Adventures in the Lower 48
February 15, 2011 8:30 AM   Subscribe

Where should we go on vacation in the contiguous US (with credit-card-reward conditions and preferences inside)?

My boyfriend is going to have a free flight within the lower 48 United States coming up from credit card rewards points, and I'm saving up my vacation days to do something great!

We're in Massachusetts, and we were planning on taking a week+ long trip to Yosemite in June or July, spending a weekend in San Francisco and then renting a car, driving to the park and camping for a week. Unfortunately we got shut out of reserving a site this morning and we don't want to take the risk of flying all the way out there and not being able to get one of the first-come, first-serve sites. So that's probably off the list. sigh.

To cheer myself up I'm asking this question: What are some awesome places we can fly to in the contiguous US? The flight has to be in and out of the same city and under $400. We can go pretty much any time after he can redeem the points, which should be at the end of this month. We were originally thinking camping but are willing to do otherwise if accommodations are affordable enough to satisfy two recently graduated college kids.

Things that are out: We've both been to and enjoyed the Grand Canyon and Chicago. We've been to LA, Las Vegas, Maine and New Hampshire together. He doesn't want to go to Florida. I've been to DC and San Francisco and loved them but would like to go somewhere new.

Things we like: outdoor activities, beautiful sights/scenery, wildlife, nightlife (bars or events), beer, food, unusual or offbeat attractions.

Things we'd like to avoid: tourist traps, unbearable temperatures that will cause great suffering, massive crowds.

So, any ideas for us? Thanks in advance!
posted by ghostbikes to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: A friend of mine flew into Austin, drove down to Big Bend for a week of hiking, camping, and then flew back out of Austin. He had a great time, it is absolutely deserted compared to Yosemite, and the temperatures will probably be bearable if you go in March, April, or November - hotter than Yosemite, but we've had a cool year so far in Texas so I doubt it will be in the 100s that early .
posted by muddgirl at 8:40 AM on February 15, 2011

Best answer: I don't have great suggestions for where, but can say for cost pricing, I like to play with kayak's explore function to get an idea of what it would cost to go somewhere fun. It takes a "from", dates, and pushes a google-map mashup for costs. kayak explore
posted by k5.user at 8:57 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'd recommend a combo Portland - Seattle trip. I've flown out of both Bradley and Logan to both cities and had a great experience. There's a short, wonderful Amtrak route (about 3 hours) between the two cities and plenty of culture/nature available around both.

You could see everything from super urban Seattle to quasi-urban bohemian Portland and be minutes from woods and volcanoes at the same time. I'm also from MA and a huge Portland fan. The cheap fun you could have there is 10x what we're used to out here. The food cart scene is incredible and public transit second maybe to NYC.
posted by clango at 9:24 AM on February 15, 2011

Best answer: OH and for flights- Virgin America serves a Boston-Seattle route, IIRC. If you get a good price, it's the best non-stop non-first class flight in the USA. Jetblue does a nearly-as-good Boston-Portland, with a really relaxing overnight return flight.

If you visit Portland, prepare to eat really well for at least about 10-15% less than we do on the east coast. I'm getting fatter just thinking about it.

Can you tell I did this about 10-20 times from 2005-2010?
posted by clango at 9:28 AM on February 15, 2011

Best answer: Moab, UT. Two excellent National Parks and more outdoors activities than you can possibly do. Relatively cheap accommodations (nice clean motels). Moab Brewery (good food too). Great overall vibe. High coefficient of unusual.

Downside: You'll have to fly into Salt Lake City and drive four hours to get there.
posted by dzot at 11:43 AM on February 15, 2011

Best answer: Friend, come to Portland and the Oregon coast. Fly into PDX then spend a couple of days here. Cruise out to the coast and see the amazing rocks and trees and streams right there at the ocean! Drive down the coast a ways for some more gorgeous coastline. Then, drive inland and check out Bend and Smith Rock. Or something else mountain-y. Then back up to Portland. You'll have to rent a car. You could camp along the way.

Schools don't get out til mid- or late-June, and, truthfully, summer doesn't really arrive til July, so June can be a great traveling month.

When you're from the east coast (as I am), what's really amazing about the Oregon coast is how rocky and rugged it is (no need to pack the bathing suit!), and how the trees go all the way to the water. And what's also amazing is how close it is from mountains to beach.
posted by bluedaisy at 7:12 PM on February 15, 2011

Best answer: Oh, wait, just realized you have a week not two. My itinerary is a bit ambitious for a week. So, base yourself in Portland take a couple of day or overnight trips to two places: the coast (Canon Beach is stunningly gorgeous and not too crowded in June) and then to Mt. Hood, where there will still be snow (and people skiing!) in June.
posted by bluedaisy at 7:14 PM on February 15, 2011

Response by poster: Following up! I'm going to Portland, Seattle and Vancouver in a few weeks. I can't wait!
posted by ghostbikes at 4:29 PM on July 28, 2011

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