101 Best Weekend Getaways in America (Gallery)
The 101 Best Weekend Getaways in America
Far too often, our week doesn’t actually end on the weekend. It’s important, however, to take those couple of days — or sometimes three or four days — to unwind and regroup for the coming week. Luckily for those in the United States, a getaway is more than possible sans passport, thanks to the expansive area of this great nation.
Amelia Island, Fla.
Named for Princess Amelia, daughter of King George II of Great Britain, Amelia Island is a tiny patch of land – only 13 miles long and a mere 4 miles long at its widest point—off the coast of northeastern Florida. With excellent weather all year round, Amelia Island has much to offer for lovers of boating, fishing, golfing, and even theater. We recommend a stay at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort, the base of Daven Wardynski, one of the country’s top chefs.
Home to the first Disney theme park, Disneyland, since 1955, Anaheim is one of the country’s top destinations. Being smaller than Disney World, but also less expensive, Disneyland is perfect for a weekend of magic, mouse, and merriment. With plenty of restaurants to choose from, Disneyland is also one of the best places for culinary indulgence in the city. In addition to Disneyland, Anaheim is now also home to Disney California Adventure, which celebrates Californian culture and history.
Asheville is a southern gem hidden between the Blue Ridge Mountains and Great Smoky Mountains, and has been variously described as the “Paris of the South” and the “San Francisco of the East.” There are four distinct seasons, and fall in particular is breathtaking in Asheville due to the color of the surrounding hills. Bearing the most complete collection of Art Deco structures in the U.S., the city’s man-made sights are gorgeous as well. The most notable landmark of Asheville, however, is actually just a few minutes outside of the city: the Biltmore Estate. Make a stop at the doughnut shop, HOLE, before heading over to enjoy Biltmore’s French Renaissance-influenced architecture. The chateau has over 250 rooms and is the largest privately-owned house in the world. Admission is a between $45 to $60 (with half admission for youth, and free for children 9 and under), but you’ll find it’s more than worth it after exploring the estate, its gardens, hiking trails, stables, and wineries.
Home to the busiest airport in the world, Atlanta isn’t hard to reach. Once you do get there, there’s plenty to do in terms of food and fun. The world’s favorite soda has its headquarters here, and a tour of the World of Coca-Cola provides sweet insight as well as samples. Visitors can also visit the world’s largest aquarium by volume of water, take a tour of CNN’s studio headquarters, or visit the largest dinosaur ever excavated at the Fernbank Natural History Museum. You can pay tribute to the civil rights movement here as well, as the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site gives visitors the opportunity to visit the civil rights leader’s birthplace home, church, and grave site, along with a museum and memorial dedicated in his honor. The city’s role in the civil rights movement is memorialized in the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, and the Civil War gets a tribute in one of the world’s largest oil paintings, the Atlanta Cyclorama, a cylindrical panoramic of the Battle of Atlanta, and the largest collection of Civil War memorabilia resides at the nearby Atlanta History Center, as well. A number of other ancient, modern, and natural history museums and exhibits populate Atlanta, and those who wish to see as many as they can should take the time to buy the Atlanta CityPASS, a nine-day discounted pass to visit five local attractions, often with the ability to cut lines.
Atlantic City, N.J.
The legality of casino gambling has made Atlantic City a very popular east coast destination, but that’s not all it has to offer. Atlantic City also has the country’s oldest boardwalk, which stretches four miles. You can also guides on the boardwalk who will give you a lift in an old-fashioned rolling chair to its hotels (particularly Caesars’ with its fine dining options), resorts, shops, and casinos if you’re not up for the walk. Several piers off of the boardwalk offer even more attractions. Go to Garden Pier to visit the local history museum and the Atlantic City Arts Center where you can enjoy all kinds of live shows or check out Steel Pier for rides and games at the local amusement park. The Atlantic City Aquarium has eight giant tanks full of amazing marine life, but you can also enjoy the sea outdoors by visiting Absecon Lighthouse and climbing its 228 steps for a fantastic ocean view.
Locals may love to “Keep Austin Weird,” but this city is a good kind of odd. Austin has a unique ambience in comparison with the rest of the state and is the live music capital of the world, with tons of music venues and festivals to check out. Like everything else in Texas, Austin is huge, so it’s divided into six districts. Tech is booming here, and the city is also known as “Silicon Hills” due to its reputation for fostering tech start-ups. Austin offers tons of shopping, art galleries, and multiple museums and parks, and outdoor endeavors are popular, particularly rock climbing and mountain biking. You can also go for a swim in a spring-fed pool or rent a kayak, canoe, paddle board, or tube. Make sure you try the Tex-Mex while you’re there too! Austin’s food scene is a great mix of Southwestern and cosmopolitan.
Baltimore is crab heaven with its famous crab cakes, crab soup, steamed blue crabs and raw oysters. You can also see your seafood at the National Aquarium or visit the Baltimore Harbor. Baltimore is also great for black history, having a population that is predominantly black, and the Great Blacks in Wax Museum and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Black History are both fantastic sources of education. Fort McHenry, which successfully defended the harbor from the British in the War of 1812, is just across the harbor; Francis Scott Key was inspired to pen the Star Spangled Banner after witnessing the flag still waiving over the fort through the haze of battle.
There’s clearly something romantic about Beaufort. The setting of both Nicholas Sparks’ novels A Walk to Remember and The Choice, this seaside town lies all the way on the eastern end of North Carolina’s Crystal Coast in the Outer Banks. Check out the Boardwalk Café while strolling along the pier and enjoying the gorgeous maritime scenery. Beaufort is known for its multitude of historic homes, the oldest of which is the Hammock House of 1698, once an inn where it is said the infamous pirate Blackbeard was a regular customer. In fact, Beaufort’s bigger claim to fame is the 1996 discovery of Queen Anne’s Revenge, Blackbeard’s ship, under 20 feet of water in the Beaufort Inlet. Restoration and retrieval of artifacts are still underway, and while much of it remains underwater, visitors can still visit the site and enjoy many activities relating to the notorious swashbuckler.
Berkeley Springs, W.Va.
This tiny town of just over 600 people was actually incorporated as the town of Bath, but it’s been called Berkeley Springs, the name of its post office, since 1802. If you’re looking for real spring water and not the fake bottled kind, Berkeley Springs is known for its mineral water springs that have been used as bathing sites since before Europeans settled there, there are multiple spas and bath houses in the town. The springs at Berkeley Springs State Park flow at a rate of about 1,500 gallons per minute, and its spa has Roman baths, whirlpool tubs, a sauna, shower, and massages available for your enjoyment. George Washington himself was known to visit the baths here, and the park features “the only outdoor monument to presidential bathing,” a stone tub built to represent the conditions in which he would have done so, known as George Washington’s Bathtub. There’s even a yearly celebration of the tub every year on the weekend closest to the anniversary of his first visit to Berkeley Springs on March 18, 1748. Visitors can take part in the Washington Heritage Trail to see where the first president went in town when he wasn’t bathing, as well as other local walking tours. The town also holds the Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting, the world’s largest such competition in the world, in late February, as well as the Berkeley Springs Apple Butter Festival in October and Uniquely West Virginia, a day-long wine and food festival, in April.
The Berkshires, Massachusetts
Located in western Massachusetts, the Berkshires are a wonderful mountain getaway to enjoy nature and culture. Fine dining and spas in this region offer great relaxation after taking part in more physical excursions, such as the area’s hiking trails, most notably part of the Appalachian Trail, which are especially impressive in the fall. Bish Bash Falls, Massachusetts’ tallest waterfall, is located here, as plenty of parks such as Kent Falls, Herbert Arboretum, and Berkshire Botanical Garden. The Norman Rockwell Museum and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art are just two of the art museums you can explore, and both music and theater find a home in locations such as Tanglewood Music Center and Boston University Tanglewood Institute in Lenox, where the Boston Symphony Orchestra goes for the summer. Jacob’s Pillow, the country’s first dance festival, is also held every year in Becket.
Bethany Beach, Del.
Just a little under 1,200 people reside in the costal town of Bethany Beach, but over 15,000 come to visit them every summer. The area is known for its peacefulness, and the Bethany Beach boardwalk, a nice, well-kept change from more popular seaside destinations such as Atlantic City. Both golfing and swimming are popular endeavors here, but the town also has cute little cafés and stores for you to peruse. Don’t miss Chief Little Owl, the 24-foot totem pole welcoming you to town, or the town museum which chronicles the town’s history from its birth as a religious retreat.
Birmingham has a special place in American history, and it’s a fantastic weekend trip for any lover of history or Southern culture. The site of some of the most intense points of the Civil Rights Movement, visitors to Birmingham would be remiss to neglect a visit to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. The city’s Kelly Ingram Park is a monument to the process of healing and moving forward in peace. The Alabama Farmers’ Market is worth a visit too. You can also take a trip to the Arlington Antebellum Home and Gardens, older than Birmingham itself, to learn all of this history amid a site that celebrates Southern heritage. Multiple art and film festivals take place in the city as well, complementing the art galleries and performance art theaters that provide the state’s finest talent.
Black Hills, S.D.
Located right next to the Badlands of South Dakota, the Black Hills are a small mountain region near Rapid City which hold a controversial history. Promises to the Lakota Sioux to keep white settlers off the land were broken by the United States government when gold was discovered, and as a result, the existence of monuments like the famed Mount Rushmore remains controversial. In addition to the faces of the four presidents carved into a mountain, visitors also flock to Black Hills National Forest, Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, Custer State Park, and Crazy Horse Memorial, the native answer to Mount Rushmore which is set to become the world’s largest sculpture once completed. This is a great hiking destination, as well as a wonderland for winter sportsmen.
Blackwater Falls State Park, W.Va.
The most photographed place in West Virginia lies in the Allegheny Mountains near the city of Davis. You’ve probably seen the spot where the Blackwater River hits Blackwater Canyon in a gorgeous fall of water on jigsaw puzzles, calendars, advertisements, and even stationary, but it’s even better in person. Multiple trails provide great hiking opportunities, including a wheelchair-accessible nature trail.
Blowing Rock, N.C.
The tiny town of Blowing Rock, located on the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the western part of the state, is as safe and quaint as it gets. As you walk down the main street, bubbles will literally float around you, coming out of the Martin House’s bubble machine. Getting there isn’t as secure, however; a rocky and slightly nerve-wracking drive up the mountains is required in order to reach this idyllic town, but it’s more than worth the drive. A hiking trail about a mile off of Main Street, the Glen Burney Trail, offers a bit of a challenge for hikers, but one can cautiously enjoy the multitude of beautiful cascades and greenery. Climbers, fly-fishers, and cave explorers also have quite a bit to do here, and those who reach Fairy Hill will have the opportunity to dig into the streambed for real mountain crystals. The town’s Westglow Spa can bring a bit of luxury to your Blowing Rock experience, and shopping abounds as well. You also shouldn’t leave without purchasing a specialty candle from the local High Country Candles or a sweet treat from Kilwin’s Fudge Shop.
Boston has everything for those seeking a big city with a small town feel. History abounds in the 16 districts of Beantown, and over 16 million people come to experience it every year. Site of the Boston Tea Party, the Boston Massacre, and the Siege of Boston, Boston is known as “The Cradle of Liberty” due to its pivotal role in American independence. As a result, the Freedom Trail — a two-and-a-half-mile walking history tour — is an absolute must for every visitor and a great way to start off your weekend. You can also experience history indoors at the city’s many museums, saving quite a bit with one of several visitor passes such as the Go Boston Card or the Boston CityPASS to witness history, art, science, and culture. Boston also has some beautiful parks, but the best spot is the renowned Boston Common and Public Garden, the oldest public park in the nation. Downtown Boston holds Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market where you can find plenty to eat or shop. Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, is one of Boston’s most famous landmarks, and catching a game there is an all-American experience many tourists make sure to partake in.
One of five boroughs that make up the city of New York, Brooklyn is known as the “Borough of Homes and Churches.” While its true that Brooklyn is far more family-friendly in terms of residency than Manhattan, it still has quite a bit to offer. With about 2.5 million citizens, Brooklyn would be the country’s fourth largest city in terms of population if separated from New York City, and one could easily spend an entire weekend here. A walk across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge is a must, as is a stroll through Prospect Park. The designers of the park also created the world-famous Central Park over in Manhattan, but actually favored their Brooklyn design, which lies next to the beautiful Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Known for its artistic and culinary scene, Brooklyn is also home to many an Instagram food fad. Visitors to Brooklyn can also take a trip down to Coney Island to enjoy Brooklyn’s beach or make a trip to the New York Aquarium nearby.
Cannon Beach, Ore.
Although the coastal town of Cannon Beach has a population of only around 1,700 people, over 750,000 visit every year to enjoy an affordable vacation. Photos of its shore often feature the 235-foot-tall Haystack Rock, the third largest monolith in the world. Low tide reveals the starfish and other marine life living near the base of the rock. You can also find even more natural beauty at Ecola State Park, a favorite of many hikers and campers with great views of the coast. Charming little shops line the streets of Cannon Beach, and the entire area is fantastic for photography.
Cape Cod, Mass.
The peninsula of Cape Cod contains plenty of cute little villages, beaches, ports, lighthouses, and restaurants to explore. A great place to enjoy a nice bed and breakfast or go antiquing, Cape Cod has been an East Coast holiday favorite for decades of tourists, most notably the Kennedys. Visitors can take part in all kinds of water sports, camping, biking, hiking, and more. What many don’t seem to realize, however, is the historical significance of the region; Provincetown, the site of the landing of the first Pilgrims, is right at the tip of the peninsula. Summer swells Cape Cod’s population by a factor of three, and the cape has offered inspiration to plenty of writers, including Kurt Vonnegut, Henry David Thoreau, and Cape Cod natives Mercy Otis Warren and Norman Mailer.
Cape May, N.J.
On the southernmost tip of New Jersey lies the coastal city of Cape May. Declared a national landmark in 1976, Cape May is known for its Victorian architecture and fantastic beach. Its iconic lighthouse is well worth the visit, and you can climb its 199 steps for fabulous views of the town and shore. Animal lovers will also love it here, as dolphin and whale watching is a common endeavor and the Cape May Bird Observatory provides a great avian attraction. Water sports, of course, abound, with many opportunities to Jet Ski, parasail, kayak, surf, swim, and fish. Biking is also a great way to get around town, and dinner cruises often leave from the ports as well.
Carmel-by-the-Sea — often just referred to as Carmel — is a small yet popular destination in Monterey Bay. It would only take you five minutes to walk across the entire town, but those five minutes have plenty of art galleries, cafés, inns, and restuarants to explore, including Chef Justin Cogley’s Aubergine. You’ll take much longer than five minutes just walking down, though, as the architecture is beautiful in this tiny town known to have numberless houses. Carmel Beach itself is gorgeous, and beaches are often populated with admirers at sunset. It’s also leash-free, so your dog can enjoy running through the white sand with you, after joining you at one of the town’s many canine-friendly restaurants and hotels. You can also enjoy the view by car, as the aptly-named Scenic Drive runs along the beach. Another scenic drive, the 17-Mile Drive, winds through one of California’s most prestigious neighborhoods, and non-residents have to pay $9.50 just to go through the gate.
Yet another great destination for Southern history and culture, visitors to Charleston can enjoy the city’s centuries-old homes, historic streets, beautiful gardens, and Revolutionary and Civil War-era sites. A height restriction ordinance has kept the Charleston skyline low, and so it is populated with the city’s many churches, as well as the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. The nation’s history of slavery is particularly apparent here, and one can visit the sites of old slave markets as well as former slave plantations. In addition to walking tours, there are also carriage tours available for those wishing to experience Charleston without putting in quite as much physical effort.
North Carolina’s largest city is divided into 16 districts, which have seen a lot of growth in the past two decades. Charlotte has an entire district of museums, including museums for children, art lovers, Southern culture and history buffs, and even aviation geeks. Racing fans will enjoy the NASCAR Hall of Fame, which finds its home here, and outdoor sportsmen will enjoy the U.S. National Whitewater Center where you can mountain bike and whitewater raft, among other things. For food lovers, Charlotte is also home to the state’s best pizza.Charlotte is also known a the home of Carowinds, a Cedar Fair theme park which lies on the border of the two Carolinas, straddled by Charlotte and South Carolina’s Fort Mill.
While he was only one of two presidents to call Charlottesville home, it is Thomas Jefferson who seems to reign supreme here. Get the Monticello Neighborhood Pass for $34 to $40, depending on time of year, to gain access not only to Thomas Jefferson’s home, but also to President James Monroe’s Ash Lawn-Highland, and to the nearby Michie Tavern, an inn-turned-museum and restaurant built in 1784 that now serves some of the best fried chicken in the country. The Downtown Mall is also a great place to walk around, with several blocks blocked off to traffic so you can explore the town’s stores and restaurants, as well as the Virginia Discovery Museum for families.
The nation’s third largest city is a perfect weekend getaway for those who prefer a more urban vacation with both a food-lover's and an arts scene. Its famous skyline boasts not only the Willis Tower (formerly and often still known as the Sears Tower), but also some of the world’s best museums, art galleries, parks, and more. You don’t need admission to anything to witness some of the Second City’s great art, however; downtown Chicago has an entire collection of modern sculptures that you can enjoy on your own or with a two-to-four-hour walking tour. Lake Michigan may not be an ocean, but it provides some great beaches all the same, Chicago being considered the second cleanest urban waterfront in the world. The Windy City is also home to Taste of Chicago, the world’s largest outdoor food festival, and of course, the Chicago Deep Dish.
Cleveland is often overlooked when it comes to American tourist destinations, which is surprising when you consider all that it has to offer in terms of culture and recreation. A three-day weekend here would be jam-packed, as there are so many museums, parks, gardens, theaters, and galleries, that the city has the densest concentration of cultural attractions in the country. An absolute must for all visitors to Cleveland is a visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Take a trip to the local farmers market at West Side Market or visit the house from A Christmas Story, which is open year round and looks exactly how it was portrayed in the movie. In addition to the city life, Cleveland also has quite a few outdoor activities, having historically been referred to as the “Forest City”; you’ll find plenty of places to go hiking, biking, and even skiing in the winter. Lake Erie is also a great place to enjoy walks on the beach, swimming, fishing, boating, and other water sports.
Dallas has plenty to offer, with two large aquariums, a zoo, the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, and multiple museums dedicated to art and science. Go downtown to see the X that marks the spot where President John F. Kennedy was killed in the back of a open-topped limousine and visit the Sixth Floor Museum, located in the building from which Lee Harvey Oswald shot him. Zero Gravity Thrill Rides Amusement Park, the world’s only amusement park dedicated to thrill rides, has five extreme rides that you can enjoy, and Six Flags Over Texas is the original Six Flags park. Dallas also has a great food scene that isn’t to be missed.
Yet another city with a cowboy past, Denver has grown into a center of culture and arts. You’ll find plenty of city life here, but the Rocky Mountains are right nearby for when you crave the great outdoors. A plethora of museums cover local history, art, and science, and the city’s parks and gardens are also quite beautiful. Brewery tours are popular in Denver, and there’s even a private cannabis tour for those looking to truly enjoy the legality of marijuana in the state.
Door County, Wis.
The peninsula of Door County lies right between Green Bay and Lake Michigan, and it’s a favorite of many Midwestern travelers. There are more than 80 cultural attractions here, including museums, theaters, and art galleries, many of which have courses for tourists to take. Door County also has more than 300 miles of shoreline, over a dozen conservation areas, and five state parks, making it a great destination for nature lovers, and its ten lighthouses draw quite a few people interested in maritime history.
Estes Park, Colo.
Right at the east entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park is a town rather than a park in the traditional sense — park, in the local dialect, can refer to an upland valley or meadow. While tourism is heaviest from July through September, the area is beautiful and you can always hide from other tourists at The Wheel Bar. Estes Park is also a quieter wintertime destination for enjoying the Rockies due to its world-class snow shoeing and cross-country skiing opportunities. The area is also great for camping, and visitors also enjoy hiking, horse riding, mountain climbing, biking, fishing, birding, and rafting. Golfers can enjoy 27 holes, and the local Rooftop Rodeo is award-winning and fun for the whole family.
Fairbanks has the best of Alaska to offer, particularly its crêpes. Come between mid-August and April for the best chance to witness the aurora, as Fairbanks is located right below the auroral oval. It’s not a bad idea to visit during the end of February or early March so you can catch the World Ice Art Championships held by Ice Alaska to spotlight impressively beautiful ice sculptures from artists around the world. Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge has trails that both hikers and bird lovers will love, as the trails go through an area that many bird species stop at during migration season. Several tours are available throughout Fairbanks to explore the nearby rivers as well as the city itself.
Known as the “Gateway to the New River Gorge,” Fayetteville is a small town with fantastic scenery and great opportunities for river and outdoor activities. While you can do some horseback riding, you may be more intrigued by the llama treks that are popular here. The waters, rivers, mountains, and landscapes of Fayetteville draw many visitors for scenic hiking, drives, and different river expeditions, most notably rafting. Make sure to check out the Appalachian arts and crafts available in local shops, as well as the Fayetteville Farmers’ Market.
Fort Worth, Tex.
Fort Worth is a little more cowboy than its twin city, Dallas. There is the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, but you should also visit the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame and the National Cowboys of Color Museum to upend your preconceived notions about cowboys entirely. The Fort Worth Stockyards host the self-proclaimed “World’s Original Indoor Rodeo” every Friday and Saturday. Museums of art and science also populate Fort Worth, including the Kimball Art Museum, which has a small yet impressive collection that includes works by Picasso, Matisse, and Goya.
Grand Forks, N.D.
Grand Forks is wonderful for a small town weekend stay, and summertime is the best time to visit. Get a bite of the local specialty, wild chokecherry mini-pies, at the Town Square Farmer’s Market or a taco at Red Pepper before heading over to the Grand Forks Japanese Garden at Sertoma Park, a gift from the town’s sister city of Awano, Japan. Hunting is also a favored endeavor for residents and visitors, and anglers shouldn’t fear if they’ve missed the summer season — ice fishing is popular in the wintertime too.
Great Smoky Mountains, Tenn./N.C.
There are several large cities with access to the Great Smoky Mountains, and any one of them would be a great base from which to enjoy the gorgeous flora and incredible fauna. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park receives 9 to 10 million visits annually, making it the most-visited national park in the country. It’s also one of the best for a picnic. It has been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve, with nearly 95 percent forestation filled with nearly 100 different species of native trees, over 5,400 plant species, hundreds of bird species, 50 types of native fish, 66 different kinds of mammals, and countless amphibians and reptiles. The Appalachian Trail — heaven for hikers — runs through the park, and the valley of Cades Cove is the most popular spot due to the beautiful view, tons of wildlife, and historical structures. If you’re on the North Carolinian side of the mountains, you can also make a visit to the home of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation at the eastern entrance of the national park.
The Hamptons, N.Y.
Known as the “East End,” the Hamptons are a group of hamlets and villages that make up the South Fork of Long Island and have been frequented by the rich and famous for decades. Three of the Hamptons’ zip codes are among the 10 most expensive in the nation, which means its beach houses and country clubs are not only exclusive but also very pricy. If you can afford it, however, the Hamptons provide some of nature’s most beautiful seaside and plenty of art galleries where art shows are popular. The Hamptons draw huge crowds from nearby New York City, so the area is often best enjoyed after the summer crowd is gone. Golfing is also par for the course, as Hampton has some of the best private golf clubs in the country, and its bars and restaurants are unparalleled.
The “Sweetest Place on Earth” should be at the top of the bucket list for every lover of American chocolate. The hometown of Milton S. Hershey, then named Derry Church before it was renamed after him, it was here that the chocolatier built a chocolate plant for his growing business. Today, visitors from all over the world come to Hershey’s Chocolate World for a free tour of how the confectionaries are made in addition to other chocolate-related exhibits. Hershey Park is also a major draw, an amusement park full of rides, shows, and shops of everything Hershey chocolate. For non-sweets related plans, there is also a zoo and an auto museum, as well as the Indian Echo Caverns for visitors to explore.
Hot Springs, Ark.
The historic bathhouses of Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs, Arkansas, may now all be closed (with the exception of Buckstaff Bathhouse), but the buildings are still kept the way they were in the 1800s and open for tours. You can still enjoy the natural mineral spring water by filling up a water jug at the public fountain on Bathhouse Row on your way to the Historic Downtown Farmers Market. (Newer, more modern bathhouses are also available throughout town.) Hot Springs is also one of the country’s best small arts towns with a thriving fine arts community, as well as a local documentary film festival held every October. The Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo has about 200 alligators in addition to many other types of animals, and the Garvan Woodland Gardens are great for botany geeks or for a peaceful walk. Thirteen hotels and four neighborhoods are listed by the National Register of Historic Places, and the town is also home to Magic Springs Theme and Water Park, as well as Hot Springs National Park for the more nature-minded.
Recently named the most diverse place in America, Texas’s largest city is fantastic for food lovers. You can find amazing and authentic Mexican food anywhere in Houston, but there are certain areas that specialize in specific cuisines. Chinatown is, of course, best for Chinese food, while the Mahatma Gandhi District is full of Indian or Pakistani fare. Go to Koreatown for Korean cuisine, Midtown for Vietnamese, the predominantly Jewish Meyerland for anything kosher, and Bissonette Street for something Nigerian or Ethiopian. Make sure you don’t leave Houston without visiting the NASA Johnson Space Center, and make sure to check out the plethora of museums as well as the Houston Zoo. You’ll also do well to buy a Houstin CityPASS to get into up to six attractions within a nine-day period.
Jackson Hole. Wyo.
Often confused with the city of Jackson, which lies within the region, Jackson Hole actually refers to the Wyoming valley between the Gros Ventre Range and Teton Mountain Range, consisting of multiple towns and communities. Visit Grand Teton National Park, where Glacier View Turnout has a fantastic view of Teton Glacier, or the National Elk Refuge with the largest elk herd in the world (and sleigh rides in the winter!) The area also has some great food, as well as boat and river trips that are great fun for the family, and multiple spas to relax in as well.
Kansas City, Miss.
Not to be confused with the neighboring city of the same name in Kansas itself, this is a beautiful city often missed by tourists. It said that only Rome has more fountains than Kansas City, Missouri, which also supposedly has more boulevards than Paris. Art deco buildings decorate downtown streets, and the historic city market has plenty of dining and hopping options, as well as a farmers market. The 18th and Vine Historic District houses the American Jazz Museum as well as the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, and other museums in the city include the National World War I Museum and Liberty Memorial, Crown Center (home of Hallmark Cards and the Hallmark Museum), and a few art museums to boot. The Crossroads Arts District has been referred to as the SoHo of the Midwest, and is particularly busy during the summer. The Kansas City food scene is another reason to stop here. Barbecue food is a local specialty, and the American Royal BBQ Contest is the largest of its kind.
Known for being the summer home of the Bush family, Kennebunkport’s trademarked slogan is “The Place to be all Year,” but the town is best visited during warmer weather. There are multiple beaches for your swimming and sunning needs, and the Franciscan Monastery is open year-round,with beautifully maintained grounds and a beautiful view of the harbor. Whale watching and golf are also popular endeavors. There’s even a Seashore Trolley Museum, which offers the chance to operate a trolley for yourself!
Key West, Fla.
The Florida Keys hold some of the country’s best beaches, but Key West in particular has even more to offer. Home of the Key lime pie and the Key West pink shrimp, the island’s food is legendary. Ghost lore is popular here, and visitors can take a 90-minute walk through Old Key West for an informative and historic tour called “Ghosts and Legends of Key West.” The Key West City Cemetery is also notable, with graves representing customs from African, Anglo, Hispanic, and other mixed cultures, as well as interesting gravestones that say things like “At least I know where he’s sleeping tonight,” “Devoted fan of Julio Iglesias,” or “I told you I was sick.” Key West is also known for being the home of famed American writer Ernest Hemingway, and the Ernest Hemingway House is open for visitors to see where he wrote and lived for a decade of his life. The island is also very popular due to its mild, only semi-tropical climate, but Key West is also supposedly the only city in the lower 48 states to have never had a frost due to the temperature never reaching freezing point.
Kitty Hawk, N.C.
Yet another Outer Banks destination, Kitty Hawk is the birthplace of modern flight. The Wright Brothers National Memorial is the main attraction — it features a large outdoor memorial to the first successfully flown plane and a nearby museum with exhibits about the first flight. Visitors can also visit the marina, as well as take advantage of the various nearby courses for both golf and mini-golf. Being in the Outer Banks, you're also surrounded by plenty of beautiful beaches, where it's even legal to drink beer on the shore.
Lake Geneva, Wis.
The town of Lake Geneva has a wonderful law that states that all lakefront properties must allow for a bit of their land to be used as part of a path that encircles the entire lake. Bikes are banned, which allows for you to go for a nice, tranquil walk, untroubled by cyclists moving at a more frantic pace. You can also rent a boat and actually get on the lake for sailing or parasailing. Cute little stores offer all kinds of trinkets and goods for tourists to take home.
Lake Powell, Utah/Ariz.
The reservoir of Lake Powell lies on the Colorado River, mostly in Utah but with some of it stretching into Arizona. Two million people come here every year to marvel at this man-made lake surrounded by Mars-like terrain. In fact, Lake Powell is so extraterrestrial-esque that it’s been the shooting location for 45 films and television shows, including Gravity, Doctor Who, and Planet of the Apes. Part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Lake Powell is a great place for water sports and hiking, and visitors can also visit the nearby Rainbow Bridge, the world’s highest natural bridge. While there are campgrounds at the marinas, you can also rent a houseboat and stay right there on the water.
Lake Tahoe, Nev./Calif.
Nearly three million people annually make it out to the border of California and Nevada to visit Lake Tahoe, one of the biggest, clearest, and deepest freshwater lakes on the planet. Lake Tahoe is a year-round destination with offerings that vary with the seasons. Come in the summer for splendid hiking, golfing, boating, and other watersports, and return in the winter for some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the nation, especially if you’re a beginner. If you’re not up for a snowboarding class or a good time on the water, however, there’s still plenty to do in this popular tourist region. Get some of the country’s best waffles at the Red Hut Café. Dining, shopping, gambling, and nature sightseeing are all worthwhile endeavors to pursue in this beautiful getaway spot.
Las Vegas, Nev.
- Legalized gambling put Las Vegas on the map as a tourist destination in the 1930s, and its popularity has never died down. While you could definitely spend an entire weekend trying your luck at the city’s many impressive casinos, Las Vegas is so much more than “Sin City.” You can eat your money away (the way J. Lo does) instead of gambling it, or you can drive a race car on an actual race track, go indoor skydiving, or learn some risqué moves from local exotic dancers. The Adventuredome at Circus Circus is the country’s largest theme park, and the city also has a huge aquarium, an impressive classic car showroom in the form of the Auto Collections, multiple gardens, museums dedicated to art, neon signs, and even the mob. There are two different sightseeing passes that offer different deals to gain admission to multiple attractions at a steep discount: the Las Vegas Power Pass and the Las Vegas Explorer Pass.
Little Rock, Ark.
Southern history and culture thrive in Little Rock, where you can find multiple arts and music centers, as well as many historic sites and museums. Visit the Quapaw Quarter, made up of 15 National Historic Register Districts and over 200 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. Also worth a visit is the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site and Museum, across the street from the site of the infamous forced school desegregation following the Brown v. Board of Education ruling of 1954. Little Rock also has plenty of outdoor opportunities for hiking, cycling, boating, and more. Visit the historic White Water Tavern for when you want to wind down.
“The Gateway to the South,” Louisville contains a mix of Southern and Midwestern culture. Its impressive municipal parks system and its burgeoning arts scene provide lots to do for sporty and artsy people alike. Louisville’s horse races are world-renowned — a trip in the first weekend of May would coincide with the Kentucky Derby, though it can be hard to wrangle a ticket for that Saturday. The Highlands shopping district has plenty of wonderful cafés, bars, restaurants, and art galleries to explore as well. The Louisville food scene is known for its “farm-to-table” style, taking organic foods to heights you’ve never experienced before. Make sure you don’t leave without paying tribute to the Greatest of All Time at the Muhammad Ali Center or visiting the Louisville Slugger Bat Factory!
Mackinac Island, Mich.
Pronounced “MAK-i-naw,” Macinac Island is the hidden gem of Michigan with its Victorian charm and fun activities for the entire family. The island is a three-in-one destination: You can visit Active Mackinac for a more outdoorsy time with biking, hiking, horse-riding, and paddling; Grand Mackinac for a more upper-class experience at the Grand Hotel resort; or Fudgie Mackinac to indulge your sweet tooth with the island’s famous fudge amid historic and shopping sites. Tours of the island are available on foot, bike, or even via kayak or stand-up paddle board, both of which are available for rentals. Golfing and fishing are also popular endeavors. We also recommend bringing your own bicycle; Mackinac is known for its island-wide motor vehicle ban.
Mammoth Cave National Park, Ky.
At 392 miles, Mammoth Cave is the world’s longest cave system known to man and is about 15 million years old. Two million visitors come to see it every year at Mammoth Cave National Park, which also houses over 70 endangered, threatened, or state-listed species of plants and animals. Trails throughout Mammoth Cave National Park offer beautiful hikes and wildlife viewing, and visitors also partake in boating and other outdoor recreation. The park is free, but you’ll need a guide to tour most of the caves, which can run from $5 to $48.
New York City has five boroughs, but the most famous and iconic is Manhattan. While a weekend is a good amount of time to spend in Manhattan, visitors will also find themselves feeling it’s not enough. Broadway is the world’s leading theater district, while Wall Street makes this city the financial capital of the world. The borough centers itself around the iconic Central Park, which should be on your bucket list along with other world-famous landmarks such as the One World Trade Center, the Empire State Building, New York Public Library, Grand Central Terminal, Chrysler Building, Rockefeller Center, and United Nations Headquarters. Times Square is usually the first stop for most tourists, but other must-sees are neighborhoods such as Harlem, Greenwich Village, the Upper East Side, Chinatown, and SoHo. Manhattan is brimming with museums, but we recommend you do your best to take a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of Modern Art, also known as the MoMa.
Martha's Vineyard, Mass.
Known as “Hollywood East,” Martha’s Vineyard is a favorite of the rich and famous and is made up of six towns. Visitors can visit the area’s multiple lighthouses, hit the beaches, or visit one of the area’s restaurants for some of the country’s finest dining. Popular local endeavors include art gallery hopping, golfing, kite flying, charter fishing, horseback riding, biking, and hiking.
The home of blues music is a great Southern getaway. While in Memphis, you want to take a trip down Beale Street, particularly at night, when it’s closed to cars and bar and club patrons can drink on the street. Beale Street has dozens of clubs and bars with live music, the latter of which sometimes have “to go” windows for a $5 32-ounce cup of beer. Memphis tourists can also take tours of the Mississippi River or visit Tom Lee Park for a nice view of it instead. The South Main neighborhood, Memphis’s art district, is the trendy part of town, with art galleries, shops, restaurants, and attractions such as the National Civil Rights Museum and Memphis Farmer’s Market. Memphis is also home to the World Series of Pork, the world’s largest pork barbecue festival. Of course, no trip to Memphis is complete without a stop at Graceland, home to the late Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll.
Miami Beach, Fla.
East of Miami and Biscayne Bay, Miami Beach is on a barrier island full of beach resorts and a great view of the Miami skyline. Home of the Miami-Dade County Fair and Exposition, a trip during late March and early April would mean partaking in one of the country’s biggest and most successful fairs. Miami Beach also offers an Art Deco walking tour along with other local tours of the city and the everglades. The area is only going to become more beautiful, too, as 20,000 orchids that were recently planted will finally bloom.
Known as the “Twin Cities,” Minneapolis and Saint Paul share not only a border, but also cultural, social, and political institutions. As a result, it’s hard to separate one from the other when visiting. Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and so tourists of the Twin Cities have plenty of opportunity to get in on the local fishing and ice fishing (provided you buy a license first), as well as swimming on its lake beaches. Como Park in St. Paul is 100 acres and has a glass-domed conservatory, an amusement park, a zoo, a carousel, and an entire lake with paddleboats. The area is also home to certain local delicacies such as Jell-O salad, booya, and cheese curds. A trip to the nearby Mall of America in Bloomington, the country’s largest indoor shopping mall, includes an aquarium, an indoor theme park, and hundreds of stores.
Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Over 14 million people descend on Myrtle Beach every year for swimming, seafood, and shopping. Its popularity as the perfect Southern beach weekend can cause the beaches to be quite crowded during high season, but sunrise sees moderate temperatures and quiet shores. Myrtle Beach’s Broadway is full of nightlife, bars, shops, restaurants, a movie theater, and an aquarium. Myrtle Beach has tons of variety shows and concerts, as well as more miniature-golf courses per square mile than any other place in the world. Regular golfing is also world-class at Myrtle Beach, and many people travel here specifically to hit one of the area’s more than 120 golf courses.
Mystic is just a village of a little over 4,000 people, but it’s a popular tourist spot due to its marinas, shopping, and aquarium. Mystic Seaport’s The Museum of America and the Sea is the country’s largest maritime museum, perfect for maritime history geeks, and the Olde Mistick Village is an outdoor shopping experience complete with stores, food, and entertainment for the entire family.
The island of Nantucket is just 3.5 miles wide by 14 miles long, but it has long been a vacation spot for the average Joe as well as upper-class Americans and celebrities. Nantucket is extremely green-conscious, so all visitors must follow the island’s well-established recycling system. The Nantucket Conservation Foundation preserves 36 percent of the island, as well as local wildlife. The marine life of Nantucket can be seen at the local aquarium, and eaten at fantastic seafood restaurants such as the Nantucket Lobster Trap. Nantucket is also an extremely safe destination, and families have been known to allow their children to wander on their own.
Napa Valley, Calif.
Napa Valley’s biggest claim to fame is its wine, encompassing more than four hundred wineries. While it is the most important wine-growing region in the United States, visitors also visit Napa Valley for its gourmet food and spas, as well as its scenic views. Rest and relaxation abounds here, and a bath in the hot springs or a mud bath is a must. Golfers can also wind down at one of the 10 golf courses present throughout the valley.
Nashville is a cornerstone of Southern culture as the “Country Music Capital of the World,” but it’s also earned a name in other types of music, as more and more rap and rock artists have emerged from the city in recent years. Nashville’s economy has boomed, with some of the world’s biggest companies moving operations here, resulting in a more cosmopolitan environment with more and more tourists visiting from outside of the country. In addition to great dining and nightlife, Nashville also offers history such as the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Johnny Cash Museum, the Belle Meade Plantation, and The Hermitage, former home of President Andrew Jackson.
Natchez’s prosperity prior to the Civil War has left it with a plethora of antebellum homes. Year-round tours can take you through the homes and Southern history. The town’s visitor center has pamphlets and maps to help guide you through both driving and walking tours of Natchez’s historic district, and horse-drawn carriage tours are available as well. The local King’s Tavern is worth a visit, deemed one of the most haunted places in the country.
New Haven, Conn.
Home to Yale University, New Haven is small in size but big in reputation. Get a free community bike ride or rent a bike to explore the bookstores and cafés downtown or one of the Italian joints where you can find New Haven’s famous Old World-style pizza. Tour the university or one of the town’s many parks and hiking trails. New Haven may be a quiet place, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find something to occupy your time with. Its annual International Festival of Arts and Ideas takes a typically more intellectual view of culture and cuisine.
New Orleans, La.
A mix of black, Caribbean, Creole, French, German, Haitian, Vietnamese, and many other cultures comes together in New Orleans. The Big Easy is a great weekend destination, but the longer the trip, the better. Festivals throughout the year draw in millions, such as the Creole Tomato Festival, the French Quarter Festival, Satchmo Summer Fest, Southern Decadence, and the world-famous Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest. New Orleans has as much history as it does party, and visitors would be remiss to neglect the historic colonial architecture of areas such as the French Quarter or Uptown, historic cemeteries, St. Louis Cathedral, and the National World War II Museum. Experience the occult and voodoo at the Tomb of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau or attend a Gnostic Mass and classes on magick at the Alombrados Oasis.
The seaside views of Newport, Rhode Island, make this one of the most popular Northeastern summertime destinations. Newport’s famous cliff walk, a three-and-a-half mile public walkway, holds some of the most beautiful views on the Eastern Seaboard. Witness wildlife and beautiful mansions that run alongside the walkway, the latter of which can also be visited for their own history. If you’re not up for a walk, take your car down the Ocean Drive, a 10-mile drive along the shore that will take you past some of Newport’s best sights. Tennis fans would appreciate a visit to the International Tennis Hall of Fame, whereas maritime geeks would revel in the Museum of Yachting.
Niagara Falls, N.Y.
The American side of Niagara Falls is not as commercialized as the Canadian side due to its designation as a state park, so it offers a getaway more focused on the natural beauty of the falls. Get up close and personal with the falls through Cave of the Winds, an experience that brings visitors down an elevator to a walkway that leads right to the bottom of the Bridal Veil Falls. There’s also, of course, Maid of the Mist, a boat ride that will take you around the bottom of the falls. Learn the geological history of the falls at the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center or take one of the many sightseeing or historic tours of the area.
Palm Beach, Fla.
The easternmost town in Florida, Palm Beach is known for its eponymous beach and tropical climate — and as the site of Donald Trump’s beloved Mar-a-Lago resort. Visitors to Palm Beach also often enjoy a visit to, if not a stay at, The Breakers Hotel, as well as the Four Arts Gardens, the Flagler Museum, and the nearby Big Kapok Tree.
Park City, Utah
Surrounded by the Rocky Mountains, Park City is world-renowned for its skiing. Visit one of its three world-class resorts for cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, sleigh rides, and ice skating. Park City is still a worthy destination year-round, however, as the mountains provide a great opportunity for hiking, biking, golfing, and horseback riding, as well as zip lining and rock climbing. There’s also plenty to eat here, and the area has its own unique cuisine. Both the Sundance Film Festival and Kimball Arts Festival take place in Park City as well, leading to the rise of a burgeoning arts scene.
Home of the Philly cheesesteak, Philadelphia has so much to offer that visitors should take advantage of the Philadelphia CityPass, which will grant access to six attractions within the course of nine days at a discounted rate. Options for visitation include the Adventure Aquarium, Philadelphia Zoo, the Academy of Natural Sciences, the National Constitution Center, the kid-favorite Please Touch Museum, the historic Eastern State Penitentiary, the science geek favorite Franklin Institute, and 24 hours of on-off privileges with the Phila Trolley and The Big Bus Company. There are plenty of art museums in Philadelphia as well, but you don’t even need to go inside one to enjoy local art; the city is known for its murals, and you can even take a free tour of them. Reading Terminal Market is the most popular attraction in Philadelphia and a must for food-lovers, as is the neighborhood of Fishtown, and visitors should also make a trip to Independence National Historical Park, known as the birthplace of American democracy itself. Stop by the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall to see more of the history of American’s foundation.
The Poconos, Pa.
A popular honeymoon destination, the Poconos is also a favorite for families, adventurers, and skiers. The Poconos are one of the best regions for hiking and camping, and food options are abundant as well. Amusement parks and ski resorts provide all kinds of entertainment, and the local lakes, some man-made and some natural, are perfect for boating and fishing. NASCAR fans will enjoy the Pocono Raceway, whereas history lovers will appreciate the Pocono Indian Museum which showcases the history of the natives of Delaware.
Point Pleasant Beach, N.J.
Often confused with the neighboring town of Point Pleasant, Point Pleasant Beach is a popular spot on the Jersey Shore. Summer is the best time to hit the beach in New Jersey, and the summer months see fireworks as well as Big Joe’s Jersey Talent Show, a weekly event in which both residents and visitors can take part. Jenkinson’s Boardwalk offers food, games, mini-golf, arcades, and an amusement park, and the end of the summer sees the Festival of the Sea, which features seafood and shopping.
Not to be confused with the city of the same name in Oregon, Portland, Maine is a quaint, seaside getaway perfect for some rest and relaxation. Art and history museums, as well as multiple lighthouses, offer plenty of sightseeing opportunities, and the Portland Observatory, with its beautiful view of the Portland waterfront, is the only existing historic maritime signal station in the country. Portland’s food scene is also thriving, having been the smallest city to hold the Feed the 5,000 Festival.
The other Portland lies on the West Coast, a mecca of microbreweries and many outdoor opportunities. A big city with a small town feel, Portland is known for its arts scene and is home to more independent publishers than any other American city. Its many parks and gardens offer a fantastic chance to enjoy the outdoors, and its coffee is world-renowned as well.
The town of Princeton’s significance doesn’t just stem from its Ivy League university, but also from its involvement in the country’s fight for independence during the Battle of Princeton. Today, it is a quaint college town full of many historic sites and scenic views. Nassau Hall at Princeton University — incidentally one of the nation's best universities for food lover's — once served a brief term as capitol building for the nation and is worth a visit, as are the former residences of Albert Einstein and Thomas Mann. A university tour will take you through beautiful architecture, and Princeton Cemetery holds historic graves, including that of former President Grover Cleveland and former Vice President Aaron Burr. You can also visit the Princeton Battlefield where the revolutionary battle took place.
The largest city in the smallest state, Providence is far too underestimated as a tourist destination. Beautiful nineteenth-century and twentieth-century architecture lines the streets of downtown Providence, as do multiple museums. Food lovers should visit the campus of Johnson & Wales University (one of the nation’s finest culinary schools) to check out the Culinary Archives and Museum, which chronicles the history of both the culinary and hospitality industries. Visit Roger Williams Park for tons of park activity, including boat tours, the Hasbro Playground, Planetarium, Botanical Center, and Roger Williams Carousel Village. From April or May through October, you can also witness Waterfire, an event during which you can stroll along the three rivers that go through downtown Providence to watch a series of 100 fires burn on the water for nearly two-thirds of a mile. Boat rides will even go closer to the fires, and outdoor food stands are set up for patrons.
Redwood National Park, Calif.
Redwood National and State Parks in the northern California constitute not only an American icon, but also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Redwood trees, which can live for 2,000 years, are massive, growing up to 367 feet tall and 22 feet wide — the coastal redwoods are, in fact, the world’s tallest trees. Wildlife is also very visible here, and it’s possible for a lucky hiker to catch a glimpse of a black bear or a bald eagle. Hiking trails here are gorgeous, particularly in the early morning hours or when there’s a little bit of fog. Plan ahead and get a permit to drive through the Tall Trees Grove, which has a limit of 50 cars per day.
The charming small town of Roanoke is a great getaway for a beautiful Southern weekend. Roanoke’s City Market is the largest continuously running open-air market on the East Coast with great finds year-round. The Appalachian Trail runs through here, perfect for hiking, and visitors can also go camping, boating, and fishing. Roanoke also has plenty of clubs, restaurants, shops, and theaters. Located in the Roanoke Valley, the town of Roanoke is nestled between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Appalachian Plateau, making it a prime spot for scenic drives and fall foliage.
Best known for the Salem Witch Trials, the town of Salem, Massachusetts is ripe with history, also serving as the birthplace of the U.S. National Guard. Your first stop should, of course, be at the Salem Witch Museum, Witch History Museum, and Witch Dungeon Museum, but also noteworthy are the New England Pirate Museum, Salem Toy Museum, and the Peabody/Essex Museum, which has the world’s largest collection of Asian export art and some of the largest collections of maritime art. Salem also has beautiful architecture in the Federal, Georgian, Greek-Revival, post-medieval, and Victorian styles. Historic trails include Paranormal Salem, a ghost hunting experience, and the Salem Smugglers’ Tour, which takes you through some of the most haunted spots in town while teaching you about its smuggling tunnels.
Salt Lake City, Utah
A center of Mormon religion and culture, Salt Lake City has a special place in American religious history. Visit This Is The Place Heritage Park to see the spot where Brigham Young allegedly decided to settle his Mormon followers, as well as the fashionable Sugar House neighbhorhood, historic and now hip. Temple Square, the world headquarters of the Mormon Church, is home to the impressive Salt Lake Temple, and Mormon missionaries fluent in all kinds of languages are available to help you tour the grounds and learn about both the Mormon faith and its history. Multiple parks and gardens in Salt Lake City provide for peaceful outdoor opportunities, and in the summer, the surrounding mountains provide plenty of opportunities for hiking biking and ore. The Great Salt Lake and its marinas provide year-round boating, as the lake itself never freezes, and its yacht club has sailboat races all summer. Live theater is popular here as well, as is art and cinema. There are also plenty of shops from which to bring home your friends and family some lovely souvenirs.
San Antonio, Tex.
Over 28 million people visit San Antonio every year, and the town’s geography is as diverse as its people, containing Hill Country, Prairie and Lakes, and the South Texas Plains. The state’s Spanish and Mexican heritage is most apparent in San Antonio, particularly during Fiesta Week every year, when 3.5 million people arrive in San Antonio for over 110 events full of music, fairs, food, drink, and parades. Remember the Alamo while visiting the site of the infamous 1836 battle or visit the King William Historic Area. San Antonio has multiple historical parks for you to explore Texas’ nature as well as its culture.
San Diego, Calif
Right across the border from Tijuana, Mexico, San Diego is Southern California at its finest. Its gorgeous beaches, pleasant climate, and ethnic diversity, creates a colorful atmosphere that anyone can enjoy. San Diego offers a few different city passes which will help you gain admission to the city’s many attractions, which include the famous San Diego Zoo, Sea World, and all Balboa Park museums, as well nearby Legoland, Universal Studios Hollywood, and Disneyland. San Diego is a beach lover’s paradise, with the San Diego coast itself perfect for swimming, surfing, and building sandcastles, as are the beaches of plenty nearby towns. The city also has plenty of wineries and its restaurant scene is much like the rest of California’s: deliciously diverse.
San Francisco, Calif.
The crown jewel of the Bay Area, San Francisco should be near the top of your weekend getaway bucket list for the West Coast. Hitch a ride on the city’s famous cable cars between Market Street and Fisherman’s Wharf and explore San Francisco’s Chinatown or take a ship to Alcatraz Prison. The Golden Gate Bridge is also a must-see for sightseers, but Pier 39 is also great for a stroll.
San Juan Islands, Wash.
Off the coast of Washington state lie the San Juan Islands, which are sparsely populated but full of tourists in the summertime. Beautiful scenic views of the surrounding waters and mountains abound, and Orcas Island, the largest, has Mount Constitution as well as a stone tower from which you can get breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. Whale watching is popular here, as is boating and kayaking.
Santa Catalina Island, Calif.
Commonly referred to as simply Catalina Island, this group of islands is 22 miles off the coast of Southern California, technically a part of Los Angeles County. Both snorkeling and scuba diving are popular endeavors on Catalina Island, and Sea Trek is a diving experience where even beginner swimmers can wear high-tech diving helmets for an underwater guided walking tour. If that’s too daunting, there are plenty of glass-bottom boat and semi-submarine rides as well. If you’re interested in a tour of the wildlife and history on land, there’s also a zip line eco tour available.
Santa Fe, N.M.
Santa Fe is both the oldest state capital in the country and the highest, at an elevation of 7,000 feet. With a deeply Southwestern flavor, Santa Fe is full of culture and history, with multiple art museums showcasing Spanish colonial, Mexican, native, and international folk art. The Spanish-influenced Southwestern architecture is completely Instagram-worthy. In addition to the usual outdoor endeavors one would pursue in the Southwest, Santa Fe residents and tourists also often partake in geocaching, a type of treasure hunt that involves GPS and travel as a game. There’s also a margarita trail for those who want a tour of Santa Fe with a drink in hand.
Due to the immediate surrender of the mayor of Savannah to General Sherman in the Civil War, Savannah is one of the few big Southern cities with its antebellum architecture intact. Visit Forsyth Park for Savannah’s best dining, shopping, and entertainment, as well as the town’s many parks to enjoy Savannah’s more natural beauty. Its plethora of historic squares provide pleasant sites as well as much history, and ghost stories are popular, with multiple walking tours centering around haunted locations and ghost hunting in historic parts of town.
The Emerald City is not only green due to its evergreen trees and forested views, but also due to its booming economy as a result of being the home of some of the world’s biggest companies, such as Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, Nintendo of America, Costco, and T-Mobile. The Space Needle is the city’s most iconic landmark, but Smith Tower is another noteworthy skyscraper with a cocktail bar in its observatory to boot. Pike Place Market is the city’s largest tourist area as the oldest continually operating farmers market and home to the original Starbucks coffee shop. Seattle is a big hub of culture and arts, with many art museums among its repertoire of science, history, and culture institutions.
Nearly 100 art galleries populate the town of Sedona, which is also home to plenty of other arts and culture events, such as a film festival, arts festival, and jazz festival. Sitting among the Red Rocks, Sedona is a picturesque town perfect for outdoor recreation or even as a wedding venue. Sedona stores specialize in New Age products, as well as arts and crafts by local Native Americans. Visitors to the Grand Canyon popularly stay here to enjoy the city’s views as well as its great dining options.
Seneca Falls, N.Y.
The Finger Lakes region as a whole is a great weekend getaway, but we picked Seneca Falls in particular for its history and beauty. Make a stop at Women’s Rights National Historical Park, a spot that’s great for outdoor recreation and is also considered to be the formal birthplace of the American Women’s Rights Movement due to the First Women’s Rights Convention being held at the Wesley Chapel here in 1848. The former home of Elizabeth Cady Stanton is also located in the park, and visitors can also visit the nearby National Women’s Hall of Fame. The Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, which covers over 7,000 acres, is also a great stop for animal and nature lovers. The Finger Lakes region as a whole also offers wine tours and great dining options, all accessible from Seneca Falls.
Sioux Falls, S.D.
The great outdoors of the Midwest can be experienced in full at Sioux Falls, and a visit to Falls Park will provide plenty of places from which to witness the natural beauty of South Dakota. A five-story observation tower in the park will allow you to see the eponymous waterfalls, as well as historic buildings in the city. Museums display the history and culture of the area, as well as its wildlife. Sertoma Park has outdoor fun for the whole family, with a main part fit for kids with five huge jungle gyms and many picnic tables. Golfers will find a great number of courses here, particularly for a relatively small city. A recent increase in immigration has also led to diverse ethnic cuisine.
St. Louis, Mo.
St. Louis is quite an affordable getaway, with only Washington, D.C., having more free activities. The iconic Gateway Arch is the world’s tallest man-made monument and faces the historic courthouse where the Dred Scott decision was reached. Take a horse-drawn carriage ride down the cobblestone streets of Laclede’s Landing, visit the Soulard Farmers Market, or visit the Anheuser-Busch Brewery for a free tour with free samples for those of age as well as a visit with the famous Clydesdale horses. The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis boasts 83,000 square feet of mosaic tiles, all set by a family of artists — one of the largest displays of mosaic art in the Western Hemisphere.
Stowe is so dedicated to skiing that it even houses the Vermont Ski Museum. This little town has much more to offer, however, with the Trapp Family Lodge drawing fans of The Sound of Music, who come to enjoy skiing as well as concerts in the summertime. Stowe is also not far from the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory, the Cold Hollow Cider Mill, or the Cabot Cheese Outlet. Stowe’s natural beauty not only makes outdoor recreation more enjoyable, but it also makes for great scenic walks and drives, particularly in the fall. Its food scene is also quite vast and adventurous, and you won’t feel the need to go far for a good meal.
Two hours from Santa Fe, you can discover the lesser-known destination of Taos, the prettiest town in the state of New Mexico. Taos is great for skiing and art, and the Taos Ski Valley is a must for anyone wanting to try out the Southwestern slopes. You can also make a trip to visit the Taos Pueblo, a Native American community just north of town that’s open to visitors as long as you’re respectful. The Rio Grande also means plenty of available river adventures, and the Enchanted Circle is a self-guided driving tour taken by many visitors through the scenic surroundings of Taos.
Thousand Islands, N.Y.
Technically lying on the border between the U.S. and Canada, the Thousand Islands are a destination easily reached from northern New York. Approximately 1,700 islands, of which only a few are large enough to hold people, make up this scenic retreat. Perfect for boating and other outdoor activities, the main attraction lies on Heart Island, home to the incomplete Boldt Castle, with its interesting back-story — a millionaire set out to build the extravagant structure for his wife, who tragically passed away mid-construction, leaving him to suddenly end the project and leave the castle as is.
Tuscon serves as both a sunny destination and a cultural treasure trove of Southwestern and Mexican heritage. Visit Sabino Canyon to appreciate Tucson’s natural beauty before heading over to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, which takes the form of a natural history museum that includes a zoo and botanical gardens so that you can appreciate Arizona wildlife up close. There are multiple parks in Tucson as well, including Saguaro National Park, which holds the densest forest of cactus in the world and is ripe for prickly pear picking in the summer. There are also plenty of clubs and venues for live music and dance in a variety of genres.
Modeled after its namesake in Italy, Venice is laid out along a system of canals that were later filled and made into streets. A few of those canals still exist, however, and can be seen with interesting and diverse homes lining them. The Californian Venice’s big draw, however, is its boardwalk, full of colors, shops, restaurants, and more. Its beach is one of the most popular in the Los Angeles area and is full of all kinds of tourists, street performers, street vendors, and those looking to see and be seen.
The reasons to go to the nation’s capital should not need explanation. Filled with memorials and monuments, D.C. is home to some of the country’s biggest landmarks, such as the Washington and Lincoln Monuments, the Jefferson Memorial, and the Library of Congress. Visit the National Mall and take in as many museums and monuments as you can before heading over to the East End for some of the nation’s finest museums, such as the American Art Museum and the National Archives, home of the original copy of the Constitution. The National Zoo is also worth a visit, and the White House, where you can take a short guided tour of the President’s residence since John Adams, is a must.
Historic Williamsburg is a 301-acre living history museum that presents a picture of the nation’s colonial days, and there are multiple parks and attractions which lovers of American history will enjoy. One of Williamsburg’s most fun attractions, however, is Busch Gardens, an amusement park where you can explore multiple sections modeled after European countries and cultures.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyo.
The world’s first national park is also likely the most famous, drawing in over 3 million visitors every year. The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is centered here, meaning the park has a great diversity of animals and plants, including 67 different mammals. Yellowstone is a prime spot for bird watchers, as well as botany enthusiasts, as it houses over 1,350 vascular plant species. Known for its geysers and hot springs, Yellowstone is also home to half the world’s geothermal features, including the famous “Old Faithful.”
Yosemite National Park, Calif.
Another famous national park, Yosemite lies in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It’s an outdoor adventurer’s dream, with 350 miles of roads, 800 miles of trails for hiking, and 1,600 miles of streams within its nearly 1,200 square miles. Yosemite’s dangerous yet beautiful Half Dome marks the Yosemite Valley, where one can come for the park’s beautiful waterfalls, cliffs, and meadows. Thirty miles from Yosemite Valley is Glacier Point, which presents a fantastic view of the Half Dome. The expansive area’s many lakes are also open for hiking, boating, and other water sports.