Even with the headwinds of a shaky economy and busy holiday season, vacation travel shows no signs of slowing down, with 71% of Americans planning to travel more towards the end of 2023 than last year.
However, budget is still top of mind for travelers struggling to cope with rising inflation. Almost half of people planning to vacation this season cited cost as the primary influence over the length of their trip, according to a recent survey by Vacasa. With many people planning shorter journeys closer to home, weekend getaways can provide a relaxing escape without burning a hole in your wallet.
When planning a weekend getaway, the ease of travel is crucial. No one wants to add stress to their vacation. The following mid-size cities make for an ideal venue for your weekend trip with easy-to-get-to locations. If you only have a few days to visit, you want to get a good grasp of the destination instead of feeling your sightseeing list is unattainable. The size of these cities isn’t overwhelming to navigate.
When planning your winter vacation, the warmth of the South can be felt not only in the weather but also in the culture.
Any music lover will be drawn to the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll and to the hub of blues and soul music. Beale Street is an iconic street where you can hear music spilling out from restaurants, nightclubs, and shops. The National Civil Rights Museum, the Museum of Science and History, and Elvis Presley’s Graceland are top sites to explore. Memphis has the big-city amenities but a natural small-town feel for a relaxing getaway.
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is the quintessential southern city. A city founded in 1670, the cobblestone streets and horse-drawn carriages will take you back in time. Being so close to the water, there are a variety of activities, such as paddleboarding, boating, kayaking, and fishing. For those who simply want to take in the sun, there are three beaches to choose from.
“There are so many reasons why Charleston has been named the Best U.S. Destination for the 11th Year in a Row by Travel & Leisure,” says Monica Fish, a frequent traveler and founder of Planner at Heart. “While we initially planned a trip to taste their James Beard award-winning restaurants Fig and Husk, the icing on the cake was the ease of our long weekend there. The attractions, accommodations, restaurants, and nightlife are all relatively close to each other.”
With direct flights from most cities, this Southern city is easily accessible. Charleston is also within driving distance from Atlanta, Charlotte, and Columbia.
For Texans, Waco is conveniently located on a major highway connected to Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio. For non-Texans, the airport in Waco is only 15-20 minutes from downtown.
Waco offers an unexpected array of activities, from family-friendly options to high-end luxury experiences. You can venture to the Cameron Park Zoo beside the Brazos River or visit the Dr. Pepper Museum. Or, you can soak at a beer spa. Plus, if you go to Waco, a stop at Magnolia Market is a must.
New Orleans, Louisiana
The origins of this port city developed into a remarkable culture-rich city. The mix of French settlers, Africans, and indigenous people created a melting pot that birthed one of the most lively Southern cities.
The music and food scene are staples of such influences. From savoring the Crescent City’s jambalaya, riding on the Canal St. Ferry, or photographing the famous architecture, the Big Easy offers more than just Mardi Gras. If you visit outside of Mardi Gras, be sure to visit Mardi Gras World to see the exquisite floats and a behind-the-scenes look at the float-making process.
Surrounded by the beautiful Ozark Mountains, there are plenty of activities for any outdoor enthusiast to unwind and appreciate nature. While there are plenty of hiking trails, parks, and rivers to fish, Fayetteville has a thriving downtown and is an entertainment destination all on its own. The energy found on Dickson Street is the perfect way to spend an evening. Plenty of restaurants offer live music any night of the week.
Fayetteville’s restaurants, bars, local boutiques, and galleries offer something for everyone. The small-town feel of Fayetteville is perfect for a trip when you want to get away and unwind.
If you’ve heard the comparisons of Fredericksburg being “the new Napa,” you haven’t heard wrong. The mineral-rich soil and the dry weather are ideal for growing grapes. You can sip on local-made wines, shop along Main Street, and feel right at home in the small-town feel of this German settlement. And with its unique German history, Fredericksburg has only grown over the years as tourists have enjoyed various activities.
“There’s a good reason Fredericksburg has recently been voted the most picturesque small town in America by North Carolina Travel Guides,” shares Kim Croisant, travel writer and founder of Texas Travel Talk. “And it’s hard not to fall in love with this charming town as soon as you arrive. Main Street is the center of attention, with many boutiques, restaurants, and wine-tasting rooms on every corner. You may want to plan your next trip to Texas Hill Country. And, if you’re going for the wine, you’re in luck – there are over 100 wineries in the Hill Country, and 60 are in Fredericksburg.”
Lots of family-run businesses provide one-of-a-kind restaurants and bed and breakfasts. You can hop on a shuttle along 290 and tour vineyards and wineries. Enchanted Rock will put a stamp in your National Parks Passport and allow you to take in scenic views of the lush hill country. You can brush up on your history while visiting the National Museum of the Pacific War.
St. Augustine, Florida
As the oldest city in the U.S., the European influence and the sandy white beaches offer plenty of exploration. The downtown is very walkable. Plaza de la Consticion is at the historic city’s center and surrounded by beautiful European architecture. The Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine is one of the oldest Christian congregations in the country. Plan to take lots of photos on the Bridge of Lions, which is one of the most iconic sites in St. Augustine, Florida.
The blend of Spanish, African, and Native American influences provides plenty of diverse cuisine options. St. Augustine has 42 miles of beaches and some of the best spots to soak up the sun.
When planning a weekend getaway, you don’t have to sacrifice quality just to keep a little extra money in your wallet. Each of these seven Southern cities provides plenty of travel-worthy sites that can be fully explored and enjoyed in a few days. The variety of cuisine and scenery will give you many options in your planned activities. And with each of these cities being located in the South, you will feel the warm welcome as you enjoy your weekend visit.