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Unless you have the wherewithal to paper your walls with platinum, the famed mansions that line Newport’s Bellevue Avenue will probably blow your mind. But even in the “City by the Sea,” some of the best things in life are free—or, at least, inexpensive—whether it’s soaking up the sun on a pretty beach, soaking in the breathtaking water views from a cliffside path, beachside trail or oceanside road, or chowing down on a scrumptious “stuffie.”
Drive time: Less than six hours.
Stay here: Newport-grand, but warm and welcoming, Francis Malbone House Bed and Breakfast (392 Thames St., 800-846-0392, malbone.com) offers haute accommodations in a restored, circa-1760 harbor-side mansion. Included are gourmet breakfast and elaborate afternoon tea (rooms $265-$375, suites $395-$425).
Eat here: At Spiced Pear (The Chanler at Cliff Walk, 117 Memorial Blvd.; 401-847-2244, spicedpear.com), the kitchen turns out deeply flavorful dishes that remain true to their locally sourced roots ($69-$140).
Tucker’s Bistro (150 Broadway, 401-846-3449, tuckersbistro.com) is a local favorite for its innovative fare, including many gluten-free options (most entrées between $20 and $30). From New England oysters to Texas antelope, Castle Hill Inn & Resort (590 Ocean Drive, 401-849-3885, castlehillinn.com) executive chef Jonathan Cambra offers amazing combinations of local and exotic ingredients ($69 three-course tasting).
To-do list: If you see only one of the nine majestic Preservation Society of Newport County Gilded Age mansions (401-847-1000, newportmansions.org), make it Cornelius Vanderbilt II’s The Breakers—the one with the platinum walls ($18/adults, $4.50/kids). Ticket packages are available (five sites for $31/adults, $10/kids). For Newport life from a different perspective, take the “backstairs” tour at The Elms ($15/adults, $4.50/kids).
Explore the beach trails on horseback during a 90-minute ($75 group, $100 private) or two-hour ($85 group, $125 private) guided ride with Newport Equestrian Academy (287 Third Beach Road, Middletown; 401-848-5440, newportequestrian.com).
Help hoist the sails and take a turn at the wheel on your daytime ($30) or sunset ($35) excursion aboard the Schooner Aquidneck (32 Bowen’s Wharf, 401-849-3333, sightsailing.com). You can also rent jet skis ($110) or a 13-foot Boston whaler ($60) for cruising or fishing from Adventure Watersports Rentals (401-849-4820, newportriwatersports.com).
See the mansions and more from the air with Bird’s Eye View Helicopters (Newport State Airport, Middletown; 401-843-8687, birdseyeviewhelicopters.com; $59-$89/person). And enjoy some of the biggest names in music at the 51st Newport Folk Festival (July 30-
Aug. 1) and 56th Newport Jazz Festival (Aug. 6-8). Call (401) 848-5055 for information and ticket prices.
Thrifty tips: Park for $2 a day at the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority hub (23 America’s Cup Ave., 401-781-9400, ripta.com) and buy a $5 pass for unlimited travel to many of the city’s main attractions. Parking costs $10-$15 dollars a day, but the fun on Easton’s Beach (401-845-5810, cityofnewport.com) and its boardwalk is free.
You can spend hours strolling high above Narragansett Bay along the wildflower-lined Cliff Walk, which winds behind many of the mansions. Or rent a bike ($25/day) at Scooters of Newport (476 Thames St., 401-619-0573, scootersofnewport.com) and cruise the famous Ocean Drive.
Stay at the family-owned Hamilton Village Inn (642 Boston Neck Road, 401-295-0700, hamiltonvillageinn.com), about 20 minutes southeast of Newport ($99-$139). And be sure to eat your fill of the jam-packed “stuffies” (described by some as “clams casino on steroids”) for $2.50 each at Anthony’s Seafood (963 Aquidneck Ave., Middletown; 401-846-9620, anthonysseafood.net).
If you think Harrisburg is a place reserved for suit-and-tie types, you might be surprised to discover that our state capital is anything but all work and no play.
Amid and just beyond the government-business bustle is a vibrant downtown, a family-fantasy island, scenic art-centric back roads and a luxe resort. And look for citywide celebrations of Harrisburg’s SusqueCentennial (harrisburg150.com).
Drive time: Just under two hours.
Stay here: Felicita translates to “great happiness”—and so does a getaway to Felicita Garden Resort (2201 Fishing Creek Valley Road, Harrisburg; 717-599-5301, felicitaresort.com), a 12-minute drive from downtown Harrisburg. It offers mountain-view rooms in a California mission-style lodge ($89 weekdays, $119 weekends) or a country-style inn ($59-$70) on 750 acres of woodland and themed gardens. Continental breakfast is included. In the Felicita Room, you can get a three-course dinner for $23 or five courses for $30, featuring specialties like shrimp and crab Rockefeller. Golfers will appreciate the challenging course modeled after the legendary Augusta National ($59 weekdays, $79 weekends). And who would turn down one of the spa’s exclusive European rose mud treatments?
Eat here: On Second Street, downtown Harrisburg’s restaurant row, one of the longtime stars has been Stock’s on 2nd Restaurant & Bar (211 N. Second St., 717-233-6699, stocksonsecond.com), a classy spot renowned for its upscale fare ($16-$30). Try the “oven-tanned” crab cakes. Nearby Bricco (31 S. Third St., 717-724-0222, briccopa.com) literally has something for everyone at every price— $11-$14 stone-oven pizzas, $18-$22 house-made pastas and other $24-$36 entrées (including melt-in-your-mouth short ribs).
To-do list: Just across from the capitol via the pedestrian bridge or auto bridge is City Island (717-255-3020, harrisburgevents.com), a more-than-60-acre family fantasyland complete with a free, guarded swimming beach and the championship-style Water Golf 18-hole mini-golf course (717-232-8533; $5.75/adults, $4.75/kids). It is also the home of the AA Eastern League-winning affiliate pro baseball team, the Harrisburg Senators (senatorsbaseball.com, $5-$10), and United Soccer Leagues’ Harrisburg City Islanders (717-441-GOAL; $13/adults, $5/kids).
Get out on the water in a kayak ($30-$52/single, $49-$62/double, $44-$57/canoe) from Susquehanna Outfitters (717-503-0066, susquehannaoutfitters.com). Or board the Pride of the Susquehanna paddlewheel riverboat (harrisburgriverboat.com, 717-234-6500) for daytime ($9/adults, $7/seniors, $4/kids), jazz sunset ($7), dinner and murder-mystery cruises ($42-$49.50).
Discover some of the state’s most talented artists and artisans in their studios and public exhibition spaces along the Rt. 15 Byway of the Arts (rt15arts.com). Don’t miss Harrisburg’s Jason Lyons, who creates phenomenal metal wildlife sculptures out of found objects.
Thrifty tips: You can find just about any and every activity on City Island. Get a free VIP Passport to Savings with coupons for discounts on activities, dining and shopping (hersheyharrisburg.org, 717-231-7788). Enjoy three days of special events and family fun on City Island at the free Labor Day Weekend Kipona Celebration (717-255-3020), which features a chili cook-off, a Native American powwow and more.
With five wine trails bordering seven beautiful lakes, scenic sleepy towns and lively cities, there’s a multitude of ways to explore New York’s Finger Lakes region. We’ve selected the areas in and around the historic racing capital of Watkins Glen on Seneca Lake, the quiet rural village of Penn Yan on Keuka Lake, and the vibrant college town of Ithaca on Cayuga Lake.
Drive time: Five hours to Watkins Glen.
Stay here: For pure peace, you won’t find a better spot than Penn Yan’s Top O’ the Lake Bed & Breakfast (128 South Ave., 315-536-8070, topothelake.com), a lovely mid-18th-century home with five rooms on four-and-a-half wooded acres ($120-$155). Midweek, pay $249 for two nights, and get a $40 gift certificate for gas, restaurants, retail stores or wineries plus free tastings at Keuka Lake area wineries.
In the cool Ithaca suburb of Trumansburg, Juniper Hill Mansion Bed & Breakfast (16 Elm St., 607-387-3044, atjuniperhill.com; entrées $199-$275) combines the wow factor of museum-quality impressionist art with warmth and wit. (Blueberry lasagna for breakfast!)
Eat here: Make sure you have a reservation at Hazelnut Kitchen (53 E. Main St., Trumansburg; 607-387-4433, hazelnutkitchen.com), a super-popular, itty-bitty eatery with a thoughtful, non-fussy bistro menu. Entrées are $14-$25.
Pair the artisanal cheese plate ($14) at Simply Red Bistro at Sheldrake Point Vineyard (7448 County Road 153, Ovid; 607-532-9401, sheldrakepoint.com; entrées $10-$16) with an outstanding Riesling or the divine, not-too-sweet Cab Franc ice wine. Savor breakfast ($9-$13), lunch ($10-$12) or dinner ($19-$34) while overlooking Seneca Lake at the new Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel’s Blue Pointe Grille (16 N. Franklin St., 607-535-6116, watkinsglenharborhotel.com).
To-do list: Follow in the tracks of the racing legends on the daily Thunder Road Tour at Watkins Glen International (2790 County Road, Route 16; 607-535-2486, theglen.com; $25). Aug. 5-8, it’s the world-renowned NASCAR race, and Sept. 10-12 is the U.S. Vintage Grand Prix.
Watkins Glen-based Seneca Sailing Adventures (607-742-5100, senecasailingadventures.com) will take you on a glorious three-hour cruise on the 36-foot Lee Sea Anne I ($160/couple).
You’ll spend hours visiting the more than 200 vendors at the Windmill Farm & Craft Market (3900 State Route 14A, Penn Yan; 315-536-3032, thewindmill.com). Or check out one of the world’s most complete mastodon skeleton and 4.5 billion years worth of other artifacts in please-touch exhibits at the Museum of the Earth (1259 Trumansburg Road, Ithaca; 607-273-6623, museumoftheearth.org; $8/adults, $5/seniors and students, $3/kids).
Visit Seneca Falls, site of the first Women’s Rights Convention in 1948, for some eye-opening insights into the achievements of American women past and present at the Women’s Rights National Historical Park (136 Fall St., 315-568-2991, nps.gov) and the National Women’s Hall of Fame (76 Fall St., 315-568-8060, greatwomen.org; $3/adults, $1.50/seniors and students).
Thrifty tips: Join the locals for the charbroiled prime rib ($16.99) at Holly’s Red Rooster (12 Maiden Lane, Penn Yan, 315-536-9800). You don’t have to be a vegetarian to crave the creations (under $10 for lunch, under $20 for dinner) at the legendary Moosewood Restaurant (215 N. Cayuga St., Dewitt Bldg., Ithaca; 607-273-9610, moosewoodrestaurant.com).
Browse the blocks of boutiques on The Commons in downtown Ithaca (downtownithaca.com). Frolic in the natural pool at the base of Buttermilk Falls (Route 13 South, Ithaca; nysparks.state.ny.us, 607-273-5761) or take a hike in Taughannock Falls State Park (2221 Taughannock Road, Trumansburg; 607-387-6739, nysparks.state.ny.us), where moviedom’s earliest “cliff-hangers” were filmed.
For free—or, in some cases, a few dollars—you can do a tasting at any of the Finger Lakes wineries. Be sure to make one of them Hosmer Winery (6999 Route 89, Ovid; 607-869-3393, hosmerwinery.com).
Located 25 miles northwest of our nation’s capital, the area in and around Loudoun County markets itself as “D.C.’s Wine Country,” with more than 300 acres of vineyards and over 20 boutique wineries. Much more than just a libation destination, the region has long been renowned as Virginia’s horse country.
Drive Time: A little over three hours.
Stay here: Innkeepers Carol and Roger Healey are as charming as their six-guestroom (one with Jacuzzi), antique-decorated, circa-1760 home. The Norris House (108 Loudoun St., S.W., Leesburg; 703-777-1806, norrishouse.com, $130-$199) is in the heart of the historic town of Leesburg. Breakfast is a real treat, too.
Eat here: A jovial, authentic English pub in a mid-18th-century log cabin, Hunter’s Head Tavern (9048 John Mosby Hwy., Upperville; 540-592-9020, huntersheadtavern.com) serves fish-and-chips-type fare ($7.95-$17.95) and fieldhand-size meat-and-potato entrées (try the liver—really) priced at $17.95-$24.95.
So tiny it fills up quickly (do make reservations), The Wine Kitchen (7 S. King St., Leesburg; thewinekitchen.com, 703-777-WINE) is the place for playful small plates like “chicken and waffles”—quail, cornmeal waffles and bacon-caramel syrup ($9-$17).
Don’t miss the Brownie Excess Bomb and other to-die-for desserts at Market Salamander (200 W. Washington St., Middleburg; 540-687-8011, marketsalamander.com).
To-do list: Let Virginia Wine Adventures (877-VA-GRAPE, vawineadventures.com) take you on a daylong guided tour of several wineries ($125/person; includes lunch). Or embark on a guided bike ride and winery visit with Trail’s End Cycling Co. (201 N. 23rd St., Purcellville; 540-338-2773, trailsendcycling.com; $75/person plus $10 bike rental fee).
First a 19th-century working plantation, then an early-20th-century country house, Oatlands Historic House and Gardens (20850 Oatlands Plantation Lane, Leesburg; 703-777-3174, oatlands.org) tells a tale of two families from two different eras (guided tours $10/adults, $9/seniors, $7/students). And don’t miss the spectacular terraced gardens ($7 without a house tour).
A restoration in progress, Historic Morven Park (17263 Southern Planter Lane, Leesburg; 703-777-2414, morvenpark.org; guided tours $7/adults, $1/kids) traces the evolution of a simple mid-18th-century fieldstone farmhouse to a grand Greek Revival mansion filled with global treasures. The Winmill Carriage Museum boasts 120 antique vehicles. Check the calendar for equestrian and Civil War-related events.
Play the 18 challenging holes at the Scottish-style, Gary Player-designed course at Raspberry Falls Golf & Hunt Club (41601 Raspberry Drive, Leesburg; 703-779-2555, raspberryfalls.com; $85 weekdays, $105 weekends).
The oldest sanctioned steeplechase in Virginia, the 89th Middleburg Spring Races will be held at Glenwood Park Race Course on April 17 (540-687-6545, middleburgspringraces.com; $25/ages 12 and older). And visit some of the area’s premier breeding and training facilities during the 51st annual Memorial Day Weekend Hunt Country Stable Tour (540-592-3711, stabletour.middleburg.com; $25).
Thrifty tips: Tuscarora Mill Restaurant (203 Harrison St., S.E., Market Station, Leesburg; 703-771-9300, tuskies.com) serves yummy shrimp and truffled grits ($9-$12 for lunch; most dinners under $20).
Bring your own barbecue fixings to grill while you sample the delectable Albariòo, viognier and Virginia-native Norton at Chrysalis Vineyards (23876 Champe Ford Road, Middleburg; 540-687-8222, chrysaliswine.com). Taste whimsically named wines while admiring the 60-mile view from Bluemont Vineyard (18755 Foggy Bottom Road, Bluemont; 540-554-8439, bluemontvineyard.com).
Check out the work of local artists, along with the Rhone and Bordeaux varietals, at Hillsborough Vineyards (36716 Charles Town Pike, Purcellville; hillsboroughwine.com, 540-668-6216). Or simply spend a day browsing the one-of-a-kind antique shops, art galleries and retail in downtown Leesburg, Middleburg and Aldie.
If you really want to get away, head for the southernmost tip of Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Park in the tiny town of Crisfield ($3/night at the municipal lot) and board the Captain Jason II ($20 one way) for the 45-minute ferry ride to Smith Island, the only inhabited offshore island among a number of them in the Chesapeake Bay. The 300-some year-round residents in its three rustic fishing villages travel the unpaved lanes on foot or by golf cart. Crabbing, the principal livelihood, is the basis of a uniquely Chesapeake culture, complete with its own dialect—a combination of Cornwallian English and American South.
Drive time: Three hours.
Stay here: When Rob Kellogg picked us up at the ferry dock, he brought a wheelbarrow to tote our luggage to Tylerton’s Inn of Silent Music (2955 Tylerton Road, 410-425-3541, innofsilentmusic.com), which he operates with his wife, Linda. Surrounded on three sides by water, this laid-back (no phone or TV) three-guestroom, circa-1916 home is a no-stress zone. Canoes, two-person kayaks and bikes, and a full breakfast are included in the nightly $110-$130 rate (no credit cards).
Eat here: Before recommending where you eat, we’d like to suggest what you should eat: crab cakes and a generations-old tradition that has become Maryland’s official state dessert, Smith Island Cake, made of eight to 10 super-thin layers of golden cake filled and frosted with chocolate fudge. That said, you can enjoy a seafood-centric dinner at the Inn of Silent Music ($25).
For crab cakes, don’t miss the locally made quarter-pounders with fries and sides for $9.95 at Drum Point Market (21162 Center St., 410-425-2108), Tylerton’s only store. The market also carries jellies and jams made from the figs and pomegranates that grow wild on the island. Bayside Inn Restaurant (4065 Smith Island Road, Ewell, 410-425-2771) is best known for its $19.99 double crab cake, plus all-you-can-eat clam fritters, baked ham and a slew of sides.
To-do list: Make sure you watch the video Land and Water, People and Time and listen to the Smith Island-speak audio exhibit ($3) at the Smith Island Cultural Center Museum (20846 Caleb Jones Road, Ewell; 410-425-3351, smithisland.org). Then stop in and chat with the watermen’s wives and other local women as they “pick” the day’s catch for home use and sale at the Crabmeat Co-Op in Tylerton (21228 Wharf St., 410-968-1344).
Janes Island State Park (dnr.state.md.us, 410-968-1565) offers isolated sand beaches for swimming and miles of trails for hiking and wildlife viewing. Rent a kayak ($50) or canoe ($60) to explore more than 30 miles of marked water trails. Crabbing or fishing is another option. For overnighters, you’ll find campsites ($25; $35 with electricity), rustic camper cabins with shared bathrooms ($50) and full-service cabins ($90).
Thrifty tips: Everything on Smith Island is inexpensive.