Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse. (photo courtesy of Disney Parks)
Now that Memorial Day is in our rearview and the summer travel season is unofficially underway, Americans are looking forward to heading off on warm-weather vacations, which many of us desperately need after two years of delaying trips due to COVID-19.
And, it seems that, despite soaring airfare prices and the record-high cost of gasoline, people are determined to get away this summer, with travel demand showing no signs of diminishing.
Inquiring minds might be curious to know which U.S. destinations and attractions Americans have their sights set on this season—the first summer since 2019 to promise a back-to-normal travel experience.
A new Nexstar report has revealed the top five Summer 2022 domestic vacation spots that are being searched for by U.S. travelers. And, it seems that two different types of parks are dominating the scene this summer—national parks and theme parks. Listed below are the top five most-searched U.S. destinations, according to Google data.
1. Yellowstone National Park
Among America’s most famous national parks, Yellowstone’s protected wilderness consists of 2.2 million acres located primarily in Wyoming, but partly in Montana and Idaho, as well. Filled with dramatic landscapes and geological features like mountains, canyons, rivers and lakes, as well as more than half of the world’s geysers and hydrothermal features, this awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage site draws millions of visitors each year.
Crowd of visitors watching ‘Old Faithful’ geyser erupt in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. (photo via Flickr/Yellowstone National Park; photo credit: Jim Peaco)
2. Glacier National Park
Nicknamed the “Crown of the Continent”, this Montana wilderness preserve in the Rocky Mountains is a paradise for outdoor adventure seekers, encompassing over 1 million acres of a pristine ecosystem, melting glaciers, alpine meadows, carved valleys and spectacular lakes. It also contains a number of historic hotels and chalets built in the early 20th century by the Great Northern Railway, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, for visitors to explore.
Glacier National Park, Montana. (photo courtesy of Collettte)
3. Walt Disney World Resort
The sprawling Walt Disney World Resort, located just outside of Orlando, really needs no introduction. In 2019, the last “normal” year prior to the pandemic, combined annual attendance at the Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Epcot theme parks reached 58,778,000 and would likely have continued to increase year over year, but for COVID-19. Now that pandemic-related precautions have been put aside and the parks are again operating at normal capacities, it only makes sense that Disney fans will flock back to Disney World for fun-filled family vacations.
View over Magic Kingdom Park in Florida. (Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort)
4. Lake Tahoe
Stretching across the border between Northern California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America, surrounded on all sides by the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains. Tourists enjoy its outdoor recreation opportunities and stunning natural scenery year-round, along with offerings at several lakeside casino resorts. SFGate wrote in 2020 that roughly 10 million people visit Lake Tahoe each year, which is twice as many as those that visited Yosemite National Park, another Northern California wilderness area that’s extremely popular among tourists.
Panoramic of Zephyr Cove in Lake Tahoe. (photo via Julie Pusateri / Getty Images)
Coming in fifth place is Hersheypark, a family theme park in Hershey, Pennsylvania, founded in 1906 by Milton Hershey of the Hershey Chocolate Company. Attractions include classic family-type rides, roller coasters, a water park and a zoo; as well as Hershey’s Chocolate World next door, a visitors’ center comprised of shops, restaurants and a chocolate factory-themed tour ride.
Hersheypark from above. (photo via Paulo Ordoveza / Wikimedia Commons)