11 Easy One-Tank U.S. Road Trips Because Gas Is Expensive and Airports Are Chaos
Unless you’ve been living very snug under a rock, it’s already apparent that summer 2022 is going down as the season of disrupted travel. As a result, easy one-tank getaways are trending for travelers who are officially over high flight prices (as a result of high gas prices) and the drama of flying during a time when endless canceled and delayed flights appear to be the norm.
Despite more costly than normal prices at the pump, one-tank road trips are still a more affordable option than most other trips, so instead of battling it out with a TSA agent this summer, consider exploring one of these fine itineraries, each which you can get to from the top 11 U.S. cities (based solely on metropolitan population size) on just a single tank of gas (roughly in the 200 to 400 mile range on the average American tank.) Pro Tip: Hybrid and electric vehicles can get you even further.
Where to stay: Top rentals or the historic modern Le Mount Stephen, where morning breakfast in the stately Bar George—filled with beautiful woodworked walls and an intricate marble-laid fireplace—is a must.
Crossing the land border with Canada is pretty simple — just remember to pack your passport, and you can be off from sweaty Gotham to the cooler climates of Quebec. Thanks to Quebec’s French influence, the city feels like a faraway land. As a melting pot of other cultures today, the city is, not surprisingly, a destination that will impress even the most discerning New Yorker foodies. Here’s a few to add to your hit list: a decadent brunch at the recently opened Shay, a stylish modern Middle Eastern restaurant in Griffintown that serves twists on avo toast, shakshuka and mouth-watering baklava pancakes; Joe Beef, for quality cuts of meat but really everything else served in a charming setting with a backyard dining area; and the blind tasting menu at Pastel, which changes regularly, is out of this world, and well—we won’t spoil anything more. On a trip to Montreal, stroll through Mile End for boutiques and restaurants heavier in fashion, art, design and decor, plus overall neighborhood cuteness akin to Williamsburg; cruise Old Town Montreal for more of the same, with a more romantic setting filled with 17th-and 18th-century architecture that will make you swear you were in Europe.
New Yorkers also will appreciate a stop at Holt Renfrew, a hybrid between Saks Fifth Avenue and (R.I.P.) Barneys which has favorite luxury brands and new ones not available in the States; Ssense, one of our fave Canadian e-comm retailers also has a concept gallery in Old Montreal since they’re headquartered there, and the store is eye-poppingly cool. Scandinave Spa, a handsome spa with a great water circuit and excellent masseurs is a great place to kill time regardless of what the weather is like outside.
Leaning very heavily into Danish architecture and charms, for a longtime Solvang was known for its windmills and decadent Danish bakeries. Don’t fret—they’re still very much intact, but there’s a lot of new energy being injected into this Santa Ynez Valley town (read: wine region) by way of food, wine and shopping. In fact, it’s become a bit of a secret foodie destination as of late, thanks to peasants FEAST, a scrumptious family-owned restaurant known for sourcing from local farms, fisherman, and other artisanal food and beverage crafters; Sear Steakhouse, now helmed by a new chef and serving a mouthwatering baseball cut and a filet mignon; and Coast Range & Vaquero Bar, where the latter slings blue cheese martinis, variations on margaritas and other classic libations with a complimentary bar menu. The property also has two attractive Airbnb apartments directly above the restaurant, for extended stays overlooking the town’s main park. Italian gelato and a ramen spot round out the buzzy town’s grub options, and for shopping, you’ll be spoiled with a variety of speciality and gift shops—everything from antiques to toys. Shops are located in almost every corner of the compact downtown, but a new retail destination, PARc Place, just added a few more including the always-important cheese shop, a country store, a wine tasting room for Alma Rosa, a floral boutique, and more.
Known for its local wineries and idyllic setting, Saugatuck is a charming town on the shores of Lake Michigan with a lot to offer road trippin’ travelers. This is an ideal way to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city and for a relaxing getaway with a spectacular view. Enjoy wine tasting in a rustic-chic atmosphere at Modales Wine Company or – if an action-packed vacation is more your speed – embark on a nautical adventure and sail Oval Beach (named of the 25 best shorelines in the world). Retro Boat Rentals offers a fleet of classic restored pontoons, donuts, and Duffies, some dating as far back as 1958. Either way, you’re going to work up an appetite! Coast 236 is the best choice for locally sourced seafood such as halibut and grilled oysters. From its picturesque beaches to exquisite seaside restaurants, there’s nowhere else quite like Saugatuck.
This small city used to sit in the shadow of Washington, D.C., but with a distinct personality and charming atmosphere, it quickly became a destination on the rise. Walkable and packed with historic Victorian and Georgian architecture à la Philadelphia’s Society Hill, or Beacon Hill in Boston, Old Town Alexandria is home to more than 200 independent restaurants, boutiques and museums. The city is also easily one of the pet-friendliest road trips from Philly, with main thoroughfare King St. packed with shops and not-too-exhausting of a walk for furry friends and their owners; at its terminus, the street leaves visitors at the banks of the Potomac River where an adorable waterfront park is packed with magic Instagram moments. Within its borders, Alexandria also boasts a specialty restaurant, Barkhaus, where draft beers and other libations meet classic menu items (guac, hamburgers, steak tacos) at an upgraded dog run that provides a one-of-a-kind communal experience for pets and their owners.
An art collective in an old torpedo station is filled with all kinds of treasures you can take in or purchase to support local artists. Start your day there, then make your way by car to the nearby and very dreamy Mount Vernon, George Washington’s estate where the President and his wife Martha Washington were laid to rest in tombs you can still visit today. Sailing up the Potomac River past our nation’s monuments and the Kennedy Center is another nice way to spend a leisurely afternoon when Alexandria is home base; it also makes our nation’s Capital easily accessible without the need to use extra gas (Ubers and Metro rail are options too). Staying local? Come nightfall, make a res at Captain Gregory’s, a hidden speakeasy within a donut shop with delish cocktails made with Japanese gin, whiskey, vodka and sake, plus other inventive ingredients.
Turner Falls has been a popular tourist destination for over a century, and for good reason—it’s nestled in the Arbuckle Mountains, and offers visitors a stunning natural landscape complete with waterfalls, hiking trails, and caves. Active travelers will love Turner Falls’ Instagram-worthy photo ops from the 77-foot waterfall that cascades into a natural swimming pool, and non-active types will appreciate the beautiful Collins Castle, a 1930s-era residence inspired by English architecture and built with native stone and materials. With WiFi available throughout the park, you don’t have to wait to share your pics of swimming, kayaking, hiking or bird watching. Whether you're looking for a leisurely day in nature or an adrenaline- pumping adventure, you'll find it here.
Baton Rouge, LA is a darling destination for travelers looking for a sophisticated vacation spot that’s not the crazy party town of New Orleans, but packs some similar yet still unique charm. The Radio Bar, which is located in the heart of downtown, is a must-visit for any music lover. As the name suggests, the bar features a variety of local and national radio stations that guests can enjoy while sipping on cocktails. For foodies, Baton Rouge is a paradise, with its world-renowned Cajun and Creole cuisine on offer at every turn. A fan favorite is Parrain’s seafood restaurant. The menu features fresh, local seafood and traditional cajun southern dishes that are sure to please even the most discerning palate.
Asbury Park, NJ is an artsy destination with a rich history and was once known as a mecca for musicians and artists. Today, that creative spirit can still be felt in the city's colorful murals, lively nightlife scene, and eclectic shops. A favorite among tourists is Paranormal Books and Curiosities, an occult bookstore and museum with artifacts from famous haunted houses (if you’re lucky, the owner might even offer you a ghost tour!). When it comes time to refuel, head to Talula’s for some delicious and gourmet American fare in a roomy industrial space. For an extended adventure – and a place to rest – book a room at the Empress Hotel & Adult Nightclub. With well-outfitted accommodations and a vibrant nightlife scene, including LGBTQ+ nightlife, this hotel is top-tier for travelers in pursuit of a good time. Choose from a wild array of events happening at the on-site Paradise Nightclub & Bar throughout the week, from drag bingo to theme nights like disco and even country line dancing. Best of all, Empress Hotel & Adult Nightclub is located in the heart of Asbury Park's historic district, just steps from the beach and boardwalk, so you can go club-hopping with your friends or dip your toes in the sand to unwind from a night of fun.
Not just the drama you see on the MTV show, Siesta Key is a must-visit island paradise for young road trippers. With its three world-famous beaches—Siesta Beach, Crescent Beach, and Turtle Beach—as well as its crystal-clear waters and lush vegetation, Siesta Key is a truly blissed out spot. Visitors love searching for manatees at Beer Can Island where the graceful and gentle giants are often seen lazing through the shallows. The island is also home to a variety of plant life, including mangroves, sea oats, and palm trees. When you’re ready to unwind, grab a table at Daiquiri Deck. This trendy restaurant overlooks the beautiful Gulf of Mexico, serving up a mix of classic drinks and unique creations like the mango habanero margarita and the patriot missile pina colada. You can also grub a delectable range of delicious plates, from grilled shrimp tacos to Caribbean Jerk chicken wings.
Nestled in the Chattahoochee National Forest in northeast Georgia, Lake Burton is a beautiful and tranquil destination for outdoorsy travelers. “This is a great spot to spend a day of fun on the water fishing, tubing or day cruising. For those looking for ways to get on the water for the day, there are boat rental options and peer-to-peer sharing services. Or, if you’re trailering your own boat to the lake, there are a few boat ramps for public access,” says Kelly Kaylor with Discover Boating. Water skiing is another wet option for travelers, and the 62 spacious miles of shoreline is also ripe for hiking through a surrounding 2,800 acres, plus fantastic photo ops. For those who adore staying in tiny homes, there's no better place to visit than Bleu Canoe which is located right on the shores of Lake Burton. This full-service Cajun American restaurant and tiny home campground is not only a haven for delicious food and drink, but also for those who appreciate the art of slow lake living. From fire pits and trails to yard games like cornhole and badminton, there are plenty of opportunities to simply spend time with loved ones and live in the present moment.
Palm Springs is a desert oasis and glamorous relaxation haven that meets party city—the reason it’s been a go-to destination for Hollywood celebrities and socialites since the 1930s. This thrilling resort town is known for attractions like the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which takes visitors up 2½ miles to an observation deck overlooking the desert; the stunning and near century-old Moorten Botanical Garden; and the Palm Springs Art Museum which houses a permanent collection from artists including Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock. Must-dine eats include Tropicale Palm Springs, a restaurant with sleek, modern décor complemented by an impressive menu of sophisticated comfort food, where restaurant-goers the world-over visit just for Tropicale’s signature dish: chicken-fried quail with foie gras gravy. Delicious, inventive, and oh-so-Instagrammable, it’s good food and good vibes.
Watch Hill is a quaint seaside village known for its historic attractions, offering all the charm of a traditional New England vacation spot, all in one chic little enclave where you might bump into the likes of T. Swift, who owns a stunning home there. From its well-preserved Victorian architecture to its chic boutique shops, Watch Hill has something to offer everyone, especially those who appreciate historic landmarks dating back to the 1600s. One prime example is Ocean House, a hotel built in 1868 still in operation today. This luxe coastal stay is situated on 55 acres of carefully landscaped grounds with plenty of activities to keep you busy including a world-class spa, fitness center, indoor and outdoor pools and tennis courts. Dine on local seafood at the Andrea Seaside Restaurant and Beach Bar or indulge in a sumptuous Sunday brunch at the Olympia Tea Room—you're sure to find something to your liking.