10 Fresh Air Vacations Close to home (Some are all-inclusive!)

While the world today is clouded in uncertainty, we believe in the allure of travel to the human spirit. Whether you have an upcoming trip, you've postponed your plans, or you’re thinking about a future journey, it's still okay to dream. After all, travel enriches life every step of the way, no matter where you are.

When the world opens its doors again, you'll likely be ready for a getaway beyond the living room. This is a collection of vacation destinations where you'll find a little more breathing room. These destinations are within driving distance of most major US cities, so you'll be close enough to home yet far enough for a change of pace.

Now, more than ever, it is so important to have someone by your side to help you every step of the way. Whether you’re an on-the-go solo traveler, a parent with little ones or a sun seeker, our travel advisors are here to listen, answer all of your questions, ensure your hard-earned money takes you exactly where you want to go – and help bring you back home if anything goes wrong.

Ten USA Vacations for Fresh Air, Fun and Peace of Mind

#1 Cape May, NJ

At the southern tip of New Jersey's shore 125 mi/200 km south of Newark, Cape May is one of the most appealing destinations on the Eastern Seaboard.

As the nation's oldest seashore resort, Cape May offers a lot more than sea, sun and surf: It has more than 600 restored, gingerbread-clad, pastel-painted structures from the Victorian era. Some of the best homes line Congress Place, but the entire city has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

Cape May is less than three square miles, so beaches, restaurants, hotels, shopping and attractions are all within walking distance.

In the summer months, enjoy some of the best Humpback Whale and Dolphin watching just off the coast of Cape May.

#2 Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz, NY

Founded by the Smiley Family in 1869, our Victorian castle resort is nestled in the Hudson Valley, only 90 miles north of New York City. Surrounded by 40,000 acres of pristine forest, our National Historic Landmark resort offers farm-to-table cuisine and an award-winning spa.

When you’re here, the only thing you need to focus on is relaxing and exploring the scenic mountaintop. Whether you’re an outdoor adventurer, wellness enthusiast, history buff, or a foodie, there’s something for everyone.

An all-inclusive vacation right here in the USA! At Mohonk, everything you need for an unforgettable Hudson Valley getaway is at your fingertips. With so much included in your overnight rate, spend more time making memories than planning for them.

Mohonk Mountain House is one of America's most historic hotels and features activities for year-round enjoyment and recreation.

Carriage Rides

The Hudson Valley is known for its lush forests and mountainous landscape. Mohonk Mountain House offers a variety of ways to enjoy this natural beauty. Explore miles of protected forest and scenic hiking trails, master the art of archery, or sharpen your outdoor survival skills.

#3 Ashville, NC

Nestled firmly between the Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville has many great qualities that attract a truly diverse population, hence the city's moniker: "Asheville: Discovery, Inside and Out."

Although Asheville is nationally known for the Biltmore Estate, George W. Vanderbilt's palatial home built in the 1890s, it represents just one of the attractions the western North Carolina city has to offer.

The number of attractions in Asheville is astounding for such a modest city. In addition to the Biltmore Estate, you'll find seemingly countless restaurants of almost every variety, museums, art galleries, theaters, cozy pubs, breweries, eclectic shops and pristine natural attractions. Nearby Pisgah National Forest is a favorite place for locals to squeeze in a weekend hike or simply relax in the woods.

The Orvis North Carolina Fly Fishing School is held in Asheville on the exquisite 8,000-acre Biltmore Estate. The Biltmore is located near some of the best fly fishing in the Southeast including the Davidson River, one of the Trout Unlimited Top 100 Trout Streams in America.

Ashville is also a haven for artists and musicians. Stroll through downtown Ashville for a variety of shops, galleries, restaurants and entertainment year-round!

#4 Grand Canyon, AZ

No matter what you've heard about its legendary beauty, the first time you peer over the edge of the Grand Canyon, you'll probably be amazed. Many visitors sum up the view from the rim with one word: Wow! An immense landscape spreads below your feet, dropping cliff by cliff into a winding, ragged gorge. In the distance, imposing walls and towers of stone rise to a green line of forest.

About 5 million visitors go to behold this Grand Canyon sight each year, the vast majority of them visiting the canyon's more popular South Rim. It's one of the most-visited natural wonders in the world. Venture below the rim, however, will receive a special treat.

Summer is Grand Canyon's peak season. Spring and fall see lighter crowds, especially in early March and late October. Even a winter visit is possible on the South Rim, though the snow may deter most travelers. To avoid crowds and to visit during pleasant weather, late spring and fall are good times to visit.

A visit to the more remote North Rim gives you the opportunity to visit Pipe Spring National Monument, an early Mormon settlement near the border with Utah.

If you plan to visit during the summer, reserve accommodations and specialty tours at least six to nine months in advance.

Try to arrange a trip into the canyon, which is the best way to appreciate its size and topography. Options include hiking, riding a mule down from the top or passing through the canyon on a river excursion. A prime destination for overnight hikes is Havasu Falls on the Havasupai Reservation, with the option of a helicopter ride to the falls for the leg-weary. A neighboring tribe, the Hualapai, controls access to the West Rim and offers raft trips through the Canyon's western extremities.

Should you decide to stick to the topside, as most visitors do, you'll hardly be disappointed. The vistas from the rim are incomparable, especially at sunset.

#5 Plymouth and Cape Cod, MA

Just 35 mi/55 km southeast of Boston, Plymouth, Massachusetts, is where the Pilgrims made their final landing in 1620—supposedly on Plymouth Rock, one of the town's most famous sites. The rock can still be viewed, but be prepared—the legend is larger than what's left of the white-painted stone.

Mayflower II replica docked in Plymouth, MA

Mayflower II, a replica of the original ship, has costumed guides, and the Mayflower Society Museum explores the legacy of the Pilgrims with a genealogical library and period furnishings. Pilgrim Hall Museum (established in 1824) has furnishings, artifacts and an art collection. For a peek inside a house that was inhabited by some Mayflower passengers, visit the Jabez Howland House, which was built in 1666.

It's not all Pilgrims in Plymouth. The Children's Museum of Plymouth is popular with youngsters who need a break from the historic attractions. Sightseeing and whale-watching cruises are also offered from Plymouth.

This long, fishhook-shaped cape located 55 mi/90 km southeast of Boston is a haven for summer vacationers. It offers interesting shopping, museums, restaurants and the famed 40-mi/65-km Cape Cod National Seashore. Many of the cape's towns have classic village greens and 18th-century houses with salt-spray roses tumbling over fences. Sand dunes, gray-shingled cottages, whale-watching and excellent fresh seafood add to the cape's allure. The cape's charm continues well into the fall (when the crimson cranberry bogs and fiery foliage are dazzling) and winter (when hundreds of thousands of birds stop along their migration routes).

Separated from the mainland by a 17-mi/27-km canal, the cape can be reached by car (two bridges, the Bourne and the Sagamore, span the canal), or you can take a bus from Boston to Bourne, Falmouth and Woods Hole. Ferries run to Provincetown (at the cape's far end) from Boston, Gloucester and Plymouth. Several airlines operate flights between Boston and Barnstable Municipal Airport in Hyannis.

Woods Hole is one of the world's top oceanographic study centers and site of the Northeast Fisheries Sciences Aquarium (open to the public in summer). If you like cozy beaches, the towns of Yarmouth and Dennis are recommended in warm-weather months. You'll find many oceanfront restaurants, summer theaters and fishing charters, as well.

A great bird-watching destination is Monomoy Island National Wildlife Refuge, a sliver of an island south of the cape. To make the most of a visit there, take a guided tour (offered by Brewster's Cape Cod Museum of Natural History or Wellfleet's Bay Wildlife Sanctuary).

A peaceful way to experience the best of the cape—gray clapboard houses, salt ponds, lighthouses, dunes—is biking the Cape Cod Rail Trail. Stretching from Dennis to Wellfleet on the bed of a defunct rail line, this 25-mi/40-km paved trail is especially delightful in the still-warm days of early fall.

Festivals and events on Cape Cod include the Cape Cod Chowder Festival in Hyannis (June), Pops by the Sea in Hyannis (performances by the Boston Pops—August) and Windmill Weekend in Eastham (parade, fish fry and tricycle races—the weekend after Labor Day).

#6 Northern California - Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe, Napa Valley & Monterey Bay

Yosemite National Park, 180 mi/290 km east of San Francisco, is one of the most sublime and beautiful places in the U.S. Those who have seen the park's natural wonders captured in the photographs of Ansel Adams—the soaring heights of Half Dome, the rugged outcroppings of El Capitan—will find that these structures are every bit as massive and awe-inspiring when viewed in person. If there is one site in California that rates as a place to see before you die, this is it.

A wilderness experience in the valley itself requires work and planning these days. Getting one of the first-come, first-served campsites in the park is next to impossible—especially in the summer—but reservations for camping and lodging in the Yosemite Valley's Curry Village can (and should) be made several months in advance.

Bordering California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe (12 mi/19 km wide and 22 mi/35 km long) is the highest alpine lake in the U.S. The surrounding area (usually referred to simply as Tahoe) is a year-round resort destination with spectacularly beautiful mountain and lake scenery, camping, hiking, mountain climbing, boat cruises, historical sites and lots of snow skiing.

Only minutes away from the mountain's base, the California town of South Lake Tahoe and the Nevada town of Stateline provide skiers ample lodging, dining, shopping and (in Nevada) gambling.

One of California's two major wine regions (the other being the Sonoma Valley in neighboring Sonoma County), the Napa Valley is among the most colorful getaways in California, combining fine wines, extraordinary natural beauty, rich history, and fabulous lodgings and dining.

Book accommodations well before your trip and try to go during the week—weekends draw the greatest throngs of day-trippers.

Central California's Monterey Bay Peninsula offers some of the most dramatic coastal views in the world. The winding Monterey coastline varies from wooded, rugged and rocky to fishing piers, crashing surf and white sandy beaches. Sea life is abundant. It is not uncommon to see playful sea otters, harbor seals, barking sea lions and pods of migrating whales in the Pacific Ocean's blue waters.

Cannery Row is worth a day of exploration. You won't find much resemblance to Steinbeck's description of the area in his 1945 novel of the same name, but you will find many candy shops, T-shirt stores, restaurants, small beaches and the wonderful Monterey Bay Aquarium, which houses some 550 different underwater species.

#7 Sanibel Island, FL

Sanibel Island & neighboring Captiva Island, Florida are the perfect choice for your vacation whether you are looking for a romantic getaway, a family trip or a nature vacation.

Accessible from the mainland by toll bridge or shuttle boat, Sanibel Island, Florida, is 22 mi/35 km long and some 2 mi/3 km wide. It's pretty and lush, although condo and hotel construction has changed its once pristine, undeveloped character. With lots of full-service resorts, restaurants and shopping, this island is definitely upscale compared to nearby Fort Myers Beach.

As you arrive on the island, the road immediately narrows, prices inflate and the pace of life slows to a comfortable crawl. Across the island, cars are a secondary form of transportion, and you soon see more cyclists, joggers and pedestrians than motorists. There is an extensive network of bike and pedestrian pathways. Likewise, as you depart Sanibel and cross over to neighboring Captiva Island, the road narrows even more, and even higher prices should be accounted for.

Most of Sanibel's mangrove swamp shoreline along San Carlos Bay is protected within the 6,350-acre/2,570-hectare J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Across the road from the refuge is a 262-acre/106-hectare conservation center maintained by a local environmental group, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. Its property along the Sanibel River includes a native-plant nursery and 4 mi/6 km of trails through marshy swales and forested ridges. Alligators, gopher tortoises, raccoons, otters and many species of birds dwell there.

Sanibel has nice white-sand beaches famous for their harvest of seashells (low tide is the best time to go). Walk along the beach for any length of time, and you'll understand what people are referring to when they mention the "Sanibel Stoop." You're not allowed to take shells with live creatures inside, but there's no limit on empty ones. If you have a chance, visit the Sanibel Lighthouse in Old Town Sanibel, which was built in 1884 and is the oldest building in town.

#8 Little St. Simons Island, GA

11,OOO ACRES. 7 MILES OF BEACH. ONLY 32 GUESTS. And all-inclusive! The Lodge at Little St. Simons Island, GA is named one of National Geographic's Unique Lodges of the World. Visitors come to Little St. Simons Island for 11,000 pristine acres of wildlife, deserted beaches, maritime forests and vast saltmarshes. It is truly a place to get away from it all!

The Lodge on Little St. Simons Island is an ideal getaway for individuals, groups, families, family reunions, retreats and business meetings. You may reserve a single room, an entire cottage, or the full island. Stays are all-inclusive of accommodations, boat transfers to and from the island, three prepared meals daily, soft drinks, all activities including Naturalist led excursions and use of all recreation equipment.

Virtually untouched for centuries, Little St. Simons Island is a barrier island located on the coast of the US state of Georgia, and is one of the least developed of Georgia's Golden Isles.

The island has been privately owned since 1760, and was the Berolzheimer family's private retreat from 1908 until the late 1970s when they opened the Lodge on Little St. Simons. Today, the island remains accessible only by boat, and anyone wishing to visit the island must make arrangements through the lodge office. The Lodge on Little St. Simons provides all-inclusive, overnight accommodations for up to 32 guests. Naturalists offer guided fishing, kayaking, hiking, biking, birding, history and ecological tours. Day trips may also be arranged.

The majority of the island's acreage is composed of salt marsh. The island's maritime forest features cabbage palm, southern live oak, red cedar, red bay, southern magnolia and pines; often draped in Spanish moss. Little St. Simons is host to more than 334 species of birds; some are temporary residents who include the island in their migrations, while others are permanent residents. Species of note include: bald eagles, red knots, painted buntings, roseate spoonbills, black-necked stilts, and wood storks.

Backing the island's beaches are pristine dunes which provide nesting habitat for various shorebirds such as: piping plovers and American oystercatchers. From May to September, Little St. Simons Island's beaches are patrolled daily and signs of loggerhead sea turtle nesting are documented.

Several freshwater ponds provide habitat for tree frogs, alligators; and supply drinking water for other animals including the European fallow deer. Fallow deer were introduced for sport in the early 20th century, and may be seen in three colors: solid white, dark chocolate, and tan with white spots.

Sport fishing in the tidal creeks and surf can be very productive for those in search of redfish, black drum, flounder and speckled trout. Off the shores otters, dolphins, and right whales swim in the inlets and open waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

#9 Jackson Hole & Yellowstone National Park, WY

Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is the name of the mountain valley extending almost 50 mi/80 km along the east side of the Teton Range from the town of Jackson to near the southern border of Yellowstone National Park and including several towns: Jackson, Kelly, Moose, Moran and Teton Wilson.

The Jackson Hole Mountain Resort hosts several hundred thousand tourists a year. Visitors go to enjoy the endless miles/kilometers of forest and ranch land to the east and south, the scenery, the many recreation options and the wildlife. Jackson Hole has also become one of the destinations for celebrity and politician sightings.

Jackson Hole retains much of its historic cowboy heritage despite the development boom, and visitors have a wealth of options, from exhilarating white-water rafting trips, pristine hiking trails, impeccable service and gourmet cuisine to manicured golf greens, black-diamond ski runs and honky-tonk bars.

Yellowstone is the oldest national park in the world—and still the most famous. It has gorgeous mountains, abundant wildlife and placid lakes set within a multicolored land of steam and waterfalls. The unique qualities of the area were recognized when Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872, 18 years before Wyoming became a state.

Yellowstone is best known for its large number of geothermal features—steaming mud pots, fumaroles, hot springs and active geysers, including Old Faithful. The park contains more than 10,000 thermal sites, more than in all the rest of the world, and new geysers and other features emerge constantly. Yellowstone Park also contains fossil forests, a volcanic-glass mountain and dozens of spectacular waterfalls.

The breathtaking scenery and the possibilities of unforgettable wildlife encounters (moose, elk, trout, bears, wolves) make this a must-see area. Hike one of the many trails to an isolated waterfall or geyser and enjoy the wildflowers, landscape features and wildlife along the way.

Most visitors never stray far from the road, however, so going for a hike is a great way to leave the crowds behind. Another option is to plan your travel for an off time or a "shoulder" season. Many visitors find a trip in late spring or early fall gives them a great Yellowstone experience without the crowds.

Adventurous travelers visit in winter, when access is limited and most travel is by skis, snowmobile or snowcoach. Consider spending a few days at one end of the park and a few at the opposite end. This will reduce your point-to-point driving time, leaving you more time for sightseeing, hiking and soaking up the scenery.

#10 Mackinac Island, MI

Visitors to Mackinac Island in the Straits of Mackinac (pronounced MACK-in-naw), between the Upper and Lower peninsulas about 285 mi/460 km north of Detroit, can step back in time. Autos may have made Michigan's fortune, but they're banned from this island—horse-drawn carriages, saddle horses, bicycles and walking are the only means of transportation.

Although many visitors see the island on a day trip, we recommend spending at least one night there. The lodging isn't cheap (though you may find some bargains in early spring and late fall), but it's worth it. The resort offers a modified American Plan which means most activities at the resort, as well as daily breakfast and dinner are included in the cost of your stay. Guests get a lot of value for the money.

Once the throngs of day visitors depart, the island becomes even more like the 1800s: The streets are dark and largely empty, and the utter quiet is broken only by the occasional sound of clomping hooves. An overnight stay will also give you more time to see the island's sights.

Fort Mackinac is a restored military outpost from the 1700s (it once belonged to Britain) with 14 original buildings. Costumed staff provide musket- and cannon-firing programs, dramatic re-enactments and craft demonstrations.

The Grand Hotel (as its name suggests) is the island's grande dame, an immense white structure built in 1887 (it looks something like a white battleship beached on a high hillside). The huge, 660-ft-/200-m-long veranda has become such a popular attraction that the hotel charges nonguests for the privilege of sauntering on it. Each September, the hotel hosts the Labor Day Jazz Festival.

Because it's only 8 mi/13 km in circumference, a bike or horse ride around the island's flat coastal road is quite manageable, and it will take you past several sights. Arch Rock is a natural rock formation that frames an incredible view of the straits and the Upper Peninsula town of St. Ignace. You'll also be treated to fine views of the soaring Mackinac Bridge on your way around the island.

Those looking for more of a challenge can ride or hike through the hilly interior of the island. For the most spectacular views, we recommend a visit to Fort Holmes, a partially reconstructed British stockade perched on the highest point on the island (a carriage ride will save you some tough uphill work).

Other island attractions include the cute, though rather touristy, business district (the combined smell of horse manure and fresh fudge is one that you won't soon forget); three golf courses (including the oldest private golf club in the country); and many spectacular examples of Victorian residential architecture, especially the summer homes along East Bluff and West Bluff drives. Be sure to check out the Mackinac Island Lilac Festival if you're there in early June.

Travel Specialists are Here to Help!

We realize some of you might not be ready to plan a getaway quite yet, but for those of you who are craving a vacation beyond the living room, there's no reason why you can't start dreaming and planning right now. While we don't recommend setting your sights on international travel quite yet, our specialists are curating some vacation packages to destinations a little closer to home with plenty of breathing room. There really is something for everyone and so much to see and do right here in the US. Here's are some to consider:

  • National Parks
  • Self-drive itineraries
  • B & B weekends
  • American History Tours
  • Authorized Agent for Backroads Bike Tours
  • Faith Based Travel
  • Mountain and lake lodges
  • Small beach towns
  • Dude ranches & working farm stays
  • Gourmet food and wine tours
  • Photography tours
  • Small group escorted tours of 16 guests or less
  • Rail vacations

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