I love to travel with my family, but like many other parents, Jeff and I both work full-time, meaning we have limited vacation days. And then, even if we can both get time away from work, Jimmy still has school that we have to work around. We love to take advantage of his holidays, but those are always the most expensive travel days. So, we found one of our favorite ways to travel without having to worry about interrupting our work and school schedules: a weekend getaway!
Qualities that make a city great for weekend getaways are:
- Easy to navigate so you can see most of the big stuff in two days
- Proximity to a major airport (and with frequent flights), and
- Mix of attractions that everyone can enjoy (e.g., culinary, entertainment, history, culture, nature).
These are some of my favorite cities to visit in the US for a weekend getaway:
San Francisco, CA
San Francisco is a big city, but it takes up a very small area of land. While this isn’t great for residents, it is great for visitors who want to see a lot without having to travel far (like families!). Some of the biggest draws to SF are the Golden Gate Bridge and Fisherman’s Wharf, but don’t forget to stop by Golden Gate Park, Chinatown, and the bustling Union Square. If you feel like venturing out a bit, check out Alcatraz Island, an old federal penitentiary with a deep and interesting history.
My favorite thing to do when visiting San Francisco though is riding bikes across the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito, stopping for lunch, and then riding the ferry back into the city. It’s a long bike ride, so you can always take the ferry both ways to save some time if you’d prefer an easier trip.
It took me way too long to visit Portland because I only just went for the first time this year. I immediately fell in love! Portland is one of the greenest, most beautiful places in the country. It’s also a spectacular city for families to visit. You’ll see strollers and children everywhere and there are even plenty of kid-friendly hikes just outside the city.
Portland is also an excellent culinary experience, especially for anyone with a dietary restriction. We ended up at vegan restaurants, dairy-free restaurants, and restaurants without any restrictions and they were all delicious. This is a must-visit destination for foodies!
If you love the outdoors, Denver is a great place for a weekend getaway. You can hike, white water raft, ski, climb, etc. all within driving distance of the city. There are activities for all ages of kids from baby to adolescent so there is something for every kid. Denver is also home to tons of museums and nature centers for curious little minds.
If you’re a music lover, Red Rocks Amphitheater is an open-air concert venue formed within a giant rock structure. Coupled with the great vibes of the city’s residents, this is a favorite activity for many visitors.
Being in the Midwest, Chicago falls victim to some pretty brutal winters, making this a better spot to visit in the summer. The city completely transforms once the weather starts to warm up. Patio dining pops up on nearly every street, residents and visitors alike flock to the lake and river, and everyone is ecstatic for the season to change.
If you’re visiting Chicago, the one thing you must do is take an Architectural Boat Tour. Several companies offer tours that take you down the river, sharing much of Chicago’s history and beautiful architecture. My favorite is taking one of the sunset tours that ends on Lake Michigan for sunset views of Chicago’s skyline.
Boston is another city with a rich history and a lively population. The best place to start is by spending a day walking the Freedom Trail and visiting a number of historical landmarks, including Faneuil Hall Marketplace and the Paul Revere House. You have the option to do a guided tour, but you can just as easily navigate using a phone app. And don’t forget to grab a few beers along the way for an extra dose of local culture.
For academics, a visit to Harvard and MIT is always fun and inspiring. If you’re a sports fan, catching a game at Fenway Park is a must. And fashion lovers can do some shopping on Newbury Street. A weekend getaway in Boston has something for everyone!
Austin’s city motto is “Keep Austin Weird” and if that says anything, it says that Austin has a wild and vibrant culture. Like many of my favorite cities, Austin is divided through the center by a river, which provides a nice way to cool down during summer. However, fall and spring are really the ideal times to visit. Zilker Park and Lady Bird Lake are among the most popular things to do in Austin, and for good reason. Getting out on the lake is great way to see the city from a different point of view too.
Also be sure to catch some live music and BBQ while you are in Austin. Kids will love the combo so keep an eye out for restaurants featuring live music. And for something more unique: you can watch the 1.5 million bats that live under Congress Avenue Bridge depart for their nightly activities every day at dusk.
Where is your favorite place for a weekend getaway? Share it in the comments below! Or, if you want more options, check out these great places to go for a Fall trip!