With gas and airfare prices hitting new highs, savvy travelers are thinking local. We’ve plotted easy weekend getaways with top-notch amenities, all within driving distance from major U.S. cities.
From and Milwaukee: Kohler, Wis.
Midwesterners know that the region’s most renowned summer retreat is a 2.5-hour drive north of Chicago. Set in a 1918 Tudor boardinghouse, the elegant 237-room American Club has classic interiors furnished with plush white beds and bathrooms with Kohler fixtures (of course) but the best reasons to spend a weekend there are located outdoors: duffers will want to schedule tee time at the Blackwolf Run golf course (the site of the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open), while families will opt for the Kohler Kidz program for horseback rides, hikes, and golf camp. After all that activity, travelers unwind at the Kohler Waters Spa, where refreshing treatments include a Vichy Shower — perfect on a steamy day.
The Deal: Rates are as low as $199 a night on select days in June.
From and : Watch Hill, R.I.
Watch Hill is a charming seaside getaway just two-to-three hours from both NYC and Boston. To vacation in the style of New England royalty, try the Ocean House, a 49-room retreat that was originally built in 1868 on a windswept hillside with views of the Atlantic. Now, after a $146 million renovation, the property is as grand as ever: expansive decks and manicured croquet lawns are a nod to old-world glamour, while the light-filled guest rooms and 22 private villas have modern bathrooms (oversize soaking tubs; marble tiles) and custom-made dark wood furnishings. The farm-to-table Seasons restaurant, with a veranda overlooking a private white-sand beach, is an ideal spot to idle away an afternoon, cocktail in hand.
The Deal: Peak season rates start at $495 a night, but come in the off season, and you’ll pay $260.
From and San Jose: Berkeley, Calif.
Northern California may be known for the luxurious bungalowed properties that line the coast, but the Claremont Hotel, just outside San Francisco, has water views and serious history. The 279-room property dates back to the Gold Rush, when a Kansas farmer struck it rich and purchased 13,000 acres between Berkeley and Oakland. Now, vacationing families pass the days alongside one of four pools, or hit the courts (the property has 10 tennis courts, plus a 20,000-square-foot fitness center). For the local scene, head to the Sunday farmers market in Oakland’s waterfront Jack London Square just 15 minutes away.
The Deal: The Beat the Heat Package starts at $219 a night and includes a $25 food and beverage credit, access to the Club at Claremont, and free parking. Book now for travel through September 6, 2011.
From Washington, D.C.: Virginia Wine Country
Progressive farms and serious wineries have recently blossomed in the Piedmont region east of the Blue Ridge Mountains, but life continues at a blissfully slow pace among these rolling hills. The perfect base camp is the eight-room Dinsmore House in Charlottesville, built by a master carpenter on the edge of the University of Virginia campus in 1817. It still retains its Federal-era charm with carved fireplace mantels and four-poster beds, all less than 15 miles from some of the area’s top wineries, including Barboursville Vineyards, which produces top-notch Barberas and Sangioveses, and Mountfair Vineyards — the spot for small-batch, Bordeaux-style blends.
The Deal: Rooms at Dinsmore House start at $109 a night.
From Austin, San Antonio, Dallas: Cedar Creek, Texas
Beat the heat in Texas with a stay at Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa, on 405 secluded acres adjacent to 1,100 acre nature park just 40 minutes from Austin. Activities at the 491-room hotel alongside the Texas Colorado River include horseback riding, kayaking, and archery, while kids can splash in the Crooked River Pool, a meandering lazy river, or scale a climbing wall. Come evening, families take night hikes, roast marshmallows, and stargaze with the help of expert guides. Look out for the property’s new exuberant resident: A 135 lb. Newfoundland pup named Hoss, who spends his days with the hotel’s two Longhorn Steers and four Percheron Draft Horses.
The Deal: Nights start at $319 during high season (Memorial Day to Labor Day), though travelers will pay about $100 less in spring, fall, and winter. For the best deals, opt for stays from Sunday through Wednesday night.