America has a lot of cities. Like, a lot. And while everybody knows you're gonna have fun in New York or San Fran or Austin, not everybody thinks about the TON of smaller cities that -- much like teams during March Madness -- can absolutely hang with any big metropolis for at least a weekend. Fun cities that don't get the recognition they deserve, but that are loaded with amazing bars and restaurants, and enough activities that you'll spend most of your trip repeating: "I can't believe there's SO much do here."
But which ones are worth trading a trip to the big city for? Much as we did a few months back when we narrowed down over 300 big US cities to the 25 best for spending a weekend, we turned our extensive team of local experts loose on the thousands of towns with populations UNDER 90k to figure it out. Same deal. Same criteria: take into account all the components of a fun three-day getaway -- from restaurants, bars, and breweries, to parks, museums, and outdoor activities -- and then rank the best 25.
25. Bentonville, AR
Must-eat/drink: Fried chicken and waffles at Tusk & Trotter
Don't leave without: Hitting the Walmart Museum, housed in Sam Walton's original 5&10. Love or hate the big-box store, history is still fascinating.
Weekend highlights: When you ask people what they know about Bentonville, most offer a quizzical shrug and say, "Um... isn't that where Walmart started or something?" And yes, this city in NW Arkansas is the home of Walmart. But assuming that's all Bentonville has to offer is like assuming the only thing to see in Seattle is the original Starbucks. Beyond the aforementioned Walmart Museum, the city also houses one of the top art museums in the Southeast, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (complete with originals from Normal Rockwell to Andy Warhol), the Museum of Native American History, and the Amazeum, which, among other things, features a Hershey's Lab! Oh yeah, there's also a location of the trendy hotel/mod-art gallery 21c in town; resident flock of green penguins included.
The food scene is starting to take off, as well, with James Beard Award semi-finalist Matt McClure's The Hive at the 21c, Tusk & Trotter, and Pressroom. And you can work off everything you devour on the Razorback Regional Greenway, a 36-mile trail that winds through the region and visits six (SIX!) quaint, southern Downtowns. -- Matt Meltzer, staff writer
24. Warsaw, IN
Must-eat/drink: Beer and seafood over lakeside beach volleyball at Spikes Beach Grill, "one of the best beach bars in Indiana"
Don't leave without: Touring Lake Webster on the 1929 Dixie Sternwheeler
Weekend highlights: OK, so you might think a place dubbed "the orthopedic capital of the world" isn't going to be THE most exciting place to spend the weekend. And it's not. It's the 24th. But its reputation extends well beyond being one of the world's top spots for manufacturing orthopedic equipment.
The area's natural beauty alone is a HUGE draw, as Warsaw's nestled among Winona Lake, Pike Lake, Hidden Lake, Center Lake, and about 100 more natural lakes in the surrounding region of Kosciusko County. Somehow, the town is NOT underwater. Mountain biking, hiking, boating, and fishing are the obvious options for outdoorsy types, while there are antique shops, galleries, and shows at the historic Wagon Wheel for the more artistically inclined.
When you’re tired of the trails (or looking at old furniture), head to the taproom at Mad Anthony Brewing Company, Susie's Sandbar, or Rex's Rendezvous. Or grab dinner waterside at Spikes or a hot pizza on the channel at the Barbee Landing. -- Matt Meltzer, staff writer
23. Northampton, MA
Must-eat/drink: Ice cream from Herrell's, craft beer at The Dirty Truth
Don't leave without: Hiking to the top of Mount Tom or Mount Holyoke for stunning views of the Pioneer Valley; seeing a show at the historic Calvin Theatre (opened 1924)
Weekend highlights: If you didn't know any better, you might mistake this artsy enclave on the Connecticut River with any big city square in Cambridge or Boston. It's less quaint Western Mass town and more edgy urban oasis/cultural center, with all the bars, galleries, and hipsters to prove it. A get-yourself-acquainted stroll should include the iconic/quirky Faces gift shop, Ben & Bill's Chocolate Emporium, Broadside Books, Thornes (there's a mall hidden behind those doors!), and the aforementioned Herrell's for a scoop of ice cream.
But at this point, you're really just getting started. Rent a bike and hit 150-acre Look Park, stroll through Smith College's Botanic Garden and Museum of Art, and ride the 11-mile Norwottuck Rail Trail over to nearby Amherst (UMass). Absolutely stop for a beer on the roof deck at the Northampton Brewery and/or play a game of Space Invaders at Quarters, a bar located along the trail in Hadley.
And speaking of bars and food and nightlife, there are too many options for one weekend so just jot these recommendations down: breakfast at Sylvester's, burgers at Local, pizza at Joe's, seafood at Eastside, coffee at The Roost, and cannoli at La Fiorentina. Your obligatory night-out bar crawl should touch The Green Room, The Dirty Truth, and McLadden's, which pours 105 draft beers and 160 whiskeys. Depending on your age/intentions, you might end at Tunnel Bar, a hip lounge/martini den built into -- you guessed it -- an old tunnel under the railroad tracks. Northampton's also a hotbed of live tunes with a solid ensemble of venues (the Calvin Theatre, Iron Horse Music Hall, Academy of Music); a lot of bands pass through town so if that's your jam, see who's playing here.
And finally, you don't come to Western Mass to sit inside, so spend a day exploring the surrounding area. Hike/drive up to the Summit House on Mount Holyoke; appreciate the farms (corn! Asparagus! Dairy!) as you drive along the Route 47 Scenic Byway toward South Hadley (just be sure to grab a coffee at the Thirsty Mind when you get there); or, if you're up for venturing a little further from home, visit the insanely popular Tree House Brewing Co. in Monson or hop on the Mohawk Trail (Route 2) out to the Berkshires and North Adams, Mount Greylock, and MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art). There is no more gorgeous drive to peep the fall foliage in all of the country. -- Dave Baldwin, Travel editor
22. Iowa City, IA
Must-eat/drink: Way too much breakfast at Hamburg Inn No. 2
Don't leave without: Perusing the shelves at Prairie Lights, one of America's greatest independent bookstores
Weekend highlights: Iowa's former capital has much more going for it than the opportunity to take in some Hawkeye athletics and then party your face off even harder than legendary sharpshooter Chris Kingsbury (though those options are very much available -- University of Iowa students know how to get it done). For one, as you might know from your studious viewing of HBO's Girls, it's one of America's great literary cities, home to the renowned Iowa Writers' Workshop and owner of a UNESCO City of Literature designation -- the only North American city that can make that claim, in fact.
But, UGH, enough with the nerd stuff, right? Plenty of famous people also visit obligatory Iowa caucus campaign stop and Iowa City institution The Hamburg Inn No. 2 for heaping plates of breakfast foods and pie shakes. Yes, pie shakes. Come lunchtime, you'd be making a mistake if you passed up a house-ground burger from Short's. And if you don't like being told what to do, just amble around the pedestrian mall in the heart of town and pop into any place that looks good to you -- it’s Iowa. Everyone's friendly. --Matt Lynch, deputy editor
21. Palm Springs, CA
Must-eat/drink: Steak Diane at Melvyn's Restaurant (a Frank Sinatra favorite!)
Don't leave without: Taking in the scenery: hike the Indian Canyons to the relics at Moorten Botanical Garden. At night, get a little bit out of town and spy the brightest stars in Southern California.
Weekend highlights: The famous (and rich) have had an ongoing love affair with this city for years, dating back to the Rat Pack. Today, it's an eclectic blend of 1950s vintage and desert mountains, all set under a bright-blue sky. In addition to hiking up into the mountains -- and enjoying said desert -- the city's also fun to see on an admittedly kitschy-but-still-fun windmill or celebrity tour. And if you're with kids/family, be sure to hit up the Living Desert, the surprisingly cool local zoo.
The nightlife here is quirkier than one would expect in a posh SoCal resort city. DJ dance parties? Check. Bingo and trivia hosted by drag queens? Check. Poolside drum circles and card readings under the full moon? You get the idea. Order the hand-crafted Tahquitch cocktail at Birba and enjoy the fire pits, live music, and ecclectic Palm Springs crowd. Grab dinner at the highly acclaimed Workshop Kitchen + Bar. And then roll up the next morning to brunch at Pinocchio's for breakfast favorites and bottomless Champagne. -- Matt Meltzer, staff writer
20. San Marcos, TX
Must-eat/drink: Pretty much anything at Kent Black’s BBQ
Don't leave without: Packing a chest of ice (and beer) and floating down the San Marcos River. One of the best rivers to tube on in America.
Weekend highlights: San Marcos is a tourist destination for people all over Texas because of its proximity to Schlitterbahn, the insanely cool and super-old water park in nearby New Braunfels (one of the "coolest
suburbs in America) that lets you bring in your own food/beer and has certain water slides that empty into the actual river (kind of gross, kind of cool). It's named after the area's German influence, obviously.
Locals also like to rent tubes (there are a million rental spots, some of which will shuttle you back to your car), pack a cooler, and spend a chill day on the water with a beer in hand. Non-floating activities include Wonder World Cave and Wildlife Park, which is where you went often with your family if you grew up in Texas. It's mostly for kids but also kinda fun if you're, well, let's just say "feeling good."
As for the actual town, yes, there's a popular, walkable little area called "the Square" that has great bars and restaurants (finally) like the Black Rabbit Saloon (classic cocktails and Skee-Ball), Sinners & Saints, Triple Crown (temp closed until fall), and Chances R. -- Anastacia Uriegas, Austin contributor
19. Sedona, AZ
Must-eat/drink: Check out the incredibly distinct adobe McDonald's for the photo op alone
Don't leave without: Catching a glimpse of (or attending a mass at, if that's your thing) the Church of the Holy Cross -- one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. Built into the very buttes of the distinctive red rocks, the Roman Catholic church is a true stunner. You don't even have to believe to soak in the beauty. But... it probably helps.
Sedona is known for two things -- its stark, majestic beauty (I know that sounds like a bullshit cliche, but the place is seriously gorgeous) and a quirky little arts/mysticism community that often overlaps. There are about 40 mini art galleries lining the main street, and the Sedona Center for the New Age runs a series of tours based around the supposed "energy vortex" that apparently occupies four separate spots in the desert city.
If that's a little too crunchy for your tastes -- no fear. Just bask in the mountains and natural artistry of the area, and the surrounding 1.8 million acres of national forest land. And when the Arizona sun finally sets, you'll likely never see stars as mesmerizing as those in Sedona. Bring your own hallucinations, though. -- Wil Fulton, staff writer
18. San Luis Obispo, CA
Must-eat/drink: Italian dinner at Ciopinot Downtown. Your seafood-heavy menu will be paired with one of SLO's famous pinot noirs.
Don't leave without: Checking out the amazing public art: from painted utility boxes, to a skate park that's more like an interactive museum, to a 70ft alley covered in bubblegum
Weekend highlights: In San Luis Obispo, the weekend starts on Thursday, when thousands of visitors and locals roam the Downtown farmers market eating barbecue, corn on the cob, and other local delicacies. The first Friday of every month is Art After Dark, a self-guided tour through the town's galleries and performance venues, while Fridays during the summer equal free concerts in Mission Plaza. Finally, the city hosts the San Luis Obispo Film Festival every March.
But no, we're not done yet; the Downtown is fully walkable and you can wine-bar hop from Luis to Wine Shed to Central Coast, then catch some live acoustic music outdoors at Luna Red or hit SLO's version of an EDM club at MoTav. And speaking of walking, SLO is unique because the Downtown offers easy access to over 40 miles (!!) of hiking and biking trails so you can explore California's famous Central Coast. Plus, it's only a short drive to San Simeon and the Hearst Castle or Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, the most beautiful place in California. -- Matt Meltzer, staff writer
17. Telluride, CO
Must-eat/drink: Alpino Vino is the highest-altitude fine-dining restaurant in America. But if you're not looking to drop a ton of cash to say you were there, hit Brown Dog Pizza, the best Detroit-style pizza you'll find west of the Mississippi.
Don't leave without: Biking. And not just the obvious, best-in-the-nation mountain biking you're thinking. Use those two wheels to visit the Telluride Brewing Company and the city's first legal distillery next door. Both will arrange transportation to get you (and your bike!) home when you're done.
Weekend highlights: Skiing and snowboarding at one of America's top ski destinations is the obvious highlight in the winter. So we won't drone on too much about that. The next best thing for adrenaline junkies (or, you know, people who can't ski) is exploring Telluride on the via ferrata -- the only hook-and-cable system in Colorado.
Summer in Telluride -- one of America's best mountain towns -- is festival season, so you're pretty much gonna have some big event around which to schedule almost every weekend. For music, it's Blues & Brews, Bluegrass, and the Telluride Jazz Festival; and for movies, the Mountainfilm and Telluride Film Festival, where over the years a number of Oscar contenders have premiered.
In addition to the brewery/distillery bike tour, plan to hit the bar at the New Sheridan Hotel -- it's been around since 1895 and will make you feel like you're drinking in an Old West saloon. Finally, of course, there's the pot tourism, and Telluride's got three shops if you're into that sort of thing. -- Matt Meltzer, staff writer
16. Newport, RI
Must-eat/drink: Flo's Clam Shack, Mission burger
Don't leave without: Having a drink in the Adirondacks at Castle Hill Inn, strolling the Cliff Walk, and visiting the White Horse Tavern, America's oldest restaurant
Weekend highlights: It's easy to let a weekend in Newport pass having done nothing but slurp oysters and sip drinks in one of the many waterfront restaurants and bars. The island city, dubbed "America's First Resort," has a way of making you feel trapped in an endless summer filled with New England charm. But don't let the days get away from you, because this historic and iconic place is worth exploring.
Summer is when Newport really comes alive, so try to plan your weekend for the warmer months, especially during the famous Newport Folk and Jazz Festivals. Second Beach in Middletown is your move for an afternoon on the sand -- and it offers some of the warmest water in New England! If you're a sports fan, you can't skip the International Tennis Hall of Fame (where you can visit the museum and even reserve game time on the grass court), or tailgate in your (ironically) preppiest attire at the weekly polo match. After that, see how the other half used to live by touring the Newport Mansions, which were the summer homes of the likes of the Vanderbilt family and Doris Duke. (The original The Great Gatsby was filmed at the Rosecliff mansion... they're that fancy.)
Since Newport is basically the sailing capital of the world, you should probably get on the water at some point. Whether you're racing on an America's Cup-winning 12-meter yacht or tossing back drinks on a Rum Runner II tour, you're primed for a solid summer afternoon. Oh, and you can't miss a Sunday cruise along Ocean Dr... the whole stretch is like a giant panoramic postcard. -- Sarah Anderson, senior production assistant
15. Cape May, NJ
Must-eat/drink: Anything from Big Wave Burritos. This cash-only spot slings hearty Mexican dishes along with healthy acai bowls.
Don't leave without: Watching the sunset from, of course, Sunset Beach
Weekend highlights: Like most coastal towns, Cape May attracts a wave of tourists in the summer -- and for good reason. Colorful Victorian buildings are scattered throughout the city and along the beach, designating Cape May as a National Historic Landmark and creating a serene atmosphere -- much unlike the glitz and glam of other shore destinations. A stroll down Beach Ave, the main thoroughfare, will present you with a number of charming bed & breakfasts and eateries, like George's, Zoe's, and -- keeping with the simplicity -- Uncle Bill's.
But to truly experience Cape May, you have to stray from the beaten path. So while the crowds are playing mini golf and shopping at Washington Street Mall, head to West Cape May to check out Cape May Honey Farm and West End Garage, where you can find a variety of homemade food and vintage memorabilia. After, visit Sunset Beach to do just as the name suggests. The painted sky, half-sunken World War I ship, and shimmering lighthouse put all other sunsets to shame. -- Ryan Feuer, editorial production assistant
14. Santa Fe, NM
Must-eat/drink: Green chile cheeseburger at Santa Fe Bite, a 10oz sirloin patty with roasted Hatch chiles and an easy blend of Swiss & American cheese on a house-made brioche bun
Don't leave without: You've come to the desert to escape from something, and there's no better place to do just that than the hiking trails through the Atalaya Mountains. The year-round gorgeous views of the vast expanse are what inspired Georgia O'Keeffe's most famous non-flower/lady-part works.
The Horseman's Haven Cafe serves as an approachable entry point to New Mexican fare. Get to know your pozole (hominy stew simmered for hours with pork and chiles), sopapillas (puffy fried bread that is made to sop up honey), and the difference between red chile sauce and green -- or split the difference and go "Christmas," having it poured on an egg-topped enchilada. Other mandatory dining options include Raaga, Clafoutis French Bakery, and La Boca.
Santa Fe serves as a thriving art complex, as the trippy installations at Meow Wolf and litany of galleries at Canyon Rd can attest. You are very likely going to consider owning a turquoise belt buckle at some point. Resist the urge. Instead, put in some quality hot-tub time at the Japanese-inspired Ten Thousand Waves followed by margs at Maria's. -- Sean Cooley, senior editor
13. Greenville, SC
Must-eat/drink: Grill Marks. You can wash down your gourmet burger with a booze-infused milkshake made with stout beer, Maker's Mark, or even Jager.
Don't leave without: Taking a stroll across the 345ft Liberty Suspension Bridge overlooking the Reedy River Falls. It's now dog-friendly!
Weekend highlights: Greenville isn’t the most underrated place in South Carolina because we think golf is a little too limiting. It's just one of those small cities that has everything a big city does, except stuff like stress, traffic, and unreasonable rents. The food scene here will surprise you, with spots like American Grocery, Soby’s, and the nearby Bacon Bros. Public House. And it's also home to a number of craft breweries, most notably Quest, Thomas Creek, and Brewery 85.
But this Southern city is about more than inducing obesity. The best state park in South Carolina is just outside the city at Caesars Head, complete with a 420ft waterfall. And biking along the Swamp Rabbit Trail takes you past Furman's scenic campus to the town of Travelers Rest.
Greenville might also be the most cutting-edge art city in South Carolina. The Village of West Greenville is packed with galleries full of works from regional artists and is the rare art district that has yet to become overly commercialized. Oh yeah, and the Museum & Gallery at Bob Jones University has the largest collection of Old Master paintings in America. -- Matt Meltzer, staff writer
12. Biloxi, MS
Must-eat/drink: Gumbo at Mary Mahoney's Old French House, a Bloody Mary at Ole Biloxi Fillin' Station, a fried shrimp po-boy at Rosetti's Café in Quality Poultry and Seafood
Don't leave without: Going out on a shrimping boat. Or, if you'd rather not work so much, just take a Biloxi oyster schooner at sunset.
Weekend highlights: Biloxi has a reputation -- albeit pretty underserved -- of being nothing more than a bunch of casinos sitting on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. And, yes, the city's skyline is dominated by the IP, Beau Rivage, Hard Rock, and others. But beyond the gambling, this small city is easily the best tourist destination in Mississippi.
While it's not typically considered part of the American paradise that is the Redneck Riviera, the beaches here boast the same white sand and calm waters as their Florida and Alabama neighbors, with a fraction of the people. But just swimming in the ocean only nets you half of the experience; an afternoon spent on a shrimping boat or on an oyster schooner at sunset is the best way to ensure you bring fresh fish to one of the dozens of area restaurants -- like The Biloxi Lugger -- that'll cook it up for you.
During the summer, hit the Hard Rock for an afternoon pool party. While no, it's not going to be like Rehab in Vegas, that’s part of the charm. Coming to Biloxi is seeing the real South, and the young professionals and party people who visit for the weekend make this as much of a cultural experience as a vacation. You'll find the same when you go out at night, where casual bars like Adventures and The Ole Biloxi Fillin' Station are filled with friendly Mississippians happy to tell you all about life on the delta. -- Matt Meltzer, staff writer
11. Spearfish, SD
Must-eat/drink: Rancher tips at the Stadium with an IPA from Crow Peak, or a roadside Indian taco
Don't leave without: Wandering deep into Spearfish Canyon or to the top of Lookout Mountain
Weekend highlights: We've said it before, and we'll say it again: South Dakota gets a bum rap. The western portion of the state, in particular, is one of the most beautiful parts of the country, and Spearfish is the place where you can get it all. The city -- hilariously famous for pushing back when PETA decided its name endorsed animal cruelty -- is a picture of small-town comfort, with a Rockwellian/Western main street where you can get rowdy at legendary Horses to Harleys or get down on a skillet of the Stadium's rancher tips... deep-fried tenderloin tips (the best thing to eat in the state, for our money). The city's at the mouth of the sprawling Spearfish Canyon, which is home to an old-school lodge and some of the most majestic cliff faces you're likely to see this side of Middle Earth.
But Spearfish is also fantastic because it serves as a gateway to the West... ern part of the state. Wanna check out Sturgis? It's just down the highway. Curious about Deadwood? You can get there in a short jaunt, then leave before you lose all your money to a blackjack dealer in an old-school cowboy duster, then hit up the state's best burger over in Lead and get back via the canyon before sundown. Mount Rushmore? If you simply must see it, take an extra hour or so and hit the back roads for an epic day trip, or forego that for Devils Tower over in Wyoming, also a short drive from SF. The town itself is worth a visit, but the stuff that surrounds it makes it one of America's most underrated destinations. -- Andy Kryza, National Food and Drink editor
10. Charlottesville, VA
Must-eat/drink: Breakfast at Bodo's Bagels, again and again and again
Don't leave without: Strolling the Lawn at UVA to get your college-quad nostalgia on, then grabbing the free trolley to the Downtown Mall to enjoy the vibrant Charlottesville community that thrives beyond Mr. Jefferson's university
Weekend highlights: Charlottesville is a just a couple hours southwest of DC, and a single hour from Richmond, but it feels worlds away thanks to its striking Blue Ridge backdrop and startling food & drink scene. The area's excellent, picturesque wineries have long been a C-ville selling point, but in the past decade, its brewing scene has been a fast-rising belle of the booze ball. Blue Mountain, Starr Hill, Devils Backbone, and small-but-superb Three Notch'd all claim homes either within city limits, or just beyond. All that hooch suggests a robust thirst -- one Charlottesville's bar culture quenches at historic watering holes like The Virginian, spacious beer bars like Kardinal Hall, and of course, vino spots for days.
Charlottesville's restaurant roster rivals that of cities twice its population, with fancy mainstays (C&O and Duner's are two top spots), counter-service favorites (Bodo's Bagels, Marco & Luca's), and everything in between. The University of Virginia's campus (known here strictly as "Grounds") is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the Downtown Mall is one of the country’s longest, most vibrant reclaimed pedestrian malls. If the great outdoors is your thing, this place has you covered. Head to one of a dozen golf courses in the area, hike Humpback Rock in the nearby Shenandoah National Park, or crack a beer while floating the James River in an inner tube. Fair warning: you won't be able to do it all in a single weekend, so plan on coming back. -- Dave Infante, senior Snapchat editor, writer-at-large
9. Bend, OR
Must-eat/drink: Beers at the Crux Fermentation Project, Boneyard, Deschutes, and others
Don't leave without: Doing something incredible outside, whether it's rafting, skiing, mountain biking, or just drinking a beer on a vista overlooking Mount Bachelor
Weekend highlights: Long before the hipsters of Portland started making artisan beehive honey and complaining about Californians encroaching on the neighborhoods they encroached on first, the nation's visions of Oregon were more of the Lewis & Clark variety, with thoughts of roaring rivers, cascading mountains, dense forests, and mining towns coming immediately to mind. Well, Bend's that Oregon. The one that requires a gorgeous drive through rugged country -- take your pick between looping around Mount Hood or though valleys of volcanic scree to get there -- that’s worth it just to behold. But once you've arrived, you're in the heart of everything that makes the Pacific Northwest so magical.
It helps that the Downtown's gorgeous, and doubles as one of the best -- and most underrated -- beer towns in the US, with the likes of Deschutes, Boneyard, Bend Brewing, and more calling the place home. And beer comes in handy when you're in an outdoor paradise where everything from skiing and snowboarding on Mount Bachelor (or the nearby Sisters), climbing at Smith Rock, whitewater rafting the Deschutes, and more is in the direct vicinity. But if that's too intense for you, well, the food-and-drink scene is more than enough of a draw, and you can always go golfing. But there's really something to be said about visiting a newly legal dispensary and grabbing a growler, then parking yourself under the biggest sky this side of Montana. -- Andy Kryza, National Food and Drink editor
8. Burlington, VT
Must-eat/drink: A can of Heady Topper at the The Farmhouse Tap & Grill, the legendary and exclusive double IPA with a 100 score on BeerAdvocate. You'll get beer geeks to agree on nothing else, ever.
Don't leave without: Taking in an evening of charming debauchery on Church St, the city's main vein of nightlife bridging the neighborhood dive bars of the old north end and the burgeoning arts district on the south end. The circuit will go something like college bar, dive bar, college bar, Retronome dance party, Kountry Kart Deli.
Weekend highlights: An eating itinerary should include simple crepes from The Skinny Pancake (skipping on the pure maple syrup would be uncouth), pizza with maple-fennel pork sausage from American Flatbread, and maple creemee from almost anywhere. Should you worry about ingesting this much maple? Nah, you'll be wont to burn calories paddleboarding near Leddy Park, biking the beautiful lakefront path end-to-end, visiting Jeffersonville to ski Smugglers' Notch in winter, or, for the truly crunchy, Frisbee golf in the summer. Refuel with quesadillas at New World Tortilla and throw back burgers at Al's French Frys.
A considerable beer haven, Burlington happens to reside in the state with the most craft breweries per capita. Be on the lookout for tap handles pouring Hill Farmstead, having risen from college homebrew club to winning RateBeer's Best Brewery in the World accolade. A proper brewery crawl should run from Fiddlehead to Magic Hat to Switchback and end at Citizen Cider. -- Sean Cooley, senior editor
7. Key West, FL
Must-eat/drink: Key lime pie at the Blond Giraffe
Don't leave without: Making some terrible decisions. Kidding! Well, not really, but no trip to Key West is complete with a night on Duval St and its holy triumvirate of bars: Irish Kevin's, Sloppy Joe's and Captain Tony's.
Weekend highlights: Key West is kind of like Florida's Las Vegas. But dirtier. And more historic! Sure, the bars along Duval St are a factory of regret, but if you want to avoid them altogether the place is still beautiful and rife with history, and believe it or not, there's plenty to do that doesn't involve daiquiris.
Though Smathers Beach isn't much to speak of, spending the day strolling the tropical streets filled with 100-year-old homes is a fascinating way to explore the island. As are the Mel Fisher buried-treasure museum, the Hemingway Home, and the Harry Truman house. And if you went to Florida to get on the water, there are no shortage of dives, including some amazing day trips out to the Dry Tortugas.
The culinary highlights skew towards dessert with the aforementioned Key lime pie. But don't miss Better Than Sex, a place serving decadent chocolate desserts that, if your Key West hookups are anything like mine, you'll agree are named appropriately.
Then, of course, there's the nightlife. Going here and trying to hit "locals spots" would be like going to New York and eating at bodegas. The touristy spots are also the best, and with maybe the exception of Rick's, any bar you hit on Duval will be the laid-back, old-Florida, pseudo-divey experience you’re looking for. The place is packed every weekend with tourists and bachelor/bachelorette parties, and good judgment/inhibition typically gets left somewhere around the Seven Mile Bridge. -- Matt Meltzer, staff writer
6. South Lake Tahoe, CA
Must-eat/drink: The Beaver Burger at the Lucky Beaver. The puns alone are worth going in, but the flame-broiled Pat LaFrieda meats make this the perfect meal after a hard day on the slopes.
Don't leave without: Cruising through Emerald Bay. In the summer, this is best done by renting a boat (or, better, knowing somebody who owns one) and getting in some waterskiing along the way. But even in the winter, taking a boat cruise is worth the few cold hours on the water to see one of the most photographed places in California.
Tahoe isn't a bachelor-party default for Northern Californians because it's closer than Las Vegas. It's because the casinos here are really just the late-night icing on the weekend-long cake of fun on the Cal-Neva border. For snow sports, Heavenly is one of the best party mountains in the world, and even has a bar where you can drink in two states at once. And there isn't much of a falloff in the summer, with golf in nearby Village, mountain biking, hiking, or just being lazy on a boat in the middle of the lake. The Fourth of July fireworks are among the best around, and even non-holiday weekends are packed all summer long.
People have a Vegas mentality without the Vegas douchebaggery. And your hangover goes away a lot quicker when you're standing next to one of America's most spectacular mountain lakes. -- Matt Meltzer, staff writer
5. St. Augustine, FL
Must-eat/drink: Dry-rub spareribs at Mojo Old City Barbecue
Don't leave without: Taking a haunted bar crawl through the old city. The tour serves the dual purpose of giving you a creepy history lesson on America's oldest city, and also gets you a good lay of the land so you can plan out the nightlife portion of your weekend.
Weekend highlights: St. Augustine might be the one coastal city in Florida that's best enjoyed AWAY from the beach. Not that the sand here isn't a fantastic place to spend the day, but it's the oldest city in America and there's a lot of history to take in -- from the old jail to the Huguenot cemetery to the landmark lighthouse. Although, the obvious first stop is Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest missionary fort in the contiguous US. If you're lucky, a battle reenactment will be playing out when you visit.
But the real history resides in the walled Old City, where narrow streets and 19th-century (and earlier!) buildings transport you back to a time when Florida was a small colonial village. It's like a cleaner, nicer Key West, where bars are built into historic homes (or two houses in the case of Scarlett O’Hara’s) and most boast some sort of paranormal activity. Even the boisterous but seemingly harmless Milltop Tavern, your best bet for cheap beers, is said to be haunted.
The city's also got some of the best golf in the world at nearby TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, and just a couple of miles from the Old City is the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park, where you can run a ropes course and zip-line over active alligator pits. -- Matt Meltzer, staff writer
4. Traverse City, MI
Must-eat/drink: Locally grown dinner at The Cooks' House, homemade pie from Grand Traverse Pie Company
Don't leave without: Thoroughly exploring Leelanau Peninsula's many vineyards and incredible coastline, from Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (one of the 25 best beaches in the whole damn country) to the charming beach towns of Empire, Northport, and Suttons Bay
Weekend highlights: Traverse City sits on the coast of a Lake Michigan bay, at the base of the beautiful Leelanau Peninsula, all of which is accessible within a 45-minute drive. Traverse City's four-block waterfront Downtown has a culinary scene that can go toe to toe with any city on the East Coast -- but with a laid-back atmosphere free of coastal pretense, and the natural beauty, beaches, and spectacular golf courses you need to take a deep breath and get away from it all. Leelanau Peninsula wine has exploded in the past decade as grape growers explore unique varietals, and no trip would be complete without visiting some of the peninsula's more than two dozen vineyards. If it's beer you're after, head off of Leelanau to Short's Brewing -- one of the most innovative craft brewers in the country and one of the top destinations for beer pilgrims -- in the town of Bellaire.
Beer lovers will be perfectly happy staying in town at 7 Monks Taproom, one of the 33 best beer bars in America, or any number of great bars like The Filling Station, Brewery Ferment, Terra Firma, Brew, and Right Brain. As for food, locally grown/sourced/caught is the name of the game, and the offerings at The Cooks' House definitely shouldn't be missed. Alliance, a vegetable-focused (but not vegetarian) small-plates place, opened up in early 2016 and has quickly put itself on the map as one of the best in town. For breakfast, lunch, and espresso, hit up the teeny-tiny Frenchies Famous and keep an eye out for Mario Batali, who called it one of his nine favorite restaurants in the world (along with The Cooks' House). If you make it up to Suttons Bay, 9 Bean Rows -- another farm-focused joint with inventive seasonal menus -- will make the journey worth your while. And of course, don't miss out on cherry pie from Grand Traverse Pie Company (Traverse City also happens to be the "Cherry Capital of the World," because cherries definitely need a capital city somewhere). -- Bison Messink, deputy editor
3. Bozeman, MT
Must-eat/drink: A beer and buffalo burger at converted freight house Montana Ale Works
Don't leave without: Wandering into the pitch-black night, then looking up to see what this whole "Big Sky" business is all about
Weekend highlights: At about 40,000 residents, Bozeman might as well be a metropolis in the sparsely populated realm of Big Sky Country. And to the unknowing, it might be considered a hidden gem, as are many small Montana towns obscured by off-highway big-box stores. But you need only drive a few blocks into Bozeman to instantly realize what everyone who has seen it already knows: this is basically what you dreamed Montana would look like, a rustic old main drag full of frontier-era antiques, cafes, and restaurants all overlooking snow-capped mountains. Consider it basically like a condensed, less bro-y version of the also-great Missoula -- another college town -- where the city rallies around the converted train house that is Montana Ale Works, bluegrass music is omnipresent, and everybody seems to move at their own pace (must be the air).
It’s also, like much of the state, enveloped in enough beauty to make that stupid kid from American Beauty’s heart crack in half, with the obvious trip being to nearby Yellowstone, a place that can inspire awe even after dozens of visits. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg (mental note, Glacier is five hours away) in a land known for hunting, rafting, climbing, hiking, camping, and everything in between. There are many great small towns in Montana that serve as gateways to the aforementioned vast sky (I'm partial to Livingston, too), but few are so packed full of good people, great food, and small-town comforts that you're kinda-sorta tempted to stay in town rather than heed the call. -- Andy Kryza, National Food and Drink editor
2. Carmel, CA
Must-eat/drink: Cocktail with a view at the Mission Ranch Restaurant. If you are really lucky, you may even spot former mayor Clint Eastwood by the piano bar.
Don't leave without: Biking the 17-Mile Dr. It's the best way to fully experience the majestic waves and stunning vistas of this breathtaking, rocky coastline (while avoiding the pesky $10 fee for cars). Also, watching the Instagram-worthy sunsets with the locals on Carmel's iconic white sand beach is transformative.
Weekend highlights: If you tire of exploring the 42 hidden courtyards/alleys and countless galleries and boutiques in this charming, one-square-mile village, then you can head inland and enjoy wine tasting at the family-run, boutique wineries in Carmel Valley Village. Or, if you're an adventurer who enjoys spotting sea lions/otters and seals, you can travel five miles south to hike, kayak, or dive in Point Lobos State Reserve; and just 15 miles further south is Big Sur and more trails (and the famous McWay Falls) at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Oh yeah, don’t forget world-class golfing at Pebble Beach!
Plan to stay in one of the quaint bed & breakfast cottages near the beach or, if you're on a tighter budget, there are plenty of cheaper housing options in Monterey, less than 15 minutes away. With the beauty of a Southern California beach and laid-back vibes of Northern California, Carmel is perfect for a weekend trip to escape the San Francisco fog. -- Alexandra Seclow, social media coordinator
1. Portland, ME
Must-eat/drink: Steamed lobster from the waterside seafood shack at Portland Lobster Company. Or... if you're looking to put less work into cracking and declawing, Eventide's brown-butter lobster roll is your best bet.
Don't leave without: Experiencing the Working Waterfront and Old Port: walk the piers, pop into fish markets where the catch is literally boat-to-counter, grab lunch and drinks at J's Oyster (a local haunt with a lot of history and no-nonsense service in the best way possible), or snag a bread bowl of fish chowder at Gilbert's Chowder House.
Weekend highlights: You can't visit Maine and not see an iconic lighthouse: the Portland Head Light at Fort Williams affords beautiful views of the bay and ocean, as well as of waves crashing over Maine's classic rocky coastline. It's easy to see why Stephen King uses his home state as the setting for nearly every one of his books. An ocean visit should also come with some obligatory beach time -- Scarborough Beach, Higgins Beach (where you can see a shipwreck at low tide), or Willard Beach are your moves.
Portland's ratio of restaurants to people is tilted in your favor so eat as much as possible. Ribollita offers classic refined Italian with a grandmotherly dining room, Street and Co. is known for masterful upscale seafood and a vanilla bean panna cotta with wild Maine blueberry, Pai Men Miyake's ramen menu is bolstered with great sushi and pork belly buns, and The Front Room's brunch is top tier -- order the Munjoy Hill mimosa (a High Life with OJ). Portland wasn't named one of the most underrated food cities in America last year for nothing.
An afternoon should consist of sampling beers at Allagash, Bissell Brothers, Shipyard, and Rising Tide. An evening should be spent getting weird with karaoke-ing locals at Silver House Tavern, eating popcorn and playing darts at Rosie's, or shooting pool and seeing live music on the patio at Amigos. Reggae Sundays at Jones Landing -- take the ferry from Commercial St to Peaks Island-- are an institution. -- Evan Caprari, Thrillist contributor
1. Tusk & Trotter American Brasserie110 SE A St, Bentonville
2. Spikes Beach Gril310 Eastlake Dr, Warsaw
3. Herrell's Ice Cream8 Old South St, Northampton
4. The Dirty Truth29 Main St, Northampton
5. Hamburg Inn No. 2214 N Linn St, Iowa City
6. Melvyn's200 W Ramon Rd, Palm Springs
7. Kent Black's Barbecue500 Hull St, San Marcos
8. Adobe McDonald's2380 AZ-89A, Sedona
9. Ciopinot1051 Nipomo St, San Luis Obispo
10. Alpino VinoSee Forever Run, Gold Hill Lift (14), 12,000 feet, Telluride
11. Brown Dog Pizza110 E Colorado Ave, Telluride
12. Flo's Clam Shack4 Wave Ave, Middletown
13. Mission29 Marlborough St, Newport
14. Big Wave Burritos1400 Texas Ave, Cape May
15. Santa Fe Bite311 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe
16. Grill Marks209 S Main St, Greenville
17. Mary Mahoney's Old French House116 Rue Magnolia, Biloxi
18. Ole Biloxi Fillin' Station692 Howard Ave, Biloxi
19. Rosetti's Cafe895 Division St, Biloxi
20. Stadium Sports Grill744 N Main St, Spearfish
21. Crow Peak Brewing Co125 W Highway 14, Spearfish
22. Bodo's Bagels505 Preston Ave, Charlottesville
23. Crux Fermentation Project50 SW Division St, Bend
24. Boneyard Beer37 NW Lake Pl, Bend
25. Deschutes Brewery Bend Public House1044 NW Bond St, Bend
26. The Farmhouse Tap & Grill160 Bank St, Burlington
27. Blond Giraffe Key Lime Pie Factory92220 Overseas Hwy Mike 92, Tavernier
28. Lucky Beaver Bar And Burger31 Hwy 50 Suite 104, Stateline
29. MOJO Old City BBQ5 Cordova St, St. Augustine
30. The Cooks' House115 Wellington St, Traverse City
31. Grand Traverse Pie Company525 W Front St, Traverse City
32. Montana Ale Works611 E Main St, Bozeman
33. Mission Ranch Restaurant26270 Dolores St, Carmel
34. Portland Lobster Company180 Commercial St, Portland
35. Eventide Oyster Co.86 Middle St, Portland
Located just a block away from "The Square" in Downtown Bentonville in the former general office of Sam Walton (founder of Walmart and Sam's Club), this family-friendly eatery boasts an eclectic menu rooted in local produce and seasonal ingredients. Alongside Souther-inspired entrees like beans and cornbread, sweet potato gnocchi, and Arkansas catfish pastrami is Tusk and Trotter's most popular dish: fried chicken and waffles.
Although "beach bar" and "Indiana" seem at odds, this local hotspot successfully merges the two in simplest possible way: beer, seafood, volleyball, and a scattering of cheap, plastic lawn chairs. Since 1991, Spike's has been tropical respite for the small town of Warsaw, offering live music on the weekends, a lakeside volleyball area, and probably the best Rum Runner in the state. Note that its only open in the summer.
Yes, Herrell's has made a lot of important contributions to the world of frozen confections (like brand name candy flavors & "smoosh-ins"), plus over 200 flavors over the years. But if you get ice cream here without their small batch hot fudge YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG.
A favorite among locals, this popular watering hole situated on Northampton's main thoroughfare boasts a an impressive, rotating craft beer menu that caters to both beer junkies and amateurs. Among overflowing pints and communal tables, there's also a great selection of bar bites: chicken and waffles, duck nachos, hand-cut fries, pork belly pea soup.
Forget about the fact that presidential candidates now consider it a must-stop on their way through Iowa, or that you can sit next to a signed picture of Roseanne and Tom Arnold from the very early 90s, or that it happens to be the oldest family owned restaurant in Iowa City. But don’t forget the omelets -- especially the terrifyingly unhealthy/delicious Haweye Hog, featuring sausage, hash browns, and American smothered in country gravy.
This classic steakhouse that's been visited by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. is a legendary Palm Springs haunt. Located in the historic Ingleside Inn, Melvyn's old school fare (Steak Diane, shrimp cocktail) matches its elegant, upscale digs.
Just a short drive outside of Austin you'll find Kent Black's BBQ, a lively restaurant and tavern, located in the bustling suburb of San Marcos. Kent's is a solid neighorhood spot; offering wood-smoked brisket, ribs, and other BBQ fare in a rustic barn-like interior, Kent's is where you go to knock back a few and hang out with the locals. Regularly scheduled live music and an extensive beer menu are added bonuses.
This classic chain's Sedona outpost is noteworthy for its decor. Set up in the style of a Native American stone pueblo, this Mickey D's, known as the Adobe McDonald's, is a long-standing area tourist attraction.
This upscale spot in the Historic Downtown District serves great seafood fare in tandem with local Napa Valley vino. Small plates, raw bar dishes, grilled fish plates are delicious and affordably priced. Try the house special, Ciopino Stew (a tomato based soup with Dungeness crab, clams, shrimp, squid, scallops and mussels), with a local SLO Pinot Noir for a great dining experience.
This high-altitude, fine-dining restaurant in Telluride is hard to get to but well worth the trip. You can either travel nearly 12,000 feet via gondola or ski down to this snow-covered cabin overlooking the picturesque Telluride Ski Resort. Once inside, you'll find a bistro inspired menu full of European flair. Cheese boards, charcuterie and fine wine simply taste better this far up in the clouds.
From Detroit square pizza to Sicilian style, no pie is off limits at this casual, gluten-free-friendly Talluride parlor. Burgers, sandwiches, salads and wings are available as well, in further addition to a full bar with plenty of local brews on tap. The Brown Dog's pizza won first place at the International Pizza Expo in 2013, so you know you'll be eating well here.
This resilient little clam shack in Middletown has been a seafood staple of Rhode Islaner's diets for decades. The shack has been knocked down by not one but several different hurricanes over its almost 80-year existence, only for it to re-emerge stronger, or at least with more expensive windows. There is only one way to do Flo’s, and it involves getting half-a-dozen clamcakes, and their famous fried clams, with a delicate breading and homemade cole slaw. The two story spot has a raw bar upstairs and crowds of people awaiting takeout orders in the ground level, so grab a spot wherever you can which will hopefully be on their deck with ocean views. Just watch out for those hurricanes.
This popular city eatery has a faithful following, and it's no wonder after trying their burgers, dogs, falafel and hand cut fries. The space is small and the fare is standard, but the "simplicity is key" concept really applies here once you taste how plain good their food is. What's more, they're completely transparent about their secret "Mission" sauce recipe, which is a blend of ketchup, aioli, cornichons, capers, fines herbs and brandy. Good food and honesty in preparation make for one quality burger joint.
This cash-only Cape May spot serves up excellent Mexican food perfect for carting to the beach. If you prefer to sit, you can chill inside and watch surf videos while you wait for your burritos, tacos and other similar fare. All the ingredients are fresh and everything is made to order. If you're not feeling beans for a beach day, opt for one of their healthy smoothies or acai bowls.
The original Bobcat Bite closed after a dispute between the owners and their landlords, but their reincarnation as Sante Fe Bite fulfills all your delicious, green chile burger cravings just as well as the OG. Located inside Garrett’s Desert Inn on Old Santa Fe Trail, this casual spot with a patio also serves Tex-Mex eats, shakes and local beers, but you're really coming for the burgers. Whole boneless chuck and sirloin is ground fresh in house every day, and the green chiles have the perfect amount of smoky heat.
Grill Marks in Greenville is a creative burger restaurant that gives classic American fare a gourmet upgrade. Their burgers are gigantic and there are about a million topping combo suggestions on the menu, but if you're feeling creative you can build your own from the ground up. Be sure to pair your choice with a boozy milkshake and kick back in a booth or at the bar in this modern converted warehouse.
As the name suggests, Mary Mahoney's is situated in one of the oldest home's in America, which was erected in 1737. And, in addition to this aesthetic nod to 18th century New Orleans, the menu, too, reflects the Old World South. Elegant entrees include shrimp and crab au gratin, French double-cut pork chops, and Mary Mahoney's world-famous gumbo. It's no wonder that decades worth of presidents, celebrities, and dignitaries have graced these hallowed halls.
This lively, hole in the wall eatery is a Biloxi mainstay known for its heavy focus on Cajun/Creole seafood. With Southern specialities a plenty, guests can enjoy a number of Louisiana classics like po' boys and hearty wedge fries, oysters, fried soft-shell crab, beans and rice, and -- most popularly -- crawfish nachos. The Fillin' Station also supplies one of the best Bloody Marys in town.
Housed in Quality Poultry and Seafood --Biloxi's most popular land and sea grocery store -- Rosetti's Cafe is a small, unfussy eatery that doles out smoked meat and seafood dishes. In addition to locally-inspired weekly specials (like shrimp plates, fried pork chop, hamburger steak, and red beans and rice), Rosetti's is known for its classic, fried shrimp po' boy.
The Spearfish outpost of this small, South Dakota chain has been active since 1993, serving the neighborhood with memorable sports bar standards: delicious, greasy eats, beer, and a casual, down-to-earth vibe. Among highlights like the beef tip quesadilla, macho nacho, and steak sandwich, are gluttonous desserts. We recommend the Oreo cookie fried ice cream.
In ski lodge style digs lives Crow Peak Brewing Co, a circa 2007 brewery known for its relaxed atmosopher and affordable brews. In addition to a small, curated list of rotating craft beers with intriguing names -- like the popular Pile O'Dirt Porter, 11th Hour IPA, and Wicca -- this brewery also offers sample flights and standard, pair-able bar bites.
This Charlottesville breakfast mainstay makes great New York style bagel sandwiches and offers fresh roasted coffee in their quaint, counter-service location. It's always packed, which is a testament to how tasty their wares are.
This brewery and taproom in the lively small city of Bend, OR, offers a wide variety of house-made brews in a comfortable, tavern-like setting. Ample bar seating and a spacious outdoor patio area make Crux Fermentation a great place to bring a group. Local food trucks regularly stop by the grounds.
This no-nonsense craft brewer makes great brew in a bare-bones, factory-like space. Stop in and get fill your growler with their Notorious IPA and Diablo Rojo amber ale. Boneyard also sells skull and crossbones emblazoned shirts, hats, and beer koozies.
Deschutes Brewery is a nationally acclaimed craft brewery based in Bend, Oregon, an artsy small town about three hours outside of Portland. Known for their full-bodied IPAs and stouts, Deschutes offers a varied enough output to cater to every type of drinker, from novice to beer geek. Their Bend tasting room and pub is a cozy spot to grab a drink Downtown.
There are only 24 taps here at this Burlington brewpub, but each one is carefully selected. Featuring great beers from Vermont (Lost Nation, Hill Farmstead, and Hermit Thrush), plus the likes of Cigar City and Green Flash repping the rest of the country, The Farmhouse's selection is definitely worth checking out. On top of that, tap takeovers let brewers rip, and home-brew competitions for those looking for undiscovered comforts.
It's almost a given that when in the Florida Keys, eat Key Lime Pie. Get your fill at the Blonde Giraffe, a neon green island cottage serving up some of the country's best. Pie's not the only thing on the menu: key lime cookies and candies are also available, and the Blonde Giraffe boasts a full espresso bar.
Located just over the California/Nevada border near South Lake Tahoe, this 24 hour sports bar pours a variety of specialty drinks. You've got your standard issue draft beers and well-drinks, but signature drinks with imaginative names like the Kinky Beaver, Horni Beaver, and the Cosmopolitan Beaver, are worth ponying up for. Added bonus: since you're in Nevada, there's gambling aplenty.
St. Augustine's Mojo Old City Barbecue is a down-home Southern joint. Burnt brisket ends, mashed sweet potato, and pulled pork shoulder are some of the menu highlights at this fast-casual spot. A generous happy hour from 3-7pm Monday- Friday is another reason to visit: spend only $3 on draft beer and $4 on well drinks.
Local, sustainable cuisine takes center stage at The Cooks' House, a quaint, rustic restaurant in Traverse City, Michigan (and a favorite of Mario Batali's!). Enjoy the regional Midwestern seafood and meat specialties, like walleye, whitefish, and roasted rabbit with honey, chocolate, Michigan hops, and steel-cut oats.
This local bake shop specializes in gourmet pies using local ingredients (Michigan honey, Montmorency cherries). Bistro salads, baguette sandwiches, and quiche are also available when dining in the cozy cafe storefront.
This converted former railroad freighthouse is home to Montana Ale Works, a powerhouse of a beer bar that boasts 40 taps, all pouring from the centerpiece wraparound bar. And with Big Sky country offerings like Bozeman Brewery, Madison River, Draught Works, Red Lodge, Cabinet Mountain, Bayern, and Lone Peak, it's no wonder that Montana Ale Works is the best in the state.
Mission Ranch Restaurant in Carmel serves American comfort food in a farmhouse restored by Clint Eastwood. You get gorgeous views of sheep grazing in the meadows and Santa Lucia Mountains in the distance. The piano bar offers live music nightly, and there's a wildly popular jazz brunch on Sundays. Everything about this place is equally quaint and breathtaking, and it's the perfect place to unwind and enjoy a drink before dinner.
This waterside lobster shack in Portland delivers the freshest catches to either eat in or take out. You can get the classics like lobster rolls and clam cakes or put a little more work into your meal with a steamed lobster dinner. Crack away to your heart's content on the waterfront patio and while you're at it, crack open a beer.
Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley very much care about their oysters, which is why they offer up an extremely well curated list from Maine and “Away”, and allow you to pick accoutrement, including three types of ice (get the Tabasco), and two mignonettes (get the Mimosa one). The space is bright, light blue and airy, with plenty of wooden stools for saddling up to the raw bar.