No flight? No problem!
It seems like just yesterday we were pondering whether or not old acquaintance should be forgot, and then suddenly the summer solstice has come and gone and we’re less than a week out from the Fourth of July. If you’re the type to have turned your evergreen and tinsel garland into a permanent fixture of your décor, you may have also missed the boat on booking that plane ticket to your far-flung long-weekend locale of choice.
But that doesn’t mean you have to spend your Fourth of July weekend kicking around your hometown. With a little pluck and a few hours on the road, you can find yourself in the perfect place to kick back, relax, and take in a fireworks show—all without having to deal with overbooked flights and out of control security lines!
Note: Alas, we can’t address everyone’s hometown, so we’ve decided to use the 5 most populous cities in the U.S. as our starting points.
New York City
If you’re in New York City and looking for a place that exudes the ideal weekend getaway vibe (i.e. “laid back cool”) head to Asbury Park, New Jersey just 2 hours’ drive away. Spend the daytime strolling the boardwalk, hitting the beach, shopping the plethora of chic boutiques. Then, when night falls, you can dive into the town’s iconic music scene by checking out a live show—The Stone Pony was put on the map by an up and coming Bruce Springsteen back in the day.
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Instead of spending your precious time off in Los Angeles, elbowing through throngs of tourists on the Venice Boardwalk, hop on your “the”-prefixed highway of choice and head 3 and a half hours north to Morro Bay. This beach town’s most iconic sight is, without a doubt, the towering volcanic plug dubbed Morro Rock. Despite this grand image, Morro Bay is about as low-key as beach towns come. Even the harbor is placid thanks to a protective sand spit. Stop for a bite at Tognazzini’s Dockside where you’ll likely have the pleasure of being serenaded by live music as well as the not-so-distant barking of sea lions.
Chicago dwellers ready to spend their Fourth of July experiencing some good old-fashioned Americana, find your way to the quaint, small town of Galena (four hours away). But, don’t let its “small town” stature fool you. There’s a wide variety of dining, activity, and accommodations for just about every type of travel style. Feel like being pampered? Book some spa time at Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa. Prefer getting some fresh air to having a fresh face? Book a kayak or canoe rental with like Fever River Outfitters or go for an electric bike ride courtesy of Nuts Outdoors.
Beaches are great, but does anything say “deleted scene from a mid-century coming of age story” quite like a swimming hole? Due west of Houston is the city of Wimberley (3 and a half hours). Sure, you’ll find a square (outfitted with restaurants and shops) and a ridiculously charming outdoor movie theatre, but the real draw is those aforementioned holes. There’s Blue Hole Regional Park featuring a beautifully forested spring-fed swimming area where you can simply relax (inner tube) or get your adrenaline fix (come on, be brave, try the rope swing). The other famous spot is Jacob’s Well, home to sparkling, clear spring waters punctuated by the titular well aka a vertical entryway to a cave system—which also happens to make for the most Instagrammable cannonballs ever.
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Start heading north of Phoenix and in 2 hours you’ll eventually find yourself in the city of Prescott, which is exactly the place you need to be if you want to express your inner cowboy, that most American of archetypes. Get yourself into the great outdoors while hiking around Watson Lake, a reservoir outlined by a rugged stretch of rocks. (You’ll want to time your visit for sunset/twilight when the landscape takes on an even more dramatic beauty that’s just begging to be gazed at in a way that is at once pensive yet stoic.) When you head back to town, find your way to Whiskey Row for an old-fashioned saloon crawl. Though the myriad of 19th-century saloons burned down over a hundred years ago, the contemporary bars that have taken over this block are here to carry the torch.