In a perfect world, you would have infinite vacation days and travel funds to satisfy your wanderlust. Usually that’s not the case, but that doesn’t mean you should spend your summer stuck at home. Weekends and holidays can be great opportunities to go someplace new without worrying about booking flights or hotel rooms. Take a look at some epic day trip destinations that are close to major cities, presented by Mental Floss and Discover.
1. Santa Barbara From Los Angeles
Los Angeles is a classic American city, but if you’re looking for a slice of Europe in the United States, pop over to Santa Barbara. Located two hours north of LA, Santa Barbara is reminiscent of the coastal towns of the Mediterranean. The city is home to vineyards, white stucco buildings with red-tiled roofs, and roomy beaches. And if you want your day trip to stretch the whole weekend, there are plenty of great accommodations to choose from.
2. Grand Canyon National Park From Las Vegas
Located in southern Nevada, Las Vegas is driving distance from several of the country’s most impressive National Parks. Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona is the most famous of the bunch. After driving for a little over four hours, you’ll find yourself in the presence of one of the world’s greatest natural wonders. Ambitious day-trippers can plan a hike to the canyon floor, but even viewing the spectacle from the rim is worth the trip.
3. Pocono Mountains From New York City
The Poconos are just a two-hour drive from New York City, but they may as well be on a different planet. Instead of skyscrapers and concrete, you’ll find wooded peaks, valleys, and lakes where you can hike all day without hearing a single car alarm. If being outdoors in the summer heat isn’t your thing, wait until the winter to take advantage of the ski slopes.
4. Cape May From Philadelphia
Cape May, New Jersey—a two-hour trip from Philadelphia by car—isn’t your typical Jersey Shore beach. The architecture is just as much of a draw as the beautiful beaches. The seaside town boasts one of the highest concentrations of 19th-century framed buildings in the U.S., and the Cape May Historic district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
5. Hamilton Pool Preserve From Austin, Texas
It takes less than an hour to drive to the Hamilton Pool Preserve in Texas from the state’s capital city. The pool that the preserve is named after formed when the dome of a subterranean river collapsed thousands of years ago. Today, there is a grotto beneath what remains of the dome and a waterfall that feeds the swimming hole. The pool is one Texas’s most popular natural features, so make a reservation with the Travis County Parks department before your visit.
6. Helen, Georgia From Atlanta
In the late 1960s, Helen, Georgia, was redesigned to look like a Bavarian mountain town in an effort to attract tourists. Helen still has that same Alpine feel, with its storybook shops and buildings. When you aren’t walking around the town’s center, you can enjoy outdoor activities like camping and hiking—all just a two-hour drive from Atlanta.
7. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore From Chicago
The Midwest may be hundreds of miles from any ocean, but you can find beautiful beaches there if you know where to look. An hour outside of Chicago, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore offers visitors 15 miles of shoreline along Lake Michigan. You can fly kites or have picnics on the sand. If you ever get bored of hanging out in one spot, there are dunes, wetlands, forests, and prairies nearby to explore.
Before you head out on your dream day trip, take the credit card that will reward you for it. The Discover it® Miles Card will earn you 1.5X miles for every dollar spent on purchases and those rewards never expire. Plus, at the end of your first year, Discover will match all the miles you’ve earned automatically, which you can put towards another awesome vacation. Visit Discover.com/Travel to learn more!