En español | "What a difference a day makes," as the saying goes, and that goes doubly for travel. Weekend escapes are great, but add a mere 24 hours to an often rushed two-day trip, and suddenly it becomes a real vacation. Starting Friday evening and running until Monday afternoon, you can pack in a lot — from museums, sightseeing and outdoor pursuits to shopping, dining and performing arts — and still have time to relax.
Don't believe it? Take a look at these sample itineraries in six top American destinations that will have you planning your next three-day jaunt before you're headed home.
Friday: Settle into Manhattan with a candlelit dinner at one of the West Village's romantic pocket-size restaurants.
Saturday: Follow late-morning dim sum in Chinatown with a visit to the Whitney Museum of American Art in the meatpacking district. Afterward, take a walk along the High Line, a 1.45-mile elevated park built on a disused railroad spur, and then forage for snacks in the Chelsea Market, a wildly popular food hall in a former cookie factory where the Oreo was created. Theater is on the bill tonight — either a prebooked, big-name show or an off-off-Broadway production — preceded by dinner in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood, adjacent to the theater district.
Sunday: A bagel (with lox and a schmear of cream cheese) starts your day at one of the city's beloved delis. Then stroll into Central Park for either a relaxed row around its 22-acre lake (April through October) or a session of ice skating at the park's outdoor Wollman Rink (November to March). That's followed by lunch on the Upper West Side and a visit to the amazing dinosaur skeletons and other wonders of the earth at the American Museum of Natural History. That night, head to the Nolita neighborhood, where dinner options skew Italian, and the pizza is downright fantastico.
Monday: Astonishing views of the Manhattan skyline accompany a morning walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. On the other side, in Brooklyn's DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) neighborhood, you'll find trendy boutiques and a selection of enticing lunch spots.
Friday: Make your way for drinks and dinner to the lively Logan Circle neighborhood, where food offerings range from Spanish tapas and French fare to gastropub grub.
Saturday: Devote the morning to one of the city's world-class Smithsonian Institution museums, such as the National Gallery of Art, the National Air and Space Museum or the groundbreaking new National Museum of African American History & Culture (free timed passes are required for the latter). Lunch in a museum cafe fuels an afternoon walk or bike ride through the 1,754-acre Rock Creek Park, one of the country's largest urban preserves. That evening, catch a concert, ballet or theatrical performance at the Kennedy Center (book in advance); the nearby Foggy Bottom neighborhood is a good choice for a preshow dinner.
Sunday: Start slow with a leisurely brunch in Georgetown, followed by a visit to Dumbarton Oaks, where you can stretch your legs in the gardens of this historic estate and pop into its small but exquisite museum of Byzantine, pre-Columbian and European art. Shift the action for the rest of the day to the hip Shaw District, which boasts a bevy of indie boutiques for a spot of afternoon shopping, a hot dining and cocktail scene, and live music and theater venues such as the Lincoln Theatre and the Howard Theatre, where acts like Cab Calloway and Pearl Bailey once played.
Monday: Hit the water for monumental views of the Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial and other sights from the Potomac River. Feeling sporty? Opt for a guided kayak paddle. Otherwise, you can book a lunch cruise.
Napa and Sonoma Wine Country, Calif
Friday: Enjoy an alfresco farm-to-table supper on one of the many restaurant patios in the town of Sonoma.
Saturday: Take a postbreakfast walk through the town and its grassy, tree-shaded central plaza, stopping to visit its 19th-century mission. Around noon, head for wine tasting and a picnic at one of the many nearby wineries equipped with outdoor tables and benches. Then drive farther north in Sonoma County to check out Healdsburg, an upscale hub of dining and shopping with its own charming plaza. Having already made a reservation, stay for dinner in one of the town's many destination eateries.
Sunday: Visit the Napa Valley, which lies west of Sonoma. Make advance reservations for tastings at two or three smaller wineries, where you'll get a more personal, less crowded experience. Break up the sipping stops with a winery picnic, shopping along St. Helena's chic Main Street and a walk among the redwoods of Bothe-Napa Valley State Park. In the late afternoon, indulge in a spa treatment in Calistoga, famed for its hot springs. On your way back to Sonoma, stop for dinner in Yountville, home to a handful of world-class restaurants where reservations are always recommended.
Monday: Amble through di Rosa, a 217-acre contemporary art preserve with three galleries and a sculpture park. Afterward, watch a cooking demonstration at the Culinary Institute of America at Copia, its Napa city campus, followed by lunch across the street in the Oxbow Public Market, a gourmet food hall.
Friday: Start the weekend with a festive adult beverage and a panoramic view in the bar atop the 750-foot-high Tower of the Americas. Follow that with a Tex-Mex dinner downtown.
Saturday: Board a San Antonio River cruise through the city's famed River Walk district, and then explore its shops and lunch spots by foot. Afterward, check out the encyclopedic holdings of the San Antonio Museum of Art — everything from ancient Egyptian statues to historic American portraits — before visiting the city's most revered site, the Alamo. Follow an early dinner in the upscale Alamo Heights neighborhood with either a (prebooked) Spurs pro basketball game or an evening of top-notch dance or music at the Tobin Center for Performing Arts.
Sunday: Get up and at 'em early during a morning ride or walk along all or some of the eight-mile-long Mission Hike and Bike Trail, which winds along the river and through farmland and older neighborhoods as it connects the four Spanish-era religious outposts of the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park. Grab lunch in the Southtown Arts District, where galleries and shops — some housed in the Blue Star Arts Complex — offer loads of afternoon browsing. That night, enjoy barbecue dinner and two-stepping to live music at the John T. Floore Country Store, a legendary honky-tonk just outside town.
Monday: Get a feel for Texas Hill Country during a day trip to Boerne, a sweet town of restaurants, antique shops and shady riverside walkways about 30 miles from downtown San Antonio.
Friday: Stroll the riverfront, browsing shops or hopping a ferry or water taxi for a closer view of the maritime traffic. Dine on River Street where, if it's the first Friday of the month, there are nighttime fireworks.
Saturday: Dive into Savannah's past on a guided, postbreakfast walk past the gracious old homes of the National Historic Landmark District, one of the country's largest. Afterward, picnic in Forsyth Park — a sun-dappled 30-acre Eden — on provisions you pick up at its Saturday farmers market (open until 1 p.m.). Then check out the contemporary works at the SCAD Museum of Art, run by the Savannah College of Art and Design. That evening, having already reserved tickets, take in a show at one of the city's gorgeously restored vintage venues, the Savannah Theatre or the Lucas Theatre for the Arts. Dinner options abound nearby, whether for a preshow bite or a late-night supper.
Sunday: Head just outside town for a visit to the Wormsloe Historic Site, a former plantation where stately moss-draped oaks arch over a mile-long drive and shade 18th-century ruins. Back in town, follow lunch with a visit to the Telfair Museums, dedicated to art, history and architecture. Tales of the eerie and macabre await after dinner and nightfall during a guided ghost and vampire tour.
Monday: Drive out to Tybee Island, where you can walk, bike, have a seaside meal, take a bottlenose dolphin cruise or simply sunbathe on Atlantic beaches backed by undulating dunes.
Friday: Ease into the weekend with a boat tour through the scenic chain of lakes in Winter Park. Afterward, choose from among dozens of unique spots for drinks and dinner along the town's popular Park Avenue.
Saturday: Start with a morning walk at the 440-acre Tibet-Butler Preserve — where four miles of unpaved trails wind through wetlands, pine flatlands and scrub — and you may spot ospreys, alligators and armadillos. For lunch, head to historic downtown Winter Garden and graze among the vendors at the Plant Street Market food hall; afterward, explore the town's lively shopping scene and oak-shaded cobblestone streets. Dress up for downtown dinner that night, followed by a prebooked Broadway show, ballet performance or symphony concert at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
Sunday: Bask in the beauty of thousands of roses and camellias during a morning stroll through the 50-acre Harry P. Leu Gardens, followed by brunch in the adjacent Audubon Park neighborhood. In the afternoon, back in Winter Park, the beauty is man-made at the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, holder of the world's most comprehensive collection of luminous glass, jewelry and other works by Louis Comfort Tiffany. That evening, catch a quick bite and an Orlando Magic basketball game downtown — if you can score tickets. If you can't, drive over to eclectic Ivanhoe Village for dinner.
Monday: Wind down your weekend with a guided kayak tour along the peaceful, cypress-lined waterways of Shingle Creek Regional Park, the headwaters of the Everglades.
Studies have shown that taking time off boosts happiness, increases productivity and improves overall work satisfaction. That's why AARP is a member of the U.S. Travel Association's Project: Time Off Coalition. In 2015, more than 55 percent of workers left vacation days on the table — a whopping 658 million unused days. But this runs deeper than simply having more downtime. In addition to the physical and emotional benefits you'll receive, taking time off also has an economic impact. If each worker used just one extra vacation day, it would add $34 million to the U.S. economy. So go on, schedule that long weekend getaway!