Whether the thought of creating a week-long itinerary overwhelms you, you simply cannot find the time to spend a full week away from home, or you just need to get away for a few days and have little time to plan, it is important to pack up and getaway for the weekend from time to time. Our team compiled a list of the best destinations for a quick getaway in 2020 as recommended by knowledgeable travel experts.
Destinations were selected based on both their accessibility to the continental United States as well as for the unique experiences they afford. While some are well known, others are under-the-radar locations that deserve a spot on your short list for a weekend journey, so start planning your next trip today!
Catalina Island, California
Located 22 miles off the coast of California, Catalina Island is easily accessible from the greater Los Angeles area and any of its numerous airports. Once in L.A., jump on a ferry from one of four convenient ports — including either Long Beach or Newport Beach — and arrive at your island destination in just over an hour; 15-minute helicopter rides are also available if you desire to arrive more quickly, albeit with a price tag around $100 more than the ferry each way.
Rebecca Forstadt Olkowski of Baby Boomster is an L.A. native and suggests Catalina as “relaxing, rejuvenating, and beautiful with a variety of activities.” She recommends reserving time before February 29, 2020, for the best prices; however, Catalina, with its mild subtropical weather, is beautiful year-round and worth the trip.
“Winthrop has one of the largest cross-country ski networks in the U.S. and hosts a magical hot air balloon festival in March. It leaves for breathtaking photos of colorful balloons dotting snowy valleys,” Adria Saracino, the Pacific Northwest food and travel blogger behind The Emerald Palate, told us. If you are looking for a colder take on a hot air balloon festival, make plans to visit Winthrop in early March. Located just three and a half hours from Spokane (and four and a half from Seattle), Winthrop is a great option for those in the Pacific Northwest looking to get away.
Victoria, British Columbia (Canada)
Rob Taylor, founder and editor of 2TravelDads, the original LGBT family travel blog, suggests Victoria for your next weekend getaway because “it’s an easy and gorgeous destination for a weekend trip. The obvious attractions are the Victorian architecture and the epic Butchart Gardens, but the Royal BC Museum is actually the surprise gem of the city … a national treasure, just steps from the ferry terminals.”
“Victoria is full of surprises and really showcases the best of British Columbia,” Taylor told us. Victoria is accessible by air or ferry from both Vancouver and the Seattle/Tacoma area, with the journey from Vancouver being slightly shorter.
Banff National Park (Canada)
Located only an hour and a half outside of Calgary, Banff makes a great getaway any time of year. “The sheer amount of incredible outdoor activities to do year-round is what brings us back time and time again,” said Emily Mandagie, adventure travel blogger of The Mandagies. “You can make it a winter spa weekend by staying at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise … or come in the summer to experience the roaring waterfalls, explore the mysterious Johnston Canyon, and hike to countless hidden alpine lakes.” Banff is ideal for those who enjoy the wonders of nature but has plenty to offer those that prefer more luxurious accommodations as well.
“It’s true — the beer and bratwurst are worth the trek. But you’ll find so much more in Milwaukee, Wisconsin: beautiful historic neighborhoods, a lively lakefront, and a muscular manufacturing heritage,” journalist Joanne Cleaver said. An affordable weekend trip to the beach is a struggle for most Midwesterners, but Lake Michigan is an accessible alternative to the ocean, and Milwaukee provides great beach access with a backdrop of numerous microbreweries and tasty foods.
Don’t miss the gorgeous Milwaukee Art Museum set on the water and crowned with the Burke Brise Soleil, a moveable wing-like sunscreen to protect the glass roof below. The “wings” open and close at scheduled times during regular museum hours, so plan your trip around one of these viewings if at all possible!
“With its antique shops, bed and breakfasts, historic hotels, museums related to its German history, restaurants, wineries, and distilleries, Hermann makes for a fun escape in the rolling hills of Missouri,” Beth Reiber of TravelReiber told us. If wine tasting is your idea of a relaxing weekend getaway, Hermann might just be the place for you. Missouri wines are primarily produced from Norton grapes, creating a taste distinct from the more familiar grapes used in most French and California wines. If Napa is out of reach, or if you are looking to try something new, Hermann will welcome you with open arms.
Simon Hansen, founder of Best Sports Lounge, encourages readers with young children or grandchildren to spend a weekend in Indianapolis this year “because it has a lot to offer for both parents and kids. … Simply put, it’s a place that offers fun and relaxation!” Hansen encourages readers to drop by either the Children’s Museum to let the children explore its 29 acres or Books and Brews, “a place where adults get to drink while the kids get to read amazing books.” However, Indianapolis is a great place to travel without kids as well. Head downtown and enjoy one of these other eight great things to do in Indianapolis, no matter who you’re traveling with.
Quebec City, Quebec (Canada)
Wendy Lee of Empty Nesters Hit The Road offered up Quebec City as a great weekend option because “Old Quebec City has the charm of Europe but is much closer for most Americans. There’s plenty of interesting history including cathedrals, museums, and old homes.” Food is always a concern when traveling since food can often make or break a traveler’s experience of a new destination. Wendy adds that “the combination of French, English, Canadian, and native food traditions make this town really interesting when it comes time to eat, and for beer lovers, Quebec has a growing microbrewery industry.”
Come for the history, enjoy the food, and fall in love with the beautiful views along the St. Lawrence River. Don’t let the language difference frighten you away, as many people in the Quebec City tourism industry are bilingual. However, brushing up on some basic French phrases will only increase your experience.
The Maritimes/Bay Of Fundy (Canada)
The Canadian provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island collectively make up a region of Eastern Canada known as the Maritimes. Jared Nusinoff, Chief Adventurer for Out Here, a Canadian travel company that helps adventurers experience the very best of Canada, recommends the Maritimes as a must-visit in 2020. “Of particular interest is the incredible Bay of Fundy, which is home to the highest tides in the world — approximately 50 feet of vertical wonder — and the dramatic experiences they drive. You also have the Fundy Trail, an incredible scenic parkway perfect for short hikes and filled with bicycle trails and lookouts,” Nusinoff told us.
Don’t forget to enjoy the fresh seafood that abounds in the area as well. St. John, New Brunswick, functions as a great home base for the weekend with plenty to explore, but if a more quaint locale is your preference, consider St. Martins, where Nusinoff and his fellow travel guides often stay when visiting the area.
“Boston has a major airport where you can get inexpensive flights from just about anywhere in the United States. Once in Boston, you don’t need a car,” shared Keith and Tina Paul of Retire Early and Travel. The Pauls suggest utilizing a multi-day Boston CityPASS and taking advantage of the hop-on, hop-off trolley tours of the area to get the most out of your limited time. Boston is steeped in U.S. history as well, and for those inclined to experience the past, don’t forget to take in the Freedom Trail while you are in town. The Pauls add that “even if you’re not a baseball fan, the Fenway Park tour is fabulous. Boston has so many wonderful places to eat that there is something for everyone.” Boston certainly can keep you busy for an entire week (or more) but is a great option for a quick weekend away this year as well.
Gabby Beckford, the lifestyle entrepreneur behind Packs Light, welcomes you to explore her home town of Washington D.C. “Come to my city! We have a little bit for every type of traveler, and in one weekend you can experience so much. Did you know the Smithsonian Institute has more than 60 museums in the District? Try to visit as many as possible while you’re here.”
Certainly take in the wonders of the popular American History and the Air and Space Museums, but don’t forget the likes of the less-familiar locations as well. The Postal Museum includes an extensive history of the U.S. Postal Service, including an exhibit where you can ride along with the mail in an actual stagecoach. The American Indian Museum offers up exhibits on Native Americans from the entire Western Hemisphere, from the Arctic to the southernmost point of South America. If you prefer the outdoors and visit in late March or early April, don’t miss the National Cherry Blossom Festival, a D.C. tradition going back over 90 years! D.C. will keep you busy, wherever and whenever you choose to explore.
Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and only a two-hour drive from Atlanta — and just slightly longer from Nashville — Chattanooga is an accessible weekend retreat with plenty to offer. “Between the alleyway street art, locally sourced food, and it’s proximity to the beautiful outdoors, anyone is guaranteed to have a wonderful weekend away here” Beckford told us. And she wants you to enjoy this hidden gem before it becomes overrun by tourists. “It’s only a matter of time!” she told us, so don’t wait too long.
If you are after a unique lodging option, look no further than the Chattanooga Choo Choo, where you can stay in one of many renovated train cars that beautifully blend the charm of the past with modern convenience for your comfort and enjoyment. Once your caboose is settled, venture out to the Incline Railway for breathtaking views of Lookout Mountain and the surrounding seven-state vista you can enjoy from its summit. Also make time for the best things to see and do in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
New Braunfels, Texas
“One of my favorite weekend getaways is New Braunfels, Texas! It has incredible appeal for all ages, and one of the most fun things to do in New Braunfels is visit the Gruene Historic District. Gruene is on the national historic register, and everything is immaculate,” Travels With Tam writer Tam Warner Minton told us. She added that “Gruene is a very German, but also Texan, town. I loved it and can’t wait to go back when I have plenty of leisure time to spend the entire day there. Definitely weekend worthy!”
For a truly German experience, make plans to visit in early November during the area’s Wurstfest. New Braunfels is located just outside of San Antonio and south of Austin, a quick drive from either city.
North Georgia Wine Region
Tatum Skipper of Bonvoyage Babes is an Atlanta resident who wants to put Northern Georgia on your radar — specifically the wineries. “The North Georgia Wine Region is an underrated destination for people looking to relax and enjoy the great outdoors accompanied by some wine. … I’ve lived here long enough to know it’s a place many people would love to visit — they just don’t know it yet,” she shared. Many of the region’s wineries are two hours or less by car from Atlanta and are accessible from Chattanooga, Tennessee, as well. The Winegrowers Association of Georgia is once again sponsoring the Wine Highway Week at the end of March, which means two great weekends to choose from to enjoy sipping wine while enjoying the Appalachian foothills.
Mexico City, Mexico
Becca and Dan, the creative team responsible for Halfhalftravel, encourage you not to rule out Mexico City when considering your next weekend getaway. “We think a lot of travelers are still scared off by the thought of Mexico City being massive and potentially dangerous. In fact, only one of these things is true. Yes, the city is huge, but the parts that are worthy of travel value are in a concentrated area, and it is so, so safe. We’re serious — in 45 days of spending time in Mexico City, we experienced zero crime!” they shared. Direct flights from the U.S. abound, and Mexico City is closer to New York than New York is to Los Angeles!
While you will certainly come across many who speak English in the more touristy regions of the city, being able to speak a few basic Spanish phrases will provide more freedom to enjoy your visit, and potentially allow you to find greater deals while shopping. The Zocalo, the city’s expansive city square, is a must-see; plan time to explore the historical government center and grab food from a local vendor while shopping and people watching to get the most out of your time in Mexico’s capital.
“With a temperate year-round climate, farm-fresh cuisine, and unique adventure experiences, Belize is a perfect three-day weekend getaway to escape the winter months” says Julie Leventhal, a writer with Luxe Getaways. Belize is accessible for U.S. travelers with many cities offering affordable non-stop flights. Better yet, English is the national language, which is a big plus. Spend a day exploring the country’s Mayan ruins, and take another day to just enjoy the beach and relax. If you are feeling especially adventurous, explore the beautiful underwater tapestry of the Belize Barrier Reef, including the world-famous Great Blue Hole.
U.S. Virgin Islands
Veronica James of The GypsyNesters told us, “The U.S. Virgin Islands make a fantastic quick getaway, especially in the winter. These islands are truly a tropical paradise less than three hours away from Miami, and each of [them is] unique. St. Thomas for hustle and bustle, nightlife, and shopping; St. Croix for laid back authentic Caribbean culture; and St. John for unspoiled natural beauty. Plus, they are part of the United States, so there is no need for a passport.” Make the most of your short stay by relaxing in luxury on St. Thomas, taking in the views and activities while being pampered; after all, you came to get away.