Image: An Ibis stands at the edge of the water
Karen Bleier  /  AFP - Getty Images
An ibis stands at the ocean's edge in the 542-acre Bahia Honda State Park on Bahia Honda Key, Fla. The island is virtually devoid of human residents.
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updated 7/6/2011 8:42:49 AM ET 2011-07-06T12:42:49

"'Tradition' is a synonym for 'rut,'" tweeted @wandering_j in response to a call out for unique summer travel traditions. We beg to differ — especially if your tradition is to visit a different island park each summer, or to charter a boat and explore places unknown. Not that there's anything wrong with the yearly beach pilgrimage to Wildwood for family fun, arcades and deep-fried Oreos, but we're going unique here. Check out our five.

1. Trace the beer and food festivals
For the connoisseur or boozehound, Beerfestivals.org's July calendar lists dozens of fests throughout the U.S. and beyond. I think this year, I'll start on July 23 at the Philly Zoo's Summer Ale Festival. Attendees can drink River Horse's Hop Hazard (or brews from a list of other outfits) and eat local cuisine while supporting the zoo's mission to "bring about the x-tink-shun of extinction." Or brave the summer heat for New Orleans' Tales of the Cocktail festival, which offers cooking demos and cocktail tastings at the end of July. Finally, we had to mention @TravelSpinner's suggestion: Head to Suffolk, England, for "Dwile Flonking," which Wikipedia says "involves two teams, each taking a turn to dance around the other while attempting to avoid a beer-soaked dwile (cloth) thrown by the non-dancing team." Now how could you miss that?

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2. Escape to an island state park
Florida's Bahia Honda Key comprises a state park with a natural beach (you'll quickly get used to the strong seaweed smell), fishing and snorkeling, kayaking, rare plant spotting and hiking. Head up to the old Bahia Honda Bridge, part of the iconic Overseas Highway, for a view of the island and its surroundings. You can rent cabins or rough it at a campsite (a store and shower facilities are available on the island). Across the country, trekkers can camp at California's Channel Islands, a chain of uninhabited islands with a unique ecosystem. The islands are said to resemble California as it was B.S. (before smog). Activities for campers (back country and official campsites) include surfing, hiking and seal and sea lion viewing.

3. Explore a destination by chartered boat
Visiting a place by boat is often the best — and sometimes only — way to go. If you can pull together three to 20 like-minded friends (the more you gather, the more you can divide the costs), you can charter a boat for a cruise of Alaska's Inside Passage, which is made up of islands unlinked by road. There are various choices, from two- or three-nighters to a week or more; all come with cook and captain. Meals and snacks are included in the costs, and often feature "catch of the day"-type fare, as well as crab and shrimp bakes. Excursions may include beach and rain forest hiking, fishing, kayaking (most charters are equipped with kayaks and smaller skiffs), wetsuit diving, whale watching and visits to hot springs and waterfalls — all there to be enjoyed whenever the opportunity presents itself. For more tips, see Planning a Trip to Alaska.

4. Relive history
Some of the most important (and bloodiest) battles of Civil War occurred during the summer months. @PolPrairieMama mentioned that she heads to Harpers Ferry, W.Va.; Gettysburg, Pa.; and Antietam (in Sharpsburg, Md.), where 23,000 soldiers were killed in 12 hours, for summer reenactments. The big annual Gettysburg Civil War Battle Reenactment runs from July 1 to 3 and features live mortar fire demos and battles — but there are enough battlefields and reenactments to fill a lifetime of summers. And don't forget: This year is the start of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

5. Become a home team groupie
Leap-frogging on an annual manly bonding trip taken by IndependentTraveler.com Editor Sarah Schlichter's father and brother, we're hitting the road with an arbitrarily chosen sports squadron. A quick glance at the Philadelphia Phillies' schedule reveals a West Coast swing from August 1–10, during which the team plays the Colorado Rockies for three, the San Francisco Giants for four and the Los Angeles Dodgers for three. Three vastly different cities, climates, ballparks, landscapes. Next year we'll pick a different team on a different swing. Anything but a rut.

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