Top 5: Take These Weekend Breaks with Direct Flights from Little Rock

Make the most of spring and the introduction of new direct air routes from Little Rock with our pick of enticing weekend destinations.

Southwest Airlines

Credit: Visit Denver

A weekend in the Mile-High City should start by exploring downtown Denver and catching up on some much-needed retail therapy. Start at 16th Street Mall, a mile-long pedestrian promenade that runs through the center of downtown and is lined with outdoor cafes and shops. Free, regular shuttle services make it a cinch to cover a lot of ground in a short time.

Have dinner at the beautifully redeveloped 1914 Union Station, a Beaux-Arts gem, before searching out such city sights as the 40-foot Big Blue Bear, a Lawrence Argent sculpture at 14th & California Streets, the gold-topped Colorado State Capitol, and Denver’s Museum of Contemporary Art. On Saturday, rent a car and take a day trip to the majestic Rocky Mountains National Park for a hike or explore one of the nearby towns.

Take in the incredible vistas of the entire Front Range from Mount Evans, stroll through the lovely Victorian valley village of Georgetown, or take in one of a slew of attractions in and around ever-popular Colorado Springs.

On Sunday, for something a bit different, drive 20 miles west to Buffalo Herd Nature Preserve, where some of the direct descendants of America’s last wild buffalo herd are kept in a natural setting. The Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre and the Coors Brewery are also definitely worth the trip. After a full morning exploring, get a bite at historic Larimer Square or simply unwind at the Denver Botanical Gardens or the handsome City Park, also home of the Denver Zoo.

Southwest Airlines

Credit: Greater Phoenix CVB

Straight from the airport, head to the nearby downtown area. Check out CityScape, which was home to Fan Central during last year’s Super Bowl. Grab lunch at Food Truck Friday before walking a couple of blocks to Roosevelt Row for a self-guided tour of the unique colorful murals, artsy coffee shops, bars, galleries, record stores and tons of Phoenix history.

In the evening, dine at one of the best Mexican spots in town, Barrio Café, owned by James Beard-nominated chef Silvana Salcido Esparza and located in the heart of the Calle 16 mural project. Ask for the Cochinita Pibil, a divine slow-roasted pork dish of Mayan origin.

Next morning, get up early for a hike, a horseback ride or simply a scenic drive at South Mountain Preserve, without even leaving the city. Or for a more quintessential Phoenix experience, try scaling the city’s highest point, Camelback Mountain, for extraordinary panoramic views. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head downtown to Pizzeria Bianco, voted one of the best pizza makers in the nation, before taking the Valley Metro Light Rail to Encanto/Central for the Heard Museum, which captures the spirit of the Southwest and the Native American culture that has heavily influenced it.

Finish off your day at Crudo, where Chef Cullen Campbell’s incredible and unique “sashimi with an Italian-style flair,” is served alongside out-of-this-world cocktails. On your final day, take a half- or whole-day tour, depending on your schedule, with Arizona Outback Adventures or Pink Jeep Tours to the Grand Canyon or Sedona, or to closer locations like Usery Mountain Park, the Salt River or the nearby lakes for a final dose of stunning natural scenery.

New Orleans
GLO Airlines

Credit: New Orleans CVB

While no first-time trip to NOLA would be complete without at least one stroll through the lively, decadent Bourbon Street or the French Quarter, consider an alternative trip to this city that has so much more to offer. Start your first day by touring the historic neighborhoods of Treme, Mid-City and Faubourg St. John by bicycle with Free Wheelin’ Bike Tours. Catch a Creole lunch at the St. Roch Market, where local produce, and talent, are on display. Aid the digestion of all that fine cuisine with a stroll through New Orleans City Park, which boasts extensive green space, the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park and New Orleans Museum of Art — the city’s oldest fine arts institution. The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden is also located here and contains more than 60 sculptures beneath moss-laden live oaks.

Grab a pre-dinner cocktail or three at Cane & Table before heading to Compère Lapin for a fantastic dinner of Creole and Caribbean fusion. End your night with some live jazz at Frenchmen Street, in particular, Faubourg Marigny, just downriver from the French Quarter.

On your second day, have an early breakfast at Willa Jean bakery before taking a kayak tour with Kayak-iti-yat of Bayou St. John, one of the city’s most scenic sections. Afterwards, catch lunch at Lily’s, a Vietnamese lunch spot on Magazine Street popular with locals. Stay in the area and spend the afternoon strolling Magazine Street through the Garden District and Uptown. This six-mile stretch boasts some of the best antique stores, craft shops, art galleries and boutiques to be found in New Orleans.

For dinner, tantalize your palate with some sublime Israeli food at Shaya followed by drinks at Root Squared.

Southwest Airlines

Credit: Peter J. Schulz

The Windy City is known for its sports, food and shopping, but it packs a powerful cultural punch as well, with world-class theaters, award-winning museums and great parks on show. Start off your first day with a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago, the second largest museum in the country and home to masterpieces such as American Gothic by Grant Wood. Next, head down to Chicago’s premier green space, Millennium Park, to see the city’s most recognizable pieces of architecture and sculpture, including the mirror-surfaced Cloud Gate, known by most people as “The Bean.” Grab a classic Chicago deep-dish pizza for lunch at Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria, and then do a spot of window-shopping along the Magnificent Mile.

At dusk, take in the equally magnificent light, music and water display at the Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park. End your first day with an authentic, elegant Mexican dinner at Topolobampo and then a Broadway show at one of five theaters in Chicago’s bustling Downtown Theater District.

On your second day, visit the Chicago Cultural Center, an architectural showcase for the visual arts, and with most of the exhibits free to the public, it’s a great way to start your day. Follow this with an architectural tour of the city by boat with First Lady Cruises. This 90-minute river cruise will offer you the best views of the most iconic skyscrapers and other landmarks in the city.

It’s then time to relax at the Chicago Botanical Gardens, especially if visiting in the spring. End your trip with a sophisticated dinner at Girl & the Goat, where chef Stephanie Izard serves up innovative small plates from a dramatic open kitchen, then laugh the rest of the night away at Second City for world-class comedy.

South Walton
GLO Airlines

Credit: Andrew Wardlow for Visit Florida

For a weekend break to remember, consider driving Scenic Highway 30-A in northwest Florida. This route, which departs from U.S. 98 and then reconnects with it, is a 28.5-mile of road that runs along the coastal neighborhoods of South Walton, itself encompassing 26 miles of pristine white-sand beaches. All of them are certified Blue Wave beaches, and the area is known for its beautiful dunes and crystal-clear waters.

Stay at any of the 16 neighborhoods that make up this unique area; each offers something different. The naturally stunning Dune Allen has three rare dune lakes, or try picture-perfect Gulf Place, home to a vibrant artist colony, or Miramar Beach for some Old World nostalgia and family fun.

Once settled, spend the rest of your stay exploring the many attractions on offer: Wander among centuries-old oaks at Eden State Gardens in Point Washington State Park — where hiking and biking trails abound — or check out one of the most spectacular dunes at Topsail Hill Preserve, which is also home to many endangered animals including the gopher tortoise. As you drive, admire the old Floridian architecture of the houses that line the entire scenic route, from Dune Allen Beach right down to Rosemary Beach, where you can then unwind with a tranquil swim.

When you’re not relaxing on the beach or enjoying the natural wonders, shopping, top-class dining, golfing and water sport options abound. This short strip of Florida’s coastline really does have it all for the perfect getaway.

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