Looking for a laid-back escape? Here are our favorite spots, where beachfront restaurants, stylish hotels, and scenic hiking trails are all within reach.
Santa Barbara, CA
Easy Weekend Getaways
Santa Barbara, CA
Long a getaway for Hollywood royalty, this untamed yet civilized landscape is dotted with Mediterranean mansions, sprawling orange groves, and chaparral-covered mountains that plunge into the ocean. High in the hills, you’ll find the recently renovated El Encanto ($$$$), an iconic idyll with Craftsman- and Spanish-colonial-style bungalows—but if you’d rather be by the sand, there’s the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore ($$$). Start your morning at the clock tower of the Santa Barbara Courthouse, where the view stretches from the Channel Islands to the Santa Barbara Mission. It’s a six-block walk from there to the Saturday Farmers Market, the perfect place to watch gray-haired hippies, dreadlocked surfers, and well-heeled natives hunting for Central Coast olive oils and zingy lemon-flavored pistachios. While you could spend hours on nearby Butterfly Beach spotting dolphins, save time for the Funk Zone, an artsy industrial district opposite Stearns Wharf. Here, pick up the Urban Wine Trail (a network of 17 tasting rooms) at Municipal Winemakers, whose varietals have offbeat names such as Bright Red and Fizz. For lunch, the open-air trolley on State Street leads to Scarlett Begonia ($$); snag a table in the hidden courtyard and order the salmon carpaccio from the all-organic menu. Or head to the Shop ($) for a sandwich inspired by Ugandan street food: scrambled eggs, bacon, and smoked tomato on house-made flatbread. —Mark Morrison
Thank God for Friday—the gateway to a new adventure. Celebrated in movies and songs, the weekend looms large in the imagination. It seduces us with the heady possibilities of recreation, relaxation, and romance. It’s our eagerly anticipated escape valve, a release from the daily grind.
For some city dwellers, the siren call of a nearby beach or a house in the country is irresistible. Yet over time, even that can become routine. Every so often, we need to get away from the usual, without making it seem like work. That’s where Travel + Leisure comes in. We sent intrepid reporters across North America to scout out easy weekend getaways, and their discoveries range from an affordable nine-room New England inn in tiny North Haven, ME, to renovated bungalows in the hills of Santa Barbara, CA.
For gastronomy-gone-wild, let us introduce a chef with molecular juju in New Orleans, a smorgasbord of Asian cuisines in a suburb of Vancouver, and all-you-can-eat itineraries in emerging foodie locales such as Baltimore’s Hampden neighborhood and the vineyard-covered Willamette Valley. Just south of Portland and, seemingly, a world away from posh Napa, it’s the place to tell your wine-loving friends back home about over a glass of Oregon Pinot Noir from the Bethel Heights Vineyard.
Related: 20 Long Weekends
If the workweek has you feeling adventurous, the 5.4-mile-long Angels Landing Trail in Zion Canyon, UT, or sea kayaking around Washington’s San Juan Island will get your adrenaline pumping. Or by all means, just let yourself chill out, because maybe the best weekend of all is a day or two at the beach, especially if you stay at a Patricia Urquiola–designed hotel on the red-hot Puerto Rican island of Vieques.
Whatever you do, take a tip from legendary smarty-pants magazine columnist Marilyn vos Savant: “Be in the habit of getting up bright and early on the weekends. Why waste such precious time in bed?”
Good advice. After all, the next great weekend trip may just be next weekend. Start planning yours by taking a tour of our slideshow.
—David A. Keeps
Reported by Tom Austin, Anna Watson Carl, Nina Fedrizzi, Gabriella Fuller, David A. Keeps, Stirling Kelso, Heidi Mitchell, Rod O’Connor, Kathryn O’Shea-Evans, Sam Polcer, Brooke Porter, Douglas Rogers, Clara Sedlak, Sarah Spagnolo, and Hannah Wallace.