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Top 10 easy summer weekend getaways

It's hard not to love summer. With some of the longest days of the year, temperatures warm enough to spend all day outside, and the laid-back vibe that comes along with the season, it's no wonder kids and adults alike count late-June through early September as their favorite time of year.
Summer Season Begins On Memorial Day Weekend
Chicago really comes into its own in the summer months, when visitors and residents alike shed their jackets and their inhibitions to enjoy the city's finest season.Scott Olson / Getty Images
/ Source: Sherman's Travel

It's hard not to love summer. With some of the longest days of the year, temperatures warm enough to spend all day outside, and the laid-back vibe that comes along with the season, it's no wonder kids and adults alike count late-June through early September as their favorite time of year.

Whether cities, beaches, or quiet country lanes are your idea of an ideal vacation, nothing says "summer Friday" like a weekend away.

We've rounded up ten places just a quick flight from many U.S. cities and even included information on how to get there to make your summer weekend getaway as easy as possible.

1. Azores
For dramatic scenery and Portuguese flair, skip the long flight to Lisbon and head to the Azores islands off the coast instead. This archipelago of nine volcanic islands is ripe for relaxation, but São Miguel — the largest and most populated atoll — is the easiest of the lot to visit, given direct flights from the U.S. land here, first. Nicknamed the Green Island, São Miguel's glistening lakes and lush mountainsides are just as enticing as its sandy beaches, so you can spend your days exploring — there’s hiking, diving, whale-watching, sailing, and swimming with dolphins to keep you busy — or simply lazing away on Atlantic shores. When evening falls, head to Punta Delgada, the island’s most cosmopolitan town, where turn-of-the-century architecture, cobblestone streets, restaurants, and bars await.

How: Fly direct to São Miguel (PDL) from Boston or Providence (Azores Express; about 5 hours).

2. Bermuda
If you think Bermuda is an island in the Caribbean — a common misconception — you’ve probably been overlooking it as a summer getaway destination. Look again, as this Atlantic isle's location — on par with Savannah, Ga. — means its weather is ideal from June to September (not January to March!). Pink-sand beaches and warm waters beckon, but there’s also plenty to do off the sand on this British-flavored island. Pick from great duty-free shopping or lush golf courses, and keep an eye out for postcard-perfect pastel-hued houses, swaying palmettos, and men in Bermuda shorts. And though the island is known for being ultra-luxe, don’t worry about going broke – there’s plenty of places to bunk down with breaking the bank.

How: Fly direct to Bermuda (BDA) from New York (American, Continental, Delta, JetBlue; United, and US Air; 2.5 hours), Boston (Delta, JetBlue, and US Air; 2.5 hours) Washington, DC (US Air; 2.5 hours), Philadelphia (United and US Air; 2.5 hours), and Charlotte (US Air; 2.5).

3. Bucks County
If antique shops, covered bridges, and historic B&Bs are your idea of a charming way to spend a summer weekend, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, is tailor-made for you. Throw in some truly divine restaurants, abundant outdoor activities, and a winery or two and you’ve got a getaway almost anyone can enjoy. If you’ve got the kids in tow, head to Sesame Place in Langhorne or take them tubing on the Delaware River; be sure to grab a bite at the River Hot Dog Man for a memorable lunch at an in-the-water picnic table. For more adult fun, discover the art galleries, specialty stores, and upscale restaurants of New Hope, or take a bike or driving tour of the county’s many covered bridges — a sure way to inspire romance.

How: Bucks County is less than a one-hour drive from Philadelphia, 2.5 hours from Baltimore, and 1.5 hours from New York. If you’re not coming by car, fly to Philadelphia (code PHL) from Washington, DC (Continental, United, and US Air; 1 hour), Boston (AirTran, Continental, Delta, United, and US Air; 1.5 hours), Providence (Southwest; 1.5 hours), Chicago (American, Continental, Delta, Midwest, United, and US Air; 2 hours), and Fort Lauderdale (AirTran, American, Continental, Southwest, United, and US Air; 3 hours).

4. Cape Breton Island
Nova Scotia's northernmost landmass of Cape Breton Island brims with rustic scenery, history, and abundant wildlife. And with summer comes the perfect weather to enjoy all the adventure and beauty for which this colorful, cultural bit of the Maritimes is known. You can camp out in Cape Breton Highlands National Park after hiking one of its 27 trails; drive along the famed 185-mile Cabot Trail; stop at Ingonish Beach for a swim in the Atlantic; charter a boat for up-close-and-personal views of whales and Atlantic Puffins; and get in touch with the area’s Gaelic roots by trekking along the Ceilidh Trail (pronounced KAY-lee). However you choose to spend your summer weekend in Cape Breton, you'll feel miles away from the day-to-day back home.

How: Air Canada provides service from Boston (2.5 hours) to Cape Breton's Sydney Airport (YQY). If you’re not coming from Boston, book a flight into Halifax International Airport (YHZ) with a connecting flight to Sydney: American and Continental fly from New York (2 hours) and Newark (2.5 hours) and Northwest Airlines flies from Detroit (3 hours); the connecting flight to Sydney on Air Canada (or its affiliate, Air Canada Jazz) is just sixty minutes.

5. Chicago

Slideshow

Chicago style

Take a visual tour of some of the attractions Chicago offers to visitors from around the world.

Chicago’s our kind of town all year long, but the city really comes into its own in the summer months, when visitors and residents alike shed their jackets and their inhibitions to enjoy the city's finest season. Besides the legendary jazz and blues clubs, 7000+ restaurants, and world-class museums, the onset of summer means enjoying Chicago dogs at Wrigley Field (or, if you’re a White Sox fan, at U.S. Cellular Field), sunning yourself on man-made Oak Street beach, taking in concerts in Highland Park during the Ravinia Festival (through September 17 in 2007), and getting your groove on at Summer Dance in Grant Park (through August 26 in 2007). The Windy City may not cool you off (as its moniker suggests) in July or August, but it sure will keep you entertained!

How: Fly direct to O'Hare International Airport (ORD) from New York (American; 2.5 hours), Los Angeles (American, United; 4 hours), or Newark (United; 2.5 hours).

6. Jackson
Located at the doorstep of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, Jackson is better known for its proximity to wide-open spaces than for its gallery spaces — but this Wyoming resort town’s chic wild-west reputation is getting a major boost from a new multidisciplinary Center for the Arts, an up-and-coming international film festival, and a 500-seat performing arts center that opened in March. Not that you can’t still dust off your chaps and saddle up, either at the celebrated Million Dollar Cowboy Bar (the barstools are made from saddles) or by horseback riding at the nearby National Elk Refuge. Yeehaw!

How: Fly direct to Jackson Hole Airport (JAC) from Chicago (United; 3 hours), Denver (United; 1.5 hours), and Salt Lake City (Delta; 1 hour). Set at the base of the Grand Teton Mountains, the airport is only 10 minutes from town.

7. Juneau
It may be the 49th state, but Alaska’s natural scenery, awesome outdoor adventures, and rich cultural heritage are second to none. Juneau, the state’s capital, is a metropolitan hub with a small-town feel: a quirky place where politicians hob knob with fishermen and colorful Victorian houses speckle the streets. But if you’ve come to Juneau in search of the great outdoors, it’s always close at hand. Early summer, with some 18 hours of daylight, is the best time to visit and explore the temperate rainforest, towering mountain peaks, glistening glaciers, and beaches teeming with marine life. Can’t get enough? Just 60 miles away is striking Glacier Bay National Park, one of Alaska’s premier spots for whale-watching and glacier viewing.

How: Non-stop flights to Juneau (JNU) from the continental United States are exclusively available from Seattle (Alaska; 2.5-hours); factor in additional flight time to Seattle from all other cities.

8. Niagra-on-the-Lake
Niagara-on-the-Lake is enchanting all year long, but this quaint southern Ontario waterfront town really ripens come summer, when abundant wineries open for tastings and tours, premier theater troupes take to the stage during the much-anticipated Shaw Festival (through October 28 in 2007), and the annual Niagara Peach Festival comes to town (in August). Outdoor enthusiasts delight in mild temperatures — perfect for boating, fishing, and swimming — while history buffs relish touring Fort George, a restored late-1700s redoubt complete with costumed guides. Plus, it's all within easy reach of thundering Niagara Falls.

How: Fly direct to Toronto (YYZ) from New York (Air Canada; about 1.5 hours), Chicago (American; 1.5 hours), Atlanta (United; 2 hours), and others; Niagara-on-the-Lake is 1.5 hours by car from the airport. You can also drive from Buffalo, New York (1 hour). Niagara Falls is just 20 minutes away.

9. Ojai
On the run from summer’s triple-threat of smog, traffic, and hundred-degree heat, Angelenos have long escaped to southern California's idyllic Ojai Valley for its cool collection of New Age spirituality centers and luxe spa facilities (highlighted by the famed 31,000-square-foot spa village at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa). Factor in sparkling white Spanish architecture, fragrant citrus groves, and a heavenly Mediterranean climate (the ocean is only 20 minutes away) and you have the perfect recipe for a relaxing and rejuvenating retreat. Fire up your pocket lighter in August for the Ojai Classic Rock Festival, with tributes to such legends as Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and the Grateful Dead.

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. From Los Angeles, drive north along Route 101 toward Santa Barbara to the Route 33 north exit (about 70 miles) and proceed 14 miles to Ojai.

10. Reykjavik
If you’re always saying that there just aren’t enough hours in the day, head to Iceland this summer, when the sun shines at midnight – you'll have no excuse but to get out and explore Reykjavik and its unique natural surroundings. Once you've arrived in this Nordic capital, spend the weekend discovering hot springs, spouting geysers, waterfalls, mountains, and glaciers – plan on teeing off at midnight and taking a dip in the fabled Blue Lagoon. If you’re more of a city-slicker than nature-lover, Reykjavik itself is equally dynamic, with cultural institutions that showcase the island’s Viking culture and a legendary nightlife scene rife with trendy pubs and clubs.

How: Direct flights to Reykjavik, Iceland (REK) are available from Boston (5 hours, Icelandair) and New York (5.5 hours).

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