4. LAS VEGAS
Why The culinary scene has evolved: world-class chefs have been bypassing bigger cities to cater to an increasing number of visitors intent on spending their time at gastronomic—rather than gaming—tables. Still, most top restaurants are inside casinos, so the slots are never far away.
How to Get There What airport doesn't have direct flights to Sin City?No wonder it's so popular for quick escapes.
Where to Stay Most of the suites at the Signature at MGM Grand (145 E. Harmon Ave.; 877/727-0007 or 702/891-7777; doubles from $200) have a feature nearly unheard of in Vegas: a balcony. Staying off-Strip has new cachet, thanks to the Red Rock Hotel & Casino (11011 W. Charleston Blvd.; 866/767-7773 or 702/797-7777; www.redrocklasvegas.com; doubles from $200), 20 minutes away. Backlit red onyx bars and ceilings dripping with crystals recall vintage Rat Pack glamour.
Where to Eat Former New York chef Rick Moonen picked up and moved to the Strip to open the seafood restaurant RM (3930 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702/632-9300; dinner for two $210) at the Mandalay Bay, which is also home to Hubert Keller's expansion of his San Francisco empire: Fleur de Lys (702/632-9400; dinner for two $148) and Burger Bar (702/632-9364; dinner for two $36). At Stack Restaurant & Bar (3400 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 866/339-4566; dinner for two $40), in the Mirage, chef David Haynes stuffs Tater Tots with Brie and serves white chocolate milk with warm cookies.
Insider Tip Walk through the wine store Marche Bacchus (2620 Reggata Dr., Suite 106; 702/804-8008; dinner for two $72) and you'll find a hidden French bistro on a lake: this is where all the chefs eat.
5. SANTA YNEZ VALLEY, CALIFORNIA
Why Don't call this a mini-Napa. The region may be filled with small-production "garage" wineries, but you're as likely to see cowboys on horseback prowling these hills as you are carloads of vino lovers.
How to Get There Fly into Santa Barbara—serviced nonstop from Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Salt Lake City. The valley is a 35-mile drive away on Highway 154, which winds along the Santa Ynez Mountains.
Where to Stay On a 10,000-acre working cattle ranch, the Alisal (1054 Alisal Rd., Solvang; 800/425-4725 or 805/688-6411; www.alisal.com; doubles from $450) has horseback riding, golf, and fishing. If four-poster beds and Tiffany lamps are more your style, there's the Santa Ynez Inn (3627 Sagunto St., Santa Ynez; 800/643-5774 or 805/688-5588; www.santaynezinn.com; doubles from $285).
Where to Eat Denim-and-diamondclad regulars dance the two-step to country bands at the Maverick Saloon (3687 Sagunto St., Santa Ynez; 805/686-4785; dinner for two $25) and then chow down on sandwiches.
Insider Tip The 1807 adobe Mission Santa Inés (1760 Mission Dr., Solvang; 805/ 688-4815) is one of 21 Spanish missions in California. Stroll through the rose-and-oleander garden.
6. HANA, HAWAII
Why Most of Maui may have fallen victim to high-gloss tourism, but the town of Hana is old Hawaii, where days are spent snoozing on the warm sands of Hamoa Beach or kayaking the deep-blue waters of Hana Bay.
How to Get There Numerous nonstop flights (from L.A., Seattle, Dallas, and more) arrive at Maui's main airport, Kahului; from there, Pacific Wings runs thrice-daily flights to Hana. Or drive 2½ hours along the winding Hana Highway. On your return, take the reverse route around Haleakala, through stark lava terrain.
Where to Stay The bluff-top cottages at the Hotel Hana-Maui (5031 Hana Hwy.; 800/321-4262 or 808/248-8211; www.hotelhanamaui.com; doubles from $425) overlook the bay. Ukulele jam sessions at the hotel's Paniolo Lounge draw the whole town.
Where to Eat At the Hana-Maui's Ka'uiki restaurant (dinner for two $180), chef David Patterson plates what he has speared on his morning dive, like ahi tuna. Ono Farms (149 Hana Hwy.; 808/248-7779; www.onofarms.com; $25 per person) offers an 11-course sampling of its harvest, including lychees, longan, and mountain apples.
Insider Tip If Hana is still too developed for your tastes, visit Piilanihale Heiau (1819 Hana Hwy.; 808/248-8912), a massive lava-rock structure that's the largest ancient place of worship in Polynesia.