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Top 10 easy spring weekend getaways

Spring is in the air and you know what that means: Blooming buds, warmer weather, and most importantly, the will to finally leave the house and take a weekend jaunt. If you're in the mood for a no-muss, no-fuss weekend getaway, you're in luck, because we've rounded up 10 destinations sure to put a spring in your step.
Sand dunes near the village of Stovepipe
Sand dunes are seen near the village of Stovepipe Wells in Death Valley. The largest national park in the U.S. comprises more than 3.3 million acres of desert wilderness.Gabriel Bouys / AFP-Getty Images file
/ Source: Sherman's Travel

Spring is in the air and you know what that means: Blooming buds, warmer weather, and most importantly, the will to finally leave the house and take a weekend jaunt. If you're in the mood for a no-muss, no-fuss weekend getaway, you're in luck, because we've rounded up 10 destinations sure to put a spring in your step. Whether soaking up the sun or schussing down the slopes makes for your ideal vacation, we've rounded up locales just a quick flight from many U.S. cities and even included information on how to get there to make a spring fling as easy for you as possible.

The arrival of spring means one thing on Antigua and its smaller sister island, Barbuda: Sailing.

April marks the beginning of several annual events, including the Classic Yacht Regatta (April 17–22) and Antigua Sailing Week (April 27–May 2), one of the top regattas in the world and the biggest in the Caribbean. Thanks to constant trade-winds and idyllic harbors, the island coasts are perfect for racing and attract a mélange of sailors, yachters, and admirers. However, on-land pursuits are just as appealing, with 365 sugar-white-sand beaches and historical attractions on Antigua and fabulous resorts, pink-and-white shell beaches, and untouched Caribbean life found on Barbuda, just 30 miles and a quick flight away.

How: Fly direct from to Antigua (ANU) from New York (Continental; about 4.5 hours), Atlanta (Delta; 4.5 hours), Charlotte (US Airways; about 4 hours), or Baltimore (US Airways; about 4 hours). A puddle-jumper will get you to Barbuda from Antigua twice daily (Carib Aviation; about 15 minutes).

Nestled in North Carolina’s Smoky Mountains region, Asheville is showing up on travelers’ radars thanks to its dynamic downtown area, lively cultural offerings, thriving arts scene, New Age nuances, and breathtaking mountain scenery. Architecture buffs delight in the town's Art Deco–influenced buildings, as well as the Biltmore Estate, modeled after a French castle, that ranks as the largest private residence in North America. Shoppers can scoop up fine arts and crafts at local artisan galleries, while nature enthusiasts can foray into the surrounding mountain preserves that burst with colorful wildflowers come spring.

How: Fly direct to Asheville (AVL) from Atlanta (Delta; about 1 hour), Charlotte (US Airways; about 40 min), Cincinnati (Delta; about 1 hour), Detroit (Northwest; about 2 hours), Houston (Continental; about 2.5 hours), New York (Continental; about 2 hours), and others.

Music lovers would be remiss to overlook a visit to Austin, the “Live Music Capital of the World.” With nearly 200 venues to tap your toe at, the capital of Texas is also the state’s most culturally rich city, with museums aplenty and art galleries galore. Austin’s laid-back vibe means it’s a haven for the musicians, artists, and performers who live and thrive there; for visitors interested in the arts, the possibilities for enrichment are endless. Spring is an ideal time to visit, with temperatures averaging in the low 80s; it's also when bat-viewing is at its best — yes, you can watch as up to 1.5 million bats take off every night from Austin’s Congress Avenue Bridge (considered the largest urban bat colony in North America) in search of food.

How: Take a direct flight to Austin (AUS) from Atlanta (Delta; 2.5 hours), New York (Continental, Delta, JetBlue; 4.5 hours), Chicago (American, United; 2.5 hours), Los Angles (American, Alaska; 3.5 hours), Detroit (Northwest; 3.5 hours), San Francisco (United; 3.5 hours), or Boston (JetBlue; 4.5 hours).

Few cities are more lovely, more genteel, more downright southern than Charleston, South Carolina. What’s not to love about a picturesque place full of historic landmarks, gracious homes, and charming inns? A spring visit to Charleston is ideal, with the temperatures warm but bearable and perfect for a walking tour or a carriage ride through the city. You’ll notice the pace is a little slower and the people are a little nicer than what your probably used to; combine that with the blooming flowers, fantastic restaurants, upscale shopping, and a plethora of beach and golf options nearby and chances are you’ll wish your weekend break was a lot longer.

How: Fly direct to Charleston (CHS) from New York (Delta, Continental; 2 hours), Philadelphia (US Airways; 2 hours), Chicago (United; 2.5 hours), Houston (Continental; 2.5 hours), Detroit (Northwest; 2 hours), and Atlanta (Delta; 1.5 hours).

We would never recommend hopping over to the Sahara for a quick weekend getaway — nor would we suggest rocketing to Mars anytime soon. And we don't have to, since you can experience both by spending a couple of days exploring the vast open spaces, arid mountains, rolling sand dunes, old ghost towns, and barren salt pans of Death Valley. Despite its macabre moniker, this underrated national park comes alive with wildflowers through mid-April, and, with summer highs soaring above 120°F and winter lows dropping below freezing, spring temperatures make it the prime season to discover this 3.3-million-square-foot park’s many wonders: Hike the lowest place in North America (almost 300 feet below sea level), surf a sand dune, visit a Moorish-style castle, and cool down at the top-notch Furnace Creek Inn.

How: Fly direct to Las Vegas (LAS) from San Francisco (Southwest, US Airways, United; 1.5 hours), Los Angeles (Alaska, American, Delta, Northwest, United, US Air; 1 hour), Minneapolis (Northwest, Sun Country, US Air; about 3 hours) and dozens of other U.S. cities; then drive 2.5 hours to the Furnace Creek Visitor Center via Death Valley Junction on California Route 190, one of the most scenic routes into the park.

Down by the Bayou come spring, the avenues of New Orleans are full of rhythm. Always colorful, chaotic, and soulful, there’s no better way to discover the city where jazz was born than by attending its crowning fête, Jazz Fest (April 25–27 & May 1–4), a seven-day cultural event where musical acts from across the globe perform on multiple local stages and Louisiana cuisine and crafts are showcased at the Fair Grounds Race Course. Home to the richest musical heritage in America, New Orleans is a city on the rise once again and Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, Jimmy Buffet, Elvis Costello, and Santana are just a handful of the big names on hand to prove it.

How: Fly direct to New Orleans (MSY) from New York (Continental, JetBlue, Delta, American; about 3.5 hours), Chicago (American, United; 2.5 hours), Miami (American; about 2 hours), Denver (United; 2.5 hours), and Los Angeles (Delta, United; 3.5 hours).

Situated on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, just 42 miles south of Cancun, Playa del Carmen is a long way away from the hard-partying ways of its northerly neighbor. That’s not to say that there’s no fun to be had here, but white-sand beaches, eco-parks, and nearby Mayan ruins are what this place is all about. Spring is an ideal time to enjoy it all, with tropical breezes and temperatures hovering around 80°F. Mayan monuments at Chichén Itzá are close enough for a day trip — and what better way to welcome spring than at the site’s Spring Equinox festival, when the shadows cast by the sun resemble a serpent slithering its way down the main pyramid’s ancient steps.

Big Easy returns

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Big Easy returns

New Orleans has reclaimed its vibrancy after Hurricane Katrina and will delight and woo you with its mojo.

How: Take a direct flight to Cancun (CUN) from Atlanta (Aeromexico, Delta; about 3 hours), Miami (American, Mexicana; about 1.5 hours), New York (American, Continental, JetBlue, Mexicana; about 4 hours), Los Angeles (Alaska, American, Delta, Mexicana, United; about 5 hours), and several more; then drive or take public ground transportation to Playa del Carmen.

Though its heyday as a stomping ground for movie stars passed with Hollywood’s golden age, Catalina Island, 22 miles off the coast of Long Beach, California, is still an idyllic seaside escape with a year-round Mediterranean climate (and nary a freeway in sight). Avalon, the only real city on this 75-square-mile isle, is a postcard-perfect place where the mode of transport is by golf cart rather than car. Check out the Art Deco mermaid murals adorning the grand 1920s circular dance hall known as the Casino — then sprout your own fins and scuba dive in the crystal-clear Pacific. Inland, you'll discover indigenous foxes, bald eagles, and the modern-day offspring of a bison herd brought to the island for a silent-screen-era movie shoot.

Marvelous Mexico

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Marvelous Mexico

Vacationers flock to Mexican destinations for sun, sand, snorkeling, mariachis and margaritas – but each city differs and offers something for everyone.

How: Fly direct to Los Angeles (LAX) from Denver (Alaska, Frontier, United; 2.5 hours), Phoenix (United, US Airways; 1.5 hours), Seattle (Alaska, American, Northwest, United; about 3 hours), and many other cities; or fly to the Long Beach Airport (LGB) from several cities and take the Catalina Express ferryboat (about 1 hour), which departs regularly from San Pedro (near LAX) and Long Beach.

Harmonious Santa Fe, New Mexico, truly lives up to its moniker, “the City Different,” thanks to its combination of surreal desert landscapes, sprawling adobe architecture, and third-largest art market in the United States. Though summer typically draws the largest crowds, spring is the ideal time to visit this city in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains as crowds are fewer, prices are lower, and yucca flowers are in full bloom. Sample the best of native cuisine; shop for eclectic pottery, jewelry, sculptures and paintings; or take a leisurely stroll down popular Canyon Road.

How: Fly direct to Albuquerque (ABQ) from Dallas/ Fort Worth (American; under two hours), Phoenix (US Airways; about 1 hour), Los Angeles (United; about 2 hours); then catch a shuttle, cab, or limo (about an hour ride) to Santa Fe.

If your idea of a great spring getaway involves snow instead of sand, head to Whistler, British Columbia, where one of the longest ski seasons in North America keeps skiers shussing as late as early June on over 7,000 acres of ski terrain, 12 alpine bowls on three glaciers, and more than 200 marked trails. As an added bonus, the beautiful village has enough shops, nightlife, restaurants, and events to keep even non-skiers happy. Get there fast, though, before the crowds do — Whistler's due to host the 2010 winter Olympics.

How: Fly direct to Vancouver (YVR) from Seattle (Air Canada, Alaska, Northwest, United; 50 minutes), Los Angeles (Air Canada, Alaska, American, Northwest, United; about 3 hours), San Francisco (Air Canada, Alaska, American, Northwest, United; a little over 2 hours), and others. Whistler is roughly a 2-hour drive from Vancouver along Highway 99, also called the Sea-to-Sky Highway. Bus and taxi services are available to make the trip.

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