Make your escape with one of these tempting New England itineraries
by Scott Kearnan and Miles Howard
| March 23, 2012
Photo: CONOR DOHERTY
Rates start at $229/night for a staycation at our Escape photo-shoot locale, the Revere Hotel Boston Common (200 Stuart Street, Boston), a luxury hotel opening in April. It’s not a Bali sunset, but the Boston skyline looks swell from the private balcony adjoining each of the 356 rooms — especially after a cocktail in the first floor’s Emerald Lounge. Model: Carissa G of Maggie Inc. Contortionist (cover): Tracy McAskill of the Boston Circus Guild.
Summer is coming, and an itch to escape the urban sprawl is growing by the day. But too often, we busy worker bees commit venial vacation sins, allowing earned days off to expire unused or hastily booking ill-planned getaways. So the STUFF team looked ahead on the calendar for a few seasons and selected top getaway spots that represent some of New England’s best destinations. While a tropical trip might be tempting, there’s a case to be made for enjoying all that’s more immediately available — and, probably, more affordable — whether on Cape beaches, in the mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire, or among the postcard-pretty landscapes of Maine. Instead of blowing your budget on a single vacation, choose a spot per season, fire up the Zipcar account, and give yourself a few well-deserved regional respites.
STAY HERE: If Don Draper were alive and in need of a Nantucket weekend hideaway, we suspect he’d choose Chapman House, a new seaside haven set to immerse its guests in a “hip ’50s” beach aesthetic. By that, we’re talking crisp interior designs with hues of teal and silver, dream-inducing coastal vistas, and a lush outdoor garden that offers Champagne service after dark. Currently in the final stages of development, the Chapman’s 11 guest rooms will be open for business on June 1. If you can’t wait for your suntan and beach-sand-in-your-shoes fix, then check out the Chapman’s luxurious sister outpost, The Veranda House.
EAT THERE: Anyone who’s ever enjoyed a meal plucked right from the ocean will want to plan a visit in May, when Cru Oyster Bar is slated to open. Perched on the waterfront, Cru boasts chef Erin Zircher as its culinary skipper and signature dishes like seafood stew with local striped bass, saffron, and Pernod. Another tasty option is the Oran Mor Bistro & Bar, where crispy Berkshire pork belly and johnnycake polenta are topped with a bourbon-caramel sauce.
DO THIS: When you’re not catching up on vitamin D on the island’s transcendent beaches, you can cruise the coast on a moped courtesy of the Nantucket Bike Shop, hone your surfing skills with Nantucket Surf School, or opt for a less taxing and more “Aww!”-inducing seal cruise with Shearwater Excursions. Once spent, retire for cocktails and sushi at the posh Lola 41.
DON’T MISS: Any cineastes in your party will be familiar with the Nantucket Film Festival (June 20–24), which has screened recent smashes like Senna and drawn the likes of Mos Def, Sarah Silverman, and Rosie Perez for its Late Night Storytelling events.
STAY HERE: “Silent Pine,” “Stargazer,” and “Sweet Fern” sound like Neil Young B-sides. But at Hidden Pond, such backwoods vernacular refers to the lodgings themselves. Composed of 16 cottages and 20 new bungalows, this luxurious Kennebunkport hideaway is housed within the jade majesty of the Maine beach woods. Each cottage and bungalow includes a river-stone fireplace, colorful bedding, and an outdoor shower. But you can also immerse yourself in the great outdoors by visiting the fantastically situated Tree Spa. Built into the forest canopy and connected by catwalks, its three treatment rooms offer muscle-melting massages, facials, and body treatments. Nightly prices start at $425 (Kennebunk is the pride of the preppy vacationer, after all), so if you’re on a budget, the nearby Captain Fairfield Inn offers opulence at a lower cost.
EAT THERE: If you’re homesick for Boston chef Ken Oringer’s cooking, take heart. He now has his own Kennebunkport operation, Earth, on the Hidden Pond grounds. There you’ll encounter paella with local seafood and yellowfin tuna tartare with quail egg. Also on our list is Kennebunkport classic Nunan’s Lobster Hut. Offering hot, cracked crustaceans since 1953, it’s a pillar of seaside living.
DO THIS: There’s far more to Kennebunkport than its visiting presidents. Begin your day by renting a kayak and hitting the open water, or enjoy the sea air on a lobster-boat tour. (Feeling like a blue blood yet?) Once you’ve sunned yourself like a fat cat, brave Maine’s only wooden rollercoaster, Excalibur, atFuntown USA, located in nearby Saco. Come sundown, tuck into a Blue Fin Stout at Federal Jack’s Restaurant & Brew Pub, take in a free Shakespeare performance at Lafayette Park, or simply stroll the sands of Goose Rocks Beach under the stars.
DON’T MISS: The annual Kennebunkport Festival (June 5–9) kick-starts summer with seaside cocktails, art receptions, and intimate dinners from Maine’s most accomplished chefs. Winter travelers: check out the Christmas Prelude (November 29–December 9), complete with a lobster-trap Christmas tree, chowder suppers, and the epically bizarre “Hat Parade.”
Rose Island Lighthouse
STAY HERE: A summer escape to your own private island with an unobstructed ocean view? Surely there’s a catch. Sort of, but it’s a cool one: overnight visitors at the Rose Island Lighthouse get an otherwise-unbeatable rate if they agree to mind the house. Located a mile offshore from the coastal charms of Newport, this lighthouse-turned-museum is accessible by ferry and has been restored to its 1912 splendor. You can stay in the furnished museum quarters or become a voluntary “keeper” and shack up in the tower, where you’ll step back in time to perform tasks like flag-raising, log-keeping, and generator-starting. Too daunting? You can always visit by day and retire to the comforts of The Chanler at Cliff Walk .
EAT THERE: Any laboring light-bearer needs a hearty fuel supply, so hit up Pour Judgement, where staples like a blue-cheese-smothered burger can be enjoyed with draft pints of Harpoon Leviathan IPA or a glass of Maine-sourced mead. For a ritzier rendezvous, tuck into an asparagus-and-lobster puff pastry at famed French outpost Bouchard.
DO THIS: There’s no shortage of shopping in downtown Newport, even if you’re just drooling over designer goods while Real Housewives swipe their black cards. If the weather permits, bring your binoculars to neighboring Middletown; look to the sky at the Norman Bird Sanctuary or take in the local wildlife by bike along the weaving trails at Sachuest Point. Then cap your day with cocktails over Thames Street at boisterous bar The Red Parrot, followed by a night of slow-burning jazz or New Wave pop at One Pelham East.
DON’T MISS: Back in 1965, a young, Stratocaster-wielding Bob Dylan infuriated fans by going “electric” the Newport Folk Festival. My, how far we’ve come. This year, the legendary music fest (July 28–29) boasts a lineup featuring My Morning Jacket and Iron & Wine. Visit earlier (July 12–15) to experience calligraphy workshops, “sushi sailing,” and live sumo wrestling at the Black Ships Festival.
Portland Regency Hotel & Spa
STAY HERE: This seaport is a sunny summer destination, with plenty of shopping, a funky arts scene, and a crystalline waterfront for boaters. Celebrating its 25th year in 2012, the Portland Regency Hotel & Spa inhabits a storied space that has been used as an armory, an auditorium, and even a bath house over the last century. Now it’s a perfect spot to be pampered, the only hotel in downtown Portland with its own day spa. But if you require a lullaby of lapping waves, check out the Inn by the Sea by the beaches of ritzy Cape Elizabeth, just 15 minutes away. The high-end hotel is highly lauded and has picturesque views of the Cape, home to Portland Head Light — one of the most photographed lighthouses in North America.
EAT HERE: Pray for an open table at Grace, a cavernous restaurant housed inside the former Chestnut Street Church. The pulpit is now a host stand, old pews serve as seating, and sunlight streams through stained-glass windows. Having taken over the altar space, the open kitchen preaches the gospel of fine, locally sourced food that’s found a strong following in Portland (recognized by Bon Appétit as America’s “Foodiest Small Town”). Sushi lovers should roll over to Miyake, and for a simple but sophisticated meal, grab a sandwich from Duckfat. (For more options, check out Liquid.)
DO THIS: The arts district is home to countless contemporary galleries, so grab a cup from a coffeehouse and amble the length of Congress Street. Or visit the Portland Museum of Art to cover three centuries of ground. (It has substantial holdings by Winslow Homer, the American landscapist who lived his final days — and created some of his finest work — in nearby Prouts Neck.) But for a kitschy-cool night out, we can’t resist the light-up dance floor at Bubba’s Sulky Lounge, a knickknack-strewn hangout that channels a ’70s rec room.
DON’T MISS: The annual Festival of Nations (July 29) is Maine’s largest multi-cultural event, with music, performing arts, and food representing dozens of ethnic backgrounds. But come fall, it’s the love of good food and drink that unites hundreds at Harvest on the Harbor (October 25–27), a weekend of wine tastings, chef demos, foodie vendors, and restaurant-related events.
Harbor Hotel Provincetown
STAY HERE: P-Town is loud (and, for the thriving gay community, proud) during the peak summer months. Save pennies for partying by checking into the reasonably priced Harbor Hotel Provincetown in the East End. Its past incarnations as the Cape Inn and a Holiday Inn have faded from memory thanks to recent renovations. Now it captures a colorful, retro “motel chic” vibe that looks straight out of a post-millennial sequel to Beach Blanket Bingo. For a more luxurious retreat, we love the Land’s End Inn. It sits on a quiet hilltop in the West End, a short stroll from the bustling main thoroughfare of restaurants, shops, and art galleries. Entering each subtly themed guestroom is like stepping inside a lush, elaborately staged diorama; we’re partial to the Moroccan Tower, a hexagonal suite with high domed ceilings and wide windows overlooking the curve of the Cape.
EAT THERE: There’s no shortage of fine and casual dining options in town, but we love Dalla Cucina, an upscale spot offering delicious Italian and lawn seating, so you can people-watch by busy Commercial Street. If you’d rather go for cloistered and cozy, hunker down in Jimmy’s Hideaway, all low ceilings, exposed beams, and hearty American fare. And then there’s Ten Tables, the P-Town outpost of the JP and Cambridge favorite. (Check out our chat with the owner in 5 Courses.)
DO THIS: Provincetown is America’s oldest art colony, and the Provincetown Art Association and Museum is a must-see between smaller stops during the Friday-night Gallery Stroll. Be sure to check out one of the colorful cabaret acts in town (theCrown & Anchor hotel and entertainment complex boasts several venues), or cap your night with some dancing — maybe at the A-House, P-Town’s only year-round nightclub.
DON’T MISS: If you can handle the hubbub, the annual Carnival (August 12–18) epitomizes Provincetown’s party-ready vibe. (Imagine a less restrained Mardi Gras.) But the off-season offers slashed rates and Lower Cape serenity. Grab a room in December during Holly Folly, a festive weekend of yuletide events.
Belfry Inne & Bistro
STAY HERE: Of all the places to park your carcass on the Upper Cape, a desanctified Catholic Church might seem a strange pick. But the Abbey, one of the three structures composing the Belfry Inne & Bistro, makes for a one-of-a-kind sanctuary. Boasting features like church-pew beds, stained-glass windows, and flying buttresses, its six gorgeous guest rooms are each named for a day of the week, nodding to Genesis’s account of creation. (You’ll find additional rooms next door at the Belfry’s Painted Lady, a colorfully restored Victorian home, and Village House, a stately Federal-style building dating to 1830.) Of course, if you can’t shake the thought of being smote down by an angry apostle, there’s always the 1750 Inn, built in its namesake year down the road in Sandwich Center.
EAT THERE: Sandwich institution the Aqua Grille is a reliable choice for locally sourced seafood and scenic canal views. Start with some New England quahog stuffed with chorizo sausage. Over in Mashpee, the recently opened Bistro 36 offers nourishing fare like maple-leaf duck breast and Portuguese kale soup. And urbanites will feel right at home amid the upscale oven-fired creations at Ella’s in Wareham.
DO THIS: Cape beaches are the stuff of lore — and thus prone to filling up faster than the Green Line at 5 p.m. So escape the crowds for the comparatively quiet wilds of Scusset Beach State Reservation, where you’ll find beautiful swimming holes, footpaths, and sea views. Shoppers can browse everything from funky antiques to magicians’ gear on the boutique-lined Route 6A. On summer Saturdays, head to nearby Falmouth for a tasting and vineyard tour at the Cape Cod Winery.
DON’T MISS: On June 30, the SandwichFest street fair will have eateries competing to create the best sandwich in, um, Sandwich. And from May 5 through September 3, the town’s Heritage Museums & Gardens will host “Norman Rockwell: Beyond the Easel,” exhibiting 150 of the iconic illustrator’s works. Check it out on July 7, and you can also catch the museum’s annual auto show of antique, classic, and custom cars.
The Willard Street Inn
STAY HERE: Quaint Burlington is filled with enough B&Bs to accommodate most budgets, but we’re partial to the Willard Street Inn, a brick mansion that once belonged to a Vermont state senator. The charming 14-room guest house boasts Lake Champlain views and English gardens and is just steps from downtown. But foodies should consider opting for The Essex, a “culinary resort and spa” in neighboring Essex. The hotel attracts an upper-crust clientele to its unique Cook Academy, which offers intimate à la carte classes daily. (Names like “Fabulous Flatbread” and “Mad About Maple!” suggest the variety.) The other important menu belongs to the soothing spa, offering 10 treatment rooms for facials, body wraps, and other rejuvenating options. And on-site activities include golf, tennis, hot-air ballooning, and Saturday bonfires for marshmallow roasting.
EAT THERE: Amuse at the Essex will satisfy sophisticated palates, but there are plenty of more moderate options in Burlington proper. TheVermont Pub & Brewery, the oldest craft brewery in Vermont, complements quality pub grub with flights of beer and cheese pairings. American Flatbread provides serious slices of wood-fired pizza, and Muddy Waters is a must-stop: a cozy nook that looks like the home of a hobbit (all gnarled, unfinished wood), where Vermont hipsters gather for coffee and coffee cocktails.
DO THIS: Take a boat ride over Lake Champlain and see if you can spot “Champ” (aka America’s Loch Ness Monster). Browse the regular farmers’ market in Burlington’s City Hall Park, or tramp over cobblestones in Church Street Marketplace, a nexus of bohemian clothing boutiques, familiar favorites (including an outpost of Boston-based consignment shop Second Time Around), and random retailers stocking books, records, comics, and more. The state’s largest city is also home to the University of Vermont, so if you can brave the throngs of students, jump into the vital live-music scene at venues like Higher Ground or hit the dance floor at Club Metronome.
DON’T MISS: Cineastes, note that Burlington hosts the annual Vermont International Film Fest (October 19–28). And beer geeks, mark down the Vermont Brewers Festival (July 20–21), which had more than 40 vendors strutting their suds on the scenic waterfront last year.
The Porches Inn
North Adams, MA
STAY HERE: We can’t imagine a more auspicious way to enjoy the artsy side of Western Massachusetts than shacking up at Porches, an industrial-chic inn inspired by MASS MoCA (the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art). Set in downtown North Adams, mere minutes from the museum, Porches’ six Victorian row houses feature resplendently retro rooms and suites with colorful midcentury furnishings, paint-by-number artwork, and nods to the region’s bygone mills. There’s also an outdoor heated pool and hot tub (open 24 hours!), a fire pit, a woodland gazebo, and an extensive DVD library. For more traditional trappings, the Blackinton Manor Bed & Breakfast lies a short distance up the Hoosic River.
EAT THERE: Toe-curling French and New American cuisine awaits Porches patrons right across the river at Gramercy Bistro. Chef Alexander Smith offers sumptuous fare like rare sesame tuna and escargots in a puff-pastry shell with spinach and lemon-garlic beurre blanc. New in town is España, a top-notch tapas option.
DO THIS: The largest contemporary-art museum in the States, MASS MoCA is a hotbed of high culture in the Berkshires, with constant rotations of cutting-edge gallery shows, film, dance, and theater. Live concerts are often held at the museum as well. (Performing vets include Grace Potter and Wilco.) If the sun is out, take an afternoon stroll through Western Gateway Heritage State Park, a former railroad yard where you can enjoy some history, not to mention fresh brews from the on-site Freight Yard Pub.
DON’T MISS: Every year, the folks behind DownStreet Art transform downtown North Adams into a metropolitan gallery of painted cars, Godzilla-size sculptures, and other original works from around the region. This year’s display will run from June 28 through October 25, and entries are still being accepted. Boston artists: how about a working vacation?
STAY HERE: The suburbs aren’t generally known for chicness, so we were kind of surprised to discover this city-style hotel (“a vision of W hotels”) in a setting so strongly associated with colonial history. (It’s where the first shot of the Revolutionary War was fired, in case you were too embarrassed to ask for a reminder.) Aloft has a colorful lobby lounge (re:mix) with mood-setting music, a streamlined bar, and an adjacent grab-and-go café. Upstairs, the 136 rooms combine spaciousness (think nine-foot ceilings and extra-large windows) with urbane sleekness. Throw in a 24/7 fitness center and an indoor salt-water pool, and you have a hotel that’s worlds away from the Budget Inns we often associate with the ’burbs.
EAT THERE: Lexx gets love from locals, serving American cuisine (think roasted Statler chicken and an autumn-appropriate pumpkin ravioli) with ethnic flourishes: the Moroccan stew is worth the trip. Nourish prioritizes organic, responsibly sourced ingredients on its menus, which tend to provide options for strict vegans and unabashed carnivores alike. (Live music and open-mic nights are de rigueur too.) And for a sophisticated Japanese spot, visit Daikanyama for maki rolls, hot-pot specialties, and numerous noodle options.
DO THIS: This escape is all about convenience: Lexington is only a 25-minute drive from Boston, but it’s a quintessentially quaint New England town that can give city folk a much-needed breather on a long weekend. For some picturesque leaf peeping, head to Minute Man National Historic Park and amble a gorgeous five-mile trail that connects historic sites between Lexington and Concord. Or tour the Hancock-Clarke House, John Hancock’s boyhood home, one of a number of Revolutionary-era buildings in Lexington. Afterwards, hit the affluent downtown area to stroll through shops and art galleries, discover the local symphony, or take in a movie at the tiny two-screen theater. By night, play pool, pound brews, or check out live music at Waxy O’Connor’s Irish pub.
DON’T MISS: Lexington turns 300 years old in 2013, and a nine-month event series launches with an Anniversary Ball on September 21. Visit lexington300.us for the full lineup.
North Conway, NH
STAY HERE: Why settle for a log cabin when you could snuggle between the jaws of a giant oyster? Or soak in a stone hot tub with its own waterfall, jungle foliage, and starry sky? You’ll encounter these amenities at Adventure Suites, a hotel featuring 17 themed-to-the-extreme lodgings on the edge of North Conway (the shopping mecca of northern New Hampshire). Priced from $109 to $499 a night, the suites don’t exactly come cheap, and frugal folk can opt for the cozy Swiss Chalets Village Inn just up the road. But would-be Harrison Fords, consider this: you won’t find another cave in the Granite State with a PS2 and no bat guano to speak of.
EAT THERE: NoCo’s Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewing Co. is a must-stop for gourmets and lumberjacks alike. Nosh the night away with pecan-smoked beef brisket, organic butternut squash, and a pint of foamy, fresh-brewed Bohemian pilsner, all amid the trappings of a Victorian house. (If you eat yourself into a food coma, book a bed in one of the five inn rooms upstairs.) There’s also the acclaimed 1785 Inn & Restaurant and its talk-of-the-town venison, glazed with rosemary, wild cherries, and bourbon. And no meal in NoCo is complete without a stop at Zeb’s General Store for some penny-candy shopping.
DO THIS: Glen Ellis Falls , Diana’s Baths, and other natural wonders of the White Mountains are a brief car ride away. Alternatively, you can take a rumbling trip through the wild on the Conway Scenic Railroad. Or simply stroll down Main Street for farm-made treats like pine candles and maple-cured bacon.
DON’T MISS: Autumn visitors can throw axes, admire prize-winning cattle, and enjoy old-fashioned horse-and-harness races at the nearbyFryeburg Fair (September 30–October 7). If you can brave a White Mountains winter, don your long-johns for February’s Ice Fest, where you’ll meet international ice-climbing pros, watch stomach-twisting films of their exploits, and even give it a try yourself at a clinic.
The Latchis Hotel & Theatre
STAY HERE: Located just over the Massachusetts border, picturesque Brattleboro is known for its cool, crunchy arts scene. (Here, the streets practically smell like patchouli.) So it makes perfect sense to stay in a hotel that’s also a movie palace. The Latchis Hotel & Theatre is a quirky hybrid. Built in the 1930s, the Art Deco and Greek Revival theater has four screens for mainstream and indie flicks; upstairs are 30 simple, comfortable guest rooms within wafting distance of buttery popcorn. It’s a pretty inexpensive option for unique accommodations, though if you’d rather opt for something more conventionally chic, check out (or rather, check into) the Colonial Motel. There’s an indoor saltwater pool, an on-site spa, and the Tavern Restaurant, a cozy spot to warm up and chow down by brick fireplaces.
EAT THERE: Don’t let the paper plates fool you. Top of the Hill Grill is as fine as BBQ joints come, serving up massive helpings of enough pulled pork, smoked ribs, and macaroni and cheese to leave you with a near-permanent halo of hot sauce around your mouth. (Side note: it’s cash-only, so come prepared.) The Marina Restaurant is another local favorite, a casual joint for seafood and burgers with a waterfront view for snacking during sunset.
DO THIS: For a small town of under 15,000 people, Brattleboro has a thriving arts community many cities would envy: there are monthly gallery walks, a theater company, a chorus, a dance center, and even the New England Center for the Circus Arts, which hosts live shows and cabarets. It’s also a testament to the free-spirited eccentricity of bohemian Brattleboro, which has plenty of shops stocking art, antiques, books, and curios, plus a number of brewpubs that host live music for raucous crowds.
DON’T MISS: The Brattleboro Literary Festival (October 12–14) unites dozens of authors for public book readings, lectures, and workshops in the fall. But it’s hard to imagine a more amusingly named event than summer’s Strolling of the Heifers (June 1–3), which brings together hundreds for a farm-animal parade through the center of town and an 11-acre Live Green Expo, among other activities.
The Hawthorne Hotel
STAY HERE: It might seem like a New England cliché, but it’s worth a quick jaunt on the commuter rail (or, on a fair-weather weekend, the Salem Ferry) to check out the “Witch City” in its bustling autumn glory. The Hawthorne Hotel is named for native author Nathaniel, and the “House of the Seven Gables” that inspired his novel is only a few blocks away. So are the brick-laid streets of downtown, full of shops (both kitschy and cool), paranormal walking tours, and occult boutiques serving Salem’s Wicca community. The Hawthorne itself is a classic Federal-style building with its own casual tavern, an upscale restaurant, and a purportedly paranormal past: the rumored haunt was featured on the TV show Ghost Hunters. More modern is the Salem Waterfront Hotel, a contemporary marina-side option steps from Pickering Wharf’s restaurants and storefronts.
EAT THERE: Chef Antonio Bettencourt trained under Amanda Lydon at Cambridge’s UpStairs on the Square; now he’s number one at his own 62 Restaurant & Wine Bar, serving up an upscale trattoria-style menu. Another option is 43 Church, a sleek steakhouse located in Lyceum Hall, the historic building where great minds like Adams and Emerson lectured throughout the 1800s and where Alexander Graham Bell gave his first public demonstration of the telephone. But please: don’t prove you can text during dinner.
DO THIS: The Peabody Essex Museum is a North Shore gem with an especially impressive of collection of maritime art. But also be sure to check out Yin Yu Tang, an actual ancestral home from China’s Qing Dynasty that has been re-erected inside the museum. At night, hit Red Lulu , the sexy little sister to Boston’s Lolita Cocina & Tequila Bar, or the dance floor at Rockafellas, a boisterous pub in a former bank.
DON’T MISS: Check out Haunted Happenings (hauntedhappenings.org) for the annual October lineup of citywide parties, parades, and frightening festivals. They’re campy fun, but if it reeks too much of commercialism, check out the Festival of the Dead (festivalofthedead.com). It’s an edgier series concocted by a local warlock, Christian Day, and includes a gothic-glam Vampires’ Masquerade ball.
STAY HERE: Newport is exciting in the summer, but a wintry seaside retreat can be pure romance — especially if you and a special someone are seated high above the shore in a marble whirlpool at the Cliffside Inn. Steps away from Newport’s scenic Cliff Walk, this B&B offers Victorian-style suites with killer views, spa-worthy bathrooms, and Delaware-sized beds with imported linens. Spice up your stay with in-room massages, artisanal fruits and cheeses, or even a bottle of hand-picked wine from the Cliffside’s own well-stocked cellar. If you’re looking for a more frugal way to reignite the flames, check out the cozy Spring Street Inn near downtown Newport’s historic district.
EAT THERE: We’re loving the Salvation Café, where you can feast on Generation Y–appropriate American cuisine, like chickpea-and-cauliflower masala or oxtail-and-short-rib Bolognese, amid sultry lighting and funky art. We’re also fond of The Fifth Element, which comes complete with live music, oaky Argentinian malbecs, and a mirrored waterfall behind the bar.
DO THIS: Yeah, it’s touristy, but if you’ve never explored their opulent interiors, be sure to drool your way through the Newport Mansions. The International Tennis Hall of Fame is required viewing for French Open fanatics. And for a touch of romance, take in original contemporary ballet productions from the Island Moving Company.
DON’T MISS: Each February, thousands bundle up for the Newport Winter Festival (February 15–24), a seasonal celebration that has featured chili cook-offs, vineyard tours via helicopter, ice skating, and our favorite, the “Seal Safari.” (It’s a watch, not a hunt.)
Trapp Family Lodge
STAY HERE: After the von Trapp family (of The Sound of Music fame) fled Nazi-occupied Austria for the States, they opened a small skiers’ lodge in mountainous Stowe. Since then, it’s ballooned into the Trapp Family Lodge, a swanky slope-side resort for alpinists of all breeds. Its 96 lodge rooms, 100 guest-house chalets, and luxe villas are vamped out with plush duvets, ornate wooden headboards, and fresh flowers. And when you’re not tearing down the ski paths, you can recuperate with a lavender salt scrub or a peppermint foot revitalization at the fitness center’s spa. The unique Euro-mountain charm is worth the 10-minute drive to the heart of town, but if you’d rather stay on Main Street, the Green Mountain Inn offers comparably lush lodgings.
EAT THERE: Break the winter chill with a blast of heat at Lagniappe at Ten Acres Lodge, where you’ll find Cajun fare like fiery shrimp jambalaya with sweet pineapple salad. On the spiffier side of the grill, we’re also fond of Hen of the Wood, located in nearby Waterbury. One spoonful of its winter squash soup with roasted parsnips, pancetta, and cider brown butter, and you’ll never pick up a can opener again.
DO THIS: With access to many miles of skiing and snowboarding trails, Stowe is well-equipped for anyone looking to roar down a mountainside attached to one or more planks. And the village center, especially Main Street, is equipped for everyone’s inner shopper. Don’t forget to swing by the old-fashioned Stowe Mercantile for organic fudge, handmade scarves, and Vermont-made bath products.
DON’T MISS: In January, the Stowe Winter Carnival offers sugary treats, ice carving, and snow golf and volleyball tournaments. But October’s Foliage Arts Festival is another big annual draw, uniting thousands of leaf-peepers and craft-lovers. Peek around to find original works from visiting artists under the giant tents.
Bedford Village Inn
STAY HERE: The Bedford Village Inn stands on the former site of a working farm, its grand entrance framed by two original silos. The main house holds 14 luxury suites, and there are eight elegantly appointed rooms in a nearby cottage. But BVI really shines with its three on-site restaurants. Hell’s Kitchen alum Benjamin Knack, formerly of Boston’s Sel de la Terre, commands the culinary team of the Four Diamond–rated Dining Room, filled with fireplaces and locally sourced cuisine. The more rustic BVI Tavern offers burgers, pizza, and a “Chocolate Bag” of mousses and Chambord sponge cake. A more citified vibe flows at Corks Wine Bar, whose 8,000-bottle cellar has gotten props from Wine Spectator. (It’s overseen by Jon Carnevale, the state’s only certified sommelier.) This classic country inn is a good selection if you have separation anxiety from the city: it’s right outside Manchester, the largest New England city north of Boston (though it’s comparatively quaint with just over 100,000 people). Plenty of hotel chains in town, like Radisson and Hilton, offer affordable rates.
EAT THERE: Manchester’s Hanover Street Chophouse is a local legend, a gentlemanly setting of dark woods and leather booths that serves up savory steaks and refined flourish. (A crab cocktail served in a martini glass? Yes, please.) And we’ve nothing but love for the more modern XO on Elm, a funky and veggie-friendly spot that offers coconut-crusted tofu alongside cognac-almond meatballs. And the famed Red Arrow Diner is a regular stop for politicos campaigning in the New Hampshire primaries.
DO THIS: Check out northern New England nightlife at spots like Grand, a dance club that, curiously enough, also offers exercise-related extracurricular activities: it has a regulation racquetball court, and weekly Zumba classes help attendees prep for the dance floor. For a predominantly gay nightlife scene, hit up Club 313 for dancing, drag shows, and karaoke.
DON’T MISS: If you are a music geek (or just like to gawk), Manchester is home to the annual New England Parrot Head Convention (February 28–March 3) and New England Elvis Festival (August 31–September 2). We won’t judge. Well, maybe a little.
STAY HERE: Nestled by the picturesque Berkshire Mountains, Blantyre is the kind of impressive, English-style estate where Bruce Wayne would spend a ski weekend. While there’s no Batcave among its amenities, Blantyre boasts guest rooms within its main house, carriage house, and surrounding cottages that are outfitted with handsome imported furniture. Plus, it has tennis courts that are flooded in winter to form an ice rink, a cozy “Warming Hut” for hermetic R&R, and a special Snow Concierge to help visitors coordinate wintertime activities (though we’d be happy just getting a deep-tissue massage in the house spa). Unabashedly opulent, Blantyre has earned the top spot on Condé Nast Traveler’s list of the best small hotels in America. But if you’re more of a down-home dweller, the nearby Birchwood Inn offers affordable accommodations in a sprawling, spruced-up country house.
EAT THERE: Toasted by the New York Times upon its opening, Lenox’s seasonally inspired Nudel serves up creative concoctions like fried-jalapeño and veal-chorizo tacos. For dessert, head to the Chocolate Springs Café for handmade box chocolates, cocoa nibs, pastries, and the hot-chocolate equivalent of nitro.
DO THIS: By winter, the Berkshires are cozy grounds for a getaway, with plenty of snowshoeing and cross-country ski trails to keep cabin fever at bay. At other times of year, you can live like a blue blood and take a guided horseback ride through the foliage with theAspinwall Adult Equestrian Center. Afterwards, treat yourself to a free tour and stock tasting at theFurnace Brook Winery. And culture vultures will love the year-round productions from the nearby Barrington Stage Company.
DON’T MISS: Tanglewood , the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, provides a great chance to enjoy the orchestra in a totally different (read: rural) scene. And Mikhail Baryshnikov is among the fans of Jacob’s Pillow, Lenox’s world-renowned dance festival, held this year from June 16 to August 26.
Omni Mount Washington Resort
Bretton Woods, NH
STAY HERE: The regal, rambling Omni Mount Washington Resort is situated in New Hampshire’s largest ski area. But the 110-year-old spot, originally constructed by a railroad tycoon (ooh la la!), also offers opportunities for dog sledding, snowmobiling, and zip-line zigzagging. (In the summer, go for a round of golf — or at least peek at the old locker of Babe Ruth, one of the hotel’s many famous guests of yore.) Of course, this is assuming you can tear yourself away from the impressive interior, with its roaring fireplaces, swanky spa, and multiple restaurants, which include the Four Diamond–rated Dining Room. And you can curl up in The Cave, a stone-walled speakeasy where you can down drinks and soak up live entertainment.
EAT THERE: Grab casual fare and house-smoked specialties from Fabyans Station, located a mile from the resort in what used to be a bustling railroad station. (Now, only a model train runs through the dining room.) Or for dinner with a (really awesome) view, hop on the high-speed quad to Latitude 44 on the ski region’s summit. You can eat, drink, and be awe-inspired while staring out at the White Mountains.
DO THIS: If the resort activities and countless hiking trails can’t keep you occupied, earn one of those “This car climbed…” bumper stickers by bravely (and very, very slowly) driving up the Mt. Washington Auto Road. (Just don’t look out the window at the guardrail-less road’s edge, inches away.) Or check out Six Gun City, a cheese-tastic cowboy-themed amusement park. And about a 30-minute drive away is the Northern Nights Drive-In in Lancaster, New Hampshire. The retro outdoor theater will debut a campground when it reopens for the season this spring, so you can catch the stars on the screen and then sleep under those in the sky.
DON’T MISS: Bretton Woods is a favorite haunt of the WFNX SnoRiders, so keep an eye on the schedule at wfnx.com for a chance to catch music, giveaways, and contests on the slopes each winter. Bretton Woods also hosts an annual Beach Party (this year on March 31) with an island theme and BBQ.
STAY HERE: From the cherry-red Old World doors to its resident pack of cuddly Saint Bernards, the Summit Lodge reminds us of the Swiss childhood we never had. Located in the heart of the Green Mountains with easy access to Killington Peak and its plummeting ski trails, the lodge offers cozy accommodations for alpine athletes and midsummer trampers alike. And with economy rooms ranging from $70 to $159, a trip to the slopes won’t break your back . . . sorry, bank this time. Should the mighty Killington itself be your destination, consider the closer Killington Grand Resort Hotel, with access to the highest express gondola lift in Vermont.
EAT THERE: Unwind after a day of shredding at On the Rocs, a sleek lounge serving sharable fare like Kobe sliders and crab-stuffed calamari. We suggest washing them down with a Dark and Stormy, made with the house ginger beer. If actual beer is more your thing, a short ride down Route 4 will take you to Long Trail Brewing Company, where you can take a tour and pair a pint of Hibernator with smoked bratwurst.
DO THIS: Rocket and ricochet your way down Killington’s ski trails, or take it all in at a quieter pace — and maybe spot a snow hare or two — via snowshoe. Certain lifts remain open after dark, but you’ll find us jiving to live reggae music at the Pickle Barrel Nightclub downtown.
DON’T MISS: Get to Killington by March 30 to dance the waning days of winter away at the three-night SnowMont Music Festival. (The annual mountain rave’s 2012 lineup features Snoop Dogg, Chromeo, and Kaskade.) For a more folksy experience, head to nearby Stockbridge for August’s Tweed River Music Festival, where bluegrass is — and always has been — the new black.