Vacations require a lot of planning: figuring out plane tickets and hotel reservations, braving the airport, and those inevitable delays, can turn what should be a fun trip into a stressful ordeal.
Luckily, there are plenty of easy getaway options—Salem, Laguna Beach, and Lake Geneva are only a few of the spots easily accessible on the spur of the moment from various major cities around the country. All you need is a car and a weekend! You’ll satisfy that need for a change of scenery and be back at the office on Monday.
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Delaware Water Gap
Distance from Baltimore: 191 miles
1. Visit Adventure Sport for a scenic kayak or canoe ride down the Delaware Water Gap, a section of the Delaware River that cuts through the Appalachian Mountains.
2. If you’d prefer a scenic tour of the Delaware Water Gap sans boat, reserve a seat on the Water Gap Trolley. You’ll learn about the roots of Native Americans in the area and stop at sites first-time visitors often miss.
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
Distance from Chicago: 83 miles
1. Start with a trail ride at Dan Patch Stables. Riders of all levels are welcome, and you’ll get a relaxing tour of the stables’ scenic Grand Geneva property. Make a reservation in advance!
2. For an afternoon treat, take Lake Geneva Cruise Line’s ice cream social tour. You’ll get a customized sundae and learn all about Lake Geneva’s rich history and mansions along the way.
3. The Yerkes Observatory is a must-visit at night. Famous for its huge telescope, the observatory welcomes visitors hoping to stargaze and appreciate the surrounding park designed by Central Park landscaper Frederick Law Olmsted.
Bainbridge Island, Washington State
Distance from Seattle: 10 miles (by boat)
1. Sample local wines at Eleven Winery, a small winery situated in Winslow on Bainbridge Island. You can even feel good about imbibing because Eleven Winery donates all of its after-tax profits to Washington-based charities.
2. If visiting on a Saturday in the spring, browse the Bainbridge Island Farmers’ Market for fresh produce, prepared foods, and crafts.
3. Stop by Mora Creamery for a scoop of all-natural ice cream or sorbet, churned the old-fashioned way. Choose among flavors like green tea, banana split, and Swiss chocolate. Can't get enough? You can even ship a pint home.
Palm Beach, Florida
Distance from Miami: 70.2 miles
1. Head to Ocean Reef Park for snorkeling, swimming, or just some old fashioned relaxing on the sand. If you do choose to snorkel, it’s free! You’ll see squid, barracudas, turtles, and plenty of colorful fish.
2. Worth Avenue is the spot for those in need of retail therapy. You’ll want to bring plenty of credit cards—Bottega Veneta, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton are among the many stores in this iconic shopping district.
3. The Seafood Bar at The Breakers is the perfect place for an oceanfront dinner. Take your pick among the fresh fish, clams, oysters, lobster, and shrimp offered at the restaurant’s raw bar, and order a drink at one of its aquarium counters full of coral and live fish.
Laguna Beach, California
Distance from Los Angeles: 50 miles
1. Laguna Beach is all about spectacular views. First, head to Heisler Park for a walk on the bluffs or the shore to take in the coastline. You might even get a glimpse of a pod of dolphins or the occasional whale.
2. Enjoy an open-air meal on one of the patios at Watermarc Restaurant. Sample the small “grazing plates” and sip a sparkling cocktail while looking out at the Pacific Coast Highway.
3. Head to the secluded Treasure Island Beach for an amazing sunset without the crowds of tourists. Or, visit during the day for a peaceful swim and some serious tanning time.
Distance from Boston: 25 miles
1. Have your own American Horror Story: Coven day in Salem. First, join practicing Salem witches on The Salem Witch Walk. You’ll get blessed in a magic circle, visit enchanted sites, and even participate in a ritual at the Old Burying Point Cemetery. Throughout the tour you’ll also get an in-depth understanding of the famous witch trials of 1692—and the truth about Wiccan witchcraft.
2. Browse Bewitched in Salem for creepy souvenirs such as fairy stones, pentagram cauldrons, Ouija boards, and guides on “candle magic” and tarot.
3. Take a break from Salem’s macabre history at 62 Restaurant & Wine Bar, serving locally-sourced dishes and out-there drinks like the Sweet Pea made with vodka, peas, and sugar.
Warwick, New York
Distance from New York City: 55 miles
1. Stop at Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery, known for its fruit liqueurs and draft ciders. Visit on a weekend and sip local drinks while enjoying live music. And you’ll want to stay for lunch—the winery’s Pané Café serves fresh pizzas, sandwiches, and salads.
2. See a double feature at one of the 350 remaining drive-in movie theaters in the country. The Warwick Drive-In Movie Theater screens current blockbusters, but you’ll get a fully vintage experience—two screenings for $10, an old-timey snack bar, and a movie night under the stars.
Santa Cruz, California
Distance from San Francisco: 75 miles
1. Explore the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, California’s oldest amusement park filled with rides, arcades, and a huge mini golf course. Its beachfront location is perfect for a swim or picnic once you’ve had your fill of the rollercoasters and carnival games.
2. For the best Italian food in Santa Cruz, head to Lillian’s Italian Kitchen and try the truffle-stuffed gnocchi. Be sure to make a reservation in advance—there’s often a wait upwards of an hour.
Distance from Houston: 60 miles
1. Take a self-guided tour of Bishop’s Palace, the former home of Confederate colonel and Congressman Walter Gresham. The house is ranked among the top 100 homes in the United States for its ornate architecture, stained glass windows, and 19th century furnishings.
2. Moody Gardens is the perfect spot for avid golfers and animal lovers alike. The gardens feature a public resort-style golf course with spectacular views of the coast as well as the Rainforest and Aquarium Pyramids, home to monkeys, alligators, penguins, seals, and more.
3. You can’t visit Galveston without sampling its local seafood. Head to Saltwater Grill for scallops, mussels, and oysters.
Distance from Philadelphia: 128 miles
1. Take a sailing cruise of the Chesapeake Bay at Schooner Woodwind. You’ll glide by the United States Naval Academy, Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and Thomas Point Lighthouse. Schooner Woodwind also offers sunset cruises for a breathtaking twilight view of the Annapolis skyline.
2. Learn the secrets of the National Security Agency at The National Cryptologic Museum. You’ll browse declassified books and documents on cryptology, codebooks, and artifacts. Bonus, retired NSA employees lead museum tours.
3. Located across the street from the Maryland State House, Harry Browne’s is an Annapolis mainstay. Sample Maryland’s local seafood seated among politicians, locals, and tourists alike.