Flight Time: 2 hours | Daily from IAH on United, Delta, Spirit; Daily from Hobby on Southwest
Hotlanta didn’t get its nickname for naught. The city, which should make Houstonians feel right at home given the abundance of street art and mom-and-pop eateries (Home Grown, homegrownga.com, FTW!) makes for an epic weekend despite the oft-stifling heat and bad traffic—maybe we are twins.
Explore the Ponce City Market, a shopping mecca with hip stores and hipper restaurants for a style and appetite refresh. The historic Fourth Ward Park is just beyond the entrance, and off to the side is the Eastside Beltline (pictured at top), kind of like our own hike and bike trails, complete with bike-sharing stations. If you want to get outdoors, you could try Stone Mountain, a granite dome similar to Enchanted Rock, though somewhere along the way it had Confederate generals etched into it in truly poor taste. But don’t revoke your seal of approval just yet. Instead, head back to the Fourth Ward for a cup of house-made sangria at the best dive ever, Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room & Ping Pong Emporium, which is just a three-minute walk to the birth home of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., nps.gov/malu. Ah, that’s better.
EAT: At nearby Decatur’s Beard-finalist Kimball House, raw oysters and superb cocktails await at happy hour and beyond. kimball-house.com
STAY: The Hilton Atlanta is home to legendary tiki bar Trader Vic’s meaning you can always slink back to your room if things get out of hand—some drinks are served in flames, after all. hilton.com
DO: Head to Piedmont Park in the day, a delight for picnics, strolling, and exploring the Atlanta Botanical Garden, piedmontpark.org; or to beloved neighborhood Little Five Points to window shop and bar hop.—Gwendolyn Knapp
Flight Time: 2 hours 15 mins | Daily from IAH on United, Spirit; Daily from Hobby on Southwest
Let’s be honest. You’re probably heading to Disney (which is actually in Lake Buena Vista), but for a refined take on Orlando, consider upscale, historic Winter Park, a bastion of cafés—including Beard-nom The Ravenous Pig, theravenouspig.com—great shopping, meandering waterways, and outdoor arts festivals galore. Stay at swanky art hotel, The Alfond Inn, thealfondinn.com, owned and curated by Rollins College (where Mister Rogers went to school).—GK
Flight Time: 2 hours 30 mins | Daily from IAH on United, Volaris, VivaAerobus, and AeroMexico (partnered with Delta)
From lively luchadores to exquisite art exhibits, tequila-dosed trajinero rides to Michelin star meals (hello, Pujol)—a long weekend in Mexico City will fill your soul and your stomach. It’s the quickest way to escape to an international metropolis, and nonstops leave out of IAH every few hours, making it simple to get there and even easier to plan your annual trip(s) back.—Laura Furr Mericas
Flight Time: 2 hours | Daily from IAH on United; Daily from Hobby on Southwest, Allegiant
Whether you mosey back in time at Forsyth Park and Leopold’s Ice Cream in the Historic District—post up at the haunted landmark Marshall House, marshallhouse.com, if so—or scope out the future of the city along the up-and-coming waterfront Plant Riverside District, plantriverside.com, definitely take a break for the best Low Country seafood boil around—on the deck of Tybee Island’s original Crab Shack, overlooking a sleepy old marsh, thecrabshack.com.—GK
Flight Time: 1 hour 55 mins | Daily from Hobby on Southwest
Odds are your trip to Music City is going to involve all things country music history—we suggest the Essential Country Duo tour of the Grand Ole Opry House and Ryman Auditorium for $53, opryentertainmentgroup.com—and Nashville hot chicken straight from the original source: Prince’s Hot Chicken.—Catherine Wendlandt