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Strategic Retreats

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Thistlebrook
Cooperstown, N.Y.

For a romantic escape, Thistlebrook -- an elegantly restored 1866 barn -- offers beautiful rooms with an eclectic mix of European, American, and Chinese antique furnishings, outstanding breakfasts, and a peaceful country setting, just three miles from town. An early-morning stroll is a great way to work up an appetite for breakfasts of orange pancakes or frittatas. Long-time owners Jim and Paula Bugonian recommend relaxing on their deck while looking out at the beautiful valley and a pond that's ideal for bird-watching.

INFO Thistlebrook Bed & Breakfast, 316 County Highway 28, 800-596-9305; www.thistlebrook.com; $120-$145; five guest rooms.

Six Sisters
Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Nearly demolished in the sixties in the name of modernization, Saratoga Springs, the "Queen of the Spas," has regained all her royal charms -- and more. Longtime Saratoga innkeepers Kate Benton and husband Steve Ramirez will show you to a comfortable room in their 1880 Victorian inn and give you the inside scoop on all that Saratoga has to offer: swimming and boating on area lakes, hiking in the Adirondack Mountains, tasting the famous waters and enjoying a spa mineral bath and massage, visiting a variety of museums, and watching a world-class ballet or concert at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. There are more than 1,000 gingerbread Victorian buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places, so just strolling Saratoga's streets, browsing its charming shops, and sampling food in its restaurants can fill a weekend. High rollers come to Saratoga for the Thoroughbred-racing season (July 26 to September 4), when room rates double.

INFO Six Sisters Bed and Breakfast, 149 Union Avenue, 518-583-1173; www.sixsistersbandb.com; $85-$300; four guest rooms.

PENNSYLVANIA
Bucksville House
Kintnersville, Pa.

Built in 1795, Bucksville House in Bucks County has served as a hotel, a stagecoach shop, a speakeasy during Prohibition, and a tavern thereafter. Now painstakingly restored to its Colonial past, the inn is furnished with owner Joe Szollosi's hand-crafted reproductions and his wife Barbara's wonderful antiques, from exceptional early-American quilts to unusual biscuit servers and salt-glaze pottery. Generous breakfasts are served in what was originally the 1795 blacksmith shop with its walk-in fireplace, or out in the garden gazebo. Each guest room is appealing and a great value, but our favorites are the large third-floor suite and the Back Room. Beautiful grounds surround the inn, with a stocked pond and herb, flower, and vegetable gardens. The owners have a few ghost stories to tell, if you care to ask. (For activities around the Delaware River, see the entry for New Jersey's Chestnut Hill.)

INFO Bucksville House B&B, 4501 Durham Road, 888-617-6300; www.bucksvillehouse.com; $100-$130; five guest rooms.

Fairville Inn
Chadds Ford, Pa.

Two miles north of Wilmington, just over the Pennsylvania border, is the Fairville Inn, with guest rooms located in the 1820 Main House, the Carriage House, and the Springhouse. Mercifully uncluttered, the guest rooms are decorated with pastel colors and soft floral patterns; many have queen-size canopy beds and fireplaces. Since the inn is right on Route 52, light sleepers should ask for a room at the back of the inn, in the Carriage House or Springhouse. We were welcomed into the spacious parlor with tea and cookies upon arrival; breakfast includes hot entrées, fresh fruit, juice, and just-baked pastries. (For nearby activities in the Brandywine River Valley, see the listing for the Inn at Montchanin Village in Delaware.)

INFO Fairville Inn, 506 Kennett Pike, 610-388-5900; www.fairvilleinn.com; $150-$205; fifteen guest rooms.

RHODE ISLAND
Francis Malbone House
Newport, R.I.

Newport, high society's summer colony since the nineteenth century, has more than 100 inns, many of them first-rate, so it's hard to single out favorites. But a top pick is the Francis Malbone House, a 1760 Colonial mansion, impeccably restored as a luxury B&B. The elegant décor -- Queen Anne-style furnishings, Oriental rugs, and fine paintings and prints -- is enhanced by the exceptionally friendly and energetic young staff. Breakfast is served in the garden and can include a warm apple cake and a Mexican frittata. Afternoon tea is no less tempting, with delicious cinnamon scones, oatmeal-chocolate-chip cookies, coconut cookies, and chocolate cake. Be sure to walk the three-mile-long Cliff Walk, past lush lawns and extravagant summer "cottages" on one side and steep cliffs and crashing waves on the other. Check the Website or ask about discounted rates for last-minute availability, a great value for this five-diamond property.

INFO The Francis Malbone House, 392 Thomas Street, 800-846-0392; www.malbone.com; $155-$395; eighteen guest rooms.

Cliffside Inn
Newport, R.I.

One hundred yards from the Cliff Walk is the Cliffside Inn, long the summer home of mysterious painter-recluse Beatrice Turner, whose art still adorns the inn's walls. Shielded from traffic yet within walking distance of Newport's attractions, Cliffside's guest rooms are decorated with Victorian antiques. Under the watchful eye of innkeeper Stephan Nicolas, the welcoming staff spoils guests with peach pancakes and strawberry butter, generous afternoon tea, and even little pastries at evening turndown. For a special occasion, reserve the extravagant Seascape Suite on the third floor with a water view as well as skylights in the bedroom and over the double-whirlpool tub. The inn is full most weekends, so call at least several months ahead. However, its Website does offer terrific deals on single nights here and there.

INFO Cliffside Inn, 2 Seaview Avenue, 800-845-1811; www.cliffsideinn.com; $225-$500; sixteen guest rooms.

Castle Hill Inn
Newport, R.I.

For outstanding water views, reserve at the beautifully renovated Castle Hill Inn, about three miles from town. This once-faded dowager has been amazingly restored and offers first-rate accommodations in a superb location overlooking Newport Bay and the Castle Hill lighthouse. Ask for a room in the mansion, Harbor House, or Beach House; the rustic Beach Cottage units have only the view to recommend them.

INFO Castle Hill Inn & Resort, 590 Ocean Drive, 888-466-1355; www.castlehillinn.com; $250-$495; 25 guest rooms.


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