With a hectic work schedule and an even crazier one at home, it can prove nearly impossible trying to fit an extended vacation into your life sometimes. But rather than fret over the lack of lounge time, embrace the fact that great trips can be had over two- or three-day spans this winter. Our crew put together fun mini getaways in five cities most people can get to with relative ease. Take that, 60-hour workweek.
With Dixie charm and a coastal vibe, Charleston, S.C., is great for a quick getaway. In just a few days, you can get a good dose of history and Southern hospitality, and still have plenty of time left over to take a stroll on the sandy shores.
Do This: History buffs will want to explore The Battery to see some of the city’s oldest antebellum homes and gardens, or board the ferry to Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. But no matter your interests, you can’t visit Charleston without heading to the beach — check out Folly Beach, a quick 20 minutes from downtown.
Eat Here: James Beard Award-winning chef Sean Brock is at the helm at Husk, one of Charleston’s most revered restaurants. The menu changes daily and specializes in cuisines using only Southern-sourced ingredients. Check out the big chalkboard as you walk in for the menu of the day and don’t pass up the “Kentuckyaki” pig ear lettuce wraps — the smoky dish is a mainstay on the seasonal dinner menu.
Stay Here: Historical properties abound in Charleston, and a stay in Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Charleston Place will put you right in the heart of its Historic District. The hotel is also located near many of the Southern city’s attractions, including College of Charleston and top-notch shopping on King Street.
While the summer heat can be a bear to endure, it doesn’t stop this Texas city from offering plenty to do, even if it’s just a weekend jaunt.
Do This: To start, head to The Museum District, where you’ll have access to 18 museums and purchasing a CityPass affords entrance into five museums for the price of one. Plus, the Houston Zoo is within a 1.5-mile radius and features an area where you can hand-feed Masai giraffes.
Eat Here: When you think of dining out in Houston, you probably think steakhouses — this is cattle country, after all. But the city’s up-and-coming dining scene offers more than just beef. Snag a seat at Uchi, where executive chef and owner Tyson Cole serves globally sourced seafood and local ingredients in dishes such as hamachi nabe (baby yellow tail, koshihikari rice, farm egg and soy broth) and rolls like spicy crunchy tuna (big-eye tuna, avocado, jalapeño and cucumber). Top off your evening with craft cocktails made with housemade ingredients at Anvil Bar & Refuge in the eclectic Montrose neighborhood.
Stay Here: The St. Regis Houston offers posh accommodations in the River Oaks community just west of downtown. Guest rooms at the Four-Star hotel feature modern furnishings and floor-to-ceiling windows, plus Remède products in the bathrooms. Book the Astor St. Regis Suite for more residential-style quarters, including a master bedroom with a Jacuzzi and views of the city skyline or Memorial Park.
Planning a quick weekend in the Big Apple can seem a bit daunting, especially if you’re not familiar with the city. But there’s no denying the incredible culture, shopping and entertainment make for a fun-filled few days. Plan ahead and you can usually find great fares from most major cities.
Do This: You could visit New York every weekend and never run out of things to do — including attending Broadway shows like Soul Doctor: Journey of a Rock-Star Rabbi, which premiered on August 15 at Circle in the Square Theatre, as well as Romeo and Juliet, starring Orlando Bloom, which opens on September 19 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. New York’s also home to some of the world’s best museums, so you can head indoors for a reprieve from the heat while you peruse the top-notch art exhibitions. Spot the works of Edward Hopper at Georgia O’Keeffe at the Modern Museum of Art’s new American Modern exhibit or view Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective at The Metropolitan Museum of Art through September 22. If the weather allows, stroll through Central Park or along the High Line in the Meatpacking District.
Eat Here: In a world-class food city like New York, there’s a wealth of dining options to consider. If you’re in the East Village and want something casual, stop for some delicious dumplings at Vanessa’s Dumpling House. The chives and pork dumplings are a must-try; just be prepared to wait because this place is always packed. If you’re looking for an unforgettable New York City dining experience, book reservations at Five-Star Le Bernardin or Four-Star Bouley. Both restaurants feature lavish French cuisine prepared by two of the country’s best chefs, Eric Ripert and David Bouley, respectively.
Stay Here: It’s hard to say which New York City hotel is tops when there are so many luxury properties at your disposal. But for the best views of Manhattan, check in to the Five-Star Mandarin Oriental, New York. The hotel occupies floors 38 through 54 of the Time Warner Center — a destination on its own — and its sleek and modern rooms sport floor-to-ceiling windows that look out over Central Park, the Hudson River and Columbus Circle.
There’s nothing more fun than a debaucherous Sin City weekend. The weather is warm, the casinos are hopping and the nightlife never stops. It’s just a quick flight from the West Coast, and thanks to the time change and Vegas’ open-all-hours nature, you can leave the East Coast on Friday evening and still have plenty of time to party when you arrive.
Do This: Whether you’re playing the slots, people-watching on the Strip, shopping at Fashion Show Mall or Crystals at CityCenter, or hitting up a club like Surrender at Encore, you’re going to have a memorable time. Vegas first-timers should experience the Four-Star Bellagio’s nightly water show, which features fountains that shoot water choreographed to music and lights, and see one of Cirque du Soleil’s performances, including the newest, Zarkana, at Four-Star ARIA Resort & Casino.
Eat Here: Forgo the all-you-can-eat buffets and dine at one of Sin City’s top restaurants. Renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten has two steakhouses here — Jean Georges Steakhouse at ARIA and Prime Steakhouse at Bellagio. For the most upscale dining experiences, try one of the two Five-Star dining spots in town: famed chef Joël Robuchon’s eponymous restaurant at MGM Grand and Twist by Pierre Gagnaire at the Five-Star Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas.
Stay Here: Check in to Vegas’s newest hotel — Nobu Hotel at Caesars Palace. It’s the first from restaurateur-chef Nobu Matsuhisa. The modern rooms have Eastern influences, with calligraphy above the beds and the artwork from up-and-coming Japanese artists. The boutique hotel also has the world’s largest Nobu sushi restaurant and overnight guests get priority dinner reservations.
Miles of coastline plus the average high temperature of 77 degrees in August make San Diego a dream weekend destination. And with legendary attractions like the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park and surfing and snorkeling, this Southern California city is an outdoor-lover’s paradise.
Do This: You have to head down to the sands of San Diego — there are 70 miles’ worth of shoreline where you can watch surfers catching waves (Black’s Beach), rent a bike (Pacific Beach) or relax with a cocktail while gazing at the water (Coronado). Take a 20-minute drive to La Jolla for high-end shopping. And no trip here would be complete without a visit to the more than 3,700 animals that call the San Diego Zoo home.
Eat Here: Addison is one of just two Five-Star restaurants in Southern California, so you should book dinner here. Chef William Bradley uses regional ingredients and contemporary French cooking to create his popular tasting menus. For something less formal, make your way to Top Chef alum and San Diego native son Brian Malarkey’s new La Jolla spot, Herringbone. It’s an indoor-outdoor-type space where you can enjoy fresh oysters and fun cocktails like Tokyo Love Hotel (housemade sweet tea vodka, agave and pressed lemon) at tables underneath leafy olive trees. Also in La Jolla, The Grand Del Mar opened its second outpost of its Mediterranean-influenced American restaurant Amaya this past spring.
Stay Here: If you want to be in the thick of the city, book a room at the Four-Star US Grant Hotel, which is right in the Gaslamp Quarter. For more of a resort getaway, try Five-Star The Grand Del Mar. With four pools and a Tom Fazio-designed golf course, plus activities like tennis, horseback riding (check out the newly expanded equestrian center), hiking and the Five-Star Spa at The Grand Del Mar, you might never have to leave the property.
Photos Courtesy of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc, Le Bernadin and The Grand Del Mar