20 Perfect Summer Getaways
Summer in the city—any city—can be lovely. Sun, warm weather wardrobes, and rooftop bars. But, it can also mean gaggles of eager tourists, sweltering heat, and packed subway cars. Everyone needs a way to escape the mid-summer metropolitan mayhem.
We’ve rounded up some of the best summer weekend getaways from 10 major cities around the U.S. For those looking to save a little cash, there is a budget-friendly option. Looking for a vacation splurge? We’ve got you covered.
On the east coast, escape the humidity by going north or east. Many city-dwellers in major cities like Atlanta, Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C. have the privilege of being just a short drive, train ride, or plane ride away from beautiful coastal towns, like those of Cape Cod and Maine, to name a couple. Down south, head to state parks, like Amicalola State Park just 70 miles from Atlanta, for some premiere hiking and beautiful vistas of the surrounding land.
In the Midwest, city slickers can head south for a small-town vibe, local fairs, and sweet country inns. Only 50 miles southeast of bustling Chicago is Valaparaiso, Indiana. Kick back at the colonial Songbird Prairie Bed & Breakfast and enjoy whirlpool baths, fireplaces, and sunrooms perfect for bird watching.
On the west coast, there may not be humidity comparable to that of the east, but the tourist crowds are sure to be plentiful. From Los Angeles, head north to Santa Barbara and breath in the sea breeze and sweet smells from local farmers markets. In Seattle, head west to the San Juan Islands for whale watching, kayaking, and other ocean adventures.
Whether you’re on a coast, down south, or smack dab in the middle of the country, there is a fun, budget-friendly, or luxurious, relaxing escape from city life waiting for you this summer.
Where to Go: Amicalola Falls State Park, Georgia.
Distance: 70 miles from Atlanta.
Where to Stay: Hike five miles on a moderate trail (with five more-strenuous hills) through Amicalola Falls State Park and Chattahoochee National Forest to Georgia’s only backcountry eco-lodge, the LEED-certified Len Foote Hike Inn, which has 20 simple rooms, each with two bunks. (Hot showers are in a bathhouse.) Most guests pass their time hiking, chatting, reading, or playing board games in the Sunrise Room or rocking in an Adirondack chair on the wraparound porch.
What to Do: Stroll along the gorgeous one-mile Cove/Fire Break Interpretive Trail loop to look for native wildflowers: fire pinks and brilliant orange Turk’s cap lilies, as well as stunning butterflies like the blue- and orange-dotted spicebush swallowtail. If you’re really ambitious, hike 4.5 miles to Springer Mountain, the southern starting point of the Appalachian Trail-and then 4.5 miles back to the inn.
Price: Doubles from $170; $117 per single adult occupancy; includes large family-style dinner and breakfast.
Insider Tip: Before hitting the trail to the lodge, check in at the Amicalola Falls State Park visitor center for information about the private trail.
Where to Go: Braselton, Georgia.
Distance: 30 miles north.
Where to Stay: With its gray pitched roof, wrought-iron detail, and 3,500 acres (with 75 acres of vineyards), the Château Élan Inn looks like a 16th-century country estate in France; most of the 329 guest rooms have a French estate décor and include oversize garden tubs. The inn features an award-winning winery, spa, tennis courts, golf courses, an equestrian show center, and cooking classes offered in a 1,600-square-foot teaching kitchen with high-end Viking stoves.
Room to Book: One of the tranquil, romantic spa suites, with the choice of a couples' waterfall shower or a pedestal tub.
Price: Doubles from $199.
What to Do: Attend a Sunday cooking demonstration by the Château's chefs. Or put on your own toque and take a class; learn to make panko-crusted pork with gingered soy sauce, for example, topped off with Asian raw coconut pudding with gula melaka syrup.
Where to Go: Truro, Massachusetts.
Distance from Boston: 110 miles south, almost the end of Cape Cod.
Where to Stay: Facing the beach and Cape Cod Bay, all 21 bright suites at the Crow’s Nest Resort have kitchens, fireplaces, Jacuzzi tubs, and unobstructed views of the ocean, two lighthouses, and the lights of Provincetown—just two miles away.
Room to Book: Book one of the charming cottages, which are ready-made for families or a group of friends.
Price: Doubles from $139; cottages from $349.
What to Do: Rent a bike at Gale Force Bikes in Provincetown, pick up a map, and ride five miles along scenic High Head Road to the Cape Cod Highland Lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse on the Cape. Later, stop by Mac’s Shack in Wellfleet for fresh, simply prepared dishes like fried shrimp, steamed mussels, and clam chowder.
Where to Go: Cape Elizabeth, Maine.
Distance from Boston: 115 miles north.
Where to Stay: The pioneering green hotel Inn by the Sea, on Crescent Beach, has a light-filled dining room, lobby lounge with fireplace, expanded wraparound deck, and classic white Adirondack chairs from L. L. Bean scattered around its five-acre property. The 61 stylish and comfortable rooms, suites and cottages include bright punches of color, contemporary Maine art, and bold fabrics, and its state-of-the-art organic spa features regionally inspired treatments like the Casco Bay stone massage.
Room to Book: The duplex Spa Suite has a kitchen, palatial bath with walk-in shower and soaking tub, double-height windows, and a small balcony overlooking the outdoor pool, indigenous gardens, and Atlantic Ocean.
Price: Doubles from $559.
What to Do: Venture into Portland (six miles away) for the evening and feast on oysters at Eventide, known as one of the best oyster spots on the east coast. After, head down to the waterfront for premiere seafood chowder at Gilbert's Chowder House.
Where to Go: Valparaiso, Indiana.
Distance from Chicago: 50 miles southeast.
Where to Stay: The lovely Colonial country home with white-trimmed dormers may attract visitors to the Songbird Prairie Bed & Breakfast, but it’s the grounds’ prairie grass, roses, and many trees that lure the namesake songbirds on their way to and from the Indiana Dunes. The five suites—Robin, Bluebird, Warbler, Purple Finch, and Cardinal (with bright red walls, of course)—have whirlpool baths and fireplaces, and a three-course breakfast is served in a sunroom that looks onto the bird-filled woods.
Insider Tip: There’s a microphone near one of the hummingbird feeders so guests can hear them “chirp” (a sound that’s actually made by their tails).
Price: Doubles from $229.
What to Do: Follow the birds 10 miles north to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and wander along the Cowles Bog Trail through wetland, oak, savanna, and swale for two miles until you crest the dunes and are rewarded with an expansive view of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline. Along dune trails keep your eyes peeled for orange butterfly weed and purple blazing star wildflowers, and the endangered inch-wide blue Karner butterfly.
Where to Go: Delafield, Wisconsin.
Distance from Chicago: 110 miles north.
Where to Stay: The stately red-brick exterior and rich dark-wood paneling in the lobby and restaurant of the Delafield Hotel contrast with the lighter, brighter feeling of its 38 luxurious guest rooms and suites; all have handsome antique furnishings, and some overlook the forested Kettle Moraine hills.
Room to Book: For a romantic getaway, choose the Honeymoon Suite with an Oscar de la Renta hand-carved canopy bed and a full-spa bathroom with BubbleMassage “chromatherapy”—sequenced colored lights designed to enhance one’s mood.
Price: Doubles from $209.
What to Do: Browse for restored Victorian furniture and other antique treasures at Rickety Robin or at Christman Art & Antiques (housed in an 1840s barn) in nearby Wales (three miles away) for 19th- and 20th-century American paintings and estate jewelry. Or poke around downtown Delafield, which is itself an antique, with building façades in Victorian, Williamsburg, and Greek Revival styles.
Where to Go: Galveston, Texas.
Distance from Houston: 50 miles southwest.
Where to Stay: Near the center of the Strand Historic District, and with an elegant portico entrance and a four-story atrium lobby with palm trees and glass elevators, Tremont House has 119 rooms and suites, each with Victorian styling, black and white furnishings, 14-foot ceilings, and marble baths. Built in 1888, the Toujouse Bar has a handsome all-mahogany bar, and the rooftop terrace (with the city's only rooftop bar) gives views of the harbor and town.
Price: Doubles from $199.
What to Do: Cool off two blocks away at the Star Drug Store, “the oldest drug store in Texas,” and sit at the horseshoe counter while sipping an egg cream or cherry fountain soda. Or throw your towel on the sand at the 100-yard-deep beach a mile away at 53rd and Seawall, and escape the heat by slurping a sno-cone or wading in the cooling waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Where to Go: Austin, Texas.
Distance from Houston: 160 miles west.
Where to Stay: Located in the modern bohemian neighborhood of South Congress (or SoCo), the über-hip San José Hotel has 40 sleek, minimalist guest rooms with earthy tones, warm woods, and simple, modern lines. A serene garden of native Texas plants has crushed granite pathways linking lobby/lounge, courtyard, and pool. Locals join guests at the lounge to sip Champassions (champagne with passion-fruit juice and raspberries) and Micheladas (Mexican Bloody Marys made of beer, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, soy sauce, lime, and pepper with a salt rim and a lime wedge). At night, red, green, and gold lights illuminate the exterior, giving the hotel a warm and surprisingly homey feel.
Price: Doubles from $225.
What to Do: Music strikes a note in Austin, known as the “Live Music Capital of the World,” so dance your way across the street to the Continental Club for blues, country rock, and rockabilly sounds. During the day, beat the heat by going to Zilker Park (two miles away) and swimming in the three-acre Barton Springs Pool, fed by natural springs with an average temperature of 68–70 degrees.
Los Angeles: SAVE
Where to Go: Santa Barbara, California.
Distance from Los Angeles: 95 miles northwest, with Highway 1 being the more scenic route.
Where to Stay: The 16 cozy guest rooms at the boutique Presidio Motel in downtown Santa Barbara were recently updated with warm, rich colors and a contemporary style.
Price: Doubles from $159.
What to Do: Eat local by making a “Market Foray,” a guided tour that leads the culinarily curious to fresh foods at the farmers’ market, fishermen’s market, and C’est Cheese—all of which are also ideal spots for picking up picnic fixings for lunch to pair with Central Coast wine. To discover more about the region’s famous grapes, hit the Urban Wine Trail, which includes multiple wineries and tasting rooms near downtown. If you tire of walking, hop on the 50-cent electric shuttle.
Insider Tip: If wine is not your thing, try the Greyhound Proper, a cocktail made with fresh grapefruit juice, gin, and candied grapefruit peel (or any other drink), at the Hungry Cat (six blocks southeast), which has a constantly changing menu based on what’s fresh from the farmers’ market.
Los Angeles: SPLURGE
Where to Go: Del Mar, California.
Distance from Los Angeles: 100 miles south.
Where to Stay: L'Auberge Del Mar weds luxury and the beach. A 12-foot-tall waterfall and a pool bar complement its ocean-inspired spa and 121 guest rooms and suites with white horizontal blinds, woven grass wallpaper, and the colors of the local beach: pale golds, tans, and sea-foam green.
Insider Tip: Book early for July and August, the peak time for the nearby Del Mar racetrack; rooms fill up quickly.
Price: Doubles from approximately $506.
What to Do: Walk across the street to Del Mar Plaza for its upscale restaurants and shops, including Ooh La La for crystal-embellished blouses, lace-and-ruffle tops, and wildly striped sundresses. Or stroll one block in the opposite direction along a landscaped footpath to the beach for 15 miles of continuous sand.
Where to Go: Key Largo, Florida.
Distance from Miami: 65 miles south.
Where to Stay: With a private white-sand beach, a pool and Jacuzzi, a tropical fruit garden, and 13 guest rooms and suites named after tropical fruits, Kona Kai Resort & Gallery sets a junglelike atmosphere for swinging in a hammock. Bright rooms are stylish with simple furnishings and horizontal wooden blinds, but it is the lush grounds that are the real showstopper. French doors open onto hardwood decks and tiki huts shaded by palms, and paths lead to tennis courts and areas for massage or yoga.
Price: Doubles from $299.
What to Do: Escape the heat while you pay homage to wonderful works of nature by snorkeling, scuba diving, or riding a glass-bottomed boat in nearby all-underwater John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Contact Morning Star Charters, which takes groups of six snorkelers on the Morning Star, a 50-foot sailing yacht, to Molasses Reef, Pickles Reef, and other less visited areas.
Insider Tip: If you’d rather stick to dry land, take a 34-mile side trip north to Homestead, and go wild over the exotic orchids in nurseries like Pine Ridge Orchids and R. F. Orchids. Do not leave Homestead without stocking up on tropical fruits like papayas, star fruit, lychees, atemoyas, or monstera deliciosa (which tastes like pineapple-banana) at the Robert Is Here fruit stand—where Robert Moehling has been peddling exotic fruit for more than 55 years.
Where to Go: Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Distance from Miami: 30 miles north.
Where to Stay: The Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale is a classic. This luxury beach-front hotel embraces the golden sands of Fort Lauderdale and offers guests a premiere, luxe lodging experience. Whether you choose to relax ocean-front for your stay or head out for an exhilerating advenure, the Ritz-Carlton will provide you with splendid accommodations.
Price: Doubles from $419.
What to Do: After chilling in the green-blue waters or on the white sand beach in front of the hotel, head to the trendy celebrity-magnet restaurant Sublime. Its organic and vegan menu continually wins converts—especially for the piccata with lemon-caper sauce. (Yes, the piccata’s vegan; it’s made with grain-and-vegetable Gardein Veggie Chick’n Breasts.) No one disputes the Sublime on the Beach cocktail (vodka, Peachtree schnapps, cranberry, orange, pineapple). And who knows, you just might run into Pamela Anderson, Alec Baldwin, or Alicia Silverstone.
New York City: SAVE
Where to Go: Great Barrington, MA
Distance from New York City: 135 miles north.
Where to Stay: The Thornewood Inn has been accommodating guests for 30 years in Great Barrington. Located in a turn-of-the-century Dutch Colonial inn, this sweet, family-operation embraces the serenity of the Berkshires, offering guests lovely accommodations and the opportunity to kick back, listen to live music, and dine on fresh and local eats. Dine at the on-site, farm fresh restaurant, The Point Restaurant and Tavern, and enjoy live piano and jazz during your meal.
Price: In-season room rates from $169, off-season room rates from $149.
What to Do: Great Barrington is known as an antique collector's paradise. Take a day (or maybe even two) to wander downtown and explore all of the antique shops. For museum-lovers, there is plenty of opportunity for exploration around various museums in the Berkshires. Check out the Norma Rockwell Museum, just seven minutes from the inn, or a classic—The Berkshire Museusm—a 30 minute drive from The Thornewood.
Insider Tip: Head to Furnace Brook Winery at Hilltop Orchards for a taste of noted, local wine. Be sure to check the website to see if you can catch one of the vineyard's full moon hikes.
New York City: SPLURGE
Where to Go: Milton, New York.
Distance from New York: 75 miles north.
Where to Stay: An updated homestead from the 17th century set on 70 lush green acres along the banks of the Hudson River, Buttermilk Falls Inn & Spa has 10 guest rooms with Hudson river or garden views plus eight guesthouses and cottages; all have fireplaces and most have whirlpool baths. Both the Grand Laurel and Sage Right rooms have fabric-draped antique canopy beds.
Price: Doubles from $350.
What to Do: Multitask and get your nature and culture together by strolling among large welded-steel sculptures by Henry Moore, Alexander Calder, Louise Nevelson, and others at the Storm King Art Center in Mountainville; escape the heat by plunging into the Split Rock swimming hole in the Mohonk Mountain Preserve (swimsuit not required); learn safe and proper shotgun skills at Orvis Sandanona, the oldest shooting club in the country, in Millbrook. Be sure to get back to the inn in time for relaxation at the spa and afternoon tea with petite sandwiches and sweets, including scones and pastries from the inn's own bakery, Frida's.
Insider Tip: The Culinary Institute of America has several restaurants—American Bounty, the Bocuse Restaurant, Pangea, Caterina de' Medici, Al Forno Trattoria, and Apple Pie Bakery Café—11 miles north and across the Hudson River in Hyde Park. Advanced reservations recommended. Note: restaurants are closed for part of July.
San Francisco: SAVE
Where to Go: Davenport, California.
Distance from San Francisco: 60 miles south on Highway 1, which winds along golden cliffs, soft-sand beaches, artichoke farms, and fruit stands.
Where to Stay: One hundred yards from a small sandy cove, and surrounded by a thriving artists’ community and 7,000 acres of state parks and beaches,the Davenport Roadhouse's 12 simple guest rooms have clean, modern lines and views of the Pacific Ocean and nearby cliffs. When the rooms were redone several years ago, the hotel received LEED certification for its use of eco-friendly materials such as low-toxic paints and recycled-blue-jean insulation.
Room to Book: The Captain Davenport Suite has four sets of French doors on two walls, creating a 180-degree ocean view, and the China Ladder room faces south for fine sunset viewing.
Price: Doubles from $150.
What to Do: You’ll find finished stained glass, jewelry, pastel drawings of the coast, and other works by local artists in the Roadhouse gallery’s rotating exhibition. Stroll at low tide along the cove’s tide pools, or beachcomb for tumbled glass washed down from glassblowers cooling their wares in the stream. At sunset, settle into one of the rocking chairs on the wraparound deck.
Insider Tip: Drive seven miles north to Waddell Creek Beach, part of Big Basin Redwoods State Park, to watch surfers with paragliding kites fly over the shore break—some reach as high as 50 feet into the air.
San Francisco: SPLURGE
Where to Go: Sausalito, California.
Distance from San Francisco: Three miles north, just across the Golden Gate Bridge.
Where to Stay: With a primo location half a mile north of the Golden Gate Bridge in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Cavallo Point, The Lodge at the Golden Gate has 142 rooms and suites both in modern design and in restored turn-of-the-20th-century Colonial Revival cottages that were once officers’ residences at Fort Baker. The lodge has a Healing Arts Center & Spa, an organic Tea Bar, a culinary arts program (including "Foods of Mesopotamia" and "Cooking from the Farmers' Market"), lectures, live music, yoga and outdoor fitness classes, and one of the most dramatic views of that world-famous bridge.
Insider Tip: Like the rest of the lodge’s fare, fruits and juices used in cocktails in the Farley Bar—named for the late Phil Frank’s beloved local comic-strip character (a sometime park ranger) who was featured in the San Francisco Chronicle for 32 years—are fresh and organic.
Price: Doubles from $409.
What to Do: Walk or bike across the red Art Deco bridge that spans the mile-wide Golden Gate for a spectacular view of San Francisco looking like alabaster in late-afternoon light. If heights aren’t your thing, go to sea level and take a kayak tour of Richardson Bay, two miles north. The lodge can arrange for guides and lessons.
Where to Go: Mount Rainier National Park, Washington.
Distance from Seattle: 80 miles southeast.
Where to Stay: The historic Paradise Inn, which opens in late May for the summer season, is a grand national park lodge. Keeping the ambience of its original 1916 construction, the 121 guest rooms are simple, with wood paneling and flowered bedspreads, but just step outside for dramatic views of Mount Rainier, Nisqually Glacier, and wildflower-filled meadows.
Price: Doubles from $175 with bath, $119 without.
What to Do: The meadows in the park are known for wildflowers—red Indian paintbrushes, purple asters, yellow cinquefoil, white American bistort, and others. To get a good close-up look at those beauties, lace up your boots and hike the less-traveled 2.5-mile round-trip Moraine Trail, which meanders along meadows and also has spectacular views of Mount Rainier. Feeling adventurous? Hike the five-mile round-trip Paradise Glacier Trail, which wanders past waterfalls and into wilder areas of the park.
Where to Go: Friday Harbor, Washington.
Distance from Seattle: 100 miles north.
Where to Stay: No car required here. Ride the ferry through the San Juan Islands and the Salish Sea to San Juan Island itself, and walk two blocks to the Friday Harbor House where 23 modern guest rooms and suites have Arts and Crafts furniture, fireplaces, and oversize jet tubs, and most rooms have views of the harbor and pine-covered islands.
Room to Book: Any room with a full view of Friday Harbor and Brown and Shaw islands.
Price: Doubles from $289.
What to Do: Since you’re in one of the best whale-watching spots in the world, don’t miss boating out to Haro Strait with Maya's Legacy Whale Watching or San Juan Safaris, and marveling at breaching orcas and humpbacks frolicking with their calves.
Washington, D.C.: SAVE
Where to Go: Montchanin, Delaware.
Distance from Washington, D.C.: 110 miles northeast.
Where to Stay: Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the charming Inn at Montchanin Village in the Brandywine Valley is part of a restored 19th-century village of 11 buildings constructed between 1799 and 1910 and connected by pathways through lush flower gardens. The 28 guest rooms and suites have antique and reproduction furnishings (some with charming canopy beds), and most have gas fireplaces and soaking tubs. Among the signature treatments at the spa is a rose and linen age-reversal facial.
Price: Doubles from $192.
What to Do: Climb through “Nature’s Castles,” three large-scale treehouses designed to bring back your childhood memories and built among (although not attached to) large tulip poplars at Longwood Gardens, eight miles north in Kennett Square. One treehouse is Adirondack style and ADA-accessible, another’s like an ornate two-story Norwegian stave church, and the third, called the Birdhouse, is built in a traditional old-fashioned treehouse style—set three stories high for a colorful bird’s-eye view of the glorious gardens.
Washington, D.C.: SPLURGE
Where to Go: Hot Springs, Virginia.
Distance from Washington, D.C.: 210 miles southwest.
Where to Stay: Looking as grand as a state capitol building, the red-brick Homestead in the Alleghenies has 483 guest rooms and suites with Colonial touches like floral or striped upholstered furnishings and traditional southern style in warm pastels of mauve, rose, yellows, blues, and moss greens. All rooms have down featherbeds as well as prints or paintings reflecting Virginia history or the history of the hotel, which dates back to 1766. Some suites have sunporches and fireplaces. Tip: The Homestead is celebrating its 250th anniversary in 2016 with special events including a different cake for each day of the year and weekly concerts and fireworks in the summer.
Price: Doubles from $255.
What to Do: Revel in the gorgeous countryside by driving nine miles northeast to the Nature Conservancy’s Warm Springs Mountain Preserve and hiking the easy 2.4-mile Ingalls Overlook Trail, where you’ll see catawba rhododendrons, ruffed grouse, migratory songbirds, and possibly even a bobcat or black bear. Afterward, back at the Spa at Homestead, take a soak in the natural mineral-spring waters—renowned for their restorative qualities—at the Jefferson Pools.