How about a drive-to getaway this spring or early summer to a place with outdoor activities and vacation-home rentals or resort-based cottages or cabins? Here are 21 options in seven regions of the continental US.
Stowe, Vermont: In April, a few ski slopes still may be open and Vermont’s legendary maple syrup will be running. Hiking, mountain biking, kayaking and trout fishing begin ramping up in May. There’s also a thriving craft beer and cider scene and historic covered bridges. GoStowe.com has an inventory of vacation rentals.
Eastern Massachusetts: Walkable Boston (BostonUSA.com) is full of historical charm—The Freedom Trail and Irish Heritage Trail, postcard-perfect Back Bay, Beacon Hill and Boston Common. Drive north to Salem, site of the 1692 witch trials (Salem.org), and south to Plymouth (SeePlymouth.com), home to the rock of 1620 Pilgrims fame. Stay at an apartment or house in and around Boston, available on Vrbo.com and Airbnb.com.
Coastal Connecticut and Rhode Island: Explore Norman Bird Sanctuary in Middletown, Rhode Island…historic Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut…the vintage Essex Steam Train and Riverboat in Essex, Connecticut…scenic beaches in Westerly, Rhode Island (SeeWesterly.com)…and Gilded Age mansions (NewportMansions.org) in Newport, Rhode Island. The 3.5-mile Newport Cliff Walk is a must—plus more than one million daffodils bloom in the city in late April and May. Book a cottage at Harborview Landing (HarborviewLanding.com) in centrally located Mystic.
New York’s Adirondacks: The Adirondacks (VisitAdirondacks.com) are home to 3,000 lakes and dozens of waterfalls. Six-million-acre Adirondack State Park offers hiking, biking, birding and kayaking. Step back in time at the Great Camps…golf in Lake George (VisitLakeGeorge.com)…or hike the Saranac Lake 6ers (SaranancLake.com). Splurge on an Adirondack cabin at Lake Placid Lodge (LakePlacidLodge.com)…or rent a private cabin on Vrbo.com.
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia: This historic town makes a great base for a day trip to Washington, DC, while you vacation amid nature. Local attractions include Harpers Ferry National Historical Park (nps.gov/hafe)—home to John Brown’s Fort and The Point, where the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers and three states meet. Go river rafting, hike the Appalachian Trail (AppalachianTrail.org) and enjoy a wine-tasting in Virginia’s Loudoun County (VisitLoudoun.org). Check Airbnb.com for historic home, cabin or farmhouse rentals.
Cape May, New Jersey: With its delightful Victorian architecture, circa-1859 lighthouse and two-mile oceanfront promenade, Cape May (CapeMay.com) has charm to spare. Billed as “America’s Original Seaside Resort,” there’s the World War II Lookout Tower, fishing excursions, biking, kayaking, wine-tasting and ghost tours. Stay at Cape Resort’s Virginia Cottages (CapeResorts.com/cottages), five atmospheric Victorian homes right in town.
Charleston to Savannah: Just 108 miles separate Charleston (CharlestonCVB.com) and Savannah (VisitSavannah.com), where historic homes and gardens plus savory Lowcountry cuisine combine to create a springtime road trip that’s a feast for the senses. Stroll amid the colorful mansions of The Battery in Charleston…explore Savannah’s 22 moss-draped squares…visit Civil War sites at Fort Sumter and the Secessionville Historic District…and tarry for a while in Beaufort (BeaufortSC.org), Kiawah Island (KiawahIsland.org) or Tybee Island (VisitTybee.com). Airbnb.com has beach-home rentals along the coast.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Spring means rushing waterfalls, wildflower meadows and sightings of deer, elk and even black bear. The park (nps.gov/grsm) is located in Tennessee and North Carolina. Activities include fishing, hiking and kayaking. The park’s Tennessee gateway in lively Gatlinburg (Gatlinburg.com) offers zip lining, mini golf and a 2.1-mile scenic cable car. Book a cabin managed by CabinsOfTheSmokyMountains.com.
Natchez, Mississippi: Beat the heat with a springtime visit to Natchez (VisitNatchez.org), boasting 1,000+ structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition to grand homes, the city has five walking trails, multiple Civil War sites, Natchez Trace State Park (TNStateParks.com) for scenic hikes and Natchez City Cemetery, known for its quirky tombstones. Sleep amid history in a home or cottage booked via Airbnb.com or Vrbo.com.
Northern Michigan: Hop a ferry (after May 1) to travel back in time by horse-drawn carriage or explore by bike on car-free Mackinac Island, home to the circa-1887 Grand Hotel and 18th-century Fort Mackinac. Discover nearby towns such as Petoskey (PetoskeyArea.com), Charlevoix (www.VisitCharlevoix.com) and Traverse City (Traverse
City.com) to enjoy boating, birding and golf. MackinacIsland.org lists rentals, or stay at Boyne Mountain (BoyneMountain.com).
Western Pennsylvania: Laurel Highlands (GoLaurelHighlands.com) is ideal for sightseeing. Visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob…pay your respects at the Flight 93 Memorial (nps.gov/flni)…and get visually swept away by the rapids of the Youghiogheny River in Ohiopyle (Ohiopyle.org). Day-trip to Pittsburgh’s Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Refuel at a craft brewery (DiscoverTheBurgh.com). Search Laurel Highlands
vacation-home rentals on Vrbo.com.
Northwest Arkansas and the Ozark Mountains: There’s plenty to explore amid the lakes, rivers and woods of the Ozark Mountains in Northwest Arkansas (Northwest
Arkansas.org). The region is home to several state parks (ArkansasStateParks.com) and Ozark–St. Francis National Forests (fs.usda.gov/osfnf) and hundreds of miles of hiking trails. Search for cabins on Airbnb.com, or book at The Woods Cabins (TheWoodsCabins.com).
Southwest Colorado: Tour the more than 700-year-old Pueblo cave dwellings at Mesa Verde (nps.gov/meve)…ride the historic Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad…visit the prehistoric Black Canyon (www.nps.gov/blca). Telluride Resort (TellurideResort Lodging.com) makes a terrific base and has a large inventory of condo and vacation-home rentals.
Whitefish, Montana: This gateway to Glacier National Park (nps.gov/glac) is known for its surreal blue glacial lakes, scenic drives and 700 miles of walking/hiking trails. By late May, activities such as biking, fishing, boating, hot-air ballooning and wildlife spotting resume, although hiking trails at this elevation don’t melt out until July. Whitefish (ExploreWhitefish.com) has a wide selection of rentals offering easy access to the national park.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming: Visit two national parks—Yellowstone (nps.gov/yell) with its geysers and Grand Teton (nps.gov/grte) with its majestic peaks. Enjoy spring skiing, hiking, mountain biking and zip lining as you explore the mountain (VisitJacksonHole.com). Wildlife safaris, horseback riding and hiking amid wildflowers are popular in spring and summer. Consider booking a cabin at Rustic Inn Creekside Resort & Spa (RusticInnAtJH.com).
Sedona, Arizona: The views are heavenly in Sedona, where spring temperatures are ideal for hiking, biking, golfing, fishing and four-wheeling amid the spectacular red rock formations and pine forests. This recreation mecca and artist colony is 90 minutes north of Phoenix and two hours from the Grand Canyon (nps.gov/grca). VisitSedona.com lists a variety of cabin and vacation-home rentals.
Santa Fe to Taos, New Mexico: Located 90 minutes apart, enjoy southwestern architecture, eclectic galleries and flavorful cuisine as well as hiking, fly-fishing, rafting, horseback riding, llama trekking and crossing the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, set 650 feet above the river. Check SantaFe.org for rentable casitas and haciendas, or book an adobe casita at Casa Gallina (Casa Gallina.net) in Taos (Taos.org).
Utah: Home to the “Mighty 5” national parks—Zion, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Arches and Capitol Reef—this region is famous for its sculptural rock formations and slot canyons. Scenic drives abound, and star-gazing is excellent. Try “glamping” at Under Canvas (UnderCanvas.com) in Moab and Zion (VisitUtah.com).
California’s Central Coast to Yosemite: Take a 250-mile road trip that starts in the Pacific coast towns of Morro Bay (MorroBay.org) and Cambria (VisitCambriaCA.com) with beach walks and seal spotting. Next, wine-tasting in Paso Robles (Travel Paso.com), and finish by hiking or picnicking amid the grandeur of Yosemite National Park (nps.gov/yose). Check Airbnb.com and Vrbo.com for rentals in all three areas.
Willamette Valley, Oregon: The verdant Willamette Valley (Oregon WineCountry.org) is the perfect spot to enjoy wine-tasting on airy outdoor patios, dine on regional farm-to-table cuisine, explore food trails, pedal through picturesque farmland, go hot-air ballooning and hike to cascading waterfalls. Check vacation-home rental options at WillametteWines.com.
San Juan Islands, Washington: Venture offshore with a car-ferry crossing to this trio of islands—San Juan, Orcas and Lopez—to whale watch, bird-watch, hike, bike and kayak. Local farms, craft breweries and wineries add an artisanal culinary element. Check VisitSanJuans.com for vacation-home options.