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Wanna get away? Try these 5 cheap-ish trips

Posted by Alex Pearlman  April 21, 2012 05:05 PM

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provincetown mass cape cod.jpgBy Allison Thibault

After the notoriously wacky Boston weather teased us with perfect beach temperatures in mid-March, our actual spring weather has left residents restless for the warm summer sun. It’s easy to put off work while we double- and triple-check the weather report to ensure that snow is out of the question and summer is on its way.

Boston is a beautiful place to live in the summer -- before the humidity hits -- but there are plenty of other great places to explore during this upcoming season, too. Although you may not exactly be able to afford a first-class flight to a luxury resort in the tropics or have the vacation time for a two-week getaway, there are still plenty of cool, cheap-ish, nearby spots that are perfect for a quick overnight or weekend trip.

Provincetown, Mass. Whether you’re a Boston-area native or a newcomer to the city, everyone knows that the greatest summer experience in Massachusetts is visiting Cape Cod. And once you reach the tip of the Cape at P-town, the options for fun are endless. Bring your bike and enjoy an entire day of riding along the streets and by the cute, Cape-style stores and homes. Beaches and cheap-but-delicious food options surround you as you meander around town.

Provincetown’s atmosphere is like no other beach town, as it famously embraces the future through its celebration of the LGBTQ community and simultaneously respects its past by providing numerous tourist attractions that feature the pilgrims and America’s beginnings. History buffs will enjoy visiting places like Provincetown Monument and Museum and other historic buildings on simple, self-directed walking tours.

While the car trip to Provincetown can be long, arduous, and filled with traffic and winding back roads, Bostonians have a more efficient means of getting there: ferry. The service is a bit pricey (about $80 round-trip), but it gets you from the Boston Harbor to Provincetown in just an hour and a half. The traditional three-hour trip is about half the price but doesn’t start running until July.

New York CityIf you live in Boston and haven’t taken some kind of weekend trip to NYC, you’re doing it wrong. Home to all walks of life, New York truly offers something for everyone. Regardless of whether you want to be a classic, sightseeing tourist or have a crazier, more off-kilter visit, New York is the place to do it.

strawberry fields john lennon tribute central park nyc new york city.jpgCentral Park, the entire square mile of wilderness in the center of Manhattan, is a great location for biking or walking and features beautiful views of the skyline, a zoo, and the iconic Strawberry Fields John Lennon tribute. If you’ve never been to NYC, visiting the typical tourist attractions like the Statue of Liberty, Fifth Avenue, and the Empire State Building is a must. For those who have seen these places before, check out the chic shops, music clubs, and delicious restaurants as you stroll down Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, or wander through SoHo’s many art galleries.

The largest city in America is only four hours away via a completely affordable bus ride.

Burlington, Vt. Just a few hours north by bus, this small mountain city offers an artsy vibe and plenty of cool shops -- for example, the Burton Snowboards Flagship Store. Their prices are usually as steep as the surrounding peaks, but every spring, they’re slashed to make room for the next season’s gear. Keeping with the chilly theme, take a quick, 30-minute drive and escape the heat on a Ben and Jerry’s factory store tour. You can find the company’s scoop shops all over, but nothing beats the real deal.

But Burlington in the summer is far from just an off-season ski town. Lake Champlain’s rustic beauty provides the perfect change of scenery: Instead of crowded streets and skyscrapers, you can explore nature trails, campgrounds, and scenic lakeside beaches. Just south of Burlington, Shelburne offers ample campgrounds, meadows, and lake swimming spots for exploring the best of New England’s natural landscape.

Round-trip bus tickets to Burlington can range anywhere from $30 to $60, depending on your travel schedule and how far in advance you buy.

PhiladelphiaHome to important American landmarks, vast art collections, and a dedication to the outdoors, Philly is definitely worth all of the WiFi-less hours of bus travel. Among the many tributes to American history, like Ben Franklin’s house and the Liberty Bell, there's also the National Constitution Center; it’s filled with educational and interactive historical activities, but they're not just a rehashing of your boring Intro to American History class. The Center also currently features an exhibit on Bruce Springsteen’s life and music. For something completely different, Bartram’s Gardens offers taste of traditional American horticulture. Whether you decide to take a guided tour or explore the vast greenery by yourself, the colorful plants and quaint wildlife will make you feel hundreds of miles away from the bustle of the city.

rocky balboa statue philadelphia art museum.jpgThe Old City art district holds monthly First Friday open gallery nights, not unlike those at SoWa, which allow art lovers to peek inside professional galleries and studios and see what local artists are doing. You can find more well-known work from the likes of Renoir, Monet, and Van Gogh at the famed Philadelphia Museum of Art, one of the U.S.'s largest art museums. Or you can just enjoy a dramatic run up the museum's steps while singing “Eye of the Tiger” by the statue of Rocky Balboa himself.

Although this trip requires you to tolerate a six-and-a-half-hour bus ride, a visit to the City of Brotherly Love for only $40 round-trip is a hard offer to turn down.

Old Orchard Beach, Maine. While you may not think to go north for your ultimate beach day, the sandy coast of Old Orchard Beach could be one of the East Coast’s best seaside spots. In addition to the opportunity to relax on seven miles of sand and splash in the ocean, Old Orchard offers classic shore fun, like Palace Playland. Featuring a giant Ferris wheel, two roller coasters, and tons of carnival games, the amusement park’s attractions will make you feel like you’ve been transported to the beaches in old ‘50s movies. Old Orchard also puts on fireworks every Thursday night during the summer.

For the more adventurous beach-goers, the area also offers kayaking and canoeing options, as well as bike rentals, to let you explore both land and sea. While some of these opportunities can get a bit expensive, you can always direct your own nature walk through the sand and woods. If that all sounds like too much physical activity for a vacation, head just a little further north to Portland’s Shipyard Brewing Company. The brewery features video tours, a visit to the bottling line, and, of course, free samples and mounds of beer-related merchandise.

A quick and comfortable two-hour ride on the Amtrak Downeaster will zip you to Old Orchard Beach from North Station for $40 round-trip.

What other quick, cheap-ish getaways would you recommend?

Photos by HBarrison (top), Lara Mercer Photography (middle), and SDWelch1031 (bottom) (Flickr)

About Allison -- I am a journalism and creative writing student at Suffolk University. Politics, poetry, photography, and fine art are my passions. You can find me scrolling through the top stories on CNN, dreaming of exploring the cities featured in the New York Times travel section, inventing elaborate stories about strangers who sit across from me on the T, and wandering aimlessly through the streets with my camera. Twitter: @allytgurl

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