The USA is a big country, and there’s a lot of it to explore.

Big-city getaways, small-town adventures and epic road trips are always within reach. Yet with such an expanse to cover, deciding where to go is the hardest part. So we’ve asked four expert writers based in different parts of the USA to share their favorite weekend getaways — which means wherever you are, there’s an ideal trip for you. 

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Best weekend getaways on the West Coast 

Originally from Colorado, Tyler Wildeck is a writer based in Portland, Oregon, who has spent most of his adult life roaming the Western USA

A lush bay in the San Juan Islands in Washington.
Watmough Bay on Lopez Island, part of the San Juan Islands National Monument, Washington. © Alamy Stock Photo

San Juan Islands, Washington

Best for rustic vibes and romance

For adventurous weekenders, the San Juan Islands, off the coast of Washington State, showcase some of the Pacific Northwest’s rarest wildlife. The San Juans’ most notable island, Orcas is home to three resident pods of killer whales, who are commonly spotted just offshore as they hunt for salmon. The islands also boast the largest concentration of bald eagles in the contiguous United States.

In addition to copious wildlife viewing, hiking and kayaking, the most-populous islands offer a variety of engaging historic sites, restaurants and rustic lodges for a weekend’s stay. Just don’t forget to book your ferry boat (or floatplane) ahead of time. 

Astoria, Oregon

Best for history buffs

Situated at the mouth of the Columbia River on Oregon’s coast, Astoria is just a 90-minute drive from nearby Portland. Great for history buffs and outdoor enthusiasts looking for a weekend at the end of the Oregon Trail, Astoria offers the chance to learn about the earliest days of the fur trade in North America, as well as visit the famous Fort Clatsop, where the Lewis & Clark expedition spent the winter of 1805. The current fort has been reconstructed to match the original design, and is part of the larger Lewis & Clark National Historic Park. Spend your weekend getting lost in the stories of river fording and salmon fishing – and if you’re brave enough, cast a line for your own gigantic sturgeon, one of the coastal site’s most famous undersea creatures.  

San Francisco, California

Best for urbanites at heart 

Frisco is synonymous with West Coast culture for a reason. Where else can you find stunning ocean views, top-tier eats and a wealth of shopping, arts and nightlife? San Francisco truly has it all, and while a weekend isn’t enough to see the whole city, it’s enough to make you want to come back many times over. Whether you’re romping around the Mission in search of the perfect cocktail, taking in a Giants game at Oracle Park (two words: garlic fries) or going on a spending spree at the shops around Union Square, there is hardly a better place to spend a weekend away than the City by the Bay.  

Hikers on Boy Scout Trail with Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia) in the Joshua Tree National Park.
Joshua Tree National Park is an epic spot for a family camping trip © NatalieJean / Shutterstock

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Best for a family camping trip

For casual outdoorsy types looking for a easy weekend getaway, Joshua Tree National Park offers a wonderful blend of scenery and outdoor activities, with a notably thinner crowd than popular Yosemite, to the north. At just two hours from the Los Angeles area, Joshua Tree offers convenience and a unique desert ecosystem that make it a premium location for a weekend camping trip, and its hiking, world-class rock climbing and stargazing rival anywhere in the US. Bonus points for staying up late enough to snag a picture of the otherworldly Joshua trees underneath a canopy of stars. 

Best weekend getaways in the Northeast

Marcia DeSanctis is a writer based in rural Connecticut whose travels have taken her to Uzbekistan, Rwanda, Egypt – and all over the northeastern United States.

Buildings line a historic rural New York state street at dawn.
Head to Hudson for history and shopping © Phil Haber Photography / Getty Images

Hudson, New York

Best for shopping and charm

Just two hours north of Manhattan, Hudson draws both tastemakers and weekend wanderers. The whaling industry on which it became a 19th-century boomtown eventually faltered, yet Hudson retains the era’s elegant Queen Anne and Victorian bones ⁠– and much of it has been lovingly and stylishly restored. The main thoroughfare, Warren St, is lined with handsome mini-mansions, coffee bars, Scandinavian antique stores and low-key chic-clothing boutiques like Unracked. On the to-do list: brunch at Tavern in the movie theater–turned–hotel Rivertown Lodge; real French crêpes at Le Gamin; a visit to Olana, painter Frederic Church’s stunning residence above the Hudson River, which also has several miles of trails; and made-in-the-USA basics at Hudson Clothier.

Washington, Connecticut

Best for art ⁠— and R&R

Located in northwest Connecticut, the town of Washington is an ideal base for a spin around the scenic Litchfield Hills. Full of working farms, broad New England vistas and a pervading sense of tranquility, the town has lured artists, writers and all manner of creators (think Alexander Calder, Frank McCourt and Christine Baranski) to escape the din of New York City (just two hours away) in favor of bucolic Litchfield County.

It is fitting, then, that you can visit world-class art galleries right in town: photography at KMR Arts, and painting, sculpture and ceramics (and an unmatched April-to-October farmers market) at the Judy Black Memorial Park and Gardens. Browse the shelves at cozy independent bookstore Hickory Stick (and find signed copies from authors who call the area home, including Dani Shapiro, Lisa Taddeo, Courtney Maum and Sarah Albee); bring proper shoes for any of the 18 miles of lush trails at Steep Rock Preserve; and put on something a little fancier – but not too fancy! – for craft cocktails and a sublime, locally sourced dinner at Community Table.

The Marginal Way in Ogunquit on a cloudy autumn day, with a hotel in the distance.
The Marginal Way in Ogunquit on a cloudy autumn day © OlegAlbinsky / Getty Images

Ogunquit, Maine

Best for New England seaside atmosphere

Sometimes it’s the classics that awaken a sense of discovery, and Ogunquit is quintessential Maine. To visit is to experience the wonderfully familiar ⁠– like sensory comfort food – since the air here is tinged with the smells of ocean spray and seafood shacks. Drift through Perkins Cove, the weathered downtown fishing village, and stop for salt-water taffy at Perkins Cove Candies. Try a perfect lobster roll at Barnacle Billy’s between May and November, and all year long at Nubb’s Lobster Shack.

Ogunquit has a dreamy, white-sand public beach, and beyond it lies the Marginal Way, a dramatic, wind-whipped coastal trail along which you can contemplate the Atlantic Ocean to the sounds of waves smashing the granite cliffs.

Providence, Rhode Island

Best for a foodie and cocktail break

Like a lot of American cities that were once down on their luck, the Rhode Island capital has come roaring back. Once the overlooked little brother of mighty Boston, Providence contains some fabulous architectural treasures, plus intimate, historic neighborhoods, like Federal Hill, the city’s vibrant Little Italy. Here, amid the old brick and wooden buildings, you’ll find one of the neighborhood’s (and the city’s) most distinctive dishes: French fries with meatballs at Angelo’s, an institution since 1924.

Urban revivals often center around a food and bar scene – and in this arena, Providence seems to be constantly, brilliantly innovating. For modern takes on classic bars downtown, Eddy is a modern speakeasy, while Clementine, owned by the city’s former mayor, offers small plates and innovative drinks. In the Fox Point neighborhood, Glou has a minimal, almost Scandinavian vibe. Try the crudo – raw, sustainably caught fish – at Oberlin; its chef/owner Benjamin Sukle is one of the most celebrated chefs in America. And don’t miss the ice-cream sandwiches at Tricycle.

A car drives through fall foliage along the Kancamagus Highway, Northern New Hampshire, New England USA
The Kancamagus Highway through New Hampshire’s White Mountains offers glorious ways to experience the outdoors © DenisTangneyJr / Getty

Kancamagus Hwy, New Hampshire

Best for a scenic drive and the great outdoors 

To born-and-bred Yankees, Rte 112, the scenic New Hampshire highway known locally as “the Kanc,” is the prettiest drive in the northeast. For raw, sheer, bold beauty, it is textbook New England, blazing red and orange come fall-foliage season. It is also ideal the rest of the year, with less traffic along the 35-mile mountain gap (and its many connected trails) through New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest ⁠– home to Mt Washington and Franconia Notch State Park, both nearby.

Begin in the ski town of Conway and head west. The route is jam-packed with natural beauty and plenty of hiking trails, so by all means pull over and veer off to stretch your bones, take in the views and chase the seven waterfalls cascading over granite rock faces along the way. Among the loveliest sights: picturesque Albany Covered Bridge, built in 1858; the cascade, lake and footbridge at Rocky Gorge; roaring Sabbaday Falls; the Pemigewassett Overlook, with its panoramic vistas of the Osceola Mountains; and Franconia Falls, with naturally carved chutes and slides for a cool dip in summer. At the end of your drive, you’ll be in the fanciful town of Lincoln.

Best weekend getaways in the Midwest 

Rosalind Cummings-Yeates is a Chicago-born and -bred writer with deep expertise in all things related to the Windy City (she’s written two books on her hometown) as well as the wider Midwest

Crowds of people browse the Chicago farmers market located at Daley Plaza during summer morning.
Hit up the Chicago farmers' market as you explore the city © Getty Images

Chicago, Illinois

Best for culture lovers

Chi-town supplies everything from food and art to music and architecture in big, memorable doses. The Midwest’s largest city pulses with history and excitement, whether you opt for a famous excursion like an architecture tour along the lakefront, or a visit to one of its 77 diverse neighborhoods. Come hungry, too – to sample signature dishes like deep-dish pizza, Italian beef and jibarito sandwiches, and then to hit up one of 23 Michelin-starred restaurants. World-class museums like the Art Institute of Chicago and the Field Museum of Natural History explore human achievement, while gloriously live music at dozens of blues, jazz and indie clubs is always on offer. The cultural riches shine all year round – but the summer brings extra sparkle thanks to dynamic music and art festivals.

Kansas City, Missouri

Best for a (mid-sized) city break

Over 200 fountains cascade water all over Kansas City, giving this Midwest powerhouse the designation of the city with the most working fountains in the world. KC is filled with surprises like this that make it the perfect mid-sized-city getaway. Munching through mounds of sweet and spicy barbecue and checking out the city’s notable jazz heritage at clubs and at the American Jazz Museum are definite musts. But there are also unexpected gems like the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and the 22-acre sculpture park at the world-class Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Hocking Hills, Ohio

Best for families

Perched on the edge of Appalachia, Hocking Hills features waterfalls, caves, forests and hemlock-covered gorges that are great for family excursions. Small-town hospitality makes everything accessible, including cozy inns and old-school diners. Try tube-floating on the Hocking River, zip-lining through the forest or gazing at the night sky at the John Glenn Astronomy Park.

A man kayaks in Cave Point County Park, Lake Michigan, Door County, Wisconsin, Midwest, USA
Bucolic Door County, Wisconsin, has outdoor activities for every season © Alamy Stock Photo

Door County, Wisconsin

Best for outdoor escapades

Five state parks, forests, orchards, sand dunes, sea caves and 300 miles of dazzling shoreline make Door County, Wisconsin the ultimate natural paradise. This all-season outdoor getaway boasts near-endless recreation options along dozens of scenic trails. A cluster of charming small towns encompasses the peninsula, and travelers can explore the landscapes of each one. After hiking, boating or climbing lighthouses, the signature Door County experience is a fish boil. This centuries-old Scandinavian tradition involves a master boiler who oversees a big cauldron of whitefish – as they toss kerosene on an open fire.

Galena, Illinois

Best for couples

Cozy up with your partner amid the 19th-century elegance of this former mining town, framed by the Galena River, with Victorian houses line the streets with rolling hills as a backdrop. Stroll through a vineyard and wine-tasting tour, hop on an electric bike or opt for a romantic balloon ride. A stop by the Italianate home of 18th US President Ulysses S. Grant is a Galena must-do.

Best weekend getaways in the South 

Writer DeAnna Taylor has visited all seven continents. A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, she has also spent plenty of time exploring her local stomping grounds.

Asheville, North Carolina

Best for art and culture lovers 

Just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, charming and eclectic Asheville is a great getaway for those who truly appreciate the beauty of street art. Spend some time in the River Arts District to get your fill of ever-changing murals, art galleries and even interactive glassblowing at the North Carolina Glass Center. While there, swing by White Duck Taco for a unique menu that includes tacos made with Thai peanut chicken, jerk chicken and lamb gyro.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Best for outdoorsy families

Whether you’re traveling as a family or solo, this mountainous Tennessee town is the perfect nature escape. Take the SkyLift for a 2.1-mile ride offering aerial views of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Or simply spend a day hiking the surrounding trails, leaving time for a serene picnic surrounded by nature (you may even spot wild elk). In the winter, grab your skis or snowboard for a day of thrills at Ober Mountain

A man kisses a woman's kiss on a path flanked with Spanish moss trees in Savannah, Georgia, South, USA
Dreamy Savannah, Georgia, makes a wonderful weekend getaway for couples © Andriy Blokhin / Shutterstock

Savannah, Georgia

Best for couples

Cozy up with your significant other for a romantic carriage ride under Savannah’s famous oaks draped with Spanish moss. Make a pit stop at scenic Forsyth Park to snap a few photos by the famous fountain. Or stroll hand-in-hand as you peruse the vendors and artisans in Savannah City Market. Consider dropping into famed chef Mashama Bailey and John Morisano’s restaurant The Grey for dinner – and don’t forget to order the oxtail pot roast and Dutch Fork pumpkin soup.

Southend, Charlotte, North Carolina

Best for foodies

Southend is easily one of Charlotte’s most bustling neighborhoods, with dozens of locally owned eateries and breweries competing for hungry visitors. For Asian fare, order a feast of crispy pork belly, bao buns, soy-pickled deviled eggs, and sweet and mild wings at Seoul Food Meat Company. If you prefer Mexican-inspired flavors, visit Tacos Rick-O on the patio of Hoppin CLT for some of the area’s best birria preparations. At Resident Culture BrewingEl Toro Bruto serves up killer breakfast tacos and pan dulce. Just don’t forget to grab a chocolate chai or gingerbread matcha from the coffee counter.

People gather in a pub on St Patrick's Day in Austin.
Austin is great for nightlife © Rolf_52/Shutterstock

Austin, Texas 

Best for nightlife 

For fun into the wee hours, Downtown Austin is where you’ll want to go – Rainey St in particular. After famed 6th St, this bustling district is the city’s second-largest entertainment hub, with plenty of bars, live-music venues and eateries. If you’re longing for a Caribbean getaway without having to leave the country, Idle Hands serves up a range of tropical-inspired cocktails.

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