Maybe it's nostalgia for our (long-gone) school days, but nothing says summer like getting out of town.
And thanks to a more optimistic financial outlook for 2014, travel seems to be on the to-do list for some 133 million of us this year, according to the latest American Express Spending & Saving Tracker.
Still, taking a vacation doesn't have to mean breaking the bank. Enter the road trip. In fact, 47 percent of Americans plan to drive to their destination this year.
Of course, where you drive depends on where you live. So we've rounded up affordable (and manageable) road trips — each one rings in well under $1,000 for a long weekend, and is less than six hours away by car — from eight major cities across the country.
So pack your atlas — or download the latest map app — and get ready to hightail it out of dodge and hit the road.
If you live in Las Vegas … Consider Capitol Reef National Park
Of Utah's five national parks, Capitol Reef is the least known — and the least visited. In other words, until the secret is out, you'll have the run of the trails.
Stay at the 15-room Lodge at Red River Ranch (from $160 per night), which sits on 2,000 acres of open pastures and meandering rivers. The look is Old West — complete with wagon-wheel chandeliers and Navajo rugs — and the location, on the park's western edge, is a 20-minute drive from the visitor center.
Once there, pick up a $5 weeklong pass and check out the adjacent, 3,100-tree orchard, where the cherries, apricots, peaches, and pears are yours to pick. Or head for the Gifford Homestead, a farm a mile down the road that sells homemade pies and ice cream.
The main activities at Capitol Reef are climbing and hiking, with the 4.5-mile Rim Overlook Trail affording particularly stellar views — but don't forget to also look up: The air quality makes this a prime spot for stargazing.
Tip: If you're planning a weekend getaway in August, schedule your visit around the Utah Symphony's outdoor concert series (August 11 to 17) in honor of its 75th anniversary next year.
Travel time: Five hours if you stick to I-15. Add an hour to detour through Dixie National Forest.
If you live in New York City … Consider the Finger Lakes
If this upstate region isn't on your radar, it should be: Aside from its 11 spectacular lakes — Skaneateles, Cayuga and Keuka, to name a few — the Finger Lakes is teeming with secret swimming holes, hilly woodlands and dramatic gorges.
It's also home to one of the largest wine producers in the country. Use the Seneca Lake Wine Trail as your guide, but don't miss Hermann J. Wiemer for bright, fruity Rieslings and Ravines Wine Cellars for a more mineral take. And did we mention there's a cheese trail too?
Shack up at the Seneca Lodge (from $60 per night), a collection of cabins, motel rooms, and A-frames across the street from Watkins Glen State Park, where you can pick up the Gorge Trail, which meanders past 19 waterfalls. Bonus: Guests have access to the Olympic-sized swimming pool at the park's south entrance, and the on-site restaurant at the lodge makes its own beer, with a rotating roster of five brews on tap.
Travel time: About four and a half hours via I-80 W.
If you live in Chicago … Consider Madison, Wisconsin
This lakeside college town has one of the largest farmers' markets in the country, a slew of Frank Lloyd Wright–designed buildings you can tour, the Cesar Pelli–designed Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, and activities aplenty for outdoorsy types.
Pedal around town with a set of wheels from Machinery Row Bicycles ($20 per day), rent a kayak (or take a stand-up paddle board lesson) on Lake Monona with Brittingham Boats ($24 for two hours), or go for a stroll through the 16-acre Olbrich Botanical Gardens — don't miss the blooming butterflies exhibit, which runs from July 16 to August 10. And after a day of adventuring, reward yourself with an IPA from Madison's newest brewery, Karben4.
As for slumber, the historic The Edgewater (from $199 per night) is currently undergoing a $100 million makeover and will reopen in mid-August — just in time for a long weekend before school's back in session. If you want to come earlier for, say, the World's Largest Brat Festival (May 23 to 26), consider the chic and modern HotelRED(from $149 per night).
Travel time: Two and a half to three hours.
If you live in Los Angeles … Consider Ojai, California
Framed by the Topatopa Mountains, Ojai is a Shangri-La for artists and wellness-seekers, with near-perfect weather, a boho vibe, and smog-free skies. The Gridley Trail and Shelf Road offer heart-expanding views of the valley, and nearby Los Padres National Forest is a great one-stop spot for hiking, climbing, fishing, and swimming.
Back in town, take a class at Lulu Bandha's Yoga Studio ($15 for drop-ins) — and be sure to take in Ojai's "pink moment" (a.k.a. sunset) from Meditation Mount, a 32-acre retreat with gardens and nooks for relaxation and mediation.
If you time your trip right, you can catch concert pianist Jeremy Denk premiere "The Classical Style," his comic opera based on Charles Rosen's tome of the same name on Hadyn, Mozart, and Beethoven, at this year's Ojai Music Festival (June 12 to 15). For classical music fans, the debut is reason enough to load up the wagon and head for the hills — or the valley, rather.
Stay at the Lavender Inn, a converted 1874 schoolhouse with eight cheery rooms — we love the sun-filled Tree House, with breathtaking mountain views right outside your window (from $130 per night). Come dinnertime, try the squash and goat cheese tacos at "off the truck" Mexican café Farmer and the Cook, or hit up Hip Vegan for quinoa salads, tofu burgers, and root beer floats.
Travel time: About two hours, depending on traffic. Take the back roads — CA-118 W to CA-126 W via CA-23 N, and then onto State 150 — that wind their way through sand formations, citrus groves, and stone fruit orchards.
If you live in Dallas … Consider Fredericksburg, Texas
There's a reason why Fredericksburg is Hill Country's best-known destination: The German town has charm in spades, plus easy access to Texas wine country. In town, make the clean-lined Roadrunner Inn (from $129 per night) your home base, and then venture further afield for gems like Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que in Llano, where the two-inch-thick pork chop is a must-order. The brisket, ribs, chicken, and sausage are tasty too.
Texas is the fifth largest producer of wine — and there's no shortage of places to sip hearty reds in Hill Country. Stop by Pedernales Cellars for award-winning tempranillos and offshoot Lewis Wines for 100% Texas-grown varietals.
This is also peach country, and you can pick your own at Marburger Orchard or indulge in a homemade peach pie at Blue Bonnet Cafe. You can offset all that vino, mesquite-smoked meat and pie with a half-mile walk to the top of Enchanted Rock or a more intrepid 1.5-mile trek to Gorman Falls in Colorado Bend State Park.
Travel time: Regardless of the route you choose — I-35 or the back roads, which pass through cute towns like Hico, Marble Falls, and Johnson City — it'll take about four hours.
If you live in Atlanta … Consider Floyd, Virginia
Floydfest (July 23 to 27; day passes from $90) may be the coolest festival you've never heard of: Part music mecca, part outdoor extravaganza in the Blue Ridge mountains, the event combines such world-class acts as Ben Harper and Lauryn Hill and good, old-fashioned banjo picking with guided hikes, trail runs, water sports, and yoga on the lawns. Word to the wise: Lodging in Floyd (and even campsites) tends to book up quickly. So book early for a spot at the five-room Ambrosia Farm, a family-run inn with a killer breakfast (from $90 per night), or pay a $50 tent tag at Floydfest and BYOT.
If you can't make it for the festival, the Floyd Country Store has authentic Appalachian music every Friday night. And, of course, there are the Blue Ridge Mountains. It's a steep, one-mile hike to the summit of Buffalo Mountain — the county's highest point — with its stunning views of the Roanoke Valley.
For dinner, head to Dogtown Roadhouse for their delicious wood-fired Neapolitan pies, craft brews, and live music — or venture into Roanoke for lamb ribs slathered with sorghum-spiked barbecue sauce at The River and Rail. On the ride back to Floyd, stop by the Foggy Ridge Cider brewery for the dry, tannic Serious Cider and Pippin Gold, a blend of hard cider and apple brandy.
Travel time: Just under six hours via I-85 N and I-77 N. Add an hour if you want to pass through Chattanooga and Knoxville (via I-75 N and I-81 N).
If you live in Boston … Consider Burlington, Vermont
There's more to this western Vermont town's culinary scene than just Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream — especially since the rustically chic and eco-friendly (think locally handmade soaps and carbon-negative cocktails at the bar) Hotel Vermont opened last year (from $189 per night), and with it, an outpost of Waterbury's famed Hen of the Wood.
If that price is only a tad steep, consider staying at The Little Place Guest House, a charming pied-a-terre in the Old North End (from $165 per night). And then splurge for dinner at Hen of the Wood, where chef Eric Warnstedt serves such Vermont-centric fare as mushroom toast with house bacon and a poached egg, and rabbit served with celery root, parsnips, and cranberries.
Work off your meal by cycling along the newly reopened Island Line Trail, which runs for 12 miles — right into the center of Lake Champlain (rent bikes from localmotion.org for $32 per day). Craving an authentic Vermont experience? Head to the working Shelburne Farms, which has a learning center (sheep-shearing class, anyone?), walking trails, and handcrafted cheddar made from the milk of their very own Brown Swiss cows.
Travel time: Three to three and a half hours via I-93 N and I-89 N.
If you live in San Francisco … Consider Paso Robles, California
During the legendary Mid-State Fair (July 16 to 27), locals still don cowboy boots for tractor races, rodeos, and monster truck rallies — plus concerts by the Zac Brown Band, Lady Antebellum, and Journey.
But this old-country town is also fast becoming a respected vino producer: In 2013, Wine Enthusiast named Paso Robles wine region of the year, citing its innovation and ability for reinvention — back in 1983, when the grape-producing area was established, there were just 17 wineries. Today, highlights of the area's 200-plus wineries include JUSTIN for its Isosceles blend and gorgeous new tasting room, and Tablas Creek for Rhone-style reds and whites.
Before it was known for its experimental wines, Paso was a popular hot mineral springs destination — and the just-renovated, 98-room Paso Robles Inn (from $179 per night) sits right next to the healing waters. Book the Deluxe Mineral Spa Room and you can unwind in your own private hot springs tub on the balcony.
Travel time: About three hours via US-101 S.
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