hiker on mountain in blue ridge mountains

Breathe in the Blue Ridge Mountain air at off hours. (Photo: Getty Images)

Tips + Trends

Midnight Fishing and Daybreak Drives? Here’s Your Guide to Off-Hour Activities in the U.S.

Forget sports cars and fancy watches: Space is the new in-demand luxury item. But when looking to social distance from fellow humans, it’s not just geographic space to keep in mind as you travel the country. You’ll also want to organize activities around off-peak hours with unexpected adventures in the naturally socially distant “time zones” from midnight to daybreak to keep the co-mingling to a minimum.

So whether that means midnight fishing, daybreak treks, 5 a.m. drives or 2 a.m. stargazing, these destinations provide the ultimate space for you to zone out with a new set of experiences on your next socially distant break from the human race.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning any trips.

Asheville, North Carolina

When looking to social distance in Asheville, it’s time to head to the hills. From Asheville’s scenic perch surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina, a sunrise drive along the iconic Blue Ridge Parkway provides an excellent introduction to the spectacular nature that surrounds this artsy enclave without the usual traffic.

Be among the day’s first to take in the mountain scenery encompassing the fabled 469-mile All-American Road, or head even more off the beaten path to the 52-mile Mount Mitchell Scenic Byway through the criminally underrated Pisgah National Forest.

Take advantage of this 500,000-acre expanse of wildflower-dotted rolling hillside, rounding out the experience with some 2 a.m. stargazing.

Savannah, Georgia

savannah square and gazebo
Take an early morning stroll through Savannah’s squares. (Photo: Getty Images)

A city as reportedly haunted as Savannah is best experienced during off-peak hours. With a historic downtown district paired with a number of creepy, Spanish-moss-covered, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”-style cemeteries, no hour is too early or too late to explore this romantic coastal city’s innumerable charms.

Get up early for a sunrise stroll through Savannah’s 22 charming public squares lined with historic homes and benches (including the one Forrest Gump famously sat on) nestled under shady oak trees. Along the way, stop to explore the aboveground tombs at the 18th-century Colonial Park Cemetery and the show-stopping 30-acre Forsyth Park, easily one of the most beautiful parks in the country.

If you’re looking for even more room to maneuver, take a short excursion outside the city to watch the sunrise on the laid-back Tybee Beach or get lost in a wonderland of nature at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge.

San Diego

waves crashing in san diego
Find your peace in San Diego. (Photo: Getty Images)

San Diego still gets short shrift when it comes to discussing the greatest destinations in America — though California’s second-largest city certainly belongs on the list. Despite its size, San Diego rarely feels crowded thanks to the sheer number and variety of natural escapes nearby.

The most iconic local experience is, of course, surfing, so get up early for a sunrise stroll along one of San Diego’s many gorgeous public beaches — from the hippie coastal enclave of Ocean Beach to the clothing-optional Black’s Beach. Gaze at the sea from your perch at Cabrillo National Monument on Point Loma or find room to roam within the city’s magnificent 1,200-acre Balboa Park.

Road tripping from San Diego is another off-peak-hour must, and as darkness falls, drive into the massive, 600,000-acre Anza-Borrego Desert State Park to find a gargantuan expanse of largely untouched desert landscape sprinkled with the occasional incongruous metal dinosaur sculpture. When it comes to 3 a.m. stargazing, you’ll feel a world away from the bright lights of the big city in this International Dark Sky Park.

Portland, Maine

maine lighthouse
Take a drive to see Maine’s Lighthouses. (Photo: Getty Images)

Maine’s largest city (which in Maine means 66,000 people) may be best known for its bustling waterfront and popular Old Port historic district, but the lively, brewery-packed city also offers plenty of opportunities for social distancing. With 700 acres of open space and parks paired with 70 miles of trails, this coastal city adds beaches and islands to its long list of nature-heavy attractions.

Rise early for a sunrise bike ride along the heavily wooded 10-mile Forest City Trail. Or if you’re in the market for secluded coastal views and the sound of crashing waves, hop in the car before dawn and drive along a stretch of Maine’s coast, from Kittery to Bar Harbor, seeking glimpses of some of Maine’s 65 historical lighthouses.

Farther afield, there’s no shortage of stargazing opportunities in the North Maine Woods — made famous in part by Thoreau. Or try the rugged, 209,644-acre Baxter State Park (home to Mount Katahdin) and the Rangeley Lakes region, both within a three-hour drive of town.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

cresent moon
Stargaze in New Mexico. (Photo: Getty Images)

There’s simply no place on Earth like it. Most visitors arrive in Santa Fe to immerse themselves in the world-class art and stunning historic sights in America’s oldest capital city (founded in 1610). Still, Santa Fe is also a nature-lover’s paradise with diverse options for social distancing in the variety of wide-open spaces that surround it.

Leave crowds behind as you explore the aspen-lined expanses of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains or trek your way up to elevations as high as 13,000 feet within the 1.6-million acre Santa Fe National Forest. If that’s not off the beaten path enough, discover nearby Bandelier National Monument for ancient cliff dwellings and rugged trails that make an excellent sunrise or stargazing oasis.

Santa Fe is also a road trippers paradise, with the city ringed by a number of scenic byways, including the 54-mile Turquoise Trail and the canyon-lined Jemez Mountain Trail. Get out of the car and take in the views any hour of the day; maybe even try a little night fishing while you’re here.

Salt Lake City

cecret lake in utah
Visit Cecret Lake for Insta-approved photos. (Photo: Getty Images)

In contrast to its straight-laced reputation, Salt Lake City is a fun and cosmopolitan city brimming with a buzzing nightlife scene. Despite its densely packed downtown, Utah’s capital is surrounded by lakes and mountains with an abundance of off-hours outdoor recreation never far from reach.

The picture-perfect mountain retreat of Park City is Salt Lake’s most famous outdoor asset, but Utah’s scenic beauty extends far beyond the quaint bars and shops of its downtown Main Street. Just beyond Park City’s slopes, the 2.1-million acre Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest hides in plain sight as one of the most underrated natural playgrounds in the Rocky Mountain West — with its Insta-approved Cecret Lake a perfect place to watch the sunrise or stargaze in complete solitude.

Speaking of lakes, the Great Salt Lake sits just outside town yet somehow feels completely divorced from the bustle of the city. One of many Utah state park gems, Antelope Island State Park is carved into the shores of the Great Salt Lake, complete with roaming bison herds and International Dark Sky–approved night skies, just outside the city.