For these reasons, we came up with even more low-cost mini-vacations to historic towns, nature preserves, national parks and other worthwhile destinations just a few hours' drive from your home town. These getaways cost $500 or less per person, based on a Friday evening departure and a Sunday evening return. Estimates for gas expenses are based on a price of $4 a gallon and will vary depending on your route and your vehicle's gas mileage. Dinner prices are based on a two-course meal with alcohol, tax and tip. All prices are per person except for hotel rates, which are per room, and gas estimates, which are per vehicle. And, of course, all prices are subject to change at any time.
Poll: What's Your Ideal Weekend Getaway?
From the Seattle Area: Forks, Washington
What's There: A former logging town nestled between the Olympic Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Forks is the quintessential Pacific Northwestern destination. Recently, this picturesque hamlet gained fame from Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" book and movie series, which follows the adventures of vampires living in the Forks area.
Getting There: Forks is about a three-hour drive from Seattle, so expect to pay around $30 to $78 in gas for roundtrip and incidental driving.
Where to Sleep and Eat: Kalaloch Lodge is a remote cabin-style hotel located in Olympic National Park that has ocean-view rooms with cozy fireplaces, with rates starting at $169 per night. The Quillayute River Resort is another worthwhile lodging option, with cabins starting at just $110 per night (open your window to hear the rushing water of the Quillayute River from your room). Outdoorsy travelers can set up camp at one of 16 campgrounds in Olympic National Park, where campsite fees start at $10 per night. Lots of budget-friendly dining options are also available around Forks. Stop by Forks Coffee Shop for a tasty but affordable meal; try hotcakes and eggs for $5.95 or a sirloin steak and eggs for $11.95. For dinner, Plaza Jalisco serves what many consider "the best Mexican in the area," including burritos and tacos starting at $6.95.
What to Do: Hit the trails in Olympic National Park, where you can hike through the Hoh Rain Forest, spot bald eagles, watch the sunset from Rialto Beach, take a dip in mineral hot spring soaking pools ($12 for an adult day pass) or go fishing. Park entrance fees are $5 per adult on foot and $15 per vehicle. Edward and Bella fans may wish to book a tour from Dazzled by Twilight, which offers a variety of Twilight-themed tours of Forks and its surrounding areas that start at $39 per person for roughly two to three hours.
The Bottom Line: Transportation, two nights' hotel, two lunches and two dinners will cost around $220 to $310 per person (if you don't stay at a campground).
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From the Philadelphia Area: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
What's There: A small town steeped in history, Gettysburg was the location for the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, as well as Lincon's celebrated Gettysburg Address. With its lovely 18th- and 19th-century architecture, Civil War-era museums, and massive, well-preserved battlefield, Gettysburg is the perfect destination for history buffs and antiquarians.
Getting There: Gettysburg is a 2.5-hour drive west of Philadelphia. Gas is likely to cost around $29 to $77 in gas for roundtrip and incidental driving.
Where to Sleep and Eat: There's no shortage of historic inns and B&B's in Gettysburg (many of which claim to be haunted), so skip the Hilton and head to Battlefield Bed & Breakfast, an 1809 farmhouse that sits directly on the battlefield (rates start at $199 per night), or the Brickhouse Inn Bed & Breakfast, a pretty three-story Victorian mansion built in 1898 (nightly rates start at $115). If you're here for the history, a meal at the Dobbin House Tavern is a must. At Dobbin House, waitresses in period costumes serve a mix of modern and Colonial cuisines, like roast duck ($25.95), roasted vegetables ($18.95) and seafood Isabella ($25.95). The Blue Parrot Bistro is another quality (albeit less gimmicky) restaurant option. Blue Parrot has a reasonably priced menu with items like bistro stuffed hamburger ($13), baby back ribs ($24), and clams and linguine in a white wine sauce ($21).
What to Do: The biggest and best attraction in town is the famed Gettysburg National Military Park, which is so massive that you may want to plan visits on both Saturday and Sunday. Start your day at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center, which features a cyclorama painting of a Civil War battle scene plus 12 exhibit galleries and even a restaurant serving Civil War-era dishes (adult admission to the museum and visitor center costs $10.50, but admission to the park is free). Next, stop by the museum bookstore, purchase a self-guiding auto tour and experience the park in your car (an auto tour CD costs $20). Or you can arrange a guided battlefield bus tour ($28 per adult). In the evening, take a Gettysburg ghost tour and search for undead spirits around town. Sleepy Hollow of Gettysburg runs candlelight ghost tours led by storytellers in period costume (tours start at $8 per person). Farnsworth House Inn offers interactive tours with ghost hunting equipment like digital recorders, night vision sensors and dowsing rods ($16 per person). In addition, many B&B's and inns in the area offer their own guided ghost tours.
The Bottom Line: Transportation, two nights' hotel, two lunches and two dinners will cost around $260 to $370 per person.