With the positive and long-awaited news of COVID-19 restrictions continuing to lift, it’s time to start making up for lost time with new adventures away from home. Whether it’s a romantic escape or a trip for the entire family, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
The pandemic has taught us over the last two years that you don’t need to fly across the world to have a great vacation. There is so much beauty in our own country—from National Parks to hidden gems such as the once-abandoned President Heads in Williamsburg, Virginia, to upcoming destinations like Lake Nona in Florida.
We’ve rounded up some of our favorite weekend getaways from NJ including places to visit that are local, a road trip away and even a short flight (under four hours). Ready to get back out there?
1. Montclair, New Jersey
Montclair, New Jersey, gives the flair of Manhattan without the exhaustive hustle and bustle. Ideal for a nearby staycation with endless bars and restaurants or exploring storefronts on Main Street to find hidden gems. Additionally, visit nearby Thomas Edison National Historical Park in West Orange to see his laboratory and residence.
Where to stay: The MC Hotel is in the heart of Montclair, surrounded by a variety of art galleries, shops, restaurants, bars and more. Guests can’t skip out on the rooftop bar and an impressive art collection throughout the property.
2. Hilton Head, South Carolina
While it’s known for golf, there’s so much more to explore on this unique island. Take a kayaking tour and learn about the oyster ecosystem or head to Adventure Hilton Head with the kids to do a ropes course and a zipline. Here’s a fun fact: the zipline is the highest point in all of Hilton Head!
Where to stay: The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa offers a convenient location, breezy pool scene and is steps from the ocean.
3. Lake Nona, Florida
Lake Nona, Florida, is Orlando’s oasis away from Disney World. This growing town is rooted in the edge of technology—from their one-of-a-kind Lake Nona Performance Club to self-driving shuttles around town.
Where to stay: The Wave Hotel is home to one of the largest private art collections in the world with over 500 gallery-quality art and a 50,000-square-foot Sculpture Garden which includes the legendary bronze Charging Bull by Arturo di Modica.
4. Lake Placid, New York
Lake Placid, New York, is crawling with American history as this destination hosted the Winter Olympics in 1980. Shop small businesses and restaurants like Lake Placid Pub & Brewery, which offers local craft beer that’ll quench your thirst.
Where to stay: The Lake House is the cabin in the woods vibe we crave when we need a weekend escape. Pro tip: book a room with a balcony overlooking the lake.
Just a short flight from Newark, a weekend at the “Most Magical Place on Earth” is fun for the entire family (or even just adults). Each park at Walt Disney World has something different to offer, from drinking around the world at Epcot to tea with Cinderella at Magic Kingdom. This year is special as the park celebrates its 50th anniversary with custom memorabilia and souvenirs.
Where to stay: The Grand Floridian is all about location, location, location! The monorail has a stop at this property and is a quick ride (or you can walk the path) to Magic Kingdom. It’s the most luxurious hotel property on the grounds with a new Beauty and the Beast-inspired bar named Enchanted Rose.
6. Atlantic City, New Jersey
Why head to Las Vegas when we have Atlantic City? Spend your day at the beach and then explore the boardwalk. Nightlife has something for every type of mood, ranging from a club, slot machines, or simply a nice dinner and show.
Where to stay: Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa is one of the top-tier properties to relax, dine, gamble and be entertained to see all that Atlantic City has to offer.
7. Manhattan, New York
As New Jersey natives, we’re lucky to live so close to the Big Apple. As the weather gets warmer, enjoy a staycation exploring Central Park, South Street Seaport, new exhibits at the Met and so much more. For food, venture to Domino Park in Brooklyn and grab some pizza at L’industrie.
Where to stay: The James New York in NoMad is a boutique hotel that shares a true taste of the city via its locally crafted and custom-designed furnishings to their bar and lounge, The Seville.
8. Atlanta, Georgia
Whether you want to take a road trip or plane, there’s so much to do in the “New York of the South”—including their aquarium. Don’t sleep on the nightlife scene in Atlanta, Georgia. Scenic walks need to be on your list because this city has more nature than any other urban U.S. destination (36 percent of the city’s core is covered in trees).
Where to stay: Thompson Buckhead is one of Atlanta’s newest hotels with a signature restaurant Dirty Rascal and a soon-to-debut social club that gives guests exclusive access.
9. Burlington, Vermont
Vermont is known for a great escape during the snowy months. However, it’s just as beautiful in the summer, too. Get lost on the brick-lined Church Street with restaurants such as Sweetwaters and local art galleries. There’s even a speakeasy named Lincoln’s where everything is $5!
Where to stay: Delta Hotels Burlington is an elevated property to provide relaxation and comfort while staying in the heartbeat of Church Street.
10. Nashville, Tennessee
Pack your cowboy hat and boots to get a true taste of southern charm in Nashville, Tennessee. Explore Broadway with tons of bars and restaurants with an authentic music scene—it is called Music City, after all.
Where to stay: Bode Nashville is ideal for larger groups of friends or families with accommodations that house up to four bedrooms for any trip.
11. Williamsburg, Virginia
Williamsburg, Virginia is known for its historical sites, such as Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg. However, there’s so much more to the city. Think: local breweries, shopping and even ghost tours.
Where to stay: Fife and Drum Inn makes you feel like family with only a handful of rooms located centrally to the town square surrounded by restaurants, ice cream and more in one of America’s original shopping centers.
12. Asbury Park, New Jersey
Perfect for a day trip or a staycation, Asbury Park, New Jersey, is the ideal summertime vibe for families and adults. Spend the day on the beach and the boardwalk. For the gamer, release your inner child at the Silverball Retro Arcade.
Where to stay: Boutique property The Asbury Hotel is the ultimate beach vibe that marries history and modern charm with their gorgeous interiors for a memorable staycation.
13. Washington, D.C.
A few hours’ drive from Jersey, Washington D.C. always has something new, whether it’s your first visit or tenth. For those who have never been, The National Mall isn’t actually a mall. It’s the outdoor walkable area to see the Lincoln Memorial, numerous museums such as the Smithsonian Institution and the Washington Monument.
Where to stay: The Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City is rooted in history and tradition. The property has unique offerings, including a high tea experience for adults alongside a children-themed teddy bear tea party.
14. Seaside, Florida
Don’t confuse Seaside, Florida with our iconic boardwalk in New Jersey. Jonathan Spears, Founder of Spears Group, says, “Seaside has beautiful white sand, emerald green water beaches and was born around the new urbanism concept, which means you’re able to arrive at your destination and you don’t have to get in a car again. Everything you need is right there.”
Where to stay: To live like a local, skip the hotel and book a cottage vacation rental. With a beach town vibe, the crashing waves will wake you up every morning.
15. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
History lives on in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with the iconic Liberty Bell and museums such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Run the infamous Rocky Balboa steps and see for yourself which cheesesteak reigns supreme—Pat’s or Gino’s!
Where to stay: The Kimpton Hotel Monaco Philadelphia showcases the culture of this historical city and is walkable to many attractions and restaurants.
Bonus Destination: Austin, Texas
With a flight under four hours from Newark, Austin, Texas is the rising scene for everything food and music. Enjoy the day at Barton Springs in Zilker Park—a municipal pool filled with spring water—and end the night bar hopping on Rainey Street.
Where to stay: With a rooftop bar and pool, onsite restaurants and centrally located downtown, Hotel ZaZa Austin will keep you at the forefront of activities. They even have a concierge shuttle so you don’t have to pay for ride-sharing.
Enjoyed our list of weekend getaways from NJ? Then check out our list of Garden State staycations.
About the Author/s
James Barrett is a freelance journalist covering everything from travel, interviews, personal essays and entertainment. He's a Syracuse University alum and New Jersey native. You can subscribe to his free weekly newsletter at jimmyrox.com.