Summertime is fast-approaching and we can't wait till the days of top-down convertibles, cover-ups and flip-flops dress codes, and mini weekend getaways. After all, a share can be great but there's something about a spontaneous trip to the beach to really make it feel like summer. So whether your home base is New York or Los Angeles, D.C. or San Francisco, or even Boston, we have a beach destination that can easily be reached via a quick road trip. So grab a map, your sunglasses, and some road trippin' munchies, and make your escape!
Weekend Getaway from New York City: Montauk
Travel time: 2 hours, 30 minutes via car
It may seem cliche, but there's a reason why Manhattanites flock to the Hamptons come summer. Home to upscale restaurants, trendy workout clubs, quirky shops, and of course, beautiful beaches, it offers a nice reprieve from the congestion and smog of the city -- while maintaining that cool (and sometimes snobbish) city vibe. Montauk, located at the furthest tip, however, has a more laid-back feel; residents fear that a recent influx of visitors will taint its unpretentious reputation, but for now it's a nice alternative to the ultra-exclusive vibe of other Hamptons.
Where to Stay: A cool party spot, Sole East attracts a young, beautiful crowd. With a tasty on-site restaurant, a small pool with loungers, and beach cruisers available for rent, it's a great pick.
Weekend Getaway from Los Angeles: Santa Barbara
Travel time: 1 hour, 30 minutes by car
It may just be a short drive from Los Angeles, but Santa Barbara feels world's away -- and has a little something for everyone. With top wineries, nice beaches, the popular hiking destination Mission Canyon, a well-reputed zoo, and the historic Mission-style architecture it is known for, this city has a small town vibe that makes for a relaxing getaway.
Where to Stay: Across the street from the beach and just a few minutes from downtown, Hotel Oceana is a terrific value pick. Freebie perks include breakfast, Wi-Fi, and bicycle rentals.
Weekend Getaway from Washington, D.C.: Virginia Beach
Travel time: 3 hours, 15 minutes by car
Virginia Beach is a large naval town, and you'll see plenty of cars plastered with bumper stickers that read "I love jet noise" as you approach. But the city has much more to offer besides naval history -- though there's certainly plenty. The boardwalk is lined by a variety of restaurants, ranging from gourmet fine dining to burger joints, and the beach is nice and great for surfing, with tons of surfing competitions throughout the warmer months.
Where to Stay: The 83-room Comfort Inn is a typical mid-range hotel by Virginia Beach standards. Common areas are a bit drab looking -- but the highlight is the oceanfront location.
Weekend Getaway from San Francisco: Monterey
Travel time: 2 hours by car
Many know of Monterey from the writer John Steinbeck, who shared a genuine passion for this coastal town, as expressed through many of his acclaimed novels. Travelers enter the town via the winding Highway 1, which showcases the rocky cliffs, sea lions, and beautiful misty shores that Northern California is known for. The seaside town also boasts beautiful beaches, a top aquarium, and a lively wharf with shops and food stands.
Where to Stay: Casa Munras, a hacienda-style, upper-middle-range hotel, does not sit right on the beach; but perks -- such as a tasty restaurant with an outdoor firepit, free movie nights, and up-to-date rooms -- are plentiful.
Weekend Getaway from Boston: Cape Cod
Travel time: 1 hour, 15 minutes by car
Ask anyone from Boston and they'll probably tell you that Cape Cod is a little slice of heaven right here on earth -- so it's no wonder that it's our top pick for a mini-getaway. As one of the nation's most storied summer beach vacation spots, there is no shortage of activity for all walks of life. From the cultural offerings and lively nightlife of Provincetown to the sleepy New England charm of Chatham and everywhere in between, it's not hard to see why the crowds keep returning.
Where to Stay: Nestled near the heart of Chatham on 25 scenic acres overlooking Pleasant Bay, Chatham Bars Inn has been a local staple since 1914. But don't let the term "inn" fool you; this property is big and amenities-packed, with a beautiful spa, lovely beach, fine dining restaurant, a fleet of private chartered boats, and classic clay tennis courts on-site.