Last year, my husband and I signed our daughter up for summer camp in Michigan but neglected to plan a vacation for ourselves. In figuring out the logistics of transporting a teenager across two states and around one Great Lake, however, we saw our opportunity for a sojourn of our own: Put her on a plane to camp, then drive to pick her up — and sneak in a microgetaway for ourselves during the journey from point A to point B.
So, we loaded up our trail bikes and headed for Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (UP). We booked two nights at a historic inn not far from our midtrip destination: Grand Island National Recreation Area, a half-mile ferry ride on Lake Superior from the UP’s north shore. At that point, it was time for a microgetaway — one glorious day of biking through old-growth hardwoods along weather-worn cliffs, with turquoise and cerulean extending to the horizon. Perhaps because it was so micro, I remember almost every hour of that adventure with my sweetie.
What if we all did more of this sort of thing? Getaways don’t need to be full vacations to be meaningful: Maybe we shift our mindsets around vacations altogether and start looking for smaller, more frequent opportunities to refresh, restore, and recreate.
Consider these ideas.
All’s Fair at the Fairs
Summer’s end is rife with last-ditch hurrahs (and huzzahs), so if fairs and festivals are your thing, you probably won’t have to look far.
Some of the nation’s biggest state fairs, including those in Texas, Minnesota, New York, Oklahoma, and Massachusetts (the Big E showcases all six New England states), take place in late summer or early fall, so go enjoy food-on-a-stick for a day or a week. If medieval costumes and jousting excite the imagination, hop online and find a Renaissance Festival near you.
Don’t forget end-of-season art fairs, music festivals, and film festivals. (Check out www.festivalnet.com to search for events by date and location.) Look for cultural celebrations in your community as well; September 15 to October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month, and there may be events where you can celebrate, learn, and enjoy amazing food.
Favorites for Foodies
Harvest season (hint: that’s now) is ideal for getaways that get you in touch with the sources of your food.
Pack up the kids and head to a nearby U-pick farm for an afternoon in an apple orchard or pumpkin patch. Gather friends for a weekend of wine, cider, or kombucha tasting. Or take a foraging class and learn what’s in season in your neck of the woods. (Check out www.eattheplanet.org for foraging-based tours around the country.)
Explore your town’s farm-to-table restaurants. Venture to a nearby pizza farm (trending in the Midwest and picking up steam in other parts of the country), where you can bask in a bucolic environment while noshing on a pie made from local ingredients. Or explore www.farmstayus.com to find a weekend farm vacation.
Have Hobby, Will Travel
How do you spend your free time? Pair your hobby with a quick getaway.
Once a railroad town on the prairie, Hamilton, Mo., is now a mecca for quilters, boasting 12 quilting-centric shops that are all owned by the same family, whose Missouri Star Quilt Company transformed the community. It also features a quilt museum, restaurants and lodging, and the world’s largest spool of thread.
Whether you’re a knitter, woodworker, poet, or vintage-car lover, there’s a retreat or convention or other destination for you.
Love antiques? Sketch out an itinerary to visit small-town antique shops. Avid reader? Look up book-lover tours in your favorite city.
Go fly-fishing. Scout out record stores, vintage shops, or yoga studios whenever you’re in a new town — because even a business trip could double as a microgetaway if you keep your eyes open.
Fall Is for Nature Lovers
Break out your fleece and flannel and get outside. Crisp fall air is around the corner, and if you plan it right, you can spend your weekends chasing fall foliage — heading north for early oranges and following the color cascade as it marches south.
Speaking of heading south, grab a pair of binoculars and find a nearby bird-migration hot spot to behold the mass exodus. Favorite viewing destinations include Cape May Point in New Jersey, famous for raptor sightings; Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin, where you might see a dozen or more duck species alone; and Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, where hundreds of species pass on their way to Central and South America.
State and national parks, forests, and grasslands beckon this time of year — they’re less crowded, especially once school begins, and you’ll soon find cooler temperatures and fewer bugs. Pitch a tent or rent a cabin and spend a day or a weekend exploring. You can lace up for a hike to a waterfall or other geological points of interest or hit the singletrack on a mountain bike.
Go Small and Stay Home
If you need a quick change of scenery but can’t venture far, try booking a night at a local hotel. Get up the next day and explore your own town’s museums and galleries — the ones you haven’t visited yet. Sign up for a walking tour and learn fun facts you can share with your next out-of-town guests.
If your town boasts an arboretum, zoo, or aquarium, appreciate it with the eyes of a tourist. Take in a concert. Unwind at a day spa.
You can go even smaller with the nano-getaway: Grab a lawn chair, leave your phone at home, and head to a nearby park or the banks of a neighborhood pond. Breathe.
In a pinch, you can even go virtual: During the pandemic, online retreats and virtual tours filled in where travel had to leave off, and many offerings are still available. Check out Airbnb Experiences, Amazon Explore, and Flyover Zone for digital excursions that at least give you a taste for what you’ll do once you can truly get away.
This article originally appeared as “Make Your Own (Micro-) Getaway” in the September 2022 issue of Experience Life.