Where do grown-ups go on a summer vacation?
January 8, 2013 1:23 PM   Subscribe

In celebration of our tenth anniversary, my husband and I would like to take a real, child-free, not-tacked-on-to-work-travel, vacation. Please, tell us where to go.

The last (and only) trip we took strictly for pleasure was ten years ago to Las Vegas to get married. I am completely at a loss trying to decide where to go this time. Neither of us has a strong desire to go anywhere in particular. Mostly, we just want to have a fun, relaxing week (or so) away. Please help me with some ideas. I need to get the plans going. Last weekend we joked that simply sending the kids to their grandparents' house for a week would be a good vacation for us and I'm a little afraid that this idea could take hold and my vacation could turn into a work-on-the-house week!

Here are our constraints: we'll be flying out of Chicago and are looking to stay in North America. Due to academic schedules, we have to go over the summer. We can take a week, give or take a couple of days. Good food and a really comfortable king size bed are priorities. Wine, shopping, hiking, and beautiful scenery would be pluses. We don't like crowds or excessive heat. Something like a few days bumming around San Francisco followed by a few days hiking and tasting wine in Sonoma would be ideal (but not this time around- we used to live in the Bay area and are headed there for a conference/vacation summer 2014).

So, suggestions?
posted by rebeccabeagle to Travel & Transportation (35 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Willamette Valley in Oregon and a couple of days at the coast or in Portland might be nice. I love the WV for wine. It's not as commercial as California's wine country though so you'll certainly need to plan on scheduling some winery visits but I find the wineries and winemakers to be even more gracious and wonderfully quirky there. McMinnville is a great jumping off point.
posted by FlamingBore at 1:30 PM on January 8, 2013 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Seattle, Vancouver or the PNW would seem to suit your tastes. I've been to Whistler (a ski resort north of Vancouver) in the summer, and it's awesome, with lots of hiking.

The San Juan Islands in Washington State and the Gulf Islands just to the north (same island group, different names) are also really wonderful in the summer. It's the dry season and if you get there at around the end of July it's nice and warm and very dry (not humid) with beautiful deep blue sky, the smell of Douglas fir trees, golden grass, etc. Very nice.

Friday Harbour on Orcas Island would be the place to start researching. It's close to Bellingham.

I would plug my hometown of Victoria - it has lots of hiking nearby - but, quite frankly, the food here is mostly terrible (ie, not really worth travelling here for).
posted by KokuRyu at 1:36 PM on January 8, 2013 [5 favorites]

A few ideas:

Big Sky, Montana - beautiful, in the mountains, not far from Yellowstone.

Vail, CO - great restaurants and shopping. Some outdoorsy stuff like whitewater rafting.

Asheville, NC - Stay at the Grove Park Inn and enjoy their incredible spa facilities. Asheville has great restaurants and shopping. The Biltmore Estate and Blue Ridge Parkway are close by.

Portland or Seattle?

New York City - can't go wrong with NY if you like big cities. Consider staying downtown rather than midtown. There are crowds, however.

Montreal and a day in Quebec via the train.

Boston - great city, especially in the summer.

Western Massachusetts (the Berkshires) - see a concert at Tanglewood, visit the Norman Rockwell Museum, etc.

I'm a travel agent and would be happy to help you with more details via email if you'd like. Contact me via MeFi mail.
posted by kdern at 1:37 PM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Go to Montreal or Quebec for a few days, and spend a couple days in the Laurentian mountains.
posted by Kololo at 1:38 PM on January 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

I like Gatlinburg for a quiet get away. You can hike in the Smoky Mountain Park, there's pretty much NO bad trail in there. The town is as kitchy-tacky as you can imagine, but there are wonderful places to eat as well. You can rent a cabin and do as much or as little as you like.

A cruise is a total get-away-from-it-all deal. You'll have sporadic phone and computer access and you won't see much TV. The plus on a cruise is that everything is taken care of. You can just do whatever you feel like doing, whenever you feel like doing it. Caribbean cruises are the cheapest, you want to stay away from Disney, Carnival and Royal Carribean to avoid kids. I liked Norwegian and Holland America, although Holland is rather geriatric. We enjoyed being "that young couple" (I'm 50).

New York is fun, if you like museums and shows and restaurants. Expensive as hell, but we've gotten amazing deals when booking with American. We had a suite at the Essex House for $400 a night!

I love Vegas too. Cheap, cheerful and a great time!

I envy you!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:40 PM on January 8, 2013

Best answer: My first thought was Seattle. What's your budget? The king-sized beds at the W are really, really comfy, I can testify from firsthand experience, though they are not cheap. Downtown Seattle is a nice place to stay because you can walk down to the waterfront, up to Capitol Hill, catch the Monorail to Queen Anne, or a bus to pretty much anywhere in the area. Take the water taxi to Alki. Make a daytrip out to the coast.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:40 PM on January 8, 2013

How about Maine? Find a nice bed and breakfast near Acadia National Park. Lovely scenery, hiking, lighthouses, lobster hatcheries, beaches, quaint towns with art galleries and bakeries and shops to wander through. When we went it was off season so I can't vouch for lack of crowds during peak summer days.
posted by steinwald at 1:40 PM on January 8, 2013

I'd suggest Montreal or Quebec City, which are about as close as you can get to being in Europe without flying across an ocean. Great food, great stuff to do, and you'll have no trouble communicating. The only -- only -- drawback is that sometimes the weather will be rather hot and muggy. But if you like exploring cities, BOOM.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:41 PM on January 8, 2013

We had a lovely time by flying into Denver, spending a couple nights there and then driving to Wyoming. We stayed at Elephant Head Lodge and used it as our home base to explore Yellowstone. No internet. No cell phone. It was delightful. Cody is also a darling little town (sort of touristy, but in a very quaint and sincere way) and the Buffalo Bill Museum is outstanding. We went in late July and it was not too hot at all.
posted by agentmitten at 1:43 PM on January 8, 2013

I would say the problem with downtown downtown Seattle (say, where the Westin Seattle is) is that it can be kind of gross (even near Pike Place Market) or kind of dead at night. However, my family and I stayed in Seattle twice over the past six months and liked it, and are looking forward to going back again. We'll just pay more attention to where we stay next time.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:46 PM on January 8, 2013

We went to Aspen for a long July 4th weekend last year and it was awesome (but kind of pricey if that's a concern). It's an idyllic, walkable town with excellent food/drink and plenty of hiking and other outdoor activities nearby.

As others have said, Portland would be an excellent choice as well.
posted by jshort at 1:50 PM on January 8, 2013

I went to a business meeting in the Canandaigua Lake area last year (flying into Rochester) and it seemed quite nice.
posted by jquinby at 1:51 PM on January 8, 2013

Finger Lakes (New York)?
posted by divined by radio at 1:52 PM on January 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

I agree that Montreal and/or Quebec City sound lovely. I would really like to go there myself. I also like Toronto. I've wanted to go to Key West but it might be a bit rough in the summer. Ditto New Orleans and Charleston, SC.
posted by kat518 at 1:57 PM on January 8, 2013

Best answer: Let's see. Summertime, coming from Chicago. You want:

Good food
A really comfortable king size bed
Wine, shopping, hiking, and beautiful scenery would be pluses.
You don't like crowds or excessive heat.

The answer is Banff
posted by The World Famous at 2:01 PM on January 8, 2013 [15 favorites]

I'd second the Finger Lakes area (see, e.g., jquinby above) -- it's great in the summer, offers lots of directions to wander for anything from shopping to great mountainside hikes, and abuts many wine areas that would work well for a winery outing or longer tasting tour. You could probably find a nice B&B that would help add to your tasty food meter, or rent a house someplace that lets you laze on the patio and stare off over one of the many small lakes, so you don't feel obligated to do much of anything more.

Good luck! Looking ahead to my own first week sans kids in 5 years, still a few months off -- set a great pace for the rest of us! :)
posted by acm at 2:02 PM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Montreal and Boston are 2 of my favourite cities, so I definitely agree with those!

If you like wine, consider Niagara-on-the-Lake (You'd have to fly into Buffalo or Toronto Pearson, with Buffalo being the closer one). Really pretty town, many many wineries around, with good dining options to go with it. (Not the variety/glitz you'd get in a bigger city, but definitely solid higher-end options.) The Pillar and Post is beautiful and luxurious in an old-world-charm kind of way, and will satisfy your king-sized bed cravings. There are bike tours through vineyards in the summer, as well as hiking and river-sports near by.

I would not say that NOTL is hoppin' in the nightlife department, but Niagara itself is maybe a 20 minute drive away, if you're into casinos or seeing the falls. And for big-city culture, Toronto is about a 1.5 hrs' drive and has more nightlife than you can handle (more than I can, anyway, and I live here!).
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 2:03 PM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think KokuRyu meant to say "Friday Harbor or Orcas Island," as Friday Harbor is on neighboring San Juan Island. As a getaway, I definitely recommend Orcas over San Juan, but as an activity center, Friday Harbor's good. Do both!

KokuRyu, try saying in "Uptown" Seattle, the Seattle Center area, or else one of the nicer stretches of Capital Hill if you're looking to have fun after hours. Don't miss the Underground Tour, though. I love it when people visit here so I can take the tour with them, even though I'm a local.

Victoria BC is also beautiful-- they light up the (BC) Parliament building like Christmas. Take a sunset ferry from Tsawassen BC (mainland, outside Vancouver). Awesome.

I also enjoyed Gatlinberg/Pigeon Forge, TN. Rented a cabin in PF and spent a fantastic few days there. Drove past the entrance to Dollywood every day without realizing that's where that road went. The Smokys are just awesome. Drive into the park and you can do a bit of the Appalachian Trail, too. Also, Knoxville is a cool town-- stay near downtown and hang out around Market Square, give or take a block. Nice UT campus and the 1982 World's Fair park are great too.
posted by Sunburnt at 2:06 PM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Came in to say Asheville NC, the Grove Park Inn spa is amazing, and there's lots of great hiking around, and lots of great local food in the summer.
posted by Daily Alice at 2:08 PM on January 8, 2013

Best answer: Seconding the obscure recommendation for Oregon's Willamette Valley. I grew up there. It's beautiful, there's tons of wine, there's tons of hiking, and you can easily drive to the coast or the mountains for more varied terrain and outdoor activities. If you like beer, stay in Portland for a few days while you're at it.

You can fly into Portland, drive down I-5 to Salem and environs for wine country, head west to the coast for a few days, then drive up the coast, visit beautiful Astoria, and drive east to Portland for your flight. That was my last trip home and it was fantastic. Lots of driving, but lots of different things to see and do. Definitely never boring.

(when my husband and I have vacation time, I lobby for Oregon every time. I'm biased. But every trip has been awesome, even the time we got snowed in over Christmas. We ventured out to see the Spruce Goose in McMinnville, we went to the coast to look at snow on the beach and sea lions in Newport harbor, we ate wonderful fresh smoked salmon, and we would have gone to the Rogue Brewery if it would have been open. All within easy driving distance of my parents' house in the central valley.)
posted by liet at 2:13 PM on January 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

Banff in the summer please take me with you!
posted by headnsouth at 2:14 PM on January 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oops, forgot that you can also fly from Chicago into the Toronto Islands airport via Porter Airline, in case that works better for whatever reason. Porter also flys from Chicago to Montreal and Quebec City.

Taking this opportunity to say that The World Famous and headnsouth are spot on with the Banff recommendation too. (They don't have as much wine as Ontario or BC, but it is so so beautiful in the mountains.)
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 2:23 PM on January 8, 2013

If you're in Chicago, why not look at the Upper Peninsula in Michigan? You won't even need to fly there, and can save the air fare to upgrade your room to a comfier king size bed or a room with a better view. Or just spend the week on Mackinac Island. It's absolutely beautiful scenery and like taking a step back in time, in a good-for-the-soul, breath-of-fresh-air relaxing sort of way. Last summer, my fiancé and I did a road trip through the UP and it was delightful and a nice break. We stayed in a few light houses even, and stopped at others, visited random attractions (we pet a bear cub!), and did short walks to waterfalls and along random beaches to enjoy the waterfront scenery.

In you want to go farther away from home to a less packed place, look at Asheville / the Smoky Mountains / The Blue Ridge Parkway. A few years back, we did a road trip hitting all three (Gatlinburg, to Asheville, then up through VA/WV), and it was also very enjoyable and laid back. Lots of nature for hiking, and plenty of other attractions for grown ups. (We spent two days at Biltmore and didn't see the entire property! We did get to tour the winery and sample the wares.)

I'd totally go on either trip again.
posted by ilikemethisway at 2:23 PM on January 8, 2013

...we'll be flying out of Chicago and are looking to stay in North America.

If you could stretch your area to include Mexico, I would sincerely recommend staying at Verana. I always recommend this place to couples for a quiet, off-the-beaten-path anniversary trip.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:28 PM on January 8, 2013

Nthing Seattle for 3-4 days plus somewhere in the mountains or the Sound for 3-4 days.

You could head to the Olympic Peninsula for snow-capped mountains, beaches AND rainforest (it's magical, seriously); the San Juan Islands for whale-watching, kayaking and hiking (and maybe spend a day on the way in the Skagit Valley which is delightful); or the North Cascades for hiking in Alps-like mountains and cute little old Western towns. All of these have nice places to stay though you'll want to book early, especially on the Peninsula.

The food in Seattle is great. There's less good food in the areas outside the city but you do get lots of fresh produce and fish, and it's getting better.

But there's seriously nothing like hiking in Washington in the summer. If you come after the 4th of July, you're almost guaranteed perfect weather: sunny and high 70s during the day, cool at night, no humidity. Even the occasional heat wave is manageable because it doesn't get humid.
posted by lunasol at 2:35 PM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Northern Michigan would be high on my list, too. But I'll never disclose my favorite spots in a public forum.
posted by The World Famous at 3:01 PM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm nthing the unholy Portland-Seattle-Vancouver, BC trifecta.

All three are beautiful cities, with their own quirks and quarks. Plus, if you fly into Seattle, you are equidistant between both Portland and Vancouver, BC. So when you want to go to the next city, you're only 3-4 hours away. Both the Amtrak Cascades and the Bolt Bus can get you to both destinations quickly, have reasonable prices, and some absolutely stunning scenery along the way.
posted by spinifex23 at 3:06 PM on January 8, 2013

Nthing ilikemthisway's suggestion, though I'm sorta biased given that I'm the fiancé mentioned there. A couple of caveats with the Michigan suggestion is that I don't think you're going to get the great food up in the UP for the most part... though there might be parts. You'll also deal with crowds if you're on the island.

Meanwhile, I'm in the middle of planning our honeymoon, and I think this thread may have saved me a question. :)
posted by RyanAdams at 3:19 PM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Go in late to mid July, and go to either Glacier NP or western Colorado. The former is better if you're more into luxury and planning - they have incredible classic hotels in Glacier. The latter is a little more rough-and-tumble, but yet with a bunch of old mining towns converted into tourist spots. Both have wildflowers.
posted by notsnot at 5:46 PM on January 8, 2013

Another vote for Asheville--you can get luxury accommodations, a cute, walkable city full of quirky things to do and lots of good live music and good food, easy access to hiking and nature, and the Biltmore estate if you want to live out a Downton Abbey fantasy (or just have a drink on the terrace and watch the sun set). The Smoky Mountains are right near by; you could split your time between the city and a cabin. And, even though it's the south in summer, it's in the mountains, so the heat is much more manageable.
posted by elizeh at 8:30 PM on January 8, 2013

Vancouver has some great food, particularly if you want to try different kinds of Asian cuisine. Lower Robson has a bunch of Japanese izakaya pubs and Korean restaurants, plus Richmond near the airport has pretty fantastic, cheap "Chinese" food from Hong Kong, Shanghai, Taiwan and other major cultural centers in China.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:46 PM on January 8, 2013

Yes to the San Juan Islands! Some of my happiest moments have been there, floating on my back in a lake in the middle of the forest as bald eagles wing overhead.

I like to do a trip from there to the Olympic National Parks. Lake Quinault lodge is a sweet spot to stay but families with kids do go there, so not totally an adult oasis.

Santa Barbara is also a sweet getaway that is near nature, wine country and nicer places to stay.

Are you sure you don't want to go to Maui? Don't you hear the waves calling you?
posted by dottiechang at 2:57 AM on January 9, 2013

Another vote for the coast of Maine. I like Stonington in particular. Rent a house within view of the harbor and watch the lobster boats come and go as you sip wine on the porch. There are walks in the woods nearby (Barred Island is my fave.) some small shops, and small galleries here and there on the island. Lovely.
posted by booth at 7:56 AM on January 9, 2013

Another vote for Seattle and Vancouver, along with (maybe) Portland. They meet all your criteria, great food, great scenery, world-class, fun cities and likely to have beautiful weather in summer.
posted by cnc at 12:14 PM on January 9, 2013

Response by poster: So many good recommendations. The pacific northwest is looking pretty likely, right now for a good mix of city time for me and hiking for my husband. I might just end up throwing a dart to choose between Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver. Banff is the wild card, though. Looks amazing. Even if we don't go this go round, it has made it on to my list of places to go at some point (maybe WITH the kids).
posted by rebeccabeagle at 9:02 AM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

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