As a young professional working on the East Coast, I’m always looking for ways to escape the office for a bit and avoid burnout at work. Sometimes, a relaxing weekend escape is all it takes to rejuvenate the body and the mind. To help all of you other full-time professionals working in eastern cities like New York, Philadelphia, Boston, DC, or Atlanta, I compiled this list of my most beloved weekend getaways on the East Coast. Do yourself a favor and plan one ASAP!
Weekend Getaways on the East Coast
1. Savannah, Georgia
The first time I went to Savannah, Georgia, I was so surprised by the moss in the trees. I’d never seen anything like it – the spooky way these gray strands hung from the branches in the live oak trees, especially when shrouded in the fog of the morning.
Of course, there’s a lot more to Savannah than moss. This city is one of the most historic cities in the US, and also supposedly one of the most haunted. Here, there’s no shortage of charming bed and breakfasts, cute shops and market stalls by the riverfront, or street musicians. Spend a weekend walking through some of the old homes in the city, taking a ghost tour, or simply sipping on a coffee and people-watching by the river.
2. Asheville, North Carolina
With its charming streets surrounded by gorgeous mountains, Asheville is quite possibly the perfect place for a weekend getaway on the East Coast. I spent two blissful days in the Asheville area, and I found it to be quite an unusual oasis that’s otherwise in the middle of nowhere. With its perfect vantage point in the mountains, we enjoyed some beautiful hikes and drives on the Blue Ridge Parkway. In the evenings, we sipped on local cocktail specialties and ate AMAZING farm-to-table foods (or delicious North Carolina style BBQ!).
I loved Asheville so much I decided to plan a trip there again this summer, to hang out in the city’s awesome open-air venues and do a bit more hiking in more balmy temperatures. I can’t be sure, but I’m willing to bet Asheville will be even more amazing in the warm East Coast weather.
3. Shenandoah National Park
Just a few hours from Washington, DC lies Shenandoah National Park, a beautiful mountainous expanse in western Virginia. Whenever I’m feeling stressed and want to disconnect for a while, I pack my backpack and head here. The Appalachian Trail passes right through the park, with miles of hiking trails that are accessible to anyone passing by. Within the park, and directly outside of it, there are camping areas, lodges, and parking areas for camper vans – perfect for a weekend in the wild, without having to drive too far from civilization.
If hiking and camping doesn’t strike your fancy, you can enjoy the picturesque drive through the park on the famous Skyline Drive. There are scenic viewpoints every few miles where road trippers can watch the sunset or have a picnic.
4. Annapolis, Maryland
As a laid-back city that’s very much the opposite of Washington, DC, I find myself wanting to stroll through the colored homes and brick sidewalks of Annapolis quite often. Some weekends, I’ll drive out there simply to catch a whiff of the sea air and drink a coffee. The bottom line? Annapolis is a true gem that’s accessible from most of the major cities in the northern East Coast.
In Annapolis, you can sip on seafood soup, or try on some handmade shoes. Peruse an art shop, or stroll through the colored neighborhoods by the waterfront. Get your camera ready, folks – Annapolis is truly a picturesque weekend getaway.
5. Portland, Maine
Many people rave about the Portland of the west, but the Portland of the east is equally as wonderful. On a weekend in Portland, you can drive around the coast to see some of the amazing historic lighthouses, or same lobster dishes and craft beer in the city (a Maine specialty). Additionally, the farmer’s market in Portland is one of the most well-known in the East Coast, and happens year-round.
6. Stowe, Vermont
Stowe, Vermont might be one of the only places on our list that’s actually most wonderful to visit in the fall or winter. September and October bring gorgeous fall colors – reds, oranges, and yellows – to the surrounded forests and hilles, while the winter brings skiiers from around the country to hit the slopes in Stowe. Verdant forests and outdoor activities like hiking greet tourists in the spring and summer. If you’re looking for a truly varied year-round destination, Stowe is the perfect place for you.
For a closer look, read what Amy of Two Drifters has to say about Stowe, Vermont as a perfect romantic weekend getaway!
7. Saint Simons Island, Georgia
Saint Simons is a small island off the coast of Georgia, where many local people have summer homes. It’s quiet – the perfect place for a weekend respite – and home to miles of beaches and historic sites like Fort Frederica and the lighthouse. Perhaps the most unique thing about Saint Simons island is its lovely driftwood beach. Spanning for miles, this beach is full of warped driftwood pieces, some the size of entire trees. It’s such a unique and romantic place to walk around and snap a few photos.
8. Harper’s Ferry and New River Gorge, West Virginia
West Virginia is often known for its historic coal mining operations and its rock climbing, but there are also some amazing hiking and skiing opportunities, too. Within West Virginia, Harper’s Ferry (a national historic park) is a cute little town to visit, marked by brick houses and sweeping industrial bridges. The nearby New River Gorge shouldn’t be missed either, a magnificent structure built atop a staggering valley. If you’re looking for mountains and woods, West Virginia is an easy and accessible weekend trip.
For more tips on things to do in Harper’s Ferry, head to the NPS website.
9. Cape Cod, Massachusetts
With its tranquil atmosphere and abundance of New England-style homes, Cape Cod is a gem on the coast of Massachusetts. The miles of beaches here are perfect for wandering around for hours with a loved one. Moreover, there are plenty of wonderful seafood restaurants, golf courses, lighthouses, and shopping areas to explore. After staying in Cape Cod for a work event for two weeks, I fell in love with the colorful, beautiful sunsets and the quiet calm of the area. It’s truly one of the most ideal places for a weekend getaway on the East Coast.
10. Charleston, South Carolina
One of South Carolina’s first cities, Charleston captures the charm of a Southern town and mixes it up with the color and quaintness of a modern-day city. While here, explore wacky colorful homes on Rainbow Row, or check out some of the historic landmarks like the bridges or the lighthouse. If you’re a serious foodie, all-you-can-eat oysters await you at Bowens Island Restaurant, or sample southern soul food at one of the many locally-owned institutions. Charleston, SC is a classic weekend city break escape with a Southern twist.
Want more information? Here are 101 things to do in Charleston, SC!
11. Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
Drive just a few hours from Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, or Washington, DC and you’ll arrive in the heart of Amish country – Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Here, you can relax in a cabin, go hiking to a nearby waterfall, or take a short steam train ride through some of the most beautiful parts of the area. Dutch Country aside, there’s also an amazing food scene in the area, with fresh farm-sourced options, and dozens of wonderful drives and hiking trails in the surrounding areas.
Want to learn more? I loved this article on 15 things to do in Lancaster County.
12. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
One of the most highly trafficked National Parks in the country, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a wonderful place to get some fresh air and enjoy the outdoors for a weekend. Why Smoky? Because, if you get up early enough on a clear day, you can watch the sunrise over misty, fog covered valleys. Here, hiking trails through craggy rocks, expansive valleys, and waterfalls are common.
For a few special weekends in the summer, one of the most interesting natural phenomena in this part of the world occurs – the fireflies in the Great Smoky Mountains have synchronized displays. I can’t wait to head to the park one summer and see this spectacle for myself!
13. Upstate New York
With many parts just a short train ride or drive from New York City, Upstate New York is the city dweller’s perfect respite. With the striking Catskills mountains nearby, the topography makes for some lovely views year-round. In the fall, the leaves turn vibrant colors, illuminating the surrounding farmlands, waterfalls, hiking trails, and scenic drives. It’s easy to rent a cabin somewhere in Upstate New York and simply relax for a weekend, basking in the enjoyment of not doing much of anything.
14. Bethany Beach, Delaware
In the summer, Bethany Beach becomes a hotspot for beach activity on the East Coast, with families flocking to its shores to rent a house for a week and relax. Vibrant boardwalks, kitschy golf courses, pretty lighthouses, and miles of sandy coast line make up this beach town, and its charm is mainly in enjoying the atmosphere. Pack up from nearby Newark, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, or Washington, DC and head for a relaxing weekend with the sounds of the beach around you.
15. Charlottesville, Virginia
Charlottesville, Virginia is a mountain city steeped in history, culture, and nature, and is the perfect place to spend a weekend. Accessible from Virginia, DC, and even areas like Baltimore and Philadelphia, a weekend in Charlottesville can be one of many different things. With dozens of vineyards surrounding the city, you can sample wines and enjoy the nearby rolling hills. Or, if adventure travel is more your thing, try hiking, mountain biking, or skiing in the nearby mountains. In the evenings, peruse the Downtown Mall, or simply go stargazing in some of the dark areas nearby.
16. Outer Banks, North Carolina
I look back at summers of my childhood in the Outer Banks quite fondly. My family and I would pile into our van, rent a house for a week, and hang out with friends, whiling away our days on the sandy beaches or playing mini golf at a cheesy dinosaur course. Now that I’m back on the East Coast, I’ve been longing to return, even if just for a weekend. With several different islands and regions, the Outer Banks, or OBX, is a fantastic weekend getaway on the East Coast for people who like a bit of energy mixed with a bit of relaxation. The OBX has both.
17. White Mountains, New Hampshire
The White Mountains in New Hampshire are quite possibly some of the East Coast’s best-kept secrets. Although this is a year-round destination, the best time to visit is quite possibly in the fall, when the leaves change colors in the most vibrant ways. Grab a cabin or a room in an inn or lodge, sit back, and enjoy the fall colors in this gorgeous landscape of mountains and valleys.
18. Key West, Florida
Key West is one of America’s favorite vacation hotspots, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t include it on a list of East Coast weekend getaways, too. With its aquamarine water, its luxury resorts, and its nightlife (something lacking in many of these other places), it’s definitely a weekend getaway for the more high-energy of us. Hop on a boat, ride a jetski, or just watch the world go by for a weekend in one of the most beautiful beach areas of the United States.
19. Acadia National Park
Renowned by many as one of the most beautiful national parks in the country, no weekend getaways list for the East Coast would be complete without it. With its stunning shoreline, beautiful hiking trails, amazing stargazing options, and picturesque historic sites, Acadia is a treat for all of the senses. And the sunsets? Really strikingly beautiful. It’s not super easy to get to – several hours by car from most major cities on the east coast – but it’s worth it for anyone who truly wants to unplug amidst some of the most beautiful nature the United States has to offer.
20. Tiny House Getaway, Anywhere
These little things are popping up everywhere – tiny homes that range in location from the inner cities to the middle of the woods. Companies like Getaway.House are capitalizing off of this trend and provide luxury “glamping”-type experiences in their tiny homes in the Virginia forest. You can find independently run tiny homes, or rent an owned tiny home on Airbnb. These homes are so unique, they’re worth a weekend trip just to stay in one and learn what it’s like to live tiny.
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Is your favorite weekend getaway on the East Coast on our list? If not, what is it?
Join the discussion with your fellow Jetfarer community members and ask your travel questions in our fabulous Facebook group!