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Why explore one city when you can tour five? This month, Southwest touches down in some exciting new destinations. Picking just one proved way too difficult for us, so we’re leaving it up to you. Ready for your test drive?

By Amanda Gleason


 

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Got a need for speed? start your engines in…

Charlotte

Get your motor running with a trip to North Carolina’s largest city and the Nascar Hall of Fame, a four-story tribute to America’s noisiest pastime. Before making laps around its more than 50 interactive exhibits, buckle up for a short film detailing the history of the sport. (Did you know it started with Prohibition-era bootleggers and their souped-up coupes?) Once you’re up to speed, take your turn behind the wheel. A high-octane racing simulator lets you compete against 14 other gearheads as two giant screens broadcast the showdown overhead. If that doesn’t get your adrenaline pumping, set your sights on the simulated Pit Crew Challenge, where amateur crews face off to see who can jack up a car, change a tire, and add fuel the fastest. When you’re ready to slow down, marvel at the nearly 1,000 artifacts inside the museum, including the ’66 Plymouth that won Richard Petty the Daytona 500. That’s what they mean by glory days. 

 

Sleep

Marriott Residence Inn Uptown Situated in the center of downtown, this recently renovated hotel offers discount packages that include tickets to the Nascar Hall of Fame, less than a mile away. 

Eat

Red Rocks Feast upon dishes named after Nascar notables, such as Jimmie Johnson’s blue cheese filet medallions, at this laid-back, all-American eatery.

Do

Charlotte Motor Speedway To access areas that are off limits on race day, including Pit Road and Victory Circle, take the “Feel the Thrill” tour of this famed track.

 

Getting There  Fly into Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT).  

 


 

Feeling artsy? Explore…

Flint

When you think of fine art, what cities come to mind? If this Michigan riverfront locale wasn’t on that list, think again. The Flint Institute of Arts is turning heads far and wide—and for good reason. Located on the grounds of the Flint Cultural Center, a campus of seven institutions that includes a planetarium and a youth theater, this creative hub is home to an extensive collection of paintings by renowned masters like Andrew Wyeth, Renoir, and Rubens. Not only can you browse 17 galleries featuring everything from 4th-century Roman glass vases to 17th-century French tapestries, but you can channel your inner Van Gogh during drawing, painting, and ceramic workshops. But art addicts aren’t the only ones taking note: Cinephiles swoon over the indie, international, and classic films that unspool here from Thursday through Sunday in the on-site theater—another reason we give this place two thumbs up. 

 

Sleep

Holiday Inn Flint After roaming the museum, contemplate its collection while soaking in the heated indoor pool at this hotel, about eight miles from FIA.

Eat

Cork on Saginaw Some say a fine wine is a work of art. If you agree, drink up at this downtown spot, which features Enomatic wine dispensers and a full food menu. 

Do

Greater Flint Arts Council This local nonprofit houses a gallery filled with works from Michigan artists and also hosts a downtown art walk on the second Friday of each month. 

 

Getting There  Fly into Bishop International Airport (FNT).

 

 


Thirsting for the new? Drink up in...

Portland

There’s something brewing in Maine’s south coast hub, and we venture to say it’s not what you might expect. Tucked away in the city’s industrial East Bayside area, Urban Farm Fermentory has been producing beverages like mead, hard cider, and kombucha (fermented tea) since early 2010. To find out what the buzz is about, drop in for a taste and tour, offered afternoons (excluding Monday and Tuesday) from March through December. But liquid refreshments aren’t the only thing on tap at this experimental micro farm. The backyard of UFF’s brick warehouse is home to two greenhouses, where everything from lavender to aquaponic lettuce is grown. Ready to create your own concoction? Sign up for a class on lacto-fermentation (think sauerkraut and kimchi), pickling, or mushroom cultivation. “We focus on tasty, locally sourced ingredients that are known to offer health benefits,” says founder Eli Cayer. Delicious and good for you? That’s one potent combination. 

 

Sleep

Inn by the Sea Enjoy a Maine Blueberry martini while dining in the oceanfront restaurant of this boutique hotel, located eight miles south of Portland in Cape Elizabeth. 

Eat

Bresca This 18-seat hideaway in the Old Port district offers wine varietals from around the globe and  focuses on simple, perfectly prepared fare, like homemade pasta with trout roe and crème fraîche.

Do

Novare Res Sample some of Portland’s best brews—as well as craft beers from around the world—at this brick-clad beer bar, which has 33 rotating drafts and more than 500 bottles. 

 

Getting There  Fly into Portland International  Jetport (PWM).  

 

 


 

Want to go for a spin?  Ride high in…

Rochester

In-the-know riders of the Northeast are pointing their tires toward upstate New York. Last fall, this active city was named a Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists. The ideal way to explore its greener side? The Genesee Riverway Trail. Extending from the Erie Canal to Lake Ontario, this 18-mile path along the Genesee River—which connects downtown to 11 parks, nine historic districts, and the University of Rochester—is a boon for bicyclists, walkers, and runners alike. Must-see sites include High Falls, where the river cascades over a 96-foot-tall cliff; Mt. Hope Cemetery, where you can pay your respects to abolitionist Frederick
Douglass and suffragist Susan B. Anthony; and Highland Park, home to more than 1,900 varieties of flora. If that’s not an excuse to stop and smell the roses, we don’t know what is. 

 

Sleep

Woodcliff Hotel & Spa Care to tackle another trail? Located about 10 miles southeast of Rochester in Fairport, this outdoorsy getaway offers direct access to the nine-mile Crescent Trail. 

Eat

Brick-N-Motor Grab a BNM Burger—a juicy patty topped with aged cheddar and arugula—from this new food truck, which often parks near the Genesee Riverway Trail at Lux Lounge.

Do

Towpath Bike If you’re in need of wheels, swing by this shop (a standby since the ’70s), which rents adult, child, and tandem bikes by the hour, day, or weekend. 

 

Getting There  Fly into Greater Rochester International Airport (ROC).  

 

 


 

Like soaking up the sun? Kick back in ...

San Juan

Each year, nearly 5 million visitors get their dose of vitamin D on the beaches of this Caribbean port. Some come for the white sand and water sports; others for the vibrant nightlife and waterfront retail therapy. Whatever your calling, the capital of Puerto Rico offers four distinct oceanfront areas to suit your inner beachgoer. Low-key Ocean Park is a prime locale for windsurfing and kiteboarding. If the club scene is more your style, Isla Verde’s lounges and bars (we recommend Brava Nightclub) offer an electric excuse to don cocktail attire. To learn the ropes of nautical life, drift to peaceful Miramar Beach for a sailing lesson with Club Nautico de San Juan. And if you enjoy the company of Cartier and Vuitton, you’ll feel right at home in Condado Beach. Lined with high-rise hotels and designer boutiques, this happenin’ spot on the shore attracts the global glitterati. Don’t forget your (Chanel) shades. 

 

Sleep

Numero Uno Guest House Need a beach read? Snag a book from the library of this 1940s beach house turned B&B in Ocean Park, then settle in on the sand (or the second-floor balcony).

Eat

Budatai Perched above the upscale shops of Condado, this posh restaurant invites guests to dine on dishes like seared ahi tuna with taro tots.

Do

Mist at the Water Beach Club Revel in ocean panoramas while sipping on the rum-based Ocean Berry cocktail at this hip rooftop bar and lounge in Isla Verde.

 

Getting There  Fly into Luis Munoz Marin International Airport (SJU). 


 

 

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