People often seem to struggle with setting aside time for a full vacation in the summer. But even if a longer trip is out of the question, travelers can still take advantage of a relaxing or adventurous weekend getaway without leaving their home state. Here we round up the best short-but-sweet trip to take in each state during the year's warmest months.
Mentone is a picturesque little mountain town atop Lookout Mountain in northeastern Alabama. The views are absolutely stunning. Desoto Falls, a 104-foot cascade that drops into a wide bright green pool, is one of the top attractions. Pick up handmade arts and crafts at the Log Cabin Craft Village and eat tomato pie or strawberry pasta at Wildflower Cafe. Summer camps with horseback riding, archery, boating, swimming, craft making and rock climbing are popular among kids.
Girdwood was originally called Glacier City because of the two giant snow summits nearby. If you ever want to go glacier hiking, this small town near Anchorage should be on your list. Kenai Fjords National Park is nearby, with its opportunities for whale watching and icebergs and glaciers that are majestic all year round. Complete the strenuous Harding Icefield Trail and you'll have bragging rights for life. Visit the historic Crow Creek Mine, hop on the Alaska Railroad, and eat delicious fresh seafood.
Not many would expect to find sizable bodies of water in the middle of desert-like terrain, which is why Arizona is commonly overlooked as a destination for lake vacations. However, Mesa shares a border with the Tonto National Forest, which is home to Saguaro Lake, Canyon Lake and Apache Lake. Visitors here can enjoy all sorts of water activities like wakeboarding, stand-up paddleboarding, fishing and even a more typical beach experience along the sandy shores of Jones Beach at Saguaro Lake.
Arkansas: Mountain View
This is where you go if you want to experience traditional music and see folkways preserved in Arkansas. Mountain View is all about music - it's been home to the Arkansas Folk Festival since the 1960s, and it's not unusual during summer evenings to hear locals and visitors playing instruments outside near the town square. Mountain View is also home to the Ozark Folk Center and the Arkansas Craft Guild.
California: Santa Catalina Island
Santa Catalina Island is a summer hotspot for Los Angeles locals who need a break from the city. Check out the zip line tour, set sail on a glass-bottom boat or hit the beach and rent equipment for water activities like diving, kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding. At only an hour away by ferry (or 15 minutes via helicopter), you'll be enjoying this Pacific paradise in no time.
A whole new world opens up in Telluride when the snow melts away and the ski adventures are over. Music is just one reason why - the Telluride Bluegrass Festival attracts thousands of visitors every year. The Victorian-era mining town in Colorado's San Juan Mountains is a favorite of cyclists and hikers. Backpacking and camping are great ways to explore this stretch of the Rockies, too, and visitors can also try whitewater rafting down the Gunnison River or horseback riding on scenic trails. Kids will love the skate parks, swimming pool facilities and hot air balloon rides.
This is one of the most romantic cities in the country. For authentic New England charm between New York and Boston, consider visiting the relaxed but also fairly well-known vacation destination of Mystic, Connecticut. Mystic Seaport, the nation's leading maritime museum, is a must-see. Visitors love to explore the historical artifacts in this museum, which include old sailing ships and a reconstructed shoreline settlement from the 1800s. Even outside the museum, Mystic is a beautiful coastal town that lacks annoying crowds and the hustle and bustle of the big city.
Delaware: Rehoboth Beach
This small town has a lot to offer, especially in the summer when its calm shores welcome thousands of tourists. Take your significant other on a date and remember what it's like to be a kid at the water park and mini-golf course at Jungle Jim's. Lined with diverse shops, restaurants and amusements, the boardwalk is a fun destination as well. Many love it for its amazing food and various sweet treats, too. Hop on over to the nearby Dewey Beach for some skimboarding lessons.
Florida: Sanibel Island
Known as one of the most unique barrier islands in the world, Sanibel Island has won awards for being the best shelling beach in Florida. It's a beautiful destination for a wedding and a great place for fishing, shelling and bird watching. Bonus: Pets are allowed but they must be leashed. Avid golfers will find more than 70 scenic courses. Boating, kayaking and water-skiing are very popular, and there are great spots for adventurous anglers hoping to reel in a fish they haven't seen before.
Georgia: Tybee Island
Just miles from historic Savannah, Georgia, at the mouth of the Savannah River is Tybee Island, a favorite beach for residents of an visitors to the charming Southern city. Tybee Island's hotels offer excellent accommodations, and a variety of exciting recreational activities are available. In addition to sunbathing, walking, biking, sailing and fishing, visitors will find cultural events scheduled almost every day.
Maui offers the best of both worlds; a laid back atmosphere but also extreme adventure. The island is famous for incredible surf spots with awesome breaks and good-sized waves. Hawaii's second largest island is covered with Hawaii's rich flora and fauna, as well as geological wonders like amazing waterfalls, sandy shores lined with palm trees and, of course, volcanic landscapes.
Located on the shore of Lake Pend Oreille in the Idaho Panhandle, Sandpoint's beauty is known far and wide. The 150-square mile lake is great for fishing, kayaking and boating, and the charming town is the county seat of Bonner County Nearby Silverwood is the Northwest's largest theme park, and the mountains just outside the town offer beautiful views of the lake. The area is an outdoor playground, with everything from rock climbing to golfing on offer.
Illinois: Starved Rock State Park
Just an hour and a half west of Chicago, Starved Rock State Park attracts around 2 million visitors each year to view the sandstone-walled canyons on the south bank of the Illinois River. This geology is highly unusual for the Central Plains, and many of the park's trails lead to waterfalls that are lush and green in summer. Those who've had their fill of nature can visit historic mansions and museums in nearby towns like Ottawa and Lasalle.
Indiana: Indiana Dunes National Park
The former Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore became the United States' newest national park in February 2019. Including the neighboring state park, over 17,000 acres along the southern shore of Lake Michigan are designated to protect the beaches, sand dunes and wetlands that draw day-trippers from all over Indiana and nearby Chicago. Visitors can also find shops, activities and accommodations around the visitors center in Porter or in the nearby lake town of Michigan City.
The town of Okoboji in northern Iowa sits on the shores of two glacier-carved lakes, East and West Lake Okoboji, and not far from Spirit Lake, which stretches to the Minnesota border. The area is a popular destination for all kinds of water sports, and the surrounding nature preserves and wild areas are popular for hiking, fishing and hunting. The other towns around the lake also have attractions ranging from museums to tattoo parlors, and there are several amusement parks to explore.
Kansas: The Flint Hills
Stretching nearly 50 miles through central Kansas, the Flint Hills Scenic Byway offers panoramic views of gorgeous landscapes and access to the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. Visitors can also take in historic buildings and museums in the quaint and charming small towns along the roadway, including the Chase County Courthouse, built in 1873, and the Roniger Memorial Museum, which hosts a huge collection of Native American artifacts.
Bardstown is a major stop on the Bourbon Trail, which is a road trip every whiskey fan should absolutely take. In fact, the town has a trademark on the phrase "Bourbon Capital of the World" and is the host of the official Kentucky Bourbon Festival, a six-day event featuring whiskey, food and entertainment.
Founded by French explorers in 1714, four years before New Orleans, Natchitoches is the oldest permanent European settlement in Louisiana, and the Natchitoches Historic District includes some buildings that date back to the 18th century. The town also hosts the state's oldest general store, founded in 1863, and it served as the setting for the 1989 film "Steel Magnolias." Weekend visitors have plenty of options for accommodations, as Natchitoches is home to some of the best bed-and-breakfasts in the state.
Maine: Acadia National Park
Maine's Mount Desert Island has a year-round population of only around 10,000, but it hosts millions of visitors each year who come to see the stunning, rugged landscapes of Acadia National Park. This national park is one of the best spots to paddle the U.S. coastline, and visitors can also hike, camp and view gorgeous sunrises over the Atlantic. Those looking for more solitude can find more secluded parts of the park across the bay on the Schoodic Peninsula.
Maryland: Ocean City
Plan a summer weekend getaway in Ocean City, Maryland. Spend quality time with family listening to live music, playing mini golf, riding bikes and participating in watersports. Walk along the Ocean City Boardwalk; rent a boat for the day and go jet skiing on the ocean. If you're looking for even more fun for the kids, visit the Pirate Adventures of Ocean City, Baja Amusements, the Candy Kitchen and the Bahia Marina.
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Just a short ferry ride from Cape Cod, this small and beautiful island is perfect for couples. This secluded 30-mile island is a hot spot for the rich and famous during summer months. Just walking around makes you feel like you are living in a fairytale. Many lodgings are pet friendly, too. Tip: Did you know that Nantucket is one of New England's top surfing destinations, especially for beginners?
Michigan: Mackinac Island
Voted a "Top 10 U.S. Island" by Trip Advisor, Mackinac is a trip back in time. For one, there are no cars allowed, so visitors explore this Victorian treasure on bikes, on horseback or by carriage. The people of this island work to preserve its quaintness and beauty, so most of the land remains covered with peaceful woods. Visitors can see historic forts and reenactments and stroll through quiet streets enjoying the island's famous fudge.
Minnesota: Grand Marais
Grand Marais, located on a tranquil stretch between Lake Superior and the Sawtooth Mountains, is the country's coolest small town, according to Budget Travel Magazine. This friendly harbor village is home to a renowned artists' colony that's been going strong since 1947; traditional crafting is also highlighted at the North House Folk School. Biking, kayaking and fishing are popular activities. You may even see the northern lights from the lighthouse.
Mississippi: The Barrier Islands
There are six barrier islands along Mississippi's Gulf Coast: Cat Island, Ship Island, Deer Island, Horn Island, Round Island and Petit Bois Island. They offer miles of pristine beaches and rich environments for people who love to spend time in nature or camp in unique places. Ship Island offers the most history of all the islands with seasonal fort tours focused on its incredible past. Horn Island is the locals' favorite. This is where you go to see alligators, pelicans and other wildlife.
Missouri: Kansas City
Known for its jazz heritage and incredible barbecue, Kansas City, Missouri, a somewhat underappreciated city, is not only a cheap weekend getaway but an exciting one, too. This is the perfect family-friendly destination. Take the kids to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, enjoy Free Friday Night Flicks at Crown Center, view tons of wildlife in William M. Klein Park and explore nature at the Lakeside Nature Center. Be sure to make time for a Boulevard Brewing tour; taste drinks you can't get elsewhere.
From fishing charters and farmers markets to horseback riding and countless water sports, Bigfork, located on the shore of Flathead Lake, boasts big adventures among some of the most stunning landscapes in Montana. In addition to superb opportunities for lakeside recreation, Bigfork is known for hosting fun summertime concert series and art festivals.
Nebraska: Niobrara National Scenic River
The Niobrara National Scenic River and the surrounding area offer a wealth of recreation and vacation opportunities. Take in the scenery by canoe, kayak or tube on the river or explore surrounding communities. The western third of the designated scenic river area is home to over 90 waterfalls - the highest is Smith Falls, which cascades 70 feet.
Nevada: Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe is one of the highest (and best preserved) alpine lakes in the country. The area is a haven for outdoor recreation. Just a short ride from Sacramento, San Francisco and Reno, Lake Tahoe is easily accessible for a long weekend trip, but the natural surroundings will have you feeling like you're hundreds of miles away from the city. This pristine outdoor paradise straddling the California-Nevada border is predictably the perfect place to learn to stand-up paddle boarding.
New Hampshire: Portsmouth
Portsmouth prides itself on being one of the nation's oldest cities - it's existed since 1623. The history, the shopping, the harbor and the food are just a few reasons why people love Portsmouth. The city is near the mouth of the Piscataqua River near Maine. Portsmouth regularly earns a place on "best places to live" lists, which makes it a great place to visit as well. Check out lobster tours, whale watching, deep sea fishing and the historic Isles of Shoals.
New Jersey: Cape May
This beautiful small town is just a couple of hours away from chaotic New York City. Cape May is very popular in the summer, but it has something to offer all year round. Go on romantic walks along large stretches of pristine sand, and see gorgeous Victorian buildings to see why the city is designated as a National Historic Landmark. The Willow Creek Winery alone is worth the trip.
New Mexico: Taos
This far-out mountain town - an underrated adventure destination for the summer - is unlike any other place on Earth. Bordered on three sides by the towering red peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Taos is positioned in a high desert valley and is one of the few places that's preserved its native culture, art scene and love for the great outdoors. If you're feeling adventurous, climb the tallest mountain in New Mexico - Wheeler Peak - or if you're a skilled paddler, take on the Taos Box section of the Rio Grande.
New York: Lake Placid
Lake Placid is nestled in the Adirondack Mountains. It has a rich winter sports history, but it's also really fun to visit in the summer. The Olympic Center - site of the Miracle on Ice in 1980 - is open for figure skaters and hockey players to use.Many nearby waterways are perfect for paddling - whether that be by canoe, kayak or stand-up paddleboard. Hiking is the most popular activity when it gets warm, with trails for every skill level. Take a paddleboat around Mirror Lake, watch a concert at Mid's Park and forget about the rest of the world for a while in one of many spectacular spas.
North Carolina: Outer Banks
Visit the Outer Banks before the barrier islands disappear because of climate change. This gorgeous destination is one of the best non-Disney places to take kids. The 200-mile-long stretch of picturesque barrier islands is perfect for camping. The Cape Hatteras National Seashore protects a 70-mile span of the most remote islands, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the mellow Pamlico Sound on the other, where many people go kayaking and kiteboarding.
North Dakota: Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Theodore Roosevelt National Park (one of the nation's most underrated national parks) has an abundance of a diverse wildlife, including feral horses, prairie dogs, snakes and lizards. Participate in many ranger programs or camp under the stars in the North Dakota Badlands or go hiking and horseback riding during the day. The park combines colorful terrain and riparian habitat along the Little Missouri River. The auto-tour route is very nice for casual visitors.
This island in Lake Erie offers entertainment, history and vacation appeal during the summer season. One of the best known attractions is the Antique Car Museum, which showcases a collection of Model T Fords and vintage snowmobiles. Watch them in a parade every Sunday afternoon. South Bass Island is home to the world's largest geode, called the Crystal Cave, on the grounds of Heineman's Winery, which has been making wine on the island for more than a century.
Oklahoma: Turner Falls Park
This is a quick getaway for everyone living in Oklahoma and nearby states. People go for the natural swimming areas, wading area, sandy beaches, bath houses, picnic sites, water slides, explore-able caves and even a "castle" built in the 1930s out of native stone. The 77-foot waterfall and cold refreshing streams are incredibly relaxing. There are plenty of hiking trails, camp sites and cabin rentals.
Oregon: Crater Lake
Crater Lake, formed thousands of years ago from the collapse of a volcano, is famous for its clear blue waters. Summertime visitors can go hiking, swimming, fishing and camping. They can also take boat and trolley tours, go on adventures guided by rangers, explore old-growth forests and wildflower meadows. Climb mountains for stunning views or hike down to the lakeshore itself. For a longer trek, try a backpacking trip on the Pacific Crest Trail.
Pennsylvania: Bucks County
If you're looking for the ultimate contrast, leave the bustling city of Philadelphia for the down-home charm of Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Wander through antique shops, take a ride on a hot air balloon or travel by horse through Nockamixon State Park - and don't forget to take a few photos of the covered bridges. An hourlong drive will get you there, or you could tackle the 45-mile trip by bike.
Rhode Island: Little Compton
This is one of the most charming little New England towns you can stay in. While there are only a few 17th-century structures still standing (these include the Wilbor House and Peabody House), most others are from the 18th and 19th century. Little Compton is home to Rhode Island's only official "town common," listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
South Carolina: Seneca
Lake Keowee is a man-made reservoir, but everything there feels as natural as it can be; the lake covers almost 30 square miles and boasts 350 miles of shoreline, much of it undeveloped. Add the fact that the lake is at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and you've got some of the most scenic views in the region. Camp in the South Cove County Park, where you can launch your boat, play tennis and hang out under pavilions. Go fishing or see why paddle sports are so fun; and visit the beer station at the end of the day for an incredibly diverse brew selection.
South Dakota: Sioux Falls
This is definitely an under-the-radar city that more people should visit, and many of its activities are highly inexpensive. This includes free Moonlight Movies in Fawick Park on Saturday nights, cheap bike rides along the Big Sioux River Greenway and free kid-friendly performances at the theater in McKennan Park. Purchase an all-day pass for the Sioux Falls Trolley for just $1 per person.
Tourists who want to have an awesome weekend complete with incredible food and even better music on a modest budget should consider Nashville. There is free music seemingly everywhere, and the city hosts tons of cultural attractions that will entertain you through the weekend. Listen to performers at the famous Bluebird Café, visit the Tennessee Agricultural Museum, watch concerts by the Nashville Symphony and take a stroll along the Music City Walk of Fame - all for free. Take a guided tour of all the food and drink hotspots with Walk Eat Nashville or take your adult friends to whiskey tastings at a distillery.
Ditch the lights of the city for lights on the pier and sand beneath your toes. Galveston, Texas, has 32 miles of beaches, a pier full of attractions and plenty of festivals and concerts, making this a great summer destination that's only an hour away from Houston. There is plenty to do if you are into "spooky" travel. Galveston is one of the most haunted cities in America.
Utah: Park City
Visitors often flock here in the winter, but Park City is amazing in the summer too. Ride up the mountain for a thrill on the alpine slide (one of the longest in the world), ride the alpine coaster or fly through the air on zip lines. Ogle the mountains on bike or by foot, or head to the public Park City Golf Club. Watch Olympic prospects train at Utah Olympic Park and revel in one of many arts and music festivals happening all summer long.
If you are looking for a low-key getaway with outdoor fun, head to Stowe, a charming small town seated in a valley between Green Mountain peaks. Hike to a beautiful waterfall with swimming holes or wade in local rivers and fly fish. Drive the back roads to Mount Mansfield for gorgeous views or go on a canoe trip to Boyden Valley Winery. Long hiking and biking trails will keep you active.
The "Star City of the South" is better known as the recreational and cultural gateway to the Blue Ridge Mountains. From the many museums and award-winning wineries to Dixie Caverns and popular craft breweries, there is no shortage of things to do in town. Venture farther outdoors to experience top-tier fishing, paddling and biking among the stunning mountains.
This gorgeous lake town known for averaging an astonishing 300 days of sunshine per year. Adrenaline junkies love Chelan for its access to thrilling activities like zip lining, parasailing and skydiving. In addition to incredible scenery and a seemingly infinite amount of things to do outside, the area is surrounded by more than 20 wineries and was dubbed an official American Viticultural Area (or designated wine grape-growing region) in 2009.
West Virginia: Berkeley Springs
Berkeley Springs was originally known as Bath. It's famous for the abundance of bathhouses due to the many natural springs flowing through town. Berkeley Springs State Park, in the center of the historic spa town, is a unique natural playground that kids love. Adults can enjoy a healing and relaxing dip in the park's heated Roman baths, and George Washington's Bath Tub is a children's favorite. There are free summer concerts every Saturday afternoon from July through August.
Bayfield is a charming harbor town. It is the gateway to the spectacular Apostle Islands National Lakeshore - 22 gem-like coastal islands with lighthouses, sea caves, hiking trails, campgrounds, blue-water sailing and some of the best kayaking on the planet. Summertime fills this Lake Superior port with sailboats, kayaks and charter fishing boats. Visit the maritime museum, eclectic retail shops, Victorian bed and breakfasts and golf courses with remarkable views.
Wyoming: Rock Springs
Compared to more popular destinations in Wyoming like Jackson Hole or Grand Teton, Rock Springs - known as the "gateway to the Flaming Gorge Reservoir" - is something of a hidden gem. Flaming Gorge is celebrated for its serene tranquility and is also considered one of the best lakes for cold-water fishing in the entire country. If fishing isn't your thing, partake in any of many exciting water sports like tubing or kayaking. While all these places are fantastic short-term vacation spots for U.S. traveleres, there's a lot to see in one particular place across the pond. If you ever get to travel the globe, make sure to visit the most beautiful country in the world, according to travelers.
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