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Summer Road Trips You Can Do in a Weekend

Published:
January 30, 2024
June 20, 2019
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Nothing seems to quench summer wanderlust like mapping out a trip. But whether due to limited vacation time or a limited budget, a week-long escape often isn’t feasible.

Enter the long weekend trip.

Here are the pros: You can pack a lot of sightseeing into a long weekend. You don’t need to pack a lot of gear. Compared to a longer trip, it can save cash. It can save precious vacation time. Best of all, it can save you from your mundane routine.

Cons: You may not want to leave. But hey, that’s the sign of a good vacation!

Head to one of these five destinations for culture, outdoor activities, and (just as important) mild summer climates.

Boston, Massachusetts

The historic capital of Massachusetts, Boston boasts a number of colonial landmarks. You can tour sites like the Old South Meeting House, the Old State House, the Paul Revere House, and Old North Church along the Freedom Trail, a two-and-a-half-mile-long path that stretches from downtown to the North End.

While in the North End, known for its Italian-American population, grab a cannoli or a plate of pasta at one of the neighborhood’s several eateries. Then, duck into St. Leonard Church, a pending Boston Landmark, to admire its muraled apse and ornate ceiling.

Architecture aficionados will appreciate the Victorian brownstones that dot the North End as well as the colonial brick row houses that line the streets of the historic Beacon Hill neighborhood, including the ever-photogenic Acorn Street and Louisburg Square. Head to Charles Street for boutiques and restaurants. Later, stroll through Boston Public Garden, within walking distance of Beacon Hill.

Need to dodge a summer rainstorm? Spend time at the Museum of Fine Art or the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, which both house impressive art collections.

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Mackinac Island, Michigan

Located in Lake Huron, between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas, Mackinac Island has a nostalgic charm thanks to its historic downtown, Victorian houses, horse-drawn carriages, and ban on cars. In fact, the whole island has earned a spot on the roster of National Historic Landmarks.

The island first served as a military outpost for the British during the Revolutionary War and the Americans during the War of 1812. You can tour Fort Mackinac and Fort Holmes for a glimpse into the island’s wartime past, but other historic buildings are also worth seeing. Check out the Grand Hotel and its manicured grounds, Historic Mission Church, and Ste. Anne Catholic Church.

Mackinac Island comes alive in the summer when temperatures rise and tourists trickle in to take advantage of its mild climate. A state park encompasses 80 percent of the island, so outdoor activities take center stage. Think horseback riding, hiking to Arch Rock, kayaking in Haldimand Bay, or biking the park’s eight-mile paved trail that circles the island.

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Newport, Rhode Island

Newport’s reputation for sailing and its former life as a Gilded Age hotspot bring visitors to this Rhode Island town all summer. During the Gilded Age, families like the Vanderbilts, the Astors, and the Morgans built mega-mansions here as summer escapes. Some mansions are still private, but ten mansions offer tours with audio headsets providing context. Salve Regina University contains several mansions, including the opulent Ochre Court. (It’s no wonder Architectural Digest named it one of the 50 most beautiful colleges in America.)

These “summer cottages” take up prime real estate along the popular Cliff Walk. The three-and-a-half mile Cliff Walk begins at Easton's Beach and offers scenic coastal views. Rougher (if not treacherous) terrain replaces pavement the further the trail stretches from the beach, and entrance points become few and far between. However far you’re walking, you can fuel up with a lobster roll at the casual Easton's Beach Snack Bar and a cup of frozen lemonade from Del’s.

You’ll find several other dining options as well as shops on Thames Street and at Bowen's Wharf, located on the other side of Newport. Sailboat cruises depart from the wharf and offer views of Newport’s lighthouses and Castle Hill Inn. You don’t have to be a guest at the inn to snag a lawn chair on its gorgeous grounds, though.

San Francisco, California

Sea lions basking at Fisherman’s Wharf, Lombard Street, the postcard-perfect view of the Painted Ladies from Alamo Square Park — scenes like these make San Francisco one of the most iconic cities in the United States. You can check off a handful of these tourist sites over the course of a long weekend with some time to spare.

Set aside an afternoon for touring North Beach, an old-school neighborhood known for its Italian restaurants and ties to the Beat generation. On Columbus Avenue stands City Lights, an independent bookstore known for publishing Allen Ginsberg's Howl and Other Poems. Down the street, the National Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi honors San Francisco’s patron. The shrine includes a replica of the chapel St. Francis built in his hometown. Further down Columbus Avenue, Saints Peter and Paul Church became known as “the Italian Cathedral of the West” for its Italianate architecture (think imported Carrara marble) and the Italian-Americans who worshiped there.

Go for a hike in the Presidio, a national park where 24 miles of trails wind through eucalyptus groves and over coastal bluffs. Stop at Pacific Overlook for standout views of the Golden Gate. You can also opt to rent a bike and ride along the Presidio Promenade to cross the Golden Gate. On the other side of the famous bridge sits Sausalito, a fishing town with a bohemian vibe. Return to San Francisco on a ferry, bike in tow.

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Santa Fe, New Mexico

Driving into Santa Fe, a landscape of tree-dotted desert and blue-tinted mountains provide a striking welcome to the aesthetic hub of New Mexico. Santa Fe lives up to its reputation for art. Galleries number in the hundreds, clustering around Canyon Road. In addition, the city houses the New Mexico Museum of Art, the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, the Museum of International Folk Art, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, and the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, among others.

Local artists and artisans still sell treasures, including turquoise jewelry, Pueblo pottery, icons of Our Lady of Guadalupe, wood-carved saints, and painted skeleton figurines called catrinas. Much of the art here reflects the Native American, Mexican, and Spanish cultures that influenced Santa Fe over the centuries.

Between 1610 and 1628, Spanish colonists and the Franciscan priests who accompanied them built the San Miguel Chapel, a mission church said to be the oldest in the United States. The current structure dates to 1710. This Spanish-Catholic influence is also evident in the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, which overlooks the Santa Fe Plaza in the heart of downtown.

To dig deeper into the region’s past, head outside the city to the Tsankawi Ruins, part of Bandelier National Monument. Ancestral Pueblo people once hiked the 1.5-mile trail, which snakes around a Mesa, cliff dwellings, and the Ancestral Pueblo village of Tsankawi.

Creators:
Mary Claire Lagroue
Published:
January 30, 2024
June 20, 2019
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