Trade in Big-Town Bustle for Small-Town Charms Across the U.S.By Shayla Martin
Looking for a getaway but short on time? These five towns in the United States are all within driving distance from major cities but have their own distinct culture and vibe that feel worlds away. Best of all, they’re a bit under the radar, so you’ll avoid the crowds.
As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.
Fort Myers to Naples, Florida
Although both Fort Myers and Naples are known for their white sand beaches, Naples takes it up a notch when it comes to swank and sophistication.
Downtown Naples is a fashionista’s dream, with luxury storefronts like Gucci, Hermès and Louis Vuitton, or you can hunt for one-of-a-kind gems at high-end consignment shops like Designer Divas Resale Boutique or Another Man’s Treasure.
Naples is also home to some of the most sought-after golf courses on Florida’s Paradise Coast and a fine dining scene of French, Italian and Indian cuisine that rivals New York and San Francisco.
Denver to Trinidad, Colorado
Halfway between Denver and Santa Fe lies Trinidad, a former coal mining town where the 1960s counterculture artists’ community of Drop City began.
Today, the well-preserved town’s historic district is full of gorgeous 19th-century adobe and brick buildings, Victorian Romanesque stone edifices and Victorian mansions.
Outdoor enthusiasts will love being so close to Fishers Peak State Park, Colorado’s second-largest state park for mountain biking, hiking and horseback riding. And finally, there’s the town’s burgeoning art scene — you’ll find Western pop art at the A.R. Mitchell Museum, concerts by the Trinidad Music Association and eccentrically decorated cars at the Art Cartopia Museum.
Baltimore to Annapolis, Maryland
Annapolis, Maryland’s capital city, is a hub of nautical culture, colonial architecture and charming local businesses just a 35-minute drive from Baltimore.
Annapolis is home to the U.S. Naval Academy; keep your eyes peeled for uniformed midshipmen strolling the brick-paved streets of downtown as you explore art galleries, seafood restaurants (steamed crabs with Old Bay are a must!) and take in Chesapeake Bay views at City Dock.
Down at City Dock, stop by the Kunta Kinte – Alex Haley memorial that’s dedicated to the “Roots” author and honors the African persons bought and sold into slavery in the port city.
San Francisco to Redding, California
When city-weary San Franciscans need a break from the hustle and bustle, a weekend trip to Redding will do the trick. The outdoor paradise is a three-hour drive from the city and is surrounded by mountains, national parks, lakes and a river that runs right through the heart of town.
Two hundred miles of hiking and biking trails for all levels await exploration, or you can opt to cycle or stroll across the famous Sundial Bridge.
After enjoying the great outdoors, check out the Redding Cultural District for performances at the Cascade Theatre and Redding Civic Auditorium and works from internationally known artists at the Shasta College Art Gallery. Then sample more than 50 restaurants, bars and coffee shops.
Charleston to Hilton Head, South Carolina
After the charming streets of Charleston have been explored, change course and head south to Hilton Head Island instead. Located in the low country region of South Carolina, Hilton Head is a laid-back haven of Spanish moss–draped oak trees, sprawling palmettos and miles of pristine coastline.
Golf courses on Hilton Head are favorites of the PGA tour, while foodies will love regional cuisine like she-crab soup, fried okra, shrimp gumbo and an old-fashioned low country boil of steamed shrimp, smoked sausage, corn on the cob and red potatoes.
The island is also perfect for families, with miles of paved bike trails, mini golf courses and guided nature tours.