Warmth and nature as far from NYC as possible. Oh, and a tight budget.
December 4, 2009 8:42 AM   Subscribe

Warmth and nature as far from NYC as possible. Oh, and a tight budget.

My friend and I are looking to go somewhere warm and nature-y during the week between Christmas and New Year's. Our ideal get-away is the Grand Canyon, but it will cost too much money. We have access to a car and we're willing to drive. Trying to keep the cost to a few hundred dollars each. NYC is our starting point.

We would prefer some kind of lodging over tent camping, though with our budget, we have to be flexible.

Looking for an adventure. Any ideas?
posted by anthropoid to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Cheap flight to Miami then sleep on the beach/crappy hotel?

FYI, the Grand Canyon is not at all warm in the winter.
posted by dfriedman at 8:54 AM on December 4, 2009

Response by poster: True to the lack of warmth of the Grand Canyon in the winter. I guess I really just mean not NY cold. Desert cold would be ok. Just really need a serious change of scenery for a few days.
posted by anthropoid at 8:55 AM on December 4, 2009

JetBlue to Puerto Rico, ferry to Culebra, camp at Playa Flamenco, swim, hike, &c.
posted by nicwolff at 8:57 AM on December 4, 2009

Hmm, now that I look, flights aren't cheap that week. I don't think you can get anywhere warm and back for a few hundred dollars each, sorry.
posted by nicwolff at 9:02 AM on December 4, 2009

Response by poster: Yes, flights are expensive. But we have a car! Help me be creative! Don't give up nicwolff!

ok, no more threadsitting for me
posted by anthropoid at 9:13 AM on December 4, 2009

The Grand Canyon in the winter is significantly colder than New York in the winter, and getting there by car can be tricky to impossible given the road conditions.

Let me kindly suggest that you think this through a lot more carefully. Some things to consider: the actual temperature and weather conditions of the place you want to get to (the Weather Underground site has good resources), and the temperature, weather conditions, and road conditions of the places you'll have to drive through to get there.

Think about southern Eastern Seaboard places, like Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:15 AM on December 4, 2009

There are some good lodging deals at Georgia's state parks.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:17 AM on December 4, 2009

Roadtrip to somewhere on the Carolina coast. Not warm warm, but warmer than NY. Google maps says you can get to the Outer Banks in about eight hours. If you're feeling more ambitious, Hunting Island State Park in South Carolina is lovely in winter, and I'd guess their cabins are decently cheap that time of the year.
posted by little e at 9:23 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'm going to amend my original post:

My friend and I need a significant change of scenery from NYC. Cold is fine, but only if it comes with great benefits that you cannot find in NYC. i.e. We do not want to go to Montreal, but the desert would be awesome.

We do not have much money to spend, but we can drive somewhere. I have never driven further south than D.C., and I've never driven west, so please advise as to where to go, possible routes, places to stay that are cheap, etc. Please be as specific as possible - I really am clueless.

Even just a straight-up road trip would be fun.

The grand canyon reference was to give you a sense of how much of a change of scenery I'm looking for. I was also thinking the island of Chincoteague. Thought that might be interesting.

Now, I am really, really done threadsitting. Just want to make sure I posed the question in the most helpful way possible.
posted by anthropoid at 9:24 AM on December 4, 2009

2nd the JetBlue to Miami idea. But don't spend your time in Miami -- drive out to Everglades National Park.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 9:30 AM on December 4, 2009

I would say drive south and just wing it. Get a good road atlas and maybe a general USA guidebook. Stick to the US highways rather than the interstates - more interesting. Stay at cheap roadside motels - if you arrive late in the day (past 7/8pm) you can usually bargain for a cheaper rate...just keep repeating "Is that the best rate you can do?"

Places in the south off the top of my head...Memphis/Graceland, Nashville, New Orleans, Mississippi Delta, any state or national park, etc. I know most of those aren't necessarily nature-y, but if you've never been south of DC before, it'll definately be a change of scenery.
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 9:36 AM on December 4, 2009

Flights during that week will be expensive to anywhere you'd possibly want to go. So if I were you'd I'd drive to Florida.
posted by birdherder at 10:08 AM on December 4, 2009

There seem to be bunch of naysayers on this site who thrive on shooting down ideas. I drove to the Grand Canyon in December several years ago, the drive was far from precarious, let alone impossible (4 wheel drive & snow tires are helpful, but not necessary), and the weather there was sunny and in the 40s or 50s. However, with $200-$300 dollars each, getting cross country and back, unfortunately, is unfeasible-- considering costs of gas, lodging, food, etc. Otherwise, there are countless places you can get to from NYC for that sum-- many of which I'm sure people will post. I would say, just pick a destination, or general area, theoretically reasonable given your budget, stay in a cheap motel each night ($50-60/night), get food much of the time at grocery stores, sometimes inexpensive diners-- and see how far you can get. Some interesting destinations: Atlanta; Asheville, NC; Alabama; etc. Or, better yet, plan out a rough route where you hit a bunch of interesting areas of interest along the way and back. To use a cliche-- 'it's not rocket science.' The main thing is just to get in the car and start driving towards some vague destination(s). The trip is just as much about having fun and hanging out while traveling as seeing any place specifically... By the way, don't know if belong to Triple A, but if you go into one of their offices and sit down with an agent, they will consider your budget and plan out a trip with relevant places to visit and points of interest within an hour or two, and give you a bunch of maps to follow.
posted by cotesdurhone at 10:41 AM on December 4, 2009

Check out Savannah, St. Augustine, and points south. Savannah is more gritty and less phony than St. Augustine. Go to just about any state park along your improvised route and check out trails. Rent kayaks. Stay in funky motels. Have fun. Send postcards.
posted by mareli at 1:49 PM on December 4, 2009

Do you like alligators? You should go to Folkston, GA - the Gateway to the Okefenokee! It'll be decently warm - just about 40 miles from Jacksonville, FL. The Star Motel is $35 a night, the Okefenokee National Park is $5 for a week, and the Okefenokee Restaurant has the $8 all you can eat dinner. The swamp is great - 'gators basking and lots of other critters. There are walking and driving trails. A canoe is like $16 for the day, I think. Mr. Kyoto and I generally get there in a day and a half of not-killing-ourselves-paced driving from NYC.
posted by Wylie Kyoto at 2:28 PM on December 4, 2009

State park in Delaware or Virginia? Some seem to have heated cabins.
posted by kestrel251 at 2:50 PM on December 4, 2009

Yes, as others have suggested, the only warm-ish places in reasonable driving distance are the southern coastal areas; though they can be cold as shit in the winter at times, it's certainly warmer than the city. You want nature, there are tons of barrier islands with parks on them from VA to FL. You were thinking Chincoteague? Go there! Or Hatteras, Ocracoke, Bear Island, Edisto, etc.
If it's not so much the weather but the change of scenery, you could just check the weather forecast for different areas within driving distance and make a decision at the last minute. The 'Dacks aren't that far, it's twelve hours to the Great Smoky Mountains, but the Shenandoahs are closer.

For a significant change of scenery in the city, I recommend Inwood Hill Park.
posted by Red Loop at 2:51 PM on December 4, 2009

I drove to the Grand Canyon in December several years ago, the drive was far from precarious, let alone impossible (4 wheel drive & snow tires are helpful, but not necessary), and the weather there was sunny and in the 40s or 50s

I have been at the Grand Canyon in December in similar weather, and I have not gone to the Grand Canyon in December because of blizzards. There's no way of telling this far in advance what the weather's going to be like there at the end of this month, and one of the very frequent weather possibilities in late December/early January is OMG BLIZZARD.

If you look at average temperature/precipitation data, you'll see that planning a trip to the Grand Canyon in December looking for "warmth" is ridiculous. Yes, sometimes there's fluke warm days in the winter, but there's more often blizzards and ice.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:04 PM on December 4, 2009

Response by poster: Sidhedevil - just so you know warmth in the Grand Canyon wasn't what I meant. My original question was confusing so I restated it to clarify. The Grand Canyon in December would be ideal for me, cold and all, but I can't get there cheaply, so let's do warmth within driving distance instead, or somewhere cold that is so fantastic, it's worth it. I know that's not the way the original question read, but it's what I meant.

I feel like I'm finally getting interesting responses (driving to Savannah sounds like a great idea) so I'd rather not derail it with an argument about the Grand Canyon.

More driving south advice, please!
posted by anthropoid at 4:27 PM on December 4, 2009

Response by poster: That is awesome EmpressCallipygos!
posted by anthropoid at 9:49 PM on December 4, 2009

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