The USA is a big place – but no matter where you’re based, it’s easy to hit the road for a couple of hours or hop on a plane or train for a total change of scenery. From outdoor adventures to cool city escapes, here are just a few of the best weekend getaways in the States.
Best for peace and quiet: Bear Mountain State Park, New York
Only a couple of hours up the Hudson River from fast-paced New York City is Bear Mountain State Park. The appeal is easy to understand: 5000 acres of wooded hiking routes, lakeside picnic spots, mountain scenery and cross-country ski trails.
It may not be as big or as impressive as many of the world-famous national parks, but this accessible slice of wilderness is a (literal) breath of fresh air for anyone feeling stifled by the skyscrapers of the Big Apple.
Best for secret beaches and forestland: The Forgotten Coast, Florida
Away from bright, brash Miami and the theme parks of Orlando is a very different Florida. You can easily while away a weekend in the Panhandle, winding your way through Apalachicola National Forest and on towards coastal Pensacola city.
On the way, you’ll pass more untainted, crowd-free beaches than you’d think possible in the Sunshine State – stop off at St George Island for a particularly laid-back, low-key afternoon on the sand.
Best for a restorative break: Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas
It may seem ambitious to cover a whole national park in a weekend, but Hot Springs National Park happens to be the smallest in the US. It’s also particularly accessible, given that it includes part of downtown Hot Springs.
Hit the hiking trails, perhaps have a picnic at one of the many scenic spots, then ease your aching muscles with a soak at one of the bathhouses on inventively named Bathhouse Row. You can camp in the park itself, but for a full dose of TLC stay at the historic Arlington Hotel & Spa.
Best for art: Taos, New Mexico
The town of Taos is notable for its beautiful light, mountain views, proximity to historic (and UNESCO-listed) Taos Pueblo, and the community of artists attracted by all of these things. In the 1920s, Mabel Dodge Luhan used her significant personal wealth to help artists settle here, and they never really left.
Over the years artists as well-known and respected as Ansel Adams and Georgia O’Keeffe have lived here, and even now non-profit groups ensure there are always artists in residence. Head here yourself to enjoy galleries, museums, festivals and historic sites. Maybe you’ll feel inspired enough to create something of your own.
Best for a slap-up meal: Texas
Texas is one big state, and it’s developing a culinary scene to match its size. Austin has earned a real reputation for street food and innovation, and its music scene is happily matched by the availability of late-night snacks.
Houston, by contrast, is the place to go for a highbrow brunch or polished restaurant food – but, as befits Beyoncé’s hometown, there’s plenty of hot-saucable southern-style cooking around, too. Completing the foodie triangle is Dallas, the go-to spot for artery-clogging, Texas-sized helpings of barbecue. A perfect culinary road trip round the Lone Star State – though expect the car to be a little heavier on your way home.
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Best for a small-town feel: Port Townsend, Washington
If you need a break from Seattle, Portland or even Vancouver, head to picturesque Port Townsend for a weekend of small-town relaxation. The maritime feel, Victorian buildings and stunning natural setting help you step back from modern life and slow down a little.
The activities on offer – farmer’s markets, museums, outdoor activities in Olympic National Park – are a great getaway from a big city. Try staying in one of the town’s B&Bs to get a closer look at the gorgeous historic buildings, or camping to appreciate the beautiful location.
Chicago might just offer the perfect city break. It’s got all the advantages of a big city, but without feeling overwhelming or impersonal. Take advantage of good weather by wandering the beautiful outdoor spaces and admiring the famous modern architecture; on rainy days, head to one of the dozens of world-class museums.
Best for camping with the kids: Yosemite National Park, California
For families, Yosemite is a godsend. It encompasses 3000 square kilometres of stunning landscapes, bursting with outdoor activities and is accessible from big cities such as San Francisco and LA. You can head to one of the many campsites with great facilities, go for walks, or try something a little more exciting like rock climbing, zip-lining or rafting.
As an added bonus, the park’s varied enough that there’ll be something to do in any season. The only problem is, the kids (or you) may want to come back again next weekend, and keep exploring.
Best for southern hospitality: Natchez, Mississippi
The oldest permanent settlement on the Mississippi River, Natchez is the perfect place to spend a languid, southern summer’s day. It’s also one of the prettiest towns in the deep south, with wide leafy avenues, antebellum houses and views across the wide Mississippi.
But there are plenty of other pretty towns with old buildings and traditional attractions; the reason people keep coming back to Natchez is for its real southern hospitality. That’s worth a lot more than a kitschy horse-drawn carriage ride – though you can, of course, get that here too.