Historic buildings on Market Street at Market Square in downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Image credit Wangkun Jia via Shutterstock

7 Coolest Towns in the Northern United States for a Summer Vacation in 2024

The Northern United States offers an incredible variety of cultural, historical, and natural amenities for any prospective traveler. The unique rock formations along the Pacific coastline of Brookings, Oregon; the charismatic symbols of Dutch settlement in Holland, Michigan; and the clear waters of Flathead Lake in Polson, Montana, are only a few examples of the region's impressive diversity. Every traveler on summer vacation in 2024 should take note of these seven coolest towns in the Northern United States.

Marquette, Michigan

Business district Marquette, Michigan on hill side main street
Business district Marquette, Michigan on hill side.

There is an impressive duality between culture and natural scenery in Marquette, Michigan, making it a must-visit for travelers around the Great Lakes Region. The downtown area is filled with attractions that line Marquette Bay like the imposing architectural structure of the Lower Harbor Ore Dock in the Ellwood A Mattson Lower Harbor Park or the charismatic bright-red Marquette Harbor Lighthouse, both enjoyed from the heights of the Mount Marquette Overlook.

The memorable natural scenery in this small town's corner of Lake Superior is fully on display in the Presque Isle Park: a secluded peninsula that bulges into the lake, filled with lush forests, popular walking trails that follow the Presque Isle Pavilion, and rocky coastlines that make fantastic cliff jumping and swimming at the Black Rocks.

Polson, Montana

Sliver moon at dusk with a view of a wooden dock at the shoreline of Flathead Lake, near Polson, Montana
Moon at dusk with a view of a wooden dock at the shoreline of Flathead Lake, near Polson, Montana.

Polson is a small town in full witness of the spectacle that is Montana's vast wild landscapes. The town's principal natural attractions include walks along the rocky lakesides in Boettcher Park, the open grass plains aside Flathead Lake in Sacajawea Park, or the impressive Flathead Lake Overlook Scenic Turnout for an expansive view of Polson Bay and Flathead National Forest. More ambitious outdoor enthusiasts should camp at Finley Point in Flathead Lake State Park.

One of the most unique attractions in Polson is the Miracle of America Museum, where underappreciated vintage artifacts of American history and culture fill various interactive exhibits year-round.

Newport, Rhode Island

Historic buildings and businesses along a street in Newport, Rhode Island.
Historic buildings and businesses along a street in Newport, Rhode Island. Image credit George Wirt via Shutterstock.com

Newport, Rhode Island, is an impressive symbol of New England's extensive history and charismatic coastlines. The downtown area of Newport Harbor is filled with museums and exhibits dedicated to the region's history, like the Newport Art Museum, The Sailing Museum & National Sailing Hall of Fame, and the International Tennis Hall of Fame. While The Elms is one of the most-visited Gilded Age mansions in the peninsula, travelers should also spend time exploring others like The Breakers, Rosecliff, and Marble House.

Fort Adams State Park offers fantastic views across Rhode Island Sound in combination with significant historical attractions like the Eisenhower House, and the Brenton Point State Park provides the most picturesque rocking coastlines on King's Beach.

Brookings, Oregon

The beautiful coastline near Brookings, Oregon.
The beautiful coastline near Brookings, Oregon.

Brookings, Oregon, is an underappreciated getaway defined by Oregon's natural mystique and scenery along the Pacific Ocean. The most prominent image of this small town is Harris Beach State Park and the characteristic rock formations that dot its coastline, making for impeccable hiking and shallow sea exploration activities. For longer stretches of sand beaches, follow the Oregon Coastal Highway north towards Lone Ranch Beach; this same road is also recognized as forming the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor for its incredible forested coasts.

The downtown area, split by the Chetco River, offers top-quality dining at restaurants like Zola's On the Water and an incredible event venue known as Azalea Park, filled with sprawling greenspace and colors.

Holland, Michigan

Windmill Island Village in Holland, Michigan.
Windmill Island Village in Holland, Michigan.

Holland, Michigan, is one of the most unique towns in the Northern United States. This getaway on the Macatawa River aside from Lake Michigan is founded on its initial Dutch settlement. The green fields of the Windmill Island Gardens, the colorful tulips of the Window on the Waterfront Park, and the extensive stories of the Holland Museum are all devoted to the town's Dutch history.

Too often, the cultural character of the downtown draws popular attention away from pleasant natural scenery in the surrounding area like in the waterfront trails of Kollen Park, the live animals and interpretive exhibits in the DeGraaf Nature Center, and the open fields of the Van Raalte Farm Park, including a farmhouse built in 1872.

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Piscataqua River in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Piscataqua River in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Portsmouth, New Hampshire is a bustling small town of an energetic character sitting along the Piscataqua River that divides New Hampshire from Maine. The downtown area offers appeal as a quaint center of activity, with most attractions centering around the Old Harbor and the fantastic restaurants in its vicinity, like the Surf Portsmouth, or the Elephantine Bakery.

This is also a center of cultural significance, best experienced in the outdoor exhibits of the Strawbery Banke Museum's historic neighborhood or the comprehensive teachings of the Portsmouth Historical Society. For a fantastic evening stroll, follow the walkways of the gardens in Prescott Park.

Cody, Wyoming

Downtown Cody, Wyoming.
Downtown Cody, Wyoming. Image credit Steve Cukrov via Shutterstock

Cody, Wyoming is most recognized as a gateway to the renowned Yellowstone National Park. However, Cody is also a small town testament to Wyoming's unique history and cultural energy. The historical origins of this town's charisma can be traced to the modern exhibits of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, or the unique outdoor exhibits of Old Trail Town, featuring full-scale replicas of buildings and life in the frontier west. Travelers don't need to visit Yellowstone National Park to experience the unique natural landscape, either. Hikers can follow from the Buffalo Bill Dam & Visitor Center to the top of Cedar Mountain, providing an impressive view of the rugged terrain below known as Buffalo Bill State Park.

The Northern United States will exceed the expectations of any summer visitors. Outdoor enthusiasts, self-labeled historians, and any open-minded adventure can find an idyllic and memorable refuge in the Gilded Age mansions of Newport, Rhode Island; the fantastic forested peninsula of Presque Isle Park in Marquette, Michigan; or the extensive histories of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. There is something for every summer traveler in these seven coolest towns in the Northern United States.

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