Image: Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
Ricardo De Mattos  /  iStock
Rio de Janeiro is arguably the most beautifully situated city in the world—so haven't you put off seeing it long enough? Fly down for a long weekend and check into the legendary Copacabana Palace Hotel. Check out the girls from Ipanema, ride the cable car to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, and enjoy the hopping nightlife. American Airlines has attractive fares.
updated 8/30/2007 1:54:17 PM ET 2007-08-30T17:54:17

How about spending a Labor Day weekend out of the country? It's easier than you might expect.

A few years ago, Palm Springs, California-based travel writer and hospitality industry consultant Pam Price couldn’t resist the opportunity to go to Australia—even though what for many people would be the trip of a lifetime for her lasted one weekend.

“My 36-hour stay in Australia was sandwiched between two 17-hour flights between LAX and Sydney,” Price recounts, “but I was evaluating the in-flight cuisine in a Qantas’ first-class cabin that was created by Rockpool, a trendy Sydney restaurant. I was on a mission.”

Far-flung long weekends are nothing new for today’s breed of global nomads, who don’t think twice before leaving Boston, Dallas, or Chicago on a Friday for two or three nights of theater and fun in London or museum-hopping and café lounging in Paris. Want to trade Twinkies for Sachertorte? A weekend in Vienna could be waiting for you.

Consider a recent weekend jaunt by your correspondent to Iceland. Getting to the place where Europe and America converge, tectonically speaking, would take a mere five-hour flight from Boston on Icelandair, and heck—I’ve spent as much time roasting on jammed L.A. freeways on too many Friday afternoons to recall.

My short-term neighbor in Reykjavik was Björk’s drummer: how cool is that? Almost as cool as a local vodka company launching a new brand on the rooftop of the furnished apartment where I was staying the very night of my arrival. But I didn’t make it a late night because I wanted to start early on my discovery of Iceland’s amazing landscapes. I spent my first full day with Iceland Excursions, on a driving tour that took me to the geothermal zone of Geysir (where the word originated) and the Great Atlantic Rift, not an ideological chasm but the point where the European and North American tectonic plates split. At one point a herd of wild Icelandic horses came up to our small group, allowed themselves to be petted, then galloped off. The following morning I snowmobiled across the Myrdalsjokull glacier and took in an opera at night before hitting the clubs.

If going to Iceland is too out there—or if it’s January and 24-hour darkness doesn’t appeal—consider booking a last-minute flight to Vegas, and reserving the J.W. Marriott Las Vegas Resort’s $49,000 “Mancation” package before you do. The price may be ballistic, but consider what it includes: four days and three nights in two, two-bedroom suites for up to four “mancationing” adults, private stretch limo to the resort, $1,000 in gaming chips per person and an on-hand hostess during play, use of a Ferrari 360 Spider the whole weekend, dinner nightly, including one night where a chef serves up the world’s most exotic seafood and game, and even a set of golf clubs.

Image: Dog Bark Park Inn, Cottonwood, Idaho
This little Idaho town is the home of the Dog Bark Park Inn, the world’s largest artificial sleep-in beagle. Cottonwood is near the gateway to the Lewis and Clark Trail and Salmon and Snake rivers. Here you have all the makings for a rural weekend adventure with elements of Americana and the allure of a road trip too.
Long weekends are perfect for that oddball trip you’ve been dreaming about, but that doesn’t necessarily require an entire week. Price has the right idea: “I once spent the better part of a weekend inside the world’s largest beagle at the Dog Bark Park Inn in Cottonwood, Idaho, near the gateway to the Lewis and Clark Trail,” she says. “It reminded me of what it would be like to sleep inside the legendary Trojan Horse, but of course, this was a dog.” According to Price, the accommodations were “rustic yet comfy” and the assortment of canine-inspired accessories by on-site chainsaw artists Dennis and Frances (they carved the inn, too) had her and her friend “in stitches the whole weekend.”

Image: Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia
The most cosmopolitan city on the island continent is far from just about anywhere, but better to settle in for two nights than never to do it at all. You’ll have time for a cruise on Sydney Harbor, a visit to the Opera House, an outing to Bondi Beach, shopping on Oxford Street and maybe even time to cuddle a koala.
There are those who will always equate the long weekend with a glamorous escapade, and I’m firmly in that camp. It explains why I once flew down to Rio from Los Angeles for only three nights. Time enough to swim in the pool at the fabulous Copacabana Palace Hotel, see plenty of girls from Ipanema Beach, ride the cable car to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, and party until dawn on Saturday. I even helped fend off a gaggle of muggers on a moonlit Copacabana Beach (no way were they getting my Swatch). I wouldn’t trade those weekend memories for anything.

Except, possibly, for a long weekend in Buenos Aires, as suitable a candidate as any for a weekend of outrageous diversion. I’d stay at the Faena Hotel + Universe, a hotel collaboratively decorated by Argentine fashion designer Alan Faena and Philippe Starck. What was once an ordinary grain warehouse on the Puerto Madero Este waterfront is now a plush study in black marble and red velvet. A weekend sojourn is time enough to take a class in dance or cooking and wine from the Faena’s own School of Good Living.

And then there’s Ibiza. Devoting only a long weekend to what is for many the ultimate Mediterranean playground—a quick hop from Madrid, Barcelona and many big European cities—may seem like an insufficient sacrifice to Bes, the Phoenician god of good times who is said to still exert special powers on the island, but it’ll do.

High-flying executives, Gulf State sheiks and others of humbler financial provenance have been known to fly in from wherever they’re in the doldrums for 48 hours of downtime on the White Island’s blissful beaches (like Es Cavallet), glamorous al fresco dinners at KM5 outside Ibiza Town, a night of posh grooving at Pacha, and a day to recover from it all on another beach (like Playa d’en Bossa).

Hotels of choice, Cas Gasi, whose secluded location in the Ibizan hinterland has drawn the likes of Richard Gere, and Atzaro, a sumptuous update on a classic family finca with a gorgeous spa set in the middle of an orange grove. However you slice it, Ibiza is a concentrated dose of indulgence in a place always primed to party.


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