If you’re looking for the best weekend getaways that you can accomplish within 2 to 3 days, it can be tricky to give you a recommendation just based on the number of days you’re free to have this trip.
Our country is massive.
Those living on the East Coast just couldn’t take a kitschy road trip and visit Route 66’s Americana attractions and be back home after 3 days.
Or someone from California hoping to reach NYC by Friday and get back in time for work on Monday.
The weekend is just too tight for some itineraries to work, especially considering time zone differences, flight length and layovers, budget, and stopover preferences.
So how do you pick which city to visit? I’ll share you how I do it…
Criteria for Fun Weekend Getaways
When we are looking for a quick getaway weekend one of the limiting factors is always how long it will take you to get there.
It’s one thing to drive 10 hours to get to a beautiful week long beach vacation, or fly 10 hours to get to Hawaii, but those are for longer trips.
That kind of travel time is out of the question for just 2-3 days away.
To successfully plan the best weekend trips in the US, pick a destination that:
- is below 5 hours drive from your original destination
- has direct flights from your home town
- speaks to you (don’t get trapped by travel guides. Just go with what experiences you like and find a place that offers you just that.)
- fits your budget. Some cities are notorious for being expensive (Hello NYC and Honolulu!), so make sure you consider your funds when choosing a destination
- accomplishes your goal (to relax, to hike, to camp out, to spend a romantic weekend, to ski with family, and so on)
Keep your choice simple and don’t pack unreasonable numbers of stopovers that wouldn’t fit your schedule.
You wouldn’t want to be all stressed out within that 2- or 3-day getaway, right?
Best Weekend Getaways on the East Coast
1. Maine Coast
Maine has around 3,500 miles of coastline, so it’s no wonder many Bostonians are drawn to the beaches along the southern coast for long-weekend holidays and quick getaways.
Pick from Old Orchard Beach or Kennebunkport if you wish to stay near the beach.
Several options in Maine, all of which combine charming seaside vibe with historical and nature tripping.
If you’re planning a romantic getaway, check out the Berry Manor Inn at the 18th century fishing town called Rockland.
Don’t forget to try out some lobsters – it’s a must!
2. Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Cape Cod is another beach destination that you should check out, especially if you want uncrowded beaches, interesting lighthouses, adorable Main Streets with a small-town feel but city amenities.
Visit Harwich Port, the Happiest Seaside Town in the USA, or join some impressive whale watching at the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.
If you’re looking for some side trips, drive through Cape Cod vineyards, or take a day trip to the islands of Nantucket.
If you have a little extra time, I put together a fun 7-day New England Road Trip that highlights some of the best places to visit.
3. Niagara Falls, New York
If you haven’t visited the magnificent Niagara Falls, hop on a Maid of the Mist boat to get up-close views of Niagara Falls.
The surrounding areas also have so much more to offer.
Explore Old Fort Niagara, or just relax at hotels with some of the most spectacular views you’d ever experience in the world.
If you’re a fan of wine, you could spend an entire weekend checking out over 60 wineries around the Niagara region.
4. Chicago, Illinois
Chicago is home to a ton of good food (there’s are numerous famous chefs from here), a busy city with its unique charm, and a comedy scene not found anywhere else.
Ideal for travelers who love walking trails and digging deep into the culture of a particular place, Chicago has 77 neighborhoods that you can explore from Pilsen to River North.
Don’t leave Chicago without embarking on the architectural river tour. The city definitely has an impressive collection of awe-inspiring buildings, some dating back to hundreds of years.
Check my Chicago guide for massive list of things to do around the city.
5. Cape Charles, Virginia
Located near the southern tip of Virginia’s Eastern Shore right on the Chesapeake Bay, this little beach town is perfect if you’re after a relaxing getaway.
It’s over 2 hours drive, if you’re coming from Richmond or up to 4 hours if you’re driving from Maryland or DC.
The town is small, relatively unknown, but has some of the most peaceful beaches in this area. Don’t miss several ice cream joints around town (Peach Beach Shave Ice Shack, CC Kool Eatz, and Brown Dog Ice Cream).
- Interested in exploring more adult drinks and how they’re made?
- How about a weekend getaway visiting the best cideries in Vermont, or going on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail?
6. Asheville, NC
It used to be a “sleepy mountain town,” but the growing art scene, local food, breweries and adorable hippie culture draws more and more people into this North Carolina town.
Go on nature trips through the Blue Ridge Mountains, be in awe of the creativeness flowing through the River Arts District or discover the town’s history with the trolley whisking you around town.
7. Charleston, SC
Foodies flock to Charleston, so they can experience the true shrimp and grits that only the Southern food capital can prepare.
There’s beach at Folly Beach and dozens of relaxing attractions, such as the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, Waterfront Park, Pineapple Fountain, and iconic Charleston neighborhoods South of Broad, and the French Quarter.
Beer lovers would definitely love this place.
Charleston’s brewery district has over 10 beermakers that would gladly let visitors taste-test their craft beer.
8. Atlanta, Georgia
Ideal for families, Atlanta has a varied mix of attractions.
Here you’ll find the World of Coca-Cola museum and the Atlanta Aquarium, the largest aquarium in the country.
The Atlanta music scene and the music festivals scattered throughout the year are also a must-experience.
Atlanta’s neighborhoods are historic and beautiful – you can get lost in the city and never run out of picturesque backdrops for your photo-ops.
Best Weekend Getaways on the West Coast
1. Las Vegas, Nevada
There really is no other place like Las Vegas.
The lights, excitement, jaw-dropping activities all around the city, you won’t run out of things to do here.
If you can, watch artists like Celine Dion or Lady Gaga live. Go downtown for true local food, or splurge on one of the many celebrity chefs around the city. Don’t leave without visiting the Cosmopolitan.
And if you suddenly want a breather, you can hike and mountain climb just 20 minutes from the Strip.
2. San Francisco, California
The San Francisco Bay Area has everything to offer backpackers, honeymooners, family travelers, and thrill-seekers.
You can explore the city of San Francisco (don’t forget the Golden Gate), or visit not-so-popular areas like the hillside marina town of Sausalito and Polk Street’s vintage designer clothing stores.
Of course, while you’re here, don’t miss California’s many iconic destinations, from Big Sur to Yosemite National Park.
3. Boise, Idaho
This city is a walk- and bike-friendly place, so if you’re in love with walking trails and exploring neighborhoods by feed, you’ll be right at home in Boise.
Many people go here because of the affordable skiing (unlike Seattle, Portland or Denver with sky-high fees). Thrill-seekers would also love surfing, rafting, tubing, kayaking, hiking and biking (at the Boise River Greenbelt).
A one-of-a-kind experience in Boise is probably the 20-stopover Boise’s Ale Trail.
You can DIY your trip by using a free app.
How cool is that?
4. Portland, Oregon
For the most laid back, best weekend getaway in the US, Portland gives you a perfect backdrop during Fall.
Visit Portland Saturday Market, Forest Park’s thousands of acres of spectacular nature and numerous trails, Washington Park’s hiking trails, Powell’s Books, and other breathtaking scenery around the City of Roses.
Don’t just spend your time in downtown Portland.
Explore inner-neighborhoods like Buckman and Sunnyside to see the other side of Portland with astounding Victorian bungalows and streets lined with quirky shops.
5. Seattle, Washington
Seattle is home to the Space Needle, EMP Museum, and Chihuly Garden and Glass, Olympic Sculpture Park, Amazon, Microsoft, and some of the best coffee shops in the country (there are 1,700+ shops here, but don’t miss Starbucks Reserve Roastery).
There are also numerous activities to join, from boating or biking, hiking, paddle-boarding, and walking trails with the backdrop of Mt. Rainier dramatically showcasing its beauty for afar.
Don’t be deterred by a little rainfall! With its ever-green scenery and stunning Mt. Rainier backdrop, Seattle might be the most beautiful city in the Pacific Northwest.
Get your fill of tasty treats and seafood at Pike Place Market, then walk to Olympic Sculpture Park for the massive sculptures and marina views.
Make sure you try Seattle’s sea food – they’re known for slurping delicious oysters.
6. Scottsdale, Arizona
For cultural attractions and a lively nightlife combined with numerous nature activities.
Scottsdale has 400 miles of desert trails and 200+ golf courses, plus the popular mountain-biking trails of the Sonoran Desert, or kayaking the desert’s Salt River.
Known as the spa capital of the country, this weekend getaway is perfect for anyone who needs maximum pampering.
7. Denver, Colorado
It’s famous for its weed and local craft beer, but Denver is so much more than that.
It boasts an impressive ski resort (Loveland or Eldora) and massive land for hiking, biking, skiing and exploring the city by foot or scooter.
Don’t leave without checking Denver’s art and music scene. Red Rocks, one of world’s first concert venues, is also a natural landmark, rock formation that provides organic sound system.
8. Anchorage, Alaska
This picturesque Alaska town is a dream destination.
Many national parks are nearby, so you can easily view one of the 60 glaciers in just a short drive.
Anchorage, like most of Alaska, is perfect for the nature lover. You’ll never run out of things to explore, starting with the six million acre Denali National Park.
If you’re lucky, you’d be able to experience the magical Northern Lights illuminating the sky during your visit.
What’s Your Best Weekend Getaway?
I’m always looking for potential destinations to visit, for future long-weekends or just a quick vacation to “getaway from it all to refresh.”
And I would love to discover more.
Have you gone through a memorable weekend getaway recently?
Please share your story below!