11 Favorite Vacation Spots of Trump, Obama, and Other U.S. Presidents
It’s no secret President Donald Trump favors a jet-setting lifestyle. But Trump isn’t the first president to enjoy a good vacation. In fact, many U.S. presidents have had favorite vacation spots, where they go to clear their heads.
The Washington Post reported many people believe persistent myths about presidential vacations. When they go on vacation, presidents have to take about 200 people with them. They continue to receive intelligence and security briefings. And presidents pay for their own lodging, food, and incidental expenses. However, taxpayers pay for travel expenses, such as the use of Air Force One and ground transportation.
Curious where Donald Trump, Barack Obama, and other U.S. presidents like to vacation? Read on to find out.
1. Mar-a-Lago, Florida
Trump famously retreats to Mar-a-Lago on his weekends. Vanity Fair reports that the Palm Beach estate was built by breakfast-cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post in the 1920s. Before her death in 1972, Post left Mar-a-Lago to the U.S. government as a presidential retreat. But former Presidents Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter preferred other vacation spots. And Carter’s administration, looking at the tax burden and maintenance costs, gave it back to the Post Foundation in 1981. The foundation then put it on the market for $20 million. And Trump offered $25 million for the house, land, and furnishings. Post’s daughters said no.
So Trump went through a third party to buy the beachfront lot in front of Mar-a-Lago and threatened to put up a huge home to block Mar-a-Lago’s view. Eventually, he bought Mar-a-Lago for less than $8 million. He proposed subdividing the property to build mini-mansions — a plan Palm Beach’s town council rejected. Private clubs dominated the town’s social landscape. So Trump opened the Mar-a-Lago Club, fighting the town over ordinances, fines, and lawsuits all the way. And now, Mar-a-Lago has become Trump’s “winter White House.”
2. Camp David, Maryland
Mar-a-Lago is to Trump what Camp David has been to many previous presidents. History.com reports that Camp David has served as a presidential retreat since the 1940s. Camp David was part of a New Deal project to build several camps in the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland. In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt selected one of the camps and named it Shangri-La. In 1953, President Dwight Eisenhower renamed it Camp David after his grandson. Vanity Fair notes that Camp David, situated near Thurmont, Maryland, “has provided generations of presidents an opportunity to escape the swamp.” However, “the rural retreat can, in many ways, mirror the bare-bones seclusion that presidents have felt in the Oval Office.”
Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, according to The Washington Post, described Camp David as “in principle a log cabin, with all modern improvements.” Former President Harry Truman, on the other hand, told his friends that the retreat was “boring.” And Carter used the “claustrophobic” feel of the retreat to broker deals with world leaders — and then got back to the White House. Obama visited dozens of times. But as USA Today notes, both Obama and Trump are city guys “more at home on the golf course than in the woods.” Nonetheless, many past presidents have retreated to Camp David over the years.
3. Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
Massachusetts island Martha’s Vineyard has been a favorite vacation spot for two recent presidents. As Boston Magazine reports, “Over the past 20 years, Vineyard locals have had the unique privilege of hosting two presidential families: first the Clintons, then the Obamas.” The Los Angeles Times reports that to many Martha’s Vineyard residents, the presidents’ presence on the island was “no big deal.” According to the newspaper, the remote nature of the island has drawn many presidents to it.
Former President Ulysses S. Grant learned of the island during the Civil War and put it on the map by vacationing there in 1874 during his presidency. And former Presidents Chester A. Arthur and Grover Cleveland both visited, as did Franklin D. Roosevelt. And while former President John F. Kennedy maintained a compound in Hyannis, Massachusetts, across the sound on Cape Cod, he liked sailing near the Vineyard. Former first lady Jackie Kennedy made appearances on the island and later bought a remote property there. Since the Kennedys, the Vineyard has drawn mostly Democratic presidents. The Clintons revived its status as a presidential retreat, and the Obamas enjoyed the community’s familiarity with the idea of spotting the president and his family around town.
4. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
The Clintons vacationed on Martha’s Vineyard most of the summers of Bill Clinton’s presidency. But The New York Times reports that “in 1995, worried that spending his vacation among the rich and famous made him appear out of touch, he vacationed outside Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming so he could be shown camping.” Interestingly enough, once Hillary Clinton became a New York senator, the family began vacationing on the shores of Long Island — a choice that some frowned upon as she sought the presidency herself.
The White House Historical Association reports that Bill Clinton visited “the remote regions of Yellowstone to witness the controversial release of wolves into the wild.” On the trip to the Grand Teton National Park, “a thunderstorm pelted Clinton with hail the size of hard peas prompting a park ranger to say, ‘Hail to the chief.'” According to The New York Times, the president would hike, camp, raft, and ride horses. But The Washington Post reports Clinton reportedly “‘hated’ hiking, fishing and camping even if it did help his poll numbers.”
5. Prairie Chapel Ranch, Texas
Architectural Digest reports that former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush routinely vacationed at Prairie Chapel Ranch, a 1,600-acre retreat in Crawford, Texas, while Bush was in office. The property, which is about 25 miles west of Waco, Texas, was often referred to as the “western White House” during Bush’s presidency. The retreat was completed in 2001, just after Bush became the 43rd president. The property — and Bush’s frequent trips to it — turned Crawford into something of a tourist destination.
The publication notes that during Bush’s two terms in office, the ranch “welcomed numerous heads of state — from Russian President Vladimir Putin to Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz — some of whom were coaxed to join the leader of the free world as he raced along the property’s 40-mile network of bike trails.” Another way Bush spent his vacations at the ranch? “Clearing brush, often in searing heat, sometimes encouraging aides to join him,” according to Architectural Digest.
6. Kennebunkport, Maine
Former President George H.W. Bush famously vacationed at his family’s compound on the Maine coast at Kennebunkport, where he played as a boy and raced speedboats as a vacationing president. But as the Los Angeles Times reported in 1988, Kennebunkport and the family compound located at Walker’s Point is “much more than a vacation spot” to the Bush family.
For a man who sought his fortune in the oil business and fame in politics, for a man who has lived in Beijing and Bakersfield, in Midland and Washington, for a man who has moved 28 times in his adult life, the constant for George Bush has been Kennebunkport. Every year of his life except when he was away in the Pacific during the World War II year of 1944, Bush has come home at least once.
The compound consists of a main lodge, a guest cabin, a small two-story cabin, a security center, and an assortment of other buildings and cabins. Bush’s great-grandfather purchased the estate in the late 1800s. George H.W. Bush eventually purchased it, and the estate has since remained in the family. Bush’s son, George W. Bush, routinely visits Kennebunkport. The family has also hosted many weddings, holidays, and receptions at the property.
7. Warm Springs, Georgia
Former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt routinely famously visited Warm Springs, Georgia, during many summers. In fact, the National Park Service reports that FDR visited the “therapeutic waters at Warm Springs every year, except 1942, from his first visit in 1924 until his death there in 1945. Influenced by his experiences in this rural area, President Roosevelt developed New Deal programs, such as the Rural Electrification Administration.” FDR was paralyzed from the waist down by polio in 1921. He initially visited the resort at Warm Springs hoping to find a cure. He felt an improvement by his second day at the resort.
In 1926, he bought the resort property and 1,200 acres. Then, in 1927, he founded the Warm Springs Foundation. The organization created the first hospital exclusively dedicated to the care of patients with poliomyelitis. By 1928, Roosevelt “regained enough physical and emotional strength to return to his great passion, politics,” according to the National Park Service. He built a one-story cottage, called the “Little White House,” that was finished in 1932. And even as he led the nation through the Great Depression and World War I, FDR found time to dedicate to the foundation — and to spend at Warm Springs.
8. Santa Barbara, California
The Week reports that at the end of his second term as governor of California in 1974, former President Ronald Reagan paid just over a half a million dollars to acquire Rancho del Cielo in Santa Barbara, in California’s Santa Ynez Mountains. “The 688-acre ranch, complete with stables and a 1,500-square-foot adobe house, was Reagan’s go-to vacation destination while he was in office, and he entertained some big names there, including Margaret Thatcher, Queen Elizabeth II, and Mikhail Gorbachev, who gamely wore a cowboy hat during his visit,” according to The Week.
The Presidential Library & Museum reports that Rancho del Cielo “was used frequently during the Reagan administration as a vacation home.” A very small staff ran the ranch, and it was an informal property with no central heating. Reagan enjoyed working outdoors when he visited the property. Cows, dogs, and horses roamed at Rancho del Cielo, and the Reagan family canoed on a small lake at the property.
9. Stonewall, Texas
George W. Bush wasn’t the first president to vacation in Texas. Former President Lyndon B. Johnson was Texas born and bred. And during his presidency, he routinely returned to his ranch in Stonewall, Texas. In fact, the National Park Service reports that a property called the “LBJ Ranch was where he was born, lived, died, and was buried.” The Week reports that Johnson was “very involved” in the everyday operations of his ranch. In fact, he grew the LBJ Ranch into a 2,700-acre property, populated by 400 head of Hereford cattle.
Furthermore, “Johnson was no absentee owner when he was in Washington, either.” As president, he routinely visited the ranch on vacations. In fact, he spent 490 days — about a quarter of his presidency — at the ranch. And when he was in Washington, he “supposedly drove his foreman crazy by calling every day to talk about the weather on the ranch or how the pastures looked.” CNN reports that Johnson would scare ranch visitors by pretending the brakes in his car were broken as he drove toward a lake. But they were actually riding with him in a 1962 Amphicar, the only mass-produced civilian amphibious automobile.
10. Key Biscayne, Florida
The Week reports that when Nixon wanted a break from Washington, he vacationed in Key Biscayne off Miami. The president visited his “Florida White House” more than 50 times when he was in office. The property eventually included three houses and a floating helipad. Both the helipad and other amenities were paid for by taxpayers to the tune of $625,000. The government also paid more than $1 million, improving what Nixon called “La Casa Pacifica,” a mansion Nixon purchased overlooking the Pacific Ocean in San Clemente California.
Another source of intrigue? The Week says, “Given that this house was Nixon’s retreat, it’s no surprise that some shady dealings transpired on the premises.” Nixon reportedly discussed plans for the Watergate break-in at the house. He also retreated to the property when the cover-up was discovered. Nixon eventually sold the property. And it fell into disrepair after the sale. In 2004, it was demolished.
11. Key West, Florida
The Week reports Truman vacationed in a converted Key West, Florida, duplex. The house had been built in 1890 for the commandant and paymaster of Key West’s naval base. And it had already hosted former President William Howard Taft while he was in office. Another notable guest of what would become Truman’s “Little White House?” Thomas Edison, who lived in the house for six months as he developed 41 new weapons during World War I.
Truman spent 175 days in Key West during his two terms in office. And he wasn’t the last president to stay in the house while in office. Former Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy later used the house. The property is now a tourist attraction. Its website provides the travel logs of Truman’s many trips to the Little White House. “There are numerous mentions of key staff, both political and military, flying into Key West to meet with President Harry S. Truman,” according to the property website.