With school out and summer vacation in full swing for the kids, July is a prime time for family vacations. But July is also the month when all of the most popular places to go with kids are practically bursting at the seams with tourists. So when the mercury rises, your best bet is to either find ways to avoid the crowds at the usual family vacation spots or get off the beaten path altogether at a less-visited summer destination.
Instead of the usual theme parks, water parks and family beach destinations, the best places to visit in July tend to be places where there are plenty of things to do away from the crowds.
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These also tend to be spots where you can find deals on hotels, vacation rentals, car rentals and flights – even during the summer months, although you may need to be flexible with your vacation days to get the best prices and availability.
From Anchorage to Aruba, here are the best places to visit in July for a family vacation that’s heavy on fun but light (or at least lighter) on crowds.
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1. Anchorage, Alaska
Thanks to sunny days (up to 18 hours of sunshine), pleasant temperatures in the 60-70℉ range and dazzling wildflowers on full display, July is the most popular time to visit Anchorage. Fortunately, you don’t have to work very hard to escape the city’s cruise line crowds. See the whole city on a small-group Anchorage Trolley Tour, picnic amid the natural splendor and hiking trails of Kincaid Park, enjoy the native plants in bloom at the Anchorage Botanical Garden or get a summer-only, behind-the-scenes peek at the Alaska Zoo Memorial Day through Labor Day.
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Outside the city, hop aboard the Alaska Railroad’s Glacier Discovery train for a full day of sightseeing and unique stops, such as Spencer Lake and its incredible view of Spencer Glacier. And budding conservationists will be thrilled with a visit to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, home to 200 acres of natural habitats for orphaned or injured animals, including bears, bald eagles, foxes, reindeer and moose.
2. Park City, Utah
It may be best known for its snow sports, Olympic history and the Sundance Film Festival in the winter months, but savvy travelers know that summer is an equally great time to visit the mountain town of Park City. The months of June, July and August see smaller crowds, plenty of outdoor activities and significantly lower lodging prices. July is a particularly great time to visit thanks to comfortable average highs in the 70s during the day and 50s in the evenings.
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Some not-to-miss-warm-weather activities include a hot air balloon ride, horseback riding along the area’s scenic paths, walking or biking among the wildflowers on the Union Pacific Rail Trail, river rafting or tubing on the Weber River, or simply strolling down the historic Main Street with its local boutiques, restaurants and art galleries. The Utah Olympic Park offers plenty to do in the summer, too, such as bobsledding, zip-lining, extreme tubing, alpine sliding and all-star freestyle shows.
Park City is also one of the best places to visit in July for its entertaining and kid-friendly events, including the Park Silly Sunday Market, an open-air farmer’s and artist’s market and free music at the Newpark Resort Amphitheater on Thursday nights.
3. Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania
While the Pocono Mountains (the Poconos) are a family-friendly destination year-round, there’s no better time to visit with kids than the summer. July boasts the warmest weather in the mountains with average temperatures reaching the upper 70s, so it’s warm but not sweltering. And while July is a popular time for visitors, you can still find space to spread out, especially if you’re an active family looking to get outdoors.
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A veritable playground for outdoor enthusiasts, there’s no shortage of places to hike, bike, swim, boat, fish, kayak, horseback ride, or zip-line in the Poconos. One not-to-miss stop includes the eight waterfalls of Bushkill Falls, known as the “Niagara of Pennsylvania.” Another is Camelbeach Outdoor Waterpark, the state’s largest, and its sister property Aquatopia, one of the best indoor water parks in the country. And animal-loving kids will enjoy Claws and Paws Wild Animal Park and “zoo in the woods” that’s home to more than 100 varieties of animals.
To learn more about the Poconos’ rich history, take a Pocono Day Tripper open-air historic trolley ride to the town of Delaware Water Gap, the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and the surrounding areas.
Known for its pristine beaches, all-inclusive resorts and prime location south of the Hurricane Belt, the island of Aruba is a fabulous place to take the kids any time of the year. But for a truly sun-soaked Caribbean vacation without any crowds, head there in July when visitor numbers drop and the average highs reach 90 degrees. You’ll save big on lodging and won’t need to compete for a spot at any of the island’s beautiful Caribbean beaches.
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Spanning just 70 miles, Aruba may be small, but it is big on family-friendly activities, too. For animal lovers, the island offers a variety of ways to interact with furry and not-so-furry friends, including the Butterfly Farm, Aruba Ostrich Farm, Philip’s Animal Garden and Donkey Sanctuary Aruba. Or thrill the kids with a quick ferry ride to De Palm Island for a deep dive into fun with its water park, snorkel tours, underwater helmet walk, body drop slides and banana boat rides.
Tour different parts of Aruba by horseback, jeep, ATV, trolley, or on foot, or get a glimpse of underwater life snorkeling along Arashi Beach. Take in the Caribbean’s largest shipwreck aboard the Seaworld Explorer Semi-Submarine without ever having to get wet. Or, if you prefer to go deeper, take a plunge inside the Aruba Atlantis Submarine Expedition, which goes 130 feet below the waves to explore the Barcadera Reef and other shipwrecks.
5. Costa Rica
Tropical Costa Rica sees a drop in tourism during its rainy season from May through November, which means lower prices on everything from flights to all-inclusive resorts in Costa Rica. The sweet spot for visiting during this period is July, when there’s typically a dip in rainfall that translates to more time to explore the gorgeous greenery of the rainforest.
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Make time on your Costa Rica family vacation to visit the country’s smallest national park, Manuel Antonio Park, and discover the unique biodiversity among its rainforest, beaches, and coral reefs. (Plus, it’s the best place to see sloths.) Other kid-friendly things to do in Costa Rica include the Arenal Hanging Bridges; getting a taste of the chocolate-making process on the Don Olivo Chocolate Tour; thrilling to the adrenaline rush of an Arenal Ecoglide Park canopy tour; and enjoying the stress-relieving power of the thermal water pools at the Baldi Hot Springs (kids will love the extreme water slides also on site).
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