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Top 5 U.S. Lake Destinations Revealed In New Report

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At a time when everyone is flocking to some tropical beach or jam-packed city, there’s nothing more relaxing (or refreshing) than a lakeside getaway.

Think about it – you’ll get to take in some incredible views, relax, go for a mid-day soak if needed, and best of all, you’ll get to save both money and time since some of the world’s most gorgeous lake destinations are right here in the U.S.

Woman enjoying the view of Emerald Bay at Lake Tahoe, California, US

The only catch is that finding a place that’s actually worth your summer vacation can, more often than not, feel overwhelming.

Luckily, for you, that’s about to change.

USA Today just released its ranking of the best U.S. lakes to visit in 2024, a list compiled through a mix of expert opinions and traveler votes, and let me tell you, though a bit unexpected, the top 5 will leave you stunned.

5. Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe

Straddling the border between Nevada and California, Lake Tahoe is hands-down one of the most picturesque destinations in the entire country.

Under the summer sun, the contrast between the crystal-clear waters and mountain scenery becomes even more striking, and while temperatures can get close to 86°F (30°C) in July, you can always fight off the heat with a refreshing swim, and frankly, nothing sounds better than that right now.

Seeing how much travelers have fallen in love with Lake Tahoe actually makes a lot of sense.

Even the drive there feels like an experience of its own, and then you get to kayak in Kings Beach, cruise through the southern lake shore, and explore the ruins of Emerald Bay, and you get the vacation of a lifetime.

If you do plan a trip to the area anytime this soon and are wondering where to stay, I can’t recommend Cedar Glen Lodge enough.

It can get a bit pricey, at $200-something a night, but I’m far from the only one who thinks it’s all well worth it.

4. Lake Michigan

An empty bench faces Lake Michigan

While there’s a lot to do and see around Lake Michigan, most of those coming here spend their days either doing some form of water activity or taking in the views and atmosphere of Chicago's Navy Pier.

Anecdotal reports show that not only is the water fresh and pretty clean compared to places like Long Island Sound, for example, but the beaches are phenomenal as well, and given that the lake is very swimmable, that’s a huge perk.

What’s more, you’ll get to see the most jaw-dropping city views without having to deal with any sort of fishy smell; just remember to plan your trip here as early in the morning as possible since traffic to most popular sites around the lake can get pretty congested.

3. Lake Superior

Lake Superior at sunset

Next up, we have the iconic Lake Superior, which, considering its size, is the closest thing you’ll get to a typical beach vacation on today’s list.

“It’s the best place in the world to go kayaking” – says a local, who, while probably biased, has been exploring the area for over 30 years.

Keep in mind, though, that while the waters are crystal clear and home to an incredible array of rock caves just waiting to be explored, they’re also piercingly cold even in the height of summer, so if you’re particularly sensitive, that dip might have to wait.

2. Geneva Lake 

Beautiful sunset over Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

The runner-up spot on today’s list is arguably the most underrated, too.

Sure, travelers from Chicago and Milwaukee have long fallen in love with Geneva’s amazing shore path and fairytale-like scenery, but beyond that, few actually know how beautiful this place gets in the summer.

Don’t take my word for it, though.

Book a couple of nights at the Lake Geneva Hotel (which, in my humble opinion, is the best-value place to stay in the area), and start prepping for a summer filled with day trips, long swimming sessions, and food tastings.

1. Lake Erie

Lake Erie, Ohio

It’s official – we’ve found the best lake destination in the U.S., and now that you know where that is, it all should make perfect sense.

The waters here are relatively shallow, sure, but that only means that they’ll warm up much quicker in the summer, which, in turn, means that you won’t have to compromise between the scenic lake views and the typical beach experience.

I do want to note that there isn’t much of a club scene to speak of here; most places are closed by 10 PM.

However, if a quiet, budget-friendly getaway is what you’re after, it really doesn’t get any better than Lake Erie.

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Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.