By getting creative and going a little farther this summer you can avoid the crowds that plague more popular places.
The three places I picked aren’t just family-friendly places. They’re the kind of destinations that make for unforgettable trips.
Manteo, North Carolina
The streets of Manteo, North Carolina. | Dennis Lennox
If Manteo is known it’s known for the Lost Colony, the first English colony in the present-day United States. Some may also know it as the place where Andy Griffith lived.
As I wrote in this column last year, the colony established by Sir Walter Raleigh on Roanoke Island during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I in 1585 — a full 22 years before Jamestown and 35 years before the Pilgrims on the Mayflower — vanished within five years. Just what happened remains an unsolved mystery.
Stay at The Roanoke Island Inn, eat at the Avenue Grille and the Lost Colony Tavern and explore the Roanoke Island Festival Park, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site and Elizabethan Gardens. The Wright Brothers National Memorial, which stands where Wilbur and Orville Wright first flew in 1903, is 14 miles away in Kill Devil Hills.
Keweenaw Peninsula, Michigan
The old mining town of Calumet in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. | Dennis Lennox
While today a sparsely populated swath of land known for its natural beauty and year-round outdoor recreation, the peninsula was home to a copper boom that produced over 14 billion pounds of copper between 1844 and 1969.
I discovered this rich — no pun intended — past over the long Memorial Day weekend, when I visited with my father.
Calumet, formerly called Red Jacket, is the big drawn as it’s where the Keweenaw National Historical Park is located. You will probably stay about 20 minutes away in the twin cities of Houghton and Hancock, as they have the most hotel options.
Be sure to also visit the Delaware and Quincy mines, Eagle River and two deconsecrated churches, the Church of the Assumption in Phoenix and the Methodist church in Central. Finlandia University, a small college in Hancock with roots as a Finnish Lutheran seminary, may also be of interest.
Cañon City, Colorado
Holy Cross Abbey, a former Benedictine monastery, in Cañon City, Colorado. | Dennis Lennox
Located in Fremont County, which takes its name from the legendary 19th century soldier, explorer, and politician John C. Fremont, the big draw is the Royal Gorge just a few miles west of town.
Here, granite cliffs soar a thousand feet above the Arkansas River. A great way to see the gorge’s scenery is through an old-school train ride on the Royal Gorge Route Railroad, which includes a dinner train.
Back in Cañon City, a former Benedictine monastery with a landmark National Register of Historic Places-listed Gothic revival chapel has been partially redeveloped to include a winery. The aptly named Winery at Holy Cross Abbey produces several red and white wines using Colorado-grown grapes.
While the newish Holiday Inn Express, where I have stayed, is perfectly fine as chain hotels go, I’m really excited about the vintage Hotel St. Cloud that will hopefully reopen in the next year or two.
Dennis Lennox writes about travel, politics and religious affairs. He has been published in the Financial Times, Independent, The Detroit News, Toronto Sun and other publications. Follow @dennislennox on Twitter.