By Lily Rogers, on October 16, 2017

The best places to catch astounding sunsets

Sunsets bring to mind leisurely strolls, romantic moments, park benches, and taking time to slow down and admire the view. But they don’t have to. Yes, the sky is pretty when it erupts in a cornucopia of color, but you’re a traveler, an adventurer. If you wanted to sit still, you’d stay home. Being on the go doesn’t mean you have to miss out on nature’s quieter gifts. Luckily, you can have your cake and eat it, too.

We’ve found the best places in the country to witness the transition of day into twilight, where you don’t have to sit still for the best view. These cities are filled with interesting things to do, while being among the best places to watch the sunset.

Riding a horse on the beach is elevated when you do it as the sun slips beneath the horizon and the sand is awash in golden pink. A kayaking trip becomes unforgettable when your memories are tinged with the warm light of sunset on the river. Sunsets don’t last forever, but you’ve got a lot to do, that’s why we made this list of the best ways to experience the magic hour while living your most active life.

Mauna Kea, Hawaii

Best sunset action
What is better than watching the sunset over the mountains? For you adventurous lot, taking a custom 4×4 van to get there. Mauna Kea Summit Adventures take you up Hawaii’s highest point with an expert guide to see what island skies are really capable of. The trip includes a full lasagna dinner and hot beverages for when the temps drop as you gaze post-sunset at the stars.

Can’t get enough Mauna Kea sunsets?
Sunset Manta Ray Snorkel in Kailua-Kona is another unforgettable way to experience Hawaii’s dusky magic. Cruise to the Manta Ray Village as the sun sets, then choose to meet the rays in the water while you snorkel, or witness the whole scene from the comfort of the boat. After all, who said sipping hot cocoa isn’t an “activity”?

Destin, Florida

Best sunset action
The Emerald Coast looks good in any light, but there’s an extra sparkle in its eye at sunset, during which you’ll want to be near the water, trust us. Even better, get on the water and meet some friendly locals on a Southern Star dolphin cruise. Their sunset cruise combines many of life’s joys: playful animals, shining green waters, and electric sunset views.

Can’t get enough Destin sunsets?
While in town, you must experience the magnificent patio at Boshamps Seafood & Oyster House. Order some corn and crab chowder, local catch of the day, and a chilled glass of white wine as you watch the lights in the harbor soften into dusk.

Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts

Best sunset action
Colorful light painted across reflective water is truly a beautiful thing, and one of the best places to witness this marvel is off the shores of Martha’s Vineyard. Sail into the sunset on WING, a Nonsuch sailboat you can charter for evening excursions. Sail from Lake Tashmoo past lighthouses and into harbors and coves, as the sun sinks and the colors deepen all around you.

Can’t get enough Martha’s Vineyard sunsets?
Oak Bluffs Harbor is your visual feast at Nancy’s, the best place in the area to enjoy a boiled lobster dinner while toasting to the sun’s radiant bedtime. The west-facing patio view makes every sunset meal here a spectacular one.

Poughkeepsie, NY

Best sunset action
Walkway Over the Hudson is the best way to experience sundown in Poughkeepsie. The 1.28-mile pedestrian suspension bridge offers views of the Catskills and the Hudson Highlands, and it’s a beautiful walk any time of day, but a not-to-miss come sunset. Take a guided tour if you are interested in the history of the area, or go it alone for some quiet reflection time.

Can’t get enough Poughkeepsie sunsets?
Indoors or out, a seat at River Station restaurant comes with a side of sky. The waterfront eatery offers views of the bridges, mountains, and of course, the pearly blue up above. Settle in with fresh cedar-planked salmon, and watch as the sky turns vermilion.

Venice, California

Best sunset action
Cruising the highway is key to any true coastal California experience. Rent a scooter from Route 66 Modern Classics and ride Pacific Coast Highway for as far as your whim will take you. If you’re feeling it, rent a bike from Ride! Venice or find yourself a skateboard, and take in the scenery at a slower pace (true SoCal style) on Ocean Front Walk.

Can’t get enough Venice sunsets?
High Lounge at Hotel Erwin is a rooftop bar with the best views in Venice, making it the prime spot to treat yourself to a dazzling sunset and crisp craft cocktail. Live DJs promise chill vibes, and watching the sun disappear below the horizon of the Pacific sets you up for one epic night.

Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio

Via Flickr/Doug Butchy

Best sunset action
The allure is in the name of this resort village, where nature is waiting in every direction for outdoor-loving travelers. Parks, trails, and of course, Lake Erie are welcome places to watch Ohio’s finest sunsets. Great Lakes Ashtanga Yoga studio knows the good thing they’ve got going and are known to host sunset sessions right next to the lake. There is no more Zen way to say, “namaste.” Speaking of, come in November for the Nama-STAY Yoga Retreat, and take in sunset scenery all weekend long.

Can’t get enough Geneva-on-the-Lake sunsets?
The patio at GOTL Brewing Company will set you up with a direct line to a lakefront sunset. A full food menu, tons of beer on tap and in bottles, and frequent live entertainment round out the relaxed atmosphere at this favorite watering hole.

Healdsburg, California

Left: Gary Farrell Winery via Yelp/Michelle H.; Right: Barndiva patio via Yelp/Nick M.

Best sunset action
What do sunsets and wine have in common? Besides the variety of red, rose, and gold hues, it’s an undeniable fact that some of the country’s finest of each are found in California. Tour the vines and sip to the sunset at Gary Farrell Winery, where the views of the Russian River Valley from atop the hill are unparalleled. Choose from various visits, like the Exploration Tour, billed as “an immersive winery tour and tasting experience.”

Can’t get enough Healdsburg sunsets?
Enjoy sunset sensations on the beautiful garden patio at Barndiva, where guests are encouraged to “eat the view.” Enjoy the finest of evenings as you savor creative dishes such as crispy duck leg confit with handmade gnocchi and Adriatic fig grown on-site. Just like the perfect sunset, you’ll regret watching this enchanting experience fade as night carries on.

Pacific City, Oregon

Via Flickr/ryan harvey

Best sunset action
Oregon beaches aren’t known for their bathing suit weather, but they are distinctly awesome places to catch a unique sunset. Haystack rocks, piney cliffs, and just the right cloud breaks lend the Oregon coast a light and magic all its own. If you’ve ever asked yourself, “when are sunsets the best?” the clear answer is from the back of a horse as ocean waves lap the shore. Saddle up at Oregon Beach Rides, and trot along the sands of Pacific City as the day settles and twilight begins.

Can’t get enough Pacific City sunsets?
Hands down, the best place to watch the sunset is from Pelican Brewing. This award-winning company is not only pouring amazing beer, but they’re located directly on the beach. Try an aptly named Umbrella IPA, settle in on the expansive patio, or tuck into a window-side indoor booth, and stay on past sunset.

Alamogordo, New Mexico

Best sunset action
Alamogordo is home to the New Mexico Museum of Space History, and lovers of all things sky-high will also find some of the most vibrant and fiery sunsets in the country here. You’ll want to experience one at nearby White Sands National Monument, where the lights and shadows turn bright white sands an array of colors. Pick up a sand sled, make your way to the top of a dune, and feel like you’re sliding down a rainbow, Care Bears-style.

Can’t get enough Alamogordo sunsets?
The premium spot in town to take it easy and catch the setting sun is Plateau Espresso. Often featuring live music, this welcoming café is the cultural heart of town. Here you’ll meet locals and visitors in search of the best cup in town, with the best views to match.

Great Falls, Montana

Best sunset action
Fly fishing is synonymous with Montana, and so are stunning sunsets. It is Big Sky Country, after all. Combine the two on a guided trip with Fin Fetchers Outfitters. A full-day fishing excursion offers many chances to enjoy the beautiful Missouri River, especially right before dusk, as sky changes color and the bites get bolder.

Can’t get enough Great Falls sunsets?
For something fun, different, and date-worthy, go to Valley View Garden Golf. This adorably landscaped mini golf course is open well past evening, and is a charming backdrop for a unique vacation activity. Take some time to watch the sky turn colors, but don’t forget to stay on your A-game. Those windmills stop for no one.

Fairbanks, Alaska

Via Flickr/Jesse R.

Best sunset action
We’re beginning to think you haven’t lived until you’ve seen the sunset from a warm, natural outdoor pool. At Chena Hot Springs, 60 miles outside Fairbanks, not only can you accomplish this should-be goal, but the resort also offers aurora borealis wake up calls. The light phenomenon usually happens in the wee hours, so it’s an especially thoughtful amenity in one of the least light polluted places in the U.S. Between the northern lights and the rosier color-streaked skies of evening, the heavens have never looked finer.

Can’t get enough Fairbanks area sunsets?
In town, cruise the Chena River on a steamboat from Riverboat Discovery, then disembark for a hearty meal and a celebratory drink at the Pump House Restaurant & Saloon. With stunning river views from the spacious patio, you’ll want to post up for sundown and beyond.

Leland, Michigan

Best sunset action
Leland, a charming fishing town located between Lake Michigan and Lake Leelanau, will draw you in with its movie-set good looks and favorable peninsula location. A calm day out on the water is perfectly punctuated by the sun’s descent, a time of day known to be especially breathtaking here. So, rent a pontoon at Leelanau Watersports and waste no time starting the greatest leisure-filled day.

Can’t get enough Leland sunsets?
The freshest fish, cold beer, and panoramic windows are the right formula at the Cove, the best waterfront dining in town. Come before sunset and stay as the waning light sets an even cheerier tone to the warm wood accents of the decor.

Branson, Missouri

Via Yelp/Top of the Rock Golf Course

Best sunset action
If you ask the locals where to watch sunsets around here, you may get funny looks. Surely, you’ve been to Top of the Rock, they’ll most likely be thinking. Save yourself the newbie mistake, and head there as soon as you arrive. With views of the Ozark Mountains and Table Rock Lake, this prime recreation spot is also chock-full of things to do—from golf to nature trails to a natural history museum. Come early, but head to Buffalo Bar before sunset to snag an outdoor seat overlooking the lush valley below.

Can’t get enough Branson sunsets?
Branson Landing is another multi-attraction destination, and its waterfront location makes it just right for saying adieu to the sparkling lights of day. Watch the sun fade from the sky then stay on for the fountain show, a fire and water spectacular designed by the people behind the famous Bellagio fountain in Las Vegas.

Mesa Verde Country, Colorado


Best sunset action
To witness the sun’s last rays as your forefathers may have, head to Mesa Verde Country. In this neck of the woods, you’ll find Dunton Hot Springs, a delightfully restored set of cabins in the heart of some downright beautiful landscape. Watch the sun give the horizon the slip from the back of a horse, the open doors of a luxury tent, or snuggled up in one of the cozy cabins. From nearly every vantage point, you’ll be pinching yourself to see if this much charm can possibly be real.

Can’t get enough Southwest Colorado sunsets?
Almost anywhere you turn in this breath-catching region, you’ll find the perfect spot to take in the marbled colors as the sun fades. The top spot in our hearts? Far View Terrace Café in Mesa Verde National Park. Big picture windows look out over the park, and nightfall is a special time of day here, as the sun wanes and the coyotes begin to howl.

Lewes, Delaware

Via Yelp/Janis M.

Best sunset action
If you’re of the mindset that most of nature’s wonders are best seen by water, Lewes has got you covered. Delmarva Board Sport Adventures not only offers SUP rentals, they’re well known for their Cape Henlopen Sunset Tour and sunset dolphin tour. Vanishing sunlight reflections will surround you as you paddle out from shore, a feeling close to floating on air, as the horizon blurs into the sky.

Can’t get enough Lewes sunsets?
The Wharf Restaurant and Bar hits all the high points, with live entertainment, a raw bar, fish boards, house cocktails, and a large outdoor deck from which to admire every sailor’s delight: red skies at night.

Saratoga Springs, New York

Via Flickr/Kim W.

Best sunset action
So much beauty is packed into Saratoga Springs and its surrounds, it just might be best to see it all from a birds-eye view. Adirondack Balloon Flights can help with that. Especially enticing is their sunset hot air balloon ride, which brings you up and over the treetops for an unencumbered view of a landscape bathed in soft light.

Can’t get enough Saratoga Springs sunsets?
You may be sensing we love a good sunset dinner, and there is no better place in the area than Lake Local. This Saratoga Lake restaurant is a laidback spot to meet, eat, and enjoy the view. Kayak or canoe right up to the restaurant just before sunset and snag a table with a lake-facing view.

Sun Valley, Idaho

Best sunset action
What is the best time of year to watch sunsets in Sun Valley? Luckily, the Sun Valley Outdoor Ice Rink is open year-round, with sunset hours, so you don’t have to choose. With a stunning 360-degree view of the surrounding mountains, this world-class rink is available for daily general skate sessions. If you visit in winter, stay for a Sun Valley Suns hockey game after your own day in the rink. Summer brings Sun Valley On Ice, which features Olympic medalists and professional figure skaters.

Can’t get enough Sun Valley sunsets?
Bring your copy of “The Sun Also Rises” to the Hemingway Memorial, beautifully nestled among leafy trees and a calm creek, for a sunset vigil to Papa. Die-hard fans should come in September, when the Ernest Hemingway Festival ushers in fall, an extra special time of year for catching sizzling Idaho sunsets.

Outer Banks, North Carolina

Best sunset action
Take a hang gliding lesson with Kitty Hawk Kites, who have been “teaching the world to fly since 1974.” Soon enough, you’ll earn your wings and be ready for your own adventures, which should include soaring over sand dunes while the sun makes its colorful descent. If you prefer to keep your toes in the sand, Kitty Hawk also sells kites. Grab a rainbow Delta, or a Xelon Dazzling Colors kite, and let the wind take you away as the sun drops.

Can’t get enough Outer Banks sunsets?
For a meal as colorful as sunsets across the water, Masala Bay Grill is a must-do. This waterfront restaurant is all windows and outdoor space, and also happens to serve the best Indian cuisine in town. With a spread of creamy red chicken tikka masala, bright orange carrot pudding, and a glass of buttery yellow chardonnay, you’ll feel like the sunset kissed your table.

National Harbor, Maryland

Via Flickr/Mark Tegethoff

Best sunset action
National Harbor is one of the best places on the east coast to be at sunset, because there is nary a spot without a delectable view. Our pick for the very best place is the impossible to miss Capital Wheel, a 180-foot Ferris wheel from which you can see area attractions in every direction, including the Washington Monument. Sundown is the absolute best time to find yourself circling above it all.

Can’t get enough National Harbor sunsets?
You won’t have to travel far to find Flight Deck. In fact, it’s at the base of the Capital. The outdoor lounge serves beer, wine, and other beverages, so you can enjoy a sunset toast before taking an evening stroll along the Potomac or hailing a water taxi to Old Town Alexandria for a night out.

Santa Margarita, California

Via Yelp/Margarita Adventures

Best sunset action
To “zip ‘n’ sip” your way through wine country, visit Margarita Adventures. They will take you on a nearly 3-hour journey over six zip lines and a 300-foot suspension bridge, culminating in a tasting at Ancient Peaks Winery. Let the sinking sun’s palette impress your senses as you take in the hills, valleys, oaks, and vineyards of San Luis Obispo County.

Can’t get enough Santa Margarita sunsets?
The patio at The Range is a cozy place for a big meal that’s as epic as the sunsets in this part of the world. With menu items like pan-roasted elk medallions and lamb chops with goat cheese gratin potatoes, the only way you lose out is if you don’t save room for dessert.

What are your favorite ways to experience sunsets?