Finding small towns and cities perfect for weekend warriors
No matter how much you love your neighborhood and your daily routine, it’s easy to feel a little stuck after a while. Maybe you’re tired of going to the same pizza joint day in and day out, or walking by the same sights on the way to work. You’re feeling just like a rundown battery and the best way to recharge is by getting the heck out of dodge for a few days.
It’s true. A short little trip out of town can do wonders for you. A change in scenery gives you a burst of energy, while a bite into something new offers you a new lease on life. It doesn’t take much—perhaps an hour’s drive west or a short flight to the coast—and to prove it, we’ve gathered 17 of the best weekend getaway cities and towns that are charming, enticing, and just what you need. They might be on the smaller side and maybe a little quieter than you’re used to, but that’s why they’re perfect for your next jaunt.
Big Bear Lake, California
What to do: For starters, take a deep breath and let that fresh mountain air fill your lungs. Then, set your sights on the beauty that is Big Bear Lake, no matter if it’s flowing or freezing, its majesty is undeniable. If you’re visiting this mountain region in the winter, pack your skis because 31 trails and 240 acres of skiable terrain are waiting for you to shred them up at Snow Summit. After a day on the slopes, explore the shops in Big Bear Lake Village, and cozy up with a warm drink at one of the excellent eateries.
Where to eat: There’s always a wait at Peppercorn Grille—and for good reason. Make reservations at this high-end restaurant, order the rib-eye steak, and you’ll soon see why the wait is so worth it.
What not to miss: You’ll kick yourself if you leave town without bobsledding down the scenic Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain. Shoot down the track and watch as the marvelous landscape whizzes by.
What to do: Oxford has that whole small town charm going for it, but when you really start to explore, you’ll see why they call it the Cultural Mecca of the South. Begin your adventures at the University of Mississippi Museum, which showcases all kinds of art, from historical paintings to modern installations. Then, you don’t have to be a literary buff to appreciate Rowan Oaks. The tour of William Faulkner’s 1844 estate is a fascinating one, even if you’ve never even read “As I Lay Dying.”
Where to eat: City Grocery. The spicy shrimp and grits are what everyone raves about, but the fried grilled okra is a southern staple you can’t forgo.
What not to miss: Square Books in the historical town square. Lose track of time browsing the books and then cozy up with a cup of coffee on the second-floor balcony.
New Ulm, Minnesota
What to do: New Ulm certainly celebrates its German roots, and perhaps the best place to get in touch with this heritage is with a stop at Schell’s Brewery, where they’ve been brewing German craft beer since 1860. Take a tour of the brewery and sample some Vienna-style lager, before visiting the Wanda Gág House. Home to the famed children’s author, Wanda Hazel Gág, the two-story1893 residency is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Where to eat: The beer battered cheese curds and chicken strip basket will make you glad you stopped in New Ulm Turner Hall for lunch. After satisfying your cravings, take time to admire the building—Turner Hall dates back to 1856.
What not to miss: Hermann Heights Monument. Climb up the spiral staircase to the base of this National Register of Historic Places and discover the story of the Deutsch victory over the Romans.
What to do: There’s hardly a better way to experience this state’s charm than with a visit to Claremore, where the musical “Oklahoma!” took place. Once you’ve managed to get those show tunes out of your head, make your way over to Belvidere Mansion, a Victorian-style treasure built in 1907. Stick around for a spot of tea in the historical home’s Tea Room and lose yourself in the city’s story. Before leaving town, spend some time in nature at Claremore Lake Park. The area welcomes you to hike the trails, take a boat out on the water, or even cast a line for some spotted bass.
Where to eat: If you’ve never had a jalapeno cream cheese burger, then you haven’t really lived. Try the novelty dish at Main Street Tavern and pair it with a local OK brew.
What not to miss: The Nut House. This log cabin, made of pecan wood, has all the nutty treats you could imagine, from chocolate peanut clusters to creamy white almonds—they make perfect souvenirs!
Skaneateles, New York
What to do: Skaneateles is the lakeside retreat you’ve been dreaming of, and a visit to Anyela’s Vineyards is the best way to commence your vacation. Sitting in the hillside above the lake, this vineyard uniquely buries its crops underground to see them through the winter. Learn more about the winery’s ways with a glass of local libations in hand, and then consider adding a trip to Carpenter Falls and the Bahar Nature Preserve to your itinerary. Make the trek to the waterfalls to see the peaceful oasis, but check conditions beforehand as the trail can become treacherous when icy.
Where to eat: Italian cuisine is what’s for dinner when you nosh at local favorite, Rosalie’s Cucina. Order family style—some farfalle con pollo, vitello piccata, and manicotti—for a little taste of everything.
What not to miss: A sweet stop at Skaneateles Bakery, where the homemade treats won’t leave you wanting. Dig into the red velvet whoopie pies and old-fashioned cake donuts, and stock up on some shortbread meltaways for the journey home.
What to do: If it’s a romantic weekend getaway you had in mind, allow Wimberley to woo. Kickstart your vacation with aromatherapy massages and botanical facials at Blair House Spa to reign in relaxation. Next up, spend some quality time together hiking the trails and birding at Blue Hole Regional Park—see if you can spot a red-shouldered hawk or golden-fronted woodpecker. Later, “wine” down at the Hill Country Wine Shoppe, where you can sample some Texas vinos in the heart of the historical town square.
Where to eat: Weekend retreats call for comfort food, and the Leaning Pear is just the place to get your fill. The chicken and grits, winter squash curry, and wood-fired pizzas are calling your name.
What not to miss: No trip to Texas is complete without plowing into a slice of southern pie. Have at it at Wimberley Pie Company, where the menu is devilishly tempting with options such as coconut custard, chocolate chip pecan, peach crumb, and more.
St. Michaels, Maryland
What to do: There’s something so rejuvenating about retreating to a lovely harbor town like St. Michaels. Dabble in its charm with a boat tour of the lighthouses along the Chesapeake Bay, where you’ll see the structures up close and learn about their history. Afterward, discover more about the region’s stories with a stop at the St. Michaels Museum at St. Mary’s Square. Spanning three historical homes, this museum gives you a peek into life in this town during the 1800s.
Where to eat: St. Michaels Crab & Steakhouse, where the seafood is straight from the Eastern Shore. Chow down on some fresh clams, oysters, and mussels to sample the flavor of the Maryland coastline.
What not to miss: Put on your sailing shoes and head to Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum to uncover the region’s relationship with the water. From crab picking to boat building, Chesapeake locals will dish on all their maritime tales.
Santa Cruz, California
What to do: One look at Santa Cruz’s pristine coastline, and you’ll understand why it’s one of the best weekend getaways. For some fun in the sun, play at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, where you can charge down the 1924 Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster and devour some chocolate covered bacon. Even if you’re not one for getting sand between your toes, you can certainly enjoy other local attractions like the Tannery Arts Center, which features local artists’ work, including tapestry, photography, theater performances, and more.
Where to eat: You’ll be pressed to find a better view than the one you’ll come across at Crow’s Nest. Get your seafood fix on the shoreline deck and soak up the coastal panorama of the harbor and the lighthouse.
What not to miss: Exploring the seaside at Capitola Village. Slip into the surf shops, make time for a little wine tasting, or simply bask on the shores of the Pacific Ocean.
What to do: If Ohio isn’t on your getaway radar, Lancaster is about to change that. Start your weekend trip at Rising Park on Mount Pleasant and eye guzzle the sweeping views of the city and its scenic outskirts. Better yet, make your way up before twilight to see the landscape under the setting sun. Looking to marvel even more? The Ohio Glass Museum is sure to wow as it shows off the magnificent art of glassmaking. Take in the incredible masterpieces and don’t miss the opportunity to watch glassmakers at work.
Where to eat: Whether you’ve got your eye on the spicy Cheech & Chong burger topped with Sriracha aioli or the creamy Cajun chicken alfredo, Ale House 1890 promises to exceed your expectations.
What not to miss: Immerse yourself in nature’s beauty at Hocking Hills, where you can hike to the waterfall at Old Man’s Cave and venture around Ash Cave, the state’s largest recess cave.
What to do: Rocheport invites you to get away from the hustle and bustle. For the ultimate introduction to a tranquil weekend, rent a Mighty Mo canoe and paddle down the Missouri River. Glide through the water as your tour guide divulges the region’s history, particularly the journey of Lewis and Clark. After some fresh air and some peaceful exercise, wash it all down with some local wine at Les Bourgeois Vineyards. Indulge in some local grape varietals in the wine garden while overlooking the Missouri River Valley.
Where to eat: Mulberry Grill and Bakery, where the pizzas cook in fewer than 2 minutes. Made in a craft brick oven, the wood-smoked artisan pizza will have you squeezing in another trip here before leaving town.
What not to miss: The Budweiser Clydesdales at Warms Spring Ranch. You’ve seen them on TV and now you can see them in real life at this breeding farm in nearby Boonsville.
What to do: Make your weekend home in the charming city of Ellensburg. First up, expand your artistic awareness with a stop at the John Ford Clymer Museum and Gallery. The exhibits are dedicated to the work of Ellensburg-born artist, Clymer, who depicted the American West in his oil and charcoal drawings. You’ll also come across Clymer-inspired works and masterpieces by his contemporaries. If all those colorful pictures make you thirsty, make a stop at Gard Vintners tasting room for a full-bodied red or a light and airy white.
Where to eat: You just might find yourself saying a prayer of praise after noshing at The Yellow Church Café. This chapel-turned restaurant serves up bison burgers, skillet mac ’n’ cheese, and a divine Holy Moly chicken sandwich.
What not to miss: You don’t have to rough it in the wild to enjoy this region’s spectacular scenery. Simply buckle up and cruise along Washington State Route 10 for a scenic journey around Washington’s canyons and rivers.
Cloudcroft, New Mexico
What to do: To arrive in the enticing village of Cloudcroft, you’ll have to travel up to one of the highest elevations in the U.S. High in the sky, this destination is home to Ski Cloudcroft, where you’re welcome to carve up the slopes at 9,100 feet. There’s even a 700-foot vertical drop for the brave of heart. Prefer a calmer weekend escape? Saunter around Burro Street Exchange, which is home to an eclectic collection of retailers, selling everything from western jewelry to locally made candles.
Where to eat: Dive into plates piled high with pulled pork, brisket, and ribs at MAD Jack’s Mountaintop Barbeque. With homemade extras like coleslaw and cobbler, this restaurant will have you leaving full and fine.
What not to miss: Don’t head home without chasing waterfalls at Bluff Springs. Pack a picnic or camp under the stars with the soundtrack of rushing water in your ears.
Landrum, South Carolina
What to do: When you’ve got a mountain retreat on your mind, Landrum serves up just what you were imagining. After relishing the views of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance, check out Campbell’s Covered Bridge. A little slice of history, the 1909 landmark is the last-standing covered bridge in the entire state. Then for some of those mountain vibes, venture 30 minutes north to nearby Pearson’s Falls and Glen, where you can picnic and hike to the staggering 90-foot waterfall.
Where to eat: The Hare & Hound Pub. From the Guinness beef pie to the fish and chips basket, you’ll feel like you’ve walked into an authentic European pub—that is, as soon as you order a pint of Bass.
What not to miss: The Instagram-worthy landscape of the Carolina Foothills. Hike on foot, hop on horseback, or sip wine at the nearby vineyards, surrounded by the lush mountain range.
What to do: You booked a Destin weekend getaway, but you might find yourself extending your trip a little longer once you get a glimpse at the World’s Luckiest Fishing Village. If you’re visiting during the spring or summer, make a splash down at Big Kahunas Water and Adventure Park, where the lazy river and pipeline slides will keep you cool under the Florida sunshine. Meanwhile, for something a little lower key, practice your swing down at Emerald Bay Golf Club while overlooking the pristine shores of the Choctawhatchee Bay.
Where to eat: Vacationing on the coast calls for dining on some locally caught seafood. At Brotula’s Seafood House & Steamer, build your own boil with the freshest mussels, oysters, and crab around.
What not to miss: We don’t need to say much when white sand and crystal blue waves are involved—Henderson Beach State Park speaks for itself. Take a scenic stroll on the boardwalks along the dunes or dip your toes in the frothy water of the Gulf.
Breaux Bridge, Louisiana
What to do: Who says your weekend sojourn has to be relaxing? If you’re looking for a thrill, come face to face with 14-foot gators on a swamp tour in Breaux Bridge. Champagne’s Cajun Tours cruise through Lake Martin Cypress Island Preserve, where you’ll learn all about the local ecosystem while floating under the cypress trees. If walking is more your adventure speed, stroll around the Bayou Teche Visitors Center, and head down to the wharf and look for the crawfish painting on top of the steel bridge.
Where to eat: Glenda’s Creole Kitchen for the gumbo, sweet dough pies, and catfish coubillion. The first creole restaurant in Breaux Bridge, this eatery will have you craving dishes you’ve never even heard of before today.
What not to miss: An evening at La Poussiere Cajun Dancehall. Here you’ll be dazzled by the authentic Cajun culture, from the rhythmic beats to the dance moves. Swing by on Saturday night or Sunday afternoon—and don’t forget your dancing shoes.
What to do: A jaunt in Arizona has always been on your list, so make it official with a trip to the city of Bisbee. Tucked within the Mule Mountains, this rugged town has a ton of history running through its veins. Peek into its old western roots via the local historical tours, such as the Main Street walk, which showcases the city’s prominent architecture. With a history lesson or two under your belt, you deserve some suds in the Tap Room at the Old Bisbee Brewing Company. Sample some Copper City Ale or the Sonoran Mountain Lime Lager, but whatever you do, don’t leave without a taste of the alcohol-free, Real Root Beer.
Where to eat: Go to Pussycat Gelato, where you can mix and match all your favorite flavors. With so many choices like chocolate raspberry, Mexican coffee, and maple brown butter pecan, it sounds like your cup will be stacked high.
What not to miss: The weird and wonderful exhibits at the Bisbee Museum of the Bizarre. Build up the courage to view the shrunken head named Fred and try not to get the creeps when you view the mold of Bigfoot’s own foot!
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
What to do: Whether you visit Lake Geneva when it’s warm enough to jump right into the water or cold enough to glide across the frozen surface, this is one getaway you won’t forget. For a solid introduction to this town and its past, take a tour of Black Point Estate & Gardens and uncover how the wealthy elite once vacationed at the lakeside in the 1800s. Then, get outdoors and saddle up at Dan Patch Stables to trot around the Grand Geneva property. If the conditions are right, you can even join a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the snow.
Where to eat: Oakfire for the divine pizza Napoletana, calzones, paninis, and more. Don’t let all the delicious choices stress you out though—anything you pick promises to deliver.
What not to miss: The spectacular live performance at the Tristan Crist Magic Theatre. Forget pulling rabbits out of hats, this innovative show with unbelievable tricks will blow you away.
What are your top places to go for a weekend getaway?
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