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The experience of a lifetime may be right around the corner—but beyond the well-traveled path. So don’t fear detours, delight in them. Here are 28 spots worth going the distance for.
By Kathryn O’Shea-Evans
Ships did it first. To “veer” meant to slacken the lines and go where the wind took you. In our case, it means that after enjoying your business trip or resort vacation or family visit, you take a different tack; you go the long way.
Consider the veer dessert after the main course. Drive the back roads and blue highways to discover the hidden stop-ins and weekend hideaways to succeed your planned business or pleasure.
We’ve picked out more than two dozen spots to get you started (we even calculated their distances from the nearest major city). But a great veer requires a certain trust in serendipity. So make your bucket lists and itineraries, but leave time to poke around and chat up the locals. And when you stumble upon something wonderful, congratulate yourself. You haven’t Googled or guidebooked your way to it; you simply slackened the lines and veered.
76 miles E of Montego Bay in Oracabessa, Jamaica
Kick back like Bond, James Bond
In 1952, Ian Fleming holed up in his Jamaican villa and wrote Casino Royale—the first of 14 James Bond books he would pen from what’s now GoldenEye Hotel & Resort (from $620). Ask for the 007 bedroom; Fleming’s writing desk still sits there, just in case you’re inspired to pen the next Great Spy Novel instead of basking at the beach.
Start 89 miles N of Seattle in Bellingham, WA
Eat Incredible Oysters
Here you’ll catch the ferry to languorous Lummi Island, where the seven-room Willows Inn (from $285) has earned pilgrimage status among foodies since chef Blaine Wetzel, an alum of the two-Michelin-starred Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark, took over in 2010. Wetzel describes his menu as a “story about the land” and often serves those salty jewels of the sea, Shigoku oysters, on a bed of chilled pebbles and sorrel. In the morning, make your way to the tiny coastal town of Bow, where you can shuck your own sweet Kumamotos at Taylor Shellfish Farms, run by the same family since 1890. Bring wine and crusty French bread, claim a waterside picnic table, and call it cocktail hour. For dinner, hit the nearby Oyster Bar, where Samish Bays are baked with boar bacon, sherry, and chives. Or, pick your favorites on a half shell, including mild Royal Miyagis from South Puget Sound and cucumber-fresh Fanny Bays from Vancouver Island.
76 miles SW of Dallas in Glen Rose, TX
Take a Wild Ride
At the conservationist-run Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, you’re the sa-fari captain. A 9½-mile road skirts open animal habitats home to everything from ostriches to aoudads, lending a whole new meaning to the words “wildlife crossing.”
27 miles NE of Baltimore in Monkton, MD
Amble Through Fascinating Flora
Affluent eccentric Harvey Ladew hired local farmers to begin cultivating the 22 acres of Ladew Topiary Gardens in 1937. Now it’s home to 100-plus ornately shaped shrubs—including sea horses, swans, and a fox “running” after four hounds—plus several themed “garden rooms.” How’s that for carving out a legacy?
11 miles S of Fort Lauderdale in Hollywood, FL
Bask on a Crowdless Beach
Pining for prime oceanfront access without the sunseeking hordes? Try Hollywood, quietly tucked between Fort Lauderdale and Miami and backed by a 2½-mile boardwalk. Stay at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, where you can splash in a colossal lagoon-style pool. Cabanas and a 182-foot waterslide add to the appeal. Whee!
155 miles SW of Portland in Yachats, OR
Standing watch over central Oregon’s craggy ocean cliffs since 1894, the Heceta Head Lighthouse (from $234) now has a side gig—playing gracious host to guests as a six-room B&B. Ask for the Lightkeeper’s Room, and sink into the claw-foot tub that looks out on the slowly turning light, which guides ships from as far as 21 miles away.
153 miles NW of Little Rock in Ponca, AR
Float Down A Freewheeling River
The country’s first national river, the Buffalo, flows for 150 pristine miles in northwest Arkansas. Explore its undammed waters in a canoe rented from longtime local outfitter Buffalo Outdoor Center. Paddle for the day, or plan to spend the night—you can pitch a tent on a sandbar or the shore. And don’t forget your rod and reel: In the summer, these waters brim with smallmouth bass.
Start 66 miles N of New York City in Beacon, NY
Ogle Modern Art
This riverside town is so devoted to creativity that even the local ice cream shop, Zora Dora, serves flavors neither Ben nor Jerry would have thought of. The real draw, though—and what keeps art-world insiders from around the globe enthralled—is Dia:Beacon, a modern art museum housed in a former Nabisco factory. This year it’s hosting the first American retrospective of minimalist Carl Andre since 1980. Works on long-term view include Richard Serra’s outsized steel sculptures and Andy Warhol’s “Shadows,” a series of 102 paintings from the late ’70s. Tuck in at The Roundhouse at Beacon Falls ($159), a new hotel designed by the Rockwell Group (of Nobu and W Hotels renown). In the a.m., join locals for their daily jolt at Bank Square Coffeehouse, where baristas have been known to draw everything from leaves to galaxies in cappuccino foam.
135 miles E of Los Angeles in Landers, CA
Sleep in a Love Shack
The six vintage Airstreams at Kate’s Lazy Desert ($175) channel the vibrant taste of their owner, Kate Pierson of the B-52’s. Six miles from Joshua Tree National Park, they’re the perfect little place to get together.
78 miles S of Cancun, Mexico
Swim in a Subaquatic Cave
The shimmering-blue underwater wells of the Mayans, sacred sites for centuries, are within reach—if you know where to look. Book a daylong snorkeling tour with family-owned Edventure Tours to explore the submerged caverns at Dos Ojos;you’ll also stop by Yal-Ku Lagoon, sea turtle–filled Akumal Bay, and the mysterious ruins of Tulum.
45 miles NW of San Francisco in Point Reyes, CA
Feast on Fine Fromage
The Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company’s reputation among cheese enthusiasts is as distinct as its award-winning wheels (Bay Blue gives Stilton a run for its money, and Toma is sweet and buttery). On the to-do list for your visit: Meet the herd, see the milking barn, and have a multicourse tasting, paired with local craft beer or wine.
38 miles N of Tucson in Oracle, AZ
Go Bonkers in a Biodome
What turned into Pauly Shore’s nightmare in the 1996 movie Bio-Dome is the dream of the scientists at Biosphere 2, who have created a world under sealed glass in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains. Here you can explore a self-contained ocean, rainforest, and fog desert, all in the name of learning. Sure beats science class!
6 miles E of Minneapolis in St. Paul, MN
Scope Out a State Fair
And you thought fairs were just about fun rides. Second only to Texas’ in annual attendance and kicking off on August 21, the Minnesota State Fair is home to the esteemed crop-art competition: All entered works are crafted from Minnesota-grown seeds, stems, and other plant parts.
19 miles NE of Cleveland in Willoughby Hills, OH
Go Midcentury Modern
On 30 leafy acres, the three-bedroom Penfield House (from $275) was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for a man who was 6 feet, 8 inches tall—so expect soaring ceilings and doorways, along with the floor-to-ceiling windows and detailed woodwork that became Wright classics.
Start 84 miles SE of Nashville in McMinnville, TN
Dig into Country Music
Tennessee’s bluegrass roots literally run deep at Bluegrass Underground in McMinnville, a radio show recorded 333 feet below Earth’s surface. Book ahead for seats to the “Volcano Room,” where PBS records shows by the likes of Ricky Skaggs and Lucinda Williams, and bring a jacket—the cave naturally maintains a constant 56 degrees. Back in the city, bunk up at the Omni Nashville Hotel ($229), whose guitar-shaped lobby houses Johnny Cash’s Lucchese boots and Willie Nelson’s bandana. Twenty-two miles south in Franklin, Grays on Main, housed in a 19th-century pharmacy, is a top venue for locals, who gather in its second-floor boîte for throwback cocktails and bands from Music City and beyond. One last “must” on your agenda: Sutton Ole Time Music Hour, another radio broadcast—this one recorded on Saturday nights in an actual country store in Granville, 67 miles east of Nashville, and meant to relive the early glory days of the Grand Ole Opry.
Ancient text messages exist, and they’re not too far from Reno, NV
Written in Stone
Grimes Point The etched basalt boulders along this national recreation trail just outside Fallon, Nevada (73 miles E of Reno) are easy to spot. Look for wavy lines and animal and human figures in the markings—all created some 6,000 years ago.
Lagomarsino Canyon Infrastructure is nil, and roads are rough, but a trip to this petroglyph site in Storey County, Nevada (10 miles E of Reno) is worth the trek. You’ll find an enormous collection of rock art panels—2,229 of them, to be exact—along a cliff that is said to be the site of ancient hunting rituals.
Kyburz Flat Want to see the rumored remains of primitive fertility ceremonies? Petroglyphs called cupules, the earliest known form of prehistoric art, can be spotted at Kyburz Flat (45 miles W of Reno), located in California between Truckee and Sierraville. They weren’t intended to be Instagram-worthy, but they are.
Lost Abbey Inspired by the monastic brewing traditions of Belgium, Lost Abbey in San Marcos (34 miles N of San Diego) was the Champion Brewery at the 2013 San Diego International Beer Competition and Festival. One reason why: They age many of their brews in former spirits barrels before release.
Culture Brewing Co Steps from the sand in Solana Beach (23 miles N of San Diego), this brewery sports five nitrogen taps that pour a rotating roster of stouts, including one that’s tinged with black currant and oak and another with hints of peppermint.
Nickel Beer Company This 6-month-old setup in Julian (60 miles NE of San Diego) churns out suds with a solid sense of place. Stonewall Stout, named for the town’s largest former gold mine, brims with notes of strong coffee, and the seasonal Apple Pie Ale (available in August) is made with Julian’s other historical staple.
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