Leave the bright lights of the big city behind this summer with one of these suburban escapes. Located close to popular U.S. destinations like Las Vegas, San Diego, Miami and New York City, these nearby options offer affordable alternatives to staying in major cities where prices are high and tourists are many.
Easily accessible and irresistible, these quiet locales offer their own perks like famous attractions, picturesque landscapes and world class dining – all at a fraction of the price of their neighboring metropolises and with fewer crowds. Heading to the ‘burbs has never been more enticing.
Only a one-hour ferry ride from Boston, Salem, Mass. is most known for the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 and its maritime heritage. Leaving from Long Wharf in Boston, the Salem Ferry travels to Salem Wharf on Blarney Street. The most popular attractions include the House of Seven Gables, the Peabody Essex Museum, and the Salem Witch Museum. The waterfront House of Seven Gables is the oldest surviving 17th-century wooden mansion in New England and the inspiration for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The House of the Seven Gables.” A trip to Salem isn’t complete without a visit to the Salem Witch Museum where exhibits and reenactments examine the Salem Witch Trials.
While Salem makes a great day trip, folks who wish to extend their stay can bunk at one of many New England-style bed and breakfasts. The food is fabulous here too. Across the street from the Peabody Essex Museum is Nat’s at the Hawthorne Hotel. The Sunday jazz brunch includes a three-course prix fixe menu. For something less formal, head to local hangout the Lobster Shanty for lobster rolls. The 30-seat restaurant was featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives.”
Amelia Island, Florida
A 40-minute drive from Jacksonville, Fla., Amelia Island is the perfect island escape in north Florida. With a population of 44,000, Amelia Island is a quiet, laid-back barrier island. The only place in the U.S. that has been under the dominion of eight different flags: Timucuan Indians, European explorers, pirates, bootleggers, Gilded Age millionaires and shrimpers all make up the colorful tapestry of this treasured island. Popular pastimes here include deep sea fishing in the Atlantic Ocean and backwater fishing in lush salt marshes for trophy red drum, black grouper and yellowtail snapper. After a day of fishing and swimming, take a tour of the island on a horse drawn carriage which whisks guests through downtown historic Fernandina Beach.
Indulge at the 1,350-acre Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort, which has 3.5 miles of uncrowded shoreline. The resort boasts an on-site nature center, a greenhouse, an organic garden, more than seven miles of canopied trails and salt marsh and hosts paddle board and kayak tours. After undergoing a recent $85 million enhancement, the resort has modern amenities like an infinity-edge pool, three championship golf courses and a spa.
Located on the southern tip of Nevada, 90 miles from the glittering lights of the Las Vegas Strip, Laughlin is a quieter spot than Las Vegas. More than 2 million visitors annually come here for less crowded casinos like the Golden Nugget Laughlin, Harrah’s Laughlin and Tropicana Laughlin Hotel and Casino. Visitors can also hike the Black Mountains, admire the majesty of the Hoover Dam or fish and swim on the shores of the Colorado River at Big Bend State Recreation Area. There are nine casinos, a motel and two RV parks for settling down for the night. Of course, the settling of world-class casinos here means there are fantastic dining options too, including many buffets and casual restaurants like Guy Fieri’s Mexican restaurant El Burro Borracho. While folks can fly directly into Laughlin via the Laughlin/Bullhead International Airport, there are also many bus and shuttle van options from Las Vegas.
This is one time you might wish for a layover in the Twin Cities. Easily accessible via light rail from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and downtown Minneapolis, the Mall of America is a shopaholic’s dream. It would take 86 hours to shop in each one of the mall’s 520 tax-free shops if savvy shoppers spent just 10 minutes in each. The massive shopping center also includes 50 restaurants and Nickelodeon Universe, which is packed with amusement rides. Since it takes more than a day to see everything at the mall, spend the night at the Radisson Blu Mall of America, which is attached via skyway.
Less than 100 miles from Philadelphia, visit Pennsylvania’s sweet spot, Hershey, Penn. What could be sweeter than a suburban escape to Hershey, Pa., “the sweetest place on Earth,” to learn about the life of Milton Hershey and how chocolate is made? Take a tour and sample chocolate at Hershey’s Chocolate World and learn about the life of Milton Hershey at The Hershey Story. Then, enjoy the thrilling rides at Hersheypark, which includes 70 rides and live entertainment. Of course, you’re afforded sweet dreams at The Hotel Hershey, which features an indoor and outdoor pool, fitness center, sports complex that includes golf courses and a ropes course, a spa and a variety of dining options. The hotel also offers activities like falconry, orienteering and geocaching, paintball, kayaking and fly-fishing. If chocolate isn’t your thing, you can escape to even more suburban Pennsylvania destinations like Lancaster, Harrisburg and Gettysburg.
Cooperstown, New York
Score a home run by retreating to the Catskills to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. The museum’s three floors of exhibits tell the story of America’s pastime, its hall of famers and baseball’s milestones. Nearby, the Brewery Ommegang keeps the town’s tradition of hops production alive. The brewery offers free tours and $5 tastings of its seven Belgian-style beers and seasonal offerings every afternoon year-round. Book a room at the 103-year-old Otesaga Resort Hotel on Lake Otsego, which has two restaurants that create meals using local ingredients. Before you leave, pick your own strawberries and raspberries at Middlefield Orchard to take home and make your own sweet treats.
La Jolla, California
The village of La Jolla, Calif. is a short ride from downtown San Diego, Calif. Take in some of California’s most beautiful beaches nestled in secluded coves and just beyond dramatic cliffs. From expert surfing at Windansea Beach to the calm waters of La Jolla Children’s Pool where seals compete with kids for coveted spots on the beach, there is surf and sand for every kind of traveler. Other outdoor activities include snorkeling and diving at La Jolla Cove, golfing at Torrey Pines Golf Course and hiking at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.
For those who prefer to have fun indoors, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego – La Jolla is here. After a day of fun in the sun, enjoy dinner at one of many exceptional restaurants like George’s at the Cove. Chef Trey Foshes prepares a memorable eight-course tasting menu of modern California cuisine. For an excellent Sunday brunch, head to NINE-TEN for sweet and savory fare like lemon ricotta pancakes, short rib hash, brioche French toast and their famous pastry bar prepared by Chef Jason Knibb and Pastry Chef Rachel King. There are plenty of accommodation options via airbnb should you wish to extend your time to take in all La Jolla, Calif. has to offer.
Located 19 miles from Boston, take the train or a short car ride to Concord, Mass. where you can stay in a 19th-century country inn. The North Bridge Inn’s suites are furnished with antiques and reproductions. It’s a short stroll to the revolutionary battlegrounds at the Old North Bridge, antique shops and the historic homes of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and Louisa May Alcott. Nearby is Walden Pond and the location where the “shot heard round the world” was fired in Minute Man National Historical Park. After a day of sightseeing, treat yourself to a four-course prix fixe dinner menu at Bondir Concord. Chef Jason Bond crafts a daily changing menu of modern American cuisine. Charming touches like fresh wild flowers on the tables, heirloom blue and white china and a space punctuated with antiques add to the experience.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Some 30 miles from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. is an equally sunny and alluring option. Travelers can fly directly to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport or make the short drive up I-95. It’s an ideal spot for travelers who want fun in the sun in South Florida at a fraction of the cost. From tanning on the beach to alfresco window-shopping on Las Olas Boulevard to touring the Everglades via airboat in search of alligators, there is something for everyone. Fort Lauderdale is home to a variety of big name hotels like the family-friendly Fort Lauderdale Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa. Set on 16 acres of private oceanfront, the resort has a 22,000-square-foot spa, dining options like Chef Paula DaSilva’s seafood restaurant 3030 Ocean, a kids club and a tropical lagoon pool.
(Main Image:Amelia Island Tourist Development Council)