The Best Local Travel Destinations

These places prove you don't need to fly across the world for an amazing vacation

You don't have to travel halfway around the world to have the trip of a lifetime. Whether you're strapped for cash or just lack the patience to sit through an airline viewing of Forrest Gump yet again, these seven amazing travel destinations will make you feel like you've hopped your way into a whole new world, all while keeping you within North American borders.

Quebec City, Canada

Don't shell out for a transatlantic flight just to feel like you're in Europe—this charming city's weathered cobblestoned alleys and French architecture will satisfy even the biggest Francophile. Flights from the Northeastern part of the U.S. to Quebec's bistro-lined streets, brimming with historical monuments, fall just under two hours. Grab your passport, brush up on your French (the region's official language) and ready your stomach for plenty of poutine

Portland, Maine

This photogenic seaport city lies 100 miles north of Boston and is bustling with craft breweries, museums and, of course, enough lighthouses to keep your Instagram followers satisfied. If you choose to forgo the scenic road trip to get there, Portland International provides service to 12 major airports, making this an ideal weekend getaway spot. Portland is also home to one of the highest number of restaurants per capita in the nation, so it's not difficult to satisfy your appetite after you've roamed the city's 19th-century streets and taken a leisurely cruise along the northeastern shoreline. And you can't say you've officially been to Maine until you've torn apart sweetly succulent lobsters in every form imaginable.  

Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota

A burgeoning culinary scene, countless museums and state-of-the-art performing arts venues will make you wonder why you've been shunning the Twin Cities in favor of predictable—and pricy—choices like Chicago and San Francisco. A brief 20-minute drive separates the two, meaning if you've somehow exhausted Saint Paul's sights and attractions during the day, Minneapolis's music scene and nightlife is right next door. 

Santa Catalina Island, California

If you need a break from sitting on gridlocked freeways, this secluded island is a short, one-hour ferry ride from the coast of Southern California. The island's only city, Avalon, is home to just 4,000 golf cart-driving residents (and a limited number of cars), so there won't be traffic to block you from snorkeling Catalina's brilliant, emerald waters or exploring the endless acres of untouched wildlands. 

Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

There's no reason to trek all the way to the Swiss Alps when the Canadian Rockies lie so close to the northern border. Fly into Calgary International before renting a car and driving on the winding roads of Canada's oldest national park. And if you somehow manage to outgrow Banff's stunning glaciers and brilliant alpine lakes,  spending a few extra days in historic Calgary is always an option before flying home. 

Santa Barbara, California

Elegant Spanish architecture and soaring palm trees line the streets of this laid-back, Central California beach town. A regional airport serves both Los Angeles and San Francisco, but renting a car or taking Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner along the PCH is undoubtedly the best and most scenic way to get to this relaxed coastal community. Surprisingly world-class dining, pristine beaches and wineries that  keep up with any Napa Valley vineyard make this West Coast darling the ultimate underrated destination. 

Cancún, Mexico

Hear us out: Though it's true the ever-popular destination can see plenty of tourists occupying its white sand, short flight times (and cheap ticket prices) to Cancun's international airport make it difficult to come up with an excuse to stay home this summer. Not only that but countless tours are at the ready to lead adventure seekers away from the masses and through the area's abundant caves, jungles and rivers. And if you do end up wanting to join those out-of-towners (we won't tell), a frozen margarita is never too hard to find. 

Quebec City, Canada

Quebec's French heritage means you won't have to fly across the world to get a taste of Europe.

Eat: For a trip back in time, visit Le Continental, where Caesar salads are served tableside and the waiters are in white tie. For something more modern, try the cutting-edge Les Sales Gosses.

Drink: Class it up at the iconic Fairmont Le Château Frontenac or grab a cider at the farmers' market by the Quebec City port.

Stay: For a charming stay in Old Town that still has all the amenities you're looking for (aka free Wi-Fi), try Auberge Place d'Armes.

Photo: Pgiam/Getty Images

Portland, Maine

A bustling restaurant and craft brewery scene is an added bonus when visiting this beautiful port city.

Eat: Spring for the blind tasting menu at Hugo's, the James Beard-nominated love letter to Portland's evolving food scene. There might be a lobster shack on every corner, but none can match the brown-butter-doused roll at Eventide Oyster Co.

Drink: In between craft beer tastings at Allagash and Shipyard Brewing Co., prepare to become a changed imbiber at Vena's Fizz House, which specializes in craft mocktails and sodas.

Stay: Located in a former newspaper building, the aptly named Press Hotel in the Old Port District can't be beat.

Photo: Kenneth C. Zirkel/Getty Images

Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota

Just 18 miles separates these two underrated yet lively cities.

Eat: Hard-to-get-into restaurants manned by superstar chefs, such as Gavin Kaysen's Bellecour and the recently reopened Grand Cafe, have turned the Twin Cities into America's great new food destination. 

Drink: There's a haunt for every type of boozehound, whether it's ever-reliable craft beer hangout The Happy Gnome in Saint Paul or Tongue in Cheek in Minneapolis, where the spirituous drinks are organized by the six senses of taste.

Stay: A number of stylish boutique hotels have been popping up to accommodate the influx of visitors, including the very 'grammable Hewing Hotel in Minneapolis's historic North Loop neighborhood.

Photo: Greg Benz/Getty Images

Santa Catalina Island, California

A short ferry ride is all it takes to get to this off-the-beaten-path summer getaway.

Eat: For the classic beach-town experience, head to the Lobster Trap for crab cakes and freshly shucked oysters. An oversize cup of gelato from Scoops before hopping on the ferry home is never a bad idea either.

Drink: Potent tiki cocktails, year-round Christmas lights and the free straw hats at Luau Larry's will have you glowing from something other than a sunburn. (Descanso Beach Club on the waterfront is also there if you need something more modest.)

Stay: Catalina's outdoor activities can take a lot out of you, which is where the elegant but cozy Hotel Vista del Mar comes in with a nightly delivery of milk and cookies.

Photo: Pablo_K/Getty Images

Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Canada's oldest national park gives the Swiss Alps a run for their money.

Eat: Excellent food and floor-to-ceiling views of the Canadian Rockies can be had at Three Ravens. Don't forget—any hiking you do makes up for every bite of the Nutella-smothered, deep-fried flatbreads at BeaverTails.

Drink: There are plenty of beer flights to go around at Banff Avenue Brewing Co., while rare whiskies, leather chairs and a roaring fireplace prove that hotel bars like the Larkspur Lounge never go out of style.

Stay: We get it—sleeping in a tent isn't for everyone. After you've checked out of your campsite two days early, embrace the creature comforts of either the chateau-like Fairmont or decidedly homey Hidden Ridge Resort.

Photo: Edwin Chang Photography/Getty Image

Santa Barbara, California

Charming architecture, endless beaches and a vibrant downtown scene make Santa Barbara a West Coast gem.

Eat: Loyal locals and visitors alike have no qualms waiting in line at Lilly's Taqueria. Meanwhile, captivating menus at both Barbareno and The Lark prove big-name cities aren't the only place you can find world-class dining.

Drink: Complimentary glasses of the punch of the day await at craft cocktail den The Good Lion. Well worth the short day trip, the breathtaking vineyard views at Demetria Estate put Napa to shame.

Stay: There's no better place to soak in the palm tree-lined horizon than on the the Canary hotel's rooftop, conveniently located in the heart of downtown.

Photo: SandSandS/Getty Images

Cancún, Mexico

Relatively short flights to its international airport make this sunny beach resort town an ever-popular destination.

Eat: El Kiosco Verde specializes in Mayan delicacies including tender, crispy grilled octopus and ceviches spiked with habanero oil, thankfully without the presence of a mariachi band.

Drink: An easy-to-miss stairwell means Amarula Con Acento Tropical's signature cocktail menu can be enjoyed sans a sea of tank-topped tourists looking for frozen slushies.

Stay: Most of Cancun's beachfront is lined with towering mega hotels, making rental options like Airbnb and Homeaway the perfect options for getting off the beaten path.

Photo: Arthur Gonoretzky/Getty Images