06/10/2013 12:48 pm ET Updated Aug 10, 2013

12 Spots to Escape the City this Summer

When planning a big-city break, it's often easy to limit your itinerary to staying within the city limits. But within a few hours' drive of many major cities are getaway spots popular with the locals. When our Deal Experts aren't on deadline publishing the best travel deals in the market in our Top 20 newsletter and negotiating exciting experiences with our Local Deals, you'll often find us in one of these towns.

For your next big city stay, tack on a day or two outside the city for a little R&R.

Visiting New York City? Head to the Hamptons.
The South Fork of Long Island is home to eight historic villages that make up The Hamptons, a popular seaside resort for affluent New Yorkers and Hollywood celebs. In addition to clean, uncrowded beaches, The Hamptons' hamlets offer upscale shopping, dining and nightlife rivaling those found in the city. Get there via a luxury coach bus, the Long Island Railroad or by car in less than two hours for a weekend escape from the concrete jungle.

Stopping in Philly? Mind the Gap.
Two hours from Philadelphia (and 90 minutes from New York City), the Delaware Water Gap is a stunning natural phenomenon surrounded by a wealth of hiking trails and campgrounds. Hiking routes ranging in difficulty, some of which overlap with the Appalachian Trail, offer stunning views of the ribbon carved in the mountain ridge by the Delaware River. The 70,000-acre Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area offers opportunities for boating, swimming, fishing, biking and rock-climbing. The area has a rich history and is home to Native American archaeological sites as well as structures from the colonial period.

Shipping up to Boston? Try a new port.
Newport, R.I., is a charming New England town complete with the history and delectable seafood of a port town and the opulence of its residents' yachts and summer homes. Stunning mansions are open for tours -- these magnificent structures were once the summer homes of the 20th century's most famous last names: Vanderbilt, Astor, Widener. Also in Newport, the International Tennis Hall of Fame and Touro Synagogue, known as the oldest still-standing synagogue in the United States.

Meeting in Miami? Discover the key to the Keys.
Islamorada (pronounced eye-la-more-ah-dah) is South Florida locals' alternative to more touristy Key West. A car ride of less than an hour and a half from Miami will take you to pristine beaches, panoramic water views, thatched-roof outdoor bars and an authentic island-hideaway feel. Head to Islamorada Fish Co. for arguably the best key lime pie ever (encrusted with nuts on the bottom), or spend a few hours at Robbie's feeding the 50-100 tarpon fish swarming the waters under the dock. Find a restaurant serving fresh-caught fish and crack open a Key West Sunset Ale.

Adventuring in Atlanta? Give it the college try.
Atlanta is often thought of as the heart of the South, but there are plenty of side trips to take where you can experience real southern hospitality. Head northeast for an hour and a half, and you'll find the charming town of Athens. Best known as the hometown of the bands such as R.E.M. and the University of Georgia, the town has plenty to offer visitors. Stroll the quaint main street and poke around the eclectic art galleries, check out some live music at one of the many venues or wander around the redbrick buildings of the university. And bring your appetite - Athens has become a serious foodie town in recent years.

Mellowing in Minneapolis? Head down river.
Head south from the Twin Cities down the mighty Mississippi and spend an evening or two in Dubuque, Iowa. Just a few miles from the well-known quaintness of Galena, Ill., is a classic river city that's still thriving, thanks to major employers like John Deere and IBM. They keep the downtown surprisingly active with plenty of restaurants on hand including the one-of-a-kind Paul's Tavern, whose main decorations are the taxidermied hunting trophies "collected" by the previous owner. Attractions like the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium keep the days interesting, stays at the rumored Al Capone hideout of the recently renovated Hotel Julien are recommended, and when you're within distance of the world's shortest, steepest railroad, you probably shouldn't pass that up either.

Done with Detroit? Go west.
The beach towns along the west coast of Michigan are the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Saugatuck boasts several charming B&Bs, and one can spend a whole day just exploring the art galleries and boutique shops in town. Make sure to stop at the local fudge/ice cream parlor (more than once). The beaches on Lake Michigan are clean, pleasant and relaxing.

Checking out Chicago? Take a lakeshore drive.
If the Windy City is on your itinerary, don't discount Milwaukee, often seen as the Second City's second city. Locals fiercely love their town, which makes for the perfect side trip from Chicago. It's a straight 90-minute shot up the lakeshore on I-94 (don't forget a rest stop at Mars Cheese Castle near the Wisconsin border). Once in Milwaukee, you'll be greeted by breweries big and small, lively festivals in the months where the weather's above freezing, a vibrant restaurant scene with a focus on farmland produce (and cheese) and even a bronze Fonz statue downtown. What's not to love?

Sleeping in Seattle? Find some island time.
Visitors are familiar with the allure of Seattle, but they may not have heard of the idyllic, rugged, beautiful chain of Pacific Northwest islands known by locals as just "the San Juans." It's a 1.5-hour drive from Seattle; board a ferry and cruise through the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, a great jumping off point for whale watching, fishing trips or exploring other nearby islands. Time truly stands still here.

Got a Denver date? Tap the Rockies.
Crested Butte is a gorgeous mountain town with ski and hiking trails for all abilities and a cute downtown. It's more remote than the ski resorts clustered around Denver, about 4.5 hours away, so it's easy to feel like you have the mountain to yourself. Travelers can fly into Gunnison, a 30-minute drive or shuttle ride away.

Looking to get out of LA? Un-"wine"d north of the city.
Drive up to Solvang along the Pacific Coast Highway and marvel at the jagged coastline, high peaks and surfers in the ocean. The right turn off the coast into the mountains is the most amazing part of the drive. Once in Solvang, it's easy to feel like you are transported to Tuscany, being greeted with green rolling hills and miles of quaint farmland and vineyards. This idyllic scene is a great escape from the crowds and traffic of LA.

-- Hilary Solan is an editor at Travelzoo and based in Chicago. Travelzoo has 250 deal experts from around the world who rigorously research, evaluate and test thousands of deals to find those with true value.