Travel ideas for your 2020 summer trip

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Paddling Lake Tahoe. Photo: Scott Sporleder

Matador Staff
Jul 13, 2020

You can’t take travel out of the traveler. Many of us have spent the last three months in some version of lockdown, feeling the urge to travel and explore. Now it’s summer — your summer — and you’re ready to make the most of it. But how do you do so responsibly? Plan to pack that mask and spend more time outdoors. Focus your trip on supporting the smaller, family-run businesses who truly need you.

And trust Southwest® to get you there. The airline has made a promise to support your comfort and well-being through practices such as enhanced overnight cleans, requiring customer-facing employees and passengers wear face coverings or masks (some exemptions apply), and keeping middle seats open through at least October 31. (Of course, you can still sit together. Southwest won’t be blocking seats or directing seating.) Not only that, but they’ve just rolled out some incredible low fares to unforgettable destinations around the country and are offering more points for booking flights and hotels.

Scope out the trip ideas below and check back in the coming weeks as we add more. Travel may look a bit different these days, but we should take time to get away and explore — and Southwest can help you summer how you wanna.

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This post is proudly produced in partnership with Southwest Airlines.
A few hours by air from almost anywhere in the States, The Mile High City is a great choice for your summer 2020 trip. Life is lived outdoors here, and you’ll see why as soon as you step off the plane. The Front Range of the Rocky Mountains beckons in the distance, but make sure to devote ample time to exploring Denver’s outdoor art, eclectic food, and patio scenes as well.
You don’t have to take our word for it. “It’s time to trade isolation for a little vacation fun in Denver! Many of The Mile High City’s attractions have reopened, top restaurants are serving up healthy farm-to-table cuisine on expanded patios, and there’s plenty of room to reconnect with nature in the city’s surrounding wide-open spaces,” says Justin Bresler of VISIT DENVER.
If you’re looking for a quick trip to relax and reset, here’s an example of how a perfect day in Denver might look. Just remember that circumstances can change quickly these days, so it’s a good idea to double check operating hours and protocols for individual businesses before heading out.


Start with a morning refresh: Grab a to-go cold brew from Little Owl Coffee, and then head down the 16th St Mall to the flagpole outside Denver Union Station. There you’ll meet the folks at Denver Local Tours for a 90-minute private walking tour of LoDo, Denver’s oldest neighborhood. Don’t forget to wear your mask.

Get out of town: The craggy peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park are 90 minutes away. Plan ahead and reserve a timed entry permit — the park is currently operating at 60% capacity — for an afternoon hike in the Beaver Meadows area or a scenic drive along Trail Ridge Road.

Fill up with fresh take-out eats: Though many restaurants throughout Denver have opened their dining rooms, take-out means a fresh-air picnic wherever you want to wander. It also means a chance to support local: Ethiopian cuisine has been a fixture of Denver’s dining scene for 20+ years, most restaurants family-owned and operated. Scout out Konjo Ethiopian or The Ethiopian Restaurant for an earthy, spicy, crowd-pleasing meal.

Toast sunset with a patio cocktail: It’s impossible to choose, but wine slushies at Acova or a fresh pint at the wide-open Lowry Beer Garden certainly make the list. When in doubt, head to Larimer Square for a smorgasbord of open-air patios to choose from. Just because it’s happy hour doesn’t mean you have to go indoors — especially in Denver.

For more trip ideas and to stay abreast of the latest restrictions and closures, seek out the experts at VISIT DENVER.

Visit Southwest for great deals on flights to Denver

Photo credits: Brian Lewis, bjul/Shutterstock
The best of mountains, the best of beaches — in Reno Tahoe, any “best of” list reads like a roll call of the planet’s most striking landscapes. Here, you’ll bike through the Great Basin Desert, float right through Downtown on the Truckee River, hike the Toiyabe National Forest, or paddle the largest alpine lake on the continent. Just maybe not all in the same day.
“The variety of outdoor activities and the naturally open, urban layout make Reno Tahoe perfect for a quick getaway or an escape to a destination where adventure is boundless and amenities are more accessible,” says Ben McDonald of Reno Tahoe.
There you have it — your summer is cooped-up no more. But do remember to explore responsibly: If your particular trail — or restaurant or beach — looks too crowded to maintain physical distancing, move on to the next. In Reno Tahoe, there’s probably another just around the corner. Here are a few examples.


Hike it (or bike it): Located just west of town overlooking the Truckee River, the 3.7-mile Tom Cooke Trail is a popular loop for both hikers and mountain bikers. For scenery that includes falls and other water features, scope out Hunter Creek, Upper Thomas Creek, or Cascade Falls — just make sure to obey the rules of the trail.

Get on the water: Lake Tahoe has a whopping 72 miles of shoreline — first-time visitors should paddle around Zephyr Cove or Sand Harbor for an epic introduction. Beyond the lake, the 21-mile Hangman’s Run on the East Fork of the Carson River is great for eager-to-learn rafters; the more experienced can take on Class III and IV features on the Truckee from Boca to Verdi. For a calmer float, put the tube in at Wingfield Park, on the Truckee in Downtown Reno.

Play at the beach: 300 days of sunshine, baby. Sand Harbor is part of Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park — its combination of half-submerged boulders and blue-blue water makes it extremely picturesque, which means to avoid the crowds, go for sunrise. A safer bet is Hidden Beach — there’s limited parking, so get there early and be one of the few who make the trek in.

Grab an al fresco bite: Restaurants in and around Reno are currently operating at 50% capacity, masks are required, and seats must be six feet apart, even outdoors. Grab a spot on the spacious dining deck of El Adobe Café and sit down to a pitcher of margs and homemade chips and salsa, or head to The Twisted Fork for a fresh-air happy hour and a grand view of Mt. Rose.

For more trip ideas and to stay abreast of the latest restrictions and closures, seek out the experts at Reno Tahoe USA.

Visit Southwest for great deals on flights to Reno Tahoe

Photo credits: Scott Sporleder, Topseller/Shutterstock, ddub3429/Shutterstock
Charleston was founded way back in 1670, and even today it’s like a little piece of Europe got left across the pond. The city is known for its textures and colors — cobblestone streets, pastel Victorian homes — but also for the outdoor spaces both within and around its limits. From ancient oaks to misty cypress gardens, from foggy Civil War battlefields to bridges reaching over the ocean, Charleston is a sight for sore eyes.
“Charleston combines the cultural and culinary attributes of a large urban center, but in a smaller, historic and more walkable setting. Best of all, it’s situated on a beautiful harbor and flanked by five stunning beach communities, making it a sea and city destination like no other,” says Catherine Dority of Explore Charleston.
It’s also a break from the chaos of today. Spend even just a day here, and you may feel like you stepped off the plane and into another time. (That doesn’t mean the mask stays home, of course.) In Charleston, it’s best to slow down, focus your senses, and dive in. Here’s what’s in store.


A soul-lifting start: Grab Gospel Brunch at Halls Chophouse. On Sunday mornings, their vintage dining room — currently limited to 50% capacity — lights up with live music, and you’ll likely light up, too, holding one of their famous Bloody Marys and a bite of crabcake eggs benedict. And don’t leave the city without cupping your hands around a bowl of She Crab Soup at 82 Queen, a Charleston-only blend of sherry, crab, and heavy cream.

A fresh-air afternoon: Remember that otherworldly boat scene in The Notebook? It was filmed at Charleston’s Cypress Gardens, where you can hop on your own boat to sail between swans or explore 3.5 miles of misty walking trails.

A side of history: “Oldest” and “first” are common descriptors in Charleston. Stop and say hi to the oldest living oak east of the Mississippi, and then hop over to the site of the first shots fired in the Civil War at Fort Sumter National Monument. (Note: While most of the fort is currently accessible, some areas are closed.)

A moment to yourself: Stroll Rainbow Row, The Battery, or Waterfront Park. Wander the Charleston Gateway Walk. Hit the beach and hang out with pelicans on one of the nearby barrier islands. Whatever you choose, end your getaway on the patio of the sprawling Fleet Landing Restaurant & Bar, your evening complete with a complimentary sunset.

For more trip ideas and to stay abreast of the latest restrictions and closures, seek out the experts at Explore Charleston.

Visit Southwest for great deals on flights to Charleston

Photo credits: Sean Pavone/Shutterstock, Nagel Photography/Shutterstock
Salt Lake City is truly built around the outdoors. “The towering Wasatch Mountains cradling Utah’s capital city offer endless outdoor recreation and adventure,” says Shawn Stinson of Visit Salt Lake. “Salt Lake’s accessibility to incredible adventure and outdoor fun is unmatched.”
There’s only one way to find out if that’s true — by getting to SLC. You’ll navigate the shores of the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere, climb through rocky canyons, summit your choice of mountains, and come back to the city for dinner with a view.
And should you want to leave town and explore, there are more than 60 state and national parks within a day’s drive. Ready to make the trip? Here are some ideas.


Thrill or chill: Snowbird has Utah’s longest ski season but is also action-packed in the warmer months — grab the mountain bike or hike up to Hidden Peak on foot. For something more on the mellow side, check out Red Butte Garden, the largest botanical garden in the Intermountain West.

Adventure in the canyons: You don’t even have to leave town for world-class hiking. From their respective trailheads, it’s 3 miles to Lake Blanche, 3.5 miles to Neff’s Canyon, 3.75 miles to the top of Mt. Olympus, and 5 miles to Bell’s Canyon. Just to name a fraction of your options.

Views you can drive to: Make the 15-mile drive around Big Cottonwood Canyon for dramatic alpine vistas, great opportunities for hiking and rock climbing, or just spotting old mines from the comfort of your vehicle’s A/C. The 28-mile trip through Provo Canyon affords you views of Bridal Veil Falls and Deer Creek Reservoir, where you can boat, fish, and windsurf.

Meals to write home about: Book it to Laziz Kitchen for Lebanese like you’ve never tasted — dishes are inspired by local legend Moudi Sbeity’s mom. For amazing cocktails and shuffleboard, hang out in Purgatory. And for special occasions, grab a seat on the patio at Log Haven and plan to stick around. Most spots in the city are limiting indoor seating, expanding their patio seating, or both, in addition to offering curbside and to-go options. Remember that if you’re dining in, masks are required.

For more trip ideas and to stay abreast of the latest restrictions and closures, seek out the experts at Visit Salt Lake.

Visit Southwest for great deals on flights to Salt Lake City

Photo credits: f11photo/Shutterstock, Johnny Adolphson/Shutterstock
Resting in the lowlands of the Salt River Valley and flanked by mountains on nearly all sides, life here on the northern edge of the Sonoran Desert is about having room to explore. In other words, any visit to Phoenix and the “Valley of the Sun” should include plenty of time spent outdoors.
Take South Mountain Park and Preserve, the largest wilderness area within any city limits in the US — and that’s just one spot in and among the saguaros. For day trips in the surrounding region, there are Wild West ghost towns and, yes, a surprising number of swimmable and paddleable lakes and rivers (and you thought you had the Southwest pegged).
But if you’ve got just a day or two in and around Arizona’s famously sunny capital, here’s an idea of what to get up to. Just remember to pack that mask, confirm the accessibility of all sites, and carefully review safety tips before heading out to explore the desert.


For a morning hike: Skip the popular Camelback Mountain this time around and take a stroll in Papago Park. It’s a short jaunt to Hole in the Rock, a cave-like structure once used as a “solstice tracker” by the Hohokam. Follow the 2.3-mile Double Butte Loop for more time exploring the red Arizona sandstone — you’ll get great city, mountain, and wildflower views from here, too.

For a cool-down: The Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch has 10 swimming pools, 20 fountains, 45 waterfalls, and one three-story waterslide. How do you top that? Well, you could try at Lake Pleasant Regional Park, a 23,000-acre desert oasis with tent camping opportunities right along the water’s edge, as well as campgrounds for tents and RVs.

To work on your swing: The Phoenix area is home to nearly 200 golf courses, some of which tout connections with names like Arnold Palmer. Boulders Resort & Spa comes lauded by Golf Digest; We-Ko-Pa Golf Club has absolutely unsurpassed views; and Palmer’s designer touch can be found at Wildfire Golf Club.

To get off your feet: Or at least off the ground! Hot Air Expeditions and Rainbow Ryders will have you spotting darting jackrabbits and howling coyotes from the comfort and elevation of your own hot air balloon, rising quietly above the Sonoran Desert at sunrise or sunset, season depending. A glass of champagne wraps up the high-flying journey.

For more trip ideas and to stay abreast of the latest restrictions and closures, seek out the experts at Visit Phoenix.

Visit Southwest for great deals on flights to Phoenix

Photo credits: Visit Phoenix/, Gregory Clifford, Hot Air Expeditions
This post is proudly produced in partnership with Southwest Airlines.