Readers Choice

10Best Readers' ChoiceChosen by readers of USA TODAY and 10Best

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    #10 - Lafayette, La.

    Where New Orleans provides an introduction to Cajun culture, Lafayette, located 135 miles west, offers a master course. Local live music, cozy B&Bs and excellent restaurants serving world-class Cajun cuisine make it an ideal destination for a quick escape. Lafayette also makes an excellent base for exploring the rest of Acadiana, Louisiana’s Cajun Country. Vermilionville, a recreated Acadian village near Lafayette, brings the region's Cajun history and heritage to life.

    Photo courtesy of Louisiana Office of Tourism

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    #9 - Estes Park, Colo.

    About 70 miles northwest of Denver lies one of Colorado’s most popular summer destinations, Estes Park. This magical mountain village sits 7,500 feet above sea level and enjoys calendar-worthy Rocky Mountain views. While the town is particularly appealing as a weekend destination for families, with attractions like zip lining, miniature golf and horseback riding, it also serves as a gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park and all the outdoor adventures that go with it.

    Photo courtesy of Yuya Sekiguchi

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    #8 - Asheville, N.C.

    Located 125 miles west of Charlotte, the hippie-infused college town of Asheville in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains is a great place to cool off during a North Carolina summer. There’s no shortage of weekend-worthy activities, either. Art lovers will find a scene to rival any in the country, there’s historic (and huge!) Biltmore Estate to explore and with the North Carolina mountains practically just outside the door, nature lovers can go crazy hiking, biking or taking in the scenery along the famed Blue Ridge Parkway.  The foodie scene is hot, too!  

    Photo courtesy of Biltmore Estate

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    #7 - Bainbridge, Wash.

    About 10 miles from downtown Seattle, across scenic Puget Sound, lies Bainbridge Island - a paradise for enjoying Washington’s great outdoors. The cozy downtown area offers a range of excellent restaurants and B&Bs, but the island’s main draws lie out of town. Biking and sea kayaking offer fresh air and lovely sound and Cascade Mountain views, while the award-winning Bloedel Reserve is a favorite with gardening enthusiasts. A smattering of local wineries means an afternoon glass is never far away.

    Photo courtesy of bpperry/iStock

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    #6 - Galveston, Texas

    Just 51 miles south of Central Houston on I-45 lies Galveston Island - a place of wide beaches, pleasure piers, Victorian architecture, seafood and kitschy seashore shopping. Families getting away for the weekend will find kid-friendly offerings, like Moody Gardens, Schlitterbahn water park and the Galveston Railroad Museum, while couples can stroll the romantic and historic Strand. With 32 miles of beaches and accommodations for every budget, Galveston's a great escape for all variety of travelers.

    Photo courtesy of Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau

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    #5 - Hollywood, Fla.

    Just 20 miles outside of Miami, the beachside community of Hollywood is famous for its wide boardwalk, often busy with cyclists and rollerbladers soaking up the Florida sun. There's a bohemian feel to the boutiques and galleries in town, and hotel prices are a fraction of those in other tourist destinations on the Florida coast, making it an ideal option for a budget-friendly weekend at the beach.

    Photo courtesy of Visit Hollywood Fla.

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    #4 - Dahlonega, Ga.

    Atlanta can be sweltering in the summer. Luckily, the charming town of Dahlonega is just 66 miles north on the outskirts of the Chattahoochee National Forest. This former gold mining outpost in the hills is now filled with galleries, boutiques, country stores and local restaurants ideal for a weekend visit. A calendar packed full of summer festivals means there's nearly always something going on.

    Photo courtesy of Georgia Department of Economic Development

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    #3 - Sedona, Ariz.

    Sedona, located at the heart of Arizona’s stunning Red Rock Country, lies 116 miles north of Phoenix. Cooler summer temperatures certainly add to Sedona’s appeal, but the majestic rock formations, artistic scene and blissful spas make for a fantastic weekend, no matter the temperature. Followers of New Age philosophies believe that the region contains some of the world’s most important energy centers, and that coming here promotes balance and well being. We think it’s worth a shot!

    Photo courtesy of FiledIMAGE/iStock

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    #2 - Granbury, Texas

    In the Texas Plains and Lakes region 70 miles outside of Dallas, the charming town of Granbury makes frequent appearances on “best small town” lists, and it’s easy to see why. The town’s historic square, lined by historic landmarks, makes for excellent shopping, and there are plenty of mom n’ pop restaurants to choose from when it comes time to refuel. The beach at Lake Granbury offers a way to cool off on those hot Texas afternoons, and there’s even a family-friendly boardwalk.

    Photo courtesy of QuesterMark

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    #1 - Saugatuck, Mich.

    Weekend trippers to Saugatuck, Mich., on the coast of Lake Michigan, come for its artistic community, local dining, numerous B&Bs and plentiful outdoor options, including relaxing on the beaches of the lake or conquering the  area sand dunes. The downtown streets of Water and Butler are lined with cute shops and galleries, while the stretch of the Blue Star Highway just south of town is famous for its antiquing.

    Photo courtesy of Brian Morrison/iStock

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Saugatuck the Favorite Summer Escape

Granbury, Sedona, Dahlonega and Hollywood round out top 5

In the 10Best Readers' Choice contest for Best Summer Weekend Escape, voting was especially heavy for one nominee, Saugatuck, Michigan. This beachy Great Lakes escape won the hearts (and the votes) of our readers.

While not your typical beach destination, Saugatuck, on the shores of Lake Michigan, offers a sun-filled summer escape, complete with giant sand dunes, numerous B&Bs, art galleries and excellent antique shopping nearby.

Joining Saugatuck in the winners list are a diverse range of summer destinations, including historic Texas towns (Granbury and Galveston), a favorite Florida beach (Hollywood), a former Southern mining outpost (Dahlonega) and an artsy community in the heart of Arizona's red rock country (Sedona).

The full list of winners in the 'Best Summer Weekend Escape' contest category for 10Best Readers' Choice is as follows:

  1. Saugatuck, Mich.
  2. Granbury, Texas
  3. Sedona, Ariz.
  4. Dahlonega, Ga.
  5. Hollywood, Fla.
  6. Galveston, Texas
  7. Bainbridge, Wash.
  8. Asheville, N.C.
  9. Estes Park, Colo.
  10. Lafayette, La.

Congratulations to all the winners. Remember to keep this list handy for plan ahead OR last-minute getaways from major metros around the country.

 

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Meet the Experts

Libby McMillan

A longtime travel journalist, Senior Editor Libby McMillan often escapes on weekends via car or plane.  She's personally visited many of this category's nominees and now has the rest on her bucket list.  

Beth D'Addono

Author and respected journalist Beth D'Addono is a food and travel writer obsessed with flavor, exploring cultures, street music, and the city of New Orleans.  But as much as she loves her hometown, she's constantly on the go - researching terrific places, or winding down from a life spent on deadline.     

Ruta Fox

Ruta Fox grew up in Los Angeles, lived in Dallas, Chicago and New York City, and is now living in Greenville, SC.  A former magazine editor, current fashionista, and writer about beauty, personalities, luxury and travel, she loves weekend getaways and takes them regularly.  Ruta's many friends in the travel industry keep her on top of the latest trends, but it's the discovery of lesser-known hangouts which really gets her excited. 

Tara Nurin

Tara Nurin is a veteran freelance journalist based just outside  Philadelphia. The former TV reporter specializes in craft beer, dining and destination coverage and writes regularly about her three passions -- Philly, food, drink -- for local and national pubs.  Tara, who grew up speaking Spanish and French, spent childhood holidays on a Puerto Rican beach and bummed around Paris for her junior year of college. She’s lived in more than a dozen American cities and still travels globally in search of a plate of local food, an artisanal beer and a hearty laugh with the countrymen.

Denise Brandenberg

Born and raised in Dallas, Denise Brandenberg has been a self-proclaimed “Dallas Ambassador” for out-of-town friends and colleagues for years. Denise started her career as an advertising agency copywriter, recruiter, and manager of online forums for an international meeting planning association. She ventured off on her own a few years ago, to start an adventurous career as a freelance writer and marketing consultant. Denise’s other work can be found at Global Road Warrior, USA Today, Chron.com, The Motley Fool, LovetoKnow, The Meeting Professional, and several other online publications.

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