It's hard not to love summer. With some of the longest days of the year, temperatures warm enough to spend all day outside, and the laid-back vibe that comes along with the season, it's no wonder kids and adults alike count late June through early September as their favorite time of year. Seven-day summer vacations are classic, but we contend that a long weekend away can be just as satisfying. For some, that means jetting to an exotic local (we like Portugal’s Azores Islands); others opt for fast-paced city scenes (we chose Chicago, for its urban beach and robust festival schedule); and still others retreat to peaceful mountain resorts (Jackson Hole is our top pick). Whatever your ideal vacation, we’ve rounded up 10 places that are just a quick flight from many U.S. cities, and we’ve even included information on how to get there. After all, everything about this season should be easy – including your quick summer getaways.
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For dramatic scenery and Portuguese flair, skip the long flight to Lisbon and head to the Azores islands off the coast instead. This archipelago of nine volcanic islands is ripe for relaxation, but São Miguel – the largest and most populated atoll – is the easiest of the lot to visit for a summer getaway, given the closest flights from the U.S. (via Boston) land here. Nicknamed the Green Island, São Miguel's glistening lakes and lush mountainsides are just as enticing as its sandy beaches, so you can spend your days exploring – there’s hiking, diving, whale-watching, sailing, and swimming with dolphins to keep you busy – or simply lazing away on Atlantic shores. When evening falls, head to Ponta Delgada, the island’s most cosmopolitan town, where turn-of-the-century architecture, cobblestone streets, restaurants, and bars await.
How to Get There: Fly direct to São Miguel (PDL) from Boston (Azores Express; about 5 hours).
If you think Bermuda is an island in the Caribbean – a common misconception – you’ve probably been overlooking it as a summer getaway destination. Look again, as this Atlantic isle's location – on par with Savannah, Georgia – means its weather is ideal from June to September (not January to March). Pink-sand beaches and warm waters beckon, but there’s also plenty to do off the sand on this British-flavored island. Pick from great duty-free shopping or lush golf courses, and keep an eye out for postcard-perfect pastel-hued houses, swaying palmettos, and men in Bermuda shorts. And though the island is known for being ultra-luxe, don’t worry about going broke – there are plenty of places to bunk down without breaking the bank.
How to Get There: Fly direct to Bermuda (BDA) from Atlanta (Delta; 3 hours), Boston (Delta, JetBlue; 3 hours), Charlotte (US Airways; 2.5 hours), Miami (American; 2.5 hours), New York (American, Continental, Delta, JetBlue; 2.5 hours), Philadelphia (US Airways; 2.5 hours), and Washington, D.C. (US Airways; 2.5 hours).
Bucks County, Pennsylvania
If antique shops, covered bridges, and historic B&Bs are your idea of a charming way to spend a quick summer getaway, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, is tailor-made for you. Throw in some truly divine restaurants, abundant outdoor activities, and a winery or two, and you’ve got a getaway almost anyone can enjoy. If you’ve got the kids in tow, head to Sesame Place (www.sesameplace.com) in Langhorne or take them tubing on the Delaware River; be sure to grab a bite at the River Hot Dog Man (www.riverhotdogman.com) for a memorable lunch at an in-the-water picnic table. For more adult fun, discover the art galleries, specialty stores, and upscale restaurants of New Hope, or take a bike or driving tour of the county’s many covered bridges – a sure way to inspire romance.
How to Get There: Bucks County is less than a 1-hour drive from Philadelphia, 2.5 hours from Baltimore, and 1.5 hours from New York. If you’re not coming by car, fly to Philadelphia (PHL) from dozens of cities across the U.S.
Cape Breton Island, Canada
Nova Scotia's northernmost landmass of Cape Breton Island brims with rustic scenery, history, and abundant wildlife. And with summer comes the perfect weather to enjoy all the adventure and beauty for which this colorful, cultural bit of the Maritimes is known. You can camp out in Cape Breton Highlands National Park (www.pc.gc.ca) after hiking one of its more than two dozen trails; drive along the famed 185-mile Cabot Trail; stop at Ingonish Beach for a swim in the Atlantic; charter a boat for up-close-and-personal views of whales and Atlantic Puffins; and get in touch with the area’s Gaelic roots by trekking along the Ceilidh Trail (pronounced kay-lee). However you choose to spend your quick summer getaway in Cape Breton, you'll feel miles away from the day-to-day back home.
How to Get There: Book a flight into Halifax International Airport (YHZ) with a connecting flight to Cape Breton's Sydney Airport (YQY): fly to Halifax from Boston (Air Canada; 1.5 hours), Chicago (United; 3 hours), Detroit (Delta; 3 hours), New York (American, Continental, Delta; 2 hours), and Washington, D.C. (United: 2.5 hours); the connecting flight to Sydney on Air Canada's affiliate, Air Canada Jazz is just 60 minutes.
Chicago’s our kind of town all year long, but the city really comes into its own in the summer months, when visitors and residents alike shed their jackets and their inhibitions to enjoy the city's finest season. Besides the legendary jazz and blues clubs, 7,000-plus restaurants, and world-class museums, a summer getaway here likely means enjoying Chicago dogs at Wrigley Field (cubs.mlb.com) – or, if you’re a White Sox fan, at U.S. Cellular Field (whitesox.mlb.com) – sunning yourself on man-made Oak Street Beach (www.chicagoparkdistrict.com), taking in concerts in Highland Park during the Ravinia Festival (June 9 through September 11, 2011; www.ravinia.org), and getting your groove on at SummerDance in Grant Park (July 7 through September 18, 2011; www.explorechicago.com). The Windy City may not cool you off (as its moniker suggests) in July or August, but it sure will keep you entertained!
How to Get There: Chicago's O'Hare International Airport (ORD) and Midway Airport (MDW) handle non-stop flights from numerous U.S. cities; flights average about 3 hours from East Coast cities and 4 hours from West Coast locales.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Located at the doorstep of Grand Teton (www.nps.gov/grte) and Yellowstone National Parks (www.nps.gov/yell), Jackson Hole is better known for its proximity to wide-open spaces than for its gallery spaces – but this Wyoming resort town’s chic Wild West reputation is getting a major boost from its multidisciplinary Center for the Arts (www.jhcenterforthearts.org), and a 500-seat performing arts center that opened in 2007. Not that you can’t still dust off your chaps and saddle up here during a summer getaway, either at the celebrated Million Dollar Cowboy Bar (the barstools are made from saddles; www.milliondollarcowboybar.com) or by horseback riding with a local outfitter, with a backdrop of the Teton Range. Yeehaw!
How to Get There: Fly direct to Jackson Hole Airport (JAC) from Chicago (United; 3 hours), Dallas/Ft. Worth (American; 2.5 hours), Denver (United, Frontier; 1.5 hours), Minneapolis (Delta; 2.5 hours), and Salt Lake City (Delta; 1 hour). Set at the base of the Grand Teton Mountains, the airport is only 10 minutes from town.
It may be the 49th state, but Alaska’s natural scenery, awesome outdoor adventures, and rich cultural heritage are second to none. Juneau, the state’s capital, is a metropolitan hub with a small-town feel: a quirky place where politicians hobnob with fishermen, and colorful Victorian houses speckle the streets. But if you’ve come to Juneau in search of the great outdoors, it’s always close at hand. An early summer getaway, when there is some 18 hours of daylight, is well-timed to explore the temperate rain forest, towering mountain peaks, glistening glaciers, and beaches teeming with marine life. Can’t get enough? Just 60 miles away is striking Glacier Bay National Park (www.nps.gov/glba), one of Alaska’s premier spots for whale-watching and glacier viewing.
How to Get There: Non-stop flights to Juneau (JNU) from the continental United States are exclusively available from Seattle (Alaska; 2.5-hours); factor in additional flight time to Seattle from all other cities.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is enchanting all year long, but this quaint southern Ontario waterfront locale really ripens for a summer getaway, when abundant wineries open for tastings and tours, premier theater troupes take to the stage during the much-anticipated Shaw Festival (April 1 through October 31 in 2011; www.shawfest.com), and the annual Niagara Peach Festival comes to town (in August). Outdoor enthusiasts delight in mild temperatures – perfect for boating, fishing, and swimming – while history buffs relish touring Fort George, a restored late 1700s redoubt complete with costumed guides. Plus, it's all within easy reach of thundering Niagara Falls.
How to Get There: Fly direct to Toronto (YYZ) from more than 40 U.S. cities; Niagara-on-the-Lake is 1.5 hours by car from the airport. You can also drive from Buffalo, New York (1 hour). Niagara Falls is just 20 minutes away.
On the run from summer’s triple threat of smog, traffic, and 100-degree heat, Angelenos have long escaped to southern California's idyllic Ojai Valley for its cool collection of New Age spirituality centers and luxe spa facilities (highlighted by the famed 31,000-square-foot spa village at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa; www.ojairesort.com). Factor in sparkling white Spanish architecture, fragrant citrus groves, and a heavenly Mediterranean climate (the ocean is only 20 minutes away) and you have the perfect recipe for a relaxing and rejuvenating summer getaway. Don't miss out on the soothing classical music of the Ojai Music Festival (www.ojaifestival.org), held every June, or groove to the series of folk, roots, and celtic live music performers brought to Ojai on select dates year-round, courtesy of the Ojai Concert Series (www.ojaiconcertseries.com).
How to Get There: Fly direct to Los Angeles (LAX) from major cities across the U.S.; it's an 80-mile drive from LA to Ojai.
If you’re always saying that there just aren’t enough hours in the day, head to Iceland for a summer getaway, when the sun shines at midnight – you'll have no excuse but to get out and explore Reykjavik and its unique natural surroundings. Once you've arrived in this Nordic capital, spend the weekend discovering hot springs, spouting geysers, waterfalls, mountains, and glaciers – plan on teeing off at midnight and taking a dip in the fabled Blue Lagoon (www.bluelagoon.com). If you’re more of a city-slicker than nature-lover, Reykjavik itself is equally dynamic, with cultural institutions that showcase the island’s Viking culture and a legendary nightlife scene rife with trendy pubs and clubs.
How to Get There: Direct flights to Reykjavik, Iceland (REK) are available on Icelandair from Boston (5 hours), New York (5.5 hours), and Minneapolis (7 hours).