The eggnog is drained, the gifts hastily opened, and the candy bowl demolished. You’re stuffed with great food and good vibes when, all of the sudden, it hits you: “I’ll have to go back to work soon. These good times weren’t meant to last. Goodbye, happiness.” The dread starts to hang around the rest of your holiday like that uneaten peanut brittle until the boldest of bold ideas surfaces: You’ll take the remaining days of your holiday to visit a city you’ve been dying to cross off your list.
However, you’ve hit a roadblock in your planning process: You’re not the best traveler. You dread any trips with connections and can’t stand being crammed in a plane with children — or adults who act like children. The prospect of getting it all together for your big trip is making you reconsider the adventure in the first place.
Our advice? Ditch that rollercoaster of emotions. Sit back, sip that cocoa, and leave the planning to us. We’ve picked some of our favorite cities that also happen to be major airport hubs so you won’t have to fuss with connecting flights. Then we grouped them by time zone so your travel will be quick and painless en route to your end-of-holiday jaunt.
Trips to the Eastern Time Zone
Atlanta is the kind of city that has good times tucked into every nook and cranny of its city limits. You’d be fooling yourself if you thought you could get out of Atlanta without stopping into the High Museum of Art for one of the best art museum experiences in the southeastern United States. Also carve out some time to visit Miami Circle, where you’ll find a restaurant called Eclipse di Luna that touts the award for Best Tapas from Creative Loafing 15 years running.
Don’t let the old cartoon mouse fool you — there’s plenty of non-theme-park-related happiness to be found in Orlando. Not only will crowds be light due to school ramping back up, but there’s historically little rain in January and temperatures are pleasant. If you’ve got some time on your hands, we’d recommend a quick trip east for Playalinda Beach or the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Cape Canaveral. Looking to take in real local fare but don’t want to drain the vacation coffer? Kai Asian Street Fare was recently named one of the “13 Hottest Restaurants in Orlando Right Now” by Eater Miami.
Trips to the Central Time Zone
Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
One of the biggest states in the union has so much to offer in terms of fun that you might want to stay longer to fit it all in. Stop by the American Airlines Center to see budding star Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks or step back in time to one of the most prolific events in modern American history at the Sixth Floor Museum, which chronicles the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Dallas can’t take all the limelight, however, as Fort Worth is one of the most underrated cities in the United States. The Modern offers exhibitions featuring famous artists from all over the world and has become a destination for art aficionados in surrounding states. Feel like taking in some nostalgia with good eats? Hop over to the brunch spot Barcadia, where they’ve combined great drinks, delicious food, and vintage arcade cabinets that are sure to take you back. Tell Kayla and Chance we said hello.
New Orleans, Louisiana
There may not be a better place to cure holiday blues than the Big Easy. As soon as your taxi drops you off and you check your bags at your hotel, make a beeline for a muffuletta at Napoleon House, a safe house-turned-restaurant meant for Napoleon Bonaparte during his exile. You could get lost in the French Quarter for a majority of your time, but we’d recommend taking in some real New Orleans goodness at the Peoples Health New Orleans Jazz Market. Oh, and if you’re dying for beignets, they’re just as good at Café Beignet as they are at Café du Monde and half the wait.
Trips to the Mountain Time Zone
Few things are more beautiful than seeing the Rockies for the first time when you’re landing in Denver. Luckily, the beauty of the city and its surrounding towns doesn’t stop there. No trip to Denver is complete without hiking and a show at Red Rocks (you can even take a shuttle from Denver to your concert with Bus to Show!). Be sure to save some day trip time for a quick drive north to the legendary New Belgium. Book your brewery tour in advance so you aren’t left out in the cold.
Salt Lake City, Utah
You’ll be landing in Salt Lake City at the perfect time to conquer the mountain. A stop to see the wonders of Temple Square is mandatory, but so is getting over to Park City to ski or snowboard to your heart’s content. Don’t worry about getting around downtown either, as TRAX offers an efficient and free alternative to taxis or Ubers. We’d also strongly recommend stopping by the Tavernacle Social Club for a night of revelry and quality entertainment.
Trips to the Pacific Time Zone
Seattle might bring thoughts of rain, Starbucks, and grunge into your head, but the city is far more vibrant than your imagination leads you to believe. One of your first stops should be the kind-of-gross-but-mandatory stop at Gum Wall. Skip the Starbucks line and head to one of several local coffee spots like Elm Coffee Roasters. Swing by Pike Place Fish Market to see true seafood in action and make sure to book your return trip in the spring to catch a match featuring the darlings of Major League Soccer, the Seattle Sounders.
San Diego, California
We’ve got a soft spot for this often-overlooked California gem. Spend the day taking in the sights and splendor of Mission Beach before having a moment of personal geekiness at Kansas City BBQ. At night, we’d recommend foregoing the Gaslamp District for the eats and atmosphere of Little Italy. Pro-tip: If San Diego really is on your list, bring your passport and spend an afternoon in Tijuana. You won’t regret it.
Once you’ve picked your direct-flight destination, take the next step and compare loyalty rates among our hotel partners to find the perfect place to rest your head during your post-holiday getaway.