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.

Summer Monday giveaway: stay in touch with an iPad

Nobody loves summer more than your friendly neighborhood Gadling bloggers. It’s the perfect time to plan an escape from the mundane trials of daily life, or maximize your adventures in the outdoors. And if you’re planning on flying the coop this summer, you’re going to need some fun swag. So every week this summer, in celebration of our own road trip, Traveling the American Road, Gadling will be giving away one item to help you run away on your dream summer excursion. But, be warned: we are not responsible for the hilarity that ensues.

This week we’re giving away an iPad. Read on below to enter to win or click here for the official contest rules.

To enter, leave a comment below telling us who you’ll keep in touch with while you’re running away from home this summer.

Or tweet using the button below, including the hashtag #GadlingSummerGiveaways.

This contest closed at 11:59PM on Sunday, July 10th. Stay tuned for more giveaways!

Good luck!

Traveling the American Road: A Video Introduction from Chicago

Last week, I kicked off a summer-long road trip around the country, a project we’re calling Traveling the American Road. After picking up my ride in Chicago, I set out to see the city, and this video intro will fill you in on the project, a quest to find out how people are confronting change in the wake of the Great Recession and determine the state of the American road trip in an era of $4-a-gallon gas. Oh, and you can keep up with us here on Gadling, at travelingtheamericanroad.com or on Facebook, Twitter and Gowalla.

Traveling the American Road – Introduction

Megabus branches out to Cape Cod

If you’re still planning a summer escape and want to save some gas money, here’s some good news: Megabus will now send some of its blue, double-decker buses to Cape Cod. Known for offering fares as low as $1 and having free Wi-Fi onboard, Megabus will now make two daily round trips from New York to the Ocean Street Docks in Hyannis, Massachusetts (with a stop in Providence along the way). From the docks, travelers can hit a nearby beach, find sailing and fishing charters, or connect to island ferries for trips to places such as Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard.

Fares are still up for grabs as low as $5 in July, but the cheap seats probably won’t last long. Travelers who don’t live in New York can connect to the hub from locations all along the East Coast and in some Midwestern and Southern states – just be prepared for a potentially long road trip (the route from New York to Providence alone takes over five hours).

If taking to the skies is a better option, JetBlue also began seasonal service between New York and Martha’s Vineyard last week. The airline will send up to five weekly roundtrip flights on the route throughout the summer, with roundtrip fares being offered for as low as $147.

[Photo by Laura Padgett / Flickr]

Lonely Planet dishes out summer travel tips and chance at a Napa Valley trip

Summer is fast approaching and sure to fly by even more quickly than it came. To help Americans get the most out of the summer months, Lonely Planet has launched a special micro-site called “Weekends of Summer” that has 15 free guides for all the weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

The guides reads like a summer to-do list, with suggestions like “pop a cork” and “explore the great outdoors” for each weekend, and then details on where to complete the mission with via a mini-guide. Although it would be great to escape to the Gulf Coast one weekend and then go hunt lobsters in Maine the next, the best thing most of us can do is take Lonely Planet’s advice on summertime diversions and try to complete as many as possible.

Of course, perhaps even more exciting than the actual guides is the fact that Lonely Planet and the Napa Valley Destination Council have teamed up to give one lucky reader a trip to wine country valued at over $4,000. Simply surrender your name and email to be entered in the contest and have access to all 15 of the guides for free.

[Image courtesy Lonely Planet]