52 Weekend Getaways
Explore the backyard of the American West, which has enough grandeur, excitement, adventure and variety to fill a year’s worth of weekends
If your comfort zone is in the ‘burbs—and the Golden Triangle has sucked you in like the Bermuda Triangle--this article is for you. It’s time to get out of town. From cooking schools to desert hikes to riverboat cruises, we’ve got a getaway for everyone, every weekend of the year. Start packing!
Hit the Slopes
Big Bear: It might not have the street cred of Mammoth or Whistler, but this local mountain’s day-trip proximity, advanced snow-making technology and varied offerings for beginners and snowboarders make it ideal for SoCal snow bunnies. bigbearmountainresorts.com.
North Star at Lake Tahoe: The alpine ski destination straddling the California-Nevada border has a split personality: Party people flock to the casinos and resorts of South Lake Tahoe, while back-country dreamers take refuge on the lake’s tranquil north shore. After a day on the slopes, strap on skates and hit the ice on North Star Resort’s 900-square-foot skating rink in the resort’s $55 million base village, completed last year — one sign of things to come in an upcoming renovation after a takeover by Colorado’s swank Vail Resorts chain. visitinglaketahoe.com.
Sun Valley: There’s more to this 75-year-old Idaho ski destination than Bald Mountain’s legendary 3,400-foot vertical drop. The charming small town has a celebrity-studded past and a thriving restaurant, gallery and performing arts scene. visitsunvalley.com.
Los Angeles: Give Valentine’s Day some old-school Hollywood glamour with a tryst in a classic hotel like the stately Chateau Marmont or newly refurbished Hotel Bel Air (reopening this summer after an extensive renovation). Both are A-list favorites for their sophistication and seclusion. chateaumarmont.com, hotelbelair.com
Vancouver, British Columbia:
A perfect day in this laid-back cultural capital includes a stroll in Olmstead-designed Stanley Park, a sojourn to artsy Granville Island, window-shopping in trendy Yaletown, a meal of superlative sushi or local farm-to-table cuisine — all set against a dramatic mountain backdrop. tourismvancouver.com.
Maui: Take Alaska Airlines’ new direct flight to the Valley Isle and stay in the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, an already-gorgeous resort property that recently underwent a $180 million renovation. Added: private lanais and marble bathrooms to all 463 rooms, Hawaiian native art and furniture throughout, a 17,500-square-foot spa with private garden showers, and a sunset gathering every night for pupu (appetizers) and drinks. gohawaii.com.
Include the Kids
Disneyland Resort: Get a jump on spring-break crowds and celebrate California Adventure’s 10-year anniversary by taking advantage of the $109 two-day Park Hopper pass special, available to Southern California residents through April 14. disneyland.disney.go.com/Disneyland.
Monterey: Kids will love the floor-to-ceiling viewing windows at the world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium, mini-golf and kitschy shops on colorful Cannery Row and saltwater taffy shops and sea lions found at Fisherman’s Wharf. The Victorian Inn on Cannery Row offers family suites with living rooms, sleeper sofas, kitchenettes, in-room fireplaces, complimentary breakfast and an evening wine-and-cheese reception in the Victorian lobby. The best part? The hotel is pet-friendly, so Fido can come along for the ride. seemonterey.com.
Grand Canyon: A quintessential family road trip to this indescribable American landmark will teach your tweens the original meaning of the word “awesome” — especially with a stroll on the SkyWalk, a 70-foot, all-glass platform 400 miles above the Colorado River. arizonaguide.com.
Cascade Loop Scenic Highway
Escape to an Island
Catalina: Celebrate Earth Day in style with a prowl on the island’s 42,000-acre nature preserve, then stroll the seawall and hit the shops in picture-perfect Avalon, a coastal enclave where the primary modes of transportation are bicycles, golf carts and electric “autoettes.” Bonus? April falls before the summer high season, so rooms with a view are a steal.catalina.com.
San Juan Islands: Spend a weekend island-hopping in the pine tree – scented paradise of this outdoorsy archipelago, just a 30-minute seaplane ride from downtown Seattle. visitsanjuans.com.
Vancouver Island, British Columbia: Enjoy high tea in Victoria, the City of Gardens, or head out into the sparsely inhabited wilds of Vancouver Island, home to ancient cedars, mountain fjords, crystalline lakes, snow-capped mountains and 80 resident orca whales. hellobc.com.
Pamper Mom (or Yourself)
Bacara Resort & Spa, Santa Barbara: The only stress at this Spanish-style resort comes from deciding which spa amenity to try first: the eucalyptus steam room? A bamboo eucalyptus body scrub? An open-air massage on a patio overlooking the Pacific? Just bring plenty of plastic to this über-upscale spot that’s hosted celebrities galore. bacararesort.com.
Phoenician Resort, Scottsdale: It may not be paradise, but it’s close. This legendary resort has nine swimming pools, 27 holes of golf, a 22,000-square-foot spa, 11 grand pianos and a 2-acre cactus garden, all nestled against the hourly changing hues of Camelback Mountain. phoenicianresort.com.
Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur: Unplug and unwind at this comfortable, rustic lodge tucked amongst the pines of Big Sur, which offers morning yoga, wood-burning fireplaces in all 39 guestrooms, hot soaking pools perched on ocean cliffs — and no alarm clocks or TVs in sight. postranchinn.com.
Hit the Open Road
Pacific Coast Highway: Roll down your windows, crank up your favorite road tunes, cruise through Malibu with the wind in your hair, and remember why you love living in the Golden State. We recommend taking Highway 1 from Malibu to Santa Barbara for a classic California experience. And dinner at La Super Rica, Julia Child’s favorite Mexican restaurant, makes a classic end to an oh-so-SoCal day.
Grand Teton National Park: The lonely highways and breathtaking vistas of this photogenic national park are only an hour from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and all the more beguiling in the lingering twilight of a midsummer evening. Signal Mountain Road is a classic 1,000-foot climb to a sweeping overview of the Tetons and surrounding valley. Bring binoculars to spot the wildlife in the valley (they like to drink from the alpine lakes).
Cascade Loop Scenic Highway, Washington: This gorgeous 440-mile highway loop starts a half-hour north of Seattle and winds through snow-peaked mountains, quaint towns, glacier-fed lakes and the heart of Washington apple country. cascadeloop.com.
Crystal Cove State Park: A full 17 miles of hiking trails traverse the coastal mountains of this Orange County idyll. After you’ve worked up an appetite, grab a bite at the oceanside Beachcomber restaurant, located in the park’s well-preserved 1930s beach community. crystalcovestatepark.com
Denver: Surprisingly, the Mile-High City clocks more annual hours of sunshine than San Diego does — all the more reason to take advantage of its 200-plus city parks, 850 miles of urban bike trails and close proximity to Rocky Mountain National Park. After a day in the great outdoors, take advantage of Denver’s buzzing new restaurant scene with a focus on local cuisine. We love the bison ribs at upscale BBQ house Big Hoss, and the salumi bar and Italian small plates at Osteria Marco. denver.org.
California’s Gold Country: Whitewater rafting on the American River, hiking and camping in Yosemite, fishing in serene lakes in the Sierra Foothills and other wholesome fresh-air pursuits await in the region that put California on the map. calgold.com.
Work on Your Tan
Huntington Beach: A surfing lesson in Surf City USA makes for a fun afternoon and a great workout. Afterward, reward yourself with a milkshake on the pier at Ruby’s Diner, pay your respects at the International Surfing Museum, or lie on the sand and watch the pro surfers. surfcityusa.com.
Santa Cruz: The internationally renowned surfer haven — home to O’Neill Wetsuits and Santa Cruz Surfboards — also boasts California’s oldest amusement park, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, replete with chasing lights, penny arcades and rides like the 1920s wooden Big Dipper roller coaster. Stay at the oceanside Santa Cruz Dream Inn, with rooms starting at $209 for a classic surfside experience; add-ons include private surfing lessons and bottles of California wine waiting in your room. santacruz.org.
Southern Oregon Coast: Spend your weekend on the People’s Coast, where you’ll find sunny weather, rocky sea cliffs, windswept vistas, Rogue River rapids, 150-foot sand dunes and classic beach towns serving up fish-and-chips, saltwater taffy and local microbrews. Make the fishing town of Newport your home base and spend a night at the Rogue Brewery B&B (“bed & beer”), where rooms come with complimentary bottles of ale. One of Oregon’s most popular breweries is right downstairs. Don’t miss a stop at the original location of Mo’s, an Oregon chowder-house chain that’s become an institution. visittheoregoncoast.com.
Santa Barbara Wine Country
Witness the Harvest
Santa Barbara Wine Country: Harvest season in the Santa Ynez Valley brings more crowds than the premiere of Sideways, but it also brings the tangible excitement of the first grape crush and opportunities to sample the newest vintages. Stop by Gainey’s vineyard, where they have family-friendly grape stomps and a huge patio space with live music every weekend. sbcountywines.com.
Willamette Valley: Sample luscious Pinot Noirs in mountaintop tasting rooms so near the clouds you feel like you’re on top of the world. It’s easy to forget you’re a mere 40-minute drive from Portland. End the day at the newly opened, French chateau-esque King’s Estate winery near Eugene, where the patio restaurant offers a view of the 1,000 organic acres plus wine pairings with Northwest dishes like grilled salmon and local rib-eye steak. willamettewines.com.
Sonoma County: Spend Labor Day weekend in Sonoma for the annual Sonoma Wine Country weekend and Taste of Sonoma proper in the main square, then sample your way north through the tawny hills of Sonoma Valley to Healdsburg, a thriving town at the hub of the Alexander, Russian River and Dry Creek valleys, known for their Cabernet Cauvignons and Zinfandels. sonomacounty.com.
Dry Out in the Desert
Palm Springs: When the desert temperature drops, things heat up in Hollywood’s favorite winter playground, home to mid-century modern architecture, vintage shopping, fabulous fairways, hipster hotels and panoramic views from the iconic aerial tramway. visitpalmsprings.com.
Santa Fe: Long known as a center for artists and high culture (literally — it’s the country’s highest capital at 7,000 feet), this anything-goes desert city offers picturesque adobe buildings, dozens of museums and galleries, turquoise and silver jewelry shopping and first-rate Southwestern cuisine. santafe.org.
Sedona: Even if you’re not into crystal balls and vision quests, it’s hard to deny the rejuvenating aura of the majestic Red Rock Valley. Defer to local custom and commune with nature on a day hike, or find spiritual balance at a local spa. visitsedona.com.
Learn to Cook
Laguna Culinary Arts, Laguna: Sharpen your knife skills, educate your wine palate, and learn to bake the perfect pie crust in time for Thanksgiving at this close-to-home cooking school. lagunaculinaryarts.com.
Kitchen on Fire, Berkeley: Approach the farmers’ market with new confidence after a stint at this mostly organic cooking school in Berkeley’s “Gourmet Ghetto,” known for its Alice Waters – influenced emphasis on quality seasonal ingredients and simple preparations. kitchenonfire.com.
Quillisascut Farm School: This working farm in northeast Washington offers week-long immersion courses for culinary professionals and three-day civilian workshops that teach the art of milking goats, making cheese, harvesting vegetables and making jam and pickles. quillisascut.com.
Ditch Your Relatives
Temecula: Holiday cheer takes over this Old West ranching town every December in the form of a light-bedecked main street, electric light parade, open-air ice rink and festive displays along the road to wine country. temeculacvb.com.
Las Vegas: With seriously decked-out casinos on the Strip, unparalleled shopping options and high-profile holiday shows, Sin City is the place to be if you’re dreaming of a neon Christmas. The Christmas music – – themed Bellagio show will put even the grinchiest in a good mood. And since you’re already there, you might as well hang around for the debauchery of New Year’s Eve. visitlasvegas.com.
Timberline Lodge, Mount Hood: This classic mountain lodge’s warm, Christmasy atmosphere — complete with a 50-foot tree, roaring fireplaces in every room and a traditional holiday dinner made from local ingredients — trumps any misgivings you may have about spending the night in the hotel where The Shining was filmed. timberlinelodge.com.
With such, shall we say, unique themes, you could spend an entire weekend without leaving your room at these funky lodging options.
Marvel at in-room rock waterfall showers, pink everywhere and a level of gaudiness that will stay with you long after you’ve left San Luis Obispo. madonnainn.com.
You’re the head of the class in this hotel/brewpub/movie theater located in a converted northeast Portland elementary school. mcmenamins.com.
The Delta King
Spend a night to remember on a converted 1930s river boat docked in downtown Sacramento. deltaking.com.
Featherbed Railroad B&B
Featherbeds and in-room Jacuzzis are the cargo of these nine historic cabooses-turned-cabins at this Clear Lake B&B. featherbedrailroad.com.
This Oregon “facilitree” offers 18 treehouse cabins, a mile of zipline and plenty more Swiss Family Robinson – style fun. treehouses.com.
6 Chic Campgrounds
San Onofre and San Mateo State Beach and Campground
Aside from offering top-notch views and world-class surfing, this beach and camping area enjoys the distinction of being pictured on our cover. Electricity, water, hot indoor showers and flush toilets are available. parks.ca.gov.
El Capitan Canyon
If you don’t like to rough it, stay just north of Santa Barbara in one of these cedar cabins or safari tents. You can sleep in a willow bed with a down-style duvet. Also available: couples massages, fireside dinners and champagne. Hello, luxury camping! elcapitancanyon.com.
Depending on whether you stay in a lodge room or tent bungalow, amenities may include heated mattress pads, electricity, wi-fi, Bose stereos, gourmet BBQ food, biodegradable cutlery and use of the spa at this Pescadero campground. costanoa.com.
This company sets up luxe camps in various regions. All locations are customized based on your needs (and that includes maid service!). globalexpeditionsinc.com.
This historic district of vintage cottages and a café sits north of Laguna Beach. Popular with horseback riders and scuba divers, the place has free wi-fi and a refined clientele. parks.ca.gov.
Sequoia High Sierra Camp
The chef (yes, camping with a chef still counts as camping!) at this camp cooks with local ingredients and offers several vegan and vegetarian delights. After dinner, rest your pretty head on a feather pillow; in the morning, take a hot shower — they supply shampoo, conditioner and even hairdryers. sequoiahighsierracamp.com.
5 Top Food Festivals
Seattle Cheese Festival, May 14-15
More than 250 local and international cheeses come together on the cobblestone streets of the Pike Place Market. seattlecheesefestival.com.
California Strawberry Festival, May 21-22
Build-your-own shortcake and delicacies like strawberry pizza make this jam-packed Oxnard festival a local favorite. strawberry-fest.org.
Aspen Food & Wine Classic, June 17-19
Mingle with top chefs at this swank annual affair hosted by Food & Wine magazine. foodandwine.com/classic-in-aspen.
Oregon Brewers’ Festival, July 28-31
Sample more than 80 brews from around the country on the banks of the Willamette River in downtown Portland. oregonbrewfest.com.
Gilroy Garlic Festival, July 29-31
Go for the garlic ice cream; stick around to see which local lady is crowned Miss Gilroy Garlic. gilroygarlicfestival.com.