This is of course a tricky post to write because of geography. I live in the Washington, DC metro area on the East Coast of the United States. Destinations that I consider to be convenient enough for a few days won’t be for many other people in the country and certainly the world. But that doesn’t mean this isn’t a useful post for everyone, I think it is. I define quick getaways or a long weekend trip as being 4-5 days in length, a short jaunt to a destination that isn’t too far away, but far away enough to be fun. But what makes each of these a great place for a quick escape also makes them valuable enough to include on a longer itinerary or even plan an entire trip around. Each of these destinations have in common the unique ability to captivate and entertain quickly and easily, making them wonderful travel destinations in their own right.
1. Montreal – Montreal is easy to reach for those of us on the East Coast, about an hour or two away, but culturally different enough to make it seem as if you’ve crossed an ocean. I’ve spent two long weekends in Montreal, each exploring different parts of the city and enjoying new sights. Montreal appeals to me on several levels. It’s an urban getaway with lots of shopping, restaurants, museums and cultural activities going on all year. Even in their harsh winters you can escape below ground through a complex and infinitely cool system of underground malls and walkways. Montreal is also a great foodie stop, from the traditional cured meats and bagels to new and innovative restaurants. If all you want to do is spend a few days somewhere eating and drinking, Montreal is one of the best places in the world to do so. But I love history and exploring the culture of a new destination, which I think is what really draws me back to Montreal. It doesn’t feel like any other city in Canada, it has its own very unique and colorful character. Maybe it’s because so many people speak French, but I love walking around the neighborhoods, admiring the architecture, stopping by cafes for a quick coffee and just soaking up the city. There really are few places as interesting and that is what makes it a fantastic choice for a quick getaway.
2. Florida –Before you say anything, let me explain. Florida is one of the great tourist draws in the US, thanks to both the many parks in Orlando as well as the sunny and posh beaches of Miami. But Florida is a large and diverse state and there are many other, lesser known places to explore. Getting to Florida is easy enough, there are lots of low-cost options and getting around the state may take some time, but it’s no challenge. My new favorite hideaway in Florida is located just 45 minutes north of Jacksonville, on Florida’s First Coast: the secluded resort destination, Amelia Island. Long a getaway for the rich and powerful, Amelia still has that aura of exclusivity, but is now much more accessible. The best hotel on the island though is also my favorite, the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island. Combining the unique and high qualities of service for which the Ritz Carlton is known along with the laid back beachy feel of the island, the resort is wonderful and a true destination in itself. If just hanging out along the beach isn’t for you though, there are plenty of activities on the island and within an easy drive. My favorite was a quick day trip up to Savannah, Georgia, the classic Southern colonial town known for its beauty, charm and hospitality. Amelia Island is just one of hundreds of quieter spots in Florida where it’s actually possible to relax and not battle crowds.
3. Iceland – Perhaps my favorite long weekend getaway, it was also the most surprising to me. Before first visiting Iceland I’d heard good things, but never realized just how great a destination it really is. First of all, it’s much closer than you think it is. From Washington, DC the flight time is less than 6 hours and from Boston it’s an even five-hour flight. That’s easy! That’s like flying to LA except that you’re actually in a place you want to be in. Once there I fell under the Icelandic spell immediately. There are hints of Europe and Scandinavia everywhere, but all reinterpreted in a way that can only be called Icelandic. Activities are varied and numerous, and right away you can start exploring the mountains, geysers and thermal pools that have made the island famous and strikingly gorgeous. Since a large part of the economy revolves around tourism, getting around and signing up for various tours is easy and painless. We spent four days exploring and while it certainly wasn’t enough, I also left satisfied that I had done and seen a lot. My time wasn’t wasted, instead it was a remarkable trip that ranks amongst my most favorite.
4. Virginia – There is a strong possibility that I included Virginia on this list because I am, you know, from Virginia. My personal bias notwithstanding, I do think that Virginia makes for a fantastic travel destination and definitely a wonderful place to enjoy a long weekend. Let me explain why. Virginia honestly does have it all, from mountains to beaches and from history to culture. It’s also a massive state, taking 10 hours at least to drive tip to tip. But within this large and massive state is a lot of variety. For the outdoorsy person, the options are plentiful. Southwest Virginia is home to the Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway and of course the coastal areas are perfect for coastal explorations. If you love history, there is also plenty to do thanks to the role Virginia played in the formation of the country. The first colonists settled in Virginia and early American leaders such as Washington, Jefferson, Tyler, Monroe and Madison all called Virginia home. If you like a little more culture on your vacations, then Richmond is not to be missed. Sometimes overlooked, the former capital of the Confederacy has undergone a transformation in recent years and is now hip, trendy and fun. Of course in the northern part of the state is Washington, DC, with its own unique activities. Finally, the slogan of the state has long been that it’s for lovers, and it is indeed a romantic destinations. One of the top wine producing states in the country, Virginia has hundreds of wineries, each with their own unique varietals and interpretations of classic wines. There are also several famous resorts found around the Commonwealth, like the Homestead, once the retreat for the richest people in the world. So you see, there’s plenty to do in Virginia not just for the weekend, but an entire vacation.
5. Bermuda – This is a new and surprising addition to this list. Surprising in that I can’t believe I hadn’t considered it before as a quick getaway option. Bermuda is located in what I call the middle-Atlantic, off the coast of North Carolina. It is NOT in the Caribbean, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a wonderful tropical retreat. An easy flight from any of the East Coast hubs, Bermuda is convenient and easy to reach. Once there though, it feels like you’ve traveled a million miles away. Every aspect of island life you would expect is there, from the lush plant life to some of the best beaches in the world. Bermuda is famous for its pink beaches, which really are pink as they are beautiful. It’s not all beaches and tropical drinks though, there’s a lot to do on the island to keep an active person like myself busy for several days. One of my favorite day trips was to the colonial town of St. George’s, a relaxing retreat that dates back to the 17th century. No matter what you choose to do though, it honestly is one of my new favorite quick vacation spots.
What are your favorite quick getaway destinations?