Best weekend getaways in the US

As an outdoors-oriented, music-loving road-tripper with itchy feet, I’ve taken many weekend trips over the past few years. I’ve spent days cooing over otters and elephant seals in Morro Bay on California’s Central Coast, I’ve explored Yellowstone National Park on horseback from the Wild West epicenter of Cody, Wyoming and I’ve danced the night away and eaten award-winning cuisine in Nashville.

But whether your preferred escape involves putting your feet up poolside or putting them to use on a mountain slope, there’s a getaway guaranteed to restore your sanity and recharge your batteries.

Here are 17 camera-worthy weekend trips, ideal for chilling, adventuring or both.

Best getaways in the West

Cody, Wyoming

Immerse yourself in authentic cowboy culture at this epicenter of America’s Wild West. Spend the morning at the Smithsonian-affiliated Buffalo Bill Center of the West, the afternoon exploring the authentic pioneer-era buildings of Old Trail Town, and finish it off with the Cody Nite Rodeo. A plus: Cody offers prime access to Yellowstone National Park, with the park’s less-crowded eastern entrance just 52 miles from town via the Buffalo Bill Cody Scenic Byway.

For the fullest possible experience, stay at one of Cody’s numerous dude ranches or take a trail ride at the Bill Cody Ranch.

Morro Bay, California

The quest for the perfect California beach town can’t land you in a better spot than Morro Bay, tucked into a sheltered harbor where sea otters provide constant entertainment with their playful antics.

A working fishing fleet still heads out every morning to bring in crab, salmon and cod, while oyster beds line up just offshore, ensuring that the town’s many seafood restaurants are well stocked with fresh catch year-round.

Just up Highway 1, the Piedras Blancas reserve is home to an ever-growing rookery of elephant seals. A boardwalk provides up-close viewing of the ungainly creatures as they mate, fight, give birth and nurse their young. The unassuming bayside hamlet is also supremely dog-friendly, with an off-leash beach and pups welcome in many cafes and restaurants.

Bisbee, Arizona

Clinging to the steep slopes of the Mule Mountains at seemingly impossible angles, the mining cabins, narrow alleys and 19th-century storefronts (and former brothels) of Bisbee make a memorable maze to explore.

Take a tour of the Queen Mine to learn about Bisbee’s history as a fount of gold and silver ore and check out the numerous galleries and boutiques that have turned the town into a popular haunt for artists and makers.

There’s no hike quite like the Bisbee 1000 The Great Stair Climb, which scales a 4 1/2-mile maze of stairs and alleys. Pick up a map from the Bisbee Visitor Center for a self-guided hike, or join the thousands who crowd Bisbee’s narrow streets every year in mid-October for the riotous event.

Southern Oregon

If Ashland’s world-renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival doesn’t lure you to southern Oregon, the Britt Music & Art Festival in nearby Jacksonville might be the ticket. You’ll also want to meander through the Applegate Valley, visiting farm stands and tasting pinots and chardonnays. Visit the former logging town of Grants Pass, where Victorian storefronts in the long-neglected historic downtown now house an up-and-coming arts district of cafes, brewpubs and bohemian boutiques.

The Lost Sierra, California

This little-known swath of the northern Sierra, bypassed by the hordes swarming Lake Tahoe and Yosemite, is an outdoor recreational paradise, particularly beloved by the hikers hitting the trails of the Lakes Basin and mountain bikers challenging themselves on rugged terrain made famous by the Downieville Classic championship bike race and festival.

Base yourself in the authentic gold rush town of Downieville, where the Yuba River plunges through the canyon just steps from the tiny town’s wooden sidewalks, Western saloons and cluster of well-restored hotels.

There’s big news for the future as well, as a 600-mile-long trail network of multiuse trails, the Lost Sierra Route, is under development to link the 15 small towns encircling the wilderness.

Mendocino County, California

Plunging cliffs, pounding surf, sheltered coves and one of California’s most exciting – and undiscovered – wine countries await in this colorful region just north of San Francisco.

And while the picture-perfect village of artsy Mendocino may be deservingly well known, you’ll have discoverer’s bragging rights to hidden coves, recently opened hiking trails and the up-and-coming wineries of the Anderson Valley.

Go tide pooling at Van Damme State Park, hike the bluffs of Jug Handle State Natural Reserve, watch the sunset from the Mendocino Headlands and drive north to the authentic seaport of Noyo Harbor, where a cluster of seafood restaurants serve up the catch of the day right on the water, often with a live music accompaniment.

Your lodging choices match the eclectic environment, with options including treehouses and off-the-grid cabins in addition to elegant inns and luxurious boutique hotels.

Moab, Utah

Come to visit the two national parks, Arches and Canyonlands, that bracket this town, and stay for the mountain biking, hiking and hot food and music scenes that have made Moab a buzzy high-desert hub.

Mountain bikers come to ride the iconic Slickrock Trail and the ever-expanding network known as the Moab Brand Trails. The Colorado River appeals to kayakers and boaters who put in at the Big Bend Recreation Area, road trippers who drive the scenic Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway, and the campers who pitch their tents in the numerous campgrounds along the river.

Gunnison, Colorado, and the San Juan Mountains

Gunnison is the gateway to some of the most spectacular landscapes and recreational opportunities in the southern Rockies. There’s the vivid slash of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, which lies 60 miles to the east, Curecanti National Recreation Area stretching for 42,000 acres just outside town and the ski slopes and mountain biking trails of Crested Butte and Breckenridge rising to the north.

Beyond its status as an outdoor recreation hub, though, Gunnison is gaining prominence for its rising food scene as creative young chefs transform the town’s colorful 19th-century saloons and steakhouses into trendy cocktail bars, fusion-themed restaurants and farm-to-fork cafes.

Best getaways in the East

Rhinebeck, New York

History lovers can tour the historic Wilderstein mansion, hikers can ascend the Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower, and food lovers will want to hit the farmers market and go apple and berry picking in this 300-year-old Hudson Valley village.

Don’t miss the chance to get a sugar high at Samuel’s Sweet Shop, a local institution owned by actors Paul Rudd, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Hilarie Burton, and have a pint at pre-Revolutionary War Beekman Arms tavern, which once served Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.

MidCoast Maine

Stay in Boothbay Harbor and attend one of Maine’s numerous nautical events, including Windjammer Days and the Tall Ships Festival. Drive Route 1, stopping at the string of tiny hamlets along the way, eating lobster at every stop.

The Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse is extraordinarily photogenic on its perch at the end of a causeway, but Maine has 64 more lighthouses to satisfy your camera after that.

Best getaways in the Midwest


The Windy City, the City with the Big Shoulders and the Last Great American City — Chicago’s universally recognized monikers speak to the city’s grit, spirit of invention, cultural elan and magnificent skyline.

Take it all in from the 103rd-floor skydeck at the iconic Willis Tower, which rises above what is, unquestionably, one of the world’s finest collections of modern architecture. All the big-name architects are here — the skyscraper prototypes of Louis Sullivan, the modernist minimalism of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the Prairie Style of Frank Lloyd Wright and the billowing steel of Frank Gehry’s show-stopping Jay Pritzker Pavilion.

The city’s world-class museums, like the Art Institute, Shedd Aquarium and Field Museum always take top billing, but also take time to explore the vibrant neighborhoods that give the city its diverse character, from the hipster haven of Wicker Park to the colorful Mexican enclave of Pilsen.

These weekend getaways offer a little something for everyone, whether you’re seeking adventure in the great outdoors or a relaxing escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. So pack your bags, hit the road, and get ready for an unforgettable weekend getaway.

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