Any Ideas for a Relatively Inexpensive Short Vacation from NYC?
October 21, 2011 10:19 AM   Subscribe

I am a single guy in my 20s and I haven't taken any kind of trip or vacation for myself in years. Now I have some extra money and things are starting to slow down (seasonally) at work. The place would have to be close enough to New York that I can return within about 4 or 5 days and not spend a huge amount of time travelling. I would have to be able to get around without a car as I don't drive. I would take the trip in November or December and it will be cold unless it is Florida or something, so it should be a place where there is something interesting culturally. For medical reasons I can't ski. I do like going to art museums, so DC/Boston/Philadelphia are easy and obvious, but this seems a tad boring and maybe there are other good options. I could spend up to $1500 or maybe $2000. Thanks in advance.
posted by knoyers to Travel & Transportation around United States (21 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Hmmm. Unfortunately, not driving will make it tough, unless you do Boston or DC, as they have good public transit. Have you been to Boston? If you haven't, I really highly recommend it. If you're feeling on the cheap, you can even take the bus there. It's a really amazing city, and this time of year it's absolutely gorgeous. Good Museums - the Museum of Bad Art, the BFA, MIT, amazing libraries (public, Harvard), great food and lots of awesome history stuff (amazing cemeteries). The Boston Symphony is also awesome, or if you're into new music, something like the Boston Modern Orchestra Project is great if you can catch it. Personally, just walking around Boston Common in the fall is kinda magical.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:24 AM on October 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

For $2000, you could easily go to Europe for a week (assuming you mean can take 4-5 days off work, and not 4-5 days total), provided you are OK with staying in hostels and can find a reasonably-priced flight. I spent about that on 10 days in Italy in March and it was great. Mexico is another possibility, or perhaps the southwestern U.S., though for the latter you'd probably want a car.

I live in NYC and if I'm going to take a trip in winter, I'll try to make it somewhere that's warmer. I mean, it doesn't have to be summertime-warm beach weather (I'm not a huge fan of that, anyway), but even going somewhere where the temperatures are reliably in the 50s or 60s for a little bit and you can go outside for extended periods is just really refreshing.
posted by breakin' the law at 10:29 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

What about someplace like Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic? Both are pretty easy flights from NYC, and more exotic than Boston (as much as I love this town). Or working from the above, I did a week in London alone, and that was great, too, and within your budget.
posted by ldthomps at 10:30 AM on October 21, 2011

What about Toronto, Montreal, or Chicago? Or, possible, but more difficult without a car, New Orleans or Atlanta. Those are 2-4 hour flights, which seems doable to me and I've visited all bar Montreal without a car.

Otherwise, I went to DC a few years ago in early December and it was pleasant. There is enough to do indoors, you don't need a car, food is acceptable, and it's not so very cold. I spent lots of time at the Smithsonian, and also went to Georgetown, Arlington Cemetery and Alexandria.

To be honest, I would see where you can get a cheap flight to (which is how I wound up going to DC in December).

On preview, any European city would be possible without a car. There are often good deals to London, Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam or Madrid. None of those are very, very cold at that time of year. Again, see what flights are available at a decent price.
posted by plonkee at 10:37 AM on October 21, 2011

You don't really need a car in Key West. Lots of interesting things to do during the day and the nightlife is pretty epic. It's not much of a beach destination (there's one public one that's sort of so-so. Expect instead good bars, restaurants, great local flavor, some really interesting history and about the closest you can get to being a foreign country without leaving the lower 48. It really is a whole different state of mind down there.
posted by jquinby at 10:45 AM on October 21, 2011

Just had another thought: How about San Francisco? You could easily spend five full days there, or more, the jet lag's not as bad as Europe, it's a beautiful city and the winters are mild (though hardly tropical). It's pretty easily within your budget.

As you could probably tell, I'd get a little more ambitious than just popping down to DC for a bit if I were you. You can go to DC for a long weekend for a few hundred bucks pretty much anytime you want.
posted by breakin' the law at 10:45 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

For $320 you could fly to San Francisco on Jet Blue (I spotted a fare from December 8 or 9 until the 13th, but there are other possibilities). It wouldn't actually be that long traveling, because it's a direct flight and the San Francisco airport is not far from the city and accessible by public transit. It would be warm enough that you'd be comfortable walking around and hunting in neighborhoods, eating unbelievably yummy tacos, wandering through Golden Gate park, and absorbing culture.
posted by willbaude at 10:45 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

A vote for Montreal - it is very easy to get around without a car, either just by walking or by catching the metro (subway). It will be cold in Montreal in November and December, but there are a lot of art museums and other cultural experiences that are indoors (Museum of Contemporary Art, Museum of Fine Art, Canadian Centre for Architecture, the Pointe-à-Callière history/archeology museum)
Other pluses:
1 ) French speaking, which might be a little exotic, but easy to get around with only English (although a couple of basic bonjours and mercis do not go astray!)
2) the city is very affordable, accommodation will not eat up all of your budget and
3) fantastic food - French bistros abound, poutine, Montreal bagels fresh out of the oven (you can then contribute to the eternal Montreal vs New York bagel debate), smoked meat, maple everything......
posted by unlaced at 10:48 AM on October 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

New Orleans, Iceland or Bermuda --- the latter's probably the shortest flight.
posted by Diablevert at 11:02 AM on October 21, 2011

Wait, yeah. For $2000 you can have a sweet 5+ day trip to San Juan. I do a 5 day vacation there every year—it's my happy place. And Jetblue has non-stop flights that can get you there in under four hours.

If you like the beach and want to spend most of your time there, go to Hosteria Del Mar. It's not corporate-y but still feels very nice and villa-esque. And it's right on the beach.

I'm not hugely into touristy stuff; I'm more into just hanging around and seeing what the local deal is. Besides, touristy stuff is easy to find. Just ask the front desk people.

It's fairly easy to cab to Old Town from the beach hotel for a wander, but if you want to stay within walking distance, there is a great little bar called Pa'l Cielo and a burrito joint called La B de Burro all within walking distance. Oh, and you can go see shows at a little cafe called Abracadabra. It's walkable by day, but do take a cab back at night.

If "colonial town" is more your speed, go ahead and stay in Old Town. The beach would be an easy cab. I don't have any specific recommendations for in-town, but I think that's what I'm going to do this time around.
posted by functionequalsform at 11:17 AM on October 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

San Francisco's not a bad idea if you can get a non-stop flight. (People will tell you that it's the "rainy season" but it's only rainy compared to the summer; the number of days of rain in a San Francisco December and in a New York December are probably about the same.)
posted by madcaptenor at 11:19 AM on October 21, 2011

Seconding Puerto Rico. Beautiful, inexpensive, very close to NYC. You can stay in San Juan and walk the city, go to the beach, visit museums, and eat delicious food.
posted by enzymatic at 11:30 AM on October 21, 2011

Southwest has some sales on now, you might want to check out which cities are within your pricerange and go from there. (Not to sound like a Southwest sales rep here, but I was just buying conference plane tickets and noticed it in passing.)

Pittsburgh or Austin might be fun and less obvious choices than the standard NE Corridor, and I had a great time visiting Portland Oregon for a week (but then again I'm really into zine culture and most of the other things stereotypically associated with that city).
posted by brackish.line at 11:40 AM on October 21, 2011

I came in to recommend San Francisco. Iceland is also a great suggestion, somewhere I have always wanted to go, but can get pricy fast.
posted by Joh at 12:31 PM on October 21, 2011

My two cents: Mexico city is about 5.5 hours by air, has truly amazing museums, landmarks, music, and food. The people are cool too. It's inexpensive by New York Standards (unlike Paris/London/Madrid, etc), and the 1-hour time difference makes it an easy trip from Gotham. I like the Hotel Catedral in the historic center. Have fun!
posted by jcrcarter at 12:37 PM on October 21, 2011

What about something in the islands--the Dominican or the Caymans? Four days would be tight but five should be fine.

Montreal would also be lovely, but it really depends on the spate of weather you catch. I lived there for several years. My family still talks about the arduous Christmas we spent inside.

In fact, most of the Montrealers I know head to the islands for a spell if they can afford it.
posted by vecchio at 1:10 PM on October 21, 2011

Iceland in winter for 4-5 days can actually be quite inexpensive - food, drink, and outings are very expensive but hotel and airfare are very reasonable. (Last year I stayed in a nice Best Western within walking distance of the center of downtown for $40 a night for a single room. That included breakfast, which otherwise might have set me back $10 a day.) It's very dark, though. Great for sleeping late - you don't even really need to worry about jetlag.
posted by mskyle at 1:22 PM on October 21, 2011

Seconding the brief mention of Pittsburgh. The Andy Warhol Museum, The Carnegie Art Museum, the natural history museum, the science museum, the Phipps Conservatory, the National Aviary... The town is a happening place, there's tons to do, it's all walkable or within public transit, cool neighbourhoods like the Strip District or Lawrenceville or Shadyside, great architecture with walking tours...

Entirely doable, not too expensive. It's a great town to visit, and I'll tell that to anyone who will listen. It's not ont he radar as a destination, but it really deserves to be.
posted by Capt. Renault at 1:33 PM on October 21, 2011

Another vote for Montreal. Closest you'll get to Europe without going there. Close to NYC. Cold, but they have a metro and underground infrastructure to deal with it better than any northern American city you'd go to. More than enough to do culturally and nightlife wise.
posted by the foreground at 8:06 PM on October 21, 2011

I'd go to London or Paris. You can have a good time in either of those cities for that money. I'd even risk spending less and stay in a hostel just for the fun of being around other 20-something.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 9:42 PM on October 21, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks so much for the great ideas all! Definitely helpful. I hope I have fun.
posted by knoyers at 4:17 PM on October 22, 2011

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