By TVR Staff
A weekend away is good for the soul. At least, that’s what recent research done by the Mind-Body Center at University of Pittsburgh concludes. According to the researchers, escaping the routine of daily life, even for just a couple days, resulted in such positive effects as lower blood pressure, lower stress hormones, and a more positive mood.
So what are you waiting for? The list of possible destinations is practically endless, but we’ve highlighted some great small towns just perfect for the weekend getaway. Each small town on our list is easily accessed from a major city and/or airport, has enough potential activities to fill a weekend, and offers a welcoming atmosphere with plenty of nice places to stay.
What to See:If you’re weekending in Aspen during winter, then you probably don’t need us to tell you that skiing and other snow-based sports are a must. During the warmer months, visitors to Aspen have even more access to this stunning small town. Instead of ascending the mountain on a gondola, head up via hot-air balloon. The many local rivers also open for activities like white-water rafting and kayaking. And no matter the season, Aspen’s welcoming downtown is the perfect place to wander and window shop.
Where to Stay: Whatever the season, Aspen’s ski resorts are the perfect home away from home. The Little Nell, Hotel Jerome, and the St. Regis are all excellent options.
Bar Harbor, Maine
What to See: A weekend in Bar Harbor is all about enjoying the island’s beautiful natural surroundings. Without even mentioning nearby Acadia National Park…walk, hike, or cycle along Bar Harbor’s many trails, or book a whale watching tour, lobster fishing excursion, or guided photography trip. When you’re not out enjoying nature, mill around the downtown to take in the galleries, museums, and boutiques. And of course, no weekend in Bar Harbor is complete without enjoying at least one delicious dinner of freshly caught Maine lobster.
Where to Stay: Enjoy as many water views as you can by booking a stay at Bar Harbor Inn & Spa, West Street Hotel, or any of the other waterfront hotels in Bar Harbor.
Located about 30 minutes from Louisville and in the midst of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, Bardstown is one of those charming places that consistently makes the lists of America’s most beautiful small towns.
What to See: Bardstown’s quaint downtown is lined with cute shops and historic buildings, including My Old Kentucky Home, the grand estate which inspired Stephen Foster to pen Kentucky’s beloved state song. Jim Beam and Makers Mark are just two of the nearby bourbon distilleries, though you can tackle the whole Bourbon Trail from here if you’re really ambitious.
Where to Stay: There are plenty of hotel options in this small town, though we recommend booking a room at one of the historic inns located just off the main square. Talbott Inn, with its attached tavern-style restaurant, has been around longer than America has been a country. It offers quiet rooms decked out in antiques. Nearby Jailer’s Inn Bed & Breakfast is another great option, a former jail turned cozy B&B.
What to See: Bisbee’s fascinating collection of interesting museums includes the Bisbee Museum of the Bizarre, which exhibits odd pieces like the shrunken head and a mold of Bigfoot’s foot. To learn more about the town’s history, sign up for the Main Street Walk. Finally, no trip to Bisbee is complete without taste testing some Copper City Ale or Sonoran Mountain Lime Lager at the Old Bisbee Brewing Company.
Where to Stay: Though Bisbee offers a handful of unique hotels, we especially recommend The Inn At Castle Rock, an historic 1895 hotel with themed rooms.
What to See: Carmel proper is limited to the verdant hillside overlooking stunning views of the Pacific. You’ll find plenty to do just wandering through downtown There are a surprising number of little alleyways leading to secluded shops and restaurants. If you feel overwhelmed by all the options, consider joining a food tour. For a more active weekend, head down to the water for some kayaking or paddle boarding, or visit nearby Point Lobos State Reserve.
Where to Stay: You can’t go wrong when choosing a place to stay in Carmel, though Cypress Inn, Hofsas House Hotel, and the Wayside Inn are particular favorites.
What to See: Visiting Thomas Jefferson’s former home, Monticello, is an absolute must while in Charlottesville. Besides being absolutely beautiful, Monticello is packed with history and cool architecture designed by one of America’s most influential founding fathers. Downtown Charlottesville is wonderfully walkable, with historic buildings now acting as top-notch restaurants, unique boutiques, and art galleries. It’s also easy to take advantage of the surrounding countryside with winery tours, hiking and biking trails, and rivers for kayaking.
Where to Stay: Every major chain has a hotel in Charlottesville, but you’re probably in town to enjoy the history. We recommend booking a room at one of the many more historic hotels, such as the Oakhurst Inn, which routinely ranks as one of the most popular hotels in Charlottesville.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
What to See: Many of Eureka Springs’s must-visit attractions are of the natural kind These include Onyx Cave, Lake Leatherwood Park, and Blue Springs Heritage Center. The latter consists of the Arkansas Heritage Trails System featuring flora and fauna native to the Ozarks. Spend some time wandering through the picturesque and historic downtown, built when the town was a famous spa town with hot springs. For a really unique experience, book a spot on a Crescent Hotel Ghost Tour.
Where to Stay: We recommend the Crescent Hotel and Spa — that is, if you aren’t scared of ghosts! The legendary hotel was built in 1886 and is known for its luxurious spa and fine dining options.
What to See: Stroll through Fredericksburg’s picturesque downtown and try not to go too crazy as you shop its many galleries, boutiques, and antiques stores. The Pioneer Museum is a fascinating place to learn about local history and culture, while the National Museum of the Pacific War is an absolute must visit! Start at least one of your days early with a hike to the top of Enchanted Rock, then spend the rest your time wine tasting just outside of town.
Where to Stay: Barons CreekSide, Magnolia House, Inn on the Creek. Whichever you choose, you won’t go wrong!
Friday Harbor, Washington
What to See: San Juan Island, and especially Friday Harbor, offer visitors a great mix of outdoor adventure and quaint coastal town. Downtown Friday Harbor is a nice place to stroll, with lots of outdoor restaurants and art galleries, plus a whale museum full of interesting local history. If you’re not up for walking, a Jolly Trolley Tour takes you to all the major sites. A number of local guides offer tours of the island. You can also opt to self-explore on a moped rented at Suzie’s Mopeds. Finally, spend some time on the water. Walk along the beach at night, or hop right in with a stand-up paddle boarding lesson arranged at Springtide Paddlesports.
Where to Stay: A ton of hotel options exist in Friday Harbor, ranging from modern hotels to quaint inns. The Island Inn at 123 West offers stunning views of the harbor, while Bird Rock Hotel offers guests unique amenities like loaner bikes for exploring.
What to See: A day spent exploring Galena itself is an absolute must. The town is home to a number of well-preserved historic buildings. Some of these were designed or renovated by some of the biggest names in architecture. The Galena Cellars Winery and Vineyard makes for a wonderful culinary experience, while the Galena Center for the Arts usually has a full calendar of artistic events. Spend other days hiking, cycling, or just enjoying nature at nearby Casper Bluff Land and Water Reserve.
Where to Stay: Book a room at The DeSoto House Hotel in downtown Galena. The rooms are modern, but this historic hotel has a long history of playing host to everyone from Civil War generals to U.S. presidents.
Ithaca, New York
What to See: Ithaca is located on Cayuga Lake, the biggest of the Finger Lakes. This makes it an ideal place to enjoy water sports and nature. The town also has many trails for walking, hiking, and cycling. As you’re hiking, keep track of the number of waterfalls you come across; this area has more than 100! While you’re in Ithaca, take some time to explore Cornell University’s beautiful campus, which boasts a number of museums and galleries worth your time.
Where to Stay: The William Henry Miller Inn is conveniently located downtown, while the Statler Inn on Cornell’s campus, boasts stunning views of Cayuga Lake.
Lake Tahoe, California
What to See: Lake Tahoe is a stunning mountain retreat offering just about any activity you can think of. To spend some time on the water, head to Sand Harbor or Meeks Bay, both stunning beaches offering kayak rentals. Or hike to hidden Angora Lake way up in the mountains. White-water rafting on the Truckee River makes for a good time, as does horseback riding through the former Olympic Village at Squaw Valley. Come evening, grab an early dinner at Sunnyside Restaurant or head over to Tahoe’s south shore on the Nevada side for some casino fun. During the winter, spend your days skiing at any one of Tahoe’s world-famous, Olympic-quality resorts.
Where to Stay: If large casino hotels are your thing, then definitely book a room on the south shore. But if you’re looking for the traditional lake weekend getaway, check out AirBnB for some stunning cabin rentals. Or book a room at the lakefront Sunnyside Lodge.
Mackinac Island, Michigan
What to See: The best way to see Mackinac Island is to just explore. There are no cars allowed on Mackinac, so hop on a horse-drawn carriage or wander down the town’s main drag and stop in at any of the cute shops. The fudge shops here are especially famous. To see the rest of the island, rent a cruiser-style bicycle and follow the 8-mile trail that takes you around the island’s entire circumference. Along the way, you’ll pass rocky beaches offering stunning views of the lake, grand lake houses, and even an 18th-century fur hunters’ outpost.
Where to Stay: You have your pick of charming B&Bs located on the island. But if you want to go all out, check out the Grand Hotel, which offers one-of-a-kind rooms designed by former First Ladies.
What to See: Enjoying the local wine region is a must when visiting McMinnville. More than 500 wineries, many of which include top-ranked restaurants, operate in and around town. If you plan to explore the wine scene right in town, the McMinnville Wine Passport takes you on a wine-tasting tour through downtown’s many wine-themed shops. When you’ve decided you’ve tasted enough wine, stop in at other attractions like the Evergreen Aviation Museum. Be sure to check the local calendar for local arts events.
Where to Stay: Downtown McMinnville has a number of historic hotels, such as the Atticus Hotel. For a quainter experience, visit the Brooks Street House and The Pinot Quarters. Both are historic homes renovated into inns.
What to See: Wander through Natchitoches’s historic district and ogle at the incredible architecture of the town’s oldest homes. Greek Revivals, Queen Anne Victorians, Creole cottages are all represented. Most are listed on the National Historic Register. Speaking of houses, the “Steel Magnolias House,” or the Prudhomme Rouquier House officially, is a must visit. The classic movie was filmed here and is now a bed and breakfast. To learn a bit about the town’s long history, stop in at the Melrose Plantation and the Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site, where the French founded Natchitoches in 1714. Your weekend in Natchitoches is not complete without enjoying a few Southern meals at Mama’s Oyster House and Lasyone’s Meat Pie Restaurant.
Where to Stay: There are dozens of quaint B&Bs to choose from. We’re partial to the award-winning Queen Anne Bed and Breakfast, an historic Victorian with rooms boasting fancy four-poster beds.
New Iberia, Louisiana
What to See: New Iberia is home to Tabasco, so get a hot start to your weekend by touring the Tabasco factory tour. Its grounds also boast a really cool garden complete with alligators! Then learn all about local history and culture with a visit to the Bayou Teche Museum and a tour of Shadows-on-the-Teche, a stunning local plantation.
Where to Stay: Many of the major hotels offer accommodation in New Iberia, including Holiday Inn, Ramada, and La Quinta Inn.
New Ulm, Minnesota
What to See: Most of New Ulm’s coolest sites do something to celebrate the town’s proud German heritage. Start your weekend at Hermann Heights Monument, a National Register-listed monument where guests can climb the spiral staircase and learn how the Germans defeated the Romans. Mellow out with a Schell’s Brewery tour. You’ll learn that Schell’s has been brewing beer here since 1860. At some point during your weekend in New Ulm, you’ll want to grab lunch at Turner Hall, and don’t forget to add the beer battered cheese curds to your meal.
Where to Stay: The Deutsche Strasse Bed and Breakfast and the Bingham Hall Bed and Breakfast are both excellent options. However, we might be partial to the Best Western Plus New Ulm, with its fun, Munich-style architecture and decor.
What to See: Oxford, Mississippi is perhaps most famous for its literary significance. Start your weekend off with a tour of Rowan Oak, William Faulkner’s gorgeous 19th century plantation home with its picturesque tree-lined driveway. Don’t worry, you don’t need to be a pro on Faulkner to enjoy all that this beautiful home has to offer. Fill in your weekend with trips to nearby University of Mississippi for its top-notch art museums. Then pick up a book at Square Books downtown, which boasts an impressive collection of books by Southern writers.
Where to Stay: Stay in an historic home turned B&B during your visit to Oxford. The 512 Bed and Breakfast, The Z, and Castle Hill Resort are all excellent options, as is the Chancellor’s House, a hotel offering 24-hour butler service.
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
What to See: Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s Appalachian-themed amusement park, is a must for anyone who loves themes park or is traveling with kids. If you’re visiting during the more humid months, Dollywood’s Splash Country water park is the perfect place to cool down. Other great attractions include the Titanic Museum, the go-karts and bumper cars at NASCAR SpeedPark, the science exhibits at WonderWorks, the RainForest Adventures Discovery Zoo, and much more. We didn’t even mention all of the camping, hiking, rafting, and horseback riding you can enjoy in the Rocky Mountains.
Where to Stay: Every major chain hotel is represented in Pigeon Forge, but for something a little more unique check out Music Road Resort Hotel with its massive pool and waterslides. Or book a secluded log cabin via AirBnb.
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
What to See: Make some time to visit a few of Portsmouth’s impressive museums, including the Moffatt-Ladd House, the USS Albacore submarine, and the John Paul Jones House. Of course, you’ll also want to spend time enjoying the water. Walk along Hampton Beach to the town’s historic lighthouse, or join a whale-watching excursion of Lobster Adventure Tour.
Where to Stay: Portsmouth has hotels from every major chain, plus a nice selection of family-run inns and B&Bs like The Hotel Portsmouth, a boutique hotel housed in a Victorian-era mansion.
What to See: You can’t spend a weekend in Salem without embracing some of its history. Join a guided walking tour and learn all about the tragic events surrounding the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. The tour will likely take you past many of the must-see sites, including the cemetery, The Witch House, and the Salem Witch Museum. There’s even the New England Pirate Museum if you’d rather hear about a different cast of unsavory characters. Finally, spend an hour or two at the famous literary site The House of Seven Gables, and take a stroll through Salem’s downtown or along the historic wharf.
Where to Stay: Salem is another great place to book a room in an historic hotel such as The Salem Inn or Hawthorne Hotel.
What to See: Sanibel is all about enjoying the beach and ocean. There are more than 15 miles of pristine white-sand beach on this barrier island. Finding a relaxing spot to enjoy the sand and surf should be a breeze. Scuba diving, kayaking, snorkeling, and wind-surfing are all popular pastimes here, as is hiking along the many nature trails, birdwatching, cycling, and golfing at the local course.
Where to Stay: We suggest spending a little more to stay right on the beach. Island Inn is a top-rated resort with its own private stretch of sand, while Sanibel Moorings Resort offers both the beach and a pool.
What to See: Use your car and spend a day visiting as many of Sonoma’s wineries as you can. Chateau St. Jean and Ledson Winery are as beautiful as they are excellent producers of some of the world’s best wines. Hiking, cycling, and even kayaking opportunities also exist in and around Sonoma. However you choose to spend your days, spend at least one evening in Sonoma’s main square. Here, you’ll find the historic Mission Solano, plus a wide variety of boutiques and top-rated restaurants.
Where to Stay: Sonoma has no shortage of excellent accommodations, though we like MacArthur Place and The Lodge at Sonoma Renaissance Resort & Spa. Both offer high-end experiences in the heart of wine country.
Seabrook Island, South Carolina
What to See: Seabrook Island is an upscale community with tons to see and do. Rent a bicycle from Island Bike and Surf Shop, then spend your day riding the miles of scenic trails. Other options include golfing or tennis at any of the local clubs, horseback riding along the coast, or even hopping from nearby island to nearby island on a chartered boat. If you’d rather relax, there are more than three miles of white-sand beach on which to find the right spot.
Where to Stay: Seabrook Island has a few resort-style hotels, but we recommend checking out AirBnB or VRBO, as most local accommodations are houses on either the water or the golf course.
St. Michaels, Maryland
What to See: Learn all about St. Michaels’s maritime history at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. Over in St. Mary’s Square is another must-visit museum, the St. Michaels Museum. Set up in what was once three historic homes, this museum offers a fascinating glimpse into life in a 19th-century harbor town. Finally, join a guided boat tour of the local lighthouses before chowing down on freshly caught seafood at St. Michaels Crab & Steakhouse.
Where to Stay: Inquire about availability at the Parsonage Inn, a postcard-perfect B&B that serves a killer gourmet breakfast.
Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin
What to See: Door County is chock full of cool things that will fill a weekend. In Sturgeon Bay, visitors shouldn’t miss Potawatomi State Park. Known for its dramatic limestone cliffs, Potawatomi is an excellent place for hiking and nature photography There are also plenty of beaches and coves, where everything from fishing to scuba diving makes for an enjoyable day. To learn a bit about the history of this beautiful region, join a helicopter tour, or reserve a spot on a guided tour of the peninsula’s 11 historic lighthouses.
Where to Stay: The Westwood Shore Waterfront Resort offers guests large suites with water views.
Traverse City, Michigan
What to See: You won’t have any trouble filling up a weekend with the must-dos in Traverse City. The town’s lakeside location makes biking, fishing, and boating popular ways to spend the day. Sleeping Bear Dunes is definitely worth the visit, even in winter, when the snow-covered dunes make for the perfect spot for some snowboarding or snowshoeing. Set aside another day to join a guided tour of the local wineries and/or breweries, then spend your evenings enjoying Traverse City’s strong local arts scene.
Where to Stay: Ask for a room with lake views at the waterfront Bayshore Resort, a Victorian-style beach hotel with a pool.
Truth or Consequences, New Mexico
What to See: While visiting T&C, you’ll definitely want to find out why the town’s original name was Hot Springs. You can relax in the natural hot springs by visiting one or more of the 10 bathhouses serving the town. Some of the houses have luxurious hot spring “pools,” while others offer a more private experience with soaking tubs. When you aren’t soaking, go for a walk through T&C’s downtown, where you’ll find excellent restaurants, galleries and antique stores, and the old-fashioned El Cortez Movie Theater.
Where to Stay: Since T&C is all about its hot springs, book a room at a place like Blackstone Hotsprings, where each of the rooms pays tribute to an old TV show and your reservation comes with unlimited use of the springs.
What to See: Whitefish makes for a convenient home base for enjoying Glacier National Park. Drive through yourself, or join a guided tour as you look for wildlife and hike the trails. Back in Whitefish’s welcoming downtown area, stop in at just about any restaurant to enjoy locally sourced meat, a craft beer, and probably some live music. In winter, Whitefish remains a worthy weekend destination, with a handful of ski resorts and horse-drawn sleighs transporting people down the town’s main streets.
Where to Stay: The Lodge at Whitefish Lake has steamy indoor hot tubs with waterfalls and full-wall windows of the outside world — need we say more?
What to See: Your Woodstock itinerary will largely depend upon the time of year you choose to visit. During the winter months, spend the day on the slopes or cross-country trails, then curl up by the fire come evening. During the spring or summer, drive along the Vermont Scenic Byway for some of the prettiest scenery you’ll find anywhere. See it all from a different perspective with a hot-air balloon excursion, or get up close to nature by cycling, fishing, hiking, or rock climbing throughout the area.
Where to Stay: As you might expect from a New England getaway, Woodstock is full of quaint inns and B&Bs. We like The Ardmore and The Woodstocker Inn Bed & Breakfast, both of which offer comfortable rooms and amenities like gardens and libraries to help you relax.