The Best Time to Visit All 50 States
It's always entertaining to run across people who call themselves "well traveled," but have never been west of Ohio. Like, really? We've got a big, vast nation of dramatically different states and you haven't been to two-thirds of it? Sure, Copenhagen was lovely, but we've got 50 states to visit, and if you haven't been to many of them, maybe this year is the time to explore. And while you might have heard that fall in New Hampshire or Christmas in Hawaii are the best times to visit, that's not necessarily the case. Sure, sometimes the most popular times to visit a place are also the best, but in a lot of states there are even better times that you may not have realized. We talked to locals, tourism boards, and our vast network of friends and contributors to find out the best times to visit all 50 states.
No, we're not suggesting you base your vacation around watching grown men live vicariously through 18-year-olds. But a game in Tuscaloosa or Auburn is a must-see American spectacle, and there's a party every Saturday in every town in the state. Not into football? The rest of the state is just perfect this time of year (and all the crowds are distracted by football). The beaches of the Redneck Riviera are still as warm as they are all summer, with a fraction of the people. And for the more active, hiking and kayaking through the just-changing trees is comfortable since the summer heat has subsided.
The majesty of the Alaskan glaciers and the inner passage is beautiful from pretty much May to September. But unless you want to go all Al Pacino and drive yourself crazy with perpetual daylight, waiting until a little later in the summer can allow you to sleep in between glacier gazing. Humpback whales are still in full force this time of year, the temperatures can actually get all the way into the 70s, and the wildlife is highly active. Plus, the northern lights are most visible towards the end of the month.
There is absolutely nothing comfortable about 110 degrees, no matter how "dry" anyone says it is. But absolutely nothing beats the pleasant air of Arizona in the spring. You can rock shorts all day but sweat through them, and the nights bring a pleasant desert chill. The Grand Canyon is still there, but with about one-50th of the people you’d find in June or July (though you should still remember to bring plenty of water). And in Phoenix, you've got Cactus League spring training, which not only brings Major League Baseball in intimate venues, but also brings the crowds and nightlife that come along with it.
Word on the street is Arkansas’ new fall tourism slogan is "All the fall colors, none of the Patriots fans!" We kid, but one of the more underrated attributes of this southern state are its changing leaves, which make a drive through the Boston Mountains every bit as scenic as anywhere near actual Boston. Beyond the leaves, there’s the War Eagle Mill Fall Arts and Crafts Fair in Rogers, and the requisite SEC football mania every Saturday during Razorback games.
April (northern); late September to early October (southern)
Northern California: California is the only state with two drastically different enough climates and cultures that it warrants separate consideration for north and south. There's a quote wrongly attributed to Mark Twain about the coldest winter he ever spent being a summer in San Francisco. But whoever said it is right. Summer in SF is really more in April, when the fog subsides for a little while and makes way for temperatures regularly in the 80s. Up the road in Sacramento and the wine country of Sonoma and Napa, temps aren't ungodly hot yet so you can enjoy your tasting without SPF 150. And in true California fashion you can enjoy all this warm sunshine then take a two-hour drive up to Tahoe and ski the next day.
Southern California: Since summer in SoCal doesn't really start until after the June gloom, LA is getting to the end of its summer stride while the rest of the country is cooling down in October. Added bonus: all the kids are back in school! So your trip to Disneyland, SeaWorld, LEGOLAND, or Palm Springs won't be packed with families. On the Central Coast, areas like San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara are their warmest of the year, which makes this prime beach time for the entire region. And traffic will be... OK, well, it'll still be awful. But at least nobody will be freaking out because five raindrops fell on the 405.
As excited as we all are by craft beer and the prospect of legal weed, the snow is still Colorado's main attraction. And all those ski runs are a lot more fun when you don't have to share them with the entire world. The post-Christmas travel season is slower in Colorado, so you'll still have all the fresh powder without the tourists. And while you might think going in winter will limit your ability to enjoy a beer outside in the mountains, remember, this is Colorado. So a 74-degree day in January isn't at all unusual.
The endless scenic landscapes and attractions with autumn-themed special events make for memorable vacations and colorful day trips. Autumn means harvest festivals, antiquing, pumpkin patches, apple- and vegetable-picking, farm mazes, picturesque vineyards, farmers markets, canoeing and kayaking, and, of course, "leaf peeping" on fall foliage driving tours.
Mid-May to mid-June
The weather is right, the beaches are ready, and the year's best events are in full swing. The Firefly Music Festival brings 90,000 people and some of the world's top artists, NASCAR zooms into Dover International Speedway, and the annual Point-to-Point steeplechase is like the Kentucky Derby, on a huge field once owned by the DuPont family. The flowers are all in bloom at the beautiful gardens of the former DuPont estates -- Winterthur, Nemours, Hagley, and Mt. Cuba Center. And if you want to go to the beach there are great deals to be had on things to do and places to stay before the summer rush begins.
Yes, it's spring break. But if you pick the right beaches, you can avoid the crowds altogether and enjoy the best weather Florida has all year. Though if you don't mind crowds, this is when Florida is its most fun. Aside from the requisite college kids, the state also hosts half of Major League Baseball for spring training. If you're more into booze than baseball, Universal Studios has its annual Mardi Gras festivities, with parades every weekend. And in South Florida, Miami Music Week and Ultra Music Festival bring beautiful people from all over the world to Downtown Miami. Plus the Miami Open -- one of the largest non-grand-slam tennis tournaments -- finishes the month off with world-class tennis.
While Georgia has a pretty mild climate and can be fun to visit nearly any time not called August, March has a special draw. Even if you don't have tickets, the atmosphere around the Masters in Augusta makes it one of the most electric weekends in sports, or even non-sports. And the St. Patrick's Day parade in Savannah is mentioned with places like Chicago and Boston when talking about the best in America. The weather is still in the 70s, and not nearly as humid as Florida.
September to October
Picking the best time to visit Hawaii is kind of like trying to pick the most delicious flavor of Pringles: they’re. All. Amazing. But if you want your Hawaiian vacation to consist of more than beaches, volcano hikes, and surprisingly cool historical museums, these two months have the most going on. The Aloha Festivals run throughout September with celebrations of Hawaiian culture tha'’ll give your trip a more authentic feel. And the end of October brings the Hawaii Food &Wine Festival, giving you far greater dining choices than you'd typically find on the beaches of Waikiki.
While the whitewater rafting and biking are as good as anywhere in America in the summer, to get the most out of Idaho you'll want to go in March. The skiing in Sun Valley is still going strong, and a tour through the Snake River Valley wine region will be pleasantly cool and still scenic. But the big draw in March is festival, or "fort" season. No matter what your taste, you'll find something: Filmfort, Alefort, Yogafort. Though the most famous is Treefort, an annual rock festival that's generally considered the West’s best alternative to South by Southwest.
Late June to early July
When you endure a Chicago winter, the first part of summer feels like being released from a cold, gray weather prison. And this time during early summer is Chicagoans' release date, when weekly street festivals and consistent sunshine have everyone in the mood to drink, eat (we suggest one of these Chicago restaurants), and just generally enjoy life. Wrigley Field is packed since the Cubs are still mathematically alive (and this year, even mathematically kicking ass), and the rest of the state is enjoying the only part of the year when you're guaranteed to not get rained on, freeze, or swelter.
September to October
Though sadly the epic Pawnee Harvest Festival doesn't actually exist, it's not completely made up either. In agriculture-rich Indiana, fall is harvest season, and across the state there are over 620 festivals to celebrate it. The leaves are changing color and it's the only time of year a drive through the state can truly be considered "scenic." And game days in Bloomington and West Lafayette, while not bringing the massive crowds you'd find in Michigan or Pennsylvania, are still fantastic Midwest traditions.
The Iowa State Fair is without a doubt the can't-miss event in the state, where big-name country acts headline the fair every night, and you'll find all the food, games, and 4-H club excitement befitting a Midwestern expo. The weather is also at its best, so you can explore the bluffs or limestone caves at Maquoketa Caves State Park, the most beautiful place in Iowa. It’s also the perfect time to hit up Iowa City, where you can enjoy pie shakes at the Hamburg Inn and all the other things that make it one of the best small cities to spend the weekend.
Most of us don't know a whole lot about Kansas other than that it occasionally has tornadoes that lift houses into magical lands filled with flying monkeys. What are we missing out on? Sunflowers and basketball. Both of which are in abundance in Kansas during late March. The state's iconic yellow flower begins to bloom and massive fields of them spread across the prairie. Most years the Jayhawks basketball team is making its traditional deep run into the NCAA tournament, and while it might be a little late to check out a game at the best arena in college basketball, the excitement around the team permeates everything in the state.
The early summer mist in Kentucky makes for magical mornings along the Ohio River and the Bourbon Trail has a special je ne sais quoi when visited... nah, dude, it's the KENTUCKY FREAKING DERBY. Not that Kentucky can't be fun the rest of the year, but if you're going to make a trip to the Bluegrass State, do it around the Derby. Yes, it'll be crowded, flights will cost more, and the Bourbon Trail will have more people on it than the 405 freeway, but the Derby absolutely needs to be on your American travel bucket list. And if you really want to see the sights, plan some time after the race to take them all in.
We'd love to tell you about some great underrated, undiscovered shoulder season to come to Louisiana when it's just as fun for half the price. And maybe the bayous are better visited later in the spring, and fall in Baton Rouge is SEC crazy. But going to New Orleans any time other than Mardi Gras is kind of like going to a pre-season football game. What we can tell you are 30-some things you should do at Mardi Gras before you die, along with the absolute best restaurants to eat at in New Orleans. So if your Mardi Gras experience isn't all that it possibly can be, that's, like, on you man. But if you don't want to deal with the mayhem of the festival's main week, the rest of the month has smaller parades and is still full of music, craziness, and uninhibited fun.
Maine might be, pound for pound, the most scenic state in America. The problem, of course, is much of that great scenery is only accessible by snowmobile during much of the year. But summer in Maine is a North American paradise. Hiking to the top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park to see America's first sunrise is a religious experience. And the beaches are actually habitable once you get into the meat of August. A weekend in Portland -- one of the best small cities in America to spend a weekend -- is better enjoyed when drinking outside. And even the eccentric folks who make up many of Maine's small towns just seem a little friendlier when the sun is shining.
Why to visit: Fleet Week. Even if you're not a military man or one of the slightly tipsy women who love them, it's still the biggest, most adventurous party to hit the Old Line State all year. The Blue Angels fly over Downtown Baltimore as part of Maryland's largest air show, and ships are docked in the inner harbor and open for tours. Also, we heard military guys like to party, just a rumor. The weekend before Fleet Week boasts the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race, where tall ships race through the bay and are later open for tours. And, lately anyway, you've even got playoff baseball at Camden Yards, one of the best stadiums in Major League Baseball.
Late September to early October
Though the summer months in Mass can be magical, with weekends on the Cape and perfect summer weather, they can also skew uncomfortably hot. However the fall isn't nearly as stifling, and the leaf peeping here is the best in the nation. But there’s a lot more to it than that. Boston is a city whose mood is often dictated by sports, and at least for the last decade there's been Red Sox fever combined with Pats optimism coursing through the air. Allegedly obnoxious fans be damned.
By September the muggy summer heat has passed, Michigan's winter gloom is still far, far away, and there's basically no better place to be, anywhere. It's still warm enough in most of the state to swim and be out on the water, and by summer's end the freezing-cold lakes have had a chance to warm up. It's also peak produce season, so local restaurants will have their best dishes on display, and roadside markets pop up all over the state. Deer season hasn't started yet but school is back in session, meaning the crowds in Michigan's many great beach towns are seriously thinned out, and so is weekend traffic on I-75 on the way up north. By late September the leaves begin to turn in the UP, and sometimes further south if the color comes on early. Further downstate, Ann Arbor and East Lansing are bursting at the seams with tailgaters during glorious early-season football Saturdays.
July and August
Fun fact: the land of 11,842 lakes has more shoreline than Florida, Hawaii, and California combined. And the best time to relax on that shoreline or take a boat out on one of Minnesota's best party lakes is late summer. Also, late August is state fair time, and the rest of the month is chock-full of classic car shows, music festivals, and outdoor celebrations (and here are all the best outdoor festivals in Minnesota for 2016). In the Twin Cities, the cool summer nights are the most comfortable time to catch a Twins game, or just relax outside at one of the area's 100 craft breweries (we suggest these 11 in Minneapolis).
Mississippi is famous for its sweltering summer heat, all of which has subsided by the time October rolls around. Temperatures are in the 70s, meaning it’s still warm here when the rest of the country gets cold. It's also festival season in Mississippi, with the Mighty Mississippi Music Festival, the Delta Hot Tamale Festival, Cruisin' The Coast, Fall Pilgrimage in Natchez, the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race and others going on all month. And of course no fall trip to Mississippi is complete without game day in the Grove at Ole Miss, possibly the best tailgating experience in the country and one of the things every American should do before they die.
June to August
Spring and fall are nice, but the state is really at its best all summer long. The first and most obvious reason is the lake parties. Lake of the Ozarks is THE best party lake in America (though some debate that), basically a summer-long spring break with fewer restrictions. The whole state is perpetually barbecuing, and you can hit two of America's best BBQ cities in St. Louis and Kansas City. And, of course, there's baseball, which thanks to the World Champion Royals is now just as huge in the western part of the state as it is in St. Louis. No matter what you think about the fans.
August's Testicle Festival is undisputedly the single coolest event in Montana, but we also realize not everyone is into binge drinking and public nudity. So for everyone else, the best time to go is late September. The weather is still gloriously warm, but not the blistering heat of mid-summer. And the big draws here -- Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks -- actually have manageable crowds and open campsites this time of year. Meaning you'll get the same views and wide-open spaces without the screaming children, and maybe even a chance to catch some early fall colors.
Late October to early November
The biggest draw in Nebraska that doesn't involve aluminum bats is hunting season, where farmers open up their fields for the best pheasant, quail, and chucker hunting in America. The granddaddy of them all is the One Box Hunt in Broken Bow, which takes place the first weekend in November and draws master hunters and celebrities for four days. The crowds that come to hunt turn even tiny towns into bustling cities with packed bars and restaurants serving inventive takes on game. And even if you're not into hunting, game day in Lincoln is an epic experience, even if the team has slipped a bit from past glory.
Is there really ever a BAD time to visit Vegas? OK, other than when your house just got foreclosed on. But in December the crowds there are thinned with the mid-holiday break, and every hotel won’t be packed with conventions. The northern part of the state probably has its first snowfall up near Tahoe, and a trip through Great Basin National Park showcases some of its clearest skies of the year. The desert temperatures aren't brutal, the days are still warm, and you can enjoy the state's best sites without massive crowds.
April to early May
The obvious pick here would be fall, since New Hampshire's fall colors are legendary. The problem with that is, everyone else in America (and especially New York City) knows this, and you'll be sharing all those colors with roughly 4 million other people. Better to head there in late spring, when the weather is warm, but not painfully humid. And you can enjoy the coastal regions near Portsmouth, the lakes, and Mount Washington without too many concerns about weather. And zero worries about crowds.
The entire summer is actually fantastic in New Jersey, and the beach towns are nothing like what MTV might have led you to believe. An afternoon at Jenkinson's in Point Pleasant is everything you imagine summer to be: frozen custard, Skee-Ball, Ferris wheels, and mini golf with the salty smells of the ocean and French fry grease permeating it all. The other towns are packed with weekend vacationers, and parties run the gamut from high-society events to college ragers. But the pinnacle of the summer comes Fourth of July weekend, when fireworks put exclamation points on perfect summer days spent at the shore.
October and November
Fall days in New Mexico are sunny, warm, and dry, and the evenings cool off just enough that you feel the crisp air and know that the seasons are changing. In the mountains, you can see the trees changing colors at different elevations, and they create different-colored stripes and spots as the weeks ago by. The air is filled with the smell of chiles and local restaurants take full advantage of the season, plating some of the best chile-based creations you'll ever try. It’s also home to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, a nine-day festival that fills the sky with hundreds of colorful hot-air balloons by day, that are all magically lit up on the ground at night.
Late September to early October
A visit to New York City invariably means a lot of walking around outside, and early fall is by far the best time of year to do that. The stagnant summer-in-the-city heat has given way to pleasant temperatures in the 70s. So you can still hit up all the fantastic rooftop bars, eat outside at one of New York City's best restaurants, and spend an afternoon in Central Park. All without the sweat, grime, and tourists that are there in summer, or the cold and rain you're subject to in the winter and much of the spring. In the rest of the state, the weather is still warm enough to enjoy Niagara Falls and the vastly underrated Finger Lakes. And you might even be able to spot come changing leaves at Watkins Glen without having to go all the way to New England.
September and October
Though North Carolina doesn't typically get as ungodly hot as some other southern states, the fall is still going to bring the most pleasant temperatures. September is North Carolina Wine Month, where you can spend a weekend on the coast wine tasting before heading up into the mountains for a leisurely, less traffic-congested trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Asheville, one of the most underrated food cities in America, still has perfect weather for sitting outside at one of the hundreds of craft breweries. And hikes through the mountains are less strenuous with the cooler air, but still doable with mild weather.
Late June to early July
North Dakota is a vast state you'll want to explore all of. And the drive through the state is never more beautiful than in early summer, when the highways are lush and green and make the journey through the state almost as fun as the destinations. The endangered animals at the Red River Zoo in Fargo will all be out in force to greet you, as will the buffalo at Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Moving through the state, you'll also enjoy all that greenery at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, which flanks the ruins of the On-A-Slant Mandan Indian Village and the reconstructed home of George Custer.
In September, you're still riding the wave of summer warmth, but kids are back in school and the lines at Cedar Point are actually manageable. The Indians and Reds are still hovering around .500 (maybe in contention?), the Browns haven't mailed in the season yet, and the Bengals are sometimes good. Ohio State football is elbow-deep in early-season patsies, meaning a trip to Columbus guarantees a win and you can focus more on the party than the game. And we'd be remiss if we didn't mention the Ohio Pawpaw Festival, the best place to sample the fruit from America's largest native fruit tree, including tasting (and learning how to brew) pawpaw beer.
Late September to October
Can't afford to fly to Munich for Oktoberfest this year? That's cool, you've still got Tulsa. Because this smallish city is home to an Oktoberfest party that's often ranked among the best in the WORLD. But beyond dunkels and dirndls, October is also home to the Oklahoma State Fair, an actually pleasant place to walk around when temperatures are in the mid-70s. Combine all that with OU football getting into full swing and Oklahoma is basically the party capital of America through the entire month.
June and July
There's a reason Oregonians are content to weather seven or eight months of soggy clothing and post-nasal drip: when summer finally hits the Beaver State, it becomes one of the most lush and vibrant places to visit in the country. Mountains like Hood and Bachelor keep their snowy caps well into the summer, but snowmelt feeds the tremendous waterfalls of the Columbia River Gorge and turns rivers into ideal places to raft and tube. The coast... well, the water's still cold as shit. But you won't care because you're there for seafood fests and wind. Portland comes alive with weekly beer fests, farmers markets, bikes, and outdoor music. Bend and Hood River transition from winter hotspots to essential summer locations. Cabins and yurts become party pads. Basically, the entire state turns into some weird summer camp where everybody is a counselor. The cool one, played by Paul Rudd. But before Paul Rudd was cool, because that's how Oregon rolls. -- Andy Kryza, National Food and Drink editor
During the autumn months, a stunning palette of reds, oranges, and golds takes over the Pennsylvania landscape. And the weather is still pleasant enough to catch it all while you kayak through the Poconos or take a boat out on Lake Erie. There are festivals aplenty, from the annual National Apple Harvest Festival, to unique, only-in-PA celebrations like the annual Mushroom Festival. Both Philly and Pittsburgh are head-on into football season, and game days in either place are citywide parties. But a trip to State College in the middle of the state will be the biggest city party of all, as whiteouts and game days in Happy Valley are worth a trip by themselves.
June to August
Everything that happens in Rhode Island pretty much happens in the summer. And since the weather is pretty outstanding for the entire season, what part of summer you come just depends on what you like to do. Cinephile? The Rhode Island International Film Festival is in August. Like jazz? The Newport Jazz Festival is at the end of July. Enjoy dressing up like a rich person and watching sailboats race? The famous Newport Regatta is at the beginning of July. Or dress up again for the Polo Series in September. The beaches are fantastic all summer long, so any time you pick is almost guaranteed to make for a picturesque New England vacation.
Late September to early October
The weather is still beautiful, and you can still enjoy beach time, but with dramatically lower hotel rates. And statewide, no time of year boasts more festivals, from the Beach Boogie & BBQ Festival in Myrtle Beach, to the Masters tournament for mini golf, to JerryFest in Columbia. But perhaps the best of all is Euphoria. No, not that weird drug the kids from 90210 learned a valuable lesson about, but a huge food and wine festival that takes place in the heart of Downtown Greenville (one of the best small cities in America to visit) and draws talent from all over the country. And we hear that football team at Clemson is OK too.
Any trip to South Dakota during warm weather will leave you surprisingly blown away but the absolute best time to take it in is during September. You can catch a spectacular sunrise against wildflowers in Badlands National Park then venture out to Spearfish (another one of the best small cities in America to spend a weekend) to catch some fall colors draped around crashing waterfalls. During the week, you will practically have Mount Rushmore to yourself. And if you find yourself in Custer State Park near the end of the month you can see the annual Buffalo Roundup, when literally thousands of buffalo are herded through the park and half the state comes out to watch it on the hillsides.
May and June
Though there's really never a BAD time to visit the original Cracker Barrel in Lebanon, the rest of the state is particularly impressive towards the end of spring. The Memphis in May festival is a month of different celebrations, from the Beale Street Music Festival the first weekend to the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest mid-month. In Nashville, the CMA Awards come to town and create a mini-Super Bowl atmosphere throughout the entire city. And the Ocoee River opens for rafting, if you want to get out of the cities.
Late September to late October
Saying they do everything bigger in Texas might be kind of a cliché, but nowhere will you realize it more than at Texas' behemoth state fair that runs for an entire month. The unquestionable highlight, however, is the Prairie View A&M vs Grambling State game... if you're into marching bands. Otherwise it’s the Red River Rivalry where OU and Texas square off in the classic Art Deco Cotton Bowl. Austin and Normal clear out and camp themselves on the fairgrounds and the whole place turns into a giant college town, filled with corn dogs and midway rides.
So the tailgating scene at BYU isn't exactly the Grove, but the passion the fans have is no less energizing sans caffeine or alcohol. Game days in Provo are a thing to behold, as are the fall colors in the Wasatch Mountains and the desert-scapes at Zion and Arches National Parks. The southern part of the state, home to said desert-scapes and the Canyonlands, is a far more pleasant visit this time of year, when the sun is still shining but temperatures stay comfortably in the 70s.
March and April
If you saw our list of the 25 best small cities to visit for the weekend and were like, "Damn! I really need to go check out that Heady Topper at the The Farmhouse Tap & Grill," this is the best time of year to do it. Because after downing a few -- and perusing the rest of the city -- you can hit Killington for some late-season snowboarding without the brutal temperatures. And it's also the height of sugaring season, when the maple trees are tapped for their liquid gold. We promise it's not as lame as leaf peeping, it's a time-honored tradition and sugar on snow is a delicacy.
Late April to May
Virginia is one of those states that's drastically different depending on which part you want to visit (probably why it should be split in two) but pretty much any part is best visited in late spring. In Northern Virginia, you can catch the cherry blossoms around the DC area, and enjoy the city during pleasant weather. Towards the middle of the state, Charlottesville empties out after school and is a more enjoyable visit if you aren't trying to spend your weekend around college kids. And the semi-annual Foxfield Races take place towards the end of April, a daylong tailgate and steeplechase that's a partying tradition for Virginians.
There's an old saying about Seattle: it has two seasons, winter and August. And while good ole global warming has made Seattle's summer a LITTLE longer, the only time you're pretty much guaranteed to see the Emerald City in all its glory is August. The first weekend is Seafair, an annual water celebration marked by a parade, hydroplane races, and epic boat parties. Concert season is in full swing at the Gorge in George, which in addition to being the most scenic concert venue in the Northwest also has the best natural acoustics. And the wine regions in Southern Washington are also great to visit this time of year, when you can cool off after a warm day in the Columbia River Gorge with some of the best wines in the world.
Two important words about DC in spring: cherry blossoms. Also, not-oppressive humidity, but that's more than two. Sure, you might have to battle a spring-break tour group or 400, but April is absolutely when DC is at its most scenic, and most pleasant to be outside. Strolling the National Mall won’t have you searching for shelter or sweating through your clothes, and residents will be outside enjoying their first taste of nice weather in months. DC has a joyful, upbeat feel in April, and even if you don't base your vacations around flower petals, the city is still at its best during this month.
September and October
Fall is Gauley season, when the US Army Corps of Engineers releases water from the Summersville dam, creating the best Class V rapids in the East. If that's not extreme enough for you, October brings Bridge Day, when daredevils from all over the world come to parachute and bungee jump off the New River Gorge Bridge, and the sane people stand at the bottom and watch them. But if that all seems just a little too heart-stopping for you, West Virginia has fall foliage as good as anywhere in the Mid-Atlantic. And since it's not as popular of a tourist destination you can drive the highways and realize why they call this place "Almost Heaven."
Late June to early July
If there's one thing Wisconsin does better than anyone, it's probably cheese. But if there's a second thing, it's tailgating. And all summer the parking lots outside Miller Park in Milwaukee are sprawling tailgate parties that start hours before game time and continue until after dark. But the real highlight of this time of year is Summerfest, the world's largest outdoor music festival that runs through the first two weeks of July and brings the biggest names in every genre.
One of the unique things about Wyoming is that one day you might be walking around in shorts, only to awake the next morning to your car trapped under 3ft of snow. The only time you're really safe from this phenomenon of epic blizzards is July and August (unless you're way up in the mountains, in which case, all bets are off). But in July, you've got Frontier Days. This Cheyenne festival is a grand celebration of all things rodeo, complete with a chuckwagon cook-off, carnival midway, concerts from bands like Alabama, and a daily pancake breakfast. The next weekend Laramie Jubilee Days goes down, which is pretty much the same type of event with fewer pancakes and a lot more whiskey.
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Matt Meltzer is a staff writer with Thrillist. Follow him on Instagram: @meltrez1.