- Summer vacation won’t look the same for travel-loving millennials this year.
- Business Insider rounded up 15 weekend getaways for millennials that are within driving distance of major cities.
- Consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website and travel advisories before any road trip.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Millennial wanderlust is stronger than ever.
Fresh out of quarantine, the generation — which spends more on travel than any other age group — is ready to pack its bags for summer vacation.
Since millennials aren’t flying to Portugal or other European favorites this year, Business Insider rounded up 15 stateside weekend getaways millennials will love that are accessible by car from major cities.
We determined this list by first identifying the US Census Bureau’s five most populous cities: New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Phoenix. We then narrowed the destinations down by capping driving distance from each city at 150 miles, which is typically less than three hours of driving. For Houston and Texas, we expanded driving distance to 220 miles, equivalent to 3.5 hours, since many closer destinations had recently reported upticks in coronavirus cases.
Each destination was then selected based on three factors: Instagrammability, outdoor-friendliness, and ease of social distancing.
Note that while nonessential travel restrictions are slowly being lifted, summer plans aren’t a go everywhere. Some states have specific travel restrictions in place. Make sure to check these restrictions, follow guidelines from the CDC website, and consult travel advisories before hitting the road — and take precautions if you do.
NEW YORK CITY:
1. The Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania
Alex Potemkin/Getty Images
Distance from city: 107 miles (Just under two hours driving)
Must-see sights: Hike for two hours through Bushkill Falls, dubbed the “Niagara of Pennsylvania,” by day. By night, camp out at Hickory Run State Park, home to the National Natural Landmark of Boulder Field, a boulder-strewn area that lacks vegetation.
Why millennials will love it: Located in northeastern Pennsylvania, the “Poconos” are the shortest drive from the Big Apple on this list. It’s the ultimate wilderness escape complete with plenty of options for hiking, rafting, and kayaking.
NEW YORK CITY:
2. The Catskills, New York
A view of farmland in the Catskills in upstate New York.
Distance from city: 119 miles (two hours driving)
Must-see sights: The Catskills are rich in vast mountains, picturesque towns, and stunning waterfalls. Be sure to check out Kaaterskill Falls, the highest cascading waterfall in the state of New York, and hike Giant Ledge, which offers sunrise views and a scenic overlook.
Why millennials will love it: Located in upstate New York, the quiet farmland of the Catskills are a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the city. The wilderness and tranquility of the region make it Instagrammable, as do the places you can stay the night — trendy boutique hotels, wellness retreats, and tiny house resorts.
NEW YORK CITY:
3. The Berkshires, Massachusetts
Brian Bumby/Getty Images
Distance from city: 141 miles (2 hours, 30 minutes driving)
Must-see sights: Hike the famous Appalachian Trail, picnic in Wahconah Falls State Park, and camp at Mt. Greylock State Reservation. Mt. Greylock is the highest point in Massachusetts, from which you can see five states.
Why millennials will love it: Located in western Massachusetts, the rural region of the Berkshires are full of old New England charm. Not only does it offer access to the endless outdoors, but it’s known for its farm-to-table eats.
1. Temecula Valley, California
Ron and Patty Thomas/Getty Images
Distance from city: 86 miles (one hour, 20 minutes driving)
Must-see sights: Explore one of Temecula Valley’s 40-plus wineries, bike through the region’s 90 miles of bicycle trails, and tee off at one of the many golf courses. The Redhawk golf course is rated as the seventh-best golf course in California.
Why millennials will love it: When it comes to wine country, Northern California has Napa but southern California has Temecula Valley — The Boston Globe even labeled the region “the next Napa.” From golfing to wine tasting, there’s a ton of room for outdoor luxury leisure.
2. Big Bear Lake, California
Ron and Patty Thomas/Getty Images
Distance from city: 96 miles (just under two hours driving)
Must-see sights: Big Bear Lake is best known as a winter ski spot, but it’s a destination in the summer, too. Go horseback riding along one of its National Forest trails, or take advantage of some mountain biking along one of its many cross-country trails — the area is known as the biking capital of SoCal.
Why millennials will love it: A mountain lake escape is the perfect way to cool down during the summer. Temperatures stay under than 80 degrees during the season, so it doesn’t get too hot. Plus, Big Bear is a more affordable California getaway, making a it a great choice for millennials’ wallets.
3. Joshua Tree National Park, California
Distance from city: 131 miles (two hours driving)
Must-see sights: The bucket list for Joshua Tree is endless. Be sure to check out the famed Skull Rock, walk through the natural cacti grove of Cholla Cactus Garden, and watch the sunset at Keys View, a stunning lookout with views as far as Coachella Valley and Palm Springs.
Why millennials will love it: This national park, located in southern California, trades in the state’s mountains for a rugged landscape and wildlife that’s hard to find elsewhere. Its otherworldly vibe makes for the perfect Instagram. Plus, millennials can choose to spend the night in an affordable unique hotel nearby or go glamping on site.
1. Indiana Dunes National Park, Illinois
Distance from city: 49 miles (just under one hour driving)
Must-see sights: Lay out on Mount Baldy Beach, which stretches in front of the wandering Mount Baldy Dune that moves about four feet a year (the dune is currently closed). Walk the three-plus mile West Beach 3-Loop Trail for views of the Chicago skyline.
Why millennials will love it: The Indiana Dunes, formerly known as Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, was renamed as a national park in February 2019, giving a historic destination a sense of novelty. With 15 miles of beaches, it’s the perfect alternative for when you can’t fly to your dream Caribbean beach vacation.
2. Starved Rock State Park, Illinois
Nicola Patterson/EyeEm/Getty Images
Distance from city: 94 miles (1 hour, 30 minutes driving)
Must-see sights: Kayak down the Illinois River and hike to Wildcat Canyon, the largest waterfall in the park at a stunning 125 feet high.
Why millennials will love it: The waterfalls and wildlife at Starved Rock State Park are a world away from the skyscrapers of Chicago, promising a sense of adventure you can’t find in a city. Plus, there are Instagrammable cabins in the woods to enjoy your stay.
3. Saugatuck, Michigan
Distance from city: 140 miles (two hours, 15 minutes driving)
Must-see sights: The lakeside town of Saugatuck has plenty of Lake Michigan beaches to choose from. Take your pick from Oval Beach, named one of the top 25 best beaches in the world by Conde Nast Traveler, to the historic Pier Cove Beach, among others.
Why millennials will love it: Saugatuck has all the appeal and qualities of the favored northeast beach destinations that millennials love. Thrillist called it a “Hampton-style retreat,” noting the destination for its artsy scene.
1. Brazos Bend State Park, Texas
Distance from city: 46 miles (one hour driving)
Must-see sights: Bike or walk down the Creekfield Lake Nature Trail, just one of Brazos Bend State Park’s 37 miles-plus of trails, and reel in a fish from one of the park’s many lakes.
Why millennials will love it: With 5,000 acres of prairie, the park is teeming with wildlife, forest canopies, and marshes. It’s a dream set-up for a camping getaway complete with some star-gazing.
2. Sam Houston National Forest, Texas
Holger Leue/Getty Images
Distance from city: 60 miles (one hour driving)
Must-see sights: Within the vast Sam Houston National Forest is Huntsville State Park, where you can picnic and kayak. Also take time to explore some of the 96-mile Lone Star Hiking Trail.
Why millennials will love it: They’ll get to stay in the middle of nature. For those who aren’t into camping, there are plenty of trendy Airbnb rentals to choose from, be that a cabin or a lake house.
3. Texas Hill Country
Distance from city: 175 miles (just over three hours driving) to the closest town to Houston
Must-see sights: The outdoor options are endless: Take a swim in the Blue Hole, kayak under bald cypress trees down the often-crowdless Medina River, pick peaches at Marburger Orchard, and walk through fields of lavender and bluebonnets.
Why millennials will love it: Unofficially known as the border between the American Southeast and the Southwest, Texas Hill Country has much to do and see, from swimming holes and cypress trees to small towns and some of Texas’ finest BBQ.
1. Sedona, Arizona
Distance from city: 116 miles (just under two hours driving)
Must-see sights: Take in the famous red sandstone canyon at Red Rock State Park, explore the stunning Oak Creek Canyon, and hike both the scenic Devils Bridge Trail and Airport Mesa Loop Trail for sweeping views.
Why millennials will love it: Thanks to its thriving arts community, Sedona has a New Age vibe with a strong energy — a wellness appeal perfect for millennials, who have been dubbed “the wellness generation.” Endless red-rock buttes and sunset-hued canyons make for an envious Instagram backdrop and allow visitors to get up close and personal with nature.
2. Prescott National Forest, Arizona
Distance from city: 122 miles (two hours, 15 minutes driving)
Must-see sights: From Lynx Lake to Goldwater Lake, there are plenty of tranquil spots to picnic. And nearby is the reservoir Watson Lake, where you can kayak, canoe, and hike. The hills and trails of the Thumb Butte recreation area make for a great place to get a workout in.
Why millennials will love it: Located north of Phoenix, Prescott National Forest beats the desert heat and provides a place to recharge.
3. Grand Canyon, Arizona
Distance from city: 220 miles (three hours, 30 minutes driving)
Must-see sights: Hike the Bright Angel Trail, the park’s most popular trail, and West Rim Trail for jaw-dropping scenery. You can also hike the South Kaibab Trail, but the views here come at the cost of shade and water, which the trail lacks. For a much shorter walk, soak in the spectacular views from the popular Mather Point.
Why millennials will love it: Millennials are more likely to visit national parks than older generations, and what’s not to love about an American classic? The Grand Canyon is the ultimate bucket list national park destination.
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