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With Labor Day just around the corner, the best way to chase away the waning-days-of-summer blues is to plan a long weekend escape. After all, early September is primed for all manner of getaways, from golf-centric sojourns to national park explorations, and beyond. Whether you wish to embark on an action-packed three days, or simply unplug for a little while, finding the right destination at the right price point is key. 

Here, we’ve mapped out several destinations for two, based on a range of budgets (note: airfare costs aren’t included in our projected expenses). For the most part, these destinations tend to be stateside and socially distant in nature, given the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. Still, it’s best to check your chosen destination’s current health and safety-related requirements, prior to arrival.   

Budget: $250

Destination: Camping in Southern Utah

Utah’s red rock country is a haven for adventurers of all stripes: hikers, mountain bikers, climbers, and, where the mighty Green and Colorado rivers flow, kayakers and whitewater rafters. Home to five, jaw-dropping, national parks — Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, and Zion — The Beehive State has campsites aplenty.

narrows-in-zion-national-park

In-the-park sites book up early, so consider Bureau of Land Management (BLM), state, and private campgrounds as well. Whether you park-hop or hunker down in one campground for the weekend, be sure to take time to stargaze away from city lights, hit the trail, clamber through slot canyons, and marvel at rock formations carved out of the earth over millennia.

 Our long-weekender picks:

  • Visit Arches National Park to take in the iconic Delicate Arch
  • Check out pictographs and more on a hike to The Moon House, near Bear Ears National Monument (permit required)
  • Climb Zion’s sandstone cliffs
  • Watch the sunset over the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon after hiking a series of loops, or strolling along the rim trail
  • Mountain bike Moab’s many slickrock trails or Hurricane’s Gooseberry Mesa

Revel in geological wonder with a campground (or house rental) in Springdale, Moab, St. George, Bryce, Blanding, Torrey, or elsewhere in Southern Utah.

Budget: $500

Destination: Beach-Bumming in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

An erstwhile pequeño fishing village, this now-modern, cosmopolitan spot in the Mayan Riviera is within easy reach of Cancun and similarly trendy destinations like Tulum and Cozumel. With 75 miles of coastline, this Yucatan getaway has glorious beaches — dominated by “beach clubs” and resorts — as well as stunning reefs for snorkeling and diving.

playa-del-carmen-mexico

Soak up the sun and ocean breezes, dive into the warm waters alongside rays, explore underground caverns, or partake in the vibrant club scene. While relaxing with a seaside cerveza might be the extent of your activity here, it’s worth exploring some of the natural and archaeological wonders as well.

Our long-weekender picks:

  • Swim with turtles in Akumal
  • Explore Río Secreto’s — translating to secret river’s — caves 
  • Amble (or party) along cobblestone, pedestrian-only La Quinta Avenida
  • Climb the tallest Mayan pyramid at the archeological site at Cobá
  • Pop over via ferry to snorkel or dive in Cozumel’s turquoise waters

Fiesta into the fall at one of these Playa del Carmen accommodations.

Budget: $1,000

Destination: Glamping in Joshua Tree, California

Towering, boulder formations dating back more than a billion years coupled with vast desert landscapes dotted with Joshua trees (a.k.a. yuccas) make this 800,000-acre California wilderness a unique glamping escape. Where the Mojave Desert meets the Colorado Desert, there are stargazing-perfect skies, rocks to scale — even sneakers will stick to the monzogranite! — hikes to explore, and cacti, birds, and oases to discover.

Take in the artsy vibe of the park’s gateway town, Twentynine Palms, or head to nearby Palm Desert for swanky golf and culinary finds. Of note: it is hot and dry in Joshua Tree, so be sure to stock up on water, particularly for day-time adventures.

Our long-weekender picks:

  • Watch the sunset at Cap Rock
  • Pop over to Palm Springs for some golf
  • Grab breakfast at Crossroads Café and peruse the hippie-themed shops of Twentynine Palms
  • Hike the Ryan Mountain Trail for views and a workout (be sure to pack plenty of water)
  • Strap on a harness and climb boulder formations, like Jumbo Rock

Escape to the California desert, thanks to these glamping or vacation rental digs.

Budget: $2,500

Destination: Ranch Retreating Near Bend, Oregon

Open countryside flanked by The Cascades make for an idyllic weekend away from it all. Whichever posh ranch-resort you pick — Brasada, Sunriver, or Black Butte — you’ll have nature as well as creature comforts at your doorstep.

view-of-three-sisters-mountains

Saddle up for a horseback ride, take in tremendous views as you golf, settle into the spa, paddle the rivers and lakes, and indulge in inspired cuisine that goes well beyond the campfire. And, when (small) city life calls, downtown Bend is within easy striking distance. 

Our long-weekender picks:

  • Kayak The Cascade Lakes
  • Take a craft beer tour in Bend
  • Giddy-up for a high desert horseback ride
  • Golf Pronghorn’s Nicklaus course
  • Hike, mountain bike, or zipline at Mt. Bachelor

Raise a pint to Central Oregon at these country escapes.

Budget: $5,000

Destination: Golfing in Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Island time meets tee time at Kiawah. One of the larger barrier islands off the South Carolina coast, this private, 15 square-mile, coast-meets-marshland haven is packed with manicured, top-ranked courses (most of which offer public access) as well as thousands of acres of pristine, protected habitat.

kiawah-island-coastline

Exclusivity is par for the course here, where spas and exquisite dining accompany outdoorsy pursuits like paddle-boarding and kayaking. Yes, you can follow in Phil Mickelson’s footsteps here. Just don’t forget to take in the sunsets, too!

Our long-weekender picks:

  • Spend some time on the island’s 10-miles of gorgeous beach (public access via Beachwalker Park)
  • Bike Kiawah’s 30 miles of paved trails
  • Swap out the clubs for a tennis racquet for a few hours
  • Visit historic Charleston, 21 miles away
  • Play The Ocean Course, most recently host of the 2021 PGA Championship

Ready for coastal Carolina golf? Tee up your stay at one of these lodging finds. 

Budget: Unlimited

Destination: Monte Carlo, Monaco

Jet-set, James Bond-style, by taking a sojourn steeped in lavishness in the tiny country of Monaco. Pack your dinner coat for the casino and your stylish beachwear for the pebbled shore, hop a seven-minute helicopter ride from nearby Nice and — voilà — instant immersion in one of the wealthiest and most beautiful places on the planet.

monaco-at-sunset

Sip champagne and bask in Mediterranean splendor on land or sea. Dine like local royalty and venture to nearby Cote d’Azur attractions, from lavender fields to St. Tropez beaches. Cheers, mon ami!  

Our long-weekender picks:

  • Take a private yacht cruise along the stunning French Riviera
  • Roll the dice courtesy of Monte Carlo Casino
  • Shop on the streets of Carré d’Or (Golden Square)
  • Tour Provencal wineries
  • Drive a Lamborghini or Ferrari on the Grand Prix racetrack

Vacation like a celebrity with the just-right Monte-Carlo lodging.