Easy Weekend Getaways
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.
Snowcapped mountains and expansive bays form the backdrop for the Northwest’s greatest boomtown—a city of diverse neighborhoods that embraces both outdoorsy culture and innovation. The 2010 Olympics sparked a major development frenzy, and along with new restaurants and boutiques came renovations of several landmark hotels. Make your base downtown’s 1927 Rosewood Hotel Georgia ($$$), with revamped Art Deco–inspired rooms and a slick, dark-wood-and-gold paneled restaurant run by star chef David Hawksworth. From there, it’s a leisurely stroll to Stanley Park, where you can hike along the 14-mile Seawall Trail. Or head to the Victorian Gastown neighborhood to see Native American art galleries such as the three-story Hill’s Native Art, which showcases ceremonial masks and totem poles, limited-edition prints, and bentwood boxes. The Skytrain at nearby Water Station will take you to suburban Richmond, home to Vancouver’s Asian culinary scene: dim sum temples; noodle huts; Korean barbecue joints—you’ll find them all here. Don’t miss the standout mushroom dumplings and clay-pot chicken at local favorite Jade Seafood ($$). For the city’s best shopping, the indie district around King Edward Avenue is full of one-off gems. Look for vintage leather clutches and bags at Front & Company and contemporary crafts at Walrus. —David A. Keeps
North Haven, ME
Sometimes a single hotel can put a relatively unknown destination on the map—and so it was with the cheerful Nebo Lodge ($) and the three-mile-wide Penobscot Bay island of North Haven, an hour’s ferry ride from Rockland. The nine-room property has all the trappings you’d expect from a classic New England island escape—gray wainscoting, shady porches, cast-iron beds, and claw-foot tubs—but the imaginative food of chef Amanda Hallowell is reason in itself to visit. Summertime North Haven regulars such as novelist Susan Minot and artist Eric Hopkins have come to sample her hyper-local dishes—a peppered-mackerel Caesar salad and a pickle plate of sweet beets, celery, and fennel, to name two. What to do when you’re not eating? Live the pine-shaded, salty Maine fantasy, of course: bike the island’s 30 miles of roads, climb to the top of Ames Knob, laze on the beaches of Mullen’s Head Park, and explore pint-size Main Street. Find Ping-Pong and evening concerts at Waterman’s Community Center; made-in-Maine ceramics at North Haven Gift Shop (207/867-4444); and farther south, the new Fox I Printworks, which stocks quirky T-shirts silk-screened with lighthouses and tractors. Don’t leave town without a stop at the North Island Museum, where you’ll learn about the area’s evolution from a Native American territory to the lobster-fishing hamlet it is today. —Kate Sekules
It’s just a 2 1/2-hour drive from Las Vegas to this small town on the Virgin River, but the desert gets empty and wild surprisingly fast. Springdale is the anti-Vegas: serious canyoneers mingle with fine-art photographers at weekly gallery openings, the Springdale Fruit Company sells organic fruit smoothies, and plein-air painters head to workshops at the Zion Canyon Field Institute. The biggest draw, however, is nearby Zion Canyon, a narrow funnel of 2,000-foot-high sandstone walls glossy with a crimson patina and top-heavy buttes that appear to shoot straight up from earth to sky. By far the best place to stay is the understated Desert Pearl Inn ($). Like the rest of Springdale, it’s authentic without trying too hard: reclaimed old-growth Douglas fir floors and a tawny palette of neutrals provide a soothing retreat from the blazing red rock outside. During late spring and summer, crowds are a fact of life here, but the guides at Zion Adventure Company can steer you through the lesser-known hikes. If you absolutely must trek the popular, precipitous, and occasionally terrifying 5.4-mile-long Angels Landing Trail, do as the locals do and set out at dawn when it’s cooler and quieter. You’ll be back in time for slow-cooked-pork burritos at Oscar’s Café ($$), a swim in the hotel pool, and a well-earned siesta on your private terrace. Springdale comes alive in the evenings when residents gather for sweet-potato tamales and fresh tilapia at the Bit & Spur ($$) and Saturday-night music festivals at the O. C. Tanner Amphitheater. Before heading back to Vegas, swing by the Red Mountain Resort (treatments from $60) adventure spa—there’s no better way to end the trip than with a regionally inspired hot-stone massage. —Katie Arnold
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 ($$); snag a table in the hidden courtyard and order the salmon carpaccio from the all-organic menu. Or head to the Shop ($) for a sandwich inspired by Ugandan street food: scrambled eggs, bacon, and smoked tomato on house-made flatbread. —Mark Morrison
It’s easy to love antebellum Charleston, with its scented gardens and live oaks, starched demeanor and polite exchanges of the day. Although you can still meet a traditional sweetgrass basket weaver such as 78-year-old Sue Middleton at the City Market or thumb through vintage Southern recipe collections at Heirloom Book Company, off lower King Street (a.k.a. the Antiques District), the slide rule of charm has recently shifted farther north, to upper King. This red-hot frontier of urban renewal is occupied by a new generation of tattooed hipsters who irreverently refer to home as “Chucktown.” Browse the asymmetrical leather jackets by designer Rick Owens and Isabel Marant’s embroidered skirts at Worthwhile before slipping into the speakeasy-inspired Cocktail Club for an impeccably crafted pre-dinner drink. (Look for the door with a “C.”) Just up the road, chef Mike Lata of downtown’s much-loved F.I.G. has opened the Ordinary, a casual seafood joint known for its clam cakes and triggerfish schnitzel. Live music is never far from any street corner—and the Charleston Music Hall is the go-to spot for everything from Argentinean tango to homegrown country-rock duo Shovels & Rope. In the adjacent Ansonborough district, the 18-suite Zero George ($$), set in five restored town houses clustered around a central courtyard, has started welcoming guests with expert-guided antiquing trips, afternoon cocktails in the salon, and Lowcountry cooking classes. —Shane Mitchell
Mardi Gras may have started in Mobile, where streets are lined with 19th-century mansions and live oaks draped in Spanish moss, but the city stays blissfully under the radar compared with its Big Easy neighbor. Get your Gulf Coast bearings at Wintzell’s Oyster House ($$), which promises its mollusks “fried, stewed, or nude.” At the just-opened Fort Conde Inn ($), set in an 1836 Victorian house, thoughtful Southern touches are on display: rooms are done up with elegant mirrors from the 1800’s and antique armoires. It’s only a short drive to Midtown, home to the Ashland Gallery (251/479-3548), whose stoneware bowls make great souvenirs. —Stirling Kelso
Tucked away in the Catskills, Phoenicia is a quintessential slice of small-town Americana with an Andrew Wyeth–worthy landscape full of secret swimming holes and rolling hills. Just off Main Street is newcomer Graham & Co ($), a retro hotel with reclaimed-wood furniture and hanging Edison lightbulbs, designed by a group of creative New Yorkers. Ask the front desk to help arrange a tubing trip down Esopus Creek or take a hike around the seven-mile Slide Mountain Loop; then reward yourself with an aromatherapy massage at the Emerson (treatments from $30). —Clara O. Sedlak
San Juan Island, WA
It’s impossible to pack all the adventure found in this Northwestern island chain into a weekend, but the town of Friday Harbor is the ideal starting point for any attempt. The contemporary wood-and-glass Island Inn at 123 West ($$) is the latest place to sneak in a rest between guided sea-kayaking trips and wildlife treks through nearby English Camp park to spot black-tailed deer and bald eagles. On Saturday mornings, locals amble through the San Juan Island Farmers Market at the Brickworks plaza; swing by Duck Soup Inn ($$), where the fried cauliflower with spicy Vietnamese lime sauce is only a prelude to the innovative dishes to come. —Heidi Mitchell
South Fork of the Snake River, ID
Cottonwood forests and basalt spires make Idaho’s Swan Valley a backcountry playground for hiking, biking, and rafting enthusiasts. The Natural Retreats South Fork Lodge ($$), on the edge of the Snake River, is the ultimate base camp (private balconies; sweeping river views). Sign up for the hotel’s safari; you’ll travel by boat and horseback in search of grizzlies, elk, and gray wolves, with stays at luxury tented camps. —Nina Fedrizzi
There’s not much to do in this low-key island village in the Upper Keys—and that’s precisely the point. Settle in to your oceanfront suite at Cheeca Lodge & Spa ($$) before a dip in the pool and fruity rum runners at Holiday Isle Tiki Bar. If you’re craving seafood for dinner, the hogfish meunière and broccolini at Pierre’s Restaurant ($$$) is an island favorite. By day, snorkel the NOAA National Marine Sanctuary, tour the art galleries at Morada Way Arts & Cultural District, or simply go for a swim in the hotel’s saltwater lagoon. —Tom Austin
Laguna Beach, CA
Yes, it was the stomping ground for the first wave of reality-TV shows (remember Kristin Cavallari?), but the artists’ colony of Laguna Beach has much more to offer: one-of-a-kind shops, surf shacks, and art galleries. Spend your time relaxing on Crescent Bay or strolling Ocean Avenue; you’ll find preppy kids’ clothes at Hillary for Little Sophisticates, vintage goods such as 18th-century Swedish spindle chairs at Trove, and mouthwatering vegetarian burritos at Zinc Café ($). Luxe resorts, including the Montage ($$$$) and St. Regis ($$$), line the bluffs to the south, while the venerable Inn at Laguna Beach ($$) is a good value option. —David A. Keeps
It’s been a decade since the U.S. Navy decamped from Vieques—and this Puerto Rican island has since become a hot spot. The biggest draw, along with the dozen powdery beaches, is accessibility: expanded service to San Juan’s JetBlue terminal and new inter-island flights mean travelers from the U.S. mainland can be on the sand by midday. Rent a Jeep Wrangler at the Patricia Urquiola–designed W Retreat & Spa ($$$) to explore the island’s ceiba-dotted interior. Other highlights: Hix Island House ($), an eco-chic gem with 13 rooms and six renovated open-air suites; the bioluminescent Mosquito Bay; and the waterfront restaurant El Quenepo ($$$), in Esperanza—a perfect place for grilled dorado and passion-fruit caipirinhas. —Sarah Spagnolo
For decades, D.C.’s redheaded stepchild was synonymous with the kitsch culture made famous by director John Waters—but now the city’s culinary scene is making headlines. The Hampden neighborhood is a hotbed of restaurant openings. The Food Market ($$), the latest from homegrown chef Chad Gauss, whips up American comfort dishes in an industrial-chic dining room. At Canton’s Fork & Wrench ($$), English staples such as chicken liver mousse are served in a dark-wood space and beer flows from a custom-made tap. Meanwhile, renowned chef Michael Mina is making his mark on the Harbor East district with Wit & Wisdom ($$) and the Japanese izakaya PABU ($$), both in the new Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore ($$). —Brooke Porter
Willamette Valley, OR
If you’re looking to avoid the crowds of Napa or Sonoma, head to this stretch of lesser-known vineyards starting 25 miles south of Portland. In Newberg, check in to the Victorian-style cottage at the Painted Lady ($$), known for its restaurant’s five-course vegetarian menu ($$$). Wine tasting, of course, is acceptable at any time of day—get up early to try the 2010 Reserve Chardonnay at Stoller Family Estate; then make your way to Bethel Heights Vineyard to taste their rich Pinot Noirs. For a leisurely Sunday brunch, there’s Community Plate ($), in McMinnville. Stake out a corner at one of the long communal tables and order the albacore tuna melt.
If George Washington Vanderbilt III had known how hip Asheville would become, he might have built his estate Biltmore closer to town. The mountain retreat is chockablock with artisanal restaurants and shops and is only a five-minute drive from the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway. At the clubby new Aloft Asheville Downtown ($), guests and locals gather in the Crayola-bright lounge for classic martinis and Appalachian Bird Dogs (blackberry whiskey and blueberry Red Bull). Nearby, Wicked Weed Brewing has brought the number of microbreweries in town to 13, and the American small-plate restaurant Chestnut ($$) is garnering rave reviews for its pies (our favorite: the pear and cranberry topped with walnut streusel). —Kathryn O’Shea-Evans
A $120 million renovation of the city’s waterfront has put this formerly sleepy river town on the traveler’s map. Take time to explore the recently built Main Terrain Art Park, with sculptures by contemporary artist Thomas Sayre, and the Southside neighborhood’s galleries and music venues. Despite these upgrades, the food here remains decidedly down-home. Don’t miss the buttermilk fried chicken at TerraMáe Appalachian Bistro ($$), the buzzy new restaurant inside Stone Fort Inn ($). You can work off the meal with a leisurely bike ride around the city. —Anna Watson
While Millennium Park’s Cloud Gate sculpture and the Art Institute of Chicago will forever be Windy City classics, the once-downtrodden Logan Square area is coming into its own. Last year, the Art Deco Logan Theatre reopened after a six-month renovation, and now shows a mix of classic and blockbuster films and serves craft brews at its retro bar. Wander down Milwaukee Avenue to find indie-minded startups, from Shop 1021, which sells a selection of well-edited gifts such as Fred glassware, to the charmingly ramshackle Uncharted Books. —Rod O’Connor
Along with big-name luxury stores and destination restaurants, downtown Dallas is adding high design to its list of attractions. Stroll through Klyde Warren Park, which provides a great vantage point for seeing the city’s architectural gems. A standout: the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, a bold, 14-story concrete structure by American architect Thom Mayne. Farther south, Santiago Calatrava’s Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge leads to the Bishop Arts neighborhood, where the French-inspired bistro Boulevardiér ($$) serves delicious steak frites. As for where to stay? Book a room at the Adam Tihany–designed Joule Hotel ($$), fresh from a $78 million renovation. —Stirling Kelso
An entrepreneurial spirit has taken hold in this city, where businesses are thinking beyond the French Quarter. Among the flurry of anticipated debuts is chef Phillip Lopez’s Square Root, a temple of molecular gastronomy in the Lower Garden District. To the east, a creative Brooklyn vibe grows in the vibrant Creole cottages in Bywater, where galleries showcase experimental paintings, photographs, and other works by local artists. At night, head to the cocktail lounge Bellocq at the Warehouse District’s new Hotel Modern ($). But not everything here is changing—after all, this is a city that holds on to tradition. Frenchman Street mainstay the Spotted Cat Music Club is still one of the best places to hear live jazz acts such as Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns. —Sam Polcer
Hunt Country, VA
Long known as horse country, this lush region of stone-walled fields and grand estates has become a legitimate farm-to-fork dining destination. In Upperville, Hunter’s Head Tavern ($) is a gastropub owned by Cisco Systems founder turned farmer Sandy Lerner. Tuck in to a plate of fish-and-chips in the stone courtyard. The Home Farm Store, housed in a converted bank building in Middleburg, is the place to shop for small-batch Virginia wines and fresh regional produce. Sports and media tycoon Sheila Johnson’s Salamander Resort & Spa ($$$) is set to open this August; until then, there’s the Ashby Inn & Restaurant ($), in nearby Paris. The 1829 B&B serves a top-notch menu specializing in Piedmont-influenced delights such as crisp suckling pig ($$$). —Douglas Rogers