It’s not too late to go somewhere lovely for Labor Day. Air travel is less than appealing right now, but if you’re willing to make a few compromises (standard percale instead of Egyptian cotton, near the beach rather than on the beach), there are still vacancies within a few hours’ drive from midtown. In fact, finding a room might be easier than finding a weekend car rental, but if you change your pickup point you’ll have better luck. Avis and Hertz (near the Jersey City PATH stations) both had economy and luxury cars available when we went to press, and you’ll bypass the inevitable bridge-and-tunnel traffic nightmares. And you’ll be able to keep your liquids nearby.
Travel time: 2.5 hours
The much-anticipated reopening of Ulster County’s Emerson Inn (which burned down in the spring of 2005) has been pushed back until late autumn, but right across the street is its sister property, Emerson Lodge. The rooms are spacious (although the décor is a bit mundane), and the suites have porches overlooking Esopus Creek. Skip the free Continental breakfast and drive to Sweet Sue’s in nearby Phoenicia for blueberry pancakes (expect a line). There’s plenty of good, easy hiking and fly-fishing, but spend Saturday antiquing along Route 28 (Hickory Hill Antiques in Shokan, a few miles east of the Emerson, has good prices and a constant supply of new merch). Pass the afternoon previewing items at Roberts’ Auction Service in nearby Fleischmanns; you can stick around for the auction at seven or have an elegant dinner at the DePuy Canal House in High Falls. Devote one afternoon to a hot-stone massage at the gorgeous Emerson Spa, which remained unscathed by the fire (from $200; 877-688-2828; emersonplace.com).
Travel time: 45 minutes
Rolling up the grand driveway to the white clapboard mansion that is the Homestead Inn feels a bit like arriving at your rich suburbanite friend’s house for the weekend. However, your friends aren’t running a Relais & Château property with a kitchen that churns out classic French cuisine (more béchamel, please!) made by an award-winning chef (Thomas Henkelmann). Aside from stuffing yourself silly and sleeping it off in a luxe, romantic room (request one in the carriage house for direct access to the veranda and sculpture-garden views), align yourself to the genteel feeling of the place and limit your exertions to strolling (the wide sandy beach at Greenwich Point is ideal), shopping the boutiques along Greenwich Avenue (like a mini-Madison, minus the bus lane), teeing up at the Griffith E. Harris golf course, and perusing the small but wonderfully curated Bruce Museum (from $250; 203-869-7500; homesteadinn.com).
Travel time: 3 hours
If you’re keen on some New England charm, Providence is a quick, sweet destination. And while the Providence Biltmore isn’t thrilling on its own, it’s a perfect launchpad for a Rhode Island summer weekend. The beaches of Newport are less than an hour’s drive (hit First Beach for a touristy, Jersey Shore–style scene, Second for an uninterrupted nap, and Third for safe, wave-free swimming). If you want to gamble, the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos are also within 60 minutes by car. Should you crave culture, and you’re sick of driving, the museums (Natural History, Children’s, RISD’s art) are within walking distance, as is the Providence Place Mall, where you can play suburbanite at standard upscale mall stores (tax-free shoes!). At Saturday night’s WaterFire festival, giant bonfires line the three rivers that run through the city; the spectacle has a dramatic thrill that make standard summer fireworks displays feel anemic (from $189; 401-421-0700; providencebiltmore.com).