These Are The Best U.S. Cities For Spending ‘The Dog Days Of Summer’

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The dog days of summer are here. Temperatures keep pushing up and up and humidity is settling in over a large swath of the country. It can be … stifling, to say the least, and leave you longing for milder climates to beat that summer heat.

Finding a spot in the summer that boasts the benefits of still being in a city (restaurants, clubs, bars) and has no shortage of swimming holes to cool down in is a pretty legit definition of paradise. You get the chance to meet new people, try new foods, drink new beers, and also score a little r ‘n r at the beach, on a river, or along the lakeshore.

With all those goals in mind, we thought we’d throw together a shortlist of some of our favorite small cities that offer wonderful escapes from the hotter spots in the country. We’ve tried to include larger small cities and some lesser-known spots that feel more like big towns. Some of the locations are inland and some of them are surrounded by the sea. Variety — with relatively cool temps — is what we’re going for.


Average Temperature and Precipitation In Summer:

H: 83° L: 64°, 3.29-inches of rainfall.

Why Providence:

Nestled along the Atlantic coast in a small corner of New England, you’ll find the small-but-bustling city of Providence. The city is seaside adjacent with one of the best art communities in the country — thanks, in part, to Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) calling the city home.

Where there are artists, there’s a great scene. The food community in Providence is bourgeoning, with talented chefs staying home after attending culinary school thanks to cheap rents in the city for brick and mortars. The bar scene ebbs from classic dives full of college students to rooftop cocktail hangouts, where you might actually bump into the mayor. The city is covered in murals celebrating all walks of American life.

Protip, don’t skip on Federal Hill. It’s one of America’s oldest Little Italy neighborhoods with classic red sauce restaurants, delis with hanging cheeses and cured meats, bakeries overflowing with cannolis, and a long list of great bars to crawl through.

Where to take a dip: Newport County

Rhode Island is the Ocean State. There’s a lot of coast to choose from. Newport County tends to be the spot where you can find secluded beaches like Mackerel Cove, Gooseberry Beach, and South Shore Beach. The best part, Newport is barely 30 minutes from Providence by car. Rhode Island is tiny, y’all.


Average Temperature and Precipitation In Summer:

H: 77° L: 56°, 0.68-inches of rainfall.

Why Tacoma:

Seattle gets a lot of love these days. With reason, Seattle is dope AF. The thing is, there’s a great smaller version of Seattle about the same distance south of SeaTac Airport.

Tacoma is all about its neighborhoods. 6th Ave above downtown is full of great dive bars, jazz clubs, and all the pho you can eat, nestled right next to local bbq joints. Then there’s Ruston Way, the waterfront, and Old Town. That stretch runs north of downtown towards a small collection of old-town buildings over-looking Commencement Bay with views of the Olympic Mountains and Mount Rainier. From Old Town along Ruston Way, which hugs the Bay and creates a waterfront, you’ll find smoked salmon shacks and fish and chip houses. We’re telling you, it’s freakin’ idyllic.

The only drawback to the bay is that the water is too cold for swimming. You’ll find fishermen and scuba divers but the water is just too chilly, even at the height of summer, for much of a dip. Don’t worry. There are other places to get wet.

Where to take a dip: Spanaway Lake

Tacoma is right up against the Cascade Mountains so there are a lot of lake options within a stone’s throw of downtown. One of our favorites is Spanaway Lake which is technically still in the city. The lake is surrounded by tall evergreen trees, making it the perfect spot to get away from it all, take a leisurely stroll, maybe rent a rowboat, and, yes, go for a refreshing swim.


Average Temperature and Precipitation In Summer:

H: 84° L: 56°, 2.14-inches of rainfall.

Why Rapid City:

Rapid City does get a little warm. Though, to be fair, that heat is a dry Great Plains heat with little humidity. Rapid City is also the gateway to the wonderland that is the Black Hills. The outdoor playground is one of the most stunning corners of America — with a deep Indigenous history and unique terrain from the actual mountains to the Badlands to the grass prairies.

Don’t sleep on spending a little time in Rapid City itself. Local craft breweries, speakeasy cocktail bars, and arcades dot Main Street in between gun shops and Lakota trading posts. There’s nowhere quite like it in the nation.

While you’ll need a car to get around Rapid City and further afield into the Black Hills and Badlands, it’s worth the extra effort. Also, take some extra time to hit up the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to get a deeper understanding of the local scene and history that’s still living today.

Where to take a dip: Devil’s Bathtub Spearfish Canyon

Northwest of Rapid City, past Deadwood, you’ll find the Spearfish Canyon along Spearfish Creek. This is a great place to hike, float, and enjoy some great waterfalls and swimming holes. You’ll arrive at Bridal Veil Falls first. It’ll be tempting to stick around there, but push on to the Devil’s Bathtub which is another very Instagrammable falls with a deep and crystalline swimming hole.


Average Temperature and Precipitation In Summer:

H: 75° L:58°, 2.54-inches of rainfall.

Why Mackinaw City:

The top end of Michigan is a summer playground with great lakes, hundreds of miles of beaches, lakeside villages, and seemingly endless forests. This is a nature lover’s paradise and the perfect summer escape.

While there aren’t a lot of “big” cities around northern Michigan, there are plenty of towns to use as a home base while you frolic. Mackinaw City is really a “city” in name only. It’s more a quaint lakeshore town that serves as a base of operation for exploring the wider Great Lakes and islands around the northern tip of Michigan.

Our advice, jump on the passenger-only ferry out to Mackinac Island. The car-less island is a step back in time with a small village of restaurants and bars supporting a town with classic cottages and Grand Hotels where you can sleep, party, and play. It’s the perfect summer escape.

Where to take a dip: British Landing, Mackinac Island

Make your way to the northwest corner of Mackinac Island. It’ll be a lovely stroll through a shady forest, or you can rent bikes in town. There’s a sandy stretch of beach and a massive lake to spend the day swimming in. And, if you don’t want to pack in a lot of food, there’s a small walk-up food spot selling fries, burgers, dogs, drinks, and ice cream at the entrance to the beach.


Average Temperature and Precipitation In Summer:

H: 83° L:64°, 3.46-inches of rainfall.

Why Cleveland:

On the opposite end of the Great Lakes, you’ll find Cleveland. The Ohio city has been going through a renaissance over the last decade or so — with renewed interest in local food scenes, a great craft beer community, and a revitalization of the city overall thanks to an influx of artists.

Cleveland is one of those places that sort of benefitted from being a joke for so long. Rents remained cheap and opportunities were aplenty. That means chefs, bartenders, brewers, artists, and dreamers started moving in and making the city their own. Luckily for the rest of us, it’s still cheap to visit and enjoy all of those things.

It’s also a lakeside city with a long list of great lakefront parks to choose from, keeping it super chill over the warmer summer months.

Where to take a dip: Edgewater Park Beach

Edgewater Park has both a pier and a beach to chill at. The beach is the perfect spot to cool off while the mid-day sun beats down. When the day starts to cool, you can head back towards downtown to hit up one of Cleveland’s many breweries for some suds and pierogis.


Average Temperature and Precipitation In Summer:

H: 81° L:40°, 1.40-inches of rainfall

Why Jackson:

This is probably the most beautiful entry on the list. Jackson Hole is nestled against the Grand Tetons Mountains which are simply stunning. Then there’s the massive Snake River running just out of town. And of course, there’s freaking Yellowstone about 90 minutes up the road. There’s a lot to do around these parts, is what we’re saying.

Focusing in on Jackson, though, there’s plenty happening in the town. Great barbecue joints pepper the rustic western streets. There are dive bars, saloons, and burger joints aplenty. The brewery scene is kicking off with a local bent on classic American beers.

This is the sort of place where nature is within striking distance in any direction. You can go all-in and take serious treks into the mountains (beware of bears) or you can keep it chill and stay in town and just pop out into the woods for an afternoon hike. You do you.

Where to take a dip: Phelps Lake Jump Rock

About 40 minutes north of Jackson, you’ll find Phelps Lake and one of the best jumps in the state. The 30-foot high dive from a rock face is an exhilarating rush. The massive wall of Grand Tetons behind you as you take your plunge — making the whole experience that much more special.


Average Temperature and Precipitation In Summer:

H: 81° L:46°, 0.48-inches of rainfall.

Why Bend:

In the mid-2000s, Bend saw an almost unprecedented population explosion. Suddenly the town where I’d spent so many childhood summers was everyone’s favorite place to be. Why? The city is unparalleled for adventure seekers — bosting some of the best mountain biking in the nation, acting as a gateway to world-class whitewater, and positioned near Smith Rock, one of the most famous climbing spots on earth.

Boomtimes brought new food and drink to the downtown area and the proximity to Portland meant it was all properly hipster-fied and boutique-ized. Tease these qualities all you want, but the fact remains: bearded coffee nerds who give themselves over to roasting the perfect cuppa create products that are infinitely better than generic Starbucks sugar bombs. Among all these new entries to the Bend scene, the most famous is Deschutes Brewery — which operates a taproom and brewhouse in town and has garnered worldwide attention for its innovative beers.

This is dog day paradise — stroll along the shady lanes, shop for comics, chase down some of that fresh-roasted coffee, and bask in the mellow, slow life. Then go out on an adventure and absolutely f*cking rage.

Where to take a dip: The Bend Whitewater Park

The Bend Whitewater Park is an absolute joy for anyone who wants to get wet. The river is bifurcated by a rock path. On one side, you can tube, slide, or raft down a series of small rapids. On the other, you can surf a standing wave — tearing back and forth for minutes at a time while bathing-suit clad onlookers watch. It’s a true aquatic adventure and it’s right there in the city.

— Steve Bramucci, Editorial Director, UPROXX Life