Drive time: Five-and-a-half hours.
Stay here: Davis has one of those don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it downtowns with an old-fashioned look and feel, so it’s a real surprise to find the elegant Meyer House Bed & Breakfast (Third Street and Thomas Avenue, 304-259-5451, meyerhousebandb.com; rooms $90-$150). Proprietor Cindy Robeson and husband Jon have turned this Victorian residence into a warm, four-guestroom haven, and Cindy’s multi-course breakfasts are lavish and luscious.
If there’s no room at the inn, check out the Tucker County Convention and Visitors Bureau website (canaanvalley.org) for accommodations ranging from no-frills lodges and hotels to luxurious condos and cabins.
Eat here: If you’re in the mood for seafood, the Golden Anchor Restaurant (Route 32 South, Canaan Valley; 304-866-2722, goldenanchorcabins.com; entrées $13.95-$27.95) flies in a fresh supply daily from Baltimore. (Try the smoked trout dip.)
White Grass Café (Freeland Road, Davis, 304-866-4114, whitegrass.com; entrées $13-$20) offers global selections like lamb tikka and Portuguese fish stew, plus veggie dishes. Locals love the pasta and pizza at Sirianni’s Café (William Avenue, Davis, 304-259-5454; entrées $10-$19).
To-do list: Every member of the family can enjoy the 39 beginner-to-advanced slopes at Canaan Valley Resort (Davis, 304-866-4121, canaanresort.com; lift tickets starting at $30/adults, $22/kids and seniors). Snowshoers and cross-country skiers have access to miles of ungroomed, marked trails and acres of open meadow at no charge (equipment rentals available).
Kids young and old will love air-boarding on inflated “rockets” that travel faster and are easier to control than traditional snow tubes ($40 per two-hour session, rental and lesson). Or you can rent a GPS ($15/day) and go geocaching for hidden treasure. Canaan Valley also has a covered outdoor ice-skating rink ($5/adults, $4/kids for two hours).
Located in nearby Thomas, Mountain Made Artisan Gallery (100 Douglas Road) and Country Store (Front Street, 877-686-6233, mountainmade.com) showcase handcrafted items, from rocking chairs and musical instruments to specialty foods. For an economical evening out, stay in town and enjoy live music at the Purple Fiddle Coffeehouse (21 East Ave., 304-463-4040, purplefiddle.com; tickets $5-$15) or join the locals at Mountain State Brewing Company (One Nelson Blvd., mountainstatebrewing.com, 304-463-4500) for a game of cornhole (soft horseshoes) and a pint.
Thrifty tip: Save about 35 percent on many accommodations by booking midweek. For upscale food at bargain prices, try Muttley’s Downtown (William Avenue, Davis, 304-259-4858) on Tuesday for $1.09-per-pound New York strip steaks.
Lots of luminaries loved Alexandria. Washington’s Mount Vernon is only 16 minutes south; Robert E. Lee’s family moved to the city when he was a small child; and former president Gerald Ford lived here. Between the museums, historic homes, art galleries and performance venues, you could spend your entire vacation concentrating on history and culture in Old Town. But take some time to venture into hip surrounding neighborhoods like Del Ray and Arlandria. Each has its unique personality, artisan food offerings and boutique shopping.
Drive time: Three hours.
Stay here: You literally get a home away from home at 216: A City B&B (216 S. Fayette St., 703-548-8118, 216bandb.com). Instead of a room or a suite, you can kick back in a three-story, three-bedroom historic townhouse just a block away from the heart of Old Town. Innkeepers Kathryn and Charlie Huettner have thought of everything, from cold beer, chilled mugs and wines, to fresh fruit and pastries. The nightly rate ($225 for two; $50 each additional guest) includes a private continental breakfast.
Eat here: With its almost 140 restaurants, deciding where to eat in Old Town can be a mind-boggling experience. For light fare, Fontaine Caffee & Creperie (119 S. Royal St., 703-535-8151, fontainecaffe.com) serves savory and sweet crêpes ($5.95-$12.95)—including veggie and gluten-free selections—filled with local and seasonal ingredients. Order a boulée de cidres (a bowl of sparkling hard cider) to go with your meal.
Named for the circa-1880 Old Town building in which it’s housed, the recently opened Columbia Firehouse (109 S. St. Asaph St., 703-683-1776, columbiafirehouse.com; entrées $16-$23) is a great place for steaks. Add a crab cake (for an extra $12), and start with a kettle of mussels ($9) prepared one of three intriguing ways. At Raw Silk Indian Restaurant & Lounge (719 King St., 703-706-5701, rawsilkalexandria.com; entrées $14-$22), you get dinner and bellydancing on Thursday evenings.
To-do list: In the late 18th century, Gadsby’s Tavern (134 N. Royal St., 703-838-4242, gadsbystavern.org) was considered the most posh place in town. In winter, it’s once again the star of the social scene with its Civil War Ball in January (tickets $45-$50). In February, Gadsby’s hosts Washington’s Birthnight Banquet and Ball ($100) and the Swordsmen’s Rendezvous ($6), where dashing duelists display their skills.
Skip dinner if you’re going to take the Old Town Alexandria Tasting and Historical Walking Tour (dcmetrofoodtours.com, $50), a more-than-three-hour eating extravaganza featuring regional cuisine past and present. Of course, there’s always room for a wine tasting—and at Grape + Bean (118 S. Royal St., 703-664-0214, grapeandbean.com), the price for a build-your-own flight begins at $14.
Take a stroll along Mt. Vernon Avenue, the main drag in the historic and eclectic neighborhoods of Del Ray and Arlandria. In Del Ray, you’ll find hot chocolate drinks so rich they’re named after Old Hollywood divas at ACKC: Artfully Chocolate/Kingsbury Confections (2003A Mt. Vernon Ave., 703-635-7917, thecocoagallery.com) and Wisconsin-style frozen custard (super-smooth and creamy, like frozen crème anglaise) at Dairy Godmother Frozen Custard & Nostalgic Treats (2310 Mt. Vernon Ave., 703-683-7767, thedairygodmother.com), a recent stop for President Obama and his daughters.
In Arlandria, catch a show at the Birchmere (3701 Mt. Vernon Ave., 703-549-7500, birchmere.com), long known for its appealing mix of up-and-coming performers and established headliners, including (this season) Ricky Skaggs, Arlo Guthrie and Leon Redbone.
Thrifty tips: Skip downtown’s meter madness with a 24-hour Parking Proclamation pass for any two-hour meter from the Visitors Center at Ramsey House (221 King St., 703-746-3301, visitalexandriava.com). For $11, Alexandria’s Key to the City—also available at the Visitors Center—offers coupons good for free admission to a number of historic sites and museums, plus substantial discounts on dining, shopping and tours.
During Alexandria’s Restaurant Week in January, participating dining spots offer a three-course prix-fixe menu or dinner for two for $35. And it costs you nothing to visit the 82 artist studios, six galleries, and the Alexandria Archaeology Museum—all housed in the Torpedo Factory Art Center (105 N. Union St., 703-838-4565, torpedofactory.org) along the Potomac River.
Drive time: 90 minutes.
Stay here: As part of the Hotel Hershey’s $67 million Grand Expansion launched last spring in conjunction with its 75th anniversary, this top-of-the-line lodging landmark has opened 10 new four- to six-bedroom Woodside Cottages (100 Hotel Road, 717- 533-2171, hersheypa.com). Guests can rent individual rooms ($449-$549)—some with fireplaces—or an entire cottage with a communal great room. Or try a lower-priced—but still fabulous—room at the hotel ($239-$299) or lodge ($179-$209). Overnight stays at all Hershey properties include free admission to Hershey Gardens and the new Hershey Story, the Museum on Chocolate Avenue.
Eat here: Another Grand Expansion addition, Harvest (717-534-8800; lunch averages $13, dinner $18-$28) is named for its locavore-friendly, seasonal fare with culinary influences from all parts of the country. The rosemary- and garlic-braised lamb shanks are fall-off-the-bone good, and the dessert shooters are great fun.
Serious foodies can reserve a place at the Friday-evening chef’s table in the hotel’s Circular Dining Room for a six-course fixed-price dinner ($75, $110 with wine). In lieu of the expansive Sunday brunch at the Circular Dining Room ($40/adults), a breakfast-foods-only version—sans carving station and raw seafood bar—is available ($17/adults, $8.50/kids).
To-do list: See Charles Dickens’ great, great grandson perform a one-man, 26-character interpretation of A Christmas Carol ($40 with English-style tea, $99 with four-course dinner).
Be dazzled by the nearly 600 illuminated, animated drive-thru displays at Hershey Sweet Lights ($20/car) and the transformation of Hersheypark into Christmas Candylane ($10.95), complete with rides, entertainment, a 50-foot decorated tree and all nine of Santa’s reindeer.
After the holidays, many non-skiing resorts go into hibernation mode. But Hershey remains in high gear, particularly during Chocolate-Covered February, a month filled with hundreds of themed dinners, pairings, demos, classes and tastings. Among the winter offerings at the 1930s-opulent Hershey Theatre (15 E. Caracas Ave., hersheytheatre.com, 717-534-3405) are the Tony Award-winning Spring Awakening and RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles. Sports fans can watch the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup-winning Hershey Bears take to the home ice at the Giant Center (550 W. Hersheypark Drive, 717-534-3380, giantcenter.com; tickets $16-$22). And for us non-pros, Hersheypark Arena opens its rink for indoor public skating ($6/ages 7 and up, $3/ages 4-6; $2 skate rentals).
You won’t be able to resist the cocoa-colored diamonds at The Jeweler at Hotel Hershey. And put your stress on ice with the soothing seasonal wraps, essential oil massages and soaks at the Spa at the Hotel Hershey (717-520-5888). Include lunch at the spa’s Oasis restaurant.
At the Antique Automobile Club of America Museum (161 Museum Drive, 717-566-7100, aacamuseum.org; $10/adults), eight decades of the coolest cars and motorcycles take center stage. Winter is the “secret season” at Hershey Gardens (170 Hotel Road, 717-534-3492, hersheygardens.com), so called because of the surprising array of colorful berries |and blooms, including delicate winter roses. If you favor fauna, visit ZooAmerica (717-534-3900) for its Wild Winter Adventure ($9, $7.50/kids and seniors) and the more interactive After-Hours Tour ($35/person), with animal touching, holding and feeding opportunities.
Thrifty tips: Save on your stay by booking at the lovely 1825 Inn (409 S. Lingle Ave., 717-838-8282, 1825inn.com; rooms $129-$149), right down the road in the town of Palmyra. At the charming Hershey Pantry (801 E. Chocolate Ave., 717-533-7505, hersheypantry.com), you’ll find breakfast from $3.95, lunch for under $10, dinner below $20, and full afternoon tea for $14.
Drive time: 90 minutes.
Stay here: Basic one- to three-bedroom family suites sleep four ($319.95-$429.95 in winter). Some have gas fireplaces, whirlpools, and/or private balconies or patios. Themed options for kids feature bunk beds tucked away in an en-suite “wolf cave,” “tent” or “log cabin.”
Eat here: Great Wolf Lodge has a variety of in-house eating options. Enjoy pastries, hot breakfast sandwiches and coffee at Bear Paw Sweets & Eats. Camp Critter Bar & Grill has salads and sandwiches (average $11.95) and a full breakfast buffet, including made-to-order omelets and waffles ($15/adults, $10/children). Dinner at the Loose Moose Cottage features prime rib carving and wok stations, plus seafood ($20/adults, $12/kids).
To-do list: With 17 slides (including the coaster-like Rocket), a four-story interactive treehouse fort, a wave pool, roughhouse rafting, tame tubing, and two giant hot tubs (one just for the grown-ups), Great Wolf’s waterpark is a destination in itself. Just so you don’t get too pruny, take some time away from the water to play MagiQuest, a live-action adventure game using magic wands to seek out treasures and complete multi-level missions. Wands must be purchased (starting at $14.99) and are reusable during current and future lodge stays. And there’s a one-time fee for game activation ($10.99).
Adults can treat themselves to a signature Caribbean Body Scrub ($135) or Aroma Body Wrap ($80) at Elements Spa. Little girls can enjoy an ice-cream-scented mani or pedi ($49) at Scooops Kid Spa.
Thrifty tip: To ensure the kids don’t go on a spending spree in Great Wolf’s pay-as-you-go arcade, the resort offers wrist bands that can be used like debit cards. Every day, the Cub Club—developed in partnership with National Geographic Kids for youngsters ages 5-12—offers free, interactive environmental programs, storytime and craft-making activities.