From sun-drenched beaches to charming historic villages and majestic mountain retreats, our readers share with us their very favorite summer vacation destinations.
The vacation spot we love best is located in the thumb of Wisconsin, in the Village of Ephraim in Door County. In this quaint community on the crystalline waters of Green Bay, you can stop for refreshments at Wilson’s Restaurant & Ice Cream Parlor or sail from Eagle Harbor out to Horseshoe Island. The town is brimming with shops, good places to eat, and many art galleries. The summer season officially begins with the annual Fyr Bal celebration, which features a book sale, craft exhibits, a fish boil, and traditional Door County cherry pie. Young girls dressed in Norwegian costume dance in front of the Village Hall, and at sundown bonfires are set around the perimeter of the bay as a Viking ship bears the newly elected Chieftain of the town to the shore, where he or she is revealed. The day concludes with a spectacular fireworks display. The surrounding woodlands are filled with Trillium, forget-me-nots, lady’s slipper, violets, wild daisies, sweet peas, and other fragrant blooms. This fairylike land draws visitors back each year to delight in the magical setting. –Linda James
Beach vacations are always my favorites! Spending sacred time at the water’s edge, I never tire of the endless ebb and flow of the sea. Sometimes the thin, quiet waves scamper across the wet sand like pieces of delicate lace. I find comfort and solace in this peaceful haven. The shore now holds even more mystery for me since my discovery of sea glass. The beach in a small, protected inlet off the coast of Massachusetts is a fertile hunting ground, depending upon the tides and occasional storms. Worn smooth over time by the movement of sand and waves, the shards that wash up provide a veritable treasure hunt! The varying shades of green, aqua, dark amber, and cobalt make me curious about each piece’s origin. In my home, I keep several small bowls filled to the brim with these exquisite remembrances. I need only to pause and hold one in my hand, and I’m immediately transported to a simpler place, where peace and tranquility reign. –Judy Pigman
The neighbors down the street laugh as they play a spirited game of cards on their front porch. A bicyclist’s bell sends out a jingle, warning those out for an evening stroll of his presence. The gentle strains of an orchestra concert at the amphitheater drift gently on the breeze that rolls across Chautauqua Lake. This is all part of a typical evening during the summer season at Chautauqua Institution. Vacations here, amongst the colorful Victorian houses, offer a taste of life as it should be. It is the perfect place to kick off your sandals and indulge in that long-awaited vacation read. It is eating an ice-cream cone—and catching the drips as quickly as you can—as you meander the winding paths that intertwine all about the grounds. It is improving your mind and indulging your senses through the Institute’s many lectures, concerts, and theatrical performances. It is absorbing the peace and quiet of a bygone era that is often lost in the day-to-day cacophony of traffic and electronic devices. Chautauqua’s summer soundtrack is the gentle lapping of waves, the earnest chirps of crickets at night, and the voices of children as they shriek with joy during what will be one of the most carefree periods of their lives. Vacationing here never fails to take me back to that time when I was a child, wandering bucolic lanes, marveling at the gingerbread trim on every eave and porch, and breathing in the heady scent of freshly cut grass. I leave feeling calm and centered, as though the week has wiped my slate clean of every stress and concern. –Meg Jones
I had always heard how beautiful Lake Louise was, but until you actually see it for yourself, you can’t realize just how magnificent it truly is. Located in Canada, near Banff, this place must be the closest thing to heaven on earth! The lake is undoubtedly the bluest of blue and the calmest of calm—it is almost surreal looking. What caught my attention (and my camera) one chilly morning were the dozens of overturned canoes along the bank next to a picturesque boathouse, awaiting the boaters to come and claim their rides. The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel is extraordinary in its size, ambience, and grandeur, with open windows beckoning in refreshing breezes off the water and the wafting sound of the Swiss alpine horn being played below by a gentleman dressed in a pair of lederhosen. It is a destination that will enchant everyone. –Carol Fauth
Twilight in Big Sky Country is at its best in Bigfork, Montana. A scenic village at the confluence of the Swan River and Flathead Lake, it is just a short drive to Glacier National Park for hiking or sightseeing. A number of four-star restaurants await, and the Bigfork Summer Playhouse presents musicals performed by Broadway artists in a professional theatre. The shopping includes great antiques stores, a bookstore, and kitchen emporiums. Local wineries, breweries, and bakeries tempt visitors’ taste buds. Overnight or weeklong stays can be arranged at area bed-and-breakfasts or resorts. How can you go wrong in Montana on an idyllic August night? –Linda Fifer