Great Weekend Escapes
Sometimes you just have to get away from it all, and even a night or two will do. Here's where- and without spending too much time getting there.
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Beauty abounds in this sleepy little town, nestled in the hills of rural Otsego County
Distance: 4 hours
The first time I visited Cooperstown, it was at the suggestion of my husband, who lured me with the promise of four days of peace and tranquility, breathtaking foliage, no wake-up calls, tea and scones served in silver pots and china and a quick stop-off in Woodstock on the way home. Sounded good to me. “Oh yeah,” he mentioned nonchalantly as we pulled out of our driveway with our son and a trunk full of luggage. “The Baseball Hall of Fame is there too, I think.”
Of course, if you’re a baseball fan, you probably already knew that. And, if you’re one of the 575,000 people who visit the town each year, you’ve likely made the trek, at least in part, in order to tour the three-story, red-brick homage to America’s Pastime. And it’s no wonder. Cooperstown’s association with baseball is undeniable. In addition to being the site of the Hall of Fame, it is also widely considered to be the birthplace of the game itself, which was probably invented here by Abner Doubleday in 1839.
But baseball is not all—or even most—of what this sleepy little town has to offer. In fact—and I know I’m taking my life in my hands here—it is entirely possible to visit the area without ever setting foot in the Baseball Hall of Fame. If, however, you’ve got men or boys (I know; same thing) in tow, you’ll probably at least want to stop by.
Every year, thousands of wide-eyed little boys leave the Hall on the shoulders of their equally mesmerized dads in search of Mom—who’s nowhere to be found. If she’s like me, she’s antiquing in one of the quaint little shops tucked discreetly between the absurd number of baseball souvenir and memorabilia shops that line Main Street on either side of the Hall. Or maybe she’s savoring one of the better-than-Starbucks lattés down the block at Danny’s, an authentic Italian deli/café and a definite best bet for lunch.
Cooperstown is awash with art and culture and, when it comes to pure, unadulterated beauty, this town, located 70 miles west of Albany in the heart of upstate New York’s Leatherstocking Region (named for favorite son James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales, which were set here) is hard to beat. The town hugs the banks of the 10-mile long, sparkling clean Lake Otsego, where boating and fishing are favorite lazy-day pastimes. In spring, the streets are humming; in summer, they’re bustling. Cooperstown’s “tourist” season begins in mid-April and lasts until early December, though, in my opinion, it’s at its most beautiful (and comfortable) in early fall, when the foliage is spectacular, the air smells of firewood, the crowds are large but not unruly and the weather is chilly but cozy. Many of the town’s events and attractions are centered around the seasons, so plan accordingly.
Of course, Cooperstown is not for everyone. It can be romantic for couples and entertaining for families, but don’t come looking for exciting nightlife—unless counting fireflies or listening to crickets chirp excites you. And forget fast-food drive-thrus—or anything fast, for that matter—they don’t exist here. This town is why the term “getaway” was coined.
Where to Stay
For my money, the only choice is the Otesaga (60 Lake Street, Cooperstown, 800-348-6222 or 607-547-9931, www. otesaga.com), an historic, luxurious, five-star, 136-room grand resort hotel overlooking Lake Otsego, which recently underwent a $34-million renovation to restore it to its original architectural grandeur—and which, by the way, serves tea in silver pots and pastries on Villeroy & Boch china. Most rates include full breakfast and dinner. Note: The breakfast buffet is to die for—particularly for the little ones who can watch as their chocolate-chip pancakes are made to order.
Rooms: $305 to $510. Suites: $435 to $530. Several special packages are available.
for kids of all ages
The Farmers’ Museum (Lake Road, Route 80, Cooperstown, 888-547-1450, www.farmersmuseum.org). Experience 19th-century life firsthand at one of the country’s oldest living history museums. You can see a real blacksmith at work and farm animals at play. Seasonal events include the Independence Day Celebration (July 4); the Cooperstown Chamber Music Festival (August 6 to 22); the Harvest Festival (September 18 and 19);
Family Fun Thanksgiving Weekend (November 26 & 27); Candelight Evening (December 19); and Sugaring Off (Sundays in March).
Fly Creek Cider Mill and Orchard (288 Goose Street, Fly Creek, NY, 607-547-9692; www.flycreekcidermill.com). Watch apple cider being pressed at this 148-year-old water-powered cider mill three miles from Cooperstown. Sample the cider and some warm donuts, then feed the ultra-friendly ducks by the mill pond. But be careful—they eat right out of your hand, and are not too shy to bite little fingers!
for the sports enthusiast
National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum (25 Main Street, Cooperstown, 607-547-7200; www.baseballhalloffame.org). The Hall houses more than 35,000 three-dimensional artifacts, including Joe DiMaggio’s locker, seats from Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field, 5,000 significant baseballs and 135,000 rare baseball cards, as well as several permanent and touring exhibits, including the ever-popular “Babe Ruth Room.” Special events include the annual Hall of Fame Weekend, which will take place this year on July 24 through 26. The Induction Ceremony (which is free and open to the public) for this year’s inductees will take place on Sunday, July 25, at the Clark Sports Center.
Leatherstocking Golf Course (The Otesaga, 60 Lake Street, Cooperstown, 800-348-6222, www.otesaga.com). This championship, 18-hole, par-72, 6,056-yard course on the grounds of The Otesaga was named one of the 10 best public courses in New York State by GolfWeek and was ranked second overall in the New York region by Zagat Survey.
for art lovers
Fenimore Art Museum (Lake Road, Cooperstown, 888-547-1450, www.fenimoreartmuseum.org). Housed in an elegant 1930s mansion overlooking Lake Otsego, this prestigious museum is built on the site of James Fenimore Cooper’s home and showcases extensive collections of folk art. Current and upcoming exhibits include Geronimo! An American Indian Legend (April 1 to December 31) and Winslow Homer: Masterworks from the Adirondacks (June 21 to September 6).
Somehow, it just doesn’t seem right to head off on vacation and leave your poor pooch behind, howling balefully in his kennel cage as you drive off for a fun weekend getaway. But just in time for the dog days of summer, two New York City hotels have come up with a perfect solution: Doggie and Me weekend packages. No dog? No problem; these hotels don’t discriminate against the dogless.
Central Park South
50 Central Park South
New York, NY
You know you’ve arrived when you not only stay at the Ritz, perhaps the, pardon the obvious, ritziest hotel on ritzy Manhattan island (Everything about the hotel speaks of Old World—but definitely not old-fashioned—class from the burl-paneled double height lounge with grand piano and harp to the decadent opulence of the rooms looking out over arguably the best view in all Manhattan), but your dog checks in too. And why shouldn’t Rover enjoy the five-star, five-diamond luxury as well? The recently remodeled 277-room luxury hotel, voted Best of the Best last year by Condé Nast Traveler, has long been pet friendly, offering emergency Burberry rain gear for guests and their dogs (You don’t want to clash as you dash down Fifth Avenue in a sudden downpour, now do you?). On your Doggie and Me weekend, your pet will receive a 22-karat gold-plated ID tag and a quilted travel mat. Then treat your dog to a dog pizza and home-baked non-chocolate bon-bons. And leather jackets and cashmere sweaters are also on loan at the concierge desk so your pooch can pack light. Central Park, Broadway, Fifth Avenue and all they have to offer are just steps away.
Then again, many dogs show little or no interest in shopping (Bergdorf’s is just around the corner), museums (the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Natural History, a stroll through the park) or the theater (Call the desk, and they’ll get tickets for you). Not to worry: a dog sitter is on call in case you want a night on the town. In which case, The Ritz has a Bentley and driver available to squire you around.
Dine at the highly touted French Atelier restaurant; try the bluefin tuna and diver scallop tartare seasoned with Iranian Osetra caviar or the squab and foie gras “croustillant” with caramelized apple cider jus. Need a little pampering? Luxuriate at the La Prairie spa; might we suggest an après shopping pedicure with reflexology?
Staying in a suite? Here’s a sweet deal: complimentary access to the exclusive Club Lounge overlooking Central Park with a dedicated concierge standing ready to anticipate any whim, from unpacking your bags to locating a copy of today’s Le Figaro. (Non-suite guests can join the club for $150 a day, which still works out to be a pretty good deal.) Sorry, this offer is for two-legged guests only.
Weekend Doggy and Me packages start at $1,095 a night. Those who don’t want the puppy package can stay for $650 a night.
150 East 34th Street
New York, NY
while the ritz whispers old
Money, privilege and prestige, the Affinia Dumont exudes a cosmopolitan cool with a younger, hipper and definitely more physically-fit crowd. Billing itself as an “executive fitness” hotel, its gym features a “fitness concierge” along with a locker service and sneaker valet to launder and store workout clothes. There are kits for in-room workouts and for the truly committed, a fitness suite complete with cardio equipment, free weights and a private sauna. (This sports concept seems to be working—I did see an inordinate number of hunky looking guys in the elevator during my stay.) Next to the gym is a lovely spa with the usual assortment of feel-good treatments with a number of treatments geared specifically for sports enthusiasts (lean body compression wrap, decompression zone, sport pack, muscular ease body dip and the Affinia Fat Burner).
But what impressed my daughter and me most (after the hunky guys in the elevator) were the rooms. Our suite was so spacious (even a fully equipped kitchen), so impeccably appointed (an Aeron desk chair) and so darn comfortable, we didn’t want to leave. If only we’d known that we could have brought our dog along—then we never would have.
The first clue the hotel caters to a doggy crowd is its Barking Dog restaurant next door, where the waiters’ T-shirts encourage guests to “sit” and “stay.” In the brick-walled courtyard, there is an outdoor “dog bar” offering liquid refreshment with varying height water bowls. Done up in doggie décor, the bistro serves up salads, sandwiches, steaks and the like along with huge country breakfasts (pancakes, eggs Benedict, omelets with all the fixin’s) just $10 and really, really good.
Upon check-in, pets receive food and water bowls as well as an assortment of treats and toys. Understanding that dogs may wish to have their own spa experience, there is also therapeutic doggie massage cream and relaxing lavender spray available (but no doggie massages on the spa menu yet).
Rates start at $340 per night.
More Bright Lights, Another Big City
Whether cruisin’ for colleges, rooting for the Red Sox or shopping on Newbury Street, Boston’s
a great place to get away
Distance: 3 Hours
What could be more fun than packing your surly teen in the car and starting that annual high school tradition of cruising for colleges? Okay, so maybe this is as much fun as a root canal, but here’s a place to make this rite of passage painless (almost). The Hotel Commonwealth in Boston’s Kenmore Square (866-784-4000; www.hotelcommonwealth.com) is smack dab in the middle of this, the most collegiate of towns. Directly across the street is Boston University, across the Charles River are MIT and, oh yes, Harvard. Within walking distance are Emerson College, Northeastern University, Berklee College of Music and the Boston Dance Conservatory. Boston College is a 20-minute train ride away.
I brought my two teens to Boston for just this purpose. We zipped off to Boston College, then back to Harvard without missing a beat (the train stop is directly across from the hotel). While at Harvard, visit the fabled Harvard Book Store and lunch at Sandrine’s Bistro (617-497-5300) for classic French cuisine in a cozy atmosphere (It was named by Esquire Magazine one of the 10 best new restaurants in the U.S. when it opened in 1996). Walk down Avenue of the Arts, and you can check a few more colleges off your visit list.
But in the event you do not have a 16 or 17 year old and are not obligated to devote every weekend to the college search thing, there are still a few things to do in Beantown.
The Museum of Fine Arts Boston (617-267-9300, www.mfa.com). Hurry to catch the Gauguin Tahiti show (it closes June 20); then get in the spirit of the upcoming Olympics with Games for the Gods, opening July 21 through November 28. Enjoy your art tour with tea, live music and munchies in the Upper Rotunda, October through April ($6 for adults, $3 for children).
The New England Aquarium (617-973-5200, www.neaq.org) may be one of the world’s best with a 200,000 gallon tank and an actual medical center where you can watch sea turtles nursed back to health or mama fishies giving birth. For a really memorable souvenir, why not paint a picture with a sea lion? Yep, they really jump out of their pond to add a distinctive brush stroke or two and perhaps a kiss on your cheek as well if you ask nicely (just $150 for non-members, $125 for members).
Walk into history on The Freedom Trail, a three-mile walking tour of 16 historical sites including the Boston Common, the oldest public park in America, and the Old South Meeting House where Samuel Adams gave the go-ahead for the granddaddy of all tea parties. Get a walking map from www.thefreedomtrail.org or take a 90-minute guided tour leaving from the Visitor Center at 15 State Street (617-242-5642) during summer, fall and spring.
After all that, you deserve a really great meal. And you’re in luck—it’s right at home base. Hotel Commonwealth’s Great Bay Restaurant, voted as one of the top 10 by Boston Magazine, is very swank and sexy, with soaring ceiling-height windows dressed in sheers, and it serves up local faves like Chatham cod, Florida red snapper and whole black bass. You must try the clam chowder, a perfect blend of potato, pancetta and clams, with the broth poured separately from a small black kettle. For dessert, don’t miss the butterscotch pudding or the cherry almond strudel; it made us swoon.
Antique Aficionados Rejoice!
Distance: 2 hours
My sister was my enabler; she was the one who got me addicted to antiquing (or, as my husband describes it, parting with lots of money for old junk that our grandmothers threw away). So it was only fitting that she planned an overnight jaunt to the historic little town of Bristol, RI, home to an impressive number of antique shops and historical attractions, to celebrate my birthday.
The word for Bristol is unpretentious. Quieter, less crowded and not as fancy-schmancy or expensive as its famous chichi neighbor of Newport, this quintessential New England coastal village, nestled between two bays, features a compact downtown that begs to be explored. Poke around its dusty antique shops, refuel with something chocolate from one of its diet-busting bakeries, browse through its funky gift galleries or settle in at one of its quaint little cafes. Dating back to the 1680s, Bristol’s tree-lined street plan is particularly suited to strolling and showcases outstanding examples of architecture spanning three centuries, from Federal and Greek Revival to 19th-century country estates.
If you become weary of wandering through the shops or want to work off any of those oh-so-yummy carbs, lace up the cross trainers and hit the East Bay Bike Path, an abandoned rail bed along Narragansett Bay that connects a string of eight parks. And while it invites a lot of sweat-producing activities like biking, power walking, running and inline skating, you could just plop on one of its benches to watch the sun set over the water; we did. Then, off to dinner at the upscale The Lobster Pot (reservations suggested; 401-253-9100) where the just-caught, traditionally prepared seafood (remember Oysters Rockefeller?) is served with a panoramic harbor view.
Where to Stay
Home base during our getaway was the comfortable 40-room boutique-style Bristol Harbor Inn (866-254-1444; www.bristolharborinn.com) located on the water at Thames Street Landing. Ask for a water view (Not all rooms have one) or one of the eight historic rooms that feature gas fireplaces, mahogany furniture, chair rails and crown molding. If there’s no room at the inn, or you’re looking for a more old-fashioned lodging experience, check the Bristol web site (www.online bristol.com) for some charming B&B options. Weekend rates start from $169 per night for a double to $249 per night for a water-view suite.
what to do?
For Nature Lovers: the Audubon Society of Rhode Island Environmental Education Center (1401 Hope Street, 401-245-7500). Situated on the 28-acre McIntosh Wildlife Refuge, this interactive museum and nature center features the state’s largest aquarium and includes touch tanks, wildlife exhibits and 3D dioramas (look for the 35-foot long replica of the right whale), plus a one-half mile boardwalk to the shore of Narragansett Bay.
For Gardeners: Blithewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum (101 Ferry Road, 401-253-2707). Explore this 45-room 17th-century English manor-style mansion (featuring mostly original furnishings) and 33-acre grounds overlooking Narragansett Bay. Green thumb-types will want to consult the staff horticulturalist onsite Sundays during the summer, about the Arboretum’s 250 varieties of trees and shrubs.
For Marine Enthusiasts: Herreshoff Marine Museum and America’s Cup Hall of Fame (1 Burnside Street, 401-253-5000). A must-visit for boating enthusiasts (after all, Bristol was once the yacht-building capital of the world). View over 60 historic yachts, steam engines, fittings and memorabilia from the Herreshoff family, builders of many America’s Cup defenders.
For Kids: Coggeshall Farm Museum (Poppasquash Road off Route 114, 401-253-9062). Take the kids to experience this living model of a 1790s marsh farm featuring free-roaming sheep and chickens, outbuildings depicting 18th-century farm life, a working blacksmith shop and a garden with heirloom varieties of vegetables and herbs. End the day with a stroll through the adjacent Colt State Park.
For History Buffs: Linden Place (500 Hope Street, 401-253-0390). The “jewel in the crown” of Bristol’s historic district, this Federal period mansion was built in 1810 by General George DeWolf, whose grandson founded the company that is now Fleet Bank. The mansion has hosted four United States presidents and was once the home of actress Ethel Barrymore. Be sure to leave time to wander around the property’s sculpture-filled gardens.
Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology (Tower Street off Route 136). Brown University’s only major museum, this cultural hothouse features an events calendar chock-full of lectures, performances, symposia and festivals. Located on the traditional lands of the Wampanoag peoples, the museum also displays artifacts from native peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and the Pacific