Fun in the Sun: Top Events to Attend This Summer in Your City!

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By Christy Jacks
Last updated on August 11, 2023

Learn about the best summer events and activities for international students in six exciting US cities, each home to a Shorelight university.

A grid of several US cities where international students can stay for the summer: Washington, DC; Auburn, Alabama; Cleveland, Ohio; Chicago, Illinois; Dayton, Ohio; and Salt Lake City

If you are an international student planning to stay in the US this summer, you’re in for an unforgettable experience. No matter which city you call home while in the US, you’ll find a wide variety of exciting and mostly free events to keep you entertained all summer long.

Check out the top five best summer events for college students in six popular cities. Cultural festivals, trips to the zoo, or even water shows - all will create amazing memories that last a lifetime.

Washington, DC | Our Nation’s Capital

“Washington is a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm.” – John F. Kennedy

Washington, DC, is known for the triple “M”: museums, memorials, and the Metro (the official name for the city’s subway system). As the nation’s capital, DC is the workplace for many federal political leaders and has many notable buildings such as the White House and the US Capitol building.

Here are the top five DC summer events:

  1. Put together your best costume and head over to the three-day Awesome Con (also known as DC’s Comic Con)

  2. Catch a live show at The Playhouse

  3. Enjoy delicious food and music at the annual BBQ Battle

  4. Watch the July 4th Independence Day holiday fireworks display

  5. Take in a tennis match or two at the Citi Open

Dayton, OH | The Gem City 

“The heart of it all.” - Ohio state tourism slogan

In the heart of the American Midwest, Ohio is midway between Chicago and New York and only a short car ride to many other popular US destinations. It is home to six different professional sports teams and has some of the most beautiful lakes in the country.

Here are the top five Dayton summer activities:

  1. Take a hike or bike around Dayton

  2. Join the locals for First Fridays Downtown Dayton

  3. Visit the Newport Aquarium

  4. Take in some history at the Wright Brothers Air Force Museum

  5. Relax with coffee and board games with the UDayton Global team!

Cleveland, OH | Home of Rock ’n Roll

“Cleveland: the city of light and the city of magic!” – musician Randy Newman

Cleveland, the second-largest city in Ohio, is known for amazing architecture, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and delicious food. Check out the city’s famous sandwich, The Polish Boy: a kielbasa sausage on a bun, topped with coleslaw, french fries, and barbecue sauce. You have to try it!

Here are the top five attractions for Cleveland this summer:

  1. Visit the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

  2. Go to a Cleveland Guardians baseball game

  3. Visit the Cleveland Science Center

  4. See the wildlife at the Cleveland Aquarium

  5. Take a train ride on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

Chicago, IL | The Windy City

“There’s no greater city between May and September than Chicago! It’s the single best summer city in America.”  - author Michael Wilbon

Chicago is iconic - rich in history with vibrant cultural influences. From its tall skyscrapers to whimsical city parks, the awe-inspiring Lake Michigan beach and world-famous pizza and hot dogs, Chicago offers so many different experiences at every turn. This year, Chicago was ranked #13 for World’s Best Cities by Resonance, a global consulting firm.

Here are the top five Chicago things to do in summer:

  1. Watch the fireworks at Navy Pier all summer long (twice each week!)

  2. Hang out at the beach or swim in Lake Michigan 

  3. Enjoy the Millennium Park Summer Film Series

  4. Eat, drink, and dance at Chinatown Summer Fair 

  5. Check out the Chicago Air and Water Show 

Read our international student guide to Chicago >

Salt Lake City, UT | City of the Saints

“Once I came to Salt Lake City, I didn’t want to go anywhere else.” - John Stockton, former professional basketball player

Salt Lake City is the capital and largest city in Utah, famous for its mountains, Mormon community, and magnificent national parks. Fun fact about the city’s Great Salt Lake: It’s so salty that people can easily float on it!

Here are our top five picks for Salt Lake City this summer:

  1. Go for a hike - there are tons to choose from

  2. See original creations at the Utah Arts Fest

  3. Enjoy local festivities on Pioneer Day (including a parade!)

  4. Watch hot air balloons rise above Watsatch Mountains at the Sand Hot Air Balloon Festival

  5. Visit the 42-acre Hogle Zoo

Auburn, AL | The Loveliest Village on the Plains

“War Eagle!” – a standard greeting around Auburn University

Southern Living magazine ranked Auburn three out of 20 on its list of the South’s Best College Towns, and the region is also Alabama’s fastest-growing metropolitan area. Auburn has a historic downtown area that includes the Tiger Trail, which highlights notable university athletes.

Here are the top five ways to spend the summer in Auburn:

  1. Take in a show at the Gogue Performing Arts Center

  2. Stroll downtown during Art Walk 

  3. Take a course - just for fun!

  4. Watch fireworks at the Auburn Independence Celebration 

  5. Celebrate your passion for comics at Momocon

Want more information about staying in the US this summer and the best summer events for college students? Reach out to a Shorelight advisor >