Where are the best trips to be booking right now? Our monthly Where to Go column tells you the smartest places to go each month for savings, special events, and all around great experiences. Here's what's hot for July.
For the Arts: Berkshires, MA
Summer in the Berkshires is never cheap, but the classic experience doesn't have to cost you a fortune. New Englanders flock to this part of Western Massachusetts for cultural enlightenment, whether it's with a candlelit picnic under the stars as the Boston Symphony Orchestra plays at Tanglewood; with a day admiring the impressive forward-thinking pieces at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art; or with catching a performance at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival or Williamstown Theatre Festival.
For Southern Charm: New Orleans, LA
There's never a bad time to go to NOLA, in our opinion, but the city does begin to slow down somewhat in the summer thanks to humid days. Visit in July, when hotel rates begin to fall and temps start to creep up -- without reaching the unbearable heights of August. For just one example, the posh Windsor Court Hotel, whose rates hover between the mid- to high-$300s in peak season, goes for $195-$270 for most of the month. (The property usually runs a host of other specials during the summer, too -- like premium suite accommodations with spa credit, breakfast, and Club Lounge access. Check their website for current promotions.)
In July, there are not one but three festivals in the city: one celebrating the Creole tomato, one focusing on the area's most delicious seafood, and a Cajun-Zydeco Festival featuring more than 20 music performances. Besides, when you're armed with our guide to staying cool during the New Orleans summer -- including breezy bike tours and the best places to avoid heavy fried foods -- as well as where to get some piece and quiet, there's nothing standing in your way.
For Going Big at Small Prices: Dallas, TX
Continuing with the hot destinations strategy, the hip city of Dallas is always a good bet for July. But Dallas is especially exciting this year for a few reasons. For starters, airfare has been competitive for a few months, thanks to the Southwest effect that kicked in last fall. For first-time visitors, the new Dallas CityPASS launching later this month also means skipping lines and saving on admission to some of the city's most popular attractions, including the 2.5-year-old Perot Museum of Nature and Science and the 470-foot-high Reunion Tower GeO-Deck. Other options include the Dallas Zoo, George W. Bush Presidential Library, and more. ($44 through mid-May, 2016)
As far as accommodations go, the Hilton Anatole makes us excited to earn some points. Not only do rates in July start from a reasonable $169, that price covers all events that are a part of the Summer at Anatole programming. Memorial Day through Labor Day, guests enjoy poolside movies every Friday, fitness classes throughout the week, grill cook-outs on some Saturdays, lawn games like croquet and badminton, and more.
For European Flair: Milan, Italy
You read that right, we are recommending Europe in summer. Though it's not low season there in July by any means, we were thrilled to find fantastic airfare on Italian carrier Meridiana. From New York, for example, roundtrip fares to Italy are currently between the low-$600s and high-$700s for the summer -- a far cry from the thousand-plus tickets that we've sadly come to expect during this time of year. We especially recommend Milan, where Emirates is starting to fly from NYC starting in June and sure to bring down prices overall.
Besides the World Expo going on this summer, Milan's stores hold massive sales each year at the beginning of July, similar to the Parisian soldes that we recently reported on. Plenty of boutique and independent hotels are going for less than $100 per night right now, too, and it's easy to find low-key history and art in the flashy city, if that's more your pace.
For Smart Luxury & Making Friends: Santa Fe, NM
Love to connect with locals? There are plenty of opportunities to connect with local artists about their work in Santa Fe year-round, but July is particularly ripe for great conversation. In Santa Fe, there are not one but three major events this month: ART Santa Fe, celebrating local galleries; the International Folk Art Market, featuring more than 150 global artists; and the Spanish Market, one of the city's oldest heritage markets.
And for a city that's as known for pampering as Santa Fe is, the prices are extremely reasonable. Summer may be high season, but a stay at a boutique, AAA Four-Diamond property like Hotel Eldorado & Spa can be as low as $179 on some nights, with starting rates that don't top $269 even on the most popular weekends.