Need a change of scene?Practice total immersion. Here, 10 close-to-home itineraries that will transport you to another world.
Misha Gravenor

01 Drive Like An Ace
California's Pacific Coast Highway is America's dream drive—convertible, perfect view, and you looking gorgeous behind the wheel. There are two ways to do the coastal trek from L.A. The "new PCH"—south toward San Diego—runs past serious surfing at Trestles Beach and serious shopping at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. The traditionalist's route is north to San Francisco, taking in a gawk at Hearst Castle, Big Sur's flawless views, 18 holes at Pebble Beach, and an overnight at a luxury spa—preferably one in a vineyard, like Carmel Valley's Bernardus Lodge (888/648-9463;; doubles from $295). Whichever way you head, you need the right sound track (the Beach Boys), trendy weekend bag (from Tod's), and, of course, wheels. The 2002 Ford Thunderbird is a dazzling update of the fifties icon, with porthole windows, egg-crate grille, and sweet handling on the curves.—Deda Coben

02 Sticky Fingers
An education in traditional Southern barbecue is best accomplished via that other institution—a road trip. Start in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where the only item on the menu at the cinder-block Dreamland Barbeque (205/758-8135; dinner for two $20) is tender, smoky ribs slathered with a distinctively Southern, vinegary red sauce. A clique of devotees lines up at Big Bob Gibson (256/350-6969; dinner for two $20), 21/2 hours north, in Decatur, for chicken that's smoked to a mahogany hue and served with an unlikely mayo-and-vinegar sauce. Memphis, 175 miles west, is the birthplace of dry-rub ribs, and the back-alley Charles Vergos Rendezvous (901/523-2746; dinner for two $35) is named for the guy who invented them. They're grilled, not smoked, and crusted in chili powder, paprika, and other spices in lieu of sauce.—Steven Raichlen

03 Nature and Nurture
The best way to hit the highlights of Central America, from rain-forest hikes to toucan sightings to vine-covered Mayan ruins, may well be aboard the 175-foot yacht Sea Voyager, newly refurbished by Lindblad Expeditions. Carrying the latest equipment—both scientific (underwater cameras, a video microscope) and expeditionary (Zodiacs, inflatable kayaks, scuba gear)—and staffed by naturalists, it plies both coasts year-round. Some ports of call: Quiriguá, Guatemala, to see Mayan sculpture; a 100,000-acre jaguar preserve in Belize; and Panama's Isla Coiba for snorkeling. But adventure cruising doesn't have to mean roughing it: the 33 deluxe cabins have picture windows and air-conditioning. 800/397-3348;; eight-day cruises from $1,980 per person.Kimberly Robinson

04 Northwestern Passage
Proof that you can lose yourself in the mountains of British Columbia while actually heading somewhere, BC Rail's Whistler Northwind train offers panoramic journeys and some interesting stops en route. The three-day northbound ride from Vancouver to Prince George lifts you from the coast to the 3,000-foot elevations of Fraser River Canyon—in historic parlor cars, glass-domed carriages, and a stainless-steel tail-end lounge that dates from 1939. Sound sleeping is guaranteed: overnights are in hotels instead of compartments. You can get spa treatments in Cariboo country, go llama trekking in Prince George, and spot eagles on Whistler's glacial peaks—and highfliers in its resorts and restaurants. 800/663-8238;; three-day trips from $650 each way; runs May—September.Andrew Bender

05 O, Pioneers
Many Minnesota towns retain vestiges of the mid-1800's wave of immigration from Europe. In New Prague (, a slice of Bohemia an hour's drive southwest of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Schumacher's Hotel & Restaurant (800/283-2049;; doubles from $140; dinner for two $90) serves authentic Czech and German fare, especially wild game. New Ulm (, an hour farther into the lush Minnesota River valley, has neat red-brick houses, a brewery operating since 1860, and a glockenspiel that plays three times daily. In tiny Scandia (, about 45 minutes northeast of the Twin Cities, the Gammelgården ("old small farm") Museum (651/433-5053) offers a glimpse of the early Swedish immigrants' lives. —Sherri Hildebrandt

06 On the Wright Track
A Frank Lloyd Wright tour of Pennsylvania starts at the Allentown Art Museum (610/432-4333), home to the library of the dismantled Francis W. Little House and, this spring, a show of Wright windows. From there, head south to Elkins Park, where the glass pyramid of Wright's Beth Sholom Congregation (215/887-1342) echoes Mount Sinai. Stay at stately Nemacolin Woodlands Resort & Spa (800/422-2736;; doubles from $315) in Farmington, near Fallingwater (724/329-8501; reopening mid-March), whose cantilevered structure exalts both nature and engineering. Last stop: Kentuck Knob (724/329-1901), also called Child of Fallingwater, with its sculpture park and orchid shop. —Stephen Whitlock

07 Swamp Things
Paddling through South Carolina's low country may not banish spooky creatures from your subconscious, but these sun-dappled ecosystems do contain alligators (albeit shy ones) as well as 49 other reptile species. Swamp 101 begins among the gnarly cypress trees of Francis Beidler Forest (843/462-2150), 40 miles northwest of Charleston. Coastal Expeditions (843/884-7684; $85) leads kayak trips in Rimini Swamp off Lake Marion. Or rent a canoe from Carolina Heritage Outfitters outside Walterboro (843/563-5051; $50 per day), paddle 12 miles down the Edisto to their multi-tiered tree house ($80 for the night), and listen to things going bump in the night. —Shane Mitchell

08 A Sip Upstate
Long the butt of oenophile jokes, the Finger Lakes region of New York is lately producing sophisticated Rieslings and Pinot Noirs. Unspoiled Hammondsport, on Keuka Lake, is a good first stop for a spring or summertime tour—visit pioneer winery Dr. Konstantin Frank (800/320-0735) and scope out the sleepy antiques stores. On the west coast of Seneca Lake, 30 minutes away, Fox Run Vineyards (800/636-9786) has limy Rieslings and a down-and-dirty tour. In Hector, on Seneca's more rural east coast, wine makers hang out at the Red Newt Cellars Winery & Bistro (607/546-4100; dinner for two $50). Find the gravel road to Silver Thread Vineyard (607/582-6116), where organics enthusiast Richard Figiel makes a mineral-rich Riesling and Burgundy-like Pinot. In summer, Geneva on the Lake Resort (800/343-6382; doubles from $170) has canoeing, swimming, and moonlight croquet. Want a nightcap?Try the unctuous ice wine at Inniskillin (888/466-4754) in Niagara-on-the-Lake, three hours away in Ontario.—Alice Feiring

09 Rock and Road
Even if body-piercing becomes passé, there's a pierced rock in Quebec whose appeal will endure. To reach the famous Rocher Percé, drive northeast from Quebec City along the Gaspé Peninsula, past lighthouses and fishing villages rich in history and French-Canadian culture (amenities and activities are limited in winter; call 418/782-2258 for information). The farther you go, the wilder and more mountainous the land becomes. Off the very tip is the Rock, a 288-foot-high limestone monolith sculpted by wind and sea. Rooms at La Normandie (800/463-0820;; doubles from $80) in the town of Percé have direct views. From there, take a boat to ële Bonaventure, with a noisy cliffside colony of some 75,000 gannets—yellow-headed, long-beaked gulls that wheel and dive into the sea. —Barbara Peck

10 Ride With the Tumbleweed
The cowboy country of west Texas isn't yuppie dude ranches or shoot-'em-up theme parks. It's prairie dogs and javelinas by the side of the road, rattlesnakes in the middle. In the artifact-filled Gage Hotel (800/884-4243;; doubles from $89) in Marathon, a parched burg 200 miles south of Midland, you can watch a spellbinding sunset from a rocker on the commodious front porch. An hour south through the desert is Big Bend National Park, with its craggy mountains and craggy-faced men in ten-gallon hats. Drink like a cowboy in the tiny desert town of Terlingua; sleep it off at the Chisos Mountains Lodge (915/477-2291;; doubles from $75) in the park. Then meander up the Rio Grande toward Presidio, where you can indulge in the ultimate cowboy fantasy and disappear across the border.—Jim Atkinson

11 Armchair Travel
GREAT GUIDES Between their slim covers, the Lonely Planet Condensed Guides pack plenty of cheeky insider info and terrific, easy-to-read maps for Boston, Rome, Sydney, and 11 other cities. For a glam night out, pick up Knopf City Guides; the L.A. book alone has 63 recommendations (and the shiny Mylar cover doubles as a mirror). Before you hit the highway, get a copy of Fodor's hefty Road Guide USA and stash it in the glove compartment.—H. Scott Jolley