Presidential Vacations

Like many before them, the First Family flees Washington today for a little R&R. From Gerald Ford in Vail to Richard Nixon at Disneyland, VIEW OUR GALLERY of past presidential vacations.

Presidential vacations are as much a spectacle for the public as they are a much-needed break from the never-ending job of running the country. This week, President Obama took off from dealing with national security leaks, health care, and al Qaeda threats to relax in Martha’s Vineyard with his family. Just in time for presidential vacation season, The Daily Beast takes a look at where past presidents have gone to get away from it all.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Barack and Michelle Obama

On Saturday, President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrived in Cape Cod, Mass., to connect via helicopter to their rented vacation home on the island of Martha's Vineyard where they'll spend the next eight days. But no matter where he goes or for how long, Obama will never really be able to escape it all. "The president very much looks forward to being able to spend a few days with his family, and it also remains the case that wherever he is, he is president of the United States, and will be dedicating a portion of his day to being briefed and working on all the issues that are on the table in front of him," Press Secretary Jay Carney noted upon his departure.

Dennis Brack, Pool / Getty Images

Barack Obama

President Obama paused his re-election campaign to relax to Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains. Last summer’s vacation wass a bit more low key than previous year’s, perhaps because the president suffered some public backlash for the 10 days he and his family spent vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard.


Bill Clinton and the Kennedys

The Obamas are hardly the first presidential family to vacation on Martha’s Vineyard. The island is also a favorite getaway for the Clintons, and the Kennedy family has long retreated to its expansive compound in Hyannis Port, on nearby Cape Cod. In this photo, American royalty joins forces, as then-President Bill Clinton sails on the senator’s yacht, Mya, with Ted, Ted Kennedy, Jr., and Patrick Kennedy.

Charles Ommanney / Getty Images

George W. Bush

It seems like only yesterday we were pondering George W.’s working retreats at the Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford, Texas. The 1,600-acre property features seven canyons and three miles of frontage along Rainey Creek and the Middle Bosque River. While at the ranch, Bush was known to fish on his man-made pond, mountain bike and jog on its trails, and generally reconnect with his Texas roots ( as hilariously portrayed by Will Ferrell). During his presidency, Bush entertained a host of foreign dignitaries at the ranch, including Tony Blair, Saudi King Abdullah, and Ariel Sharon.

Cynthia Johnson, Liason / Getty Images

George H.W. Bush

George H. W. Bush’s vacation spot of choice was his family home in the small town of Kennebunkport, Maine. Built by his maternal grandfather, the sprawling retreat was where Bush spent nearly every summer—and catapulted Kennebunkport into stardom following his election to the presidency in November 1988. During his term, Bush invited world leaders from Margaret Thatcher to Mikhail Gorbachev to the residence. In this photo, then-Vice President Bush, Jeb, and George W. fish off the Kennebunkport coast.

Walter Zeboski / AP Photo

Ronald and Nancy Reagan

Before there was Crawford, there was Rancho del Cielo. The mountaintop retreat near Santa Barbara, California, was known as the Western White House during Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Reagan often entertained world leaders at the ranch; he also signed the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 there. (Ron and Nancy purchased the ranch near the end of Reagan’s second term as governor of California.) In this photo, taken in July 1976, the couple enjoys a canoe ride on the property, shortly after Reagan announced he’d choose liberal Republican Senator Richard S. Schweiker as his vice presidential running mate if nominated at the Republican National Convention the following month.

White House Photography Courtesy Gerald R. Ford Library / AP Photo

Gerald Ford

An avid skier, Gerald Ford spent much of his free time on the slopes of Vail, Colorado, where he owned a 10,000-square-foot, ski-in, ski-out retreat. His “first taste of the slopes of the Rockies came in a 1968 vacation,” reports ESPN. The 38th president went on to bring two World Alpine Ski Championships to Colorado, and in 1982 he established the Ford Cup in Vail, now called the American Ski Classic. On Presidents Day 2007, Vail and Beaver Creek renamed two ski runs after Ford.

AP Photo

John, Jackie, Caroline, and John Jr.

“I always go to Hyannis Port to be revived, to know again the power of the sea and the master who rules over it and all of us,” John F. Kennedy once said of his beloved vacation spot. The Kennedys often retreated to their Cape Cod compound for sun, sailing, and R&R. Sadly, the area took on tragic significance over the years: Ted Kennedy’s notorious 1969 car accident, which killed Mary Jo Kopechne, took place on Chappaquiddick, a small island nearby, and John F. Kennedy Jr. died when his plane crashed off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard.

AP Photo

Richard Nixon

Ah, Richard Nixon’s innocent days. During a 1955 vacation in California, then-Vice President Nixon and his wife, Pat, took their two young daughters, Julie and Patricia, to Disneyland. Here, the family is shown leaving the Fantasyland castle; they reportedly spent the day sightseeing and enjoying the rides. During his presidency, when he wasn’t indulging his inner child, Nixon was known to escape to a compound he owned on Key Biscayne, off Miami—often referred to as his Florida White House.

Michael Rougier, Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images

Dwight Eisenhower

Growing up in Kansas, Dwight Eisenhower loved to fish and hunt—hobbies he carried with him into adulthood. During his presidency, he’s reported to have gone on a veritable fishing tour across the U.S., hitting up streams and lakes in Florida, Rhode Island, Maine, South Dakota, Georgia, Maryland, and Colorado. Yet Eisenhower apparently wasn’t a fan of the presidential yacht, the USS Williamsburg, on which predecessor Harry Truman often vacationed. The golden age of presidential yachting is said to have come to an end with Eisenhower’s 1953 inauguration—Ike sailed on the ship just once before he ordered it decommissioned and sold.

MPI / Getty Images

Teddy Roosevelt

It’s no contest: Teddy Roosevelt’s post-presidential vacation puts other presidential vacations to shame. Three weeks after he left the White House in 1909, Roosevelt embarked on an African safari that lasted nearly a year. He’d always wanted to hunt the continent’s big game, but he also wanted the trip to be a scientific one—so he invited the Smithsonian Institute to come along, and donated animal trophies to the institute, providing dozens of new species for its collections. As if the safari wasn’t productive enough, Roosevelt wrote a series of articles about it for Scribner’s magazine, for a fee of $50,000. In 1910, the articles were published in a book, African Game Trails.

AP Photo

Harry Truman

When he wasn’t sailing on the presidential yacht, Harry Truman liked to head south to his so-called Little White House in Key West, Florida. While at his seaside home, Truman discussed the Marshall Plan, the Truman Doctrine, and the recognition of the State of Israel. But the home’s historic origins go back further: Before Truman moved in, the property served as headquarters of the naval station during the Spanish American War, and later, Thomas Edison lived in it for six months while inventing new weapons for World War I. Here, the president, first lady Bess, and their daughter Margaret relax in front of the house in December 1949.