Off-the-Radar Weekend Getaways for a Summer Adventure
When it comes to booking summer vacations, we're always on the hunt for the places less traveled. Jostling for a spot on the sand or negotiating for a dinner reservation is decidedly not in the cards when the goal is rest and relaxation. (And isn't the goal always rest and relaxation?) With that in mind, we've rounded up a few places that are well worth a visit but haven't yet entered the ranks of the most crowded destinations for summer vacations. Short getaways are always a welcome addition to the calendar, and we're packing our bags for a trip to one or two of these laid-back, low-key spots because they have plenty of restaurants, outdoor adventures, and family fun to keep us busy until Monday arrives again.
This central Louisiana gem is located on the south bank of the Red River. It's home to a fun downtown as well as the Kisatchie National Forest. Nearby forests, bayous, and lakes have outdoor adventure aplenty. Because of the abundance of natural beauty, boat tours, hiking, biking, and fishing are popular area activities.
Assateague Island, Maryland
Located on this barrier island is Assateague Island National Seashore and Assateague State Park, which has two miles of beaches and great spots for canoeing and kayaking. The southern part of the island is in Virginia; that's where you'll find Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, which is famous for its wild horses.
Bluffton, South Carolina
Located inland from Hilton Head Island, Bluffton is a cool small-town getaway. That's partly because it's filled with local shops and restaurants like La Petite Gallerie, Farmers Market of Bluffton, and Pluff Mudd Art. There's also historic architecture in Old Town and lots of outdoor fun to be had along the May riverfront and in nearby state parks.
As the gateway to Georgia's barrier islands, the coastal town of Brunswick is a destination in its own right. Its Victorian-era Old Town Historic District has incredible architecture, and there's a centuries-old oak tree called the Lover's Oak, which is a must-see. Nearby Sea Island, St Simons Island, and Jekyll Island are fun day trips with beaches, shops, and restaurants that ensure there's no end to the fun to be had on the Georgia coast.
This Tampa Bay city is a beach destination just waiting for you to visit. It's close to Tampa and St. Petersburg, but it has plenty of its own attractions to keep visitors occupied on a weekend getaway. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Sand Key Park are located right on the water, as is nearby Caladesi Island, where travelers can kayak and take walks on the beach.
Nestled in the North Georgia mountains, Hiawassee is a great mountain town bordering Lake Chatuge, an ideal spot for water adventures like boating, canoeing and kayaking. Beaches and campgrounds—as well as plenty of places to pull up a chair and grab a good meal—abound in and around Hiawassee.
This Appalachian Mountain town is located west of Johnson City and has a great central thoroughfare. Known as the "Oldest Town in Tennessee," its downtown can be found along Old Tennessee Street, where you'll find lots of shops, restaurants, and boutiques. The small town is home to an annual National Storytelling Festival and has easy access to the mountains and nearby Cherokee National Forest.
Lexington, North Carolina
Found in North Carolina's Piedmont region, this welcoming small town is barbecue central. It calls itself "The Barbeque Capital of the World," and you can find the good stuff here in the town's—count 'em—15 barbecue restaurants. Its Main Street has a historic family grocery and other great shops, and the surrounding area has lots of wineries to explore.
This tiny town in Alabama is located on Lookout Mountain and is a great destination for a low-key getaway. Every visit to Mentone starts at the much-loved The Wildflower Café and Country Store, which is a welcoming spot for a meal. Desoto Falls, Brow Park, and nearby waterfalls keep visitors busy with sightseeing and outdoor adventure.
This city on the Mississippi River is a great weekend getaway and a destination for delicious food and plenty of fun on the river. When you get need sustenance, head to Steampunk Coffee Roasters, The Donut Shop, Natchez Brewing Company, or Smoot's Grocery to refuel. The arts also thrive here, and galleries invite visitors in to see what local makers have dreamed up.