Weary taxpayers in need of a vacation can take some inspiration from U.S. presidents past and present by traveling to some of the same destinations as past commanders-in-chief. While you can’t book a stay at John F. Kennedy’s favorite spot — the Kennedy Compound in Cape Cod, Massachusetts — you can dine like the Clintons, who often frequented Martha’s Vineyard during their presidential years. As leaders of the country, many of the presidents knew which destinations within their nation were the best for a weekend getaway
It’s easy to dine like a U.S. president while on the road, as the presidential press corps has well documented the food cravings of former presidents. Bill Clinton was often seen at McDonald’s, and during his time in office, Barack Obama had been known to drop into Five Guys, where he insisted on ordering his hamburger himself. But to truly feel presidential, we suggest an escape to one of their favored spots across the country.
When the president plans a weekend away, it can involve as many as 200 hotel rooms, two jumbo 747s, two passenger jets, five helicopters, 35 motorcade vehicles, charter flights for the press, and a cast of hundreds of people involved in the preparation. To cut down on the number of hotel stays, many presidents have taken up second homes, including George W. Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, Ronald Reagan’s Rancho del Cielo in Santa Barbara, California, and Richard Nixon’s now-demolished home in Key Biscayne, Florida. We recognize that the average citizen may not be able to afford doing so, however, so we suggest you get a little savvy with your hotel room savings so that you can unwind and dine like the Head of State at these 12 presidential hot spots.
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FDR liked to soak in the warm springs in aptly named Warm Springs, Georgia. He believed the springs alleviated the symptoms of his polio-related paralysis. Visitors can no longer soak in the springs, but they can still visit the area, which has a touch pool. FDR’s six-room home, nicknamed the Little White House, is open for visitors who can view the kitchen, living room, and bedrooms just as they were left on the day Roosevelt died of a stroke while sitting for a portrait.
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State, but former President Harry Truman also enjoyed his time in one-of-a-kind Key West. When in the "Conch Republic," Truman stayed at what was often called the “Little White House.” His chief cook, J. Sevilla of the U.S.S. Williamsburg, went along for a trip in November 1946, which included daily 20-minute swim sessions at a nearby pool and a fishing trip in which the president caught a Spanish mackerel, a barracuda, and a grouper.
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Vacation like a Kennedy at Cape Cod, where President Kennedy often stayed at the Kennedy Compound, a cluster of white clapboard homes. While it was hard to catch a glimpse of JFK during his vacation, the family often visited a small general store on Wachusett Avenue and Four Seas Ice Cream in Centerville. Travelers can visit the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum on Main Street, which has a statue of the late president out front.
Nixon visited the ranch-style home with a floating heliport at 500 Bay Lane in Key Biscayne, a Miami island suburb, at least 50 times during his presidency. Dubbed the "Winter White House," it was reportedly where plans for Watergate were discussed and where the president secluded himself once the scandal broke. Although the home was razed in February 2009 to make way for a new house, during Nixon's time, the U.S. government spent $625,000 to fix up the original, including putting in a new ice-maker because Nixon reportedly did not like ice with holes in it.
Vail, which today has an exploding restaurant scene, was a favorite spot for the Fords, so much so that parts of the town are named for the former president and first lady, including the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, an outdoor performance space perfect for a picnic, and the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens.
Jimmy Carter took only 79 days off for vacation during his four-year term, the least of any president. He often headed to his peanut farm in Plains, Georgia. His parents had once owned the farm and when Carter was a boy, he sold produce from the farm from a wagon he hauled into town.
Reagan spent 436 days away from the White House during his turn as president, and he often retreated to Rancho del Cielo, his 688-acre ranch in the Santa Ynez Mountains in California. While there, he rarely left his ranch, which he used both as a vacation home and a diplomatic retreat where he welcomed world leaders like former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife Raisa, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and Queen Elizabeth II for lunches and dinners. The ranch included a grazing pasture for horses and deer.
Former President Clinton spent six of his eight summers as president on Martha’s Vineyard off Cape Cod, where he went sailing with folks like Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Walter Cronkite. Known for its restaurant scene, Clintons could often be seen at Martha’s Vineyard enjoying the Presidential Muffin at Espresso Love (a red, white, and blue treat of cream cheese, blueberry, and strawberry). Another Clinton family favorite spot for sweet treats is Mad Martha’s, where Chelsea liked to order mocha chip yogurt and President Clinton ordered orange pineapple ice cream.
This Texas town with only one stoplight was the favorite retreat for former President George W. Bush, who spent many weeks on his Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford. While he enjoyed eating out at local restaurants, his aides always had a stash of his favorite snack, Tex-Mex Chex, by his side. Bush’s aides have even joked that there were always two things within 10 feet of the president at all times: the nuclear football and a bag of Tex-Mex Chex. Former White House chef Walter Scheib prepared the snack of Chex cereal with hot sauce, pretzels, pistachios, and Mexican pumpkin seeds.
While in office, President Barack Obama often took his family back to his birthplace of Hawaii for family vacations, where they had a vacation home in Kailua. During a Christmas trip in 2010, President Obama visited troops during Christmas dinner at Anderson Hall on Marine Corps Base Hawaii and enjoyed shaved ice at Island Snow at Kailua Beach Center.
Donald Trump has been known to visit at least one of his many properties almost every weekend of his tenure so far, and his most frequented is Mar-a-Lago, a resort and golf club located in Palm Beach, Florida. Built by Post Cereals heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post in 1927, the property was willed by her to the United States government as a Winter White House for the use of presidents and foreign dignitaries. Subsequent presidents had no interest in it, however, and the property was given back to the Post Foundation. When business mogul Donald Trump came on the scene and attempted to buy it, his offer was rejected until he bought the land next to Mar-a-Lago and made plans to build a home that would block its ocean view. As this threatened the value of the property, the Post Foundation acquiesced. Trump bought Mar-a-Lago in 1985, and when he took office in 2017, the property finally became the presidential vacation home that Marjorie Merriweather Post had intended it to be. Today it is a members-only country club in addition to being Trump’s private estate. For more of Donald Trump’s preferences, and what he might be eating on his travels, check out our list of his favorite foods.