Antigua, Guatemala, is one of many cities hosting festivals in July.

Photo by Bailey Berg

It’s school holiday time, which makes it peak summer in the Northern Hemisphere. But don’t assume the traditional beach getaway or cabin rental is the way to go.

Why not spend Independence Day on the water, at one of the USA’s lesser-known lakes, or slip on a costume or two to celebrate Marvel and more at a confab in California? Then again, it’s also a great time to venture to New Zealand and immerse in the traditions and practices of Indigenous culture there.

You deserve a vacation this month, and we have 10 places that are well worth visiting in July.

1. Antigua, Guatemala

July is great for: a high-octane high holy day.

Antigua is the onetime capital of Guatemala, a colonial-era city that earned UNESCO World Heritage site status more than 40 years ago for its extraordinary baroque architecture. The city was preserved in this state largely thanks to its earthquake-prone site, which prompted the colonial government to decamp to a new, more stable location. There are grand buildings, cobbled streets, and, notably, ruins that were left as-was after the last major quake in 1976—see the Cathedral of Santiago, for example.

This month, on July 25, the city’s residents celebrate their patron saint, James, on Dia de Santiago: Expect fireworks, parades, concerts, and carnival rides. Alongside this Catholic festival, though, don’t miss the La Fiesta Nacional Indígena de Guatemala or Rabin Ajau in Coban, a 5.5-hour drive from Antigua. It lasts for the final two weeks of July and celebrates Indigenous Mayan culture, with traditional dancing and music, plus a festivity-capping beauty pageant. The women who compete to be Queen are assessed, in part, on their commitment to Mayan values and traditions.

Where to stay

Book now: Villa Bokéh

Try some bargain-priced luxury at the 15-room hacienda Villa Bokéh, 10 minutes from town in its own verdant gardens—all set against the backdrop of the Agua Volcano.

How to get there

There are nonstop flights from LAX on Avianca, Volaris, and United, plus service from JFK on JetBlue and an American flight from MIA.

Besides Queenstown, other towns and cities will have their own offerings for the Maori New Year.

Photo by domenapat/Shutterstock

2. Queenstown, New Zealand

July is great for: a new, Indigenous celebration in the great outdoors

The newest public holiday in New Zealand, first established last year, will be celebrated on July 14 in 2023. It commemorates Maori New Year, which is celebrated when the dazzlingly bright Matariki (also known as the Pleiades or Seven Sisters) constellation first appears in the early morning sky here.

Head down to the outdoorsy hub of Queenstown in the heart of the South Island to celebrate. The main drag of Buckingham Street will be lit up by installations and projections from the team behind the town’s son-et-lumière festival LUMA. The deep countryside here is free of light pollution and better for enjoying the star-speckled sky. Make sure to take a helicopter ride to the Milford Sound, one of the world’s wettest places, where the rainfall turns the near-sheer surrounding cliffsides into impromptu waterfalls. And don’t miss the chance to zip up and down the Dart River on one of the boats, which can hit up to more than 50 mph.

Where to stay

Book now: Matakauri Lodge

Try the 14-room Matakauri Lodge, one of the pioneering hotels here: Its sleek Kelly Hoppen on-the-piste decor is appealing, and the lakeside perch is unbeatable.

How to get there

There are regular flights from New Zealand’s capital, Auckland down to the South Island, which takes around two hours. Coming from the U.S. East Coast? Consider Air New Zealand’s new service from JFK, a 17-hour nonstop direct.

With so many events happening in the south of France, Aix-en-Provence will be especially lively come July.

Photo by Billie Cohen

3. Aix-en-Provence, France

July is great for: an affordable, world-class dose of classical music.

Vive La France, indeed. Why not spend Bastille Day in Provence this year, an alternative to our own Independence Day with a little extra je ne sais quoi? Of course, there are the usual fireworks and celebrations—we’d suggest learning the words to “La Marseillaise” in advance—but the 75th Festival International d’Art Lyrique is also happening in Aix-en-Provence, which runs from July 4 to 24.

This is a world-class celebration of classical music, with a heavy emphasis on opera: Performances this year will include Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte, Kurt Weill’s Threepenny Opera. and Verdi’s Otello. It’s determinedly affordable and egalitarian, since the event is state funded, with tickets for performances starting at €37.

Be sure to tour some local vineyards, too: The wine from Maison Aix—think AIX in large letters on the label—is a familiar sight stateside, and the producer is the largest in the region. To wrangle VIP access to less well-known spots, though, consider working on an itinerary with a travel specialist like Red Savannah with deep connections in the region.

Where to stay

Book now: Mas Michel

The seven-bedroom Mas Michel villa sits on a 50-acre vineyard, with space divided between a main house and a small cottage next door—the ideal place to hole up with some locally produced rosé on a balmy summer evening.

How to get there

Nice is the easiest international hub to head to Provence—try the all-biz bargain carrier La Compagnie for a surprisingly affordable, lie-flat option from New York City. It’s a two-hour drive from there up to Aix.

Lake Coeur d’Alene is one of the biggest draws to Coeur d’Alene, the largest city in North Idaho.

Photo by Kirk Fisher/Shutterstock

4. Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

July is great for: getting out on a lesser trafficked lake.

Where better to spend July 4th than lakeside? The 25-mile-long namesake for this northern Idaho town is an unexpected, outdoorsy delight, with more than 135 miles of shoreline and extra long days to enjoy it this month—the sun sets close to 9 p.m. in July.

The Bands on the Boats summer cruise series features local bands on floating barges throughout July and August, while the best swimming spots are either Sanders or City beaches. Life here centers on the water so much that the local golf course even has a so-called floating green: Tee up here and take the course’s mahogany boat across to the 14th hole, which changes position regularly using an underwater cable system to keep players on their toes. Come to fish on the lake, too. The Chinook salmon are a standout, but also expect to catch trout, bass, and northern pike.

Away from the water there’s Brewfest, where local breweries offer a chance to sample their tipples on July 8. There’s also Silverwood, the local theme park with more than 70 rides, including the Corkscrew. When it was built in 1975, it was the first modern roller coaster to tip its riders upside down.

Where to stay

Book now: One Lakeside

The two-year-old, 29-room One Lakeside has spacious, apartment-sized suites with full kitchens and washer-dryers—by far the most appealing new lodging option in town.

How to get there

The best airport is across state lines: Spokane in Washington, just 40 minutes’ drive away. It has nonstop service to 18 different U.S. cities, including Salt Lake City, Phoenix, and Atlanta.

If you join those wearing costumes, make sure to pack something stretchy to wear.

Photo by Steady Hand/Shutterstock

5. San Diego, California

July is great for: indulging your inner nerd

From July 19 to 23 this year, cosplay’s spiritual home returns to San Diego: the original, and still largest, Comic-Con, which first took place here in 1970. Last year, more than 135,000 people attended the event, canceled due to COVID-19 for the previous two years; expect this year’s number to more than match that tally.

There are look- and sound-alike fests around the country and the world—though SDCC has threatened legal action against many imposters—but the appeal of this OG fanfest is its location, only a few hours from the heart of Hollywood. The convenience for A-listers to make career-goosing public appearances here is obvious, and it’s become an increasingly starry confab and an unparalleled launchpad for genre films above all: Remember when the Avengers assembled here for the first time, two years before the namesake movie?

Last year’s panels included one with the cast of breakout TV comedy Abbott Elementary and a spoiler-heavy preview of Marvel’s slate with studio honcho Kevin Feige. Likewise, this year’s lineup won’t disappoint; it includes the cast and creators of Disney’s The Proud Family and Dexter’s Laboratory creator Genndy Tartakovsky.

Where to stay

Book now: Kimpton Alma hotel

The 211-room Kimpton hotel in the downtown Gaslamp Quarter was once part of its Palomar mini-chain but has just reopened with a new name, the Alma, and a snazzier decorative scheme that draws on classic Mexican textiles.

How to get there

There are direct services to SAN from many airports, including Albuquerque on Southwest and San Luis Obispo on Alaska Airlines.

The small fishing village of Klitmøller is a destination for wetsuit-wearing surfers too.

Photo by Frank Bach/Shutterstock

6. North Jutland, Denmark

July is great for: hitting the surf (and some museums) in an unlikely locale.

The Alvar Aalto–designed Kunsten Museum of Modern Art has long been the main draw to the onetime industrial hub of Aalborg, in northern Denmark. Now, though, there’s an intriguing new museum that examines the Cold War period of Europe, the REGAN Vest, which opened in February. It’s housed in a nuclear bunker 200 feet underground in the middle of the Rold Forest; it was originally built to house 350 Danish VIPs, including the monarch, in the event of a nuclear war. For four decades, the government denied the existence of the structure, artfully concealed behind an everyday brick house. Today, visitors can tour the bunker itself and explore the newly built museum above ground; it explores the tensions between Russia and western Europe—a topic that’s depressingly timely once again.

Head over to Klitmøller (aka Cold Hawai‘i) on the west coast—a 90-minute drive—to tackle some impressive swells, created thanks to a geographical anomaly: Northern storms pass directly over the beach here, creating Denmark’s prime surfing locale, with more than 30 designated spots. Note that even in summer, though, the waters around the fishing village remain icy cold, so make sure to pack an extra-thick wet suit.

Where to stay

Book now: Pier 5 Hotel

Perch on the waterfront in Aalborg at the newly renovated Pier 5 Hotel: its 154 rooms have just undergone a midcentury-style refresh, with dark walls and mod wooden furniture.

How to get there

It’s easier than ever: As of April 2023, Copenhagen-based SAS airlines launched a new direct route from Newark to Aalborg, which will run throughout the summer season.

Hvar, Croatia, is known for its crafts and cobblestone streets.

Photo by Ikonya/Shutterstock

7. Hvar, Croatia

July is great for: a coastal counterpart to the crowded Med.

Hvar is often eclipsed among foreign visitors by Games of Thrones–bolstered Dubrovnik, but Croatians cherish this breezy, historic island of cobblestone streets and UNESCO-endorsed heritage.

Hvar is a charmingly retro getaway miles from the cookie-cutter waterfronts of the nearby Mediterranean. Come July 14-15 for its Lavender Festival, which takes place over two days in the tiny, 14th-century village of Velo Grablje. The community once produced the herb en masse for consumption along the Dalmatian Coast; expect everything from a craft fair to dry stone-walling workshops, as well as the chance to watch oil being extracted from the freshly harvested stems of flowers.

Another thing to look out for while on the island is aloe lace, an ethereal riff on the classic lace made throughout Croatia; local nuns weave it from the plant’s stringy leaves.

Where to stay: Riva Marina Hvar Hotel

Book now: Riva Marina Hvar Hotel

The 100-room Riva Marina reopened last year after a gut renovation, intended better to suggest its perch right on the Adriatic Coast in the heart of Hvar’s Old Town. Think hammocks, swaying palm trees, and private terraces.

How to get to Hvar

United Airlines is running a seasonal direct flight four times weekly from Newark to Croatia’s coast in Dubrovnik; hop a short ferry from there to Hvar.

Expect plenty of food booths, artisan items, and rodeo events at the Calgary Stampede.

Photo by Wirestock Creators/Shutterstock

8. Calgary, Canada

July is great for: a trip back in time to the Wild West.

For 10 days this month, Calgary is the rodeo capital of the world: It hosts the Calgary Stampede from July 7-16 2023. Think of this as a celebration of every aspect of rodeo culture—ranching has been central to Alberta’s life and economy since a cattle breeding herd was brought here by a pair of Methodist ministers in the 1870s.

Pitbull will kick off the festival with a performance at Saddledome, and the world’s largest outdoor rodeo will take place at GMC Stadium. Programming will ensure that the Indigenous stories of this region aren’t overlooked. Powwow in that same site will feature competitive dancing, drumming and singing, and the Indian Village here will allow visitors to meet with the five nations native to southern Alberta, and explore their cultures via 26 different tepees. Also note: July 1 is Canada Day.

Where to stay

Book now: The Dorian

The Dorian is a 137-room boutique hotel, named after Oscar Wilde’s most famous creation and with nods to the notorious British author (who never made it quite this far west on his 1882 North American tour)—from a Victorian-style Earl Grey gin to the 27th-floor restaurant, named in his honor.

How to get there

Washington, D.C .is the latest U.S. gateway to connect nonstop to Calgary, starting this summer; there is also service from Phoenix, Denver, and Las Vegas, among others.

Hurricane Ridge Road is a great drive for views of Olympic National Park.

Photo by Georg Eiermann/Unsplash

9. Olympic Peninsula, Washington

July is great for: the ultimate Pacific Northwest road trip.

Summer is prime road trip season, and consider the Olympic Peninsula as an appealing route for a few days’ driving in July. Sequim on the northeast coast claims to be the “Lavender Capital of North America” and spends a long weekend staking its claim this month with a festival this month, starting on July 21. Come to tour local farms, like Cedarbrook, the oldest in Washington State, and to taste all sorts of lavender-infused goodies at the fair—lavender ice cream, anyone?

Head over to Port Townsend, 40 minutes east, after that weekend for its annual Centrum Jazz Festival: the seaside village welcomes musicians from around the country to play here for a week-long bash. And under the auspices of a faculty hand-picked by artistic director John Clayton, 200 participants come to finesse their improvisational skills.

Come early in the month: July 7–9 is when the Bluegrass from the Forest Festival takes place in Shelton, a small town on the western edge of Puget Sound. Check this year’s line-up and expect workshops and lots of impromptu music. The Indigenous culture of the region is celebrated from July 14 to 16, during the three-day Quileute Days Festival in what’s now known as La Push, on the west coast, the historic homeland of the Quileute tribe. Events include canoe racing, a traditional salmon bake, and arts and crafts stalls.

Where to stay

Book now: Lake Crescent Lodge

Head into the almost one-million-acre Olympic National Park to stay at Lake Crescent Lodge, a 100-year-old hotel that sits amid mature fir and hemlock trees, right on the namesake blue-green glacially carved lake.

How to get there

SEA is the best starting point to fly in for a road trip: It’s a hub for both Alaska and Delta airlines, which offer services around the region and across the country.

The small island of Bimini hosts a Boating Fling event in July.

Photo by MDV Edwards/Shutterstock

10. The Bahamas

July is great for: an alternative Independence Day.

Come celebrate an alternative Independence Day this month in this Caribbean Island nation, which celebrates exactly 50 years of splitting from British colonial rule on July 10 this year. It will ensure that this year’s celebrations are larger than ever, including the National Float Parade and Bahama Rock, which spotlights Bahamian music and is headlined by the Grammy award–winning Baha Men.

For the first 10 days of the month, the country also revels in parties and parades, the peak of which is the summer iteration of Junkanoo, a Bahamian fiesta with more than a whiff of Mardi Gras; expect lots of dancing to music that’s heavy on cowbells, goatskin drums, and brass. More well known as a Christmas period bash, it’s also held here over Independence Day; the biggest such bash is in downtown Nassau.

Where to stay

Book now: Baha Mar

The Baha Mar complex has a roster of different hotels on site, from the ultra-luxe Rosewood to the party-centric SLS or the Grand Hyatt, where the two-bedroom suites are a great deal for a group. Don’t miss the near-vertical waterslides at the park.

How to get there

Nassau, the main airport for the country, has direct flights from almost every major U.S. hub airport.

Mark Ellwood British-born, New York–based Mark Ellwood has lived out of a suitcase for most of his life. He is editor-at-large for luxury bible Robb Report and columnist for Bloomberg Luxury. Recent stories have led him to hang out with China’s trendsetters in Chengdu and learn fireside raps from cowboy poets in Wyoming.