Think you have to fly around the world to go on an amazing trip? Think again! Plenty of U.S. cities offer vacation-worthy beaches, dining, nightlife, and attractions, so you can feel worlds away without being too far from home. Pick your travel style below, then start planning your next vacation. If you’re lucky, your destination might even be in your backyard.
For the Refined: Carmel, CA
If you’re in the Bay Area when springtime rolls around and the weather is just right, make a trip to the beautiful city of Carmel—also called Carmel-by-the-Sea. It’s known for its quaint ambiance and has one of the most popular shopping districts in the U.S., sprinkled with bookstores, boutiques, and some local artisan shops. If you’re an art enthusiast, Carmel boasts some of the most prestigious galleries in the area—and they’re all downtown and close enough together to do your own walking art tour.
When you’re done shopping, cozy up to the bar at one of Carmel’s many wineries, where you can enjoy Northern California’s best red wines (Cabernet Sauvignon! Merlot!) and olive oil tastings.
For the Relaxed: Amelia Island, FL
Unlike the other popular Florida spring break destinations, Amelia Island is known for relaxation. The small, 13-mile long island takes pride in being one of North America’s top 10 islands, according to Conde Nast. It’s no wonder—with crystal blue water, sandy beaches, and incredible wildlife, Amelia Island is truly a paradise.
Besides spending your days on the beach, make sure to dine at some of the island’s amazing restaurants like Lulu’s at the Thompson House, which serves up an excellent Sunday brunch. Another fine way to spend a day is to take a stroll in the historic downtown, wandering and taking in the great architecture and amazing views.
For the Eclectic: San Diego, CA
For the quintessential California vacation, head to San Diego—and specifically, Ocean Beach. Watch surfers ride the waves as you walk along the wooden pier, or even take a stab at surfing yourself at a surf school like Ocean Experience!
The eclectic mix of locals and tourists roaming the beach makes for fun people-watching while you sit on the sand and enjoy the San Diego staples: carne asada fries and a California burrito (with french fries inside!) from a nearby taqueria. If you’re not too full, some of the best burgers in the world are served at Hodad's—but that’s no secret, so be prepared to wait in line.
For the Foodie: Austin, TX
If beaches aren’t your thing, head to Austin for a delicious adventure. It’s a haven for foodies, with favorites including La Condesa for award-winning contemporary Mexican, Second Bar + Kitchen for new American food, and Lamberts for high-end BBQ.
Make your way to “Dirty Sixth” street on Friday and Saturday nights, where you’ll see tons of people bouncing from bar to bar. And don’t forget about the late-night culinary delights—think walk-up windows with pizza slices, the German Best Wurst food truck, and tasty pub grub.
For the Scholarly: Washington, DC
A leisurely spring vacation peppered with some learning never hurt anyone! Cross of as many museums, landmarks, and tours as possible while visiting our nation’s capital—the Library of Congress, Lincoln Memorial, and National Museum of Women in the Arts are not to be missed.
When you need a break, rent a kayak at a riverside boat center for a paddle on the Potomac, or take a bike ride along the C&O Canal. If you hit the city at the right time, you’ll be able to revel in the beauty of the annual Cherry Blossom festival.
Just off the river, you can indulge in food, fashion, and art at Georgetown’s upscale boutiques. And for nighttime entertainment, don’t miss Blues Alley—the club has seen the best of the jazz scene, from Dizzie Gillespie to Tony Bennet, and features live music every night.
Photos of Washington DC cherry blossoms and San Diego shore courtesy of Shuterstock. Photo of Carmel coast courtesy of Bexx Brown-Spinelli. Photo of Carmel town courtesy of Harvey Barrison. Photo of Amelia Island sunset courtesy of Patty O'Hearn Kickham. Photo of Amelia Island deck courtesy of anoldent. Photo of Hodad's courtesy of Bonnie Dean. Photo of Austin TX courtesy of GSPhotography / Shutterstock.com. Photo of meal at Second Bar + Kitchen courtesy of Liang Shi. Photo of Natural History Museum courtesy of fstockfoto / Shutterstock.com. Photo of Georgetown waterfront courtesy of Javier Ignacio Acuña Ditzel.
Stephanie Ainza's a travel expert and Community Manager at the online travel site, Hipmunk. Her favorite travels have included backpacking across 10 countries in Europe, zip lining in Costa Rica, and food tastin' in New Orleans.More from this Author