It can be hard to take an extended vacation when you have multiple personal obligations and limited days off from work. But that’s exactly what weekends are for. Those cherished couple of days — or the occasional three or four — are precious time you should use to unwind and regroup for the coming week.
Luckily for those living in the United States, a getaway is more than possible sans passport, thanks to the expansive area the country covers and the amazing weekend getaways in every state. Whether you’re seeking an outdoor adventure, interested in learning about a unique local culture or hoping to geek out over historic sites, there are more than a few cities in America for you to explore over the course of a couple days.
Named for Princess Amelia, daughter of King George II of Great Britain, Amelia Island is a romantic spot that’s often overlooked. Just 13 miles long and 4 miles across at its widest point, this tiny patch of land off the coast of northeastern Florida has amazing weather year-round; lovers of boating, fishing, golfing and even theater will find loads to do here.
Since 1955, Anaheim, California, has been home to Disney’s first theme park, Disneyland. Perfect for a weekend of magic, merriment and mouse, Disneyland is both smaller and less expensive than Walt Disney World, but it’s also not the only thing Anaheim has to offer. Check out the live music outdoors at the City National Grove of Anaheim or go shopping at Anaheim GardenWalk.
Nestled between the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains, Asheville has been described by some as the “Paris of the South.” Asheville has four distinct seasons — but the changing of its leaves make it one of the best cities to visit in the autumn. There’s something for everyone here, including the most complete collection of Art Deco structures in the country. Asheville, North Carolina, is most famous for a structure located just a few minutes outside the city, however. The Biltmore Estate, a French Renaissance-influenced chateau, has over 250 rooms and is the largest privately owned house in the world.
Situated in the Colorado Rockies, Aspen is a small town with real estate that has become particularly popular among wealthy celebrities and executives. World-class skiing, mountain biking, hiking and fishing are just some of the many activities available here. Hike up the nearby Crater Lake Trail to see Maroon Bells, one of the most picturesque spots in America. Don’t forget to enjoy the shopping downtown, which has two pedestrian-only streets lined with shops as well as a summer open air market.
Atlanta is one of those places you absolutely must see in your lifetime. Visit the headquarters of the world’s favorite soda, and get some sweet insight into soda-making as well as some samples on a tour of the World of Coca-Cola. Other top attractions in Georgia’s capital include the CNN studio headquarters, the world’s largest aquarium by volume of water and the Fernbank Natural History Museum, home of the largest dinosaur ever excavated. History also plays a strong role in the makeup of Atlanta, and a visit to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, which memorializes the city’s role in the civil rights movement, as well as the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site — where you can visit the civil rights leader’s birth home, church and grave — are all musts.
A top East Coast destination thanks to the legality of casino gambling, Atlantic City, New Jersey, has more to offer than its reputation would suggest. It’s home to the country’s oldest boardwalk, which stretches 4 miles and has guides who will give you a lift in old-fashioned rolling chairs to the city’s casinos, hotels, resorts, and shops if you’re not up for walking it. Off of the boardwalk, multiple piers have even more things to do. Garden Pier is where you’ll find the local history museum or see live shows at the Atlantic City Arts Center, and Stiel Pier is where you want to go for the local amusement park. Visit the Atlantic City Aquarium for an amazing variety of marine life, or climb the 228 steps of the Absecon Lighthouse for a breathtaking view of the shore.
There are many reasons to love Austin, a city with a unique ambience when compared to the rest of Texas. It’s the live music capital of the world, and its reputation for fostering tech startups has earned it the nickname “Silicon Hills.” In addition to plenty of art galleries, shopping and multiple museums and parks, Austin is also great for Tex-Mex lovers, as it’s home to some of the very best tacos in America.
Get out your walking shoes when visiting Baltimore, which has plenty of places to visit for both foodies and history buffs. After eating some of the city’s famous crab cakes, steamed blue crabs or raw oysters, you can see your seafood at the National Aquarium or visit the Baltimore Harbor for a direct view of Chesapeake Bay. This Maryland city is also a great destination for learning about black history, with the Great Blacks in Wax Museum and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Black History both serving as fantastic and fascinating sources of education.
Both land and sea can be enjoyed to the fullest in Bar Harbor, Maine, a popular cruise port as well as a bastion of outdoor activity. Much of Acadia National Park falls within Bar Harbor, including Cadillac Mountain, which offers a breathtaking view and one of the earliest spots in America to see the sunrise each morning. Go mountain climbing, bird watching, biking or hiking, or head down to the marina and sign up for a tour where you can meet whales, seals, puffins and more before hitting a pristine beach and enjoying a Maine-style lobster roll and other fresh seafood.
The Berkshires are the best place to go in Massachusetts if you want gorgeous photos for your Instagram feed, as well as a wonderful getaway for nature and culture lovers. The area has plenty of hiking trails, with the Appalachian Trail being one of the most notable that runs through it, and after your outdoor endeavors there are plenty of high-end spas and fine dining establishments where you can unwind. Visit one of the area’s many parks or enjoy the art at the Norman Rockwell Museum and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. You can also enjoy music and theater in spots like the Tanglewood Music Center and Boston University Tanglewood Institute in Lenox, the summer base of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
A 24-foot totem pole called Chief Little Owl greets you as you drive into Bethany Beach, Delaware, a highly underrated beach town of about 1,200 residents that swells to more than 15,000 people in the summertime. This charming seaside town started out as a religious retreat, but today it’s known as a peaceful beach destination with a great boardwalk, good golfing and quaint little cafes and stores for tourists to peruse.
An important locale in the nation’s history, Birmingham, Alabama, is an American destination every history buff should visit. The city was the site of some of the most important moments of the Civil Rights Movement, and a visit to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is a must, while Kelly Ingram Park serves as a monument to peace and healing. Take a trip to the Arlington Antebellum Home and Gardens, older than Birmingham itself, to learn more about the city’s history at a site that also celebrates other parts of Southern heritage. Birmingham also hosts multiple art and film festivals throughout the year, complementing the art galleries and performance art theaters that showcase the state’s finest talent.
The Black Hills, a small mountain region in the Great Plains of South Dakota, is home to stunning scenery and the controversial monument Mount Rushmore. Enjoy the great outdoors and some serious hiking at other top sites such as Black Hills National Forest, Jewel Cave National Monument, Wind Cave National Park and the Crazy Horse Memorial, the native answer to Mount Rushmore that is set to become the world’s largest sculpture upon its completion.
Located just 13 miles off the coast of southern Rhode Island, a trip to Block Island is like stepping back in time. Just over 1,000 people live on the island, which is a little less than 10 square miles in area and only accessible by boat or small plane. Full of beaches, biking, hiking, fishing and sailing, nearly half of Block Island is conservation land, ensuring that its untouched beauty will stay that way for years to come.
Located on the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina, Blowing Rock is a destination that’s not yet overcrowded by tourists. You’ll have to go on a slightly nerve-wracking drive up the mountains in order to reach this small, quaint town, but the trip is worth it. The town’s main street has all sorts of cute shops selling specialty candles, fudge, spices and more. Glen Burney Trail, just 1 mile away, gives hiking enthusiasts a bit of a challenge as well as fantastic views.
One of America’s biggest cities, Boston still manages to have a small-town feel. Possibly the most historic place in the country, it’s known as “the Cradle of Liberty” due to its role during the American Revolution, serving as the site of the Boston Tea Party, the Boston Massacre and the Siege of Boston. Take a tour of these historic moments, as well as many others, on the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile walking history tour that’s an absolute must for any visitor. The city is also home to many museums of history, art, culture and science. Boston also has some gorgeous parks, most notably the Boston Common and Public Garden, the oldest public park in the country. Find plenty of shopping and eating at Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall in downtown, or catch a Red Sox game at Fenway Park, one of the city’s most famous landmarks.
One of New York City’s five boroughs, Brooklyn is a bit more family-friendly than Manhattan, having earned a reputation as the “Borough of Homes and Churches.” Take a walk across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, and make sure you stroll through Prospect Park or the picturesque Brooklyn Botanical Garden. Known for its artistic and culinary scene, Brooklyn has some of the best restaurants in New York state as well as art galleries, boutiques and bars. It’s not all city life, either; a trip down to Coney Island is a great time for enjoying the beach and boardwalk.
While the downtown part of Camden, Maine, is full of lovely shops and restaurants, the Camden Hills are also a fantastic place to get lost. Go mountain biking in the hills, or head to the beach where you can swim or sail. Marking the entrance to the Camden’s harbor is the postcard-worthy Curtis Island Lighthouse.
Enjoy an affordable family trip to Cannon Beach, a small town located on the northwestern coast of Oregon. Snap a landscape shot featuring its magnificent, 235-foot-tall Haystack Rock and discover starfish and other marine life living near its base at low tide. In town, you can discover quaint little shops and eateries, and nearby you’ll find Ecola State Park, a favorite among hikers and campers for its amazing coastal views.
A wonderful place to get away for the summer, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, has been an East Coast holiday favorite for decades of tourists (most notably the Kennedy family), and the peninsula’s population swells by a factor of three in the warmer months. Explore quaint villages, beautiful beaches, picturesque ports, lighthouses, antique shops and restaurants. Stay in one of the best bed-and-breakfasts in the country and take part in all kinds of water sports, hiking, biking, camping and more outdoor activities. Visit Provincetown, the site of the landing of the first Pilgrims, and explore the cape that offered inspiration to many Amerian writers such as Kurt Vonnegut, Henry David Thoreau and Cape Cod natives Norman Mailer and Mercy Otis Warren.
New Jersey’s best kept secret lies on the southernmost tip of the state, a wonderful getaway characterized by a beautiful beach and Victorian architecture. Climb the 199 steps of the iconic lighthouse in Cape May for an amazing view of the waves, on which you can also go dolphin and whale watching. A national landmark since 1976, Cape May is also a great destination for water sports, with plenty of opportunities to go jet skiing, kayaking, fishing, parasailing, surfing and swimming.
Carmel-by-the-Sea, or Carmel for short, is an utterly romantic town located on the Monterey Peninsula of California filled with art galleries, cafes, inns and plenty of restaurants to explore. The architecture here is picturesque, as is Carmel Beach which is leash-free so that your dog can enjoy running through the white sand alongside you after joining you at one of the town’s many canine-friendly hotels and restaurants. The scenic views can also be enjoyed by car, as the aptly named Scenic Drive runs along this beach. Even more famous is the 17-Mile Drive, which runs through town and along the Monterey Bay coast.
Charleston is one of those towns that will make you feel like you’re in Europe, not the South. Full of historic homes and streets, beautiful gardens and gorgeous photo opportunities, this South Carolina city’s skyline has stayed low thanks to a height restriction ordinance, so you’ll find many churches popping up over the horizon, as well as a beautiful bridge. America’s slave history is also very apparent here; among the many Revolutionary- and Civil War-era relics are the sites of former slave plantations as well as old slave markets. Walking tours are available, as are carriage tours for those hoping to enjoy the city in a more relaxed fashion.
The largest city in the state of North Carolina, Charlotte has no shortage of things to do. Made up of 16 districts, it has an entire district of museums, including ones specifically meant for kids, Southern culture and history geeks, art lovers and even aviation enthusiasts. Visit the NASCAR Hall of Fame or take a trip to the U.S. National Whitewater Center, where you can go mountain biking and white-water rafting among other outdoor endeavors. Possibly the biggest highlight, however, is Carowinds, a Cedar Fair theme park that straddles Charlotte and Fort Mill, South Carolina.
A charming small town with a population of just over 700, Chesapeake City is one of the prettiest places in America. Its beautiful waterfront, situated on the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, is lined with trees, which makes for one of the most picturesque sights in the mid-Atlantic region, particularly in the fall. Many homes and buildings date back to the 19th century, and some of them have since been converted into wonderful B&Bs, great restaurants and local history museums.
Chicago is the third largest city in the country, and one of its most iconic. Check out the stunning views from the observation deck of the famous Willis Tower (formerly and often still known as the Sears Tower) that decorates the city’s famous skyline, as well as some of the best art galleries, parks and museums in the world. Lake Michigan is a great place to go to the beach despite not being an oceanfront, with Chicago being the second cleanest urban waterfront in the world, and you can also enjoy one of the world’s most famous boardwalks at Navy Pier. While you’re in town, be sure to dig into a deep-dish pizza; Chicago has some of the best pizza in America.
Cleveland is a highly underrated American destination, particularly for summer. With the densest concentration of cultural attractions in the country, the city is full of museums, galleries, parks, gardens and theaters, with the most notable attraction being the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There are also plenty of outdoor activities, and Cleveland has long been known as the “Forest City” on account of the many opportunities to go hiking, biking and even skiing in the winter time. Cleveland also has a booming food and drink scene and is home to dozens of breweries, making it one of the best cities for beer lovers.
Located in northwest Idaho, Coeur d’Alene is a great heartland spot for a quiet getaway filled with natural beauty. It’s home to Lake Coeur d’Alene, a lovely placid blue lake where boat rides and water sports are popular, as well as the dense and beautiful Coeur d’Alene National Forest. While staying here, make sure you make a reservation at the Coeur d’Alene Resort, the best hotel in the state.
There’s plenty to do in Dallas, Texas, including a zoo, two large aquariums, an arboretum and a botanical garden, as well as multiple art and science museums. Visit the spot downtown where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and the Sixth Floor Museum, housed in the building from which Lee Harvey Oswald shot him. The city is full of thrills, from bull riding to amusement parks such as Six Flags Over Texas — the original Six Flags — and Zero Gravity Thrill Rides Amusement Park, the world’s only amusement park specifically for thrill rides and home to five extreme rides.
Denver, Colorado, is a fantastic place to be year round, but it’s particularly good for winter travel. Its location in the Rocky Mountains makes it a great destination for the outdoors, but there’s also plenty of city life here as well. Multiple museums showcase local history, art, and science, and Denver’s parks and gardens aren’t to be missed either.
A hidden gem in Wisconsin, Door County is a must-see in America’s heartland. Located between Green Bay and Lake Michigan, it’s home to more than 80 cultural attractions such as art galleries, museums and theaters. The peninsula is also full of gorgeous natural scenery with over 300 miles of shoreline, more than a dozen conservation areas and five state parks.
Situated at the east entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park is quieter during the wintertime but still fantastic due to its world-class snowshoeing and cross-country skiing opportunities. A great spot year-round for camping, visitors to the town can also enjoy biking, birding, fishing, hiking, horse riding, mountain climbing and rafting here. Check out the local Rooftop Rodeo, an award-winning show for the whole family, or enjoy 27 golf holes throughout town.
Approximately 9 to 10 million people visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park every year, making it the most popular national park in America. The park has been designated both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve, with almost 95 percent forestation filled with more than 5,400 plant species, nearly 100 different species of native trees, hundreds of types of birds, 66 different kinds of mammals, 50 species of native fish and countless amphibians and reptiles. A hiker’s haven, the Appalachian Trail runs through the Great Smoky Mountains, and the valley of Cades Cove is an especially popular spot thanks to the wildlife, historical structures and fantastic view.
A resort city located on the Gulf of Mexico, Gulf Shores is a subtropical destination where you can enjoy the best of nature in Alabama. Lounge in the sun on the beach, get in on some extreme watersports or go hiking along one of the many wildlife trails. Other popular activities include renting a boat or going mini golfing, and the waterfront is home to multiple restaurants that are worth a try. Gulf Shores is also known for its party scene, with an impressive nightlife and frequent concerts held in the city throughout the year.
The Hamptons consist of multiple hamlets and villages on the South Fork of Long Island, New York, also known as the “East End.” A popular vacation spot and summer home for the wealthy for decades, three of its zip codes are among the 10 most expensive in the country. The Hamptons are more than just a swanky summer spot, however. You’ll find a gorgeous seaside here, as well as many art galleries full of impressive art shows. Golf is particularly popular here, and the Hamptons have some of the best private golf clubs in America. Given its pricing as well as its popularity with the New York City crowd, it’s probably a spot to visit once those huge summer crowds have left.
Home of Hershey’s chocolates, Hershey is one of the happiest places on Earth that aren’t Disney, and it’s an absolute must for any traveler with a sweet tooth. At Hersheypark, you’ll find rides, shows, and shops full of everything Hershey chocolate, and if you visit Hershey’s Chocolate World, you’ll get a free inside scoop on how the confectionaries are made as well as a look at plenty of other chocolate-related exhibits. The town is also home to a zoo and an auto museum, as well as caverns for exploring, for when you’re looking to give your cavities a break.
Home to the NASA Johnson Space Center and the Houston Zoo, as well as a plethora of museums, Houston has a lot to do as well as great weather throughout the year. The most diverse place in America, Houston is perfect for foodies. Find Chinese food in Chinatown, Korean cuisine in Koreatown, and amazing South Asian restaurants in the Mahatma Gandhi District. You can find deliciously authentic Mexican food anywhere in the city, but you’ll have to head to Midtown for some good Vietnamese, Bissonnette Street for Nigerian or Ethiopian food, and the predominantly Jewish Meyerland for anything kosher.
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, amazing spas and boat and river trips for the whole family, and it’s surprisingly a good spot for surfing too.
Situated off the coast of the southeastern United States as part of the Sea Islands, Jekyll Island, Georgia, offers a chance to enjoy a subtropical island vacation without needing a passport. Twenty miles of bike paths stretch out across Jekyll Island, which has plenty of forests, campgrounds and historic sites for you to explore. In addition to 10 miles of white sandy beaches, there are more than 60 holes of golf, as well as a fishing pier.
It is said that only Rome has more fountains and only Paris has more boulevards than Kansas City, Missouri. Not to be confused with the neighboring city of the same name in the state of Kansas itself, Kansas City has a charming downtown featuring art deco buildings and a historic city market with a variety of options for dining and bar hopping, as well as a farmers market. The American Jazz Museum and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum can be found in the 18th and Vine Historic District, and throughout the rest of the city, you’ll find museums such as the National World War I Museum and Liberty Memorial, Crown Center (home to Hallmark Cards and the Hallmark Museum) and a few art museums as well. Kansas City’s Crossroads Arts District has been referred to as the SoHo of the Midwest, and its food scene is particularly well known thanks to the city’s unique barbecue style, which is celebrated at the American Royal BBQ Contest, the largest of its kind in the world.
The Bush family loves to visit Kennebunkport in the summer, but the town’s trademark slogan is “The Place to Be All Year.” Indeed, it’s a particularly magical destination in the fall and home to a Franciscan monastery, open year-round so visitors can explore its beautifully maintained grounds and experience its gorgeous view of the harbor. Kennebunkport has multiple beaches, and it’s a popular place for golfing and whale watching as well.
Key West isn’t particularly well known for its beaches when compared to the rest of the Florida Keys, but it has a lot more than just sun and sand to offer. Perfect for a group trip, a family vacation or even honeymooning, the island’s cuisine is legendary with iconic dishes like Key lime pie and conch fritters sure to entice your taste buds. Key West is particularly popular due to its mild, semi-tropical climate, and it’s supposedly the only city in the lower 48 states to have never had a frost, as the temperature has never reached a freezing point. It’s also known for being the home of legendary American writer Ernest Hemingway, and you can visit the Ernest Hemingway House, where he lived and wrote for a decade.
The town of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, has a wonderful law requiring 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 around the water. 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.
Nestled in the Adirondacks, Lake Placid is a picturesque spot in upstate New York perfect for both winter sports and summer lounging. The high peaks surrounding the village are perfect for hiking and camping, and there’s also plenty of fun to be had in the town’s cozy cabins or on its main street filled with food and shopping — and that’s not to mention the beautiful lake it’s named after. Multiple nearby waterways exist for paddling, whether it be by canoe, kayak or stand-up paddleboard. Visitors can also catch a concert at Mid’s Park or relax for a while in one of many amazing spas.
Lake Tahoe is the kind of ski town that even non-skiers will love, with nearly 3 million people visiting it every year. One of the biggest, clearest and deepest freshwater lakes on Earth, it’s actually a fantastic destination year-round. While winter makes it a wonderland with some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the country, summer brings great opportunities for hiking, golfing, boating and other watersports. There’s also plenty of spots to get in on some good dining and shopping, not to mention sightseeing with all the gorgeous natural scenery surrounding you.
Since the 1930s, legalized gambling has helped make Las Vegas the world-famous destination it is today. While you could try your luck at the slots and tables all weekend, you’d be remiss to not venture outside the casinos. Eat your money away at some of the best restaurants in Nevada, or learn some risqué dance moves from exotic dancers, drive a race car on an actual race track, or catch a live dance performance or magic show. Check out one of the country’s best indoor attractions, the Adventuredome at Circus Circus, or the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay. The city is also home to Auto Collections, a beautiful classic car showroom, as well as multiple gardens and fascinating museums dedicated to everything from art to the mob to even neon signs.
Little Rock, Arkansas, is a hotbed of Southern history and culture, with multiple arts and music centers, as well as countless historic sites and museums. Check out the Quapaw Quarter, made up of 15 National Historic Register Districts and more than 200 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. You should also definitely make a visit to the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site and Museum, located across the street from the site of the forced school desegregation that followed the 1954 Supreme Court ruling of Brown v. Board of Education. Little Rock is also a great place to enjoy the outdoors, with dozens of parks and plenty of opportunity for boating, cycling, hiking and more.
Experience a wonderful mix of Southern and Midwestern culture in Louisville, Kentucky, known as the “Gateway to the South.” The city’s horse races are world-renowned, and a trip in the first weekend of May would coincide with the Kentucky Derby, a definite bucket list item if you can manage to nab a ticket. Louisville also has an impressive municipal parks system and a growing arts scene full of beautiful art galleries for you explore, particularly in the Highlands shopping district which is also populated by many great bars, cafes and restaurants. Visit the famous Louisville Slugger Bat Factory, and make sure to pay tribute to the Greatest of All Time at the Muhammad Ali Center.
Mackinac Island is a small town that feels like you’ve stepped inside a history book; known for its island-wide motor vehicle ban, you’d do well to bring your own bicycle. There’s a Victorian charm to its architecture, and you’ll find something to do for everyone in the family. Indulge your sweet tooth with the island’s famous fudge and take to the great outdoors with hiking, horse-riding, paddling and more. You can go on tours of the island on foot, by bike or even via kayak or stand-up paddle boards.
One of the most popular summer vacation spots, particularly among the rich and famous of America, Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts is made up of six towns and sometimes referred to as “Hollywood East.” Check out the nice beaches, multiple lighthouses and many fine dining establishments for some great food. Other popular activities include golfing, horseback riding, hiking, charter fishing and visiting art galleries.
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 watering holes with live music, the latter of which sometimes have “to go” windows selling 32-ounce cups of beer for $5. 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 Farmers 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.
Not to be confused with the city of Miami, Miami Beach, Florida, is located on a barrier island to the east and has a great view of the Miami skyline. Full of fantastic beach resorts and wonderful neighborhoods including the famous South Beach of spring break fame, Miami Beach is a colorful destination, and its Art Deco Historic District is not only a nationally registered historic site but also the largest collection of Art Deco architecture in the world.
The “Twin Cities” of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota, share more than just a border. Various cultural, social and political institutions serve both cities, making it hard to separate one from the other. The Land of the 10,000 Lakes, Minnesota offers tourists tons of opportunities to join the local fishing and ice fishing or hit the many lake beaches. Saint Paul’s 100-acre Como Park has an amusement park, carousel, zoo, glass-domed conservatory and an entire lake with paddleboats. Enjoy iconic Midwestern foods such as booya, cheese curds and Jell-O salad, and make sure you don’t leave without checking out the Mall of America in nearby Bloomington, the biggest indoor shopping mall in America.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is perfect for a family-friendly summer or spring getaway, and its popularity brings over 14 million people to its shores every year. It gets quite crowded during the day in the high season, but come around sunrise and you’ll find it’s much quieter as well as cooler. Myrtle Beach’s Broadway has plenty of shops, restaurants, bars and a movie theater as well as an aquarium for the whole family to enjoy, and there are always variety shows and concerts playing too. It’s also a popular golfing destination, as there are more than 120 golf courses in the area. For those looking for a less professional game, Myrtle Beach is also home to more mini-golf courses per square mile than any other place in the world.
A village of just over 4,000 people, Mystic, Connecticut, is a popular East Coast tourist spot thanks to its beautiful marinas, extensive shopping and aquarium. The Mystic Seaport Museum is the largest maritime museum in America, with tons of maritime history, and the Olde Mistick Village is a lovely outdoor shopping experience filled with food, entertainment and stores that the entire family will enjoy.
Located just 30 miles off of Cape Cod, the island of Nantucket has long been a getaway destination for both the rich and famous, as well as the average Joe. This Massachusetts town, which is just 3.5 miles wide by 14 miles long, is extremely green-conscious, with tourists required to follow the island’s recycling system and the Nantucket Conservation Foundation dedicated to the preservation of 36 percent of the island and local wildlife. Nantucket’s marine life can be seen at the local aquarium, or cooked up and enjoyed at some of the best seafood shacks in America.
If you’re looking for romance, Napa Valley is a fantastic getaway in northern California known for its wine. With more than 400 wineries, it’s the most important wine-growing region in the country, but visitors will also enjoy the gourmet food and spas, as well as the beautiful vistas here. Bathe in hot springs or spring for a mud bath and then try out your swing at one of the area’s 10 golf courses.
For the ultimate celebration of Southern culture, consider a trip to the “Country Music Capital of the World.” Nashville is great for all kinds of music lovers, however; increasing numbers of rap and rock artists have come out of the Tennessee capital in recent years, so make sure to check out local acts at the city’s many music venues. You’ll find some great Southern food here as well as more cosmopolitan options popping up as a result of out-of-staters moving in alongside operations of some of the world’s biggest companies. As promising as the city’s future is, its history is also fascinating and up for view at sites like the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Belle Meade Plantation and The Hermitage, the former home of President Andrew Jackson.
The pre-Civil War prosperity of Natchez, Mississippi, 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.
Home to Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, 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. Its annual International Festival of Arts and Ideas offers a more intellectual perspective on culture and cuisine.
A melting pot of cultures — black, Caribbean, Creole, French, German, Haitian, Vietnamese and more — comes together to bring about an amazing cuisine and festival scene in New Orleans, Louisiana. There’s a lot more to the Big Easy than just great food and drink, however; the city is a wonderfully historic destination as well. Colonial architecture populates areas such as the French Quarter or Uptown, and one can learn a lot from the city’s historic cemeteries, as well as places like the National World War II Museum or St. Louis Cathedral. Get to know the city’s more Caribbean and Creole influences though sites like the tomb of “Voodoo Queen” Marie Laveau or by attending a Gnostic Mass and magick classes at the Alombrados Oasis.
Experience one of the most romantic spots in America at Newport, Rhode Island, a popular summer resort spot in the Northeast with a famously breathtaking Cliff Walk. Many visitors take a bicycle tour that runs past many of the town’s famous mansions, which you can also visit for their own history. To enjoy the town with less physical exertion, take to Ocean Drive, a 10-mile drive along the shoreline past some of Newport’s top sites.
Niagara Falls lies on the border between Canada and the United States, but the New York side is designated as a state park. That means it’s not as commercialized and therefore more focused on the natural beauty of the falls and their famously beautiful rainbows. Get right up close to them through Cave of the Winds, an experience that takes visitors down an elevator to a walkway that goes right to the bottom of the Bridal Veil Falls, or take a ride with the famous Maid of the Mist, a boat ride that cruises around the bottom of the falls.
Also known as the Iowa Great Lakes region, the extremely photogenic Okoboji area of northwestern Iowa contains a chain of serene, glacier-carved lakes that includes the largest lake in the state, Big Spirit Lake, and five other interconnected lakes: East Okoboji, West Okoboji, Minnewashta, Upper Ga and Lower Ga. The lovely towns of Okoboji, Spirit Lake and Milford lie within the area, and the Iowa Great Lakes Trail runs through them, covering nearly 30 miles that you can walk, run, bike, rollerblade or even cross-country ski in. Enjoy water sports and swimming at the beaches, fishing or golfing for a more low-key day or take on the various bars and restaurants for some delicious seafood and great nightlife. Okoboji is also home to the Arnolds Park Amusement Park and multiple small museums chronicling local culture and history.
Stretching 200 miles along the coastline of North Carolina, the barrier islands that make up the Outer Banks provide both a lot of beachfront and a lot of beauty. Visit romantic Beaufort, known for its historic homes and as the hangout of Blackbeard, whose famous ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, was discovered underwater in 1996. Discover the site of the first flight at Kill Devil Hills near Kitty Hawk, the sand dunes at Nags Head and the mystery of the lost colony on Roanoke Island.
Nestled in the Rocky Mountains, Park City is a top skiing destination that’s home to three world-class resorts perfect for cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, ice skating, snowshoeing and sleigh rides. A wonderful getaway any time of year, the surrounding area also provides plenty of opportunity for hiking, biking, rock climbing, golfing, horseback riding and zip lining. Park City is also a fantastic destination for foodies, having its own unique cuisine and hosting the city’s largest outdoor dinner party every June. Other festivals include the famous Sundance Film Festival and Kimball Arts Festival, which has led to the rise of a burgeoning arts scene.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is one of the most historic cities in America, considered by many to be the birthplace of the nation. Stop by Independence Hall, where both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were debated and then subsequently adopted, as well as the Liberty Bell. Among the city’s many other attractions are the Philadelphia Zoo, the historic and spooky Eastern State Penitentiary, the science geek favorite Franklin Institute and plenty of other art and history museums.
A small city with a lot going on, Pittsburgh has great food, extensive entertainment and a loyal fanbase for its sports teams. One of the best cities for beer lovers, it has a thriving drinking culture and, due to the presence of many colleges and universities, it also has a thriving arts and culture scene. Check out music venues of every kind, as well as museums and art galleries. The nightlife here is quite vibrant, with many bars, clubs and casinos to check out, and the Pittsburgh food scene is diverse and unique. The city is known for specializing in chipped chopped ham sandwiches, kielbasa,
Klondike bars and pierogies.
A particularly magical getaway for the fall, the Poconos is one of the best regions in the country for hiking and camping, perfect for adventurers, families and even honeymooners. Ski resorts, a racetrack and amusement parks provide fun year-round, and local lakes (both man-made and natural) make for great boating and fishing opportunities.
Point Pleasant Beach — not to be confused with the neighboring town of Point Pleasant — is a popular Jersey Shore town, particularly during the summer. Summertime is characterized by frequent fireworks and Big Joe’s Jersey Talent Show, an event that features both residents and tourists every week. Take a stroll down Jenkinson’s Boardwalk, where you’ll find food, arcades, games, mini-golf and an amusement park. At the end of the summer, the town hosts Festival of the Sea, which features both seafood and shopping.
You’ll have one of the best weekends of your life in Portland, Oregon, a West Coast destination full of microbreweries, delicious coffee, great food and plenty of outdoor activities in its many parks and gardens. Portland is also well known for its art scene and has more independent publishers than any other city in the U.S.
The capital of Rhode Island, Providence is the biggest city in the smallest state and extremely underrated as an American destination. You can find multiple museums in downtown Providence, which is characterized by beautiful 19th- and 20th-century architecture. Food lovers should check out the Culinary Archives and Museum, where you can learn about the history of both the culinary and hospitality industries. Roger Williams Park, named for the founder of the city, is a great place to visit, as it has tons of activities, such as boat tours, a planetarium, a botanical center, a coursel and the Hasbro Playground.
An American icon, the Redwood National and State Parks in northern California are world-renowned, having been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With the ability to live for up to 2,000 years, redwood trees are known for their sheer size, growing up to 367 feet tall and 22 feet wide. In fact, the coastal redwoods are the tallest trees in the world. Enjoy some amazing wildlife here; if you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of a black bear or bald eagle. Gorgeous natural spots and hiking trails run throughout the park and are perfect for exploring in the early morning hours or when there’s a bit of fog. If you plan ahead enough, you can also get a permit to drive through the Tall Trees Grove, which has a limit of only 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.
Not only is Salt Lake City one of the safest cities in the world, it’s also beautiful, surrounded by mountains full of hiking and biking opportunities. Head to the Great Salt Lake and its marinas, where you’ll be able to go boating year-round, or visit one of the city’s many parks and gardens. Salt Lake City is also a center of Mormon religion and culture, and interesting historic sites include Temple Square, the world headquarters of the Church of Latter-Day Saints and the impressive Salt Lake Temple.
San Antonio is the perfect spot to explore Texan culture as well as the state’s more natural side. There are multiple historical parks throughout the city, and its geography is just as diverse as its culture here; San Antonio is located at the edge of the Hill Country, the Texas blackland prairie and the South Texas plains. Of course, you have to make sure you remember the Alamo while visiting the site of the infamous 1836 battle, as well as visit the King William Historic Area. If you come in April, you can take part in Fiesta Week, an annual celebration in which 3.5 million people descend on the city for over 110 events full of food, drink, fairs, music and parades.
Located right across the border from the Mexican party destination of Tijuana, San Diego is a quintessentially Southern California destination. Take advantage of gorgeous beaches, an extremely pleasant climate and tons of ethnic diversity, all of which create a colorful atmosphere perfect for anyone to enjoy. Top attractions in San Diego include the San Diego Zoo, Sea World and the museums of Balboa Park, and there are also plenty of wineries and top-tier restaurants to enjoy.
The crown jewel of the Bay Area, San Francisco should be one of your top West Coast weekend getaway options. 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. The food scene here is amazing too, having topped Yelp’s list of best food destinations.
One destination you may not have thought of for a weekend trip is the San Juan Islands, lying off the coast of Washington state and 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 are boating and kayaking.
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 in which even a beginner swimmer 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 ecotour available.
Santa Fe, New Mexico, 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 and adds to the romance of the city. 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.
A charming town that lies in upstate New York, Saratoga Springs has served as a popular resort town for the last 200 years. Sought out for its beauty and history, it’s also known for being the home of the Saratoga Race Course, a major spot for thoroughbred racing. In addition to mineral springs, you’ll also find gorgeous orchards and expansive farms in Saratoga Springs, which is also full of hiking and biking opportunities. Locals relax here too, often renting cottages along Saratoga Lake in the summer so that they can enjoy the area right alongside the tourists.
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. One of the most romantic places in America, its plethora of historic squares provide pleasant sights 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 Seattle’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 the culinary gem of the Pacific Northwest, as well as 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 one of the most beautiful towns in America, perfect for outdoor recreation as well as your Instagram feed. 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.
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, which is also among the top RV destinations in America.
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 allows visitors 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.
The immensely charming St. Augustine claims to be the oldest city in the United States, with over 400 years of history that are quite apparent in its Spanish Colonial architecture and cobblestone streets. Easily the prettiest town in the state, St. Augustine is one of Florida’s top non-Disney destinations. Visit the country’s oldest masonry fort, explore the quaint stores of St. George Street, or stop by one of the city’s great restaurants for something to eat.
St. Louis, Missouri, 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 infamous 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 than just skiing, however, while the Trapp Family Lodge draws fans of “The Sound of Music,” who come to enjoy skiing as well as concerts in the summertime. 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. The town's food scene is also quite vast and adventurous, and you won’t feel the need to go far for a good meal.
Situated on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Tampa is home to plenty of great attractions, such as Busch Gardens, the Florida Aquarium, Lowry Park Zoo, Tampa Museum of Art and the Museum of Science and Industry, as well as a notable craft beer scene. Visitors to Tampa can also benefit from proximity to other destinations such as St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Clearwater Beach, the best beach in the country.
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.
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 the small and historic Heart Island, home to the incomplete Boldt Castle, with its interesting backstory — 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 just as it was.
Tucson, Arizona, 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 as plenty of clubs and venues for live music and dance in a variety of genres, and the city’s art scene is another reason it’s considered the Brooklyn of the state.
Vail is a pretty presidential pick in terms of weekend getaways; President Gerald Ford came here so often that many parts of the town are named after him and former First Lady Betty Ford. The town began as the base village for Vail Ski Resort, the third largest single-mountain ski resort in America, but it’s not just a winter sports destination. An exploding restaurant scene gives visitors many culinary options, and the town also holds multiple cultural events throughout the year.
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, making it the perfect date spot. 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 35-mile coastline of Virginia Beach is the longest stretch of pleasure beach in the world, making it a top East Coast summer destination. The biggest city in Virginia, it’s home to about 450,000 residents, as well as a wonderful boardwalk, a popular aquarium, a contemporary art museum and an impressive amphitheater that books performances with many top artists throughout the year.
The reasons to go to the nation’s capital should not need explanation. Filled with memorials and monuments, Washington, 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. It’s also a great destination for food. 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.
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.”
Another iconic 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. The expansive area’s many lakes are also open for hiking, boating and other water sports. Thirty miles from Yosemite Valley is Glacier Point, which presents a fantastic view of the Half Dome, one of the most beautiful places among American national parks.
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