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15 of the best US cities for a weekend trip

Monday, March 9, 2020 3:00 PM

Washington, DC, was named The New York Times' No. 1 place to travel in 2020, making it a top weekend trip destination.

The capital of the United States, Washington, DC, was ranked first on The New York Times' list of "52 Places to Go in 2020." 

The city can make for a weekend trip full of possibility, as it's home to historic landmarks and memorials, world-famous museums, and some of the nation's best cuisine.

DC's Metro makes it easy to explore the city's various neighborhoods, from Georgetown to Foggy Bottom. The DC Metro was named the nation's best transit system in 2016 by financial services firm SmartAsset, which used Census Bureau data to determine the winner.

A three-day trip to DC offers more than visiting national monuments — it also leaves time to explore the outskirts of the city, such as the colonial homes of Old Town in Alexandria, Virginia.

Cincinnati, Ohio, is a vibrant, underrated city in the Midwest that's full of culture.

Cincinnati is known for its cultural institutions, including the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Cincinnati Zoo.

The Greater Cincinnati area is also unique because it's home to some of the region's most historic religious sites and houses of worship — from the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, which opened in 1837, to Plum Street Temple, a Jewish synagogue known for its detailed architecture.  

The city also has a vibrant local brewery scene, and its food claim-to-fame is a classic: Skyline Chili, a traditional Midwestern take on chili dogs.

For a seaside trip that's off the beaten path, look into Friday Harbor on Washington state's San Juan Islands.

TripAdvisor called Friday Harbor, a fishing village on the San Juan Islands, one of the top 20 weekend trips to take in the US.

For fans of water-side activities like dolphin- and whale-watching, lighthouse tours, and quiet days by the beach, Friday Harbor could be worth a look. Travelers can even plan a trip in time for the San Juan Islands' Lavender Festival, which looks like an attraction straight from the lavender fields of Southern France.

Nashville is full of music and legendary local eats: the recipe for a memorable weekend journey.

In all kinds of weather, Nashville is a place where there's always something to do, listen to, and eat, which makes it worthy of exploring for a weekend.

The city is not technically the home of country music, but it's known as Music City and is quintessentially filled with sounds of country and blues. It's also where many American country stars have gotten their start in the music industry. 

Nashville's Downtown is one of its most popular districts, and Broadway is a bustling spot filled with the city's most iconic bars and eateries.

Portland, Oregon, was named the No. 1 city in the US for foodies in 2019, and it's also known for its coffee culture.

Out of the 182 US cities featured in the study in 2019, Portland was ranked the 13th most affordable for foodies. It's also known for its high volume of craft breweries and wineries — having the second most per capita among US cities. It's also renowned for its coffee scene.

Matthew Kepnes of travel blog Nomadic Matt wrote of Portland: "Here you'll find an impressive food truck scene, cool bespoke bars and cocktail lounges, a craft beer scene that's religion to residents, relaxing parks (including a peaceful Japanese garden), a vibrant art scene, and hiking in the nearby mountains."

Temecula, California, is considered an under-the-radar version of Napa Valley, and its wineries and hot-air balloon tours make it an ideal weekend destination.

Located in Southern California between Los Angeles and San Diego, Temecula is similar to Napa Valley in that it's home to state-of-the-art wineries, but it's less crowded than Napa, according to TripAdvisor. 

Temecula's Old Town district has storefronts and architecture that date back to the late-1880s, making it a unique place to roam, shop, and eat.

The city is also known for its hot-air balloon tours, according to TripAdvisor, which are a picturesque way to see the city on a weekend trip.

St. Petersburg, Florida, is home to award-winning beaches and an impressive Salvador Dalí art museum.

St. Petersburg, Florida, is known for its idyllic beaches, but the Gulf Coast city also has a vibrant arts and culture scene.

Art-enthusiasts can spend hours at The Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, which is the only museum in the US that's dedicated solely to collections from the surrealist artist. St. Pete is also home to a collection of blown-glass sculptures by famous glass artist Dale Chihuly.

As for a day at the beach, Clearwater Beach is the city's most famous — it was named the best beach in America for 2018 and 2019 — but many locals swear by Pass-A-Grille Beach, which is located in a smaller, historic district of St. Petersburg.

A weekend spent in Estes Park, Colorado, is an ideal way to explore the Rocky Mountains.

Estes Park is known as a base for the Rocky Mountain National Park, and is home to some of America's best spots for hiking, rafting, climbing, and taking scenic drives.

TripAdvisor called Estes Park one of its best long weekend trips because of its proximity to the mountains. But Estes Park also has other things to do aside from exploring the Rockies, including visiting its local breweries and wineries.

Charleston, South Carolina, is a coastal city known for its colorful streets, historic architecture, and coastal charm.

Charleston was named Southern Living's best city in the South for 2019, and it made it onto TripAdvisor's travelers' choice list for 2019's top 25 US destinations.

"The city feels a bit like it's suspended in time, thanks to its antebellum architecture and surrounding plantation landscapes," as described by TripAdvisor's travelers' choice rankings.

From the colorful buildings that make up Rainbow Row, a famous street of pastel-painted houses, to the city's Battery, which is full of antebellum-style homes, there's no shortage of things to see and explore during a weekend in Charleston.

Flagstaff, Arizona, is the state's best-kept secret, according to Travel Channel host Samantha Brown.

Flagstaff is the highest-elevated point of Route 66 in Arizona, and as Travel Channel host Samantha Brown writes, the Southwestern city makes for a memorable weekend trip.

"At an elevation of 7,000 feet, smack-dab in the world's largest ponderosa pine forest, Flagstaff has it all," she wrote.

"It's not as popular as Phoenix or Sedona, but trust me: it's easy to fall in love with Flagstaff," Brown continued.

Flagstaff has 117 miles of bike lanes, making it accessible for travelers, especially avid-bikers, to enjoy the outdoors and explore the city. It's also within driving distance to the Grand Canyon, and history-enthusiasts will love its Route 66-charm, historic motels, and welcoming city center.

Memphis, Tennessee, is home to Civil Rights Movement landmarks and must-see spots for music-enthusiasts.

Memphis is home to the National Civil Rights Museum, which was built on what was once the Lorraine Motel, the site of Martin Luther King, Jr.,'s 1968 assassination.

The city, which is often described as the birthplace of blues, also has tons to explore on the musical front, from Beale Street — which makes a lyric cameo in the song "Walking In Memphis" by Marc Cohn — to Graceland, the former home of Elvis Presley.

Portland, Maine, is known for its lighthouse views and fresh seafood, but there's more to explore than lobster rolls.

Portland exudes the coastal feel of America's Northeast. Its Harbor Fish Market is a local landmark, the city offers tons of historic tours, and its Old Port waterfront district — namely Commercial Street, one of the city's most iconic streets — is full of shops and restaurants to explore.

Chicago is filled with public art, renowned architecture, and bucket-list food items.

Located on Lake Michigan, a few days spent in Chicago can offer a taste of what the diverse Midwestern city has to offer.

From Navy Pier, the location of the city's beloved Ferris wheel, to Millennium Park, which is home to the Cloud Gate (the mirrored, bean-shaped structure pictured above) and other eye-catching public art installations — Chicago is full of places to explore. 

Chicago's theatre scene also affords opportunities to see Broadway shows, and the city's various neighborhoods, from German Village to the Loop, each have their own unique feel.

Asheville, North Carolina, makes for a weekend trip with something for everyone, from hiking through the Great Smoky Mountains to exploring the Biltmore estate.

Nomadic Matt called Asheville the Portland, Oregon, of the North Carolina mountain region.

"Asheville is Portland in the North Carolina mountains: full of tasty craft beer, food, and hipsters," the blogger wrote.

Aside from its scenic mountain views, Asheville is home to the Biltmore Mansion, the former estate of the Vanderbilt family built in the late 1890s. Today, visitors can take tours of the ornate residence and gardens. The trendy mountain city also has a plethora of farm-to-table eateries.

San Antonio, Texas, is a mix of old and new in America's West.

TripAdvisor experts have called San Antonio, Texas, one of the most romantic weekend trips in the US, and US News ranked it one of its top places to visit in the state.

San Antonio is a mix of old and new. It is perhaps best-known for the Alamo, which used to be a Spanish mission and fortress and dates back centuries. One of its most bustling modern spots is its 15-mile River Walk, which is lined with restaurants and shops and naturally attracts visitors to the city.

The Texas city also has tons of outdoor places to explore, like a popular zoo and a colorful botanical garden.