8 Destinations on the East Coast for an Affordable Weekend Trip

written by SARAH LYON
east coast destinations"
east coast destinations
Source: Unsplash | Brandon Duford
Source: Unsplash | Brandon Duford

When you’re craving an escape from everyday life, it’s not always feasible to drop a whole paycheck’s worth of cash on a plane ticket and ditch your day-to-day responsibilities for a weeklong vacation. Sometimes, all you need is a quick weekend getaway to scratch that travel itch and head into the next week feeling refreshed and re-energized. And if you live on the East Coast, there are tons of exciting travel destinations to choose from beyond major hot spots like New York City and Washington, D.C. I’m here to share with you some of my favorite off-the-beaten-path cities that are fully worth exploring.

Read on for a peek at eight must-visit towns scattered from Maine to Virginia. There’s truly something for everyone, whether you want to kick back on a coastal grandma-inspired getaway, sip your way through some of the country’s best wineries, or soak up all the art and culture New England has to offer. These are some of the best East Coast destinations for an affordable weekend trip.

1. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

east coast destinations
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Pittsburgh is an arts and culture lover’s paradise. The city is home to the Andy Warhol Museum, as well as the Carnegie Museum of Art, Science Center, and Museum of Natural History, just to name a few. If you’re up for a bit of a drive outside of town, Fallingwater, a national historic landmark designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is about an hour and a half away. There, you can tour both the interior and surrounding grounds of the home, which was built over a waterfall. If you’d rather stay in the city, downtown Pittsburgh is full of stunning architecture, so it’s worth a walk around town to take in the sights. Fuel up for a busy day of exploring with a donut or a breakfast sandwich at Lola’s Eatery, then cap off your night with a drink at Brick Shop.

Where to stay: Kimpton Monaco (IHG Hotels & Resorts) (from $156 a night), Omni William Penn Hotel (from $181)

2. Charlottesville, Virginia

east coast destinations
Source: Unsplash | Tim Thorn

Wine lovers, this is one of the best East Coast destinations for you! The region’s Monticello Wine Trail consists of more than 45 wineries, so come ready to do plenty of tastings. Foodies will enjoy splurging on dinner at Marigold, a renowned restaurant at the gorgeous Keswick Hall estate. Those looking for a more casual meal will want to visit the Dairy Market, an indoor food and beverage hall that offers all sorts of delicious fare, including classic burgers, wood-fired pizza, Latin-inspired street food, ice cream, and more.

If you want to brush up on your American history, book a tour of Monticello, the historic home of our third president, Thomas Jefferson. Or relive your college days as you stroll through the University of Virginia’s campus. Cap off a busy day with an evening cocktail on the Quirk Hotel’s rooftop, which you can access regardless of whether you’re staying at the property.

Where to stay: Quirk Hotel Charlottesville (from $155 a night), The Clifton (from $245)

3. Newburyport, Massachusetts

east coast destinations
Source: Unsplash | Brandon Duford

Located just 35 miles north of Boston, Newburyport is a fantastic coastal city to explore, particularly during the summer months. The beaches of New Hampshire are just an easy 20-minute drive away, so pack a towel and your swimsuit. If you want to stick nearby, though, State Street is home to all kinds of different stores offering apparel, jewelry, vintage goods, candy, and beyond (be sure to try all of the chocolate-covered goodies at Simply Sweet). For a fun, majorly Instagrammable girls’ day activity, book a tea at Lady Fingers Tea Lounge, located inside the Garrison Inn. The tea room is a pink-filled dream, decorated with vintage portraits and on-trend furniture. You won’t want to miss it!

Where to stay: Essex Street Inn and Suites (from $197 a night), Garrison Inn (from $300)

4. Frederick, Maryland

About an hour and a half northwest of D.C. and an hour from Baltimore is the vibrant town of Frederick, Maryland. Filled with all kinds of shops—many of which sell vintage and antique items—Frederick is a secondhand lover’s paradise. Not to be missed are staple retailers, including Revival Consignment Exchange and Emporium Antiques, the latter of which boasts a wide assortment of vendors and will provide you with hours’ worth of treasures to uncover. You’ll also find plenty of other home and clothing boutiques worth popping into, such as Sweet Clover, Relish Decor, and Venus on the Half Shell.

Frederick is a friendly, walkable city that is also home to some delicious eateries, which range from casual to higher-end, like the contemporary American cuisine at The Tasting Room. If you can’t end a meal without dessert, be sure to visit Candy Kitchen to stock up on treats like saltwater taffy and homemade fudge.

Where to stay: Hollerstown Hill Bed and Breakfast (from $189 a night), 10 Clarke (from $245)

5. Woodstock, New York

east coast destinations
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Make like Taylor Swift and get lost upstate in the gorgeous New York town of Woodstock (yes, the famous Woodstock Festival is named after this locale!). Spend your days strolling up and down Tinker Street, where you’ll find many of the cutest shops in town. Candlestock is a must-visit for unique handmade candles, and readers won’t want to miss a trip to the independent bookstore, The Golden Notebook. For dinner, snag a table at Good Night, an Asian restaurant serving dishes such as Korean fried chicken, crispy shrimp, Thai curry, and more, along with plenty of fabulous cocktails. Don’t forget to pick up one of their cute matchbooks before you leave! If takeout or a chill vibe is more your thing, pick up some pies from Catskill Mountain Pizza or head to The Mud Club for wood-fired bagels and sandwiches.

Where to stay: The Woodstock Inn on the Millstream (from $169 a night), The Herwood Inn (from $229)

6. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

east coast destinations
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Nestled right between New York City and Washington, D.C., Philadelphia is easy to access by plane or train and boasts an incredible mix of museums, restaurants, historic attractions, and more. Plan a special Parisian-inspired dinner out at Parc restaurant, located right on Rittenhouse Square, or pick up a classic cheesesteak from Pat’s or Geno’s. For even more variety, sample your way through Reading Terminal Market, home to “the best sandwich in America.” Be sure to make time in your itinerary to stroll through the Philadelphia Museum of Art or one of the city’s other notable museums (the Barnes Foundation, Franklin Institute, and Mütter Museum are all worth a visit). Cap off your visit with brunch at the White Dog Cafe in University City, and then grab a pastry (or two) from Federal Donut before hitting the road.

Where to stay: Guild House Hotel (from $213 a night), W Philadelphia (from $231)

7. Weston, Vermont

east coast destinations
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Get cozy in the bucolic town of Weston, Vermont. Whether you’re planning to hit the slopes at one of the nearby ski resorts or just get away from it all and enjoy a quintessential New England weekend, there’s something for everyone. Fall is a fantastic time to visit to witness the beautiful foliage up close, but during the summer, you’ll also find plenty of hiking trails and boutique shopping to keep you busy. The iconic Vermont Country Store is located right in Weston and is the perfect place to stock up on everything from Vermont maple syrups and cheeses to beauty products, home goods, and clothing. For some nighttime entertainment, grab dinner at The Hub at Weston before catching a show by the Weston Theater Company at Walker Farm.

Where to stay: Landgrove Inn (from $235 a night), The Weston (from $405)

8. Brunswick, Maine

Brunswick is a charming college town located just about 25 miles north of Portland, Maine. Filled with adorable shops and restaurants of all kinds, this is an excellent spot for that quintessential New England getaway—just book your trip for summer or early fall in order to experience the best weather possible. Pick up gifts and trinkets at Cool as a Moose or Nest and browse the indoor Waterfront Flea Market, open on Saturdays and Sundays year-round. Enjoy lunch at one of the many restaurants peppering Maine Street (there’s something for everyone, whether you’re craving Italian, Vietnamese, or casual pub food), and then treat yourself to something sweet at Gelato Fiasco.

Where to stay: OneSixtyFive (from $189 a night), The Federal (from $203)