Christina Huynh

Vacation at one of these destinations with LEED-certified spaces and fun outdoor activities.

Grab your sunglasses, stock up on sunscreen and pack your suitcase—summertime is finally here, and with it, an opportunity to explore different sights around the grand ‘ole USA. 

Check out this 2016 traveler’s guide for sustainable destinations featuring LEED-certified spaces, crisscrossing from the West down to the South and over to the East.

Looking for a little more information about LEED and hospitality? Read our LEED in Motion: Hospitality Report.

1. Austin, Texas

Over the years, Austin has emerged as one of the South’s top enclaves for music, thanks in part to the annual SXSW festival. But the capital city of Texas—which ranked eighth in the nation in the 2015 Top 10 States for LEED—also aims to hit all the right notes in its green efforts. The city council passed a resolution in 2014 that established a goal of reaching net zero for community-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Head over to Austin this summer and check in at the W Austin, which is part of the LEED-certified, mixed-occupancy project Block 21. Stream NPR Music’s Spotify playlist of SXSW artists while strolling along the city’s Lady Bird Lake Trail. Then, take the metro to hear live music at Austin City Limits Live at The Moody Theater, and at dusk, head over to the Congress Bridge to watch hundreds of thousands Mexican free-tailed bats fly around the overpass.

2. Boston, Massachusetts

This East Coast city is filled with many historic charms: Fenway Park, the oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball; Union Oyster House, the oldest operating restaurant in the U.S. and a national historic landmark; and Acorn Street, a picturesque cobblestone path in the Beacon Hill neighborhood.

Boston is also a city that’s working to make sure its new, large-scale projects are equally charming for future generations. All such projects must meet LEED certification standards, according to the city’s website.

For young professionals and college students, consider staying at the LEED Silver Hostelling International Boston. Then, head over to Fenway Park to root on the Red Sox and learn about their sustainability efforts. Explore the Boston Higher Ground Farm, a rooftop farm on top of the Boston Design Center, and spend a day at the LEED Gold Boston Children’s Museum.

3. Chattanooga, Tennessee 

In the late 1960s, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency named Chattanooga the most polluted city in the country. Since then, city leaders and the local community have worked together to establish an air pollution control bureau, miles of greenways and electric shuttle buses. Now, Chattanooga’s power grid is the first PEER-certified project at the city level.

Stay at The Crashpad, a LEED Platinum hostel, or at the LEED Silver Springhill Suites Chattanooga Downtown/Cameron Harbor. Take a tour of the Creative Discovery Museum Green Roof, featuring 3,000 square feet of small trees and plants, and make sure to visit the Rock City Gardens.  

4. Chicago, Illinois

This Midwestern city, known for its love of deep-dish pizza, its expansive architectural skyline and its comedy club The Second City, has served as a two-time host for the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo.

Book your room at the LEED Gold Virgin Hotel Chicago, just minutes from the Magnificent Mile. Walk around the LEED Gold Merchandise Mart, which once held the title of the world’s largest building, and then grab a spot at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park for a free summer concert. 

Take the CTA elevated train, known as the "El" to Chicagoans, to get around the city. And don’t forget to visit the University of Chicago to tour their LEED-certified buildings and to visit the LEED Gold Field Museum.

5. San Francisco, California

San Francisco has implemented a range of sustainability initiatives, from working to support green building and better public transportation to setting a goal of zero waste by 2020.

Beat the summer heat by staying cool in this northern California city, famous for its Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars and numerous startups. Relax at the LEED Gold InterContinental San Francisco hotel, which features Energy Star-rated appliances and floor-to-ceiling windows that allow for plenty of natural daylight.

Wander through the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and visit the LEED Platinum Exploratorium museum, which has more than 600 interactive exhibits.

Learn more about how to travel green