PHOTO: Central Avenue, Downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico. (photo via Flickr/Ken Lund)
Getting away for the weekend is not always about heading to the latest and greatest hotspot.
More often than not, your quick escape needs somewhere away from the roar of the crowd; a secret you can call your own. Maybe even a locale you can return to and explore time after time.
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You need a fun place to stay, good food and not many tourists.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
The largest city in New Mexico rarely gets its due when it comes to great weekends. While all the tourists head north to Santa Fe, try spending a weekend in Albuquerque instead.
Look at Hotel Parq Central for a great place to stay. This quirky hotel has a bit of a haunted history: Originally built as a hospital for railroad workers, it then served as a mental hospital for a bit before being abandoned for several years, only to be resurrected as a boutique hotel in the heart of the city.
Albuquerque's fun stuff to do includes riding the tram to the top of Sandia Peak, visiting the BioPark Zoo and wandering the streets of Old Town. Food advice is easy: Eat tacos and drink local beer.
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Waco is a little less under-the-radar than ever before, thanks to HGTV's Fixer Upper couple Chip and Joanna Gaines. (Their Magnolia House B&B is already booked for all of 2017, so you will have to settle for slightly less famous accommodations.)
You still won't find hordes of tourists.
Try Hotel Indigo, near the Baylor University campus. Other than a visit to Magnolia Market, spend time at the Dr. Pepper Museum, the Texas Ranger Museum or just hang out in beautiful Cameron Park along the Brazos River. Food advice: Twisted Root Burger and Steel City Pops (gourmet popsicles) for lunch, then Buzzard Billy's for dinner.
Lara Dunning, blogger at Small Town Washington recently visited the quaint college town of Ellensburg in eastern Washington. "It has all the things I look for in a small town—very walkable, a unique stay, fantastic food, wine, beer, lots of history, and day trip activities," she reported.
Dunning's lodging of choice is Guesthouse Ellensburg, a restored Victorian built in 1888, and the idyllic burg also boasts a brewery, wine bars and two museums to explore. Food advice: eat and drink your way through the four square blocks bounded by 3rd and 5th, and Main and Pine.
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Oxnard is one of those places that every time you go, you ask yourself why you waited so long to come back. There is enough food and fun throughout Ventura County to make it a perfect repeat weekend haunt.
The Mandalay Bay Embassy Suites is ideally located on the beach, but not too far from everything else you want to explore. For fun, the Channel Islands National Park is a must-do. Island Packers offers trips of all variety to get you there, plus the gear to make it an adventure.
For local waterfront fun, talk to the folks at Hopper Boat Rentals for stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking and electric boat rentals. Food advice: dinner after a wine tasting at Tierra Sur at the Herzog Wine Cellars.
Sussex County, New Jersey
Unless you live in the area, Sussex County is way off the radar, making it perfect for a quiet retreat from the rest of the world. Think: farmland, small towns and parks.
The Wooden Duck Inn near Newton is centrally located for your explorations of the whole county. Next, consider a drive to High Point State Park, which as the name implies, is New Jersey's highest point, complete with a three-state view and access to the Appalachian Trail.
Food advice: The Boat House Restaurant on Swartswood Lake outside of Newton serves an amazing beef tenderloin. Be sure to save room though for soft-serve ice cream at the Dairy Queen in Newton.