For some lucky folks, summer means getting to enjoy endless hours of fun at the beach. That just isn’t an option for people more toward the center of the country, unless they’re willing to shell out a hefty chunk of change. It turns out, most Americans find themselves living in landlocked areas of the country. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 39% of Americans lived in direct contact with the shore in 2010. While that number is expected to increase in the coming years, it still leaves a lot of people without regular access to those sandy shores.
Of course, there are plenty of ways to have fun without access to water, like amusement parks or museums. When the heat of summer arrives, though, it’s pretty hard to deny the appeal of a trip to someplace where you can splash around and cool off. We’ve scouted out some of the best vacations for swimming, fishing, boating, and everything in between, all without an ocean in sight. Visit one of these 6 spots, and you’re in for one spectacular summer.
1. Lake Okoboji (Spirit Lake, Iowa)
Natives to northwestern Iowa have known all along that Lake Okoboji makes for an excellent summer vacation, and it’s about time the secret got out. Spirit Lake is conveniently perched right in the middle of a network of lakes, so you have water in nearly every direction. According to Vacation Okoboji, the watery expanse covers about 15,000 acres where you can enjoy any number of water sports or head out for a relaxing picnic at any of the beautiful parks.
For those who prefer to admire the lakes from a little more of a distance while they enjoy getting some fresh air, the area boasts plenty of nature trails as well as an abundance of golf courses. You can even verse yourself in the town’s history with a visit to the Dickinson County Museum. Start planning your trip by checking out the huge selection of accommodations ranging from hotels to campgrounds.
2. Wisconsin Dells Water Parks (Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin)
Often thought of as a winter-only retreat, the Wisconsin Dells offer a great option for families any time of the year. Besides, nothing ruins a trip to the beach or lake like a week’s worth of rain and cold temperatures. When you head to these indoor water parks, you’ll never have to worry about being sidelined by the weather. If the skies do cooperate, this area also boasts the largest outdoor waterpark in the country. Whichever one you choose, children will delight in lazy rivers, slides, and lazy rivers.
Although kid-friendly options abound, there are plenty of opportunities to have some fun without little ones tagging along for the ride. Nearby wineries and fine dining restaurants offer plenty of ways to have some adult fun. According to TripAdvisor, some of the best attractions have nothing to do with launching yourself down a water slide. A magic theater and a zipline park are among the website’s highest ranked options.
3. Misissippi River (St. Louis, Missouri)
The calm waters of a lake are great for those seeking a relaxing escape, but the rush of the country’s largest river boasts plenty of attractions of its own. Take in the sights of the water by driving the Great River Road, which is like taking a ride through history. If going by car isn’t your thing, you can work up a sweat biking the trails or get a bird’s eye view with a helicopter tour. But the best way to enjoy the Mississippi River might be by boat. Options include hour-long sightseeing tours as well as leisurely dinner cruises.
After you’ve experienced all the water fun, head inland for plenty of other ways to have a blast. A trip wouldn’t be complete without heading to the top of the arch. And summer means that baseball season is at its height, so enjoy a game at Busch Stadium. And those over 21 will definitely appreciate a tour of the iconic Anheuser-Busch facility, complete with a visit to the horse stables and complementary beer samples.
4. Lake Minnetonka (Excelsior, Minnesota)
If this lake sounds vaguely familiar, it’s probably because it was featured in the 1984 film Purple Rain. Unlike the story line, this gorgeous scenery isn’t fictional. Enjoy getting out on the water aboard a sternwheeler, or go the modern route with your pick of a number of public cruises that feature brunch or margaritas. If you plan on making the trip for the Fourth of July, make sure to get out on the water before taking in the fireworks. A position in the middle of the lake offers views of numerous shows at once, making for one of the most spectacular displays you’ll ever see.
Shopaholics will delight in the charming stores in town, which specialize in everything from furniture to gourmet chocolates. Speaking of food, the area ranks some of their best dining options each year. Check out this list to start planning some of you must-visit restaurants. Beer fans will also enjoy a few pints from the local brewery. For more information on things to do in the area, visit Excelsior’s official website.
5. Spearfish Canyon (Spearfish, South Dakota)
If you loved a trip to the Grand Canyon, this even older landmark is for you. According to Visit Spearfish, these 1000-foot-high walls were only accessibly by horseback until 1893. Thankfully that’s changed, because this beautiful attraction is an outdoor lover’s dream come true. Vacationers can make use of the stunning limestone walls by rock climbing, take in the wildlife on a bird watching excursion, or fish for some trout. No matter how much outdoor time you want, you’ll find some great accommodations to fit your needs.
And novice photographers have plenty of opportunity to capture some great shots, particularly at Roughlock Falls Nature Area. Pack a picnic to make the most of the views while you hike the trails. You can visit Spearfish Canyon Foundation to begin familiarizing yourself with different routes.
6. Jamestown Reservoir (Jamestown, North Dakota)
If your idea of heaven is digging into some freshly caught seafood, it doesn’t get much better than reeling in your own walleye or small mouth bass at this expansive attraction. Jamestown Reservoir features multiple marinas to find the perfect spot as well as a fishing pond for youngsters. This destination is only about 6 miles from the Jamestown Regional Airport, so even those traveling quite a distance will have no trouble finding their way.
Keep in mind that this trip is for outdoor lovers. If urban living is your thing, this might not be the vacation for you. But if playing volleyball, going for hikes, and heading out for a boat ride all sound appealing, then this could be the perfect trip. It’s also a bargain, according to Midwest Living. Just be sure to keep cash on hand, as most of the concessions don’t take credit cards.