As the summer season creeps up, those South Jersey residents who have been procrastinating on their vacation plans are beginning to feel the pinch. While high gas prices and rising airfare costs have folks thinking close to home, securing a desirable location down the Shore is becoming more difficult by the day. Fear not, if you’re willing to trade Cape May for Cape Charles, you’ll escape to a place that feels like a real getaway. Here we present 10 unforgettable destinations—all under six hours drive time—that pack plenty of summer fun, from cozy bed and breakfasts to outdoor adventures, whether you’re traveling with that special someone or the entire family.
Approx. Drive Time: 5 hours, 30 minutes
Boston has everything you could want in your next big trip, all packed into one convenient city location. A stroll around Boston Common, the oldest city park in the country, will lead you through breathtaking swan ponds and floral arrangements. Or make your way through Harvard Square, a hub of activity steps from the famed Ivy League university. Take a tour of Boston’s storied Freedom Trail, an actual red line running through the historic hotspots of the city. The trail will take you through sites of some of the most famous Revolutionary tales, including Old North Church, the spot of the legendary lanterns that served Paul Revere. Walking tours are available, guided by professionals in Revolutionary garb, with hidden facts scattered about the city. Fenway Park is the oldest baseball stadium in the country and is currently celebrating its 100th season. You can catch an inside glimpse of the iconic park by taking one of the daily 50-minute stadium tours.
Finger Lakes, N.Y.
Approx. Drive Time: 5 hours
Tucked away in New York State, the Finger Lakes serve as a beautiful backdrop for any private retreat. Nestled in between the lakes, bed and breakfasts and acres of greenery sit more than 50 wineries, each with their own unique twist on reds, whites and signature vintages. The area holds wine trail events and tours all year round, showcasing wines from all across the area with chocolate, cheese and other specialty food pairings. Travel around the lakes or check out the Belhurst, a romantic inn with its own winery, restaurant and spa seated on the shore of Seneca Lake, for an all-in-one stay. True vino lovers can sample the region at the Finger Lakes Wine Festival, taking place July 13-15. Held at Watkins Glen International, the famous home to many NASCAR races, the festival features more than 600 wines from 90 wineries, along with a beer garden, racetrack rides, live music and culinary creations.
Approx. Drive Time: 4 hours
Escape the Jersey Shore this summer and head north to a new coast. Mystic is bursting with sights and excursions that will turn any land lover into a seadog. The Mystic Seaport has evolved into a getaway in itself, with art galleries, seaside stores and dockside dining. Sailing tours are available for those looking to show off their nautical side, and the seaport’s Museum of America and the Sea is credited as the nation’s leading maritime institution. Stroll among recreated 19th century sailing vessels and tall ships, and meet re-enactors and crew members of the working preservation shipyard and seaside shops. Of course, there is always the famous Mystic Pizza. This pizza shop, and the entire town of Mystic, served as the location of Julia Roberts’ 1988 romantic comedy, aptly named Mystic Pizza. Stop by the original location to try “A Slice of Heaven” and see why folks have been lining up ever since.
Cape Charles, Va.
Approx. Drive Time: 4 hours, 45 minutes
Fall in love all over again with a private retreat to one of Cape Charles’ beach cottages. The town’s coast is lined with private rentable homes set against a beautiful seascape, even offering private beaches for couples that really want to get away from it all. But if the convenience of a rented room is more to your liking, try any one of the area’s many bed and breakfasts, like the Cape Charles House, a five-room inn dating back to 1912, blocks away from the beach and the Cape Charles Harbor. You can’t forget date night. Cape Charles’ Mason Avenue runs parallel to the Chesapeake Bay with a row of fine dining options that are pulling seafood straight from the source. For a romantic day out, try Assateague and Chincoteague islands. Just a stone's throw from Cape Charles, the wildlife reserves have become famous for their birding and wild horses scattered around the islands. But if you prefer the more athletic approach to couple’s bonding, head over to the Bay Creek Resort and Club for a full day of golf. Designed by PGA legends Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, the course features tee placements for all skill levels, natural beach bunkers, and greens scattered around the Chesapeake Bay.
Approx. Drive Time: 4 hours
Bring your girlfriends to this celebrity-studded summer playground for a little bit of pampering. Stretched across several cities at the end of Long Island, the Hamptons are the perfect place to gather the girls for some well-deserved relaxation. Star spotting on any one of the area’s beaches is a must, but when the sand gets too hot, head over to East Hampton, Sag Harbor and Hampton Bays for some serious shopping. From local specialty shops and antique stores to big name designers like Gucci, Calypso and Cole Haan, there is no shortage of ways to spend. An afternoon jaunt to the Pollock Krasner House in East Hampton could spark some undiscovered creativity in your entourage. Once belonging to artists Jackson Pollock and his wife Lee Krasner, this quaint cottage still sits as it did when the couple called it home—complete with paint-splattered floors. The Hamptons also boasts one of the more eclectic nightlife scenes on the East Coast, with sandy beachfront bars and slick nightclubs and lounges making sure the party lasts well after the sun goes down.
For the Whole Family
Approx. Drive Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Hershey is known as the “Sweetest Place on Earth,” and with good reason. This city is bursting with indulgences fit for every member of your family. Strap in for a wild ride this summer at Hershey Park, as Pennsylvania’s chocolaty theme park launches Skyrush, their newest rollercoaster. Opening to the public Memorial Day weekend, at 200 feet tall, and traveling 75 mph, Skyrush will be the park’s tallest, fastest and longest rollercoaster. If the need for speed isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other attractions, shows and tours to keep you occupied. But there’s more to Hershey than Hershey Park, believe it or not. Visitors will love Hershey Gardens, a 23-acre botanical garden now in its 75th year of operation. The garden’s Butterfly House holds more than 20 species, and the Children’s Garden features educational exhibits and even chocolate-scented floral arrangements. Moms can treat themselves to a little me time at the Hotel Hershey’s Chocolate Spa, a decadent take on the typical spa experience, with cocoa skin treatments and chocolate baths. Dads can indulge, too, at one of Hershey’s four award-winning golf courses. Travel packages on all of the town’s excursions are offered all summer long.
Rehoboth Beach, Del.
Approx. Driving Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
The Rehoboth Beach area, just a few miles of ocean away from Cape May, is the prime destination for a grown-up getaway. Of course there is Rehoboth’s white sand beaches and long stretch of boardwalk stops to occupy your afternoons, but the city’s massive shopping district has its own allure. With three individual shopping centers, the Tanger Outlets offer discount prices on dozens of designers like Coach, Nike, Juicy Couture and Ralph Lauren. Rehoboth Avenue also offers several boutiques like the popular South Moon Under, but hang around after the sun sets. That’s when the many bars and restaurants on the strip, like the Dogfish Head Brewpub, come alive. The company’s official brewery is also located just a few miles away in Milton and offers tours and tastings seven days a week. If you’ve had too much to drink, you’ll want to book a room at the Boardwalk Plaza, a picturesque hotel with plenty of oceanfront views and refined elegance. There’s even an adults-only level, complete with concierge service that includes private pool accommodations and late checkout times.
Shenandoah National Park, Va.
Approx. Drive Time: 4 hours
Known for its Skyline Drive, a 105-mile scenic road running through the forests, this park has much more than meets the eye. Wildlife can surprise you at any turn and waterfalls are dispersed throughout the park’s miles of lush greenery. Make your way up 3,680 feet to the Skyland Resort, a luxury hotel at the highest point on the drive, to enjoy fine dining and accommodations along with breathtaking sights of the entire park. If you’re really into the great outdoors, then check out one of Shenandoah National Park’s four U.S. National Park Service campgrounds. Located throughout the park, they’ll place you right in the center of more than 500 miles of hiking trails and 196,000 acres of open air. For the extreme adventurer, the park offers one-night introductory and intermediate rock climbing and rappelling packages along Little Stony Man Cliffs. Complete with equipment, lodging and lunch, the area’s trained instructors will take the bravest visitors out for a trip that goes far beyond the average weekend excursion.
Nemacolin Woodlands Resort |?Farmington, Pa.
Approx. Drive Time: 5 hours, 20 minutes
Grab your buddies for an all-inclusive stay at this resort, featuring 2,000 acres of luxury hotel space and outdoor escapes designed with a good time in mind. Once the summer hits, Nemacolin’s skiing and snowsports’ grounds make room for an unmatched adventure course. A suspended canopy tour brings the standard obstacle course 40 feet above the ground, with a hovering catwalk and swinging log challenge, not to mention the 1,060-foot-long zipline, which sends you speeding up to 60 mph. Or, stay grounded and experience the horsepower at the Off-Road Academy. There, instructors take adrenaline junkies out to experience the bumps and jumps of more than 20 miles of off-roading courses. Hit the greens for a full day of golf at Mystic Rock and the Links, Nemacolin’s combined 36-hole golf courses. The PGA tested par-72 and par-70 greens offer stay-and-play packages, including a free game at Mystic Rock when booking a night in the resort. Combine all of this with a cigar bar, shooting lodge, billiards room, and almost a dozen more bars and restaurants all on-site, and you might be adding a few extra days to your stay.
Approx. Driving Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Maryland’s capital is a goldmine for vacationers looking to spruce up on their American history. Home to the United States Naval Academy, limited access tours are available and the U.S. Naval Academy Museum is open year round. The “sailing capital of the world” extends well beyond the gates of the Academy, however, with historical stops and monuments scattered all around downtown Annapolis. Walking tours run throughout the district all summer, making stops at the home of Declaration of Independence signer William Paca and the Hammond Harwood House, a National Historic Landmark from 1774. You won’t want to miss the Maryland State House, America’s oldest state capitol still in continuous legislation and the site of Ratification Day, which marked the official end of the Revolutionary War on Jan. 14, 1784.
Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 2 (May, 2012).
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