Liter of homemade Merlot, western New York: $10
Make-your-own pancakes, Central Florida: $4.50
One-day rafting trip, Main Salmon River: $105
Bottom-dollar Destination .......
With apologies to Sun Valley, Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains and Lost River Valley embody the meaning of frontier. Book a cabin at Redfish Lake Lodge (from $145; 208-644-9096 or redfishlake.com; opens May 23), then motor two hours over to Wild Horse Creek Ranch (208-588-2575 or wildhorsecreekranch.net), where resident dudes take guests on private horseback treks ($38 for two hours; $180 for an overnight) to a 10,000-foot glacial lake. Hook up with Kookaburra outfitters to raft the Main Salmon ($105 from May to October; 888-654-4386 or raft4fun.com), traveling fifteen miles through granite-walled clefts that are deeper than the Grand Canyon.
Buy tickets now for the Mets-Nats series April 23 and 24 (nationals.com) then climb on Greyhound’s new BoltBus to D.C. (boltbus.com), relishing the free Wi-Fi, ample legroom, and staggered pricing system that tops out at $25 each way. Then scoot over to baseball’s newest stadium, Nationals Park. The ballpark’s food options—half-smoke sausage from Ben’s Chili Bowl ($6.75); a Dinger, vanilla ice cream smushed between chocolate cookies ($6), from Gifford’s Ice Cream and Candy Co.—put the Mets’ and Yanks’ offerings to shame. Stay at the sleek new Hotel Palomar in Dupont Circle (from $199; 877-866-3070 or hotelpalomar-dc.com).
Once just the last stop for water and sunblock before Big Bend National Park, Marathon (population 500ish) is now a proper destination, with big-city offerings—spa, art, lattes—at West Texas prices. Flip through the Western-lit collection at Front Street Books (432-386-4249 or fsbooks.com). Stroll the aisles of organic quinoa and cowboy hats at French Co. Grocer (432-386-4522 or frenchcogrocer.com). Take drinks alongside ranch hands at the town’s heart and soul, the Gage Hotel (from $84; 432-386-4205 or gagehotel.com). And if that’s all too civilized, try bird-watching or mountain biking in the surrounding Chihuahuan Desert.
Since the preppy fashion trend shows no sign of abating, go directly to the source: a seventeenth-century blue-blood town just fifteen miles from Boston. Tossed-off yachtwear turns up in secondhand stores and yard sales every May. Find broken-in topsiders, cable-knits, and slickers at the Lighthouse Thrift Shop, St. Michael’s, and Rags to Riches, all on or near Pleasant Street. Haul your buys back to the Oceanwatch B&B (from $185; 781-639-8660 or oceanwatchbandb.com), an 1880 house with a wraparound porch and widow’s walk. Drink Dark & Stormys ($6.50) and slurp chowder ($5.75) at the Three Cod Tavern (781-639-3263 or threecodtavern.com).
West Almond, New York
A little bit luxe (Finnish-style sauna, organic Cornish hen), a little bit grungy (composting outhouse, lean-tos), the Pollywogg Hollër resort in western New York isn’t for everyone. But it is unique. The 30-acre ecohaven, a scenic five-hour drive from the city ($110 per person, including dinner and breakfast; 800-291-9668 or pollywoggholler.com) is studded with sculptures and a geodesic dome and surrounded by 30 miles of trails. Stick around for Sunday afternoons, when folksy bands from Buffalo drop by to play concerts fueled by the owners’ homemade Beaujolais and black-raspberry Merlot ($10 per liter).
Pop open a local 90-pointer, like the Griffin Creek Rogue Syrah ($30), beside a crackling fireplace at the Weasku Inn (from $195; 541-471-8000 or weasku.com), and toast to the West Coast’s last, best undiscovered wine country. Leapfrog between the Rogue, Umpqua, and Applegate valleys, all within five hours of Portland. Must stops: Roseburg’s Abacela (abacela.com), prized for its Spanish varietals like the silver-medal-winning 2006 Rosado ($14), and Medford’s RoxyAnn Winery (roxyann.com), which makes a velvety ’05 Claret ($26).
Show the kids another side of the Disney State: the world’s largest concentration of freshwater springs. Make the DeLand Country Inn (from $89; 866-403-8009 or delandcountryinn.vpweb.com) your headquarters, and drive no more than 45 minutes between Alexander Springs ($4; 352-669-3522), Blue Springs ($5 per car; 386-775-3663), and De Leon Springs ($5 per car; 386-985-4212), whose adjacent Old Spanish Sugar Mill (386-985-5644) lets you make your own whole-wheat pancakes with jars of local honey ($4.50).
Guánica, Puerto Rico
Hop a flight to Ponce, then drive 30 minutes to this 9,500-acre dry forest spread out over ten miles of undeveloped Caribbean coastline. Hike through cacti and palm trees, scattering crabs as you go, on your way to isolation at Ballena Beach. One mark against Guánica is the cuisine. The solution? Stay at the funky Mary Lee’s by the Sea (from $80; 787-821-3600), and barbecue locally bought snapper on your patio grill. Mary herself will guide you to the freshest catch in town.