Get Outta Town: 14 Great Escapes
Great get-outta-here destinations within easy driving (or flying) distance.
Get Outta Town
14 Weekend Getaways
Got no time? Got no babysitter? Got no oomph? No excuses. These great escapes are just what mental health experts (whom we might have consulted if we had more oomph) would probably recommend to boost your spirits and calm your mind. So stop kvetching and start packing. And let your therapist know you may not need a session this week after all
Boston may be a small city—with a population just one-sixteenth the size of New York’s—but, even we jaded New Yorkers must admit, it’s a city worth exploring, a city where history and modernity coexist about as well as they do anywhere. Take, for example, Nine Zero hotel, a sleek three-year-old luxury boutique hotel that could easily pass as an Ian Schrager creation, considering its ultra-chic design and utterly cool elegance. From my creamy beige-and-black room on the 18th floor, I could look out onto The Boston Common, one of America’s oldest public parks on which cattle grazed until 1830, and see all the way to the city’s famed Citgo sign. And from the floor-to-ceiling windows of the hotel’s stunning restaurant, Spire, I could glimpse a small 19th-century cemetery where Paul Revere and other famous Bostonians, are buried. There aren’t too many places where you can dine on sumptuous contemporary cuisine—try the Spire clam bake and don’t pass up its chilled hibiscus and Champagne soup for dessert—while imagining Revere’s midnight ride.
Nine Zero is fortunately well-positioned for exploring Boston’s offerings—both old and new. A short walk from the hotel is the legendary Beacon Hill, a charming neighborhood full of lovely redbrick rowhouses and cobblestone streets. It is the home of Boston’s first resident, William Blaxton, and today the home of many of the city’s well-heeled denizens (John Kerry has one of his abodes here). Enjoy a stroll down quaint Charles Street, where you can easily envision our forefathers and foremothers trading goods and gossip. Stop at No. 144, Panificio, for a frothy cup of cappuccino and a home-made scone or, if it’s brunch-time, a scrumptious helping of fresh-made pancakes or satisfying eggs Benedict (beware, though: it’s often crowded, so be prepared to wait).
Continue down Charles Street and you’ll come upon its namesake—the Charles River. Rent a bike or put on sneakers and journey along the path that runs along the river to take in the scenery, which provides wonderful views of the collision between the natural and man-made. After all that huffing and puffing, treat yourself to a a soothing massage at Exhale, located in The Heritage On The Garden, or a facial (the best, my traveling companion says, she’s ever received). The spa, by the way, is located very near the Fifth Avenue of Boston, Newbury Street, home to designer boutiques such as Betsey Johnson, Max Mara, and Chanel—but I’d recommend spending your time in this historic city enjoying the city itself (you can always shop at The Westchester).
For another taste of modern Boston, treat yourself to a heady meal at Meritage, in the Boston Harbor Hotel. Chef Daniel Bruce, at the Boston Wine Festival for 16 years, developed a menu that revolves around wine: at Meritage, the wine is chosen in coordination with the food. Don’t worry if you’re not an oenophile. The sommelier or your waiter will be eager to help. Sip a glass of robust Cabernet—and look out onto the harbor, the setting of the Boston Tea Party. And again, enjoy how well Boston commingles the old and the new.
Nine Zero, 90 Tremont St., Boston (617) 772-5800 Rates: $249 to $349; Spire Restaurant & Bar, 90 Tremont St., Boston (617) 772-0202; Meritage, 70 Rowes Wharf, Boston (617) 439-3995.
Inn at Glenora Wine Cellars
It’s Columbus Day weekend in Watkins Glen and the traffic along Route 14 is crawling. There are cars, buses, limos even, packed in parking lots or just left alongside the road. But no one seems stressed by the crowds or even in a hurry to move along—in fact, they all seem to be having a rollicking good time. This may be the country, but it is still New York for heaven’s sake: what’s up with this scene?
The Finger Lakes region is gorgeous in every season, but each October, two events irresistible to tourists are in perfect alignment: autumn leaves are at their peak and the grapes from the 28 wineries scattered along the shores of Seneca Lake are “in crush.” With a total of 60 wineries, the Finger Lakes region is the second largest wine producing area in the country (behind Napa Valley). Wisely, after tasting the wares from 28 vintners, many choose to snooze it all off locally, so if you visit in fall, be sure to book a room early.
The Inn at Glenora Wine Cellars opened in 1997 as a welcome, more luxurious alternative to the many B&Bs that dot the shoreline. All 30 rooms overlook the vineyard and the lovely Seneca Lake; private decks or balconies allow you to drink in the view while you enjoy the comp bottle of the house wine in the room’s fridge. The lodge and rooms are done up mission-style (the original Stickley factory is just up the road).
Across the lake in Hector is Red Newt Cellars (607-546-4100), a winery and bistro that offers sunset views that go on forever and fabulous Hudson Valley bounty perfectly paired with local wines. Most ingredients come from local producers with whimsical names like Lively Run Goat Dairy, Organic Cornucopia, and Newt Puddle Produce.
The Inn at Glenora Wine Cellars, 5435 Rte. 14, Dundee, NY, (607) 243-9500, www.glenora.com. Rates: $99 to $180 for standard rooms and $199 to $275 for the Vintner’s Select rooms. Another popular time to visit is in July during the Finger Lakes Wine Festival: (607) 535-2481, www.flwinefest.com.
—Nancy Claus Giles
New York, New York
No pied-a-terre in the city? The next best thing: a pied or, better still, a pair of pieds in one of the city’s luxury hotels. The chic Regency, located a stroll from Madison Avenue, features an in-house cabaret with a resident celebrity headliner, a full-service spa and health club, 24-hour room service and concierge, and superb celeb-spotting potential–all without the pesky rent or mortgage payments normally associated with a little place on Park Avenue.
The Regency promises an upscale yet warm residential-like hotel experience (sort of like a-home-away-from-home if you were, say, some fabulously wealthy socialite or a big-money master-of-the-universe type), and it delivers. With its cream marbled walls, coffee-colored velvet curtains, and alabaster chandeliers, the hotel’s swanky lobby calls to mind a tony private club. The flagship of Westchester’s Preston and Robert Tisches’ Loews Hotels chain, it’s a favorite of the local business and political elite (its restaurant spawned the term “power breakfast”).
The essence of sophisticated city chic, the hotel’s crown jewel is the intimate Feinstein’s nightclub, voted by Zagat as New York City’s top cabaret, where you can dine and enjoy Michael Feinstein, a modern-day version of Sinatra, perform show and pop tunes.
We were gone less than 24 hours, but, like any great getaway escape, it felt much longer and left us feeling blissfully relaxed and with some pretty spectacular made-in-Manhattan memories.
The Regency, 540 Park Ave. at 61st St., New York, NY, (212) 759-4100, www.loewshotels.com. Rates: $339 to $469. For info on Feinstein’s and tickets: (212) 339-4095, www.ticketweb.com.
The Minnewaska Lodge
New Paltz is so close, just an hour or so north off the New York State Thruway, but feels like worlds away—with cornfields and pumpkin patches and the glorious Shawangunk Mountains as a backdrop. And the mountains, a.k.a. the Gunks, are a huge draw for rock climbers, hikers, and mountain bikers.
The Minnewaska Lodge in Gardiner, just outside of New Paltz, is an airy bed-and-breakfast nestled on 17 acres at the base of the Gunks. Lounge on the back porch in comfy Adirondack rockers and munch on fresh-baked cookies. The neatly manicured lawn extends down to the woods with the sheer cliffs rising up above them. All you hear is the rustle of the wind through the trees, crickets whirring, and birdsong.
Only four years old, the B&B has 26 rooms, most with patios or balconies. It’s all done up in Mission style: clean lines, dark sage-green walls, soaring ceilings, a wood stove in the great room to cozy up to. Breakfast is not to be missed: fresh fruit strudels, muffins, coffee cake, granolas, and fresh fruits. Pack it in—you’ll need the energy for exploring.
The Mohonk Preserve has more than 100 miles of hiking trails and carriage roads and includes fields, streams, cliffs and forests. Minutes away is the Minnewaska State Park Preserve, perched atop the Shawagunk Mountain Ridge. A winding road climbs up the mountain directly to the prize: a glistening Lake Minnewaska, surrounded by forest on one side, sheer white cliffs rising out of the lake on the other.
Got kids? They’ll love the hayrides and corn mazes available. On fall weekends at the Wallkill View Farm Market (845-255-8050), there are hayrides, face painting, a pumpkin patch, and a corn maze along with seasonal produce and apple cider. The Country Charm farm (845-255-4321) has more than 30 scarecrows, a scenic hayride and barn sale, along with pumpkin picking. Hurds Family Farm (845-883-7818) has a four-acre corn maze (with a straw-bale maze and scarecrow maze for the littlest folks), a critter corner, hay jump, apple and pumpkin picking, and more.
Hungry yet? The Bruynswyck Inn (845-895-1147), near the lodge, offers contemporary American cuisine, as does Beso in downtown New Paltz. Try Depuy Canal House (845-687-7700) in High Falls and The Would (845-691-2516) in Highland for new American cuisine emphasizing local ingredients. Beer fans will enjoy the Gilded Otter Brewing Company (845-256-1700) right in New Paltz with 50 varieties of beer, eight on tap. Gadaleto’s Seafood Market (845-255-1717) provides seafood to many of the valley’s best restaurants and has a restaurant, very casual, a bit pricey, beer and wine only.
The Minnewaska Lodge, 3116 Rte. 44/45, Gardiner, NY, (845) 255-1110, www.minnewaskalodge.com. Rates: $125 to $319 per night.
Skaneateles (pronounced skinny—atlas) is just about as cute a town as I’ve ever seen. Proud Victorians and cozy farmhouses with inviting front porches line the road into town, which is perched on the shore of Skaneateles Lake (Skaneateles is Iroquois for “long lake”). At the edge of the historic downtown district and overlooking the lake stands the Sherwood Inn, a former stagecoach stop built in 1807, and a favored vacation spot of our most famous neighbors, the Clintons.
Comfy couches around a crackling fire in the lobby invite lingering while you wait for your table, in either the relaxed tavern (burgers, pizza, grilled chicken, pot roast) or the more formal, and pricier, dining room (American cuisine with a continental twist). During summer months, the front porch is open for meals and offers a breathtaking view of the lake (where guests can enjoy swimming, boating, and kayaking). Upstairs, there are 24 antique-appointed guest rooms (including 16 suites); some with fireplaces (incongruously gas-powered), separate sitting rooms, or lake views.
Each Friday in July and August, people gather at the lakeside gazebo for a free live concert. There are also polo games each Sunday in July and August in the countryside. There is an antique and classic boat show each July and a chamber music series during the Skaneateles Festival in August.
Sherwood Inn, 26 West Genesee St., Skaneateles, NY, (315) 685-3405, (800) 3-SHERWOOD, www.thesherwoodinn.com. Rates: $90 to $175 including continental breakfast. For information on the Skaneateles Festival: (315) 685-7418 or visit www.skanfest.org.
Mohegan, the name of the tribe that owns the world’s second largest casino, means “wolf people.” What has often seemed most attractive about the life once lived by members of such tribes, before the European invasion of this continent, was its closeness to nature, to wildlife, to the outdoors.
But, of course, such tribes are now mostly known in the United States for the casinos they establish. And a modern gambling casino is designed to exclude as much as possible any hint of life outside its walls—life that might pull a patron away from the dice or the cards.
Somewhere in the midst of Mohegan Sun’s 300,000 square feet of “gaming space” a mechanical wolf stands atop a man-made butte. No glints of light from either sun or moon, no intimations of wind or rain, inspire that wolf’s soundless howls. However, the packs of entirely lifelike humans who pass by that butte, or the three-story crystal mountain that decorates another section of this vast indoor space, seem entirely comfortable with life here in the great indoors. And they seem well entertained.
I am, it must be conceded, not an aficionado of gambling. I do not have a lucky number. I do not often feel myself to be on a roll. On rare occasions when I do enter a casino, I tend to walk up to a roulette wheel, place five dollars on either red or black, collect the winnings or bemoan the loss, and then walk away. (The ledger, after a couple of days at this Connecticut casino, read, if you’re interested: minus five.) So you’ll have to turn elsewhere for expert analysis of the quality of the gaming experience at Mohegan Sun.
Dutiful reporter that I am, however, I did sneak into the high-roller section. And before being politely, but forcefully, asked to leave, I noticed quite a few normal-looking people fanning out wads of hundred-dollar bills on various green tables—bills that were rapidly replaced by perilously tall stacks of brightly colored chips. These transactions occurred, I can report, with exemplary crispness and professionalism. The stacks then, for the most part, got shorter, sometimes with surprising rapidity, but the players certainly seemed thoroughly engaged.
The news is that it is possible for those of us who are low rollers or even no rollers to remain engaged for a couple of days at a modern gambling casino like Mohegan Sun. There are dozens of shops, for example—some reassuringly upscale. A variety of entertainment pulls people in. We saw a lively and loving tribute to the music of Frank Sinatra at the Cabaret Theater performed by a man who seemed well qualified for the task: Frank Sinatra, Jr. There is also a spa.
And the restaurant selection is varied and interesting. We ate well one night at famed chef Todd English’s Tuscany. (Todd English has worked at La Côte Basque in New York City and Olives in Massachusetts; you know what Tuscany is.) The next night, a trail behind an artificial waterfall led us to the intriguing fusion cuisine at Rain.
The Disney-like, squeaky-clean, mechanical-wolf artificiality of it all is, of course, a big part of the experience (as it increasingly is today in that once sleazy capital of American gambling: Las Vegas, with its faux Paris and faux New York). Turquoise, for example, stands out in the color scheme at Mohegan Sun. Turquoise, to the best of my knowledge, is not much found in eastern Connecticut. However, it is an attractive color, and I guess it does help us sustain the illusion that—although we are inescapably indoors, although we are here to gamble, celebrate Frank Sinatra or eat food from Tuscany—something Native American is going on. The wolf and the butte and the three-story crystal mountain are kind of cool, too.
Mohegan Sun, One Mohegan Sun Blvd., Uncasville, CT, (888) 226-7711. www.mohegan sun.com. Rates: $129 to $375.
Castle on the Hudson
No time to travel? Skip the airport security lines, keep your shoes and belt on (for awhile, anyway), and cozy up right here in the county’s very own castle, complete with 75-foot-tower, stone turrets, and a staff that’ll treat you like royalty. Exuding elegance and romance, this distinctive hilltop destination offers breathtaking views of The Hudson, the Tappan Zee, and Manhattan, plus European-style suites and a renowned restaurant, Equus.
Should you wish to play tourist on your home turf, the Castle’s location makes for a convenient jumping-off point for exploring the surrounding countryside. Take in Tarrytown’s shopping district, a veritable treasure trove for antique aficionados; Kykuit, the Rockefeller estate, and its gardens featuring 20th-century sculpture by Calder, Nevelson, and Moore; The Union Church of Pocantico Hills, home to Chagall and Matisse stained-glass windows; and such nearby historic houses as Washington Irving’s Sunnyside, Philipsburg Manor, and Van Cortlandt Manor (www.hudsonvalley.org; 914-631-8200). And whether you live to eat or eat to live, stop by Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture (and its esteemed Blue Hill restaurant), for a first-hand look (and taste) of the farm-to-table culinary revolution (www.stonebarnscenter. org; 914-366-6200). But wherever you venture, save time to soak up the Castle’s sumptuous surroundings.
Castle on the Hudson, 400 Benedict Ave., Tarrytown (914) 631-1980, www.castleonthehudson.com. Rates: $340 to $770 per night. Four-course prix-fixe dinner at Equus, $71.
Union Gables Bed and Breakfast
Saratoga Springs, NY
I admit it. I’m just not a let’s-go-to-the-track kind of gal. In fact, I’ve been to Saratoga Springs countless times (my guy’s hometown), but I never bothered to visit its famed Saratoga Race Course.
If you love horseracing, though, Saratoga is an ideal weekend destination. Racing season runs from July to early September, with plenty of opportunities to bet on the ponies. Consider, too, taking in a sporting polo match at the century-old Saratoga Polo Association, one of the four oldest polo clubs in the nation.
If you spend your days with the horses, spend your nights at the Union Gables. This century-old, Queen Anne-style B&B is one of a few within walking distance of the track—a huge advantage since finding a parking spot near the course is as likely as Mr. Ed winning the next Triple Crown.
But if, like me, cheering and jeering at the track isn’t your idea of a good time, there’s still plenty to do here. But do it off-season, when the throngs thin and the prices drop. Tan yourself at Saratoga Lake, put in a round or two at the Saratoga National Golf Course, max out your credit card at the shops on Broadway, catch a performance at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, or visit one of the many museums (I counted more than 10).
Hungry? Dine at the Springwater Bistro (518-584-6440), where award-winning chef David Britton uses ingredients from local farms, or at the Wine Bar (518-584-8777), which offers 50 wines-by-the-glass to go with your stuffed Vermont quail. If you’re in more of a beer-and-sweet-potato-fries mood, The Parting Glass (518-583-1916) is a favorite haunt of locals and often has live music. And when you’re full, Union Gables is a perfect place to unwind, either by people watching from the wrap-around porch or by cozying up to one of the fireplaces with a fresh-baked cookie.
Union Gables, 55 Union Ave., Saratoga Springs, NY (518) 584-1558, www.uniongables.com. Rates: $140 to $410 per night.
The Hotel Hershey
Is there such a thing as too much chocolate? My 12-year-old daughter, Kristin, gamely agreed to accompany me to Hershey, PA—a town built on chocolate—to investigate. As we paused at the intersection of Cocoa and Chocolate Avenues, where even the streetlights are shaped like Hershey’s Kisses, we could actually smell the chocolate in the air. And there, high atop a hill overlooking Hershey Park, was our destination: the Hotel Hershey, a grand old dame, oozing charm, elegance, and, yes, chocolate.
Upon check-in, solicitous clerks offered up chocolate bars to revive us after our three-hour journey; mini Mr. Goodbars, Kisses, and Krackels overflowed from a fountain at the entrance to one of the restaurants, free for the taking. But it was the vast array of chocolates in the gift shop that put Kristin over the top. “Oh Mommy,” she sighed, “this must be what heaven is like.”
I, on the other hand, found heaven in the Hershey spa. Be-robed, blissed-out guests waited for services in the Quiet Room, a beautifully appointed lounge overlooking the formal gardens and the rolling Blue Mountains beyond. The menu of services sounded delicious: chocolate-bean polish, strawberry-parfait scrub, chocolate-fondue wrap, milk-and-honey soak. (The chocolate treatments are so popular, the spa goes through roughly 1,300 pounds of cocoa powder a year.) I opted for a cocoa massage ($90 for 50 minutes), followed by a whipped cocoa bath ($45 for 25 minutes). All that chocolate and zero calories? Truly heaven!
But the bliss was short-lived. There’s a reason Hershey Park has been rated as the top amusement park in the northeast for four years running by Family Fun magazine. More than 60 reasons actually, from tame rides like the Dinosaur-Go-Round for the little tykes to the truly terrifying. Most horrific (or exciting, depending on your point of view) is the Storm Runner, a “hydraulic launch coaster” that goes from 0 to 72 miles per hour in two seconds flat, then shoots 18 stories straight up and back down again—and that’s just for starters. Just watching the loops, twists, and turns from the safety of the ground made us queasy. Lucky me: my daughter not only shares my love of chocolate but my distaste of roller coasters. Hours later, we dragged ourselves back to the Hotel Hershey. An alert clerk rushed to greet us and immediately administered emergency chocolate rations, a sweet treat indeed.
Hotel Hershey, 100 W. Hershey Park Dr., Hershey, PA, (800) HERSHEY, www.HersheyPA.com. Rates: $210 to $310 per night.