The Inn at Montchanin Village
Only in Delaware could an entire village remain in the same family for five generations. Missy Lickle inherited Montchanin -- built to house laborers from the nearby DuPont gunpowder mills -- and she and her husband, Dan, turned it into a luxury inn. Located in the Brandywine River Valley (just three miles north of Wilmington), the inn has guest rooms scattered among houses, cottages, and a schoolhouse, all surrounded by carefully tended gardens.The former blacksmith's shop is now a restaurant called Krazy Kat's, where whimsical décor -- complete with paintings of cats and faux-fur upholstery -- belies the serious food: crab cakes with wild-mushroom-and-baby-spinach strudel, and chili-rubbed duck breast with Asian noodles and roasted peanut sauce. Rooms are decorated with period furniture and designer fabrics. We could have lived in the bathroom of our luxury suite, with its oversize marble shower, double whirlpool tub, two sinks, and fresh flowers. Within a short drive are Winterthur, now a museum of American decorative arts with a 60-acre garden; Longwood Gardens, 1,000 acres of exquisite gardens, woodlands, and meadows (don't miss the orchids in the conservatory); the Hagley Museum, site of an early Du Pont gunpowder works; the Brandywine River Museum, with art by three generations of the Wyeth family; and an excellent English pre-Raphaelite collection at the Delaware Art Museum.
INFO The Inn at Montchanin Village, Route 100, 800-269-2473; www.montchanin.com; $125-$375; 33 guest rooms.
It's just a short drive to see the rest of the Berkshires, but that would mean you'd have to leave the inn's inviting living room and cozy fire, relaxing swimming pool, waiting tennis court, and sweeping views of meadows and mountains. The original Devonfield, built by a Revolutionary War veteran, was completely rebuilt in 1928; during the summer of 1942 it was the residence of Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, her daughter, Princess Juliana, and her granddaughters. Guest rooms are comfortable but not lavish, light and airy, and traditionally furnished; many have floral wall coverings and hardwood floors with area rugs. The Berkshire Mountains offer exceptional cultural options, especially in summer, ranging from the legendary concerts of the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood in Lenox to mass moca in North Adams to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge. There are historic sites like Edith Wharton's home, the Mount; the Hancock Shaker Village; and the Stockbridge estate of sculptor Daniel Chester French (he did the Lincoln Memorial). Area shopping ranges from high-quality craft stores to outlet malls.
INFO Devonfield, 85 Stockbridge Road, 800-664-0880; www.devonfield.com; $110-$290; ten guest rooms.
The Inn at Richmond
Breakfast on strawberries with lemon-mint glaze and an asparagus frittata, then stroll outside to watch horses grazing in the meadow. In their imaginative restoration, innkeepers Jerri and Dan Buehler have balanced 225-year-old farmhouse charm with queen- and king-size beds, new bathrooms, air-conditioning, cable TV, and in-room telephones. The diminutive Petite Suite has a pine Cannonball bed topped with a dramatic Waverly floral print and tranquil, camel-colored walls and carpeting. Port and sherry are always available in the book-lined library; sodas and coffee, in the garden room. (For Berkshire activities, see the entry for the Devonfield, above.)
INFO The Inn at Richmond, 802 State Road, 888-968-4748; www.innatrichmond.com; $110-$295; ten guest rooms.
Originally a tavern with lodgings, Rookwood was Victorianized in 1880, complete with gables and turrets. Outside, the inn is a classic "painted lady," mauve with gray-green and dark-red accents. Inside, innkeeper Amy Lindner-Lesser has furnished it with English and American antiques, Oriental rugs, and period wallpapers. Amy welcomes families with well-supervised children, as well as couples enjoying a romantic escape, and takes pains to ensure that the former don't disturb the latter. The Rookwood's breakfasts are delicious, with challah French toast or the frittata with mushrooms, onions, and roasted peppers among the favorites. (For Berkshire activities, see the entry for the Devonfield, above.)
INFO Rookwood, 11 Old Stockbridge Road, 800-223-9750; www.rookwoodinn.com; $85-$300; twenty guest rooms.
Village Green Inn
The best barometer of a B&B's quality is the percentage of repeat guests, and on our last visit to the Village Green, all were returnees. Welcoming innkeepers Diane and Don Crosby spoil their guests with breakfasts of homemade cinnamon buns and blueberry French toast. Well fueled, we rode one of the inn's bicycles down the Shining Sea bikeway to Woods Hole, with a quick detour onto Church Street to see the Nobska Point lighthouse. The Falmouth Heights beach has lovely views of Martha's Vineyard. And if you want to see the Vineyard up close, make it a day trip; the ferry is just three miles from the inn. In the afternoon, relax amid white wicker and red geraniums on one of the porches, sipping lemonade and munching one of Don's homemade chocolate-chip cookies. Dining favorites include the Quarterdeck in town, Regatta by the Sea on the harbor, and the casual Chappaquoit Grille in West Falmouth.
INFO The Village Green Inn, 40 Main Street, 800-237-1119; www.villagegreeninn.com; $90-$225; five guest rooms.
The Queen Victoria
Cape May, N.J.
It's a long drive down the Garden State Parkway to Cape May, but once you've checked in at the Queen Victoria, you won't need your car again. The beach, shops, and restaurants are all an easy walk in this compact Victorian beach town. Although it seems that every second house in the historic district is a B&B (the few that aren't bear signs reading private home), the Queen Victoria can be counted on to offer standout service. When the Disney people decided to open a Victorian-style beach hotel in Orlando a few years ago, they sent operatives to the Queen Victoria to learn how it's really done from twenty-year veteran innkeepers Dane and Joan Wells. Guests enjoy period décor in a froufrou-free zone, and Dane can answer almost any question about the area. The nation's first seaside resort, the entire town is a National Historic Landmark, so be sure to sign up for a walking tour to learn more about its elaborate Victorian architecture. Whale-watching and sailing trips are also available. Few local restaurants have liquor licenses (don't ask; it's a New Jersey thing), so bring along a few bottles from your personal stash, or stop in at Collier's for beer and wine.
INFO The Queen Victoria, 102 Ocean Street, 609-884-8702; www.queenvictoria.com; $195-$285; 21 guest rooms.