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20 Ways To Have The Best Summer Ever

Before you know it, summer will be over. Here, how to make the most of the sunny season from coast to coast with buzzy new rooftop bars, slick hotel pools, free concert series, and more. Cheers to your best summer yet!

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Hit a cool rooftop bar

You can’t go wrong with booze and views. And this summer, a handful of open-sky newcomers are taking al fresco sips to a whole new level (literally). On your hitlist: Noyane, Conrad Chicago’s new rooftop hang offering sushi, sake, and commanding views of the Magnificent Mile from 21 storeys up. For Insta-worthy views of another famous American landmark—this time, Los Angeles’ Hollywood Sign—you’ll want to stop by the sexy rooftop lounge Filifera, which has playful cocktails (order the Passion Fruit Fizz, with bourbon, passion fruit, aqua faba, and wild fennel flower) and breathtaking views of the Hollywood Hills and surrounding area. In the Big Apple, get your drink on at the buzzy 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge. The sprawling rooftop debuted over Memorial weekend complete with a boomerang-shaped plunge pool, plush chaise lounges, and a wraparound terrace with spot-on views of the waterfront, Statue of Liberty, and One World Trade.

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Photos courtesy of Outside Lands, Panorama Music Festival

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Sing (and dance) your heart out at a music fest

There’s just something about the warmer weather that makes us want to up and dance—and what better way to feed that energy than singing along to one of your favorite bands in the company of your besties? Music festivals are summer’s way of saying, “We got you.” Chicago puts on two acts: Pitchfork (July 14-16), a curated (and decidedly smaller) show combining alternative rock, dance, and experimental artists, indulges the in-the-know indie crowd—past and present acts include LCD Soundsystem, A Tribe Called Quest, and Solange. Then, of course, there’s Lollapalooza (August 3-6), whose headliners this year include Arcade Fire, The Killers, Muse, and Blink 182. 2017 marks the 10th anniversary of San Fran’s Outside Lands (August 11-13), another indie fest held in Golden Gate Park. If you were lucky to nab tickets this year, you’re in for jam sessions with Lorde, Metallica, and The Who. Looking for something a little more low-key? The Newport Jazz Festival (August 4-6), which overlooks the harbor, has been in business since 1954 and has played host to some seriously big names—we’re talking Miles Davis and Billie Holiday. On this year’s lineup: Andra Day and The Roots.

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Tuck into the season's freshest flavors

You ate microwaved leftovers all winter long. Now that it’s summer, it’s time to tuck into some of the season’s freshest, most exciting new flavors. At Henley, a new modern American brasserie in Nashville’s hip Aertson Hotel, James Bear Award-winning chef RJ Cooper whips up succulent seafood—soft shell crab, sunburst trout, monkfish cheeks—and hearty meats (think: 60-day dried rib cap with bone marrow) in a stylish space done up with brass fixtures and leather booths. Craving Mexican? Try Tallula’s, a casual, beach-adjacent spot just off the PCH in Santa Monica. There, it’s all about soulful Mexican fare with a SoCal edge: braised barbacoa, mole-slathered organic chicken, grilled fish tacos with malt aioli, and turkey enchiladas with black recado-quinoa sauce. In New York, you’ll want to secure advance reservations for new Brooklyn hotspot Cecconi’s, where modern day Italian classics (try the himachi crudo with citrus and Sicilian pistachio) come with waterfront views of the Manhattan skyline.

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Bottom photo by Etienne Frossard, top photos courtesy of Mr. C Beverly Hills, Los Angeles Philharmonic Association

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Pass the popcorn during an outdoor movie

$6 for a bottle of water? There’s no way around it: movie theaters these days are money pits. Not to mention that, blissful air-conditioning aside, they keep you cooped up for hours in a dark room. Our favorite alternative: catching a flick alfresco. NYC is well-known for projecting the year’s best releases—and beloved oldies—on big screens in some of its most iconic public spaces. This summer, head to the Intrepid to watch science-themed titles like The Martian and Back to the Future, to Brooklyn Bridge Park for old and new epics like Casablanca and The Lego Movie, or to Bryant Park for ageless classics like North by Northwest and Dirty Dancing. Over in star-studded Los Angeles, it’s all about upping your cinematic knowledge game. Catch Jaws or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off on the roof at Mr. C Beverly Hills or follow the crowds to the Hollywood Bowl to hear the Los Angeles Philharmonic synchronize live soundtracks to Raiders of the Lost Ark and Singin’ in the Rain. Feeling nostalgic? That American tradition—the drive-in theater—is sadly being phased out, but some spots are still holding strong. At Cape Cod’s retro Wellfleet Drive-In Theater, double features are shown on a 100-foot screen through Labor Day. There's also a mini-golf course and old-fashioned Dairy Bar, where you can pick up some soft-serve ice cream or root beer floats before the show.

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Have a pool party

Can’t afford a beach escape? Cool off on the cheap by taking a dip in a hotel pool. There are plenty of properties that offer day pool passes to non-guests at surprisingly wallet-friendly prices—like the Revere Hotel Boston Common, where access to the hotel’s sprawling rooftop pool deck costs only $30 on weekends. And in New York, you can dive into the glass-bottomed pool at Dream Downtown for $65, Monday through Friday from 11am to 5pm. Last but not least, the sceney pool at The Standard Hollywood, where in addition to a glittering pool covered in multi-colored floats, there’s also blue AstroTurf, Ping-Pong, and some of the best people watching in LA. (Prices depend on availability.)

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Clockwise from top: courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens; Tom Powel Imaging; James Ewing, Public Art Fund, NY

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Glimpse some outdoor art

Don’t want to spend your summer inside a dark, air-conditioned museum? We don’t blame you. Luckily, there’s an easier way to get your culture fix this summer: hit up an outdoor art exhibit. A few notable East Coast mentions include Jeff Koons’s 45-foot Seated Ballerina sculpture in Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center; Anish Kapoor’s Descension, a giant pool of continuously spiraling water in Brooklyn Bridge Park; and special exhibition David Smith: The White Sculptures at Storm King Art Center. If your summer travels take you to Denver, don’t miss the “Calder: Monumental” show at Denver Botanic Gardens, which showcases eight, large-scale pieces by modern art icon Alexander Calder.

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Check out the season's hottest hotels

This summer, we’re all about the prettiest new properties that put the beach within reach. Everyone is talking about the new Loren at Pink Beach, the first-new build hotel to hit Bermuda in a decade. Why the hype? It’s not your typical Bermudan sleep: the island’s traditional pastels and gingerbread trim have been traded for clean lines and dramatic elements of design, from the glass spiral staircase in the lobby to mixed-media pieces by artists like Vik Muniz. (The stretch of pink-sand beach it sits on is just as easy on the eyes.) Hotel junkies are also aflutter about California’s new 16-room Nobu Ryokan Malibu, which, when it opened in June, finally—finally—gave Malibu the celeb-studded coastal town the hotel caché it deserves. Room choices are between sweeping water views or private garden patios. A dip in the teak Japanese soaking tub lit by an overhead skylight? Don’t mind if we do! Back on the east coast, New York’s 11 Howard is still on style-setters’ radars this summer thanks to their Surf and Stay package, which combines goodies like an in-room amenity and $100 gift card to lifestyle brand Saturdays NYC’s flagship with a professional surf lesson at the Rockaways.

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Top right photos by Michelle Walker

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Wine and dine in style

Napa’s got some new sights to check off the list. Liana Estates, which debuted last fall, is set on 100 rolling vineyard acres in Carneros and, along with a living room-style tasting space, entertains with retro lawn games like bocce and corn hole. This summer, don’t miss their all-new Garden Graze Tastings (think barbecue-themed bites and wine pairings), which take place every Saturday on the deck. After you’ve had your fill, bunk down in St. Helena at Las Alcobas, whose Yabu Pushelberg–designed rooms feature outdoor terraces with fireplaces and whose spa has its own aromatherapy bar. While you’re still west, head up to Oregon’s Willamette Valley, hailed as the “anti-Napa” for its small-time wineries and self-taught harvesters. While the region’s 500+ wineries are difficult to narrow down, Sokol Blosser stands out for its sustainable, organic farming methods and excellent Pinot Noirs and Rieslings. Their third annual Summer House Party (July 22) is the place to be for carnival-style games (fortune tellers; magicians), live music, and gourmet eats. Over on the east coast, New England winos are increasingly trading the North Fork for New York’s Finger Lakes. The 21st iteration of the Finger Lakes Wine Festival (July 14-16) kicks off this weekend with more than 90 wineries representing the state of New York—not to mention a roster of fun-filled events including fireworks, pace-car races, and a toga contest.

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Get back to nature in a national park

America’s most beautiful landscapes are high on bucket lists thanks to the National Park Service’s centennial last year. There’s no time like the present to venture beyond the pool—and your own backyard—for some serious back-to-nature thrills. Zion, Yellowstone, and the like are all extremely popular in the summer months, when families take advantage of vacation time, but even the lesser-known parks pack just as much visual punch. While snow still lingers through June in Crater Lake, Oregon, all roads and trails become fully operational from July through September. Take a drive to Rim Village for spectacular views of the caldera lake. Isle Royale, in Michigan, is only open from May through September each year, and is only accessible by boat, making it that much more special to see. Whether you’re there to fish, canoe, or try your luck at spotting the Northern Lights, there’s something for every outdoorsmen. Big into birthdays? Denali rings in its 100th this year and is holding a few celebratory events throughout the season. As light pollution becomes more and more rampant, the stargazing trend has skyrocketed. Acadia’s annual Night Sky Festival (September 21-24) gathers professional and recreational stargazers for workshops, lectures, and hands-on experiences. Of course, don’t forget to mark your calendars for August 25, when every park waives its entrance fees.

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Hike, bike, and stretch

After all those burger-loaded backyard barbecues, spontaneous ice cream runs, and endless glasses of rosé, your beach bod might be in dire need of some fine-tuning. Why not add some travel to your exercise sesh? The Wanderlust Yoga Festival, known for setting up camp in gorgeous natural settings, takes place this summer in stunning North Lake Tahoe (July 20-23). On the itinerary: Vinyasa yoga sessions, paddle boarding, mid-mountain meditations, sunset hikes, late-night concerts beneath the stars, and farm-to-table dinners that help you refuel for another day of deep breathing. For something a little less immersive, pick your poison from any of 40 outdoor fitness classes offered in Meatpacking District’s 14th Street Park, led by studios like Lululemon and Exhale (Tuesday nights through August 23). These 45-minute “Sweat Sessions,” which run the gamut from yoga to boxing to boot camp and include both snacks and sips, get your heart rate up and your stress levels way down.

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Hit ALL the craft/art/food markets

Festivals are one of the things we look forward to most each summer; whether they specialize in carb-centric fair foods, handmade ceramics, or vintage antiques, we’ll be there. On Fridays April through August, Washington DC’s Bullpen (the Nationals’ pre- and post-game fairgrounds area) hosts Truckeroo, a food truck festival with live music, family-friendly games, and a whole lot to eat. Nibble on smoked meats from the BBQ Bus, go for Baja-style tacos at Surfside, or pretend you’re in New England at the Red Hook Lobster Pound. Looking to shop? From East Coast to West (and in London), Renegade Craft Fair champions indie-craft producers by showcasing their various handmade wares (think: jewelry, candles, totes, and furniture). In the heart of NYC’s Lower East Side, the Hester Street Fair overflows with visitors on Saturdays and Sundays April through October. This season, drop by for their iced coffee competition, LES talent show, and homebrew Octoberfest.

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Clockwise from top left: Courtesy of Louise Alexander Gallery; The Museum of Modern Art; Jonathan Muzikar

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Keep the creative juices flowing

Summer brain drain’s a thing—and not just for kids. Keep up the learning by checking out the season’s coolest new museum exhibits. In Fort Worth, Texas, there are more than 150 Polaroid images on display at the Amon Carter Museum of Art, including those by David Hockney, Andy Warhol and Barbara Crane. Admission is free, and the exhibit also includes rare artifacts (think 3D photographs and Spectra cameras) from the Polaroid Corporation archives. At the Detroit Institute of Arts, the “Art of Rebellion” will explore black identity and civil rights through 25 paintings, sculptures, installations, and photographs made by African-American artist collectives of the 1960s and ‘70s. Over at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, there’s a retrospective of American painter and graphic artist Robert Rauschenberg through September 17. Expect drawings, prints, photographs, recordings, and (spoiler alert!) a swimming pool-sized vat of bubbling Bentonite clay.

RELATED: 9 Gorgeous Museum Exhibits

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Hit the sand

We hardly ever need a reason to slap on the sunscreen and hit the beach. But if you’re looking for a little more than just your average regional waves, we’ve scouted some beaches worth traveling to this year. Hawaii is home to many the country’s most beautiful coastlines—some more accessible than others. When it emerged from a multi-million-dollar renovation last year, The Four Seasons Resort Lanai reopened an island once off-limits to travelers seeking more than just a day trip. Bar far the hotel's best asset is its perch alongside Hulupoe Beach, a protected reserve home to sea turtles and spinner dolphins. The hotel provides complimentary snorkel gear along with lounge chairs and towels, so you can soak in the sun and build sand castles to your heart’s content. Speaking of which, back on the mainland, San Diego takes that beloved summer pastime to the next level during the annual U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge (September 1-4). Each year, more than 300 tons of sand are dumped on Broadway Pier, which artists from around the world use to craft mind-bogglingly lifelike sculptures depicting themes like sailors, pirates, and—yes—castles. There’s always something going on in the Florida Keys, down near the gulf. Follow the crowds to Islamorada’s Morada Bay, one of the Keys’ largest private white-sand beaches, during one of its monthly Full Moon Parties (August 5; September 8)—a rollicking event packed with bonfires, live reggae, fireworks, stilt walkers, and sunsets guaranteed to be spectacular. The place you’ll want to stay at is The Moorings, just across the street, where you can immediately hit the sack after a night of revelry.

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Stuff your face at a food festival

Are you a Michelin-hungry gourmand without the wallet to back your habit? July 24th through August 18th, the 25th iteration of NYC Restaurant Week allows diners to score budget-friendly reservations ($29 three-course prix-fixe lunches and $42 dinners) at nearly 400 of the city’s finest establishments, including Café Boulud, The Dutch, and Nougatine at Jean-Georges. For something a little less buttoned-up, the Maine Lobster Festival mixes 20,000 pounds of fresh lobster with parades, live entertainment, cooking contests, and more. Winding its way through 11 cities, starting in NYC and ending in Leesburg, Virginia, the Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival presents 60 beers, 40 bourbons, and a whole lotta BBQ, biscuits, and bluegrass; admission covers a sampling glass so you can sip, sip away.

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Get in on funky new ice cream fads

When temps skyrocket and no amount of AC can save us from summer’s stifling grip, we’re all about indulging in a daily ice cream cone. As we all know, NYC and LA love a good foodie trend, and this summer, charcoal and ube are all the rage. East Coasters head for Soft Swerve on the Lower East Side for cones of Ube Purple Yam while West Coasters make for DTLA’s Little Damage Ice Cream Shop for midnight-black, almond-flavored cones of Almost Charcoal. Fads aside, we’re also always in for a good pun, and that takes us to Mister Dips at Brooklyn’s brand new The William Vale for a boozy strawberry, vanilla wafer, and whipped cream concoction dubbed the Berry Gibbs. In the market to try a couple flavors all at once? August’s 11th annual Austin Ice Cream Festival unites old faves and local newcomers in Fiesta Gardens for a full day of sampling.

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Catch a play

You don't have to be a theatre nerd to experience the singular pleasure of watching a play under a starry sky. And this season's outdoor theatre offerings promise big-name talent and scenic views like we've never seen before. Case in point: at Colorado’s Shakespeare Festival (June 11-August 13), you can catch open-air performances of “The Taming of the Shrew,” “Julius Caesar” and “Henry VI, Part 3” at the Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre, where the stage is set against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains. In New York, The Public Theater at the Delacorte will stage free performances of “Julius Caesar” (with the progressive casting choice of Elizabeth Marvel as Mark Antony), and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream," with Central Park's Belvedere Castle looming in the background. Contemporary theatre more your speed? Check out the ambitious roster of plays at the Contemporary American Theater Festival, the 26-year-old summer gathering of playmakers in the idyllic town of Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

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Sip some suds

Into trying out new ales and IPAs? Forth Worth’s The Collective Brewing Project, has something a little different up their sleeve this summer: Cup O’Beer, a ramen-flavored Sour-Gose brewed with lime, ginger, lemongrass and seaweed-cured sea salt. At the end of July, test out a bevy of craft brews—Belgians, Blondes, Pilsners, Saisons, and more— with Mt. Hood as your backdrop at Portland, Oregon’s 30th annual Oregon Brewers Festival. Late summer, mosey down to the art-centric mountain town of Asheville—also dubbed “Beer City USA”—and you’ll find the 21-year-running Brewgrass Festival which showcases more than 100 regional brewers.

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Tiny pop-up tents and stuffy sleeping bags are now a thing of the past thanks to glamping retreats—luxury camping experiences that lie comfortably at the crossroads of rustic and refined. While US National Park campgrounds usually aren’t anything to write home about, this August, Zion Under Canvas adds a touch of luxe to Utah’s dramatic desertscape with kitted-out tents replete with ensuite bathrooms, leather sofas, and private decks. In the northeast, Maine’s Sandy Pines Campground just unveiled their themed glamping tents in June; pick from twelve different tents including the Nautical Nights with a dramatic oyster shell chandelier, and the Nomad with layered vintage rugs and piles of pillows. Just a two-hour drive out of NYC, Collective Hudson Valley unfolds on Liberty Farms, an organic farm and equestrian center. Bed down in a country-chic tent (think: antler chandeliers, log bed frames, and wool throws) before exploring the boutiques and restaurants in Hudson.

RELATED: Summer 2017's Top Glamping Retreats

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Be a kid again at adult summer camp

In 2017, the age of smartphones and instant access to terrifying world news, we’re all about finding new ways to decompress. Our latest worry-free R&R find comes in the form of sleep-away camp—but for adults. For an exact replica of your childhood summer away (just with beer, this time) head to the Poconos where three days of Cabin Olympics, rope swings, canoeing, dodgeball, and arts and crafts await at Camp Bonfire. Looking for something a little raunchier—a la Wet Hot American Summer, perhaps? Camp No Counselors is perfect for those who like to pair childhood activities—color wars, talent shows, arts ‘n crafts, etc.—with adult privileges like booze-fueled bonfires, DJ-spun parties, and next-morning Bloody Marys. If drinking and sporting don’t speak to you as much as escape the room activities and BYOB box battles, no worries, Epic Nerd Camp is your calling; there, self-professed geeks spend five Sci-Fi-filled days LARPing, learning circus techniques, playing tabletop games, and sharpening their pioneering skills.

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Take advantage of free concert series

If you can’t afford pricey summer festivals like Lollapalooza and Panorama, don’t fret: there are plenty of free music concerts this summer offering acts just as headline-grabbing. In Los Angeles, Pershing Square Downtown Stage will host more than a dozen musical acts, including those by the Wallflowers, Los Lonely Boys, and the b-52’s, as part of the eight-week series. Kicking off July 12, there are Wednesday afternoon concerts with local bands, Saturday headlining concerts, and Friday night movies. In San Francisco, the Stern Grove Festival will celebrate its 80th season with a free 10-week concert series on each Sunday throughout the summer. Highlights include shows by Kool and the Gang, recent Grammy winner Fantastic Negrito, Mavis Staples, and the San Francisco Symphony. The lineup for Chicago’s Millenium Park Summer Concert Series is just as standout, with performances by Drive-By Truckers, Otis Taylor, and Natalie Prass.

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