Comprised of 17 states and the nation’s capital, the East Coast contains cities and sights that are famous the world over. New England, the Mid-Atlantic and the Southeastern U.S. encompass a variety of climates, cultures, styles and histories.
On the heels of our West Coast recommendations, below is a list of the best East Coast weekend getaways. Our list includes everything from hiking, country vistas, beaches, fun attractions, shopping and sightseeing. From bustling cities to fresh mountain air to white sandy beaches, this list of getaways has something for everyone – and every budget!
Shop through Splender for everything you’ll need for your weekend respite and find great deals and cash back on everything from travel gear and packing essentials to restaurants, hotels, performances and even historic tours.
If you’re leaving from New York City:
Woodstock and the Catskills, N.Y. (208 miles round-trip)
Woodstock, N.Y., could be one of the most famous small towns in the world, because of the seminal 1969 music festival of the same name (which was actually held in Bethel, in the southwestern region of the Catskills). Woodstock was attracting artists long before the festival that bore its name, however. After about a three-hour drive out of the city, you’ll come upon this historic town that feels worlds away from the bustling Big Apple. One of New York State’s best weekend getaways is a haven for eccentrics and artists from all walks of life. You’ll find clusters of charming historic cabins, swimming holes, eclectic shops, art galleries and beautiful scenery.
Speaking of which, there are several stunning hikes all around the area with fantastic views of the Hudson River and surrounding Catskills. The shortest hike with the biggest payoff is the one-mile trail to Kaaterskill Falls, which features a two-drop waterfall and was a frequent subject of the Hudson River School of artists. Here, outdoor activities like fishing, tubing, hiking and skiing are all at your fingertips.
The Phoenicia Diner is a gem along Route 28 where you’ll want to fuel up before or after a hike. Be forewarned that if you order one of their skillet dishes, you might not be hungry for dinner…or ever again. Next, take a tour of The Center for Photography at Woodstock. Founded in the 1970s, it offers a wonderful roster of shows, speakers and programs. The Elena Zang Gallery also shows great works of art, and when they host openings, the whole town shows up. Bonus: it’s housed in the building that was once the bar where Bob Dylan and Joan Baez performed in the ‘60s.
Sixties bohemian fashion still lives on in Woodstock, from outdoor stands in the summer to the year-round store Not Fade Away, which offers everything you might need from, say, tie-dye shoelaces to a Pink Floyd change purse. Find some inspiration from this DVD box set of Woodstock 3 Days of Peace & Music from Jet.com (with 2% cash back for Splender members). The documentary covers the three-day iconic music festival featuring performances, interviews with the artists and candid footage of young fans in a defining portrait of 1960s America.
Philadelphia, Pa. (194 miles round-trip)
It may be hard to fit everything in on your trip to the city of Brotherly Love from among the many entertaining and educational options. But first (and most importantly, of course) venture out on that quest for the best Philly cheesesteak, which stands as equal parts civic symbol, tourist attraction and cultural obsession in Philadelphia. Check out the never-ending rivalry between two of the most famous cheese-steak joints, Geno’s Steaks and Pat’s King of Steaks in South Philly. Pat’s claim to fame is its founder, Pat Olivieri, who is said to have invented the delicious steak sandwich in the 1930s. Geno’s has been serving up steak sandwiches since 1966 opening up his restaurant directly across the street from Pat’s. Why not try both and decide for yourself who makes the best? Both are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so you can visit whenever you get the urge.
If this is your first trip to Philadelphia, you can’t miss Independence National Historical Park. Take a tour of Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed, examine the life and legacy of Benjamin Franklin, and take a closer look at the world’s most famous damaged chime, the Liberty Bell, and much more. You can find amazing discounts on admission to these sights as well as several other attractions and performances in the area such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts Museum and the Philadelphia History Museum at Groupon (plus earn an extra 5% cash back if you’re a Splender member).
Cape Cod, Mass. (490 miles round-trip)
Cape Cod, one of the most famous East Coast weekend getaways, has been a favorite of the Kennedys and other famous names such as Gregory Peck, Harry Connick Jr. and Steven Tyler, and even the multi-platinum songstress Taylor Swift once owned a home here.
Besides a chance meeting with celebrities, the serene beaches, art galleries and antique shops have visitors longing for more. The village of Falmouth, in particular, is the area’s best family destination. Cool breezes, warm water and an easily navigable town are some of its calling cards. Attractions and easy day trips to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket round out the bill.
With its relatively flat terrain and a network of paved bike trails, the Cape is perfect for family cycling trips. Several bike path options can take you through the woodlands, marshes, sand dunes and forests, and you can end your trip at the ocean for a refreshing dip in the water. The recently expanded Shining Sea Bikeway is a local favorite.
Nestled among the towns and villages in Cape Cod and Southeastern Massachusetts are thousands of acres of working cranberry bogs. Consider taking a Cape Cod Cranberry Bog Tour to learn about the cranberry’s importance to Cape Cod and even bring a fresh batch home with you.
Bringing snacks to the beach? Throw a couple of ice packs into this Coleman 16-qt Personal Wheeled Cooler (available for purchase at Walmart.com, where Splender members can receive 2% cash back) and you’re good to go with fresh snacks and drinks that’ll stay cold throughout your entire day in the sun.
If you’re leaving from Washington, D.C.:
Harpers Ferry, W. Va. (244 miles round-trip)
Sitting behind a desk all day leaves even the fiercest political animals longing to let off some steam. Luckily, less than two hours away from Capitol Hill lies a playground unparalleled in the mid-Atlantic: Harpers Ferry, an unassuming town where Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia meet at the union of two rivers and a national park. A trip to Harpers Ferry will certainly get the hearts pounding of anyone who loves to play outdoors.
A visit to this quaint, historic town is like stepping into the past. Get ready for a tremendous amount of American history as you start at the Visitor’s Center and take the shuttle to the Lower Town, where living history actors demonstrate life during the Civil War in a collection of buildings and museums. Don’t miss the Civil War Living History Museum and the John Brown Wax Museum, where you can hear the story of the abolitionist John Brown and his raid on Harpers Ferry. Another interesting introduction to the town’s tumultuous past is through Ghost Tours of Harpers Ferry that makes your tour of history a little more “haunting.”
The Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers converge at Harpers Ferry. The variety of trails coupled with the nationally significant area history and views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Potomac and Shenandoah River valleys creates one of the most unique hiking experiences. Or bike down the C&O canal trails alongside the two rivers to experience the “Wild and Wonderful” West Virginia countryside.
Harpers Ferry is a town with dramatic geography and pivotal Civil War sites. It’s a place you can visit multiple times to experience a wide variety of activities—history, adventure, funky craft shops and excellent cafes. But be sure to wear comfortable hiking shoes—this is one hilly place. Another thing you may want to bring is a guide book to the town, its history and the local hiking trails. West Virginia: An Explorer’s Guide by Leonard M. Adkins is a great travel companion. (Find Adkin’s book at Barnes & Noble, where members will receive 3% cash back.)
Charlottesville, Va. (232 miles round-trip)
The charming town of Charlottesville, Va., is home to the University of Virginia (“UVa”), with a brick-lined downtown mall and more than local orchards and vineyards scattered throughout the area. Here you’ll find a perfect mix of relaxation and fun. Horseback riding, antique shops and historic architecture bring visitors from around the state, up and down the coast and across the U.S.
Charlottesville is perhaps most well-known for being the resting place of Thomas Jefferson. You’ll clearly see Jefferson’s love of 16th century classical Italian architecture everywhere you look. America’s third president built his home here, Monticello, and you can tour the architectural masterpiece, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Then, don’t miss Jefferson’s Academical Village, the University of Virginia. On your tour of the beautiful campus, founded in 1819, take a stroll through Jefferson’s winding gardens, visit the famous Rotunda, and even see where the famous poet and UVa dropout, Edgar Allen Poe, lived on campus.
You’ll see why Virginia is nicknamed the “Mother of Presidents” — just in Charlottesville alone you can tour three of the Founding Fathers’ homes. If you’re up for it, check out Jefferson’s neighbor and fellow president James Madison’s home, Montpelier, as well as James Monroe’s Ash Law-Highland residence adjacent to Monticello.
During all of this wandering around town, be sure to leave room for dessert at Sweethaus, a favorite among locals, thanks to the top-notch ingredients and wide variety of candies and chocolates. Don’t miss the Double Pistachio and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough cupcakes.
Charlottesville is known for its burgeoning music scene, as well, going toe-to-toe with the greatest cities in the world when it comes to booking high-profile musical acts and attracting up-and-coming, critically acclaimed bands. On any given night, it’s not hard to find a concert worth lending your ears to. Upcoming performances include Willie Nelson (May 25), the 1975 (June 12) and Walk the Moon (July 25) at the Telso Wireless Pavilion; Charlottesville’s own Dave Matthews Band (May 7) will be playing at the John Paul Jones Arena, as well as Luke Bryan (April 16). You can find great deals on tickets for these performances and many more from Vivid Seats (with 7% cash back) and Select-A-Ticket (for 4% cash back).
Outer Banks, N.C. (about 600 miles round-trip)
Once home to the notorious English pirate Blackbeard and the location of the first successful plane flight by the Wright brothers, the Outer Banks, N.C., (or OBX) is full of history, relaxing beaches and protected wildlife. The 200-mile chain of barrier islands is family-friendly, and visitors can easily bike around to the picturesque shops and cafes. Look out at beautiful ocean views amid the towering sand dunes, kayak along the sound or take surfing lessons on the crashing waves at the beach—you’ll never run out of things to do and see here.
At the halfway mark from D.C. to the OBX, stretch your legs in Williamsburg, Va., for some Colonial American history. This historic district and living-history museum recreates the way people really lived and dressed in Colonial America during the Revolution. Make sure you see the Governor’s Palace and take a tour of the place that Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson called home after its 1722 completion. Also, don’t forget to stop by the College of William & Mary, the second-oldest college in the country. The campus’s signature building, the Wren building, is particularly striking. It was built by the famous English architect Sir Christopher Wren, who is known for his designing of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.
If you have extra time, 15 minutes southwest of Williamsburg is the nearby Jamestown Settlement, home to the first British colonists in the New World. Or head to the Busch Gardens Williamsburg theme park for a rush aboard the thrilling roller coasters or a taste of culinary traditions from around the world. LivingSocial has regular deals and discounts on tickets and annual passes to the park.
Back at OBX, when you’re ready to venture past the beach, visit one of the circa 1800s lighthouses dotting the main stretch of the OBX. Starting in the north, you’ll first come upon Currituck Beach Lighthouse in Corolla, and if you’re up for it, climb all the way to the top for a beautiful view. An hour further south, you’ll come across the black and white-striped Bodie Island Lighthouse and then the famous Cape Hatteras lighthouse.
An unmistakable landmark in Nags Head, Jockey’s Ridge State Park is another must-see. It is the tallest natural sand dune system on the East Coast. The towering dunes provide an incredible playground for hang gliders, kite flyers and anyone who is up for a long hike and some incredible views. Across from the park you’ll find a Kitty Hawk Kites store, which offers a huge selection of kites as well as all kinds of rentals and lessons from hang gliding to kite boarding.
On rainy a day, check out the Wright Brothers National Monument in Kitty Hawk—the site where air travel was born. A full-size replica of brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright’s Flyer is on display, as well as an exhibit interpreting the regional and aviation history. Finally, refuel at Capt’n Franks, also in Kitty Hawk. The old fashioned, laid-back eatery has been serving the best hot dogs, seafood and beer in town since 1975.
While you’re out exploring, keep your iPhone safe from sand and surf with this waterproof case you can wear around your neck. Your phone will be fully functional so you can still grab those Instagram snapshots. Buy this waterproof case from Target with 1% cash back.
If you’re leaving from Atlanta:
Savannah, Ga. (496 miles round-trip)
Get away to Savannah for sightseeing, shopping and gourmet dining. Explore its art galleries, antique shops and art studios in the Historic District and along the Savannah Waterfront on the Savannah River. Savannah’s City Market is also the place to go if you like shopping. The open-air market has been in business since the 1700s, and today offers some of the best shopping, dining and nightlife in Savannah. The city has many charming parks as well, such as Chippewa Square, where the “life is like a box of chocolates” scene in Forrest Gump was filmed.
Take a narrated tour on the Oglethorpe Trolley, which offers 90-minute tours and hop-on-hop-off service. In addition to having some of the Low Country’s best golf, Savannah has gorgeous beaches and endless opportunities for in and on the water fun like jet skiing, parasailing, kayaking and more.
On a trip to this peaceful city full of history and Southern charm, bring comfortable shoes for all the walking you’ll be doing. Flats are a must for women, as you’ll be doing plenty of walking around a city with streets covered in cobblestone and brick. Savannah is also usually quite humid, so it is best to opt for breathable canvas shoes if you prefer to wear closed-toe shoes, like the 50th Authentic Pro from Vans, which offers 2% cash back to Splender members. Otherwise, wear comfortable sandals as much as possible, like the Born Daphne sandal from Shoebuy.com (with 9% cash back).
Chattanooga, Tenn. (234 miles round-trip)
Chattanooga is set along the Tennessee River in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and a perfect weekend getaway from Atlanta. Must-sees include museums, river cruises and a plethora of city tours, but the city’s Riverwalk is not to be missed. You might want to take a full day to visit the steep Lookout Mountain where you can take the Incline Railway to the top for amazing views and the chance to see Ruby Falls, the largest underground waterfall in the U.S. Back on the ground, you can take a sidewalk tour to get a historic overview of the city’s attractions. Art lovers should head to Bluff View Art District to visit the Hunter Museum of American Art, while antique hunters will want to explore Knitting Mill Antiques, which features more than 100 shops.
If you plan to stay overnight, book a room at the Chattanooga Choo Choo. Once the terminal station for the Southern Railway line, you can sleep in style in a gorgeously restored, authentic sleeper car once available only to the super rich. Book your room at Orbitz and receive 2% cash back through Splender.
Even when on the go for just a few nights, a quality bag is one of the most important investments a traveler can make. The Large Duffel Travel Bag from Vera Bradley (with 4% cash back) is the perfect companion for a short road trip, as is this WeSC Men’s Hemi Duffle Bag from Target.com (with 1% cash back).
Hilton Head Island, S.C. (560 miles round-trip)
Known for Atlantic white sand beaches and pristine golf courses, Hilton Head Island is one of the best East Coast weekend getaways. The island features some of the best beaches in the country, and offers excellent dining and shopping, as well as historical and cultural pursuits—a new adventure awaits visitors around every corner.
Enjoy days basking in the sun, sand and surf and soaking up the island’s natural beauty. Be sure to check out the Coastal Discovery Museum, which features heritage buildings, trees and themed gardens, too. Another fun attraction can be found between the island and the mainland, the Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, which hosts deer, alligators and local birds in the salt marshes and tidal wetlands.
Over the centuries, Hilton Head Island’s natural beauty, spectacular seascapes, exceptional ecology and historical sites have inspired dozens of explorers—with Native Americans, English, Spanish, French colonists, African-Americans and soldiers all leaving their footprints on the sands of South Carolina’s treasured coast. And now it’s time for you to leave your own footprints on Hilton Head!
If you happen to be an avid golfer and plan to fit some time in at Hilton Head’s world-renowned golf courses, you might want to pack a few extra spikes for good measure. These Softspikes Black Widow Fast Twist Golf Spikes (available at Dick’s Sporting Goods with 2% cash back) offer exceptional grip. Bring along some bug repellant as well, especially if you’ll also be visiting the marshes and the Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, as they can be a haven for biting insects. Cutter Backwoods Unscented Repellent (receive 4% cash back from Lowe’s) provides 10 hours of protection.
The East Coast has so much to offer, whether your idea of paradise is exploring an iconic city, taking in mountain scenery or sunbathing on the beach; there are endless East Coast weekend getaways to choose from. Just about anywhere you live, there are a number of great places relatively close that you can discover by car. So, happy travels East Coasters!
P.S. Don’t forget to shop through Splender, where you’ll earn extra savings and receive cash back rewards on all of your weekend getaway e