Finding time to take a longer vacation during the fall is tough. There are few national holidays that warrant time off and chances are you already took a few days during the summer for some R&R. But just because fall is setting in and there's little time to relax, it doesn't mean that you don't have time to get away for a weekend. These five quick two-day escapes are all within driving-distance from major cities across the U.S. Plus, we've priced them out for you so all you have to think about is Which weekend am I getting out of Dodge?
From San Francisco...
To Half Moon Bay: Round-trip gas will put you out only about $8, so this trip is definitely economical - plus unlike many parts of California, the 29-mile-long one-way trip will just take you 50 minutes in traffic. When you're in Half Moon Bay, get out and enjoy the breathtaking scenery and the cute little town. Hotels such as the three-star Half Moon Bay Lodge won't break the bank and offer easy access to nearby coastal walks, kayaking, and surfing at the legendary Maverick's (October weekend rates start at $207). Two miles up the coast, the Mill Rose Inn Bed and Breakfast ($230) is set within lush gardens and holds a four AAA Diamond rating.
The total: Two nights at the Half Moon Bay Lodge plus round-trip gas = $421
To Portland, Maine: At just under a three-hour drive from Boston, Portland, Maine is especially appealing if you're short on time. Since the high summer season has settled down, you'll find fewer crowds and better deals - along with great leaf peeping opportunities! The round-trip drive will only put you out around $25, depending on where you fuel up. In Portland, stay at one of the hotels overlooking the port like the Portland Harbor Hotel (October weekend rates start $339) or the Portland Regency Hotel and Spa ($329) or head a bit further into the city for cheaper prices, such as the Holiday Inn by the Bay, which is less than a 15-minute walk from the harbor and offers weekend rates that start at $218. The city is incredibly walkable and everything is easily reached from much of the downtown. Don't miss the Old Port where you'll pass cute boutiques, surprising restaurants, and brew-pubs like Gritty's (Maine's first).
The total: Two nights at the Holiday Inn by the Bay plus round-trip gas = $461
To Traverse City, Michigan: Northern Michigan sees a boom in tourism during the summer because of the great weather and resort options. However, if you're willing to deal with cooler temperatures, (and a four-hour drive) the area is just as beautiful during the fall when you'll be able to go apple picking, horseback riding, and sampling the many wineries (during their harvest season) - all with fewer tourists.
If outdoor adventure is what you're after, the Traverse Bay Inn offers free bicycle rental and is located across the street from Lakeside Park, which has playgrounds, picnic areas, and a variety of recreational areas for fishing, swimming, and basketball (October weekend rates start at $149). The Pointes North Beachfront Inn ($144) offers individually designed rooms located on the shores of East Grand Traverse Bay, with two-person Jacuzzi baths, and private balconies or patios.
The total: Two nights at the Pointes North Beachfront Inn plus $90 in gas for a round-trip = $379
From Los Angeles...
To San Luis Obispo: A trip from the City of Angels to San Luis Obispo will take around three hours each way and cost you about $65 in gas for a round-trip. If you can make it up there this weekend, you can pay a visit to Savor the Central Coast, a long weekend of chef events, food and wine tastings, and entertainment. Otherwise, you can always go wine tasting in Edna Valley, and take advantage of the pleasant fall climate (average highs are a little over 70 °F in late September through October) by hiking through the coastal peaks, coves, and caves of Montana de Oro State Park, 10 miles west of town. If you'd rather stay in town, you can walk or bike to Poly Canyon, located on the north east side of the Cal Poly campus.
The Apple Farm Inn is situated in a quiet garden setting in the center of town and has an on-site restaurant and bakery serving farm-to-table dishes (October weekend rates start $149). The family owned San Luis Creek Lodge ($219) is similarly well situated and offers complimentary breakfast and 25 individually designed guest rooms.
The total: Two nights at the Apple Farm Inn plus round-trip gas costs = $363
To Hilton Head Island, South Carolina: At about four hours driving time each way, and around $70 in gas money, a weekend trip from Atlanta to Hilton Head Island requires a little more commitment. Nevertheless, with fall temperatures in the 70s and 80s, and miles of clean lowcountry beaches, it's well worth the trip. Golfers will also find the courses are quieter, and fishing enthusiasts will find that red fish are spawning and abundant all around Hilton Head.
The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa, which is located within the Port Royal Plantation completed an extensive renovation earlier this year, and has three outdoor swimming pools and private oceanfront cabanas (October weekend rates start at $195 -- a good deal for a four AAA Diamond resort). Also a recently renovated four Diamond resort, the Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island ($179) is set on 11 acres of beachfront, located within the Shipyard Plantation, and has an on-site, full-service spa
The total: One night at the Sonesta Resort plus round-trip gas money = $429
Additional reporting by Amanda Black.