40 Minutes by Car
The long, predawn crawl out to the Rockaways is a rite of passage for city surfers. But starting in May, you can wake up right beside the breaks by staying at the new, leed-certified Allegria Hotel & Spa (from $199; allegriahotel.com), which also has a great rooftop infinity pool. Located just across from the LIRR station, Long Beach Surf Shop rents high-quality Firewire boards for $40 a day (and beginner boards for $25). After a day in the surf, chomp into smoky barbecue at Swingbelly’s, which has specials like $10 buckets of beer.
FOR PICNIC BUFFS
85 Minutes by Car
A leafy Poconos town with big-city ambitions, Milford has a very chic Relais & Châteaux property, the Hotel Fauchère (from $170; hotelfauchere.com), to go along with several art spaces (the BlueStone Gallery is the latest); some well-curated shops; and a South Bronx–quality Italian deli, Fretta’s. Pack a picnic of fennel sausage, balls of scamorza cheese, and flaky sfogliatelle, and take it up the hill for free lawn concerts at Grey Towers, a French Renaissance–style château.
FOR MUSEUM HOPPERS
4 Hours by Car
Alongside the long-delayed and now instantly beloved HarborWalk, Boston is flaunting its art muscle this spring. Check out ICA’s Shepard Fairey exhibit; Kiki Smith’s go as artist-as-curator at Wellesley’s Davis Museum; and two Mexican-themed shows, with works by Edward Weston and Diego Rivera, at the MFA. The Fairmont Battery Wharf (from $150; fairmont.com/batterywharf) opened in December and houses Michelin-starred Guy Martin’s new Sensing. Try the $19 tasting platter, with ornate “snacks” like king crab in grapefruit jelly.
FOR SMALL-TOWN SHOPPERS
2.5 Hours by Car
The liberal-leaning burg on New York’s Pennsylvania border is shaping up to be the Woodstock of Sullivan County. There’s a great café (Narrowsburg Roasters), some sophisticated shops (including Nest, owned by former Vogue designer Anna Bern), and a handful of galleries (the newest is Matthew Solomon, specializing in botanically inspired ceramics and locally handmade Windsor chairs). Bunk down twenty minutes up the road at the Golden Guernsey Inn (from $100; thegoldenguernsey.com), a born-again barn run by a hip vegetarian couple from Brooklyn.
New Haven, Connecticut
95 Minutes by Car
The college town’s burgers and pizza are justifiably famous (just check out the customer logjams at Louis’ Lunch and Pepe’s Pizza). Less known are its bounty of locavore restaurants, which have gained steam alongside Yale’s Sustainable Food Project championed by Alice Waters (a former Yale mom). Start at the cozy new fromagerie, Caseus, where $14 gets you four local cheeses served with artisanal breads and preserves. Chef Denise Appel whisks up farmer’s-market creations like smoked-duck nachos at Zinc. Desserts like the brown-sugar crème brûlée and ginger-spice cake are a main draw at Heirloom, housed in the new Study at Yale (from $269; studyhotels.com), a boutique hotel with bookshelves stocked with hardbacks penned by Yale alums.
FOR URBAN EXPLORERS
85 Minutes by Plane
Much-maligned Buffalo is in the midst of a renaissance of sorts. The new Burchfield Penney Art Center opened in November with 7,500 works by 600 artists and a strong emphasis on New Yorkers like Cindy Sherman. In March, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin D. Martin House opened a sleek new visitors’ center designed by Toshiko Mori. And then there’s the Erie Canal Harbor, which has been renovated (to the tune of $53 million) to accommodate guided history walks, kayaking, and a lineup of summer concerts and events. No trip is complete without a $10 plate of wings at Anchor Bar. Stay downtown at the stately Mansion on Delaware Ave (from $195; mansionondelaware.com).
2.5 Hours by Car
Right next door to André Balazs’s scene-y Sunset Beach Hotel, the historic 80-year old Pridwin (from $179; pridwin.com) turns the volume down for families. The resort rents sunfish sailboats, paddleboats, and bikes and hosts tennis clinics at the attached Moussa Drame Tennis Club. Grab a few steamed lobsters and cherrystones on the half-shell to go at Bob’s Fish Market, and paddle off to the five-mile-long Coecles Harbor Marine Water Trail, where you can spot fiddler crabs, osprey, and turtles. Break for a picnic on the breezy veranda of Taylor Island’s century-old Smith-Taylor cabin.