and tours are available to share his literary history.

Newport, Rhode Island

The richest old-money families in the United States — like the Vanderbilts, the Astors, and the Morgans — spent their summers in Newport, Rhode Island, and Brown can see why. It was and remains a picture-perfect summer getaway in New England, filled with three centuries of history and amazing coastal scenery. In the summer, the weather here is more than ideal, barely hitting 80 degrees Fahrenheit at its peak. Plus, the list of activities is pretty much endless. "Whether you want to enjoy a good, ole fashioned clambake, wander around those very ornate mansions, or even stay overnight in a light house, you'll find more than plenty to do and see," Brown encourages.

She found that out firsthand when she visited the acclaimed destination. One of her can't-miss activities is the Cliff Walk, which stretches more than 3 miles between the ocean and Gilded Age mansions, bringing the best of both worlds to one endeavor. Visitors can explore the mansions up close, such as the Marble House, built as a birthday present for William Vanderbilt's wife. The estate is now also home to the Chinese Tea House, where tourists can catch their breath from a long day exploring and indulge in afternoon tea. For more eats, Brown recommends organizing a traditional clambake with McGrath Clambakes. It cooks its clams outdoors using hot rocks and seaweed while surrounded by New England landscapes.

Darwin, Australia

Although June can be chilly in popular Australian cities like Sydney, Darwin — located on the north shores of the country – stays warm with highs of 89 degrees Fahrenheit, low humidity, and a low chance of rain. That's one of the reasons Brown recommends visiting this destination in the summertime, making it the ideal season for outdoor adventures. Start your vacation on a high note by touring the 579-square-mile Litchfield National Park. Here, you will be treated to spectacular views of waterfalls and clear pools with plenty of opportunities for swimming. There are also fascinating termite mounds and sandstone pillars to satisfy your geological curiosity.

If your visit works up an appetite, then forego the white tablecloth and have dinner at Mindil Beach Sunset Markets, which were inspired by the Southeast Asian night markets that are just a short flight away from Darwin. The market is home to 200 international food vendors. But to get a taste of the culture at home in Darwin, attend a Welcome to Country ceremony performed by the Larrakia people. For a whole other type of performance, Brown also recommends checking out a show at the outdoor Deckchair Cinema, where patrons watch films from deck chairs. But these aren't just any films — the independent cinema mostly showcases movies that aren't available to the masses.

Asheville, North Carolina

North Carolina can be a scorcher in the summertime, but don't write it off yet. One of its cities, Asheville, is a pleasant place to be in the warmer months since it's 2,200 meters above sea level. Though its temperature is a great selling point, Asheville also brims with diversity and interesting attractions, which is what makes it so appealing to travelers in the first place. 

The city is also home to The Biltmore Estate, a 250-room estate dating back to 1895 on 125,000 acres of lush greenery. Brown recommends that all Asheville visitors head to the biggest private home in America built by George Vanderbilt, a property that also includes gardens and grounds. Away from the grandeur of the castle, Asheville is also home to a thriving art scene, as evidenced by the River Arts District. In this neighborhood, artists have created studio homes in former factories, and it's worth a trip to pick up one-of-a-kind souvenirs, like locally-made artwork and pottery.

However, you also can't leave Asheville without stopping at one of the city's 50 breweries since it's home to more breweries per capita than any other city in the country. If you don't have a full belly after all those beers, then head to Chai Pani, which is owned by a chef with an impressive five James Beard Award nominations. With a name that means "a little something" in Indian slang, the restaurant serves Indian street food and traditional family meals.

Temecula Valley, California

Forget Napa. If you're looking for a summer getaway to taste the best that California wine has to offer, then visit Temecula Valley, which is home to 50 wineries producing half a million cases of wine annually. The area has been a wine paradise since 1968, when two winemakers opened a vineyard after realizing that Temecula has a terroir similar to that of Tuscany, Italy. One of Brown's favorite wineries is Carter Estate Winery & Resort, which was inspired by "A Walk in the Clouds," a 1995 romance film starring Keanu Reeves. The winery opened two decades after the debut of the film, and up to 60 couples can stay overnight in its bungalows after tasting wines from the vineyard's 112 acres.

Another winery that Brown visited was Robert Renzoni Vineyard, owned by one of the only female winemakers in all of SoCal. This is a great destination for people looking to try one-of-a-kind wines since it offers blended varieties and experimental wines. However, for Brown, one winery has a feel that is not entirely Southern Californian. Fazeli Cellars Winery is inspired by Persian winemaking techniques and styles. To the unaccustomed, its wines might seem odd at first sip, but it's one of the best since the most ancient wine regions on the planet are in the Middle East. Wine lovers can take a break from tasting delicious wines to shop in Old Town Temecula, a historic neighborhood with plenty of buildings dating back to the late 1800s.

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston is infamously chilly, snowy, and rainy, but the few weeks of summer are the best time to visit. This time also coincides with when it became the birthplace of our nation. "This city is a must-visit for history buffs, and considering it played such a role in the American Revolution, why not plan your trip here around July 4th?" Brown writes on her blog. If you do, then make sure you attend the annual Boston Harborfest, one of the biggest Fourth of July festivals in the country. To experience more of Boston's history, visitors should head to the Old South Meeting House; it has housed parishioners like Samuel Adams, William Dawes, and Benjamin Franklin. It was also one of the first buildings that people sought to preserve, recognizing its historic value.

To taste Boston's history, Brown recommends that travelers grab a dozen oysters at Union Oyster House, which has been serving oysters to everyone from U.S. presidents to actors since 1826. Or, for a meal with a bit more red sauce, head to the North End — the city's Little Italy — to Bricco Salumeria; it makes its own bread and mozzarella every day. But Bostonites know how to work it off by rowing, as the sport is a favorite for city residents. You can even take classes to learn how to do it as a beginner with Community Rowing Inc.

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Want to get active in the summer and not worry about the sweltering heat? Head to Colorado Springs. "The whole state is an outdoor lover's paradise no matter the season, but it's especially great during the hotter months as visitors can truly see nature and history collide." One of the ways to do that is at Garden of the Gods Park, a National Natural Landmark filled with extraordinary natural wonders like sandstone rock formations as well as plants and animals. Not far from the park is yet another natural wonder — Manitou Springs, which is home to several springs that are thought to have healing qualities.

But one liquid in Colorado Springs that never disappoints is the beer at Atrevida Beer Co., owned by the first Latina head brewer in the state. Another spot for beer is Pub Dog Colorado, making Colorado Springs one of the best vacation destinations in the U.S. where dog lovers will absolutely thrive. Atrevida Beer Co. isn't the only internationally-inspired venue in this city. Lucky Dumpling serves Creole-Cantonese dishes made by a half-Cajun and half-Creole chef who competed on TV shows "Top Chef" and "Chopped." Colorado Springs has housed plenty of other famous faces, too, as Brown learned during her stay at The Broadmoor, a landmark hotel that has had many royal and celebrity guests. Their pictures line the hotel's Wall of Fame, including Brown's.

San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio may be hot in the summertime, but it's on Brown's list of the best summer vacation destinations because it's full of history, culture, and one-of-a-kind attractions. It's not surprising that San Antonio is one of the most popular vacation destinations in America. One of the reasons for that is the beloved 15-mile San Antonio Riverwalk, which tourists can explore via kayak, by foot, or on a boat tour. Surrounding the Riverwalk are endless destinations, as this city park is the lifeblood of San Antonio. Perhaps the most famous destination on the Riverwalk is the Alamo, the original mission of the city, which was defended in the storied namesake battle in 1836 for nearly two weeks. But be careful while outdoors in San Antonio: It's one of the top vacation destinations that become bug-infested every summer.

Plus, located just 150 miles from the Mexico border, San Antonio is also a hotspot for authentic Mexican fare, which Brown was more than happy to explore on her trip there. She was particularly fond of Carnitas Lonja, a taco stand with a James Beard-nominated chef who makes delicious carnitas. Don't be afraid to indulge in a few tacos here — "lonja" is Mexican-Spanish-slang for "love handles." Another foodie spot that Brown loved was Pharm Table, a local and sustainable restaurant known for its plant-based dishes. 

Montreal, Canada

If you want to keep the kids active on your summer vacation, then Montreal, Canada, is a great spot for the whole family, says Brown. That's because this bike-friendly city has plenty of pathways that only bikes can access that are filled with gems. To see it all, visitors can book a bike tour, which is what Brown did on her trip there. But on your journey, make sure you stop by Cité Mémoire, a free outdoor art exhibit in which works of art are projected onto the façades of buildings. "Easily the most astounding public works of art in the world," Brown told Newsweek.

To foodies, the real art of the city can be found in Montreal's Little Italy, one of the busiest neighborhoods here. To get a taste of it all, pop by Milano Fruiterie, an Italian grocery store with many Italian products that are impossible to find elsewhere in the city. Another Little Italy favorite of Brown's is super-traditional Café Italia, which looks much as it did today when it opened in 1954. Looking to extend your Montreal trip a few more days? Here are some reasons why Kingston is the perfect day trip from Montreal or Ontario.

Genesee River Valley, New York

The Finger Lakes region of New York is massive and can be overwhelming for those visiting for the first time. But one way to hone down your trip, says Brown, and see one area that's truly spectacular is to go to the Genesee River Valley near the Genesee River, which flows all the way to Lake Ontario. This scenic spot is great for keeping everyone in your group happy since it's full of nature, history, delicious eats, and local wine. To see some really incredible views, first head to Letchworth State Park, which is home to some of the most booming waterfalls in New York, even dubbed the "Grand Canyon Of The East." We consider this place a must-visit for fun-filled outdoor adventures

You'll find the 66 miles of trails in this park so calming that it's not surprising that this river valley is also home to a Roman Catholic monastery. Visitors are welcome to attend the Abbey of Genesee's church for private prayer and also head to its store, where Monks' bread is sold. The bread is made using a fermentation process dating back many years and can require the help of more than a dozen monks to make it.

Coastal Maine

If sweltering days aren't your jam, then Coastal Maine is another region to spend a summer vacation in since temperatures here usually hover around 70 degrees Fahrenheit at the peak of the season. And to Brown, it's also a region that brings back cherished memories. "It holds a special place in my heart as I spent my summers waitressing in a local seafood restaurant here, and to this day I still find it to be one of the most beautiful places out there." And with over 3,400 miles along the coast, it's also one where travelers can find endless things to do. For those with a penchant for the outdoors, a must-visit spot is Acadia National Park, which is home to natural views and hikes, and Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the East Coast.

But you don't need to go to the highest point to see Maine's most iconic spots — its lighthouses. Brown visited Marshall Point Lighthouse, which dates back to 1858 and was featured in "Forrest Gump." She also headed to the Bass Harbor Lighthouse, which also dates back to 1858 and is located within Acadia National Park. If you tour this lighthouse, you won't be alone — Bass Harbor Lighthouse is visited by 180,000 people every year, making it the most popular spot on the west side of Mount Desert Island. You can also learn about Maine's storied maritime past at the Maine Maritime Museum, which is home to the biggest wooden boat ever made.