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One-tank trips in five states

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One-tank trip: Coastal Georgia
  • For a peaceful getaway in Minnesota, rent a cabin in the Brainerd Lakes Area
  • Take a break from Orlando's theme parks in St. Augustine, the nation's oldest city
  • Head to Doylestown for Pennsylvania arts, crafts and culture

(CNN) -- Money's tight and gas prices are high, but a change of scenery is good for the soul.

As much of the country tries to balance prices at the pump with the all-American summer vacation, we asked six reporters across the country to share easy road trip recommendations from their stomping grounds.

CNN's Reynolds Wolf filled up a gas-guzzling Ford Expedition for $99 and traveled east from Waycross, Georgia, to the coastal islands and up to Spanish moss-draped Savannah in a day. Watch the video above to check out that adventure and read on for five more one-tank trip ideas.

On a budget? Take a road trip


From: Minneapolis, Minnesota
To: Brainerd, Minnesota
Average price/gallon of regular gas in Minneapolis: *$3.52 ($2.73 a year ago)
Miles, round-trip: about 250 miles
Travel time: About 2½ hours each way

If you call the Twin Cities of Minnesota home, the chain of lakes up near Brainerd makes for a great change of pace, perfect for anyone who needs a little break from summer construction and traffic jams in the metro area.

Minnesota's Brainerd Lakes Area is an easy getaway from the Twin Cities.
Minnesota's Brainerd Lakes Area is an easy getaway from the Twin Cities.

The Brainerd Lakes Area, home to more than 450 lakes, is about 125 miles from Minneapolis -- a doable one-tank trip. Skip the hotels or fancy lodges and try logging on to the website Vacation Rentals By Owner for a cabin tailored to your needs.

These lakes are home to hundreds of cabins, suitable for families large and small. It can be very economical, not to mention convenient, to have a little house all to yourself. I found a little cabin on Upper Gull Lake with its own stretch of beach and free use of the owner's canoe. The cabin was essentially one large room with a nice queen-size bed, a sitting area with TV, a kitchenette and a bathroom.

As for dining, if you want a fun family atmosphere where you can literally pull up your boat and order, check out Zorbaz on the Lake. It has a big kid-friendly menu and unique adult beverage concoctions, too. This spot can be a little touristy, so if quiet time is a priority for you, just bring something to throw on a grill or makeshift campfire by the beach.

There's plenty of fishing in the area, as well as golf, trails and swimming, and at night you'll have no problem hearing the occasional call of the loon. Not a bad way to spend a night -- or even two. -- Chris Welch


From: Kingston, Washington
To: Rialto Beach, Olympic Peninsula
Average price/gallon of regular gas in Seattle: $3.83 (price a year ago $3.00)
Miles, round-trip: About 260
Travel time: About three hours each way

When summer finally arrives in Seattle there's not a moment to spare to take full advantage of the long days and spectacular natural beauty. Everyone here knows how quickly the grey and drizzly weather can return. Luckily you can drive in any direction from Seattle and come across amazing scenery.

My favorite trip is to head West to the Olympic Peninsula, which lies between Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean, and is home to towering snow-capped mountains and Olympic National Park. With temperate rainforests, mountains and amazing camping and fishing, there are more activities in the Olympics than one tank of gas can carry you to. I try to branch out when I go, but one spot I always come back to is Rialto Beach near the Peninsula's westernmost edge.

Rialto Beach on Washington's Olympic Peninsula offers peaceful camping and Pacific views.
Rialto Beach on Washington's Olympic Peninsula offers peaceful camping and Pacific views.

The trip begins with a short car ferry ride across Puget Sound from Edmonds, just north of Seattle. Depending on the size of your gas tank, this trip might be a bit of a stretch on one tank, but it's worth it. You can fill up in Kingston, Washington, when you get off the ferry. From there it's about a 130-mile drive to Rialto Beach. Along the way, the town of Sequim offers lots of small-town charm and a few good options for food. I recommend the Alder Wood Bistro, which serves delicious locally caught seafood.

If you plan on camping, stop along the way in Port Angeles at the Wilderness Information Center to pick up permits. National Park Service guides are happy to point out camping spots and explain the tide schedule to help with hiking along the beach. I also recommend picking up a bear canister to store your food in away from your tent.

As you arrive at Rialto Beach, you'll forget you're only hours from a major metropolis. It's possible to spot bald eagles and the occasional seal along the wild coastline. Thick woods literally come to the ocean's edge. Rock towers that the wind and tides have carved over the centuries jut from the Pacific. Pitch a tent and make a fire at one of the small camping areas along the water's edge, and take in a truly beautiful sunset. -- Patrick Oppmann


From: Atlanta
To: Athens, Georgia
Average price/gallon of regular gas in Atlanta: $3.49 ($2.68 a year ago)
Miles, round-trip: 144 miles
Travel time: An 1½ hours each way (two hours in heavy traffic)

Athens is one of those must-see college towns. Home to the University of Georgia, Athens has a small-town feel with all the great, quirky college elements: endless live music, boutique shopping, delicious (and cheap) food and a thriving downtown scene.

Drive down the cost of your next road trip

Athens has three main districts: Downtown, Five Points and Prince Avenue. Each has a unique flavor to its funky shops. Wuxtry Records and Heery's Clothes Closet are downtown mainstays, while Prince Avenue's vintage shop Ohh, Boy! and Five Points' antique stores also beckon with unique finds.

Clubs in Athens, Georgia, including the 40 Watt, above, have long hosted rock shows, including hometown act R.E.M.
Clubs in Athens, Georgia, including the 40 Watt, above, have long hosted rock shows, including hometown act R.E.M.

Stroll through the university's expansive campus to soak up some Athens lore and see Sanford Stadium (home of the Georgia Bulldogs football team), or enjoy a walk through the nearby State Botanical Gardens. A Classic City tour of downtown reveals Athens' intriguing history.

Forgo seeing a summer blockbuster and take in an independent film at Ciné downtown, live entertainment at historic Morton Theatre or an aerial trapeze show at Canopy Studio. A trip to the Classic City isn't complete without catching a concert at clubs like the 40 Watt, Caledonia Lounge or the Rialto Room.

Sample some of the local flavor. Cali N' Tito's, the Last Resort, La Dolce Vita, Transmetropolitan, the Terrapin brewery and Farm 255 are a nice blend of the unique food culture in Athens.

Plan your trip around an event like the Twilight Criterium bike race, a UGA football game or the annual AthFest celebration of local music. -- Ashley Strickland


From: Philadelphia
To: Doylestown, Pennsylvania
Average price/gallon of regular gas in Philadelphia: $3.68 ($2.78 a year ago)
Miles, round-trip: About 50 miles
Travel time: Less than an hour each way

A short drive from Philadelphia, Doylestown is host to sites tied to two of the area's most famous native sons: author James Michener and tile maker Henry Chapman Mercer.

Traditional Arts & Crafts tiles are made at Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, established by Henry Chapman Mercer.
Traditional Arts & Crafts tiles are made at Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, established by Henry Chapman Mercer.

Michener endowed the James A. Michener Art Museum dedicated to the art and heritage of Pennsylvania's Bucks County region. The museum opened in 1988. Currently on view are a Pennsylvania folk arts show and an exhibit dedicated to the museum's first two decades of collecting.

The other notable figure is tile maker Mercer, an archaeologist, artist and writer and a leader in the Arts & Crafts movement.

Mercer's legacy is reflected in three sites: the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, where the iconic Mercer tiles are made; his fanciful concrete castle, Fonthill; and the Mercer Museum, known for its collection of Early American artifacts.

For more shopping, especially crafts, and entertainment check outPeddler's Village, roughly a 10-minute drive from Doylestown. The Colonial-style village features the Giggleberry Fair family entertainment center, charming stores and gardens and an array of restaurants. -- Sarah Hoye


From: Orlando
To: St. Augustine, Florida
Average price/gallon of regular gas in Orlando: $3.40 ($2.63 a year ago)
Miles, round-trip: About 200 miles
Travel time: A little under two hours each way

Need a break from Orlando's castles and fairy princesses? Head to the oldest city in the United States.

The city of St. Augustine is just a 90-minute drive from central Florida's amusement park mecca. Founded in 1565 under the orders of King Phillip II of Spain, St. Augustine is the oldest continuously settled city of European origin in the nation.

St. Augustine's St. George Street is a popular pedestrian shopping street in historic Old Town.
St. Augustine's St. George Street is a popular pedestrian shopping street in historic Old Town.

One of Old Town's main attractions, St. George Street, was a thoroughfare in the old Spanish town and today is accessible only on foot. Shops line the street selling everything from shells, hats, kites and candles to crystals.

Stop in at the Old School House near the city gates to see what's reputed to be the nation's oldest wooden schoolhouse, built more than 200 years ago.

Explore the tight alleyways and stop at Denoel French Pastry Shop for incredible desserts and coffee before heading to the city's historic fort.

Construction of the fort, the Castillo de San Marcos, started in 1672 to protect the Spanish city. Now the Castillo is managed by the National Park Service, which offers ranger talks and maps and brochures for self-guided tours

Cross over the ornate Bridge of Lions and head toward the St. Augustine Lighthouse. The eight-story, traditionally black-and-white-striped structure was completed in 1874. Be ready for the 219 steps that will carry visitors to the top of the structure. Once at the top, walk out for a spectacular view of the beach to the east and the city to the west.

To end the day, head back to the old town center where restaurants wait to fill up hungry guests before the drive back to central Florida to see Harry, Mickey and Shamu. -- John Couwels

*All fuel prices are AAA average prices on Thursday, June 30, for a gallon of regular gas.