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easy weekend getaways from western north carolina  

by Michelle Campbell

Ah, the long weekend. It's as elusive as Bigfoot. You could spend it at home watching reality show reruns in your bathrobe, or you could get out of town and take in the sights of a new city. Seeing different terrain and culture than we have here in Western North Carolina can be exciting and enriching. A weekend away is just what the doctor ordered before heading back to work on Monday.

Before you start planning your getaway, make sure you are prepared: Have your post office hold your mail, ask a friend to feed and water Fluffy, make sure your passport hasn't expired (Canada's not that far away) and make sure your security system is in working order. The website www.SecurityCompanies.com reports that the number of homeowners using home security systems is expected to increase 30 percent by 2020. A home is approximately three times more likely to be burglarized if it does not have a security system, states the Greenwich Study of Residential Security.

Now that you're ready to go, let's look at four perfect places to get the most bang out of your three-day weekend getaway from N.C.:

Explore History in Washington D.C.

The nation's capital is great for a weekend getaway, with an outstanding public transportation system and tons of inexpensive or free stuff to see. Landmarks like the Smithsonian, the National Zoo, National Arboretum, U.S. Botanic Garden, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden are all free. Even touring Ford's Theater only costs you $2.50, making D.C. a perfect destination if you're on a budget. The heat and humidity can be brutal in the summer, so plan your visit early in the season.

Flickr Image by Morrissey

Montreal, S'il Vous Plait?

Remember what we said about updating your passport? Montreal is the perfect excuse to do exactly that. The city of Montreal is close to the US/Canadian border on the east coast, making it accessible by car or airline — there's an international airport near Montreal, just in case you find a cheap flight. One of the best ways to see the French-speaking, sophisticated city is on a bicycle. Montreal on Wheels is Montreal's largest bike rental/tour outfit, constantly garnering high marks on TripAdvisor.com. Make sure you check its website for deals and promotions, which they have regularly.

Creative Commons image by Chester

Philadelphia for Fun

Philadelphia, PA is a the second largest city on the east coast, making it a fairly close trip from Western North Carolina and perfect alternative to visiting NYC. Go shopping in Rittenhouse Square, or try one of the amazing Indian restaurants on Chestnut Street. If you are looking for unique spots to visit off the beaten path, check out the College of Physicians' Mutter Museum. The medical teaching museum is full of the strangest medical phenomena ever seen. Or, visit the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA). It's usually less crowded than the more popular Philadelphia Museum of Art, and it's just as spectacular.

Hide Away on Hilton Head Island

Big cities with lots of activity are fun, but occasionally, you just need to lie back and enjoy the sun and the sound of the surf. Fodor's calls Hilton Head Island in South Carolina a "beautiful and unique resort town," and it's the place for you if you're looking for a beach hideaway. Luxury vacation package deals abound if you plan ahead and book early. Hilton Head is also a seafood lover's paradise, so set aside some time to eat at the Sea Shack. Leave your fancy duds at home when you go. The Sea Shack specializes in down-home, no-frills country seafood cooking that will leave your belly full and satisfied.

Even if you only have a few days, make the most of your weekend trip. Pick somewhere that is close to home, yet new to you. If you can, talk to some locals. They will point you to all the best spots, no matter where you choose to go on your exotic, not-so-far-away getaway.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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