20 Trips, 10 Cities, 1 Tank of Gas

When gas prices soar, everyone feels the pain at the pump. Instead of forgoing family trips or sacrificing a much-needed time-out, savvy travelers can compromise by spending their vacations closer to home. Here are our suggestions for escapes from 10 U.S. cities that can be reached on a single tank of gas or less.

From Boston: Gloucester, Massachusetts

One of the most picturesque spots on Massachusetts’ North Shore is just 35 miles north of the city. The charming fishing community of Gloucester — the backdrop for "The Perfect Storm"— is full of historical folklore and a thriving arts scene.

From Boston: Great Barrington, Massachusetts

An easy two-hour drive into western Massachusetts, the Southern Berkshires town of Great Barrington spells romance and relaxation. Stroll through the historic downtown area, which is lined with charming boutiques and galleries, or meander along the Great Barrington Housatonic River Walk.

From Chicago: New Buffalo, Michigan

Situated on Lake Michigan's Gold Coast, New Buffalo has been called the Hamptons of the Midwest and is jokingly dubbed the Irish Riviera, as a lot of Chicago's South Side Irish community vacations here. It's an easy day trip from the city, but the amazing beaches, sand dunes and prime fishing conditions make it a popular weekend getaway as well.

From Chicago: Madison, Wisconsin

Sure, everyone knows that Wisconsin stakes a claim to glorious cheese and beer, but what's less well-known is that Madison is the perfect family- or gay-friendly weekend getaway. Earning countless accolades for its eco-friendliness, this picturesque university town is progressive and has a burgeoning dining and culture scene.

From Dallas: Glen Rose, Texas

Southwest of Dallas, the quaint town of Glen Rose is home to Dinosaur Valley State Park, which is famous for its visible, well-preserved dinosaur footprints. If dino hunting doesn’t interest you, the park also offers trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding, as well as campsites, playgrounds and access to the Paluxy River.

From Dallas: Grandview, Texas

Well-heeled Texans mosey on over to Beaumont Ranch for a weekend spent in small-town, pastoral splendor. Swanky but unpretentious, this working ranch — which has 26 rooms and cabins — is the place to go for cattle drives, roping or shooting lessons, and relaxing trail rides. The real treats, though, are the traditional Chuck Wagon Meals.

From Los Angeles: Ventura, California

Midway between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, Ventura is home to a vibrant Main Street, mom-and-pop antique stores, wine bars and the historic San Buenaventura Mission. The town tends to attract a hip, sophisticated crowd.

From Los Angeles: Laguna Beach, California

Drive in to Laguna Beach, winding through a canyon until you reach the ocean. In addition to providing top-notch views, this coastal community strongly supports the arts. The Laguna Art Museum showcases Californians, while dozens of crafts galleries, clothing boutiques and jewelry shops dot downtown.

From Miami: Orlando

All signs point toward spending lots of vacation dollars at this popular tourist destination, but you don't have to blow your budget — or visit Disney — to have a good time in Orlando. Seek out everything else the city has to offer, including great shopping, museums, restaurants and golf courses. Or, for a more reasonably priced park experience, dive in to a water park such as kid-friendly Wet ’n Wild.

From Miami: Everglades National Park, Florida

Traveling the 25-mile route from downtown Miami to the Everglades along US Route 41 is like taking a step back in time, with kitschy billboards and signs along the way. Once you arrive, don't miss the opportunity to hop in an airboat and explore the middle of the swamp. There are plenty of operators that offer tours of varying lengths and costs.

From New York: Montauk, Long Island

It's tough to come by deals in the Hamptons, but if you've stashed some cash and are looking for a luxe weekend away, Montauk is close by and the way to go. After hitting the waves, stay at the renovated Surf Lodge, a 32-room boutique hotel located on the shore of Fort Pond, just half a mile from the beach.

From New York: Long Island Wine Country/North Fork Region

The complete antithesis of the uber-trendy Hamptons, the North Fork region has retained its rural appeal despite increased interest in its winemaking efforts. Think New England charm, breathtaking water views of both the Long Island Sound and the Peconic Bay, with a healthy dose of relaxed wine-country living.

From Philadelphia: Atlantic City, New Jersey

This Jersey Shore town may seem as though it’s past its prime, but it still offers two things that never get old: beaches and casinos. Whether it’s a family trip, a romantic escape or a friends’ getaway, Atlantic City is always a safe bet. If you crap out at the tables, check out the live music venues and exciting nightlife options.

From Philadelphia: Bucks County, Pennsylvania

City dwellers flee the demands of urban living for the leisurely idyll of Bucks County, home to the arts-filled town of New Hope. Wander among the tree-lined roads, or try nearby activities such as tubing on the Delaware River, seeing a show at the Bucks County Playhouse and taking an art class at the Mercer Museum.

From San Francisco: Half Moon Bay, California

Tucked between the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Half Moon Bay is one of those relatively untouched stretches of California coast that is frequently overlooked. Investigate the tide pools at Fitzgerald Reserve at Moss Beach or go bird-watching at the Pescadero Marsh and Pillar Point Marsh preserves.

From San Francisco: Sonoma County, California

Just one hour north of the Golden Gate Bridge, budget-minded travelers can find lots to do in Sonoma County. Enjoy vineyards, orchards and redwood-covered mountains, not to mention big events such as Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, which takes place over Labor Day weekend.

From Seattle: Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Only about 85 miles from the hustle and bustle of Emerald City rises majestic Mount Rainier. Around it are endless sights and activities for outdoor enthusiasts — miles of hiking trails, camping, lakes, streams, wildflowers and incomparable views. If you’re not brave enough to try to reach the peak, take a walk through the meadows of Paradise or Sunrise.

From Seattle: Westport/Olympic Peninsula, Washington

North of the Long Beach Peninsula, on the outer edge of Grays Harbor, is Westport. Learn about the history of this small fishing community at the Westport Maritime Museum and the century-old Grays Harbor Lighthouse. The town also sits along miles of beaches that offer some of Washington's best surfing.

From Washington, D.C.: Baltimore

Baltimore’s usual tourist destinations — the Inner Harbor, the National Aquarium, the Maryland Science Center, Fort McHenry and Fells Point — are popular for good reason and are definitely worth a visit. If you’ve seen all of those, branch out to some of the lesser-known (and lower-cost!) spots, such as the Baltimore Museum of Industry, a favorite for kids.

From Washington, D.C.: Old Town Alexandria, Virginia

With its art galleries, boutique shopping, historic sites and restaurants, as well as access to miles of scenic trails and bike paths just six miles from D.C., Old Town Alexandria was made for impromptu weekend getaways. After exploring King Street, walk down to the riverfront to catch a sightseeing tour or dinner cruise on the Potomac.

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