Heat “dome” descends on mid atlantic region: what are the coolest places to visit this summer?

What’s hot for summer? Well, everywhere. The predicted heat index for Friday in Washington, D.C. is a miserable 116 degrees. According to ABC News, 22 people have already died as a result of this natural phenomenon and this temperature spike could last weeks.

Sitting in the air conditioning all summer just won’t do.

Thankfully for us, the folks over at MyWeather.com have come up with the seven “coolest” cities to visit this summer. These domestic cities have average July high temperatures of 81 degrees and below, as well as an array of attractions, activities and other amenities that make them desirable vacation spots.

Breckenridge, Colorado – Average July High: 73 Degrees F

What’s cool about it: This winter wonderland is more than just a ski town boasting 300 days of sunshine annually with activities to keep you busy all year long. Breckenridge Fun Park features scenic gondola and ski lift rides – two miles high – along with plenty of hiking, whitewater rafting, and picturesque views of the Continental Divide.

[Flickr via Ed Yourdon]

Upper Peninsula, Michigan – Average July High: 73 Degrees F
What’s cool about it: With more than 150 waterfalls, 40 lighthouses, and a terrain that’s perfect for camping, boating, fishing and other outdoor activities, Upper Peninsula boasts 1,700 miles of shoreline along three of the nation’s five Great Lakes. Want to be adventurous? Try taking a glass-bottom shipwreck boat tour.

San Francisco, California – Average July High: 68 Degrees F
What’s cool about it: Besides being home to Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Ghirardelli Chocolate Co., San Francisco has the coolest daily summer temperatures among major U.S. cities. In fact, a popular quote (incorrectly attributed to Mark Twain) notes: “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” While wine country and Fisherman’s Wharf are popular tourist destinations, the Monterey peninsula is a less traveled side trip. Though it may be summer, be sure to bring plenty of layers!

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – Average July High: 81 Degrees F
What’s cool about it: Breathtaking views, national park access and a whitewater rafting mecca – that’s Jackson Hole. If a leisurely float down the river is more your speed, you can do that, too. Grand Teton and Yellowstone Park offer great hiking, climbing and water activities, with unparalleled photo opportunities. Wyoming‘s daytime temperatures run in the 70s and 80s in the summer, but the air cools quickly after sundown and humidity is low year-round.

Portland, Maine – Average July High: 79 Degrees F
What’s cool about it: With the Atlantic coast and Appalachian Mountains only a 45-minute drive apart, Portland has the best of both worlds. There’s also fine cuisine in between as Bon Appetit recently dubbed Portland the “Foodiest Small Town in America.” With tours to help you sample culinary delights by foot or by trolley, Maine‘s seaside climate creates cool breezes and temperatures which are comfortable and with low humidity all summer long.

Olympic National Park, Washington – Average July High: 73 Degrees F
What’s cool about it: Located on Washington‘s Olympic Peninsula, this million-acre national park encompasses three major ecosystems ranging from rain forest to snow-topped mountain peaks. Here you can walk, backpack, camp, or fish, as well as participate in one of the many ranger-led programs. Summers are fair and warm with highs between 65-75 degrees. Little rain falls during the summer months, although the low valleys are foggy in the morning.

Chena Hot Springs Resort, Alaska – Average July High: 73 Degrees F
What’s cool about it: Located 60 miles from Fairbanks, Chena Hot Springs features legendary healing mineral waters, a renewable energy tour, and a working dog mushing kennel. To keep cool you can also visit the Aurora Ice Museum. Maintained by world ice art champions Steve and Heather Brice, the museum began as the only ice hotel in the Americas. Summer days are breezy, dry and warm – perfect for boating, fishing, and other outdoor activities. The area has less than 12 inches of annual rainfall.
Where did they miss? Is your hometown or favorite vacation spot a “cool” place to go this summer? Leave suggestions for heat-ravaged mid-atlantans in the comments below.

Photo of the day (8.12.2010)

We’re in the dog days of summer, with hot temperatures and high levels of humidity making it hard to do more than eat ice cream, seek air conditioning, and think of fall weather. While there’s less than a month left in summer, and pretty soon we’ll be complaining about winter, the sticky August heat can feel downright oppressive.

That’s why this photo by Flickr user t3mujin taken in Lisbon, Portugal looks so inviting. The cool colors, hazy sky and water below provides some virtual heat relief. It’s tempting to jump right off the dock or at least enjoy the breeze alongside the fishermen.

Do you have a refreshing travel photo? Upload it to Gadling’s Flickr group and we might use it for a future Photo of the Day.

Ramadan begins in the Muslim world: a report from Turkey

Yesterday was the first day of Ramadan (or Ramazan, as it is called in Turkey), a month-long holiday in the Islamic faith of fasting, prayer, and reflection. For observant Muslims, eating, drinking, smoking, and sexual activity is prohibited from dawn to dusk for 30 days. The elderly, ill, pregnant and nursing mothers, as well as (interestingly) menstruating women are excused. Before dawn, drummers traditionally walk the streets to wake people up to eat a last meal before the fast begins. At the end of the day, the fast is broken with an iftar meal which usually involves special pide flat bread in Turkey.

While many Westerners choose to avoid travel to Muslim countries during Ramadan due to the awkwardness of eating during the day, the nights can be a fun and fascinating time to observe the celebrations and feasts. As Turkey is a fairly liberal country and Istanbul particularly secular, I was curious to see how behavior would change in the city, particularly during the current heatwave. The night before Ramazan began, I headed to the supermarket to stock up on provisions, not wanting to flaunt my food and drink purchases (including very un-Muslim wine and bacon) while others were fasting. While it wasn’t like the pre-blizzard rush I expected, I did spot quite a few Muslims carb-loading on pasta, cookies, and baked goods in preparation for the fast.The first morning of Ramazan, I followed tweets from my fellow Istanbulites reporting on the drummers who woke them pre-dawn but they weren’t heard in my neighborhood. Outside on my street of fabric wholesale stores, it was tea-drinking, chain-smoking, kebab-eating business as usual. Heading down to posh Nişantaşı, the Soho of Istanbul, shop girls still smoked outside designer boutiques and sidewalk cafes were busy as ever. I spotted a few Turkish workmen lying languidly on the grass in Maçka Park, though whether their fatigue was due to fasting or the unbearable humidity is debatable. Hopping on the (blissfully air-conditioned) tram to tourist mecca Sultanahmet, visitors brandished water bottles and crowded outside restaurants as ever, but the usual touts outside the Blue Mosque were hard to find, as were any signs of Ramazan being observed. Slightly different was the waterfront Eminönü area where the Galata Bridge crosses the Golden Horn; the usual dozens of fishermen where cut down to a handful on either side and the plethora of street food vendors serving the thousands of ferry commuters were fewer.

That evening near Taksim Square, hardly any restaurants had closed and even the fasting waiters seemed good-natured about serving customers. Just before sunset, lines started to form outside bakeries selling pide, and at the dot of 8:20pm, restaurant tables quickly filled up and several waiters sat inside and ate ravenously. The mood was convivial and festival-like on the streets, and special concerts and events are put on nightly throughout the month. This month’s English-language Time Out Istanbul provides a guide to Ramadan as well as a round-up of restaurants serving iftar feasts, but curiously, almost all of them are at Western chain hotels.

While it’s hard to tell if people are fasting or just not indulging at the moment, here in Istanbul, life goes on during Ramazan. As the days go on, I expect to notice more bad moods and short tempers, particularly with the already slightly deranged taxi drivers craving their nicotine and caffeine fixes. Little will change for a non-Muslim traveler during Ramazan, particularly in tourist areas, but it’s still polite to be discreet about eating and drinking in public as a courtesy to those fasting. I look forward to Şeker Bayramı (Sweets Festival) next month, the three-day holiday marking the end of Ramazan, and the equivalent of Christmas or Hanukkah, with a little bit of Halloween thrown in. During the holiday, children go door to door and get offered candies and presents, Turkish people visit with family, and everyone drinks a lot of tea.

Any other travelers experiencing Ramadan this month? Tell us about your experience in the comments.

[Photo credit: Flickr user laszlo-photo]

Moscow Heat Wave

Now Moscow isn’t exactly the place to hit the beach these days, but it’s interesting to note that, today, Moscow hit an all-time high winter temperature with a whopping 47.48 degrees F.

I don’t think they’ll be whipping out the sunscreen, but this is a surprise, considering how long official temperature records goes back: 1879. And this compares with a December average high temp of 27 F.

Of course, this comes on the back of last year’s near-record cold snap, when temps hit as low as -23.8 F (January 19, 2006), coming within a degree of record cold.

Even more surprising? This weekend may get even warmer. But don’t feel too bad for the heat-plagued Russians, though: they can always cool off in Vostok, Russia, where the record world low temp of -128.6 F was recorded back in 1983.