The Bull Monty
In Cody, Wyoming, you can take in an art museum and go to a rodeo, all in one day
New Yorkers may consider themselves the kind of people that take no bull, but the residents of Cody, Wyoming, not only take it, they jump on its back, ride it, and call it the “Cody Nite Rodeo.” After an evening of calf roping, barrel racing, and bull riding, sidle up to some real cowboys at the bar of the Irma Hotel, built in 1902. From there, head to Cassie’s Supper Club and Dance Hall, a former whorehouse with line dancing, wagon wheels, and stuffed moose heads. Later, as the cowboys mosey on home, settle onto the porch of your hand-peeled log cabin at DNR Ranch and listen to the crickets. In the morning, polish your rhinestone belt, saddle up a horse, and hit the trails to look for bears and moose, but don’t dare miss the one thing Cody has that no other town in America can offer: a world-class museum of Western art, packed with more than 200 works by Frederick Remington. And that’s no bull.
– AARON RASMUSSEN
Details Delta flies nonstop from JFK to Salt Lake City, then a quick hop to Cody (800-221-1212); Cody Nite Rodeo (800-207-0744; 6/1–8/31; $12–$14 for adults, $6 for kids); Irma Hotel (800-745-irma); Cassie’s Supper Club and Dance Hall (307-527-5500); Buffalo Bill Historical Center (307-587-4771); DNR Ranch at Rand Creek (cabins start at $94.50; 888-41creek or DNRRanch.com; open May to September).
Emerson, Lake & Calmer
Indulge in Colonial splendor in the Catskills
All 24 rooms at the Emerson Inn & Spa, the Catskills’ first high-end, ultraluxurious hideaway, are so thoughtfully decorated – in Persian, Victorian, West Indies Colonial, and Asian themes – that you’ll find yourself jotting down ideas for your own home. There’s a 5,000-bottle wine room with a floor-to-ceiling humidor, a swanky Africa-themed bar, and a gym so beautiful you’ll actually want to work out. Spa treatments are the house specialty (but be sure to book ahead), as is the gourmet food, served on Limoges china. True sybarites will appreciate details like a glass of champagne in Waterford crystal at check-in, personalized stationery, and Frette labels on the linens, robes, towels – even the bath mats. If you want to explore the area, Woodstock is just ten minutes away, but we’re not sure why you’d ever want to leave.
– TARA MANDY
Details The Emerson is two hours by car (doubles start from $500 and include three meals daily; 845-688-7900 or theemerson.com).
Go native (for a day or two) on Nantucket island
Keep your oxford shirt on: Just because you’re not invited to Lee Iacocca’s house or Tommy Hilfiger’s $4.6 million spread doesn’t mean you can’t wine and dine, bike and fish, or sail and swim on preppy Nantucket island. Your secret weapon is the Wauwinet, whose gray-shingled cottages feature wicker and antique furniture and whose nightly menu includes the island’s trademark steamed littleneck clams and smoked Atlantic salmon with johnnycakes and caviar. For the nautically minded, there’s whale-watching, deep-sea fishing, and sailing excursions; landlubbers can keep busy mountain biking, take a four-wheel-drive-jeep ride over 75 miles of trails, or don whites for tennis lessons with the inn’s resident pro. To blend in better, shop for your Nantucket Reds (faded pink denim) at Murray’s Toggery Shop, a local favorite. At night, crawl into bed under a handmade quilt to watch one of 500 movies, delivered to your door with a bucket of fresh popcorn.
– BETSY GOLDBERG
Details The Wauwinet (summer rates from $400; 800-426-8718 or wauwinet.com); Murray’s Toggery Shop (800-368-2134 or nantucketreds.com). Fly nonstop from La Guardia (USAirways; 800-428-4322) or Newark (Continental Express; 800-523-3273).
Om, Sweet Home
Find your bliss in Lenox, Mass.
Sipping cocktails on the beach is one way to follow your bliss, but if you’re seeking a more lasting spiritual renewal, a weekend at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health on 300 wooded acres in the Berkshires may be the answer. Guests can combine yogic techniques with outdoor sports like golf or horseback riding; with the Retreat and Renewal package, you can mix yoga and meditation classes with spa treatments or acupuncture sessions. Meals are gourmet vegetarian, and the accommodations, in a former Jesuit seminary, are either dorm-style bunks or minimalist private rooms.
– SARAH BERNARD
Details Kripalu is three hours by car, or take the Peter Pan bus (800-237-8747) to Lenox; the resort offers a $5 shuttle service (packages from $113; 800-741-7353 or kripalu.org).
Tapas and towers in Barcelona
You’ll scarcely skim la crema of Barcelona’s rich cultural custard in a stretched-out weekend, but it’s never been easier now that Delta offers a direct flight. Start the feast early, exploring La Boquería market, where you can grab a stool for breakfast at the legendary Bar Pinotxo: café con leche, scrambled eggs with shrimp, and a custard-filled doughnut to share. It’s corny, I admit, but the Bus Turistic, letting you off and on as you please, allows a fast overview. Since 2002 is Gaudí year, a special Gaudí bus will make the pilgrimage easier. Stroll the winding streets of the Gothic Barrio, lingering in the plazas for coffee. Restaurant mania is epidemic right now, so reserve ahead. Savvy locals hog the bar Monday nights for the freshest sea creatures at Cal Pep; Agua, at the beach in Barceloneta, is great for people-watching. Make a meal of the fabulous tapas tastings at Santa María in El Born (Barcelona’s SoHo). For accommodations, unabashed luxury-seekers prefer the Hotel Claris; Sant Augustín, off the Ramblas, draws the budgeteers.
– GAEL GREENE
Details Delta (800-241-4141); Agua (93-225-1272); Bar Pinotxo (93-317-1731); Cal Pep (93-310-7961); Hotel Claris (doubles from $190; 93-487-6262); Santa María (93-315-1227); Sant Augustín (doubles from $113; 93-318-1708).
In Miami’s South Beach, there’s never any shortage of good company.
By Sarah Bernard
Once a year, my best friend and I like to take a girls’ weekend together. Multiple margaritas used to be our favorite pastime, but now that she is married and I’ve put my party-girl days behind me, we figured the Shore Club in South Beach was a safe bet: Any potential suitors would surely be more interested in each other or in the roster of celebrities (Puffy, Bill Clinton, Madonna) who host private parties in the hotel’s private pool, by the private cabana.
The miso cod at Nobu, one of the hotel’s restaurants, is as good as the TriBeCa version, but during dinner we noticed something strange: The more we wanted to shut out the world and talk to each other, the more attention we attracted. It was like we were using “The Rules” without knowing it. Waiters wouldn’t leave us alone; neither would neighboring diners who wanted to try our sake. (Why, we wondered, didn’t we think of using this technique years before?)
When it rained the next morning, we raided the coed Scoop boutique in the lobby and were treated to way too much sartorial advice from boys who were not sticking to their gender’s side of the store. Meanwhile, the cough my companion had had in the airport was turning into a full-throttle TheraFlu emergency. But the sicker she got, the more they flocked. The trainers wanted to give us free full-body sculpting. (“Perhaps you need to align your meridians?” they suggested.) Unwanted guests crashed our stealth picnic by the pool bar, a full spread from Joe’s Stone Crab complete with Key-lime pie – refusing to leave until I feigned a breakdown.
The next night, dinner at Rumi on Lincoln Road produced the same result. Afterward, at Tower Bar, two guys straight out of A Night at the Roxbury sidled up. On our last day at the pool, my friend was even sicker, so she wrapped herself in a sarong from head to toe. No matter that she looked like a mummy; a Speedo-wearing, gold-chain-dangling guest glued to his wireless headset still sent a pool boy to ask for her number. Perhaps she should have been flattered. Milla Jovovich was a mere chaise away, and headset man didn’t even notice.
Details The Shore Club (doubles from $160; 305-695-3100); Nobu (305-695-3232); Rumi (305-672-4353); Joe’s Stone Crab (305-673-0365). Fly direct from La Guardia.
Four warm and inviting country inns, and they’re all only a short drive from the city
Pine Hill Farm
It’s hard to believe Manhattan is only two hours away when you climb the hill behind the house at Pine Hill Farm and take in the three-state view, which includes the farm below, the Delaware River Valley, and the Kittatinny Mountains beyond. Newlyweds Yvonne and James Klausmann serve breakfast on the terrace and will map out great hikes or bike rides on the old logging roads that crisscross their hillside hideaway. Guest rooms have king-size beds and Ralph Lauren style. Nearby is the historic town of Milford (don’t miss the WaterWheel Café and bookstore at the Upper Mill) and the Delaware River, where you can canoe, raft, or swim. Perhaps best of all are the nearby Raymondskill Falls in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.
– SANDY SOULE
Details Pine Hill Farm (doubles from $140; 570-296-5261 or pinehillfarm.com); WaterWheel Café (570-296-2383).
Three hours west of Manhattan lies the gentle landscape of Andrew Wyeth country, with its winding roads, open fields, and 200-year-old stone farmhouses in Brandywine Valley, Pennsylvania. Sure, there’s culture to uncover, but the setting has the kind of laid-back romance that suggests an afternoon in bed at the inn. Sweetwater Farm, an eighteenth-century farmhouse B&B, has a fireplace in every room and acres of hiking. But check out the collection of the Wyeth family’s art at Brandywine River Museum, set in a restored mill overlooking the river. Nearby Longwood Gardens, on the grounds of the DuPont Estate, offers miles of exquisite hothouse botany indoors and several hours’ worth of strolls along paths exuberantly lined with flowers, shrubs, and even topiary. Locals will recommend the Dilworthtown Inn for a top-flight meal, but we preferred the more casual feel of Pace One Restaurant and Country Inn, a wood-beamed charmer with excellent steaks.
– SUSAN DOMINUS
Details Sweetwater Farm (610-459-4711 or sweetwaterfarmbb.com); Longwood Gardens (610-388-1000); Brandywine River Museum (610-388-2700); Pace One Restaurant and Country Inn (610-459-3702).
Shelter Harbor Inn
Set far back from Route 1 in Westerly, Rhode Island, the white clapboards and blue shutters of Shelter Harbor Inn – a two-and-a-half-hour drive from the city – are framed by carefully tended gardens. Guest rooms are comfortable and unpretentious; when days are warm and nights are chill, reserve a room with a spacious private deck and a wood-burning fireplace. After delicious dinners of crab-salmon cakes, flounder with capers and roast tomatoes, and peach-blueberry crisp, simmer in the inn’s rooftop hot tub. Work up a morning appetite with a walk on the serene mile-long Weekapaug beach, a short drive away. Nearby you’ll find the Victorian-era village of Watch Hill, with its imposing mansions; neighboring Stonington offers handsomely restored Colonial homes and the Old Lighthouse Museum. Easy day trips include Mystic Seaport, Foxwood Casino, Mohegan Sun, Newport, and Block Island.
– SANDY SOULE
Details Shelter Harbor Inn (doubles from $96; 800-468-8883).
“Contractor not done, quelle surprise!” says Ouest chef Tom Valenti, recalling why he and his wife checked into Greenwich’s Homestead Inn when renovations on their new apartment ran behind schedule. Opened in 1997, the nineteen-room, 200-year-old inn that showcases owner Theresa Henkelmann’s interior design is just 45 minutes from the city by car or 30 minutes on Metro-North, and recently got a complete face-lift (including all nineteen bathrooms, which were redone with artisanal tiles). But tops on Valenti’s list is Thomas Henkelmann’s old-school but innovative French cooking at the inn’s restaurant. “Flawless,” Valenti says. “It was like revisiting my training days.”
– MARION MANEKER
Details Homestead Inn (doubles from $250; 203-869-7500 or homesteadinn.com). For a detailed guide to hundreds of other country destinations, check out the Bed and Breakfast Finder at bedandbreakfast.com.
Pamper yourself at one of these brand-new spas in Scottsdale, Arizona
Three state-of-the-art spas have opened in Scottsdale, Arizona, in the past year. Check into any one of them, and you’ll never want to leave. The 1,300-acre Boulders resort recently added the huge Golden Door Spa to its hillside complex of 160 casitas and six restaurants. The house specialty is Native American–inspired treatments like Raindrop Therapy (essential oils applied in drip-drop fashion along the spine) and a Turquoise Wrap (slathering the body with ionized turquoise clay)… . Sanctuary’s 98 casitas are spread along Camelback Mountain, with stunning views of Paradise Valley below. The new spa offers Asian-inspired water-based treatments. Try the Thai foot massage or Sumatra Coconut body polish… . Rather supersize? Check out Willow Stream, the new spa at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. Think big: 650 rooms, golf course, tennis center. And a 44,000-square-foot spa featuring 25 treatment rooms (many with private patios), separate spas for men and women, and a rooftop pool.
– RIMA SUQI
Details Continental (800-525-0280) flies nonstop from Newark to Phoenix, then it’s a short drive to Scottsdale. The Boulders Resort & Golden Door Spa (doubles from $119; 800-553-1717 or wyndham.com); Sanctuary (doubles from $135; 800-245-2051 or sanctuaryaz.com); the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess (doubles from $149; 800-344-4758 or fairmont.com).
In Cold Spring, N.Y., shopping is just one of many outdoor sports
Less than two hours from Grand Central on Metro-North’s scenic Hudson Line (sit on the left to catch the amazing views of the Palisades), the quaint, walkable town of Cold Spring, New York, is a shopper’s mecca – antiques mostly, but also chic boutiques, like the country outpost of Boucher, the popular meatpacking-district jewelry shop. There are several good restaurants (try the homey Cathryn’s Tuscan Grill) and lots of outdoor options. Hudson Valley Outfitters will sell you trail maps and hiking gear, or arrange kayaking tours. Bed down at the Hudson House Inn: It’s right on the river and, like everything else in town, an easy walk from the train station.
– AMY LAROCCA
Details Metro-North (800-638-7646); Hudson House Inn (doubles from $155; 845-265-9355 or hudsonhouseinn.com); Boucher (845-265-6095); Cathryn’s Tuscan Grill (845-265-5582); Hudson Valley Outfitters (kayak tours, $95 including lunch; 845-265-0221).
A new tavern in Chester, Connecticut, is worth the trip
Jonathan Rapp, of the popular Manhattan chef’s hangout Etats-Unis, has just opened River Tavern in the charming seventeenth-century mill town of Chester. A 100-mile drive from the city, the restaurant offers homey dishes based on the freshest seasonal produce, and sometimes features the famous Etats-Unis made-to-order avocado salad. Stay at 123 Main Bed & Breakfast, a refurbished Victorian schoolhouse, and enjoy a musical comedy in nearby East Haddam at the famous Goodspeed Opera House, a finely restored, historic Victorian theater. Gillette Castle, a fieldstone folly built in 1919 and set in a 184-acre park (pictured below), is just across the river, accessible by ferry. (It is currently undergoing extensive renovation and will reopen in early summer.) Among Chester’s many charming local stores is the Kitchen Wood shop, which produces and sells exquisite handmade utensils.
– GILLIAN DUFFY
Details River Tavern (860-526-9417); 123 Main (doubles from $105; 860-526-3456 or 123main.com); Goodspeed Opera House (860-873-8668, open April–December); Kitchen Wood (860-767-0811; open Saturday and Sunday only).
Eat well and shop smart in Red Hook, N.Y.
Red Hook lives in the shadow of its flashier neighbor, Rhinebeck, but the quiet farming community two hours from the city and 25 minutes from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) deserves your attention. Stay at the Red Hook Inn, a Federal-style B&B with a cozy fireside bar, and request room No. 5 – outfitted with a fireplace and a Jacuzzi. Start the new day with breakfast at Billie’s, then walk through the Annex Antique, browse Hoffman’s Barn Sale (a junk shop next to the movie theater), and hit the local farm stands, Montgomery Place and the Greig Farm. Have dinner across the street at Mina, or at Gigi Trattoria in Rhinebeck – both are owned by CIA grads. Later, stop in at the Black Swan Pub in nearby Tivoli, popular with Bard College students and weekenders alike.
–ANN MARIE GARDNER
Details The Red Hook Inn (doubles from $125; 845-758-8445 or theredhookinn.com); Mina (845-758-5992); Gigi (845-876-1007); Billie’s Family Restaurant (845-758-5589); Annex Antique (845-758-2843); Black Swan Pub (845-757-3777).
Support the troops with a visit to historic West Point
West Point is celebrating its 200th anniversary, and in these patriotic times, why not pay a visit to this scenic military academy on the west bank of the Hudson? Security is tight, and some parts of the once wide-open campus, an hour from the city by car, are now off-limits, but the sight of cadets marching in formation is still stirring. There’s plenty to do besides take a tour. You can hike the Appalachian Trail, which crosses nearby Bear Mountain and Fahnestock state parks. And across the river is the residence of home-furnishings legend Russel Wright. There are plenty of local inns (the Bird & Bottle, built in 1761 as a stagecoach rest stop, serves an excellent dinner, and Cromwell Manor Inn has big canopied beds), but we recommend the Thayer Hotel right on the West Point campus: Don’t bother requesting a wake-up call; you’ll hear the bugler playing reveille at 6:30 a.m.
– JERYL BRUNNER
Details West Point Visitor’s Center (guided bus tours, $7; 845-938-2638); the Bird & Bottle Inn (845-424-3000); the Cromwell Manor Inn (845-534-7136); Thayer Hotel (doubles from $129; 800-247-5047 or hotelthayer.com); Manitoga/the Russel Wright Design Center (reservations required for house tours, $15; 845-424-3812).
Some Like It Picante
Share the sand with celebs at Cabo San Lucas’s newest resort
Don’t be surprised to find Cameron Diaz beside you on the beach or Russell Crowe at the next table during lunch. This year’s Academy Award presenters all received trips to Cabo San Lucas’s new Esperanza resort in their Oscar-night gift baskets. (Hey, it could happen!) Set up like a remote Mexican village, Esperanza’s casitas are scattered around two private coves. Every bedroom – and bathroom – has a view of the Sea of Cortez, and many have private plunge pools or outdoor Jacuzzis. Play golf on one of five championship courses, go deep-sea fishing, or poke around Todos Santos, a flourishing artists’ colony one hour north. But we recommend having the resort’s gourmet market pack you a picnic for the beach, or just lying in the hammock on your balcony, watching the whales go by.
– TARA MANDY
Details Esperanza (doubles from $550; 866-311-2226 or aubergeresorts.com). Fly Continental (800-525-0280) from La Guardia to San Jose del Cabo (with a connection in Houston), or take American Airlines (800-433-7300) and connect in Dallas; the hotel offers a free shuttle from the airport.
Why bother with the rest of Palm Beach when you’re staying at the Four Seasons?
The next time you’re in Palm Beach, duck the social whirl in town and check into the Four Seasons. It’s right on the ocean and only fifteen minutes from the airport. You could easily while away an entire weekend here, sipping cocktails on the chaise lounges by the beachside infinity pool, listening to the pianist in the library, playing tennis on Har-Tru courts, and getting outdoor massages by the ocean. For more active types, there are catamaran, Windsurfer, and jet-ski rentals, as well as daylong fishing excursions, and the concierge can arrange tee times at the Atlantis Country Club or Emerald Dunes. For dinner, the Four Seasons’ excellent dining room, called simply the Restaurant, features southeastern regional dishes like yellowtail snapper with watermelon relish and shrimp skewered on sugarcane and served over pineapple risotto. And if you simply must sneak onto Worth Avenue, it’s just a taxi ride away.
– BETH LANDMAN KEIL
Details JetBlue (800-jetblue); Four Seasons Palm Beach (doubles start at $275; 800-432-2335 or fourseasons.com).
The Cat’s Bahamas
Only two hours from the City, Grand Bahama Island has been overlooked by New Yorkers for too long.
Four months ago, USAirways began offering nonstop service from JFK, putting Grand Bahama Island back on the map for weekending New Yorkers. It has a lot to offer. For families, there’s the new Our Lucaya, a gargantuan Disneyesque resort in Freeport; for fisherman, there are the small bone-fishing lodges on the East End, like the renowned Deep Water Cay Club; and for a romantic getaway, there’s the recently opened Inn at Old Bahama Bay, way out on the secluded West End. Grand Bahama is nowhere near as developed as Nassau and Paradise Island – at least, not yet – so savor its funky charm while it lasts.
– MARK HOROWITZ
Details USAirways flies nonstop to Freeport (800-622-1015); Our Lucaya Beach & Golf Resort (doubles from $125; 877-772-6471); Deep Water Cay Club (a week’s lodging and guided fishing, $3,243 per angler; 954-359-0488); the Inn at Old Bahama Bay (doubles from $290; 800-572-5711).
We’ll Never Have Paris
A future food critic avoids the obvious on a would-be romantic weekend in Paris.
By Adam Platt
The weekend trip to Paris was her idea, I dimly recall. My future wife and I had reached that delicate threshold in our relationship when the carefree days of dating and mutually satisfactory singlehood were being displaced by the looming prospect of something more permanent. It was clear to everyone that we were going to get married, but nobody (namely me) was doing a damn thing about it.
Which, I suppose, is how we found ourselves winging off on the red-eye to Paris for three days in the depths of winter on a cheap off-season ticket. The trip was billed as a holiday lark, a getaway from gray, snowbound Manhattan, although the intent was clear. She had glittering, though still vaguely subconscious, notions of a glamorous proposal on the banks of the Seine, and I had a temporary ring in my pocket (we’d pick one out later), and abject fear in my heart.
By the time we touched down at Orly, certain patterns of neurotic avoidance were firmly established. She took to her bed with some mysterious ailment, while I commenced jamming breakfast croissants down my craw like Jiminy Glick. I considered presenting the ring to her that evening at the well-known Left Bank café Brasserie Balzar, but got sidetracked by a fine platter of steak tartare (she drank chamomile tea). We visited a reputable one-star restaurant the next day for lunch (pike quenelles, mushroom pâté, fillet of salmon) and the great Brasserie Flo for dinner (oysters, choucroute, tripe salad). When we ambled romantically through the Tuileries the next morning, she was still feeling faint, and I was too bilious to talk.
The trip continued in this vein until, mercifully, it was time to go home. We were engaged a week later, in bumbling, though happy fashion, two blocks from where we live today. In a restaurant, of course.
Details Stay at Le Relais Saint-Germain, on the Left Bank (doubles from $208; 33-143-29-12-05); Brasserie Balzar (33-143-54-13-67); Brasserie Flo (33-147-70-13-59).
Savannah has a rowdy side – if you know where to go
Despite the rococo fame Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil brought to this southern gem, Savannah’s sexy side remains elusive to casual visitors. Beneath those airs of antebellum gentility, the city is a kitschy party central, but where to find the fun? Good-time junketeers who want a taste of both sides of the town’s split personality should check into the classy Gastonian hotel, and head immediately to Vinnie Van Go Go’s, the pizza joint–cum–social hub of the City Market district. From there, locals migrate to the live music at Velvet Elvis or Jim Collins’s, where the beer is cheap enough to keep you out all night. Jump-start the next morning at Gallery Espresso before walking through every leafy square from River Street to Forsythe Park. Even without a hangover, your eyes will ache to see such beautiful architecture and gardens. As for day two? Rinse, then repeat.
– ANN MARIE GARDNER
Details Continental has nonstop flights from Newark (800-525-0280); the Gastonian (doubles from $180; 912-232-2869, gastonian.com); Velvet Elvis (912-236-0665); Vinnie Van Go Go’s (912-233-6394); Gallery Espresso (912-233-5348); Jim Collins’s Bar (109 Whitaker Street; no phone).
For a classic beach vacation, try Spring Lake, N.J.
Feel overwhelmed with too much to do? Take a ride to Spring Lake, N.J. – only an hour and fifteen minutes via NJ Transit from Penn Station – and ease into its deafeningly quiet, sublimely unhurried atmosphere. Founded in 1892, the town consists of rambling Victorian mansions with wraparound porches and sprawling lawns. There’s a spring-fed lake in the center that, with its pedestrian bridges, swans, and weeping willows, has a wonderful, feels-so-fake-it-has-to-be-real vibe to it. And the boardwalk, which runs for two miles along an immaculate stretch of beach, is noncommercial, perfect for slow walks or quick jogs. Stay at the Breakers, a charmingly restored Victorian hotel right on the ocean. (Every room has a view.) For dinner, go to Whispers in the Hewitt-Wellington Hotel; it’s BYOB, but the chef trained at Bouley. If you get restless, there are five world-class golf courses within a twenty-minute drive, and some pleasant galleries and shops along Third Avenue. But most visitors are content to do as little as possible.
– MICHAEL STEELE
Details NJ Transit (800-626-ride); the Breakers (doubles from $180; 732-449-7700 or breakershotel.com); Whispers (732-974-9755).
Float along the Erie Canal, riverboat-style
Okay, it’s not the Loire Valley, but many of the joys of canal cruising—calm water, historic villages, colorful natives—can still be had right here in New York on the Erie Canal. Opened in 1825, the 360-mile engineering marvel links the Hudson River to the Great Lakes, and Mid-Lakes Navigation now offers two-, three-, and four-day canal voyages aboard the Emita II, a retrofitted 1953 Maine ferryboat that holds 40. Leave from Syracuse and wind your way west through the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge and old canal towns like Fairport and Pittsford. Lodging is in hotels along the way, but all meals are served onboard; expect all-American prime rib, baked ham, grilled chicken, and plenty of fresh salads, relying on local produce procured along the way. It’s an unusual and—dare we say—European way of exploring upstate New York.
– JULIE MAUTNER
Details The Emita II (from $350, including meals and hotels, June through October; 800-545-4318 or midlakesnav.com). Take Amtrak (800-872-7245) or JetBlue (800-jetblue) to Syracuse.
Rock climbing lessons in the Gunks? Get a grip!
The Shawangunks (“Gunks” for short) are a set of sheer quartz cliffs and outcroppings at the southern edge of the Catskills. It’s the perfect place to learn to climb, which is easier than it looks and much more fun than the climbing wall at Chelsea Piers. With the help of a professional guide, you’ll be clambering up and rappelling down the easy routes in an hour. Rent gear and hire a guide through Rock and Snow in New Paltz or the EMS shop in Gardiner. Afterward, muscles that have turned to jelly are easily restored with a hearty meal at Chefs on Fire, a subterranean bistro in High Falls, or weekend brunch at the Clove Cafe. For a real Catskills experience, head for the Log Cabin in Kerhonkson, a funky way station with homemade Ukrainian fare and the fastest Ms. Pac-Man game north of Chinatown. Plenty of bed-and-breakfasts, a few aging motels, and newcomer Minnewaska Lodge offer accommodations.
– ARMIN HARRIS
Details Rock and Snow (845-255-1311); EMS (one-day climbing lessons start at $170; 845-255-3280); Chefs on Fire (845-687-7778); Clove Cafe (845-687-7911); Minnewaska Lodge (from $189; 845-255-1110 or minnewaskalodge.com).
Biking in Guatemala is the best, because it’s all downhill
It’s not as far as you think, but it’s more exotic than you can imagine. One could easily spend an entire weekend in Antigua, Guatemala, visiting churches, convents, and museums, and bargaining for textiles in its bustling markets. But if all Guatemalan blankets look alike to you, sign on for a more adventurous excursion with Old Town Outfitters. You’ll start early, piling into co-owner Matt Hartell’s van for the ride up into the mountains. At the top, you’ll don a helmet for a two-hour bike ride down, slowing only for a roadside picnic and the periodic tumulos (speed bumps) that herald sleepy mountain villages. At the bottom is Lake Atitlán, and the lakeside town of Panajachel, where you’ll board a water taxi to La Casa del Mundo, a simple lakeside lodge offering incomparable views of the water – and a well-earned dinner.
New restaurants (and old favorites) in England, Italy, and France
Head for the boutiquey Hotel Colombina, just steps from Piazza San Marco, and stash your bags quickly in order to reach Rialto market at full morning simmer. Refuel standing up on little sandwiches at Do Mori or punctuate your amble toward the Church of the Frari and the wall-to-wall Tintorettos at the Scuola di San Rocco with just-fried sea creatures at Vivaldi. After lunch, get a feel for the life of bridges and watery divides on the No. 1 vaporetto (buy a three-day pass). Even if it’s a tourist cliché, you must linger over hot chocolate and a dolce at café Quadri or its rival Florian, both in the Piazza San Marco, then get lost in the shopping maze of the Mercerie. I like Neapolitan pastas at Acqua Pazza, the curious antics and old-fashioned cucina at Dalla Marisa near Tre Archi bridge, and the antipasti del mare and spaghetti with sardines under the Warhol prints at Ostaria da Rioba. One evening, you want to be sipping aperitifs outdoors at Cip’s on the Guidecca, watching the sunset paint Venice Fauvist oranges and purples, savoring the ethereal mystery.
– GAEL GREENE
Details Do Mori (39-041-522-5401); Vivaldi (39-041-523-8185); Acqua Pazza (39-041-277-0688); Dalla Marisa (39-041-720-211); Ostaria da Rioba (39-041-524-4379); Cip’s (39-041-520-7744); Hotel Colombina (doubles start at $280; 39-041-277-0525). Delta’s nonstop service from JFK is a must for a long weekend (800-241-4141).
London’s top chef is a tough competitor. Before turning to cooking, Gordon Ramsay learned how to throw elbows as a soccer star. Then he sprinted his way past more established opponents to become London’s only Michelin three-star chef. Now, with the recent opening of his second namesake restaurant, in Claridge’s, Ramsay is trying to join the tiny fraternity of culinary legends with a total of six Michelin stars. And it may work. Despite the presence of some wonderfully unpretentious signature dishes like braised belly of pork, Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s offers a meticulously plotted and unforgettably refined dining experience. After coffee and cigars, try a change of pace, and a slightly more country feel, by bedding down at the recently renovated Connaught hotel, just minutes away. But beware: Gordon Ramsay will soon be taking over that kitchen, too.
– GILLIAN DUFFY
Details Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s (44-20-7499-0099); the Connaught (rooms start at $545; 44-20-7499-7070).
If food is your deity of choice, you’ll want to make the pilgrimage to Alain Ducasse’s alimentary ashram, a breathtaking 90-minute drive north of Nice in the tranquil village of La Celle. Occupying a beautifully restored eighteenth-century inn adjoining a royal Benedictine abbey dating from the twelfth century, Ducasse’s Hostellerie de l’Abbaye de la Celle has ten air-conditioned bedrooms set in seven acres of parkland, with an orchard, a historic vineyard, a heated swimming pool, and the restaurant’s kitchen garden, where it grows its own produce. Detailed hands-on cooking lessons are available each morning in spacious kitchens with chef Benoît Witz. At lunch, consume the fruits of your efforts on the shady terrace.
– GILLIAN DUFFY
Details Hostellerie de l’Abbaye de la Celle (Rooms start at $215; 33-4-98-05-14-14 or abbaye-celle.com); Delta (800-221-1212) has daily nonstop flights from JFK to Nice.
Flea markets and fish are the draw in Lambertville, N.J.
New Hope, Pennsylvania, has long been a popular small-town escape from the city, and its draw among New Yorkers now spills across the Delaware River into Jersey, where Lambertville, all of 500 feet away, delivers the same mix of upscale chic, Deadhead vibe, and antiques by the buggyload. Drive out for the annual Shad Fest on April 27 and 28, celebrating those tasty fish and their tastier roe, or anytime for the Colonial-village feel and the flea markets that, like the shad, proliferate in droves. (The biggies are the Lambertville Antique Market and Golden Nugget Antique Flea Market, both on River Road.) There are plenty of bed-and-breakfasts; among the best is the Lambertville House, a newly renovated historic inn. For dinner, try the Church Street Bistro: “They go for lots of free-range and organics,” one local says, “without being in-your-face about it.”
– CHRISTOPHER BONANOS
Details Lambertville House (doubles from $175; 888-867-8859 or lambertvillehouse.com); Church Street Bistro (609-397-4383); Lambertville Antique Market (609-397-0456); Golden Nugget Antique Flea Market (609-397-0811).
Costa Rica’s volcano heats up
Costa Rica might seem a bit far to travel for a volcanic-mud bath, but the volcanic mud at the 82-room Tabacón Resort comes directly from the source. The mist-shrouded Arenal volcano also heats the mineral pools at the adjacent spa to a relaxing 102 degrees. But the real attraction at Tabacón is the soaking pools, a series of rock-hewn grottoes connected by a cascading spring, heated by the volcano, and surrounded by lush tropical vegetation. Once you’re sufficiently pruned, fill up on Tico specialties like gallo pinto at Los Tucanes or the Ave del Paraíso. Scenic Lake Arenal offers bass fishing and consistently good windsurfing, and the wildlife of the pristine Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is only a few hours away.
– ROBERT LEVINE
Details Tabacón Resort (doubles from $120; 506-256-1500 or tabacon.com). Continental (800-231-0856) and American (800-433-7300) fly nonstop to San Jose, then two and a half hours by car.
During a visit to Amish Country, a Brooklyn boy puts himself in farm’s way.
By Chris Smith
Our Brooklyn 5-year-old said, “I haven’t seen a live chicken in a long time.” One of our many, many nagging parental guilts is the disconnect between the stuff in our refrigerator and the soil it came from. So we headed to Pennsylvania Dutch country: The area just west of Lancaster, past the cutesy hex-sign-water-slide-outlet-mall clutter, is an outdoor museum of America’s agricultural past. Many of the struggling family farms have been bought by a charitable trust so their thousands of acres won’t get plowed under for condo subdivisions.
After a quiet night’s sleep in a century-old Georgian farmhouse – “It’s so dark out here!” he marveled – Jack, wisely cautious in his city life, became a free-range child, bounding across the stubbly cornfields and soft spring grass. When he was invited to chase two dozen chickens into the henhouse, I thought he’d trip over his grin. Then he went stomping through the mud in his yellow rain boots to the goat pens. A one-day-old baby, all knees, wobbled after its mother. “Want to hold him, Jack?” asked Dotty Hess, co-owner of the Country Gardens Farm Bed & Breakfast. Silly question. The wonder on Jack’s face as the kid rested serenely in his arms was downright beatific. The bonus: Dotty named the goat Jack.
Next she drew us a map to the nearby Lapp Valley Farm, where John Lapp, a Mennonite teen with ethereal blue eyes, engaged us in a friendly comparative-religions chat as he milked. Later, after sampling the Lapps’ extraordinary vanilla ice cream, we rode a steam engine through Amish farmland. And that night, back in Mount Joy, we danced to Irish pirate tunes at Bube’s Brewery. At least for one weekend, Jack was reminded that nature does exist.
Details Country Gardens Farm Bed & Breakfast (rooms $75 to $95 per couple, $10 extra per child; 717-426-3316); Strasburg Rail Road (Route 741; adults $9 to $13, kids free to $9.50; 717-687-8421); Lapp Valley Farm (717-354-7988); Bube’s Brewery (717-653-2056).
Kiss Me, Kite
Learn the not-so-ancient art of kitesurfing in Newport, R.I.
It may be the hot new water sport this year, but most places where you can take serious kitesurfing lessons are in Hawaii and Florida, which leaves busy New Yorkers in an unbearable state of untrendiness. Enter Christian Schlebach of Newport, Rhode Island. He’ll be happy to teach you this bastard offspring of windsurfing and wake-boarding at his Sky Kitesurfing School, the only place offering intensive lessons we could find within driving distance of the city. All-day sessions start with kite-handling etiquette on land before heading into the water. Then it’s right out onto the water to catch some air and take off. Kitesurf all day, then spend the night at the stately but simple Admiral Fitzroy Inn on Thames Street; and for dinner, stroll down to Asterisk & Obelisk, an unpretentious bistro in a converted garage.
– NICOLE LAPORTE
Details Sky Kitesurfing School ($300 per day; 401-849-0084); Admiral Fitzroy Inn (from $125; 866-848-8780); Asterisk & Obelisk (401-841-8833).
You’d rather be in Philadelphia
Oprah, Samuel L. Jackson, and Baryshnikov have all tucked into Philly’s newly renovated Rittenhouse Square Bed and Breakfast. A circa-1911 mansion, the joint is a bit over-the-top in its froufrou plushness (think taffeta, flowers, and repro Louis XVI furniture), but that’s part of the fun. Rittenhouse Square itself is in the heart of Philadelphia’s arts district, so take in a concert at the new glass-topped Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts – home of Philly’s orchestra and chamber society – then indulge in the Versailles-like gastronomic excess at Le Bec-Fin, the city’s best French restaurant. Or take advantage of your bed-and-breakfast’s alliance with some of downtown’s other top restaurants (Opus 251, Rouge, Devon, and Striped Bass), which will deliver meals right to your room.
– SIMON DUMENCO
Details Rittenhouse Square Bed and Breakfast (doubles from $209; 877-791-6500 or rittenhousebb.com); Le Bec-Fin (215-567-1000); the Kimmel Center (215-790-5800 or kimmelcenter.org); Amtrak (800-872-7245 or amtrak.com).
Is it possible to enjoy Napa Valley on just ten bottles a day?
Two hours from the San Francisco airport, St. Helena’s Meadowood resort in Napa Valley has the perfect prescription for relaxation: Try to do as little as possible, and drink plenty of fine wine. Sure, you have to climb a flight of wooden steps to get to your cottage-in-the-woods, but you can recover in a yoga class at the Health Spa or with a Swedish massage in your room. If you must, there’s a nine-hole golf course and croquet, but we prefer indulging in chef Steven Tevere’s ah-inducing blinis with crème fraîche, Osetra caviar, and filet mignon with wild mushrooms and baby leeks at Meadowood’s own restaurant. And if you can tear yourself away from the resort (you did come here to drink, after all), the staff will help you arrange visits to any number of nearby vineyards, as well as to Copia: The American Center for Wine, Food, and the Arts, which Robert Mondavi opened last fall.
– SARA CARDACE
Milwaukee’s not just for beer and baseball anymore
My hometown will probably never shake its beer-bellied Laverne & Shirley rep, but I take some solace in the Milwaukee Art Museum’s breathtaking new Santiago Calatrava addition – a new destination for international art and architecture aficionados. The soaring Quadracci Pavilion is the Rust Belt’s answer to Sydney’s Opera House, and it rounds out an institution that was already one of America’s finest midsize museums. You can make an old-school arts weekend of it, taking in a concert by the city’s first-rate orchestra or acclaimed opera before sampling Sanford’s – among the best restaurants in the Midwest. Stay at Hotel Metro, an all-suite hotel close to Lake Park – a gorgeous spread of rolling greens created by our own dear Central Park designer, Frederick Law Olmstead.
– SIMON DUMENCO
Details Midwest Express flies nonstop from La Guardia (800-452-2022); Hotel Metro (doubles from $189; 414-272-1937 or hotelmetro.com); Milwaukee Symphony (milwaukeesymphony.org); Florentine Opera (florentineopera.org).
For travel foodies Jane and Michael Stern, some of their best finds have been in the couple’s own Connecticut backyard.
By Marion Maneker
“Connecticut is one of the great states for road food,” says Michael Stern, co-author with his wife, Jane, of Roadfood, an updated version of their classic 1977 guide to greasy spoons. According to the Sterns, who live just down the road, the unassuming hamlet of Newtown, perched 75 miles north of New York City, is the epicenter of Connecticut’s heartburn hot zone. “The thing about Newtown,” Stern says, “is that it’s a crossroads town connecting I-84” – which runs east-west from the Hudson Valley to the Connecticut breadbasket – “and Route 25,” the main artery of hot dogs and Italian food leading up from the coast.
Stern can’t say enough about the Botsford Drive-In. “It’s got just a terrific hot dog! And Carminuccio’s looks like a million-and-one Italian places, but when you walk in and the place smells of bread and you watch a guy cut up a tomato for the pizza, you just know!”
Hot dogs and manicotti aren’t your idea of Connecticut cuisine? “The other category New England is especially blessed with is the hash house, with a counter and a few tables around an open kitchen,” Stern says as he launches into a paean to the Laurel Diner’s meaty homemade corned-beef hash.
“Two other things that are wonderfully Connecticut,” the nearly out-of-breath gourmand says, and they’re both at Phillips Diner in nearby Woodbury. “Chicken pie, a farm-wife specialty. It’s a sort of chicken hash piled into a pie crust and served with a pitcher of gravy.” That’s one. What’s the other? “Every morning, Bud Phillips, this seventysomething marine, gets there early and makes cake doughnuts.”
Details Botsford Drive-In (282 South Main Street Route 25, Newtown; 203-426-4279); Carminuccio’s (76 South Main Street, Newtown; 203-364-1133); Laurel Diner (544 Main Street, Southbury; 203-264-8218); Phillips Diner (740 Main Street South, Woodbury; 203-263-2516). For more, see roadfood.com.
Follow the A-listers to secluded but luxurious Paradise Island
You may get an odd sense of déjà vu when you arrive at the Ocean Club, a plantation-style resort on Paradise Island in the Bahamas. Why do the spectacular shoreline and the majestic tiered gardens by the pool seem so familiar? Maybe because Thunderball was shot on Paradise Island, back when Sean Connery had hair and James Bond films were James Bond films. These days, the Ocean Club has become a celebrity magnet, and the reason Sharon Stone, Cindy Crawford, and Whitney Houston like it is that the 35-acre resort is easy to reach but still feels totally secluded. Whether you visit the magnificent pool with its medieval-style cloisters, hit the gym, or walk along the white-sand beach, there is always a sense of privacy. The hotel’s recent $100 million face-lift includes not only refurbished accommodations, but a new golf course designed by Tom Weiskopf, a new Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant called Dune, and a Balinese-style spa, which opened four months ago.
– BETH LANDMAN KEIL
Details Ocean Club, (doubles start at $450; 800-321-3000 or oceanclub.com); Delta (800-241-4141) and USAirways (800-622-1015) fly nonstop to Nassau from La Guardia; Continental (800-231-0856) flies from Newark. Paradise Island is 40 minutes from the airport by taxi.
A trip to Montreal offers a taste of France without the jet lag
Only a 90-minute flight away, Montreal is the closest you’ll get to the taste of France without leaving the hemisphere. Visit the beautifully curated Musée des Beaux-Arts, prowl the narrow cobblestone streets, and wander the colorful Jean-Talon farmers market before sniffing out La Fromagerie Hamel, which offers more than 450 varieties. At dusk, head downtown for a drink at the hushed Ritz-Carlton (but stay in one of Old Montreal’s newer hotels, like the seven-room Auberge Bonsecours, a converted stable on a quiet courtyard; or Hotel St.-Paul, whose Beaux-Arts exterior belies the modern space within). To see how much Montreal can really feel like Paris, dine at L’Express, a casual spot with a zinc bar, a lively din, and perfect bistro fare. Savor a bottle of Saint-Émilion and some confit de canard while you revel in the feeling of being far away, without changing time zones.
– LIZA SCHOENFEIN
Details Continental flies nonstop from Newark (800-525-0280); L’Express (514-845-5333); Ritz-Carlton Montréal (800-363-0366); Auberge Bonsecours (514-396-2662); Hotel St.-Paul (514-380-2222); Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal (514-285-2000).
In New Paltz, Yiddish doesn’t have to be a dying language
Quick, what’s the difference between a schlemiel, a schlimazel, and a shmegegge? If your Yiddish skills aren’t up to that (or if that’s all you know), sign up for an intensive immersion weekend at SUNY New Paltz. (Nineteen other languages are offered, including American sign.) In June and July, housing is available; or book a room at the year-old Minnewaska Lodge with soaring ceilings, Mission-style furniture, and a fitness center all set at the base of the Shawangunks. For dinner, try the Would (about ten minutes away), where you’ll find a New American menu and an impressive yet reasonably priced wine list; get a table by the fire.
– JULIE MAUTNER
Details Classes are Friday evening to Sunday afternoon ($295; 845-257-3500 or newpaltz.edu); Minnewaska Lodge (doubles from $189; 845-255-1110 or minnewaskalodge.com); the Would Restaurant (845-691-9883).
A Puerto Rico resort expands
Renovating after Hurricane Georges, the owners of Puerto Rico’s Palmas del Mar Resort & Villas added 152 spacious one-, two-, and three-bedroom Caribbean casitas that now constitute the Candelero Resort, 45 minutes by car from San Juan. Once there, stock your fridge from the local store, then head for the beach just a short walk away. Or rent a cart and cruise to the Candelero golf course, abutting the sea. In the event of rain, sip rum on your balcony or take a taxi to the El Yunque rain forest, where a two-hour climb through the drenched jungle dispels any thoughts of the urban one you left behind.
Details Candelero Resort at Palmas del Mar (doubles from $280; 787-852-6000 or palmasresort.com); Chez Daniel (787-850-3838). Beginning May 30, JetBlue flies from JFK to San Juan starting at $295 (800-jetblue).
With Amtrak’s new Boston-to-Portland train service, Maine is more accessible than ever
New Yorkers familiar with the stretch of rocky New England coastline that runs north from New Hampshire – through blueberry fields and forests over which bald eagles circle – are rejoicing in the return, after more than three decades, of passenger rail service between Boston and Portland, Maine. Last December, Amtrak’s Downeaster – a three-car train with business class and a café – started making the two-and-a-half-hour journey. (There are plans for an additional, summer-only stop at Old Orchard Beach, Maine, to accommodate day-trippers.) Portland is a delicious reward at the end of the ride. It has the intimate charm of a small town – Victorian houses, the nineteenth-century brick buildings of the spruced-up Old Port – but the rich cultural life of a real city. Stay at the Danforth, an elegant 1821 hotel just a few blocks from Portland’s old port.
– GEORGE KALOGERAKIS
Details The Amtrak Downeaster ($35 round-trip for same-day journeys, otherwise the fare is $21 each way; 800-usarail); the Danforth (doubles from $199; 800-991-6557 or danforthmaine.com).
Four Atlantic City courses that are worth the gamble
Forget Sinatra. Golfers who want old-school Atlantic City should check out the majestic, tree-lined Pines Course at Seaview Marriott Resort & Spa. Many consider the other eighteen holes here even better: The Bay Course (where Slammin’ Sam Snead won the 1942 PGA Championship) is a classic Donald Ross links-style design that hosts the ShopRite LPGA Classic each year – how’s that for a double bill, baby? If your Bobby Jones still isn’t fixed, draw from three more killer clubs nearby: Blue Heron Pines, Sand Barrens, and Twisted Dune. Just don’t forget to experience AC’s other charms, from the Marriott’s Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa to the casinos just ten miles away to Angelo’s Fairmount Tavern, where, allegedly, Frankie and Dino used to schwing by.
– EVAN ROTHMAN
Details Seaview Marriott Resort & Spa (doubles start at $239; 800-932-8000); Bay Course and Pines Course at Seaview Marriott Resort & Spa (609-748-7680); Twisted Dune Golf Club (609-653-8019); East Course and West Course at Blue Heron Pines Golf Club (609-965-4653); Sand Barrens Golf Club (609-465-3555); Angelo’s Fairmount Tavern (609-344-2439).
Close to the Bone
Cast your rod in the waters of the Yucatán
Most saltwater fly-rodders who dream of hooking the wily bonefish wind up in the Bahamas or the Florida Keys. But there are other alternatives, including the Caribbean coast of the Yucatán. Just an hour’s drive south of Cancún, Boca Paila Fishing Lodge is a collection of beachfront accommodations in modern thatched bungalows. They sit on a series of lagoons and flats holding bonefish, the shy and spooky permit, resident tarpon, and snook. What the Yucatán has over saltwater fly-fishing destinations in the Bahamas – besides permit so numerous even the neophyte has a shot at one – is great Mayan and Mexican food with an emphasis on the local catch. And for the non-fishing companion, there’s swimming, snorkeling, and visits to beautiful ruins nearby.
– PETER KAMINSKY
Details Book through Frontiers International (two-night stays are $1,310 for anglers, $750 for non-angling companion, including room, all meals, guided fishing, and skiff rental; longer stays are available; 800-245-1950).
A new Berkshires inn across the street from Mass MoCA
Not long ago, Porches Inn, three and a half hours by car from Manhattan, was nothing more than six dilapidated Victorian row houses. But in 1999, Mass moca, the celebrated contemporary-art museum, opened across the street, and now Porches is a thriving, remodeled Berkshires gem. We love the vintage lamps and Mohawk Trail memorabilia filling the large, homey rooms. There’s also a heated outdoor pool and hot tub that are open year-round, plus a sauna, an exercise room, free DVD rentals, DSL hook-ups, and breakfast is complimentary. Ask for a picnic lunch, and they’ll prepare it for you in a cute little factory worker’s lunch box. And there’s plenty to do nearby: Jiminy Peak has a year-round express chairlift to the top for hiking, mountain biking, and skiing, as well as a miniature golf course; Mass moca is a stone’s throw away; and Hancock Shaker Village offers a compelling glimpse into original Shaker crafts and culture.
– ELLEN PAYNE
Details Porches Inn (summer rates start at $160; 413-664-0400 or porches.com); Jiminy Peak (413-738-5500); Mass moca (413-664-4481); Hancock Shaker Village (800-817-1137).
The Real World
Video-soaked kids relish the intense authenticity of Washington, D.C.
Watching my kids grow up squinting at computers and TVs, I had come to accept that they had absolutely no taste for reality … until I took them to Washington. Defying all expectations, they swooned for the city’s 360-degree authenticity. They loved being in the real White House, the real Lincoln Memorial, the real Capitol. They had never heard of Charles Lindbergh, but they marveled at the Spirit of St. Louis, which hangs in the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum, because it was the real plane, not a replica. We stayed at the elegant, old-fashioned Hay-Adams Hotel, right across from the White House. It’s stuffed with diplomats, lobbyists, and politicians during the week but is surprisingly sleepy on weekends, so great bargains are available. Be sure to talk with the excellent concierges there; they can get you past the long lines for White House tours (though they’re currently curtailed for security reasons). And between patriotic sights, sample the tapas at Jaleo, one of D.C.’s most popular restaurants, just a few blocks from the hotel.
– MARK HOROWITZ
Details Take Amtrak (800-usarail), the Delta shuttle (800-221-1212), or the USAirways shuttle (800-428-4322); Hay-Adams Hotel (doubles start at $385, but ask for weekends deals; 202-638-6600 or hayadams.com); Jaleo (202-628-7949).
Take a Skyline drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains
Rock on the porch, take a dip in the swimming pool, and stroll the grounds. At the Inn at Vaucluse Spring, 200 years of Northern Virginia history are enhanced by a bucolic setting and the warm hospitality of innkeepers Neil and Barry Myers. The homey tone is set by Neil’s first-rate Friday- and Saturday-night suppers, served to overnight guests only. Cruise part of the nearby Skyline Drive, along the Blue Ridge Mountains, or visit the four water-carved limestone caverns. There’s also the gardens at Glen Burnie, historic Winchester’s intriguing shops, and Violino restaurant, a local favorite. “A meal without wine is like breakfast,” they say, so visit Linden and Oasis wineries to taste the local vintages.
– SANDY SOULE
Details The Inn at Vaucluse Spring is a five-hour drive from New York City (doubles from $140; 800-869-0525 or vauclusespring.com); Violino (540-667-8006).
A funky New Orleans itinerary to go with the new bargain fares
Now that discount carrier JetBlue has started flying to the Big Easy, a quick visit should top anyone’s destination list, and the best time to be there is when nobody else is. Forget Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest – when the city is a mosh pit of tourists – and avoid the eternal frat party in the French Quarter. Instead, mellow out with the locals in the Lower Garden District, which Trent Reznor calls home. Stay at Saint Vincent’s Guest House, a converted orphanage with wraparound porches (perfect for late-night bourbon sipping) and requisite wrought-iron lattice. Across the street is Rue de la Course, an oaky, Ella Fitzgerald–playing coffee institution for drifty hipsters. For good grub, head to Café Atchafalaya and order a Pimm’s Cup and anything with the word fritter in it (most entrées are under $12). But the real point of New Orleans is, of course, the music, so pick up a copy of Gambit Weekly to see who’s playing where. Chances are, you’ll wind up at the Mermaid Lounge to hear retro funk, or at the Circle Bar, a slick but cozy watering hole with a great R&B jukebox. R. L. Burnside has been known to show up for impromptu gigs here. Order your new friends a round of Pabst Blue Ribbon in cans; they’re only a buck each.
Details JetBlue (from $187 round-trip, 800-jetblue); St. Vincent’s Guest House (from $59; 504-523-3411 or stvincentsguesthouse.com); Rue de la Course (504-529-1455); Café Atchafalaya (504-891-5271); Mermaid Lounge (504-524-4747); Circle Bar (504-588-2616).
Behind the Music
Hanging out with Nashville’s storytelling honky-tonkers
For real Nashville flavor, forget Opryland and Shania. Instead, check out the other Nashville – the hangouts of the thinky songwriters who lie somewhere between folk and alt country. Daylight attractions are minimal, so stay out late at the Station Inn, where Gillian Welch often plays, or the local favorite for up-and-comers, Twelfth and Porter, where Lucinda Williams was once spotted making out with someone in the parking lot. Slow Bar, a honky-tonk in East Nashville with the best jukebox in town, is where Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy broods when he’s visiting. Sleep in at Four Walls, a bed-and-breakfast that eschews southern kitsch in favor of understated good taste, then have a cappuccino at nearby Bongo Java – wait around to see Steve Earle and half of WFUV’s lineup come in to do the same. Nurse your hangover with the spicy fried pickles at the burger joint Rotier’s; make time later for the pistachio-crusted salmon at upscale Zola.
Details Delta has a daily nonstop flight from La Guardia (800-221-1212); Four Walls Bed & Breakfast (rooms start at $145, 615-292-7162); Station Inn (615-255-3307); Twelfth and Porter (615-254-7236); Slow Bar (615-262-4701); Bongo Java (615-385-5282); Rotier’s (615-327-9892); Zola (615-320-7778).
Wild at Heart
A pristine nature refuge near Orlando is a trip back in time
Experience the haunting wilderness evoked in Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’s 1938 novel The Yearling at the Refuge at Ocklawaha, a 52-acre nature retreat in deepest rural Florida. Stay in your very own Cracker-style cabin, with time out for eating home-cooked meals at the dining lodge (dinner is simple fare like meat loaf, barbecued chicken, and ribs). You’ll enjoy the solitude of pioneer life – listening to the calls of wild turkeys and owls – while sitting on your cabin’s screened-in porch. Rise early like a settler to spend the day walking (or bicycling) on the Refuge’s many paths, but keep an eye out for alligators and bobcats. (If you’re reminded of St. John’s Maho Bay Campgrounds or Estate Concordia, there’s a reason – the Refuge was last managed by Stanley Selengut, the eco-friendly developer behind those two Virgin Island resorts.) Whatever you do, don’t get so lost in a nineteenth-century reverie that you forget to visit Cross Creek, where Rawlings’s turn-of-the-last-century house has been meticulously restored.
– EDITH NEWHALL
Details Fly direct to Orlando, then drive an hour to the Refuge at Ocklawaha (cabins are from $110 to $180; 352-288-2233 or Floridarefuge.com).