Relaxing Summer Lake Towns

Beat the heat with a trip to a lovely lake.

When the temperatures soar, you can’t beat an escape to a lake town. Amble down a shady street for an ice cream cone, paddle pristine waters in a canoe, or dive in for a refreshing swim. After you visit one of these summertime gems, you may never want to go home. 

Windsurfing at Lake Chelan, Washington

Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce

Catch a ride on the popular Lady of the Lake steamer when you visit glacier-fed Lake Chelan, if you can fit it in between windsurfing, kayaking, fishing and swimming. The weather’s almost always fine; Lake Chelan Valley boasts 300 days of sunshine a year. Enjoy fine dining and wine tastings, too. There are more than 24 wineries dotting the shores around the pristine, blue water. Lodgings here range from luxurious resorts to charming B&Bs, and from family-friendly hotels to private rental cabins.

Lake Chelan

Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce

Take your pick: come to Green Lake to kick back and relax, or jump into fun activities like golfing, jet skiing and sailing. Pack a picnic dinner and take off for a casual sunset cruise, or wet a hook to catch perch, white bass and panfish in the deep, chilly water. (You can book a guide if you want help landing game fish like northern pike, bass and walleyes.)

Things to Do in Green Lake County, Wisconsin

Green Lake Country Visitors Bureau

Summer weekends bring concerts in the park and a series of classical, jazz, and other musical performances at the Thrasher Opera House, while restaurants and bars routinely offer live music. Bring the family and try tubing, tent-camping or snorkeling, and roast some marshmallows before you head home.

Boats Docked in Green Lake County, Wisconsin 

Green Lake Country Visitors Bureau

Bring your hiking boots and make your way from the lake into the Adirondacks, where 46 High Peaks, two of which soar over 5,000 feet high, offer breathtaking views. For an easier walk, take the whole family on Cobble Hill trail, or choose the 2.7-mile scenic trail around Mirror Lake. Mountain and road bikes are welcome on many trails. Motorboat, raft, fish or paddle on one of the ponds, rivers and lakes in the area; the fly-fishing is great on the West Branch of the Ausable. Check the website for a schedule of marathons, horse shows, and BBQ and music festivals held during the summer, or tour many of the sites from the 1980 Olympic Games. You can take a ride on a luge or a bobsled in any season. 

Lake Placid Village, New York

ROOST/Adirondackusa.com

The mountains meet the water at Lake Champlain, the country’s sixth largest lake. History buffs, this one’s for you: military action in the Revolutionary War, French and Indian War and the War of 1812 occurred in this region, and you can explore the ruins of Fort Ticonderoga and Crown Point. Multiple museums commemorate the Underground Railroad, Adirondack architecture and more. Look for a maritime history museum on the Vermont side of the lake. Prefer the outdoors? Hike, canoe, paddleboard, or simply soak up the sun on miles of shoreline.

Lake Champlain Region, New York

ROOST/Adirondackusa.com

Here, the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains invite you to hike, explore and photograph the spectacular vistas. Mammoth Lakes is near a large volcanic depression, so look for fantastic craters, lava tubes, outcroppings of quartz and black obsidian, granite domes and hot springs. Ride the Mammoth Mountain gondola to 11,053 feet for 360-degree scenic views, and stop by the interpretive center to learn about the region's geology and natural history. This is Mother Nature’s playground, where you can bike, boat and fish. Maybe you’d rather try zip-lining, horseback riding or rock climbing, or take off for a sky-high helicopter tour. Summer events include bike races; a week-long Bach Fest of concert music; an annual Fly-In, featuring experimental, classic and general aviation aircraft; and, of course, fireworks for the Fourth of July.

Bigfork sits 2,900 feet above Flathead Lake, in the mountains of northwestern Montana. Glacier National Park is nearby, where you can spot elk, mountain goats and bighorn sheep; it’s also home to grizzly bears, cougars, gray wolves and other wild creatures. Flathead is the biggest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, with over 180 miles of shoreline, and it offers spectacular fishing (the lake trout can weight from 5 to 30 pounds) and boating. Saddle up at a guest ranch and go horseback riding, take a Hot Hatha yoga class, shoot sporting clays or book a llama trek—the possibilities seem endless. Shoppers can browse art galleries, antique stores, as well as farmers’ markets and orchards.

Lake Superior begins in Grand Marias. The lake then leads into a series of lakes known as Boundary Waters, where you’ll find some 1500 miles of canoe routes. Once named a Top 100 Adventure Town by National Geographic magazine, Grand Marias is home to a thriving art and music scene, and the Sawtooth Mountains are great for hikers and bikers. If you prefer life in the slow lane, sip a glass of wine and watch otters frolic in the waves, or drive along Gunflint Trail Scenic Bywater to look for moose. In the evening, relax in a private hot tub or simply watch the moon rise over the water. There are plenty of summertime events to entertain you, including a wooden boat show and summer solstice festival, a mountain bike race, the Boundary Waters Expo and the Grand Marais Arts Festival.

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