Traditional boats in Cambodia. | Lukasz Janyst/Shutterstock
Traditional boats in Cambodia. | Lukasz Janyst/Shutterstock

Maximize Summer Fun with These June Travel Ideas

Make the most out of all those extra hours of sunshine.

Can you hear them? The number of states establishing Juneteenth as a holiday are growing en masse. Tennessee and West Virginia are the latest, and there may be more to come. If you’re in one of these new states, congrats to you! Plan accordingly. And if you’re stuck on how to celebrate, read on for some ideas.

Summer doesn’t technically arrive ‘till June 21, but mentally, we’re already there. We’ve rounded the corner on Memorial Day and now it’s full speed ahead to warm weather, blue skies, barbecues, and frosty brews. There are rivers that need floating, tents that need pitching, and beach boardwalks that need patrolling. As days stretch languidly into night, our task now is to decide how we’re gonna spend all those extra daylight hours.

Should we hop abroad for a weekend or explore our own backyards? Take in the earthships of Taos, or the tinsel-strewn floats of LGBTQ+ Pride? And don’t forget about the father figure in your life this June 19. Maybe treat him to a solstice-themed midnight baseball game in Fairbanks, Alaska, or let him nerd out at the technical systems of the sustainable earthships in Taos. Or take him on an adventurous international road trip. Driving! We hear dads love that. Here are our top travel ideas for a June to remember.

Take a road trip, but make it international

Have you checked out our shiny new international road trips package? It’s just like our domestic road trips package but, like, abroad. We’ve got some of the highest roads in the world at the top of India, underwater driving in the Faroe Islands, off-roading in Costa Rica, and much more, including an adventurous dirt-road motorcycle ride spanning East Africa. Try it yourself, or live vicariously—the pictures alone are worth the click.

You can also get tips on how to stay fresh during a long-haul road trip and what exactly you need to know to get your International Drivers License. And if you’re more a passenger than a driver, get your third-party thrills via this story on some of the most adventurous players in the driving biz today, a.k.a. the daredevils that take on the two-week Dakar Rally (actually now held in Saudi Arabia—it’s all explained in the story). So what are you waiting for? Even if you’re staying close to home, we all need a little driving inspo, because, after all, sometimes the journey is the destination.

Venture beyond Angkor Wat in Cambodia

Visit Siem Reap in Cambodia and you’re definitely hitting up Angkor Archaeological Park, where ancient monuments—including the famous Angkor Wat—lay in dense jungles packed with even denser populations (seriously, you’ll want to go first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds and catch the sunrise).

But the city itself has much to offer in the way of modern fare: boutique stores, art galleries, spas, and, of course, food. In recent years, enterprising young Cambodian chefs have begun putting their own spin on traditional Khmer cuisine at places like Jomno and Cuisine Wat Damnak (vegan dishes included). In between meals, hike to waterfalls or dive deep into history at the Land Mine Museum, managed by a former Khmer Rouge child soldier. For some lighter fare, there’s the Phare Circus, where storytelling filters through a uniquely Cambodian lens, or stop into the night market to pick up some local crafts. While you’re there, go ahead and indulge in second (or third) dinner—Cambodia has some excellent street food.

Chase the purple wave

If you’re seeing purple, there’s nothing wrong with your eyes: Violet hues are everywhere this month. Like in Michigan’s charmingly nautical Mackinac Island, hosting its 75th annual Lilac Festival this month, which will feature everything from a Lilac Queen Coronation and Grand Parade to lilac-themed planting seminars and jewelry workshops. Even if you don’t care too much about the humble blossom, the festival provides an excellent excuse to get into other goings-on that celebrate the history of Mackinac, like art walks and sunset cruises.

Over in Europe, you can live out your l‘occitane dreams in Provence, where the region’s famed lavender fields are coming into full bloom. You’ll likely see them first in the villages of Luberon, followed by Valensole. And while you’re in the South of France, make your way over to Camargue to ogle at some romantic white horses (not to mention French cowboys). Or, plan a trip to Madeira, Portugal, where spring never ends. In June, the archipelago becomes dotted with Echium flowers, colloquially known as “Pride of Madeira.” These spiky, purple shrubs provide the backdrop for the ideal wine-soaked seaside vacation. Similarly, the southern coast of Iceland will be blanketed with Lupine flowers around this time. Keep an eye out for those fragrant beauties as you hike (or road trip) amongst captivating waterfalls, glacial lagoons, canyons, and black sand beaches.

Connect to the earth in Taos

After years of pandemic-fueled shut-down, the Taos Pueblo is back in business, offering public tours of the historic adobe dwellings as well as the traditional lifestyle of the Pueblo people that still inhabit them (plus the chance to score some delicious fry bread). After steeping yourself in the legacy of the straw and mud adobe structures, connect to the earth a different way with a meal at the Farmhouse Cafe, which sources ingredients from local farmers and sponsors school garden projects (the food’s pretty great too). Afterwards, head out on a spectacular hike bordering tribal land, peer at the Rio Grande from the towering Gorge Bridge, or get up close and personal with the rapids via a whitewater rafting excursion.

Back on dry land, visit Earthship Biotecture to see what the future of sustainable living could be like (spoiler alert: it’s pretty luxurious), then soak in the natural hot springs pools of Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs. Spring for a private pool and invite friends and if you choose that option, know that bathing suits are optional—something we woefully found out too late in the game.

And there’s plenty more to discover. See if you can hear the mysterious Taos Hum—try listening outside the Millicent Rogers Museum—or check out the glowing mystery painting The Shadow of the Cross, seen by tour only at the San Francisco De Assis Church (also a favorite drawing subject for famous local Georgia O’Keeffe). Those who gravitate toward the mystical properties of the area—especially those who identify as women—might want to stop by Her Sacred Alchemy, a new store serving up teas and tarots alongside a wide selection of crystals and a couple of drawers for sexual enhancement to find the magic within yourself. Come in June and catch Robert Plant and Alison Krauss performing in Kit Carson Park, then top it all off with dinner at Corner Office, the new natural wine bar in town from Jori Jayne Emde and Zakary Pelaccio, formerly of the award-winning Fish and Game in New York. Try dishes like the chickpea tamale, which connects Taos’s rich history with its earth-centric future.

Get folky in Budapest

You don’t need much of an excuse to travel to the bustling city of Budapest, known for its fairytale castles, chaotic ruin bars, and freshly baked chimney cakes. But the Danube Carnival is certainly a good one. For one week in June (9–17), contemporary artists and traditional Hungarian folk dancers will perform across the capital, ending with a special gala at the Margaret Island Open Air Stage.

Time your trip well, and you could also be in town for the Rosalia Wine Festival (June 9–11), a celebration of all things rosé taking place in City Park and featuring 60 different wineries. Sip on some pink juice, snack on some raclette, and enjoy a lineup of DJs. And if all else fails, take advantage of the outdoor baths at Széchenyi or Gellért, which are sure to welcome in the summer vibes.

Or hop abroad for a long weekend

Say you really want to finally take that big international vacation you’ve been yearning for, but don’t have a ton of time to do it. Enter the short-haul overseas trip. To help, we’ve rounded up 18 international cities that sit a hop and a skip from America’s busiest airports, from the Azores in Portugal to the cobbled streets of Dublin. Of course, Canada is always an option, where you can observe some Orca whales in Victoria, or experience a Tam-Tam in Montreal.

If you’re dreaming of tropical shores, check out the blue-green waters of the Cayman Islands and the not-technically-international-but-still-feels-like-it St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands (all is forgiven once you see the photos). While in St. Thomas, it’s just a short boat ride over to the new private island resort on Lovango Cay, open for day trips, or Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands, home of The Baths National Park. Or perhaps you’d like to swing on over to Central America? Belize boasts a winning combo of jungle, ocean, and Mayan history, and you won’t have to spend too much time finding your way around, as English is the official language. Plus, June marks the start of the country’s lobster season. Find more inspiration from our list of the best Caribbean destinations for an easy beach getaway. What are you waiting for? Dig out that swimsuit and go.

Look to the stars

Are you ready for some celestial sparkle? June has them aplenty, kicking off with Mars passing through the beehive cluster in the constellation of Cancer on June 1 and 2. A few days later is the Strawberry Moon, so named because it coincides with the annual strawberry harvest, and on June 12 and 13, it’s Venus that finds itself traveling through the beehive. It’s a very popular beehive! Later, June 21 brings us the solstice, the first day of summer for some and the first day of winter for others. (If you’re in Alaska, make your way to Fairbanks for the midnight sun baseball game, an event that cleverly takes advantage of all that extra sunlight.)

Now for all this stargazing, you’re gonna need a decent viewing point. Find yourself a Dark Sky Location—we have a few spots within driving distance of major US cities in mind. Book an Airbnb particularly geared towards stargazing or set out on a star-walking expedition. For an otherworldly experience, head to meteor crater in Flagstaff, or to gaze amongst professionals, plan to join the Bryce Canyon Astronomy Festival on June 14–17. Here you’ll find constellation tours, telescope viewing, and, on one night, orchestral accompaniment from the Dark Sky String Quartet. June 10–17 is also the Grand Canyon Star Party, with presentations from everyone from a Zuni Pueblo spiritual leader to NASA’s Dr. Julie McEnery, who works on the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, the next NASA flagship telescope.

Show off your Pride

Some big city LGBTQIA+ Pride marches—including those in Los Angeles (June 11) and New York (June 25)—will be returning in full force this year, providing a space for solidarity after a turbulent year of anti-trans legislation and violent attacks on queer communities. But beyond the coastal cities, Pride continues to be especially lively in small towns and unexpected Red states. Did you know Anchorage, Alaska is home to one of the best gay bars in the country? (Tagline: “Over 22 years of fabulous in the last frontier. We’re all a little mad here.”) And some towns, like Cooperstown in Upstate New York, will be hosting Pride celebrations for the first time ever this year.

But if you’re less into crowded parades and more into working on your tan, we’ve rounded up some options for you. Check out this list of the best LGBTQIA+ beaches for socializing or plan a pleasant traipse through the country’s top queer-friendly small towns, then add on some curated road trips to keep love-is-love vibes cranking all summer long.

Explore the meaning of Juneteenth

June 19—or Juneteenth—commemorates the emancipation of enslaved people in the US. Even though President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation took place in 1863, it wasn’t made official until June of 1865, granting freedom to the last 250,000 enslaved peoples in Galveston, Texas. This April, Galveston unveiled the Blank Slate Monument, which will be on display until July 5 at the Rosenberg Library. Created by Ghanaian artist Kwame Akoto-Bamfo, it seeks to turn the traditional Confederate monument on its head. Elsewhere in Galveston, Juneteenth celebrations abound, including a musical symposium (June 15), freedom walk tours (June 1–19), and a day-long outdoor festival (June 17), a free, family-friendly event taking place at Menard Park on the Seawall.

Tulsa, Oklahoma will throw a free weekend Juneteenth Festival (June 15–17), complete with music, food, arts, and entertainment on Greenwood Avenue, the former site of Black Wall Street. While you’re there, check out Greenwood Rising, the new world-class institution focused on the legacy and historical impact of Greenwood. Entry to the museum is free.

And in Montgomery, Alabama, the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement, the Rosa Parks Museum will hold its own special Juneteenth programming. After taking part in the events, stop by the Equal Justice Initiative’s National Memorial for Peace & Justice and the Legacy Museum, where deeply powerful exhibits educate visitors on the history of racism in the US, from the past up to the present. And in Charleston, South Carolina, the much-anticipated International African American Museum is finally open, sitting on the historic site of Gadsden’s Wharf, the single largest point of entry for enslaved Africans brought to North America.

Consider setting sail in a houseboat

Considering our current post-pandemic remote work economy, there’s a lot more opportunities for working from places you may have never considered before. So how about a houseboat? Enjoy a waterfront sunrise every day alongside all the health benefits of being out in nature. And when you get bored of the scenery, you can always float off somewhere new.

Now, where should you go? Well, did you know that Lake Cumberland, Kentucky is the Houseboat Capital of the World? That’s what they dub themselves anyway, thanks to the sheer number of houseboats available to rent. The fact remains to be verified, but it’s a good start if you’re looking. And for other options, we’ve got your guide to all things floating homes, from the best spot to suspend yourself atop the Mississippi River to how to traverse the Erie Canal in a European-style narrowboat to how to simply book a houseboat Airbnb because you like being rocked to sleep by the waves. And if you want to try your hand at fixing up a drifting home of your own, we’ve got some advice for you there, too. Best get started now: With the news that Manhattan is sinking, houseboats could just be the wave of the future...

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Vanita Salisbury is Thrillist's Senior Travel Writer.
Jessica Sulima is a staff writer on the Travel team at Thrillist.