Staycations may be the travel buzzword du jour, but who really wants to pitch a tent in their backyard and call it a getaway? Not us. Still, with the economy slumping and gas prices soaring, we're all looking for diversions that won't break the bank. USA TODAY asked six travel journalists based in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Seattle and Washington to pick places no more than a tank of gas away.
• Downtown Atlanta
Recommended by:Jennifer Senator, dining and travel editor for Atlanta magazine Why:Hip, luxurious hotels are luring suburbanites into the various parts of the city. The just-opened W Atlanta in Midtown (with its bliss spa and Spice Market restaurant) is within walking distance of the High Museum of Art and Piedmont Park. In tony Buckhead, the new Mansion on Peachtree delivers a butler with every guestroom (plus vineyard-inspired treatments at its 29 Spa) and provides easy access to upscale shopping at Phipps Plaza and Lenox Square. In downtown Atlanta, the new Ellis and Twelve Centennial Park hotels and the rehabbed Glenn Hotel are within walking distance of crowd-pleasing attractions such as the Georgia Aquarium, CNN and the World of Coca-Cola. Don't miss:Straits, the new Asian-flavored restaurant owned by rapper/actor (and local resident) Ludacris in concert with chef Chris Yeo. What's the deal:The $89 MVP (Most Valuable Package) on sale through Sept. 21 buys admission to five popular attractions: an Atlanta Braves game, Georgia Aquarium, New World of Coca-Cola, Six Flags Over Georgia and Stone Mountain Park. Hotel discounts can be added to the deal. Information:800-285-2682; atlanta.net
• Harbor Country, Mich.
Recommended by:Lauren Viera, Midwest Getaways blogger at the Chicago TribuneWhy:An hour-and-a-half drive from Chicago's downtown Loop, this cluster of eight small communities in Michigan's southwest corner — aka "the Hamptons of the Midwest" — offers an appealing mix of beaches, you-pick-'em farms (blueberry season starts in early July) and shopping for antiques and art. About 15 minutes inland from the Lake Michigan beach town of New Buffalo, Three Oaks boasts a historic movie house showing classic films, live performances at the Acorn Theater, and a handful of galleries.Don't miss:The Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail, which strings together more than a dozen small wineries in the vicinity. What's the deal:Free Fourth of July events include fireworks and live music in New Buffalo.Information:Harbor Country Chamber of Commerce; 269-469-5409; harborcountry.org
• North Texas Hill Country