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July 18, 2014
The key to a successful weekend getaway is choosing a spot that’s close enough to reach with a minimum of travel time but far enough away so that you feel as if you’re getting away from the everyday grind. Whether your idea of a perfect weekend getaway involves many possibilities for family fun, romantic interludes or natural beauty, chances are you can find a just-right destination near your corner of the country.
In the South
Wander winding trails through ancient forests in the Smoky Mountains, where you can rustle up action-packed fun in little tourist towns such as Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg or Sevierville in Tennessee or just chill in a riverside mountain cabin. If a cosmopolitan escape is your ideal, head for New Orleans, where you can explore quirky shops and galleries, tour historic museums and dine on down-home and upscale Louisiana favorites like jambalaya and muffaletta. For a beach escape, head to one of the little towns on the Gulf Coast, such as Orange Beach, Alabama, where you can play a round of golf, hit the amusement park and chow down on fresh seafood when you aren’t lounging on the white sand beaches.
In the Northeast
The re-created 19th century seafaring village in the little port town of Mystic, Connecticut, offers numerous activities to keep families busy for a long weekend, including the chance to explore an authentic whaling ship. Stroll through marshes, dunes and tidal flats along the protected seashore of Plum Island — a barrier island just off Massachusetts’ northern coast. The Hellcat Interpretive Trail has signs to help you identify some of the rare birds and plants you may spot on the island. If you crave the city life, head for Washington, D.C. — shuttles and trains make getting there easy, and D.C.’s public transportation system lets you go car-free if you’re staying in the city proper. With museums and restaurants a-plenty, D.C. offers a smorgasbord of entertainment options for visitors.
In the Midwest
If you’re looking for a city getaway, consider Kansas City. With a stylish and recently revamped downtown, lovely urban outdoor spaces and museums and plenty of live jazz and blues music options, Kansas City offers options for vacation fun. If you’re longing for the beach, visit Saugatuck, Michigan, on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. In addition to the beach, Saugatuck is home to a thriving arts community. The little towns along the western bank of the Mississippi River in Missouri — known as the Great River Road — are sandwiched between conservation areas and prime spots for bird-watching. Don’t miss the chance to visit author Mark Twain’s boyhood home in Hannibal.
In the WestJoshua Tree National Park is just a couple of hours from Los Angeles by car.
Joshua Tree, Calif., is just a little more than two hours drive from downtown Los Angeles, but this rugged desert landscape feels a world away from city streets. Whether you take a tour, explore on foot or just soak in a mineral tub and take in the view, you’ll find the scenery transporting. Explore a cleaned-up, kid-friendly version of the Old West in Prescott, Ariz., where your children can try a swig of sarsaparilla in a saloon or saddle up on horseback to ride in Prescott National Park. For an urban escape, consider San Jose, Calif., where the charming Spanish-style architecture, historical museums and many restaurants will keep you busy all weekend.
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