Snow Optional

The lack of a white blanket won’t put a wet blanket on your fun at these four well-rounded destinations.


A snapshot from Wintergreen. (See more photos below.)

Drive time: About five-and-a-half hours.

There aren’t too many places where you can play golf in the morning and hit the slopes that same afternoon—except for the 11,000-acre Wintergreen Resort (Route 664, Wintergreen, Va., 434-325-2200,, a uniquely designed, amenity-loaded lodge, condo and villa complex that spans the eastern slopes of central Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Depending on how much you like heights, you can stay in the valley, only 600 feet above sea level, or way up on the mountain 4,000 feet above just about everything.

Wintergreen Resort accommodations range from cute and cozy studios ($145-$219), lodge units ($155-$235) and one-bedroom condos ($165-$249) to colossal, seven-bedroom vacation homes (use your imagination). Most come with fireplaces and kitchens. Ask about early- or late-season and midweek “Lodge & Lift,” “Beat the Blues” and “Ski & Tee” winter packages.

Dining at Wintergreen can be easygoing or elegant. Go Southern-style at Copper Mine Bistro (434-325-8090) with country ham, biscuits and gravy. Or select a sophisticated crab, spinach and Swiss omelet. Entrées range from $5.25 to $11.25.

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Dinner also has a Southern accent at the upscale Devils Grill Restaurant and Lounge (434-325-8100), where the shrimp and grits are sensational.

Entrées run $19-$34. For a more moderately priced meal ($12-$22), try a tuna steak or petit filet at Stoney Creek Bar & Grill (434-325-8110).

Yes, Virginia, there is a zip line at Wintergreen—a 900-foot one that’ll send you flying at speeds up to 40 miles per hour for $10 a ride. As for snow sports (434-325-2200), you’ll find 26 slopes for skiers and boarders, ranging from bunny slope to double black diamond. Full-day adult lift tickets cost $47/weekdays, $67/ weekends; half-day $34, $57.

Skiers and boarders can sharpen their freestyle skills at Wintergreen’s two terrain parks. And tubers can top out at 40 miles per hour on “The Plunge.” With 10 lanes, you won’t be spending much time on your feet during your two-hour session ($18 midweek, $27 weekends).

Wintergreen boasts 45 holes of championship golf over two courses, but only the one in the valley, Stoney Creek (434-325-8250), is open in winter. With its mountain views, natural springs and lake, this Rees Jones-designed, 27-hole, par-72 course is as scenic as it is challenging. Fees are $49-$69 (including cart).

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’Tis the season for cranberry and peppermint—so celebrate with a facial, manicure and/or pedicure made from these ingredients at Wintergreen’s spa. Or refresh with a dip in the fitness center’s indoor pool.

Design your own tour of the many excellent, family-owned boutique wineries and breweries within an easy drive of Wintergreen, including Veritas Vineyard & Winery (151 Veritas Lane, 540-456-8000, While you’re there, try the Scintilla, a sparkling blend of cabernet franc and chardonnay. At Flying Fox Vineyard (27 Chapel Hollow Road, Afton;, 434-361-1692), sample the merlot/cabernet-franc/petit-verdot blend they call Trio. Tastings at most wineries are $5.

If beer’s your beverage of choice, head to the 2010 World Beer Cup Championship-winning Devils Backbone Brewing Company at the base of Wintergreen Mountain (200 Mosbys Run, Roseland, 434-361-1001, or Blue Mountain Brewery and Hop Farm (9519 Critzers Shop Road, Afton; 540-456-8020,

Blue Ridge Pig (2198 Rockfish Valley Hwy., Nellysford, 434-361-1170) may be nothing to look at—and you have to wonder how the guy behind the smoker got the name Strawberry—but who cares when the brisket, pulled pork and (especially) ribs may be the best you’ve ever tasted. A great meal can be had for $10 or less.

Destination No. 2 on page 2 …

Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts

Drive time: About six hours.

Summer is prime tourist time in Beantown. And while winter isn’t exactly quiet in this hotbed of higher education, you’ll find it easier to get into the most popular attractions. You’ll also discover all kinds of free (or, at least, cheap) family-oriented activities and events both downtown and in Cambridge, aka “Boston’s Left Bank.”

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Harding House (288 Harvard St., Cambridge; 877-489-2888, is a homey 14-room Victorian just a short walk away from Harvard Square, the heart of Cambridge—or a short subway ride to downtown Boston. A one-night stay (double occupancy) will set you back $145-$200. With that, you get a nice continental breakfast, an off-street parking space (valuable in Cambridge, even if it is first-come, first-served), and free museum passes.

For something a little ritzier, there’s the much larger (294 rooms, 45 suites) Charles Hotel on Harvard Square (1 Bennett St.,, 800-882-1818). Rates begin at $199 in December, rise to $299 in January and February, and increase again to $319 in March.

An outstanding spot for any meal—particularly breakfast—is the sustainable-centric Henrietta’s Table (617-661-5005, at the Charles Hotel, where executive chef Peter Davis allows great ingredients to shine. His red flannel hash is a craveable classic. Breakfast entrées range from $5.25 to $8.75. Lunch entrées start at $12.50, and dinner at $14.75.

In the nearby Boston burb of Brookline, owner/chef Jim Solomon has gained a loyal following for his rotisserie and wood-smoked specialties. The maple-glazed chicken is his signature dish at The Fireplace (1634 Beacon St.,, 617-975-1900). There’s a separate gluten-free menu, and entrées range from $23 to $36. From Sunday to Thursday, look for the nothing-costs-more-than-$20 “Humble Offerings,” and stick around for the live jazz or Latin music on Wednesday and Thursday evenings.

Even if you don’t matriculate at Harvard or MIT, you can blend in with the lively collegiate crowd at Russell House Tavern, right off of Harvard Square in Cambridge (14 JFK St., 617-500-3055, The menu is varied, ranging from small plates ($5-$9) to giant entrées ($18-$28). The lamb shank is fall-off-the-bone tender, and the pastry-capped short rib Wellington appetizer ($10) is a meal in itself.

Your sweet tooth will thank you (even if your waistline won’t) after something sinful at Finale Desserterie & Bakery Café on Harvard Square (30 Dunster St., 617-441-9797, And don’t miss the famous all-you-can-eat Chocolate Bar every Saturday at the Langham Hotel (250 Franklin St., Boston;, 617-451-1900). The cost is $38 for adults, $25 for kids.

If you plan to hop around a lot of museums and other sites during your visit, you might want to invest in a customizable Boston Explorer Pass or Go Boston Card (, 800-887-9103). Prices vary based on the number of attractions and the days you choose.

In Boston, try less known museums like the Isabella Stuart Gardner ($12; 280 The Fenway, 617-566-1401,, a 15th-century palace filled with masterpieces by Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli and others. The Institute of Contemporary Art ($15; 100 Northern Ave., on the waterfront, 617-478-3100, will make you question your visual perspective on pretty much everything. In Cambridge, see the world’s largest collection of holograms at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Museum ($7.50; Building N51, 265 Massachusetts Ave., 617-253-5927,

After dinner, share some laughs and a scorpion bowl (it’s a killer drink) at The Comedy Studio (tickets $8-$10; Hong Kong Restaurant, 1238 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-661-6507, Or enjoy some jazz at the Regatta Bar (tickets $15-$30; The Charles Hotel, 617-395-7757,

Get where you’re going by bus or—even better—subway. The routes are color-coded and run efficiently, and the stops are winter venues for the buskers (street performers), who you’ll usually see entertaining for tips in warmer weather on Harvard Square. Free events include hot chocolate tastings, a chili cook-off and a giant Chinese New Year celebration, complete with a lion dance parade (617-491-3434,

Take a free guided tour of the unbelievable array of museum-worthy art at the Central Public Library at Copley Square in downtown Boston (700 Boylston St., 617-536-5400, Strap on your skates (or rent some) and hit the ice with the locals on Frog Pond at America’s oldest public park, Boston Common (617-635-2120,; $4/adults, kids 13 and under free), or with the college crowd in Cambridge at the Charles Hotel ($5/adults, $3/kids).

Destination No. 3 on page 3 …

New Paltz, N.Y.

Drive time: A little more than three hours.

When you go on vacation, you expect to get the royal treatment, but it’s rare that you get to stay in an actual castle. Named for the glacial lake on which it was built in 1869, this seven-story, 267-room National Historic Landmark perched atop Shawangunk Ridge just south of the Catskills is a prime example of over-the-top (in a good way) Victorian architecture. Aside from being the centerpiece to 2,000 acres of forested Hudson Valley property, the resort adjoins the 6,400-acre Mohonk Preserve.

Mohonk Mountain House (1000 Mountain Rest Road, New Paltz; 800-772-6646, is definitely not an inexpensive vacation destination. A standard queen room will run you about $600 a night (double occupancy); call for prices on the lavish guest suites. But you’re getting much more than just a pretty place to sleep. That price covers everything from three delicious meals a day to all of the recreational activities you could possibly want.

Mohonk serves up some serious food. Wake up to roasted apple and mascarpone crêpes with caramel sauce. And forget any preconceived notions about institutional table fare at the lunchtime buffet—everything is prepared by a staff that obviously cares, and there are two carving stations. Make sure you get out and burn some calories before sitting down to the four-course dinner. The New York strip is so large that you might as well ask for a leftovers box with your order.

Bundle up and tie on your free skates—or ask a bladed buddy to push you around in an authentic Victorian skating chair—for a spin around the more-than-9,000-square-foot rink in Mohonk’s open-air, lake-view pavilion. Even if the temperatures are down in the lower digits, there’s a 39-foot-tall stone fireplace to keep you cozy.

If it does snow, the property has plenty of places to ski, snowshoe or snow tube, and equipment is complimentary. Afterward, take a swim in the heated indoor pool or visit the on-site spa for a signature treatment featuring indigenous ingredients—stuff like red witch hazel, indigo and fine quartz grains.
Take full advantage of the activities included with your stay. Get even more bang for your buck by planning your visit around one of the special themed programs, including food-and-wine pairings with Kevin Zraly of the Windows on the World Wine School, ballroom dancing, a murder mystery, and more. Ask about discounted midweek getaway programs.

Destination No. 4 on page 4 …

South Sterling, Pa.

Drive time: A little more than two hours.

This is the Poconos? During peak ski season? You’d never know it up on Huckleberry Mountain, where—instead of scores of ski-rack-roofed sedans and lift-ticket-toting hordes—you’ll find an oasis of tranquility in the form of an Old World-elegant, turreted, stone chateau tucked away on 45 acres of a forest called—no joke—Sherwood. It took more than 160 German and Italian artisans two years (1935-37) to construct this northern Poconos manor home as a getaway for a Depression-proof industrialist.

The epitome of a romantic retreat, the adult-oriented French Manor Inn and Spa (Huckleberry Road, 877-720-6090, is sophisticated without being snooty. The Logan family—who’s owned the inn since 1990—will make sure you’re warmly welcomed and treated like royalty. Choose a guestroom or suite in the main manor, or a more private room or suite in the carriage house or new spa addition. Winter rates for rooms run $175-$225 (double occupancy), breakfast included. If your budget will bear it, go for the full fireplace and Jacuzzi suite experience ($250-$295).

An indoor saltwater pool and full-service spa (the signature treatment involves—surprise!— huckleberries) make the prospect of staying inside extremely inviting on a snowy day. But if you want to go out and play, the Logans will lend you snowshoes, toboggans and tubes. And if you just can’t resist the siren call of the slopes, Camelback Mountain Resort (1 Camelback Road, Tannersville; 800-233-8100, is less than a half-hour to the south, and Tanglwood Ski Area & Winter Park (192 Paper Birch South, Tafton, 877-674-7669) is 30 minutes to the northeast.

Before you do anything in the morning, ask for a cup of the inn’s fragrant, custom-blended, French-pressed huckleberry coffee. For your entrée, you can stick to your usual cereal-fruit-and-yogurt fare or shake up your taste buds with something completely different—like, say, thinly sliced, peppercorn-crusted filet mignon topped with scrambled eggs and crème de brie.

For dinner, donning a jacket is a small price to pay for a chance to savor the innovative offerings of French Manor Inn executive chef Michael Langdon, a Brasserie Perrier alum. His lobster bisque with cognac and truffles will have you swooning. The same goes for the grilled lamb rack with chèvre and roasted fig confit. Entrées range from $32 to $48.

For more than 40 years, Thomas Reece has been crafting wheel-thrown, high-fired stoneware for his eponymous shop (159 Crestmont Drive, Newfoundland;, 570-676-9140), less than 10 minutes from the French Manor Inn. All of his work reflects his uniquely whimsical perspective. His one-of-a-kind, lidded “character pots” come in a wide range of past and present pop-culture icons, including the Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields and opera diva Brunhilde.

At Wildcraft Arts (Route 191, South Sterling; 570-676-5532, at the bottom of Huckleberry Mountain, Vonn Valcarcel transforms hard and soft woods into must-have multi-tonal mosaic wall décor, sculptures and furniture.

For just $12.95, you can get a roasted half-chicken with all the trimmings at the pretty little Rainetree restaurant (570 South Sterling Road, 570-676-5090,, just down the road from the French Manor Inn.

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