Whether a river runs through it, the sea shimmers beside it or water is the perfect place to recharge. This quintet of quick an abundance of activities—from boating and bathing to seal healing mineral springs flow beneath it, a getaway spot by the escapes—all within easy driving distance from home—offers watching and surf casting to seafood feasting and sunset gazing.
Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania
Native Americans had long known about the restorative powers of the seven (an eighth was just discovered) mineral springs bubbling up from the earth in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Mountains. Then, in the early 19th century, physician John Anderson began prescribing their liquid contents as a cure for a wide range of ailments. To accommodate the growing number of visitors who traveled from around the world to “take the waters” at Bedford Springs, Anderson built a 24-room inn. The enterprise grew into one of the nation’s premier luxury resorts, hosting 10 U.S. presidents. It’s well worth the three-hour drive. this National Historic Landmark underwent a Cinderella-like $120 million restoration and was reopened last summer. It’s well worth the three-hour drive.
Stay Here: Choose from a guestroom in the “historic wing,” with its attention to graceful mid-19th-century design elements and décor, or a room or suite in the new, super-posh “spa wing” ($249-$299; suites start at $309) at Bedford Springs Resort (pictured below) (2138 Business Route 220, Bedford; 814-623-8100, bedfordspringsresort.com). The baths are marble, the garden views beautiful, and some rooms have a pair of rockers on their own private porches or balconies.
There’s also plenty to keep the kids entertained, with supervised daytime and evening activity programs. And if Fido happens to be one of your favorite traveling companions, you’ll be happy to know that Bedford Springs is a pet-friendly resort.
Eat Here: Bedford Springs Resort offers three distinct dining experiences, along with takeout for picnicking on the property’s scenic trails. Dark wood beams and 18th-century-style fixtures lend a historic ambiance to the 1796 Room (pictured below). The seasonal menu features contemporary treatments of local fish and game (honey-lacquered squab with huckleberry and ham cobbler, and anise-basted scallops with beet ravioli were two recent offerings). Both the two- and three-course prix fixes ($65 and $80/person) include dessert, and the chef will happily accommodate vegetarian diners.
From its exhibition kitchen and rotisserie, The Crystal Room serves up comfort food classics with a twist (Grand Marnier French toast, bison brisket and burgers, citrus- and thyme-scented chicken)—either buffet-style ($14.95-$34.95) or à la carte for breakfast ($5.50-$16.75), lunch ($9.50-$32) and dinner ($18-$32).
A very particular friend of mine says the ham and bean soup (served in a crock with cheddar cheese biscuits) at the resort’s rustic Frontier Tavern is the best he’s ever tasted. It’s even better paired with one of the locally produced beers ($7-$22.50). Order 24 hours in advance, and Che Sara Sara will assemble a gourmet picnic ($24.50/person) for your trail trek or other al fresco adventure.
• Springs Eternal Spa, for anything from the basic bath (a multi-sensory experience that includes a self-administered nut-and-spice rub, warm and cool jetted pool plunges, and aromatherapy steam; free with appointment) to season-specific facials, full-body treatments and packages ($18-$485).
• Golfing on the Bedford Springs Old Course, a one-of-a-kind par-72 with historic holes designed by Spencer Oldham, A.W. Tillinghast and Donald Ross (greens fees $75-$135).
• Fly-fishing in Shober’s Run, the resort’s stocked, Gold Medal-designated trout stream.
• Soaking in more minerals at the resort’s spring-fed indoor pool.
• Taking a hike or renting a bike to explore the 25 miles of well-marked trails that meander through the resort.
Montauk, New York
Legend has it that in the late 17th century, Captain Kidd buried treasure in this 10,000-acre hamlet (part of the town of East Hampton) located on the easternmost point of Long Island. While you’re probably not going to unearth any long-hidden pirates’ booty, your four-and-a-half-hour drive will bring you to a destination rich in history, beauty and recreational opportunities on its beaches and in its six state parks and surrounding waters.
Stay Here: Built in 1927 by Carl Fisher, the industrialist multimillionaire who developed Miami Beach, the Tudor-style “Castle on the Hill” named Montauk Manor (pictured above) (236 Edgemere St., 631-668-4400, montaukmanor.com) offers individually furnished studios to three-bedroom condo apartments—some with two stories and terraces, many with breathtaking views, all with luxury baths and other upscale amenities—for one- or multi-night getaways. (Rates range from $99-$135 for a studio to $275-$340 for a three-bedroom suite.)
Built in 1928 by Fisher from a combination of three estates, Montauk Yacht Club Resort & Marina (32 Star Island Road, 631-668-3100, montaukyachtclub.com) was once the playground for Astors, Morgans and Vanderbilts. Now the 35-acre property, with its 60-foot replica of Montauk Point Lighthouse, offers luxurious guestrooms and suites in its main hotel, along with hideaway villas ($99-$219 weekdays, $159-$269 weekends).
Eat Here: Oceanfront vistas and local fruits de mer are two of the main reasons to dine at the Sea Grille at Gurney’s Inn—Resort, Spa & Conference Center (290 Old Montauk Highway, 631-668-2345, gurneysinn.com). Get a sampling of the freshest catches (pictured above) in the signature cioppino, stuffed flounder or lobster ($18.75-$42.95).
The sign merely says “Lunch”—that’s what Montauk residents call the Lobster Roll (1980 Montauk Highway East, Amagansett; 631-267-3740, lobsterroll.com), an unassuming roadside spot known for its most popular menu item. In addition to the celebrated lobster salad on a toasted bun, try the tempura-fried puffers (boneless whitefish) and seafood chili (shrimp, lobster, scallops and beans topped with melted cheddar, sour cream and scallions). Prices run $7.95-$14.95 for sandwiches to up to $22.95 for platters.
“You hook ’em, we cook ’em,” promises Wok ‘n’ Roll (716 Main St., 631-668-6688), Montauk’s only Chinese restaurant, so bring your catch of the day and they’ll prepare it to order. Even if you don’t fish, lunch specials with soup or egg roll and fried rice are a bargain at $6.95.
• Taking a naturalist-led hike (through April; $5, $3/kids) to see the harbor seals sunning on the rocks off Montauk Point State Park (631-668-3781, nysparks.state.ny.us).
• Catching the view across the waves to Connecticut and Block Island, R.I., from the top of the more than 200-year-old, 110-foot-high (that’s 137 iron steps) Montauk Point Lighthouse (pictured above) (631-668-2544, montauklighthouse.com; $7, $3/kids).
• Casting for stripers at Camp Hero, Montauk Point Lighthouse and Gin Beach, widely recognized spots for some of the best surf casting in the world (sports fishing permit required; $15 for seven days).
• Renting a skiff or center console, and heading out on Montauk Harbor or Block Island Sound from Uihlein’s Marina (444 W. Lake Drive, Montauk; 631-668-3799, uihleinsmarina.com).
• Riding horseback (pictured below) on Block Island Sound’s sandy beach with a guide from Deep Hollow Ranch (631-668-2744, deephollowranch.com; $75 for 90 minutes, $95 for private rides), which claims to be the nation’s oldest cattle ranch and the birthplace of the American cowboy.
• Taking in the view from the Tuscan-style terrace of Wölffer Estate Vineyard and Winery (139 Sagg Road, Sagaponack; 631-537-5106, wolffer.com) while sipping a glass of Estate Reserve Merlot or Chardonnay; free cheese and live music Thursday evenings.
• Treating your body to a thalassotherapy treatment at the nation’s only seawater spa, Gurney’s Inn—Resort, Spa & Conference Center (290 Old Montauk Highway, 631-668-2345, gurneysinn.com).
Easton and Oxford, Maryland
Talbot County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore is often called the “Crown Jewel of the Chesapeake”—and the tiny towns of Easton and Oxford are certainly gems. Just a two-hour drive from home, these nautical neighbors share a water-faring history that goes back to colonial times. The colorful communities also share an affinity for the arts—from painting to performance, to creatively coaxing sculptures out of stone and boats out of wood. Their compact downtown districts filled with innovative retail and art boutiques, Easton and Oxford are made for summer strolling.
Stay Here: It’s hard to believe that only a couple of years ago this 1874 Colonial Revival building was Easton’s eyesore. With scrupulous attention to detail and a $2 million budget, husband-and-wife team Ron and Shelby Mitchell have transformed their Inn at 202 Dover (pictured below) (202 E. Dover St., Easton; 866-450-7600; innat202dover.com) into the town’s pride and joy. Its one room and four suites are decorated with antiques and reproductions to reflect different aspects of Victorian-era interest, from Asian to African accents ($375-$475). Baths are outfitted with steam showers and massage tubs (some with “chromotherapy” colored light shows). Full breakfast is included.
For those with young ones or a pet, a good choice is the Historic Tidewater Inn (101 E. Dover St., Easton; 410-822-1300, tidewaterinn.com), a 1949 National Trust for Historic Preservation landmark that has just about completed a three-year, $10 million makeover. The feel is Old World European, and many of the furnishings and works of art are authentic 19th century ($135-$175 weekdays, $155-$195 weekends).
Eat Here: Organic aged beef hand-cut to your specifications—from 6-ounce filet to 32-ounce porterhouse—is a menu mainstay at the Inn at 202 Dover. Cordon Bleu-trained chef Jorge Alvarez is also known for his signature Dover sole, jumbo prawns and soul-satisfying soups (entrées $22-$42). Try to schedule a stay to coincide with one of the wine-pairing dinners. On Thursday afternoons, the inn serves a traditional English high tea ($25).
The Culinary Institute of America is also well represented at Mason’s (22 S. Harrison St., Easton; 410-822-3204, masonsgourmet.com), where chef Daniel Pochron whips up oyster pie and other seafood specialties like Paccari pasta with shrimp, calamari, baby octopus and monkfish (entrées $25-$34).
Tucked in the back of a working drugstore, the Soda Fountain at Hill’s (30 E. Dover St., Easton, 410-822-9751) serves big, gooey grilled cheese sandwiches on homemade bread, large burgers, ice cream sundaes, freshly baked cakes, pies, cinnamon buns and giant cookies (sandwiches $3-$7.50). Wash it all down with a real malted fountain soda or New York egg cream.
Don’t Miss: • Reeling in a 20- to 50-pound rock fish (a.k.a. striped bass) from the Chesapeake with Giant Fishing Charters (7677 Ocean Gateway, Easton; giantfishingcharters.com, 410-822-1201; six-hour excursions $700 for six people, including bait and tackle).
• Riding the 14-mile scenic bike path that winds from Easton to Oxford. Get a rental from Easton Cycle and Sport (723 Goldsborough St., Easton; 410-822-7433, eastoncycleandsport.com; $40 a day, $30 half-day). If you would prefer to paddle, the shop also rents kayaks ($40 a day).
• Seeing the sun set from the deck of the Oxford-Bellevue Ferry (27456 Oxford Road, Oxford; oxfordbellevueferry.com, 410-745-9023) as you cross the Tred Avon River. Founded in 1683, Oxford-Bellevue is thought to be the oldest privately owned ferry in the country. Walk on, and it’ll cost you only $2, half the usual fare.
• Watching craftsmen build wooden yachts using a combination of traditional and state-of-the-art tools and techniques at Cutts and Case Shipyard (306 Tilghman St., Oxford; 410-226-5416, cuttsandcase.com).
• Visiting some of Easton’s premier painters at work at South Street Art Gallery (5 South St., 410-770-8350, southstreetartgallery.com), Grafton Galleries (32 E. Dover St., 410-822-8922, graftonart.com) and Troika Gallery Fine Art Studio (9 S. Harrison St., 410-770-9190, troikagallery.com).
Fairfield County, Connecticut
Fairfield County’s 13 coastal towns may be bedroom communities for many Manhattan commuters, but there’s nothing sleepy about them when it comes to fun things to do. For families, South Norwalk (a.k.a. SoNo) offers educational experiences ranging from the ecological to the epicurean. Shove off in search of stripers in the salty Long Island Sound off Stamford. And wake the credit cards from their post-winter-holiday hibernation at the shopping strip known as the “East Coast’s Rodeo Drive.” Count on about a three-hour road trip to get there.
Stay Here: Inn at National Hall (2 Post Road West, Westport; 800-628-4255, innatnationalhall.com) is a chic boutique by the Saugatuck River with an air of late-19th-century elegance tempered with a healthy dose of whimsy, from its trompe l’oeil walls to its 16 individually themed rooms (the exotic India Room offers a commanding view of the river and the sunrise) and suites, some with lofts. Rooms are $325-$350, suites $570 (add $25/night on weekends) and include continental breakfast.
Pretty, lace-canopied four-poster beds, antique décor and breakfast served on lace tablecloths under a crystal chandelier evoke an air of romance at the Maples Inn (pictured above) (179 Oenoke Ridge, Route 124, New Canaan; 203-966-2927, maplesinnct.com). Rooms start at $95 (some have private baths across the hall), suites at $299.
Eat Here: Grab a seat at the counter and watch through the windows as the artisans handcraft Knipschildt confections at Chocopologie (pictured above) (12 S. Main St., Norwalk; 203-854-4754, chocopologie.com). Order some deep, dark hot or iced chocolate for sipping, fondue (for two) for dipping, or splurge on the signature “Chocolate Love” four-selection dessert extravaganza ($12).
You could order Kobe ($17) at Burger Bar & Bistro (58 N. Main St., 203-853-2037, burgerbarsono.com), but why bother when the house grind is so great ($7-$13)? Toppings are innovative—think green chili, chorizo and fried egg. Even the fries are fancy, crowned with melted Brie and white truffle oil. There’s live music on Sunday evenings.
Be careful not to fill up on the signature honeybuns at the Thursday roast beef buffet ($19.95, 18 cents an inch for kids under 10, and it comes with a side of live Dixieland jazz) or Sunday brunch, a local favorite ($21.95, $9.95/kids) at the Silvermine Tavern (194 Perry Ave., Norwalk; 203-847-4558, silverminetavern.com).
• Getting up-close and personal with the local denizens of the deep during the two-and-a-half-hour Marine Life Study Cruise of the Long Island Sound sponsored by the Maritime Aquarium (pictured above) (10 N. Water St., Norwalk; 203-852-0700, maritimeaquarium.org, $20.50/person).
• Fly-fishing for striped bass aboard Salty Flies’ (Stamford, saltyflies.com, 203-561-9683) 23-foot Hydra-Sports Bay Bolt ($450 for a four-hour charter for two; $550 for five hours, including Orvis-endorsed fly-rod casting clinic).
• Taking in a production at the old red-barn home of Westport Country Playhouse (25 Powers Court, Westport; 203-227-4177, westportplayhouse.com), a professional theater company that counts among its board members and advisors Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward (tickets $35-$55).
• Spending an afternoon reveling in retail along Greenwich’s eponymous avenue. For a host of hautes—from Armani to Valentino—in one store, visit Richards of Greenwich (359 Greenwich Ave.; 203-622-0551).
Tarrytown, New York
In his famous short story, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” Washington Irving told of a headless horseman who supposedly spooked the eastern shore of the Hudson River Valley. While the ectoplasmic equestrian may have been a figment of Irving’s fertile imagination, the communities of Westchester County have long been favorite haunts of the rich and famous. At the turn of the 20th century, there were so many grand estates owned by the Biddles, the Rockefellers, the Goulds and other families of fortune that Tarrytown and its environs (particularly the towns of Irvington and Pocantico Hills) were nicknamed the “Millionaire’s Colony.” Take the two-and-a-half-hour drive, and you can tour many of these magnificent mansions—or even spend the night.
Stay Here: Thanks to an $11 million renovation two years ago, a pair of 19th-century mansions on 26 river-view acres still offers a taste of the lush life as Tarrytown House Estate (pictured below) (49 E. Sunnyside Lane, tarrytownhouseestate.com, 800-553-8118). The homes once belonged to Baltimore and Ohio railroad executive Thomas M. King, American Tobacco Company founder William R. Harris, and diplomat Joseph Drexel Biddle Jr. and his wife, heiress Mary Duke Biddle. On weekdays, Tarrytown House is a convention hotel, bustling with corporate guests and gatherings. On weekends, the pace slows as it returns to its country-manor roots.
Built around 1840, Tarrytown House’s King Mansion has 10 guestrooms ($264-$399) furnished in Georgian-era period style. More than 200 other deluxe rooms and suites with marble baths and custom millwork are also available ($189-$299). Breakfast in the crystal chandelier-lit “Winter Palace” is a big-time buffet complete with an omelet station.
Eat Here: Tucked away on a side street in the town of Irvington, One (1 Bridge St., 914-591-2233, restaurantoneny.com) is a cool, contemporary eatery with a raw bar that features nine varieties of oysters. Chef Daniel Magill has a flair for combining ingredients in intriguing ways while allowing each one to pop. Standouts include his appetizer of scrambled organic brown eggs, Maine lobster, garlic chives, vodka crème and Osetra caviar, and a recent entrée of tamarind-seared organic Scottish salmon ($25-$37).
Blue Hill at Stone Barns (630 Bedford Road, Pocantico Hills; 914-366-9600, bluehillstonebarns.com) is a fine dining restaurant dedicated to serving seasonal specialties, many of them made from produce and meat grown on its own farm. (three-, four- and seven-course tasting menus $65, $78 and $110/person).
Enjoy a nightcap or champagne brunch ($25) at the Sunset Cove Restaurant at the Washington Irving Boat Club (238 Green St., Tarrytown; sunsetcove.net, 914-366-7889), with its wall of windows overlooking the Hudson and the lights of nearby Tappan Zee Bridge.
• Washington Irving’s Sunnyside (3 W. Sunnyside Lane, Tarrytown, hudsonvalley.org), the estate where the author lived in the mid-1800s. Check out the mix of architectural styles, from the Tudor clustered chimneys and Gothic windows to the Dutch gables and Spanish tower. Kids can get interactive with the scavenger hunt, period games and picture book included with their tour tickets ($12, $6/kids ages 5-17).
• The castle-like architecture and treasure trove of period decorative arts, furnishings and toys at financier and railroad tycoon Jay Gould’s 1838 Gothic Revival mansion Lyndhurst (635 South Broadway, Tarrytown, hudsonvalley.org; $12, $5/kids).
• Kykuit (Route 9, Sleepy Hollow, hudsonvalley.org), the early-20th-century villa where four generations of Rockefellers lived the high life. Tours range from one to three hours ($15-$38).
• Catching a glimpse of colonial life at the mill and on the farm at Philipsburg Manor (Route 9, Sleepy Hollow, hudsonvalley.org; $12, $6/kids).
• Viewing the 10 stained-glass windows by Marc Chagall and Henri Matisse at the Union Church of Pocantico Hills (555 Bedford Road, Sleepy Hollow, hudsonvalley.org; $5).
• Kayaking in the daylight or at sunset with Hudson River Recreation (Kingsland Point Park, Sleepy Hollow; kayakhudson.com, 914-682-5135; $75 for three hours).
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