Last-Minute Vacations in Every State

Planning a trip on the fly? These destinations boast numerous accommodations and plenty of things to do.

By Holly Johnson, ContributorApril 12, 2018
U.S. News & World Report

Last-Minute Vacations in Every State

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Last minute vacation in California at sunset
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From cities to national parks to beach towns, the U.S. is home to getaways for all types of travelers.

Want to get away from it all? Each state in the nation has a handful of destinations that are ideal for last-minute travel, and are also affordable and fun. Explore these unique vacation ideas in every state for inspiration the next time you need a last-minute getaway.
Last minute vacation in  Gulf Shores, Alabama.
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Alabama: Gulf Shores

The 32 miles of soft sand beaches overlooking the Gulf of Mexico make Gulf Shores an appropriate spot for a last-minute trip with the kids. Set up on the beach for a day of playing in the sand and surf, sign up for some championship golf, explore the area's many nature trails or visit the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo to see exotic animals, including baby tigers and sloths.
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From cities to national parks to beach towns, the U.S. is home to getaways for all types of travelers.

Want to get away from it all? Each state in the nation has a handful of destinations that are ideal for last-minute travel, and are also affordable and fun. Explore these unique vacation ideas in every state for inspiration the next time you need a last-minute getaway.

Alabama: Gulf Shores

The 32 miles of soft sand beaches overlooking the Gulf of Mexico make Gulf Shores an appropriate spot for a last-minute trip with the kids. Set up on the beach for a day of playing in the sand and surf, sign up for some championship golf, explore the area's many nature trails or visit the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo to see exotic animals, including baby tigers and sloths.

Alaska: Skagway

Skagway, in southeast Alaska, offers an array of outdoor activities for travelers to enjoy, although what you'll do can vary dramatically based on when you visit. Visit Skagway during the summer for salmon fishing, hiking and fun family activities like the July Fourth street fair, parade and ducky derby. And you can explore Skagway from October through April for beautiful fall colors followed by ski season and views of the Northern Lights.

Arizona: Sedona

Sedona's red rocks and art-filled city center make it an interesting place to get away with or without kids. Surrounded by 1.8 million acres of national forest land, Sedona in central Arizona offers trails for hiking and biking, opportunities to learn about nature and a quaint downtown area with unique eateries and boutiques.

Arkansas: DeGray Lake Resort State Park

DeGray Lake Resort State Park in central Arkansas is the only place in North America where you can dig for your own diamonds and keep any treasures you find. DeGray Lake Resort State Park Lodge is also the state's only resort within a state park. Here you can fish, enjoy water sports like kayaking or play on a championship 18-hole golf course.

California: San Diego

What's not to love about San Diego? Not only do nightly hotel rates start at around $110 per night near downtown, but you can also explore the famous San Diego Zoo, Ocean Beach, Coronado Island and the San Diego Harbor. You can even book a whale watching tour.

Colorado: Beaver Creek

Beaver Creek in central Colorado boasts excellent outdoor recreation opportunities during any season, turning itself into a skiing and snowboarding paradise in the winter and a natural wonderland ideal for hiking in the spring and summer. Lodging options also abound for singles, couples and families, with ski resorts, five-star hotels and rental condos available.

Connecticut: Hartford

Connecticut's capital city of Hartford offers educational and fun activities for those looking for a vacation on the fly. You can learn about the history of slavery at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, explore the local children's museum or visit beautiful Bushnell Park – a public sanctuary known for its historic carousel dating back to 1914.

Delaware: Wilmington

Wilmington in northern Delaware expertly blends art, entertainment and natural beauty, making it an ideal vacation destination for travelers who love history or the natural wonders of the Brandywine Valley. Book a quick getaway to Wilmington to explore extravagant gardens and mansions or learn about history at Fort Delaware, the Winterthur Museum or the Delaware History Museum.

Florida: Sarasota

While Sarasota may be known for its beautiful beaches, the southwestern Florida city offers a lot more for families to see and do. Top family-friendly attractions include the Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary, kayaking tours and the Sarasota Jungle Gardens. Plan a trip to Sarasota in November to visit the city's Medieval Fair, which features fun events such as jousting.

Georgia: Tybee Island

Tybee Island, about 20 miles east of Savannah, is the perfect getaway, whether you're a family with kids, a couple or traveling with friends. Travelers can visit the Tybee Lighthouse, rent kayaks, take a dolphin cruise or book an ecology tour to learn about local animals and plants. There are plenty of lodging options on the island as well, ranging from hotels and motels to quaint bed-and-breakfasts.

Hawaii: Honolulu

Honolulu offers a little bit of everything, including a big city atmosphere, beautiful beaches and to-die-for scenery. You can check out the Honolulu Museum of Art, hike the world-famous Diamond Head or relax on the gorgeous shores of Waikiki. With hotels ranging from luxury to family-friendly, there's no shortage of places to stay either.

Idaho: Sun Valley

Central Idaho's Sun Valley offers plenty of outdoor recreation, transforming from a ski destination in the winter to a hiking and biking paradise in the spring, summer and fall. Visitors flock to Sun Valley to golf, fish, horseback ride, camp and rock climb, or just to take in the stunning mountain views.

Illinois: Chicago

The Windy City offers nearly any type of travel experience you could want. You can explore the Magnificent Mile for shopping and sightseeing, enjoy a relaxing day at the beautiful Chicago beachfront or catch a baseball game at Wrigley Field. For the quintessential Chicago tourist experience, make sure to take a river architecture cruise.

Indiana: Santa Claus

Santa Claus in southwestern Indiana is a fun choice for a last-minute family trip. This quaint small town is home to Holiday World & Splashin' Safari – an amusement park with towering roller coasters and family-friendly water rides. Stay at Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort next door: You can relax in a luxury cabin, bring your own recreation vehicle or sleep in a tent.

Iowa: Okoboji

Okoboji may be known for its glacier-carved lakes, but there is plenty to do in this northern Iowa town other than enjoy water sports. Pack up the family to visit the local parks, play a few rounds of golf, fish or explore small local museums like the Dickinson County Museum and the Clark Museum of Okoboji Area and Iowa History. Ample lodging options are also available, ranging from basic motels and campgrounds to lakefront resorts.

Kansas: Kansas City

Kansas City boasts a thriving arts scene, several breweries and great shopping, to name a few major draws. The city is also home to numerous free things to do: Travelers can tour a brewery, visit a city market, interact with animals at the Deanna Rose Children's Farmstead and check out The Money Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

Kentucky: Bowling Green

Bowling Green in southwestern Kentucky has plenty of things to do for travelers yearning for a last-minute getaway. Visitors can tour Mammoth Cave National Park, explore the National Corvette Museum and have some fun at Beech Bend Amusement Park. Or, stop by one of the area's breweries, distilleries or wineries for some adult fun.

Louisiana: New Orleans

While New Orleans is famous for its nightlife, there's a lot more to this city than the sights and sounds found on Bourbon Street. You can explore the historic mansions of the French Quarter, shop boutiques on Magazine Street, listen to jazz 365 days a year and enjoy delicious foods ranging from creole delicacies to beignets at the famous Café Du Monde.

Maine: Kennebunkport

Kennebunkport, on the southern coast of Maine, offers year-round beauty with interesting beaches, gorgeous mansions, cozy bed-and-breakfasts and scenic biking trails. You can also enjoy regional foods, including Maine lobster, chowder and more. The town is about a two-hour drive north of Boston, around five hours north of New York City and less than an hour south of Portland, making it an ideal last-minute trip for East Coast-based travelers.

Maryland: Ocean City

Situated on Maryland's Eastern Shore, Ocean City offers a bit of everything, whether you're planning a family trip or a romantic getaway. Plan a visit to the city's beach, walk the boardwalk for shopping and people-watching, golf the day away or explore the natural beauty at the 58-acre Northside Park.

Massachusetts: Plum Island

Plum Island was named for the wild beach plums that grow within its dunes, but this northeastern Massachusetts spot boasts plenty else to see. Book a getaway to Plum Island to explore its local lighthouse, eat a tasty lobster roll and visit the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to more than 4,000 acres of unspoiled nature.

Michigan: Traverse City

Traverse City – on the shores of Lake Michigan's Grand Traverse Bay – offers a combination of family fun and outdoor recreation. Not only is Traverse City considered an integral part of Michigan's wine country, but it is also home to casinos, 16 championship golf courses and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park. Don't forget to stroll along its beautiful shoreline or bike to see the cherry blossoms during the spring.

Minnesota: Minneapolis and St. Paul

Minnesota's twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul offer plenty of big city attractions to keep any group busy for a weekend or an extended trip. Travelers can visit the Mall of America, catch a Minnesota Wild hockey game at the Xcel Energy Center or enjoy an evening listening to the Grammy Award-winning Minnesota Orchestra.

Mississippi: Biloxi

Biloxi, on Mississippi's Gulf Coast, offers miles of shoreline for fishing and boating, casino resorts and museums that highlight its rich southern history. You can plan a golfing trip to one of the area's championship golf courses, book a fancy dinner at a waterfront seafood restaurant or set out a beach chair for a day of sun on the Mississippi coast.

Missouri: Branson

Branson is known for its nonstop action, ranging from nightly shows to outdoor fun. Visit one of the local lakes, book a dinner cruise or settle in for a night of live country music. This southern Missouri town's many hotels, motels and campgrounds also make it easy to book a trip here no matter your budget.

Montana: Bozeman

Whether you have a few days or a few weeks to spend in Montana, Bozeman can keep your itinerary full. You can go biking, cross-country skiing, fishing, golfing and hiking, or relax in the area's natural hot springs. What's more, Yellowstone National Park sits less than a two-hour drive south. The gorgeous mountain scenery is just icing on the cake.

Nebraska: Omaha

Omaha in eastern Nebraska may be an ideal spot to get away with the kids. With an engaging zoo, zip lining, walking and biking trails, and an inviting riverfront to explore, the city offers a plethora of things to do. You'll also want to explore Joslyn Art Museum's sculpture gardens and its 11,000 works of art, spanning from antiquity to modern day.

Nevada: Las Vegas

With a nearly limitless number of casino hotels and family-friendly resorts available, Las Vegas is an easy place to plan a last-minute trip. Plus, there's plenty to do other than gamble. You can book one of the famous Cirque du Soleil shows, explore the exotic botanical gardens at The Bellagio or visit the Adventuredome Theme Park at Circus Circus Las Vegas to enjoy 5 acres of rides and games.

New Hampshire: Portsmouth

Portsmouth offers more than just beautiful scenery. Bring the kids for a day at the local children's museum or spend time at the American Independence Museum. Or, you can cruise along the region's famous waterfront and soak up the New England architecture.

New Jersey: Ocean Grove

Much of the Garden State's waterfront is more peaceful and serene than the Jersey Shore's reputation implies. Ocean Grove is home to more than 600 acres of untouched beauty about an hour and a half drive south of New York City and less than an hour east of Trenton. Escape to Ocean Grove to check out local arts and crafts fairs, take historical walking tours of the city and relax beachside.

New Mexico: Los Alamos

Los Alamos makes it easy to learn the historical significance of the area while also spending time outdoors. Book a trip to this northern New Mexico town to visit Bandelier National Monument, drive along Jemez Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway, take a historic walking tour through the city or tour the Los Alamos History Museum.

New York: Niagara Falls

For a great way to spend a few days in New York, consider the state's Niagara Falls region. You can visit Niagara Falls State Park (the country's oldest state park), walk through the Cave of the Winds or ride close to the falls on the Maid of the Mist boat tour. You can also explore local wineries along the Niagara Wine Trail.

North Carolina: Asheville

Asheville is a popular tourist spot for good reason: This scenic city offers diverse attractions perfect for any trip. You can tour the Biltmore Estate, explore the local art scene, sample beer at a local brewery or hike to discover panoramic views of the rolling hills and valley below.

North Dakota: Devils Lake

Devils Lake is the perfect place to get away to if you love fishing, water sports and outdoor exploration. You can visit Grahams Island State Park or Sullys Hill National Game Preserve, ice fish for walleye and northern pike, or plan a day of cross-country skiing or fat-tire biking. Summer is also the perfect time for freshwater fishing, hiking and exploring nature.

Ohio: Hocking Hills

Hocking Hills is ideal for those who want to escape to nature for a while. This southeastern region of Ohio is home to numerous hiking trails, camping areas and waterfalls. You can zip line, check out the nine state parks and nature preserves, or book a canoeing adventure.

Oklahoma: Blackwell

Blackwell in northern Oklahoma is an easy place to stay a few days, particularly if you're interested in Cherokee history and outdoor fun. The city is home to the Top of Oklahoma Historical Society Museum, along with an 18-hole golf course, antique shops and various comfort food spots.

Oregon: Portland

It's hard to describe all the things there are to do in Portland, but it's easy to see why you'd want to visit. The city is home to a popular zoo, several museums, beautiful gardens – including the traveler-favorite Portland Japanese Garden – and a critically acclaimed dining scene that offers everything from farm-to-table restaurants to street food carts.

Pennsylvania: Pocono Mountains

Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains offer four seasons worth of activities, ranging from water park fun during the summer to skiing and snowboarding in the winter. You also can go whitewater rafting, plan an outdoor adventure near one of the area's 150 lakes or book a spa retreat at one of the region's iconic resorts.

Rhode Island: Newport County

Newport County is surrounded by water on all sides, making it the perfect destination if you love water sports or just being near the surf. Here you can check out the renowned Newport mansions, shop till you drop, relax on the beach or try your luck at the Newport Grand Casino.

South Carolina: Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach has activities galore, ranging from boat tours to shopping to water park fun. Bring the kids for days filled with water rides and dolphin spotting, then go out at night for a show at one of the area's theaters. The region's many hotels, motels and vacation rentals also means there are a variety of places to stay that will fit any travel style or budget.

South Dakota: Black Hills

The Black Hills region of western South Dakota is perfect for sightseeing, history lessons and family fun. You can check out Mount Rushmore, visit the Badlands and hike, bike or take a drive down one of the many scenic byways. The Indian casinos and luxurious spas also offer something for adults.

Tennessee: Nashville

Nashville has been crowned Music City for good reason: Not only can you enjoy any genre of live music at the bars on Broadway, but you can also check out the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Grand Ole Opry and the Patsy Cline Museum. What's more, Nashville is home to water parks, theaters and too many delicious eateries to count.

Texas: Uvalde County

Uvalde County is home to rivers, hills and outdoor beauty that is atypical of the Texas landscape. Travelers head to this region to hunt wild turkeys and other game, or to fish the nearby rivers. You can also visit Garner State Park for 1,774 acres of scenic countryside, 11 miles of trails and paddleboating, canoeing and geocaching opportunities.

Utah: Park City

Winter in Park City is ideal for snow tubing, snowmobiling, sleigh rides and skiing. Meanwhile, summer is all about hiking, golfing, fly-fishing, hot air ballooning and mountain biking. It won't matter when you visit Park City, you won't run out of activities or beautiful mountain scenery.

Vermont: Burlington

Historic Burlington is perfect for admiring fall landscapes, shopping and taking in the local art scene. The city also boasts an eccentric collection of dining options ranging from chocolatiers to breweries and farm-to-table restaurants. Visit Burlington to enjoy outdoor recreation, great food and the lively local nightlife.

Virginia: Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach is great for a last-minute getaway thanks to its many hotels, vacation rentals and resorts. The city's boardwalk will keep you busy with lively street music, seafood restaurants, bars and pubs, and beachwear shops. The Town Center is also ideal for shopping, dining, movies and entertainment.

Washington: Spokane

This eastern Washington city invites visitors to explore its riverfront park and fish, swim and kayak on the Spokane River. You'll also find hiking spots, rock climbing opportunities, art galleries and entertaining bars and clubs to keep you busy all night long.

West Virginia: Harpers Ferry

Harpers Ferry is a tiny, 19th-century village bordered by the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. The town is surrounded by Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, which is offers tours, hiking and biking trails, museums and plenty of natural beauty.

Wisconsin: Wisconsin Dells

The Wisconsin Dells region in southern Wisconsin bills itself as "The Waterpark Capital of the World" and features more than 20 indoor and outdoor water parks. The area also boasts family-friendly museums, amusement parks and endless other opportunities to make memories with the kids. Plus, the region's 8,000 hotel rooms and 3,200 campsites means you can stay here on any budget.

Wyoming: Cheyenne

If you love cities but also want to explore the relics of the Old West, Cheyenne may be ideal for your next last-minute trip. This city is home to historic hotels and mansions, a thriving art community and museums that highlight Cheyenne's fascinating history.
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Holly Johnson, Contributor

Holly Johnson is an award-winning writer who focuses on credit cards and credit, personal ...  Read more

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