Saving & Spending
5 easy (and affordable!) day trips to take right now
Start your engine and head out of town to one of these awesome destinations.
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Warm weather is synonymous with travel, but heading out of town doesn't have to break your bank account. In fact, there are so many great day trips you can take driving across the country, eschewing costly flights and hotels. This way, you can explore while also sparing your wallet—and be home before midnight. Here, we take a look at five day trips where you can enjoy the great outdoors, sample culinary delights, take in cultural offerings, or all of the above.
Northeast: Woodstock, N.Y.
A small town on the edge of the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York, Woodstock became known for the namesake music festival that celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. But the town has more than just music. Just over two hours from New York City via I-87 North or the scenic Taconic State Parkway, Woodstock is home to incredible views, like those of the Ashokan Reservoir, Woodstock Waterfall Park, and Overlook Mountain. Start the day taking in majestic natural sites, then make your way into town: it's become a hotspot for dining, art, and shopping, so you can do everything from grabbing cocktails to stocking up on homemade candles.
Insider Tip: On the weekends, check out the famous Mower's Saturday Market, a flea market held between May and November. If you're visiting during the week in the summer, check out the Woodstock Farm Festival every Wednesday for live music, local food, crafts, and more. Both are free to attend.
Northwest: Willamette Valley, Ore.
The Willamette Valley is known as Oregon's wine country, and it's easily accessible from major Pacific Northwest cities like Eugene (less than two hours via I-5 North), Portland (about an hour), and Seattle (three to four hours) via I-5 South. There are over 200 high-caliber wineries in the area, with tastings, concerts, and festivals year-round. Plus, the area is also known for gorgeous hikes and even waterfalls, if you don't mind a longer drive. You can also check out the Oregon Garden, about a 15-minute drive, which has admission under $15 and offers free narrated tram tours of the garden between April and October. If you're wine-oriented, try finishing your day with a glass of wine expertly paired with a meal at a local winery.
Insider Tip: For an extra-special, unusual thrill, check out the nearby Historic Carousel and Museum in Albany, Ore. It's free to enter and the carousel, which features hand-carved animals, is just $2 to ride.
Midwest: Spring Green, Wisc.
Though Spring Green is a small village about an hour from Madison, Wisc. (via US-14 E), it's rife with experiences perfect for summertime travel. If you're an architecture enthusiast, you can visit Frank Lloyd Wright's famous Taliesin, a tour that costs only $10. Just 15 minutes away, you can also learn the art, science, and business of cheese making at the local Cedar Grove Cheese Factory. If you're interested in a hike, try visiting the shaded cliffs of Ferry Bluff or the Avoca Prairie for a beautiful expanse of wildflowers. To support local vendors and get fresh fare, the Spring Green Farmer's Market is open every Saturday from 8 a.m. until noon; and the Spring Green General Store is housed in a converted cheese factory that features a cafe (with a porch swing) that's open for breakfast and lunch.
Insider Tip: The Spring Green General Store is also home to the annual BeatleFest, a Labor Day concert featuring bands playing hits by the Fab Four from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and it's absolutely free.
Southeast: Lake Lure, N.C.
About two hours from Charlotte via I-85 South and less than one hour from Asheville via US-74 ALT E, Lake Lure, N.C. is a small town best known at the backdrop for the classic 1987 film "Dirty Dancing" which they honor with a festival held every September. Rest up on the beaches and swim in Lake Lure, or visit gorgeous views of Hickory Nut Gorge in nearby Chimney Rock State Park. After your beach or trail time, check out the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge, a footbridge atop the Rocky Broad River that's covered in a vibrant, community-maintained garden. A short (less than one mile drive) away is Chimney Rock Village, beloved for its locally-owned stores and restaurants.
Insider Tip: You can climb to the top of Chimney Rock, or take a free elevator all 2,280 feet up in about 32 seconds. At the top, there's a 75-mile-wide view of the area once you get up there, including not just the gorge but the lake and the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains.
Southwest: Sedona, Ariz.
Surrounded by Arizona's famed red rocks, Sedona is regularly voted one of the most beautiful places in the United States. Two hours from Phoenix via I-17 North and less than an hour from Flagstaff via AZ-89A South, Sedona is the perfect place for visitors seeking both natural beauty and small city vibes. For outdoor adventures, the West Fork Trail is considered an iconic trail in the area, known for its many stream crossings and cliff views. Or you can walk the city itself, known for local art that can be viewed in galleries or on specialized art walks. If you want to combine outdoor and artistic adventures, you can try an hour drive south of Sedona to check out Arcosanti, which offers a projection for future cities and is free to visit. Finish up with some of the many food offerings in the area, especially those inspired by southwestern and Mexican tastes.
Insider Tip: Stay cool at Slide Rock State Park in Sedona, which is one of the country's best swimming spots because it features an 80-feet-long natural water slide. Entrance to the park is $7 per vehicle, but $3 per person if you arrive by foot or bicycle.
Elyssa Goodman is a Chase News contributor. Her work has appeared in Vanity Fair, New York Magazine, and other media outlets.