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Last of the Summer Vibes

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From Austin to New Orleans, here are four editor–approved weekend getaways in the USA.

The busy streets of Nashville are filled with shop signs
Skyline view of Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville, Tennessee.    Photo: Drew Hays (left); Matthew Jungling (right)

Nashville, TN 

Best for: Hitting all the right notes

Plenty of people flock to Music City for the live country, bluegrass and honky–tonk, but there are more ways to take in music than sitting in the audience. Book the Women of Country tour at the Grand Ole Opry and you will stand in the same spot as trailblazing greats like Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire and Carrie Underwood. The tour includes photo ops in hallowed places like the Glitz and Glamour dressing rooms, plus champagne and petits fours.

August 31, 2023
A show at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee
The Grand Ole Opry.

Line dancing is having a moment, extending way beyond the country music community. Head to the 66,000–square–foot Wildhorse Saloon for a free lesson on the massive dance floor and you will be able to stomp with the best of them back home.

At Brooklyn Bowl Nashville, play on 19 hardwood lanes before or after catching a show by artists like rock duo the Black Keys and TikTok breakout star JVKE. You can also watch concerts on one of the big screens while you bowl, or dress up and dance the night away at disco and emo theme nights.

Stay at: Gaylord Opryland Resort, ideally located in the heart of Music Valley and just a short walk from the Grand Ole Opry.

Seafood gumbo, pecan pie, wild shrimp and cognac with creole cream cheese grit from Commander's Place in New Orleans
The French Quarter in New Orleans
Shrimp and grits, pecan pie and gumbo at Commander's Palace; New Orleans French Quarter architecture.    Photo: Rosie Kerr (right)

New Orleans, LA 

Best for: Tasting your way around town

Sometimes a food tour is the very best way to learn about a city’s history, and this is especially true in New Orleans, where an itinerary is as easy as a checklist of must–try dishes like po’ boys, gumbo and bananas foster.

Get a taste of Oysters Rockefeller at the restaurant that invented them: Antoine’s, in the French Quarter. Founded in 1840, it bills itself as “New Orleans’ oldest restaurant” and is run by fifth–generation owners. Photos of past celebrity diners cover the walls, everyone from Jimmy Buffett to Kate Hudson to Pope John Paul II.

The staircase at Sazerac House in New Orleans
Sazerac House.
An outdoor fire by the pool at One11 in New Orleans

Dress up for dinner and head to the James Beard Award–winning Commander’s Palace (where chefs like Emeril Lagasse and Jamie Shannon have held court). Dating back to 1893 and located in the Garden District, it’s famous for “haute Creole” dishes like prosecco–poached Louisiana blue crab and bread pudding soufflé.

For a taste of New Orleans spirited history, take a free tour at the three–floor Sazerac House museum, dedicated to the whisky–based cocktail made famous in the 1850s. There are free samples along the way for guests aged 21–plus, and you will find a dizzying array of whiskies in the gift shop.

Stay at: The new and ultra–chic ONE11, the first hotel in half a century to open in the French Quarter.

A panoramic view of Georgetown, Washington.
Georgetown.    Photo: Sam Kittner

Washington, DC  

Best for: Smalltown vibes in the big city

When you’re done with DC must–sees like the Washington Monument and the National Air and Space Museum, more intimate (not to mention Instagram–worthy) experiences await. Head over to Georgetown for a chic, walkable side of the American capital, with cobblestone streets and a waterfront promenade full of buzzing restaurants and bars. Start at the M Street and Wisconsin Avenue intersection and you will find shopping in every direction, from Alice + Olivia to B&B Italia to the newly opened Fangyán (which stocks over a dozen high–end Chinese fashion designers), plus a mix of independent antique stores and art galleries.

The outdoor lounge at The Poppy in Washington
The Poppy.

Travel back in time at Hillwood Estate, a historic mansion turned museum set on 25 acres of gardens and woodland. Look for events like dance performances on the Lunar Lawn and guided forest bathing walks. They even have their own signature scent, “Cocktails at Eight,” inspired by founder Marjorie Merriweather Post. Once a private residence, the Kreeger Museum hosts monthly yoga classes in the sculpture garden, a lauded speaker series, and regular jazz concerts (weather permitting).

Stay at: The Poppy, a plush 15–room boutique hotel in Georgetown with a dreamy secret garden for escaping the crowds.

People enjoying outdoor swimming in Austin on a sunny day
Barton Springs Pool.   Photo: Alex George

Austin, TX

Best for: Outdoor adventures, sports and exploring

Temperatures stay in the high 20s well into October in this laid–back Texas city, which also gets 300–plus days of sunshine a year. Begin with a bike ride around Lady Bird Lake, using its popular, shaded trail. Get out on the water by renting a kayak or stand–up paddleboard, or book a sunset cruise to spot the area’s most famous wildlife – Mexican free–tailed bats.

After a day of outdoors or sightseeing, cool off in the historic Barton Springs Pool, located in the 358–acre Zilker Metropolitan Park. As the name suggests, the pool is fed by fresh, underground spring water and lined by grassy lawns, perfect for a lazy afternoon. The site is also a federally protected habitat for the Barton Springs salamander, and hosts donation–based yoga classes and moonlight swims in the summer season. (Fun fact: This is where Robert Redford learned to swim as a child.) Head farther out to McKinney Falls State Park for hiking, biking, picnicking and even fishing at Onion Creek — no licence needed for fishing from the shore in a Texas state park.

The warm reception at the Carpenter Hotel
The refreshing sun-kissed pool at the Carpenter Hotel
Carpenter Hotel.    Photo: Jade Hammer (left); Andrea Calo (right)

Stay at: Carpenter Hotel, a trendy property with lush grounds and easy access to all the outdoor draws listed above (bonus: it’s dog–friendly).

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