By Joan Rykal

Summer brings its own schedule of unique, seasonal activities and the perfect summer includes scheduling time to enjoy as many of these as you can. So whether you kick off your summer on Memorial Day, the last day of school or the official summer solstice, this is the season that is all about getting outside and making hay while the sun shines longest each day.

Great State Fairs

State fairs began in an effort to promote state agriculture but have evolved into multi-day events that are fun for everyone. The fairs we’ve listed here consistently make the list of the country’s best fair offerings. For a listing of all state fairs, check out www.tripsavvy.com.

New York State Fair (Syracuse)

New York State Fair. Photo by John Haeger

New York hosted the first state fair in 1841 and today continues to be the oldest and one of the largest state fairs held.  The Great New York State Fair is scheduled for August 22-September 3. This year’s event will feature typical state fair contests and a few out-the-box challenges including a Drone Film Festival and Food Truck competition. There are seven live entertainment venues that host big name as well as local musicians, dancing and cultural events and movies. Plus, Taste NY, a daily event, allows visitors to sample food and beverages from New York vendors. For information visit www.nysfair.ny.gov.

Indiana State Fair (Indianapolis)

A great way to see the Indiana State Fair, scheduled for August 3-19, is to follow the Wonder Trail, which is a self-guided trip around the fair where visitors engage in twelve different exhibits. One such interactive exhibit is a mock farm with 13 interactive barns, which is part of the Little Hands on the Farm exhibit. For more fair details visit www.indianastatefair.com.

Kentucky State Fair (Louisville)

Set for August 16-26, this fair features all that the Bluegrass State is famous for – fried chicken, bourbon, bluegrass music and champion horses. The fair’s major attraction, the World Championship Horse Show, features elite saddlebreds from around the world. For fair info visit www.kystatefair.org.

Washington State Fair (Puyallup)

Washington State Fair. Photo courtesy of Bob Noble Media

This almost month-long event (August 31- September 23) is the largest in the Pacific Northwest, welcoming over 1 million fairgoers each year. Visitors can enjoy Timber Gulch, a re-creation of a 1890s western frontier town. There is a daily schedule of entertainment, competitions and challenges, food booth, vendors and all things agricultural. Take a spin on the fair’s classic wooden roller coaster, a fair favorite since 1935. For more information on the Washington State Fair, visit www.thefair.com.

Beautiful Boardwalks

By definition, a boardwalk is “a promenade along a beach or waterfront.” But there is so much more than the ocean views to take in when you stroll some of America’s popular boardwalks.

Hampton Beach, NH

The boardwalk at Hampton Beach in New Hampshire currently holds the title of “Best Beach Boardwalk” in the country as bestowed by Coastal Living magazine in 2017. One reason for the honor was the boardwalk’s “1.3 miles of sidewalk and diversity of activities from arcades to concerts to popular food booths.”

Virginia Beach, VA

Running three miles long, the Virginia Beach boardwalk provides for a nice long stroll, but it also offers a separate bicycle path. Sites include restaurants, shops, and nautical sculptures. Throughout the summer season, the boardwalk hosts festivals of all kinds from music to art. Mark your calendars for September 28-30 so you can enjoy the Neptune Festival, which features arts, crafts, music, and one-of-a-kind sand sculptors in the International Sandsculpting Championship.

Long Beach, WA

Long Beach Boardwalk

The Long Beach boardwalk isn’t home to shops and arcades but instead is surrounded by grassy dunes and oceans views that line this half-mile curvy stretch along the beach. Each August, the boardwalk serves as a perfect viewing spot for the International Kite Festival, considered the “grandest Kite Festival on the North American continent” by Kitelife magazine. This year’s event is scheduled for August 20-26.

Santa Cruz, CA

Entrepreneur Fred Swanton envisioned a “Coney Island of the West” when he made plans for the Santa Cruz boardwalk and casino in the late 1800s. Sadly, Swanton’s design and the original Santa Cruz boardwalk buildings were destroyed. But thanks to the popularity of the boardwalk, new plans were quickly drawn up and exactly one year to the date of the fire, the new casino was opened. Soon to follow were the amusement rides that became another draw for the boardwalk and the rest is history. Today the boardwalk offers 35 rides and attractions, restaurants and plenty of souvenir and surf shops.  

Tis’ The Season for Seafood

It’s summertime and the fish are jumping – some of them right into a delicious seafood extravaganza. Summer seafood events include Door County’s famous fish boils, Maine’s Lobster Festival, a tribute to crawfish and some lessons about salmon.

Wisconsin Fish Boil (Door County, WI)

Door County Fish Boil. Photo courtesy of Door County Visitor Bureau

What do you get when you combine locally caught whitefish, a giant kettle, a roaring open fire and some potatoes and carrots thrown in for good measure? An authentic Wisconsin Fish Boil – which has been a Door County draw for more than 70 years. Several restaurants offer this classic event daily in the summer but two to definitely check out are Pelletier’s and The White Gull Inn.

Fredericksburg Crawfish Festival (Fredericksburg, TX)

You say crayfish, I saw crawfish….everyone says don’t miss this festival set for May 25-27. There will be live music, a carnival, arts and crafts, vendors and of course the crustacean for which the festival is named. The festival is held in Fredericksburg’s picturesque Marketplatz. For more things to see and do in the area go to www.visitfredericksburgtx.com.

Maine Lobster Festival (Rockland, ME)

Maine Lobster Festival. Photo courtesy of Tim Sullivan

Celebrating 70 years in 2018, this internationally-recognized festival is a veritable lobster lollapalooza. This year’s event will be held August 1-5 at Rockland’s Harbor Park. There is a parade, royalty in the form of a newly-crowned Maine Sea Goddess as well as King Neptune and his court, a Lobster Crate Race, cooking contests, live entertainment and of course, lobster! For all the yummy details visit www.mainelobsterfestival.com.

Mt. Hood Salmon, Mushroom and Bigfoot Festival (Welches, OR)

Set for September 22-23, this annual festival heralds the return of the salmon to local waterways as well as wild mushrooms to the landscape. In addition to the informative exhibits on both salmon and mushrooms, the event has live music, a Native American salmon bake and a scarecrow fashion show!  As for the Bigfoot connection, “Sasquatch Talks” are on the schedule as well. For information visit www.traveloregon.com.

Oh, Those Summer Nights

Clear summer nights offer some of the best opportunities for stargazing. Some of the night’s magic can be viewed with the naked eye and other events require a bit of help. We’ve created a list that provides a bit of both.

Acadia National Park (Bar Harbor, ME)

Thanks to its location in the largest expanse of naturally dark sky east of the Mississippi, Acadia is a spectacular place to view the stars and the night sky. At the Night Sky Festival scheduled for September 5-9, you can see and hear all about the beautiful night skies of Downeast Maine. For more information, visit www.acadianightskyfestival.com.

Yosemite Night Sky Tours (Yosemite, CA)

The wonders of the night sky are on display at Yosemite National Park and the park offers several different tours to park visitors to experience the wonders of the stars and planets. There are star parties and star tours such as the Starry Skies over Yosemite tour. For more stargazing information at Yosemite, visit www.nps.gov/yose.

Perseid Meteor Shower Viewing (Chesterton, IN)

Perseid Meteor Shower

Gather at the Beach Pavilion at the Indiana Dunes State Park on August 11 to be a part of the annual Perseid Meteor Shower Viewing. NASA explains that The Perseids show up every year in August when Earth ventures through trails of debris left behind by an ancient comet. For information go to www.visitindiana.com.

Lake Whitney Star Parties (Lake Whitney State Park, TX)

You’ll want to make sure you take in a Star Party or two offered at Lake Whitney State Park monthly during the warm weather. With telescopes provided by Texas Park and Wildlife staff, visitors can view the night skies while a retired National Park astronomer identifies the different stars and constellations that are visible. For dates and times, visit www.tpwd.texas.gov.

Hit The Beach

Here are some beach events that should be on your to-do list.

The Vans US Open of Surfing (Huntington Beach, CA)

Vans US Open of Surfing

This is an excellent opportunity to watch some of the world’s best surfers as they gather to compete at the world’s largest surf competition. Nine days of competition are scheduled from July 28 to August 5. 

Pops by the Sea (Cape Cod, MA)

For over 25 years, the Pops by the Sea Concert has been one of Cape Cod’s most popular summer events. Featuring the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra performing on the Hyannis Village Green, attendees will enjoy an afternoon of beautiful music from ticketed festival or lawn seating. This year’s event is set for August 12. For information and ticket prices, visit www.eventbrite.com.

Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest (Cannon Beach, OR)

The 54th Annual Sandcastle Contest will be held Saturday, June 9 but the whole weekend is full of beachy-keen events including a Sandcastle Parade on Friday and 5K Fun Run/Walk on Sunday. For information visit www.cannonbeach.org.

Chicago Air & Water Show (Chicago, IL)

Chicago Air & Water Show

Scheduled for August 18-19, this is the largest free show of its kind. Bring a blanket and settle in the sand at Chicago’s North Avenue Beach and prepare to be thrilled. Stunt pilots and aeronautic daredevils perform acts of daring-do with the Chicago skyline as a backdrop. There is also a water component to the show featuring water ballet, divers, boats and more performing in the waters of Lake Michigan. For more information, visit www.cityofchicago.org.

We hope these events put you on course for a fantastic summer season. To plan your next vacation near one of these sites or elsewhere, visit our website, thousandtrails.com.