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Note: All travel is subject to frequently changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state and local advisories before scheduling trips.

Summertime has arrived and there’s no better way to celebrate than getting behind the wheel for an exciting road trip. But why blow your budget on gas when you can go exploring just a short drive away. Not sure where to go or what to do? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here are the five best one-tank road trips to take this summer within day’s reach of five metro areas.

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From Denver: Colorado Springs

After filling your car’s gas tank, head first to Konjo in Denver for your own personal fuel. Their Ethiopian-style breakfast burritos are incredible. From here, hop on I-25 for a 77-mile drive south to Colorado Springs where a big day of adventure awaits. Climb, hike, or Segway and E-bike your way through the magical Garden of the Gods, a stunning playground of sandstone formations. If you notice a mountain looming off in the distance on your drive down, that’s Pikes Peak. The winding switchback drive and summit views are exhilarating. In downtown Colorado Springs, you’ll find the cultural heart of the city where you can enjoy public art, breweries, and locally owned restaurants.

Book a bunk room or the camp deck at downtown’s Kinship Landing.

From Seattle: Westport

 

Two hours west of Seattle, on the outer edge of Grays Harbor and next to the Pacific, sits the small fishing community of Westport. If you’re a surfer, the town boasts some of Washington’s best waves. BigFoot Surf offers lessons if you want to try it out. Learn about the community’s fishing history at the Westport Maritime Museum. Catch some rays at Westhaven State Park. Bennett’s Fish Shack across from the marina serves up award-winning seafood dishes when you get hungry. If you choose to reel in your dinner, go charter fishing with Westport Charters.

Book Westport Marina Cottages for stellar waterfront views.

From Chicago: Indiana Dunes

A mere hour drive down I-90 from Chicago will transport you to a world void of skyscrapers and city traffic. Indiana Dunes National Park offers an enchanting place of sand and solitude along Lake Michigan’s southern shore. Kayakers flock here in the summer, but the dunes aren’t a one-size-fits-all type of road trip. Thanks to its 50 miles of trails—many of them fairly rugged—hikers can explore diverse habitats like prairies, wetlands, beaches, forests, and the dunes. Two Dunes Walk Into A Sandbar is one of the park’s newest geocaching adventures. Picnics at Lake View Beach are an excellent way to relax. And if you’re not in a rush to get back to the city, set up camp for the weekend. Cook dinner over the fire or sneak into town for some seasonal farm-to-table grub.

Snooze in style at the affordable Brewery Lodge and Supper Club.

From San Francisco: Santa Cruz

Evening in Santa Cruz, California, one of the favorite tourist spots in Search Northern California.

Any time you get a chance to drive the Pacific Coast Highway, take it, especially the 1.5-hour drive to Santa Cruz. The views along HWY 1 are out of this world and Shark Fin Cove just begs to be photographed. Adventurers should head straight to Mount Hermon Adventures for zip-lining and aerial adventures high above the forest floor. Visitors who are curious about the Mystery Spot are welcomed to come to see for themselves. Meanwhile, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk was recognized as the best seaside park in the world, so grab a fried Twinkie and ride the 1924 Giant Dipper wooden rollercoaster (though maybe not in that order). Need a day of just sun and sand? Cowell Beach is a short stroll from the boardwalk and right next to the Santa Cruz Wharf.

Find comfort at the budget-friendly Comfort Inn Beach/Boardwalk Area.

From Miami: Key West

You can drive the 165-mile Overseas Highway in about 3 hours if you don’t stop. But take your time, the scenery and quirky eateries like the No Name Pub or Robbie’s to feed the Tarpon are worth it. If you time your eventual arrival in Key West just right, you can sit back and relax aboard a sunset catamaran cruise. Sunset Sail Key West has one of the best for the price. Afterward, hang out at Mallory Square and Duval Street for some great nightlife. Even Hemingway spent quite a few fun nights on Duval. The next day, check out the town’s galleries and shops, paddle through mangroves, or go eco-friendly to spot dolphins. Before you leave town, just be sure to grab a quick selfie at the Southernmost Point marker and a slice or three of Kermit’s Key Lime pie. It’s the real deal.

Every room has its own private yard at the cheap and cheerful Seashell Motel & Key West Hostel.

Tagged: California, Chicago, Florida

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