Summer Weekend Getaways for Travelers on a Budget
Summer weekend getaways offer their own special advantages: Less planning than longer junkets and a smaller impact on your budget. Hitting the road quickly and exploring overlooked places can also add to the feeling of adventure. Here's a look at a dozen affordable weekend escape options around the country, each within three hours' driving time of a major city.
The gateway to the legendary Blue Ridge Parkway, one of America's most beautiful highways, and Skyline Drive, Augusta County is just under three hours from Washington, D.C. The county is home to two wilderness areas, a national forest, a state wildlife management area, and award-winning fly-fishing streams. Visitors can also explore the area's Fields of Gold Farm Trail, where they can pick fruit, stroll through farmers markets, or tour a working farm.
Budget accommodations: A beautiful region for camping, Shenandoah Acres Family Campground charges $29 a night for tent sites. If you prefer sleeping indoors, rates at the Best Western Staunton Inn start around $100.
Being the birthplace of Tabasco pepper sauce is certainly one of the more colorful facts about this intriguing destination 2½ hours outside New Orleans, a city known for free and fun options. Avery is a place with abundant oak trees draped in wild muscadine and Spanish moss, where wildlife viewing is a popular pastime. The island is home to Jungle Gardens, a 170-acre botanical garden that includes a bird sanctuary established by Tabasco heir and conservationist Edward Avery McIlhenny.
Budget accommodations: Visitors can't stay on the island itself, but there are plenty of accommodations nearby for less than $100 per night, including Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites New Iberia.
Antique shopping, a vibrant restaurant scene, historic homes, museums, and an abundance of parks are some of the highlights in Columbia. Less than two hours from Charlotte, North Carolina, affordable outdoor activities range from swimming at Lake Murray (entrance is $3 per car) to exploring the 26,000-acre Congaree National Park, which is free and holds some of the tallest trees in the East.
Budget accommodations: Rooms at the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Columbia Airport start at around $95 per night in mid-summer.
Another getaway near New Orleans, St. Francisville is more famous than you may realize. It's a picturesque community that has appeared in countless movies, such as "Dead Man Walking." There are also six architecturally unique plantation homes open for tours. And if you're still searching for more, stop by the Myrtles Plantation, which claims to be one of the most haunted homes in the United States.
Budget accommodations: Among the best options for lodging here are bed and breakfasts. Rates at the Butler Greenwood Plantation & Bed and Breakfast, operated out of a historic antebellum home, start at $135 per night.
Elvis Presley fans will recognize the name of this city -- it was, after all, the birthplace of the King of Rock 'n' Roll. But visiting the modest, two-room home where Elvis was born, while totally worthwhile, is not the only reason to visit. Just 90 minutes outside of Memphis, Tennessee, this charming southern city offers more than 160 restaurants, three shopping districts, and Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo, which is the largest zoo in Mississippi.
Budget accommodations: Rooms at the Hampton Inn & Suites Tupelo/Barnes Crossing are around $119 per night.
About three hours north of Los Angeles (depending on traffic), San Luis Obispo is known as the cultural, commercial, and entertainment hub of California's central coast. It's also located amid a world-class wine region, and has a downtown filled with charming shops, restaurants and hotels. And don't miss the local hiking trails, which provide some of the best ways to enjoy the region's natural beauty. Along the Bowden Ranch & Reserve Canyon Trail, there are oak groves, a waterfall, rivers, and eucalyptus groves.
Budget accommodations: Rooms at the Heritage Inn Bed & Breakfast, which is just minutes from downtown, start at $115 per night.
Spend a few summer days traveling along the Howard On Tap Craft Brew Trail and experience some of Maryland's newest and most unique breweries. Howard County is also home to Patapsco Valley State Park, a 16,000-acre public recreation area where visitors can hike, fish, camp, and canoe. Minutes from Baltimore, Howard County is also less than an hour from Washington, D.C., and its many affordable attractions.
Budget accommodations: Summer room rates at the Holiday Inn Express Columbia East- Elkridge are around $124.
A getaway outside of Washington, D.C., Highland County is a mountain escape where visitors can explore winding country roads, the history of the Civil War, bluegrass music festivals, and more. Near the famed Shenandoah Valley, it's a popular place for picturesque bike rides, hiking and exploring wild flower trails such as the 25-mile Blue Grass Valley Trail.
Budget accommodations: There are many bed and breakfasts throughout the county, including the Cherry Hill Bed and Breakfast, where rooms start at $120 per night.
The tiny, pristine island located outside Savannah is known for its miles of wide-open beaches, golden salt marshes, ancient maritime forests, and being home to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, the state's only such rehabilitation and education facility. Once an exclusive hunting club for some of the nation's wealthiest families, such as the Rockefellers, the island is now part of one of the largest preservation projects in the Southeast.
Budget accommodations: Rooms at the Quality Inn & Suites start at around $140 per night during the summer.
Just 30 minutes north of Austin, visitors will find a community that claims to have the most beautiful town square in Texas. Popular activities include boating on 1,200-acre Lake Georgetown; taking a dip in the lagoon at scenic Blue Hole Park; and visiting Inner Space Caverns, an underground cave discovered in 1963.
Budget accommodations: Rooms at the historic San Gabriel House Bed & Breakfast, a mansion from 1914, start at $150.
Here's a fun fact: Every Corvette made today is produced in this community located less than 90 minutes north of Nashville, and Monday through Friday, visitors can tour the GM Corvette Assembly Plant. Other attractions in Bowling Green include Mammoth Cave National Park, where visitors can hike and bike inside the caves. Bowling Green's Lost River Cave offers the only underground boat tour in the state. If you need some sunshine after all the caving, visit Fountain Square Park, which is surrounded by restored historic buildings.
Budget accommodations: Summer room rates at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Bowling Green are around $156 per night.
Only 20 miles outside New York City, Nyack seems a world away. A small town rich in history, culture and charm, Nyack sustains its vibrant community as an artistic hub that offers music, film, and theater. It was the home of painter Edward Hopper, and visitors can explore the Edward Hopper House and Art Center. Nyack is also known for sailing, kayaking, and fishing, thanks in large part to the Nyack Beach State Park on the Hudson River.
Budget accommodations: The Time Nyack is a trendy hotel where, depending on when you visit, rooms can be around $159 per night.