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11 of the Best Cities for a Staycation
Enjoying the local favorites and getting to know your hometown heroes
If you’ve made New Year’s resolutions to spend wisely and live mindfully, then this may be the year of your best staycation yet. We surveyed 1,001 American travelers and 38.4 percent said they take one staycation a year and 22.2 percent take two staycations a year. What is a staycation? A staycation is a relaxing break from responsibilities where you go on vacation in your own city. You’ll save money and get to know the region where you live. Put in your PTO request and walk down your hometown streets with a spring in your step. We’ve picked out the best places for a staycation in the United States with your insights and recommendations. From the Puget Sound to the sun-kissed lakes of Florida, let these staycation ideas inspire you to seek out new things to do close to home.
You told us about your hometowns and we added three new destinations to the list. Check out the top picks!
Seattle isn’t the only gorgeous city in the Puget Sound. Everett is just a ferry ride away from Whidbey Island and a short drive to Seattle attractions. You don’t ever have to leave this waterfront wonderland to have a refreshing break from the norm — and we’re not just talking to people with bosses named Norman.
All the parks!
- Evergreen Arboretum & Garden inside Legion Park has awesome views of the water from the city’s north coastline. Mondays and Tuesdays are the best days to skip the crowds.
- Spencer Island Park is huge and perfect when you want to take a walk on the wild side, because it’s less developed and more secluded.
- Take a self-guided tour and stand in awe of historical aerospace innovation at Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum.
- Imagine Children’s Museum is a fully interactive experience for all ages. The young people in your life can make their own masterpiece at the Art Studio on selected weekdays.
- Schack Art Center is a museum as well as a learning center with workshops and local art sales.
- Learn to speak Irish and enjoy traditional pub fare at Shawn O’Donnell’s American Grill and Irish Pub.
- The folks at The New Mexicans have been infusing the Southwestern menu with flavors from their Samoan and Italian cultural roots since the beginning of 2017.
- Enjoy the Sound’s wine culture. Start at downtown Everett’s own Port Gardner Bay Winery and venture out to surrounding cities Woodinville and Snohomish.
Tourist destination you haven’t visited yet: If you aren’t familiar with Everett Community College, you might not have wandered through the tranquil Nishiyama Japanese Garden. Pause to appreciate the garden’s eleven elements, including the Iwakuni footbridge, made with reclaimed wood from the Kintai Bridge in Everett’s sister city, Iwakuni, Japan.
For many tourists, Northern California begins and ends with San Francisco. But they’re missing out on the scenic small towns and stunning national forests that surround Redding. No staycation in California is complete without seeing the redwoods. From Redding, you could visit a different national forest every day for a week without driving farther than 150 miles! That’s a recipe for adventure … or some Zen time with mother nature.
NorCal arts & culture
- Have you taken the time to explore the Art Exhibit and Sculpture Park at City Hall? Pack a picnic and check out the local artwork. The pieces rotate quarterly, so you may not have seen the current exhibition.
- See a show at the historic Cascade Theatre, an art deco performing arts venue that opened in 1935.
- Explore downtown Redding with a fresh perspective — order a pint at Carnegie’s or go for that extra espresso shot at Brew Craft Coffee. You can sleep in tomorrow.
- With over 10 signature cheesecake varieties on the menu at any given time, Cheesecakes Unlimited is true to its name; they also serve a full savory menu and drinks.
- When it comes to fine dining, you already know Clearie’s is the best in town, but have you ever splurged on the abalone and risotto? You aren’t booking a hotel, so you’re still saving!
- Armando’s Gallery House will appeal to all your senses. Come for dinner or a wine and paint night, and chat about art with Armando.
- Take the kiddos to nearby Historic Hawes Farm for a taste of the agrarian life and carnival-style activities, like a 6-acre corn maze and gemstone mining.
- Spend the day playing baseball, basketball, and soccer at Caldwell Park. The Teen Center, skate park, and walking trails round out this well-kept greenspace. You can even bring the family doggo.
Tourist destination you haven’t visited yet: Go spelunking in the nearby small towns. Some of the best caves in Northern California are all within an hour’s drive of Redding, including Lake Shasta Caverns National Natural Landmark in Lakehead and Lassen Volcanic National Park in Mineral.
Why leave Cleveland when you could spend your time on the banks of Lake Erie, and take a tasting tour of up-and-coming breweries? Cleveland is in the midst of a “moment”—yes, still. The food scene is booming, and we can’t get enough of the local beers (Masthead’s Jalapeno IPA hurts so good). Have you been too busy to savor Cleveland’s greatest hits and impressive upstarts? Here’s your chance to fix that!
- Cleveland Vegan serves comfort foods with an extra serving of compassion; whether you’re an herbivore or omnivore, get your hands on the hearty Calzones of Dunshire (yes, they’re named after Ben Wyatt’s passion project).
- Hook & Hoof opened in nearby downtown Willoughby in April of 2017, with New American cuisine and a knack for elevated surf and turf.
- Go ahead and graze at West Side Market, with over 100 vendors and flavors from around the world.
- Cuyahoga Arts and Culture is great for people of all ages, bringing together artists and events from all over the city and globe in one community.
- Wander around Gordon Square Arts District and pop into galleries or take a selfie scavenger hunt with the neighborhood’s public art installations.
The beer scene
- Cleveland is a beer city, which you might not have been able to take full advantage of during a regular work week. Taste flights all over the top tap districts, downtown and Cleveland West. Board the Cleveland Brew Bus for a tour for your taste buds.
Tourist destination you haven’t visited yet: You can’t live in Cleveland, or even remotely close to it, and skip the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Tuesdays and Thursdays are the best days to visit if you want to avoid crowds and have easy access to all the exhibitions. Check their calendar for even more upcoming events, and don’t forget to celebrate the new inductees!
Overland Park has all the amenities you’d expect from the second-largest city in the state, but it really embraces indie businesses and community ties like a small town. And it’s so close to KCMO, that you could easily take a combined Overland Park/ Kansas City staycation for double the fun. You already know the area is great for families with kids, but have you taken time off to check out nearby nightlife and awesome revitalization that’s turning OP into a gathering place for young professionals? It’s time to find out first-hand.
The brunch bunch
- Louie’s Wine Dive is OP’s worst kept secret … and its most delicious. Try ordering something new-to-you from the vast menu, like praline French toast.
- McLain’s Market is all about breakfast, brunch, and lunch. So get up early and grab a seat on the patio. You’ve got to tuck into the seasonal Market Bowl.
- Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead is both educational and fun, complete with baby goat feeding, a historical school house, wagon rides, and more. The kiddos will enjoy learning about farm life, and you’ll love the beautiful views.
- The Museum at Prairiefire is great for all ages, kids and adults alike. It’s a natural history museum that incorporates the changing landscape of technology — be sure you check out the Discovery Room.
- If you want to leave your day-to-day life behind for a few hours and really relax for evening, head to neighboring city Lawrence. The downtown is very walkable, quiet, and home to several brew pubs, cocktail bars, and grills. Enjoy dinner and a show at Jazzhaus (with 40 beers on tap!), and stop for a post-show mojito on the porch at The Bourgeois Pig — both located in the Lawrence Cultural District.
Tourist destination you haven’t visited yet: If you don’t live near the southernmost part of OP, it’s easy to miss Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, but you really should plan your staycation with their events and trails in mind. Wednesdays and Thursdays are great for skipping crowds.
Maybe you moved here for work, for the beautiful waterfront scenery, or to be close to family. Whatever the reason, you also get the sun-smooched glow Kissimmee’s name implies. Soak up the Sunshine State’s signature rays and enjoy fresh hometown cuisine and old-fashioned fun. We also wouldn’t blame you if you spent your entire staycation floating in the middle of Lake Toho. You must have considered the epic staycation in Florida you’d have when you moved here!
- Kick off the year at the MLK Parade and Unity Festival in downtown Kissimmee on January 19. We can’t wait!
- The 2019 Osceola County Fair runs February 8 -17. That’s 10 days of funnel cakes and wild rides, but who’s counting? Get out to the fairgrounds and support your local community!
- Kissimmee is home to the ultimate Old Town. This historical ‘hood is reminiscent of a vintage carnival with stagecoaches in the streets, a carousel, and charming storefronts. Take a spin on the Ferris wheel with your sweetheart for a romantic moment close to home.
- Experience a piece of Kissimmee’s history first hand at the Pioneer Village at Shingle Creek, where living historians educate and enrich.
- Visit Kissimmee Air Museum, and even take a flight with Warbird Adventures. It’s a little extravagant, but you’re not paying for airfare to get there.
The greatest outdoors
- Don’t pass up a little more time on East Lake Toho (Tohopekaliga). Relax on the beach, pack a picnic, or float across the water in a fan boat.
Tourist destination you haven’t visited yet: Take a Chocolate Kingdom Factory Tour with the whole family. You’ll learn how they make chocolate from bean to bars. The Kissimmee location is in Old Town, and you can join a wine and chocolate pairing experience or take a chocolate-making class before or after your tour.
Founded in 1799, Franklin is a historical hub—there’s no denying that—but that’s not all! Locals know world-class music grows in their backyard, and the booming brewery scene is worth traveling for. So, stop packing that suitcase for your next getaway and pack your itinerary full of things to do on staycation in Franklin instead
- Dress in your vintage wear and spend an evening at Franklin Theatre, which opened as a cinema in 1937.
- Get to know your hometown even better with a Trolley Tour through the city’s historic sites. Drive by the Old, Old Jail, Franklin’s “Great American Main Street,” and somber sites, such as Carnton Plantation, where themed tours offer an informative and raw perspective on slavery and Civil War battles.
Breweries and juiceries
- Sample local craft brews at Mantra Artisan Ales — we can’t get enough of Japa, the milk stout infused with chai tea. It’s like comfort in a pint.
- Order pie first at the Frothy Monkey. Then, build your own decadent omelet, or go light with the roasted beets and a fresh salad. And don’t forget a hot cup of craft coffee.
- Be well at Juice Bar. Start the day with shots … of powerful juices, essential oils, and spices. Line ‘em up!
- Stay local, shop local at unique boutiques, like Finnleys, and Baya Designs. Your own neighbors are designers, artisans, and savvy shopkeepers. They say every time you support a small business, a real person does a happy dance. Let’s make it happen!
Tourist destination you haven’t visited yet: Take a long weekend at the beginning of any month and do a First Friday art walk scavenger hunt. How many of the local pop-up galleries can you visit? How many artists’ signatures can you get? What’s your favorite wine and nibbles offering? This is the kind of challenge you can’t lose.
A lot of people think of Bloomington as the Twin Cities’ kid cousin with a major shopping obsession. We’re not saying they’re wrong, but as any Bloomington resident knows, there’s more to this suburban city than meets the eye. Explore gorgeous greenspaces, spend a night out on the town, and yes, take advantage of the Mall of America sitting pretty in your own backyard.
- Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge is a habitat for Minnesota’s indigenous creatures and offers education and opportunities to immerse yourself in nature.
- Hyland Park Reserve and Bush Lake Park are a calm water wonderland — perfect for hikes and in some seasons sunning or skiing.
- Normandale Japanese Garden is a tranquil international experience. The garden is maintained by Normandale Community College, volunteer gardeners, and generous donor support.
- Laugh your bum off at House of Comedy inside Mall of America, or enjoy a romantic date on the patio at Urbana Craeft Kitchen & Market.
- Take advantage of being just a Lyft ride away from Southwest Minneapolis, and enjoy burgers and bombers at the one-of-a-kind George and the Dragon Pub.
- When you’ve had your fill of the “small lakes,” take the 165-mile drive to Duluth and stand on the banks of Lake Superior. Learn more about the port at the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center, and watch the ships in the bay.
Tourist destination you haven’t visited yet: Go to the Mall of America, seriously. With an in-house aquarium, dining, and entertainment like Nickelodeon Universe, it’s a fun destination for the whole family.
Embrace Burlington’s artsy ambiance and don’t miss out on the natural wonders around every turn. It might be old hat to you, but one of the best staycation tips we have is to see your home like a brand-new destination, and thanks to a beautiful landscape, you won’t have any problems with that! Lake Champlain fills this bay town’s exquisite sightline and supplies local restaurants with succulent seafood—win, win!
Waterfront arts & culture
- Bring the whole family or plan a special date to the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts. From concerts to variety acts, you’ll have a unique and enriching experience.
- The Main Street Landing Performing Arts Center is a collection of venues on the waterfront, with traveling exhibitions, talent shows, and contemporary productions.
- Burlington is home to several parks and trails in a small space. Pedal along the Burlington Bike Path and watch the sunset at Waterfront Park.
- Burlington is considered one of the top beer towns in the country, but people who aren’t die-hard brewheads may not know it. We love Switchback Brewing Company, because they always have something hopping—pun intended. From yoga nights and chocolate tastings to live music and release parties, you’ve got to join the party.
- “I love a good foamy beer,” said no one ever, but that didn’t stop Foam Brewers from embracing their spritely name. Fruit-forward flavors keep with the lightheartedness of their moniker, and they’re darn good. A Head with Wings tastes like a tropical creamsicle, and we just can’t even. All their beers rotate, so you’re lucky if you live here year-round!
Tourist destination you haven’t visited yet: Take a road trip to Montreal! You’re just a day trip away from our neighbors to the north. Montreal Botanical Garden is stunning, and Quebec’s biggest city is home to some delicious international cuisine.
When we asked which cities needed to be added to the list of the best staycation ideas, locals were quick to tell us about their beloved Lancaster. The city and its surrounding area boast a blend of historical Pennsylvania Dutch traditions and contemporary culinary and performing arts. It’s the perfect place for a family staycation, or a quiet couple’s weekend. Lancaster’s attractions are diverse and relaxed, so we know why you call this place home sweet home.
Covet-worthy coffee culture
- We’re creatures of habit. For a fresh perspective, try a new cup of joe. You already know Passenger is locally loved, and for good reason. Chill aesthetics and thoughtfully sourced coffee are a match made in heaven.
- Forget about Pennsylvania’s brisk winters for a moment while you sip a European-style espresso at Aura Espresso Room. The vibe is positively Mediterranean. Go ahead and order the gelato, and the tiramisu, and the affogato.
Performing arts paradise
- The American Music Theatre produces more than 300 shows a year, including original material and international and national tours. In February, AMT is welcoming several one-night events, including “Masters of Illusion: Believe the Impossible” and “RAIN: A Tribute to the Beetles.” Their calendar is full of great shows, so look ahead!
- The historic Fulton Theatre was reincarnated from the city jail to a performance venue in 1852, and it has continued to serve as a local cultural landmark ever since. Upcoming productions include “Chicago” this winter and “Once: The Musical” in spring.
- Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre boasts a scrumptious menu, and the 2019 season lineup is fun, colorful, and touching, including “Stand by Your Man,” “Lucky Stiff,” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
- One of the perks of a staycation is having time to prepare homecooked meals. Lancaster Central Market is a shining example of publicly accessible local produce and products. If you’re a Lancaster local, enjoy the multisensorial experience of shopping for your favorite Pennsylvania Dutch recipe.
- When you’re saving on travel expenses, show local artisans and farmers a little extra love. If you see the Miesse Candies flagship on Water Street, treat yourself to decadent handmade caramels, and covered cherries.
Tourist destination you haven’t visited yet: Take a ride on the Strasburg Rail Road. You’ve probably skipped this vintage tour, because it is a tourist favorite, but it’s fun and whimsical! So, catch the next train in nearby Ronks. Enjoy the gorgeous scenery of Lancaster, and old-fashioned hospitality as you roll through the region. All aboard!
10. Des Moines, IA
Listen up, Iowans! Your capital city has a downtown cultural district where ambitious artisans thrive, and friendly small-town vibes to boot. And did you know that your favorite eatery has probably been featured on a foodie show, like “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives,” “Food Paradise,” or “The Today Show”? It’s true! Between visiting top Des Moines attractions, it sounds like a famous food tasting tour is in order…
- Tropical vacations are all well and good, but why not embrace a Des Moines winter like a tourist? Take a brewery tour! You’ll stay warm in local tap rooms, like Exile Brewing Company, which opened in a renovated cosmetics factory in 2012, and Peace Tree Brewing, originally from nearby Knoxville.
- This February 1-2 is the annual Winter Blues Fest, celebrating its 25th year in downtown. The 2019 lineup includes Eric Gales and Ivy Ford, so get your tickets!
- Take a snow day! Grab your sled, toboggan, or saucers, and head for the hills in Ewing Park. The great thing about living in the Midwest is having a city that knows how to deal with snow, but that means you have to take the time off to enjoy it!
Tai Dam cultural celebration
- The Tai Dam people became essentially country-less after years of colonization. After almost a century living as refugees in Laos, southern Vietnam, and Thailand, the Tai Dam community was invited to relocate to Des Moines by Governor Robert Ray in 1975. Ray passed away in July 2018, and his legacy is honored at the Robert D. Ray Asian Gardens
- Celebrate the strength and spirit of your Tai Dam neighbors at the Tai Village. Visit a replica of a traditional Tai village and learn from locals about the customs they’re preserving through the generations.
- Your taste buds will love the fusion of Thai, Lao, Vietnamese, and Chinese flavors, and Des Moines is home to several restaurants you’ve got to try: Rolling Wok, Fawn’s Asian Cuisine, and Lemon Grass Restaurant.
- Jethro’s BBQ is hands down one of the most famous barbecue joints in Iowa, and the country, with over five recent television spots! Their skilled smoking is almost as legendary as the huge Adam Emmenecker Challenge—have you ever attempted it?
- If you’re looking for vegan options, get thee to Zombie Burger + Drink Lab—no brain munching involved. They have two vegan burgers, the Negan, and Undead Glenn, as well as omnivorous dishes, and they’ve been featured on three shows so far, including “Destination America.”
Tourist destination you haven’t visited yet: Completed in 1886, the Iowa State Capitol is open to the public with guided and unguided tours. Be sure to stop in the library to be wowed by the collections, and gaze up at the interior of the dome. On the capitol lawn, you’ll find the Holocaust Memorial, remembering those who have been oppressed and reminding Iowans of their role in offering a refuge.
11. Tucson, Arizona
Desert dwellers, it’s your time to shine. Tucson has a little bit of everything: a bustling food and entertainment scene, preserved indigenous historical sites, and plenty of outdoor activities with the perfect weather for getting outside. Whether you’re here for your education or you’ve put down roots with work and family, make time to take in Tucson’s best activities.
Taking a hike
- The best hiking trails involve a refreshing waterfall, right? Nearby Tanque Verde Falls Trail is a moderately challenging hike with a dog-friendly path. It’s never crowded, but the bouldering offers the opportunity to slow down and enjoy the sounds of fresh water and the scent desert flora.
- Like a challenge? If you’ve already logged plenty of experience and Instagram pics on the easy and intermediate trails in the area, level up on the more difficult Ventana Canyon Trail, roughly 30 mins away. The name translates from Spanish to “window,” and it is a spectacular vantage point for birdwatching and scoping out the spectacular Sonoran Desert scenery.
Brand new bites
- Americano Mexicano is one of the 60+ eateries that opened in Tucson in 2018. Originally a food cart that gathered a crowd, this newcomer knows its way around a Southwestern fusion flavor profile. Say that five times fast! Whatever you order, finish your meal with the tres leches ice cream bowl. De nada.
- Alloro D.O.C. Trattoria and Chophouse has taken over the kitchen at the Hilton Tucson East, and they serve a mean cheese board. And can you think of anything more relaxing than turning off your email notifications and pairing your favorite wine with an array of scrumptious bites?
- The Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block hosts events year-round, so you need to stop what you’re doing and see what’s on the calendar! Plan your staycation around the Free First Thursday and the Second SundAZe Family Days, when the museum shares free admission and features live entertainment just for Arizona and Sonora locals!
- Celebrate the artistry and traditions of Tucson’s Native community at the 2019 Southwest Indian Art Collectors Exposition in Oracle the last weekend in February. You’ll have a hard time choosing your favorite pieces from this 3-day event. Oracle is located 38 miles north of Tucson, but it’s well worth the day trip.
Tourist destination you haven’t visited yet: When was the last time you leaned into the whimsy of the Southwest and spent a day at Tohono Chul? You better believe your hometown is whimsical! Encounter indigenous flora and fauna, wander through galleries of local art, and dine on seasonal dishes at the Garden Bistro. Brunch is served every day, so you can skip the weekend crowd!
What’s a can’t-miss attraction in your hometown?
Header image via Albert Pego/Shutterstock.com
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