Sick Of The Heat? 40 Places Where You Can Cool Off

glacier national park Most people look for warm places to visit. I look for cold ones. I live near Washington, D.C., and by mid-July, I’ve had it with the suffocating heat and humidity. I’ve taken escape-the-heat trips almost every summer over the last five years to places like Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Maine and the Pacific Northwest.

The lower the temperature the better as far as I’m concerned, especially this summer, which has been one of the hottest in American history. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, more than 40,000 daily heat records had been obliterated by the Fourth of July. Take a look at the USA Today weather map and you’ll see a sea of depressing deep red all over the country.

If you’re looking to escape the heat, check out these possibilities (with high and low temperatures for July 25 listed) for some immediate relief. And if you know someone like me who sweats like a pig and is always carping about the heat, forward them this list!North America

Cape Breton, Nova Scotia- 71/64- Cape Breton is one of my favorite summer escapes. It has stunning natural beauty, great beaches, whale watching and traditional Celtic music and dances every night of the week in the summer.

Rangeley, Maine– 76/54- The tourist hordes flock to the Maine coast each summer, but if sitting in huge traffic jams and paying $300 a night for a motel room doesn’t appeal to you, try this classic lakefront resort town, which is just 2.5 hours north of Portland, Maine.

Lunenburg, Nova Scotia– 70/59- This enchanting waterfront town has a terrific old town that is a UNESCO World Heritage Sight. With its treasure trove of historic homes and B & B’s, you’d think it would be mobbed with tourists in the summer, but I was there a few years ago in August and it was blissfully quiet.

Twillingate, Newfoundland-71/58- You can actually buy a rustic little vacation home for less than it would cost you to rent a similar place in the Hamptons for a week. This is a delightful, end-of-the-world fishing village where you can watch icebergs float by from May-July. Don’t go to the only Chinese restaurant in town though, it might be the worst food I’ve ever had in my life.

zocalo mexico cityMexico City, Mexico– 73/58-(see photo above) Mexico’s capital gets a bad rap, but I love the place. It’s full of interesting neighborhoods, terrific museums, amazing archaeological treasures and the best public square in North America. Best of all, with an altitude of 7411 feet, the climate is moderate all year round.

Alaskan cruise– (Juneau- 66/50)- According to www.priceline.com, you can book a seven-night Alaskan cruise, passing through Anchorage, Hubbard Glacier, Juneau, Skagway, Icy Strait Point, Ketchikan, The Inside Passage, and Vancouver for as little as $499 per person. Summers’s like this one were made for Alaskan cruises.

Glacier National Park, Montana– 71/43-(see top photo) I visited Glacier in late August two summers ago, and they had snow on the famous Going to the Sun road the week before our visit. Be sure to make a trip out to the Polebridge Mercantile, just outside the park to see one of the most off-the-grid settlements in America.

Vancouver, British Columbia– 76/60- Vancouver is one of the greenest, prettiest cities in North America with terrific natural beauty, great food and a Pacific Rim flare. You might encounter rain, but it won’t be scorching hot.

Seattle, Washington– 79/60- Seattle is one of my favorite American cities, and not just because of its temperate climate. Pike Place Market is one of the best of its kind in the country and the city’s stunning geography, islands, and nearby natural splendor make this a can’t miss mid-summer vacation spot. Google Kurt Cobain’s house and you can make a pilgrimage to the house where the punk icon died.

San Francisco, California– 63/52- The Bay Area can be downright cold in the summer, but I don’t mind. SF is easily the country’s most atmospheric city. A mecca for creative types, this is a great city for walkable neighborhoods, great bookstores and every type of ethnic food imaginable.

San Diego- 71/64- For my taste, San Diego has the best climate in the country. It’s relentlessly sunny but so temperate you don’t even need air conditioning. Great beach towns like La Jolla and Del Mar make this region one of my favorite parts of the country.

Grand Canyon National Park– 78/49- You’ll be sharing the awesome vistas at this majestic site with millions of others, but at least you won’t be baking in 100 degree heat.

Banff National Park, Alberta– 72/47- Banff is spectacular. If you’re looking for a mountain retreat with cool weather, fishing, hiking and mountain biking, look no further.

And here are some other ideas outside North America:

Galway, Ireland– 67/53
York, United Kingdom– 73/58
Isle of Skye, Scotland– 60/53
Brugge, Belgium– 77/61
Copenhagen, Denmark– 74/62
Stockholm, Sweden– 76/61
Yaroslavl, Russia– 78/60
Tallinn, Estonia– 76/59
Reykjavik, Iceland– 58/49
Khövsgöl Nuur, Mongolia– 70/39
Thimphu, Bhutan– 77/65
Kathmandu, Nepal– 77/68
Auckland, New Zealand– 62/51
Sydney, Australia– 69/52
Santiago, Chile– 64/35
Easter Island, Chile– 66/62
Bogota, Colombia– 68/49
Machu Picchu, Peru- 70/33
Buenos Aires, Argentina– 60/39
Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay– 56/40
Potosi, Bolivia– 59/30
Quito, Ecuador- 73/51
Mendoza, Argentina– 63/35
Cape Town, South Africa– 70/51
Kruger National Park, South Africa– 68/38
Swakopmund, Namibia– 76/59
South Georgia Island, Antarctica– 34/32

[Photos by Dave Seminara]

Great Shoes for Hot Weather Destinations

There is no getting that pair of socks clean from the red dust, they are dyed a tie-dyed rust color from the dry campground. My feet needed a good soaking, too — a walk on the beach in the surf took care of that. Sure, my feet were filthy, almost to an embarrassing degree. But they were happy, not too hot, free from blisters and fatigue. I attribute this to picking the right shoes for that camping and hiking trip.

Keen McKenzie Water Shoes

I spent two weeks wearing these shoes almost every day. I wore them for long walks, trail hikes, schlepping around the city, stomping about in gravelly, dusty, washouts and on grainy flat plateaus where the sun baked the top of my ears. I kind of fell in love with them on about day three of my camping and hiking and road tripping adventure. After all, these shoes treated me right.

Keen’s McKenzie’s are really comfortable, it was no trouble to walk in them all day long. They’re closed (but well ventilated) so I wasn’t constantly knocking tiny stones out from where they’d wedged in under my arches. (The shoe is essentially your standard Keen sandal with the open bits enclosed in a mesh upper.) They’ve got a collapsible heel cup, meaning you can wear the shoe as a slide without damaging it, perfect for legging it to the campground loo in the middle of the night or navigating the TSA. They’ve got a solid hiker sole, so they’re grippy on trails. My feet were supported, not too hot, dry, and totally content in these shoes. Cost? 90 USD, your choice of three earthy color combinations.

The only issue — which wasn’t really a problem because I was in desert like climates — was that they took longer to dry than I’d like. I’d have regretted putting my feet into cold, clammy shoes on chilly mornings. But no worries, I’d also packed a pair of sport sandals.Ecco Coba Performance Sandals

I’m not crazy about the look of performance sandals, the designs tend towards a bit too orthopedic for my tastes. But I tried on a pair of Ecco’s WAVE footbed sandals at the Outdoor Retailer show and was pleased and surprised by how comfortable they are — and I ended up packing a pair for my recent adventure.

Ecco’s Coba sandals
feel like real shoes. Normally, I wear Chaco sandals, the model that’s not much more than a sturdy sole strapped to your foot with webbing. Ecco’s shoes gave me a lot more support. The foot bed has a waffle-y surface to it that aids in keeping your feet cool and it’s got a nice feel too it, a soft suede type finish. All three straps are adjustable and it’s easy to get them to fit just right — or to tweak them a little, if, like me, you find there’s a spot that needs a little breaking in. The sturdy soles were great for long walks or short trail hikes. And they’re light — I clipped them on the outside of my bag when I wasn’t wearing them and the weight they added was negligible. Cost? 130 USD. A bit steep; you might want to explore your options if you’re price sensitive. Two colors, white or “moon rock” — a natural light brown.

I caved and on the trip home, I wore my Ecco Coba sandals with socks. They were so easy to get in and out of in the airport and on the plane that I went for the full on dorky socks and sandals look. Hey, I was surrounded by strangers. I’ll pack these sandals again for camping and outdoor trips, but heads up — they are not a water shoe, you really want something else if you’re planning on getting your shod feet wet. That’s why you I also packed…

Cheap Flip Flops

You need them for campground showers (and, honestly, some hotel showers), beach walks, leaving propped outside the tent, wearing with a summer dress when you can’t bear the idea of shoes any more, and those long, long stints in the car or bus. You can always find space for them in your bag, and after you’ve had a good walk in the ocean for disinfectant purposes, you can pass them on to some fellow traveler whose had a blowout. There are few items I’d categorize as disposable travel gear, flip flops (zoris, thongs, whatever you like to call them) are one. Get a pair. Spend as much as you like, from 5 USD to, well, you want to spend 70 USD on flip flops, you go right ahead.

Packing for a Camping Safari: What’s in My Bag?

600 dollars for vaccinations, that’s what I spent in preparation for an upcoming trip to Tanzania. A pile. Still, it’s better than the alternative: getting a near fatal or certainly trip ruining illness. Now that the sticker shock has eased and I’ve got full use of my arm again, I’ve turned to gathering my belongings for an upcoming safari trip.

Here’s a round up of what’s in my bag.

A cotton sleep sack from Cocoon. I’m doing a camping trip; most of the time I’ll be sleeping in a tent. I’m packing my old down bag because it’s lightweight and warm, but I’ve added a sleep sack permeated with insect repellent. It’s good for warmer nights that don’t need a sleeping bag, the few hotels I’ll be in, and I’m all about not getting bitten. Speaking of which…

Serious DEET packed bug repellent. The travel clinic I use recommends Ultrathon from 3M. I’ve got some cream to pack and spray for my clothes — I’ll do that before I pack. My sprayed clothing will be protected for more washings than they’ll get on this trip. The cream is 34% DEET — that’s a lot of DEET, but it works, it really works. I used this same system for Southeast Asia and I did not get bitten once.

Packing cubes: I’m not usually a system packer, but I’d like to keep the dust out of my things just this once. The cubes I’m trying out are from Innate. (I’ve stuffed them inside the bag I reviewed here.) I’m hoping they’ll convert me into an organized packer, if nothing else, they’ll keep my clothes fairly clean, and whoa, is my luggage neatly organized. Sure, my things are crazy wrinkled, but whatever.

A cute sun protection cap. It’s tempting to go all pith helmet on this trip, but I’m a baseball cap wearing kind of girl. Mine comes from Sunday Afternoons. It’s vented, has a drawstring to hold it on in the wind, got 50 UPF (ultraviolet protection) in the fabric, and a little pocket on the inside for holding… um, your hotel card key? Your beer money and ID?It’s also got a split bill which means it packs down flat.A lightweight, mostly second hand wardrobe. There’s a reason you see travelers dressed in khaki and pale green colors. The biting bugs (it’s all about the biting bugs) like dark colors. Pale earth tones? They’re not so interested in those. I have long sleeved shirts — to keep the sun off — and very lightweight pants. The pants are from Ex Officio, I reviewed a few of their products here, but I’m also trying out their BugsAway line.

Running shoes and sandals. I’m always stumped by shoes when I pack. Luckily, there are a bunch of cute new mary-jane styles that come on sturdy hiking type soles nowadays; they’re good enough for dress up in most cases. On this trip, I’m not doing any huge hikes or anything that requires nice footwear. I’m looking at a running shoe/hiker hybrid from LOWA and a pair of Chaco sandals with Vibram soles. I don’t need anything else. Hmm, maybe flip-flops for the shower?

A windstop fleece jacket: Word has it that nights get cold in the bush and the mornings can be a chilly too. I may pack the pocket loaded Valkyrie from Triple Aught Design that I reviewed here, but it’s equally likely that I’ll pack the corporate branded by an out of business start up fleece and just leave it behind.

Still on my wish list? A pair of really good binoculars. New noise cancelling headphones; I’ve got 20 hours of flying each way and mine developed “issues” on my last long haul flight. A rain shell that packs down to almost nothing, just in case. My mom keeps trying to send me one of those vests with all the pockets, I think I’ll let her. A “Swahili for beginners” audio book. I need to pick up some sunscreen and some airplane snacks and all those last minute odds and ends that you end up stuffing in the outside pockets on your pack.

Have you been on safari? Anything you wish you’d packed but didn’t? Besides, you know, a much better camera lens and a past that allows for more luxurious travel in the present?

Photo: Selous River Camp by Willem vdh, Creative Commons/Flickr.