James NoMad NY: Four Bodies Wellness

James NoMad, the flagship of the James Hotel brand, opened in the Flatiron District of NYC (29th and Madison) in August 2017. Originally built in 1904 as the Seville Hotel and then, in 1987, rebranded as the Carlton, the space was gut renovated in 2017, keeping its elegant Beaux Arts exterior, and re-imagined inside as the boutique James NoMad.

Reception James NoMad NY: The curvy hardwood reception desk is as polished and sleek as the stern of a yacht, and is nicely juxtaposed by soft deep-mauve suede-like wall panels behind it.

The James NoMad, however, is just one of countless chic boutique hotels in New York City to crop up lately. So what sets it apart? In a nutshell, a proprietary program called Four Bodies Wellness, designed to ease your city-clobbered physique and psyche.

#FourBodiesWellness at James NoMad

According to its Press Release: “The James Hotels has launched the Four Bodies Wellness – in-room programming curated exclusively for guests of the James Hotels. In partnership with consultant Ruby Warrington of The Numinous, the in-room programming has been designed to help balance all four bodies: Physical, Mental, Spiritual, and Emotional, in pursuit of total wellbeing.”

To this end, the James has enlisted exemplars in the areas of Fitness, Yoga, Meditation, and even the mystical arts of Astrological Chart and Tarot Card reading. Aerospace Co-Founder, Michael Olajide, Jr. – he of the rockin’ gunmetal eye patch – takes care of the Physical. Guru Jagat, founder of the RA MA Institute for Applied Yogic Science and Technology in Manhattan, leads the Spiritual. INSCAPE Meditation studio and app founder, Khajak Keledjian, oversees the Mental, and The Numinous founder, Ruby Warrington, was the mastermind behind #FourBodiesWellness, and offers “Readers on Room Service” with one on one in-room astrology chart and tarot readings for the Emotional piece. Each is prominent in his or her chosen field; with blazing, passionate auras to match.

Guru Jagat Four Bodies Wellness James NoMad NY

Kundalini Yoga teacher, Guru Jagat, swathed in white, her long blond locks often encased in a high white turban, is the CEO of her own brand. As founder of RA MA TV, RA MA Records, and the RA MA Foundation with Institutes in LA, NY and Mallorca, Spain, Jagat explains what makes this type of Yoga so compelling. “There’s no barrier to entry,” Jagat says. “Kundalini Yoga involves a lot of breath work that anyone can do.” Which actually makes it perfect for in-room practice. Two several-minute sessions with Guru Jagat are programmed on the large flat screen TV’s in each James Hotel guest room – and they are easy to follow, and surprisingly effective in reducing stress in a very short time.

INSCAPE Guided Meditation Four Bodies Wellness James NoMad NY

Khajak Keledjian, founder of the Meditation Studio and App, INSCAPE NYC, knows firsthand the toll that a high-pressure career can take on the mind and body. Thirty years ago, he left war-ravaged Lebanon to come to New York and, at age 19, with his brother, launched the women’s fashion brand, INTERMIX (which he recently sold to Gap, Inc. for $130 million). Keledjian discovered meditation during the 2008 recession, when the stressors of owning a business in a sinking economy was making him ill. “Meditation was the only thing that helped.” After selling Intermix, Keledjian realized that though the city was crammed with Fitness and Yoga studios, there were no brick and mortar places dedicated to Meditation. Seeing a void in the wellness market, he partnered with Coach founder, Lew Frankfort (who had already invested in Flywheel), to open INSCAPE. “People want to feel more fulfilled – they might be wealthy, but are less happy.” Though you can certainly access beautifully produced guided meditations on your smart phone through the user-friendly INSCAPE App (free for one month for guests, then $12.99/month or $58.99 per year) the Studio is just a 10 minute walk from the James NoMad. Put on a headset in a dark, comfortable room, listen to the soothing Australian voice of “Skye” and all else melts away. (You can do this via app, as well, even on a plane.) “Enter mindfully. Travel Gently.”

Aeroscape Workout Four Bodies Wellness James NoMad NY

You can’t miss Michael “Silk” Olajide, Jr., with his intensely bad-ass gunmetal eye patch: one he calls the Eye of Horus – an Egyptian god that symbolizes positivity, health, and wealth. Olajide has certainly achieved all three, as a former championship boxer turned cardio workout guru to the stars. After an eye injury in 1991 ended his prizefighting career, Olajide managed to transform his misfortune into a profession training others at AEROSPACE NYC, a machine-free performance fitness center. But success didn’t come fast or easy. In the 90’s, Olajide taught shadow boxing and jump roping in an unused church, and in 2004, opened the first boutique boxing gym in NY’s Meatpacking District. After he trained Victoria Secret model, Adriana Lima, and was covered by Entertainment Tonight, “every single model wanted to box.” Since then, Olajide opened a studio in L.A. and has trained Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weis, Jake Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Spike Lee and others, prepping them for the Big Screen. Olajide calls his cardio workouts “aggressive meditation,” as you must focus on movements and timing. “It’s the Western Hemisphere’s marshal art; you get fit without getting hit.” Join a complimentary pre-programmed workout session on a James Hotel guestroom TV (ask downstairs for resistance bands), or walk two blocks to Aerospace NYC.

Astological Chart Four Bodies Wellness James NoMad NY

Ruby Warrington, a fashion journalist who wrote for the Sunday Times in the UK in the Lifestyle and Fitness category, is privy to the cutting edge in spirituality, fashion, wellness and the mystical. In 2013, she launched The Numinous website, which features weekly horoscopes and personal stories, coined the term Four Bodies Wellness, and contacted all the top people in each segment to partner with James Hotels. From experience, Warrington knows that people don’t look up random Astrologists and Tarot readers online: they want personal recommendations. And so she handpicks those she recommends for her “Readers On Room Service.” According to my Astrological Chart reader, Bess Matassa, I’m a “wonderer, though I’m not lost at all.” A truth seeker with “wild bareback pony energy,” my challenges in 2018 surround “embracing my intensity,” “facing my fears,” and “channeling the beast within.”  Roar.

First Impressions of James NoMad

Beaux Arts Facade James NoMad NY

You’ll recognize The James, on the corner of Madison and 29th, by its intricate and stunning façade of terra cotta, limestone, and sculptural wrought iron. Take a moment to look up and appreciate the workmanship of a lost era. Inside, all has changed. The curvy hardwood reception desk is as polished and sleek as the stern of a yacht, and is nicely juxtaposed by soft deep-mauve suede-like wall panels behind it.

Lobby James NoMad NY

The lobby area is long and narrow – with ample seating, including conversation nooks nestled within several high arched windows.

Window Nook James NoMad NY

Couches are clustered around cocktail tables with contemporary Chess sets and other knickknacks. It’s warm and inviting, and seems to be full of friends, groups, and strangers meeting up at all times of day.

Rooms at James NoMad

Guest Room James NoMad NY

Guest rooms are spacious and Designs Within Reach modern, with pleated hanging lamps and voluminous white duvets on beds punched up by large pillows in shades of turquoise, sunshine, and cantaloupe.

King Room James NoMad NY

A conversation piece 20’s style stand-alone mini-bar features pin lights on its top glass shelf that illuminate full bottles of Grey Goose Vodka, Don Julio Tequila and more, while cabinets below hide a small fridge and dry goods for purchase.

Bathroom James NoMad NY

But bathrooms here are the stars, with grey veined marble tiles on the floor and in a large glass shower. The centerpiece is the sink: a carved and smooth oval basin in the shape of an enormous worry stone. Just running my hands over its cool, curved surface was a soothing Zen exercise.

Bar Bathroom James NoMad NY

There are no chocolates on your pillow at turndown, but you will find a small “Sleep Well” tube of therapy balm. Applied to my pulse points, this stick of essential oils helped me relax and sleep.

Amenities at James NoMad

In Room Yoga Meditation James NoMad NY

The opportunity to do Yoga, Meditation, and a cardio workout in the privacy of your own room is a nice perk here (with Astrological Chart or Tarot Card reader to come to your room for a fee).

Fill up a guest room water bottle at any tap: the NYC water is triple filtered here.

Fitness Room James NoMad NY

Fitness Center is small but has everything you need – and if this doesn’t suffice, Aerospace is 10 minutes away.

Coffee Muffins James NoMad NY

Coffee and fresh-baked muffins from 6-8 every morning in the lobby.

At 5pm every night, the low-lit lobby turns into a wine and cheese (complimentary) gathering space where young media types sip Chardonnay, nibble Smoked Gouda, peck on laptops, make quiet phone calls, have intimate conversations, and interview for new jobs. Though the opposite of rollicking, it’s a much-appreciated social aspect to what could otherwise be a solitary stay.

Just the Facts

Room rates at James NoMad start at $189 per night in January for 195-235 sq ft. room, up to $792 for 640 sq ft. 2-room suite in high season. Includes coffee/muffin in morning, wine hour in afternoon, use of fitness center, in-room Yoga, Workout, Meditation.

Nearby Attractions

80s Disco Museum of Sex NY

GO: Museum of Sex, two blocks away. Though not an all out porn fest, if you do take the kiddos, be prepared to answer lots of questions. There are sex toys, dildos, inflatable anatomically correct dolls, S&M devices, and tons of risqué candies, plus temporary art installations. Up now, the wild years of Studio 54 and other 70’s/80’s discos, where naughty things happened in full view. Open Mon-Thurs 10-9, Fri/Sat 10-11, Sun 11-9, $20.50. 

Morgan Library Museum Atrium NY

GO: Morgan Library and Museum, six blocks away. Most tourists don’t know about this terrific museum and the exquisitely preserved library designed by Charles McKim of McKim, Meade and White, and commissioned by John Pierpont Morgan – founder of J.P. Morgan. The 2006 expansion by Renzo Piano – a magnificent glass box atrium – connects a lovely restaurant and other galleries to the incredible 4-room Library, restored in 2010 to its original 1906 splendor.

Morgan Library Ceiling NY

If you do nothing else here, make a beeline to the East Room, North Room, West Room and Rotunda of Morgan’s Library – to find yourself in a kind of Harry Potter meets Renaissance-European world of rare books, tapestries, mosaics, handwritten manuscripts, and historic letters, with a good dollop of wonder thrown in. Though these treasures rotate on view, you may see Robert Louis Stevenson’s notebook scribbled with the first draft of what he originally called a “Fine Bogey Tale,” and became The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Morgan Library NY

After his death in 1913, much of JP Morgan’s vast art collection was purchased Henry Clay Frick – and is part of the Frick Collection, another small but worthy NYC Museum. But plenty is left, and a visit to NYC would not be complete without a visit to the Morgan Library and Museum. Open Tuesday through Thursday: 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday: 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. $20 adults, $13 kids.

Over 100 Best Surprisingly Romantic Destinations in the Northeast USA

Couple sitting on rocks, enjoying a romantic picnic along Ocean Drive in Newport RI

Romantic picnic along Ocean Drive in Newport, Rhode Island.

The Getaway Mavens have been hard at work, collecting and organizing the best two and three day escapes in the Northeast USA (Virginia to Maine).  The following surprisingly romantic destinations within a quick drive are perfect: to pop the question, for a nearby honeymoon, to celebrate a special life event, or just determine if you and “the one” are actually compatible. Choose one (or all) and snuggle up:

CONNECTICUT

KILLINGWORTH: Lovers with a penchant for lavender, long walks in the forest, and staying in a hidden hip 5-room B&B on a gourmet mushroom farm will plainly adore a quick trip to Killingworth CT and the Chatfield Hollow Inn.

CONNECTICUT’S NORTHEAST CORNERSweethearts who enjoy discovering the newest “hot spot” together will love this formerly industrial section of Connecticut, with a growing art district and, ironically, plenty of nightlife.

INTERLAKEN INN, Lakeville: Romantic and pastoral in Connecticut’s lake district.

GREENWICH CT: This swanky Connecticut town is so much more than just the center of the Preppy Handbook universe. Known for its hedge fund billionaires, Captains of Industry and Hollywood types, Greenwich does not broadcast its considerable tourist assets, many of which, ironically, are inexpensive or free. Why is it on this “Romantic Spots” list? Because of J-House, a high-tech, artsy, green former Howard Johnson’s that has just unveiled the brand new J-Spa encompassing one former guest room gutted and now dedicated to Couples Spa Treatments. J-House is  the only boutique hotel in town and such a Maven Favorite, it’s earned its own review HERE.

OLD LYME, CT: Morning fog in Old Lyme CT transforms the landscape into the hazy tableau of an impressionist painting in the very place considered the Birthplace of American Impressionism. In the late 1890’s, widow Florence Griswold opened her home to American artists fresh from studying in France, forming the country’s first European-style Art Colony – an “American Giverny”.  Witness dreamy sunrises, wander through art galleries, and dine on outstanding cuisine surrounded by art at the Bee and Thistle Inn on this Fine-Arts Getaway.

OLD SAYBROOK, CT: Situated at the mouth of the Connecticut River where it meets Long Island Sound, Old Saybrook CT has drawn vacationers and celebrities for 150 years. Wavy-voiced actress, Katharine Hepburn lived in the Fenwick neighborhood until her death in 2003. Out on “the point,” The Saybrook Point Inn and Spa just opened Three Stories – its new “Boutique Inn” –  in addition to the hotel’s already luxurious accommodations. Learn about Saybrook Point’s earlier incarnation as Terra Mar, frequented by Hollywood luminaries and gangsters, and some cherished African American history on this surprisingly down-to-earth but high-class Connecticut coastal Getaway.

CLINTON/MADISON, CT: no fudge shops or glitz and glamour here – just serpentine rivers, a quaint harbor, an anachronistic winery, a rustic flower and animal farm, one of the most highly regarded indie bookstores in the country, Connecticut’s only beachfront lodgingt, The Madison Beach Resort, and the best lobster roll on the East Coast (Lobster Landing/Clinton).

CHESTER/HADDAM, CT ON THE CONNECTICUT RIVER: Performing, fine and culinary artists, as well as clothing and building designers have been drawn to this mesmerizing ribbon of water, the Connecticut River, for centuries and after indulging in this Getaway you’ll see why. Some of the best artists and chefs in the region create in local kitchens and studios and since it reopened in 1968, the Victorian confection that is the Goodspeed Opera House has sent 19 productions to Broadway. See a musical, shop in one-of-a-kind (inexpensive) designer boutiques and end the day with an exquisite meal.

WETHERSFIELD CT: If you and your honey love to curl up with the latest Revolutionary War history book, get all gooey eyed over George Washington’s sleeping quarters, or even fantasize about growing Heirloom vegetables from seeds,  you’ll love meandering around this very Historic District, just a few miles from Hartford, which offers two charming B&B’s, great restaurants, authentically restored pre-and-post Colonial homes, and two of the oldest packaged seed companies in the USA still in operation.

CONNECTICUT’S NORTHWEST BORDER:  There’s a reason some of our favorite celebs have homes up here. Far from the maddening Hampton’s Season, the pace in this farmland and lakes section of Connecticut is slow and quiet. Quiet, that is, except for Lime Rock Racetrack (preferred by Paul Newman until he couldn’t race anymore in his early 80’s). You and your lover will love Falls Village Inn, with rooms done by NY City Interior Designer, Bunny Williams.

HIDDEN VALLEY B&B, WASHINGTON DEPOT CT: This is one of the most romantically situated B&B’s in the world – perched over the Litchfield Hills. Every room in this Dutch Colonial house on the hill is a delight for the eyes. And just wait till you see the expansive and breathtaking stone patio. Just a couple of hours from NYC, it’s worlds apart.

DELAWARE

INN AT MONTCHANIN VILLAGE, DE. Once housing the laborers who worked at the Hagley Powder Mills nearby, you can’t help but feel a sense of irony as you meander down “Privy Lane” – original latrines line the street where upscale guest cottages now stand. I’d wager the only upmarket lodging in America that features outhouses as a design element, The Inn at Montchanin Village maintains its historic value while providing you and your crush with the highest degree of service, amenities – and whimsy.

REHOBOTH BEACH DEContemplate your relationship over soft custard ice-cream or great boardwalk fries on this Atlantic beach-getaway. A great LGBT-friendly town, incredibly good restaurants, sand and surf  –  it’s a summertime classic. It’s a lower-key, Mid-Atlantic version of Provincetown MA.

LEWES, DE: Do you like a riot or color? A renovated “fisherman’s motel” now a Dogfish Head outpost? Or do you and your honey love the classic inn or B&B? You can have your pick in this eminently walkable, boutique-studded, fishing-charter, great restaurant town at the terminus of the Cape May (NJ) – Lewes Ferry.

MILFORD/DOVER DE: Do you bond over history? Big military planes? Cool crafts? Try this eclectic getaway, and stay in Asian-Antique grandeur in a turnaround town winning kudos for its exquisite riverfront walkway and award-winning Arts and Crafts Gallery.  Dover’s got the Air Mobility Command Museum, a Historic Green and plenty more to keep a certain kind of adventurous couple busy for a few days.

MAINE

INN BY THE SEA, CAPE ELIZABETH ME: I was told not to write about this luxurious big-dog friendly environmentally “green” inn by repeat visitors who’d like to keep it their secret (and not be blocked out of rooms). The best choice on the East Coast for dog-loving duos.

MIGIS LODGE, Sebago Lake. If loon calls at night thrill you no end, and the thought of a crackling fire in the living room of your own luxury cabin sets your heart ablaze, this lakefront resort is a perfect fit.

MONHEGAN ISLAND: Ten miles off Mid-Coast Maine, Monhegan Island is known for its artists and lobstermen, who live, symbiotically, on this tiny crust of land just under a square mile in size. Though the population dwindles to 50 year round, when lobstermen continue to pull in those popular Maine crustaceans, warm weather brings artists, writers, birders, nature lovers and curious tourists who don’t mind experiencing a simple life without cars (or paved roads), private bathrooms, or even, in some cases, electricity. But, ah, those views: The views that inspired some of America’s most famed artists. Those are what you came for, anyway.

CLIFF HOUSE, Cape Neddick. Starry eyed twosomes seeking the hottest hotel on the East Coast will discover it here. InStyle Magazine called the re-imagined Cliff House on Cape Neddick ME one of the best spots in the world to get engaged, and when you drive past lovely shore homes, pull into the long drive, and at last enter this Oceanside resort perched on rocky Maine cliffs, you’ll understand why.

LUBEC ME: This Getaway, to Lubec and Eastport ME, and FDR’s summer cottage on Campobello Island, brings you to the easternmost land in the United States, with a short foray into Canada. Yes, it’s all the way up here. Or Down Here – to coin a “Downeast” phrase: a good ten hours from New York City or 7 from Boston. But so totally worth it. It’s beautiful and welcoming, especially to cute couples, but be sure to bring your Passport!

SCHOODIC PENINSULA ME: Are the two of you in sync about nature and hiking but hate crowds? Infinitely more more secluded, Schoodic encompasses 3,500 additional acres of Acadia National Park, with ferry and bus access to the bulk of it on Mount Desert Island. The small towns of Winter Harbor, Birch Harbor and Prospect Harbor are all located on Schoodic, so on this Getaway, you’ll experience nature in its rustic glory, and if you’re game – a few “Pickled Wrinkles.”

CASTINE AND BLUE HILL PENINSULA ME: And, here’s more for the crowd-averse couple. Far off the well-trod Route 1, visiting Castine ME and the Blue Hill Peninsula is another great escape from the hordes. Just an hour from booming Bar Harbor, time seems suspended here, especially around Castine’s Town Green– a whitewashed series of buildings that include the Unitarian Church, Town Hall, and Historical Society – and the waterfront, not much more than a couple of restaurants and docks.

SEARSPORT AND ISLESBORO ME: Dine in intimate splendor and stay at a grand Sea Captain’s mansion, and then poke around a sleepy island just offshore on this unique lesser-known-Maine getaway.

ROCKLAND ME: For the art-aficianoados who love Wyeths and lobsters, and a chance to stay in a hot new boutique hotel.

PHIPPSBURG PENNINSULA ME: The Sebasco Harbor Resort becomes a multi-generation hub in the heat of the summer, but come off season, and this waterfront resort is prime for romantic couples seeking peace and quiet. Plus, there’s more to explore just 20 minutes away.  The phenomenal Maine Maritime Museum is located in Bath – still home to mega-boat-builder, Bath Iron Works. But Bath is just 10 minutes from one of the best college art museums in the country – Bowdoin Museum of Art.– So, gear up for a great getaway full of American History, Art, and Recreation on this often overlooked portion of Coastal Maine.

FREEPORT ME: Love to shop? LL Bean, open 24/7, is headquartered here. And you can stay in Ole Yankee luxury at the Harraseeket Inn.

BOOTHBAY ME: Boothbay Harbor ME was the first “off-Route-1 town” that became popular with tourists on the Maine Coast, and, centered in “Mid Coast Maine” is quicker to get to than Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park to the northeast. Yes, tourists converge here in the summertime, but plan a trip in June, and you’ll get the best of all worlds: temperate weather, phenomenal blooms, uncrowded attractions, and lower hotel rates. There’s a reason Boothbay Harbor and the adjacent Boothbay ME became so popular – collectively, it’s stunning.

KENNEBUNKS,ME: In the Kennebunks, you will find the freshest New England cuisine, transcendent ocean-scapes, the light, the sea at play against the rocky shore. All that makes Maine Maine is here, but on a much smaller, less touristy scale. Plan to go in the warm months of June or September, when sightseers don’t overrun the place and you can find parking and reduced hotel prices mid-week.

FRYEBURG ME: There’s not much going on in this New Hampshire/Maine border town, yet it is one of the Maven Favorite romantic destinations. Why? The Oxford Inn – an upscale, four room B&B with two outrageously good restaurants (one a pub), with one of the most stunning views on this list. Go in Autumn when the foliage turns the hills ablaze with color.

GREENVILLE ON MOOSEHEAD LAKE ME: If your love loves to take photos of moose – or criss-cross snow-covered logging roads on a ski-mobile, a visit to this Northern Maine town is in order. Greenville Inn is snug, cozy and luxurious all year long, but particularly lovely in winter.

BANGOR ME: Have you and your guy/gal bonded over Steven King? Then, get thee to what King calls “Derry ME” in many of his novels. Of course, there’s a Steven King Tour available in Bangor, some great shops and restaurants, and a brand new Residence Inn by Marriott with the coolest double showers ever.

MARYLAND

DORCHESTER COUNTY: Couples who swoon at enchanting views and a landscape that was backdrop to one of the most daring escapes and rescues in US History will want to visit Dorchester County before the crowds converge. This was the birthplace of Harriett Tubman, and not much has changed.

WASHINGTON COUNTY: For certain someones, what could be more romantic than the tiny mid-Maryland ‘burg where the Queen of the Romance Novel, Nora Roberts, has chosen to live and work? In fact, her family owned Inn Boonsboro, subject of her Inn Boonsboro Trilogy, is as real as can be, and one of the most romantic inns in the region.

KENT COUNTY: If surprisingly excellent cuisine in a pop. 300 town, a golden sunset river cruise, a soft sand Bay Beach, and world-class music in a shabby-chic venue floats your boat, this slow-paced getaway is for you.

QUEEN ANNE’S COUNTY: Get all lovey-dovey while experiencing one of the most dramatic sunsets on the East Coast. For a mellow, quick escape from Baltimore or DC, stop, stay a night at a lovely new boutique hotel, check out one of the region’s last oyster shucking houses, meet a very French turtle, kayak through unusual sea grass, and of course, dine on crab cakes overlooking the Chesapeake Bridge at sunset.

CECIL COUNTY: Cecil County, encompassing the towns of Chesapeake City, North East, Elkton, Rising Sun, and Port Depot, is where you can watch freighters glide by on world’s 3rd busiest shipping canal from a charming town’s main street, walk a tiny burg’s main street filled with independently owned boutiques and restaurants, tour an historic plantation known for its flowers, and more quirky activities on this Tidewater Getaway.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY:  Couples who adore fine and performing arts, and/or who’d love to dance the night away in a world-famous ballroom (for peanuts!), should make a beeline to this often overlooked area just outside of Washington DC. Take a dance or photography class, taught by the greats, and possibly pop the question over High Tea with Classical Music accompaniment.

CARROLL COUNTY: In contrast to the sometimes frenetic surrounding areas, particularly the District of Columbia, Carroll County MD is “Zen Peaceful” – in only the way that an agricultural region can be. But what puts this Maryland County on this Best Romantic Escape List is a phenomenal inn whose owners are so humble, they’ve kept news of their superb establishment, Antrim 1844, a secret, at least to regions beyond the Mid-Atlantic.

HARFORD COUNTY: If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a Duck Decoy from the Top of the Chesapeake: so duck-crazy honeys will sure get a bang out of a weekend here. The county’s most well known town, Havre de Grace MD, is the “Duck Decoy Capital of the World.” In fact, every New Years Eve, residents gather for the famed “Duck Drop” – the town’s version of the Times Square NY Ball Drop. But you’ll also find towns primed for a growing wedding business: nearly every inch of river, bay and land here is geared up for Nuptials.

CAROLINE COUNTY: There’s nothing more exciting than finding a sophisticated boutique inn where one is least expected – and, Turnbridge Point – in the tiny town of Denton, is a prime example. Owned by an incredible pastry chef and his partner, Turnbridge Point draws trend-seeking urbanites to this rural area. There are also some surprisingly sophisticated restaurants, funky and cool local-arts and craft stores, and a Specialty High School for the Culinary Arts in tiny Eastern Shore towns surrounded by vast tracks of farmland. In fact, Caroline County, in the center of the Delmarva Peninsula, is the premier agricultural county in Maryland, known more for what it grows in the earth than what it gleans from the Bay. You’ll want to stay at least a night, maybe more, for the to-die-for French pastries alone in Denton.

WICOMICO COUNTY: A premier Wildfowl Art museum, a small but popular zoo, fantastic clam shacks, breweries, and one historic B&B with bewitching views are drawing more and more curiosity seekers to this Chesapeake Bay region. The “Capital of Maryland’s Eastern Shore,” and the “Crossroads of Delmarva” (Routes 13 and 50), Wicomico County, is just a 2 ½ hour drive from DC and Baltimore. To really hide out with your beloved for a few days, make your way to the Whitehaven Hotel, as remote and charming as it gets.

EASTON/TALBOT COUNTY: Lately, prosperous DC, Baltimore and even NY area retirees have been moving to this tony slice of heaven on the Eastern Shore, seeking peace and quiet, spellbinding sunsets, and neighbors, like them, who have a fondness for fine locally sourced dining, unique shops, and the arts. The County also includes St. Michaels and Oxford, both with exquisite neighborhoods ripe for house-hunting. Or just daydreaming about. Remember the reception scene from the Wedding Crashers where the boat glides by and you wonder how there could be a real place so fantastically picturesque? It was filmed in St Michaels.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND: Both CALVERT COUNTY and ST. MARY’S COUNTY are perfect for romantics of a particular sort. If hunting for ancient sharks teeth on wide, inviting Chesapeake Bay beaches turns you on, try Solomons and the beaches of Calvert County. If you are into kayaking, hauling up crab pots, and staying in a hotel that offers both sunrise and sunset views, check out St. Mary’s. Or do both. The whole S. MD region is very wallet friendly.

ELLICOTT CITY MD: Are you feathering your new cozy nest and looking for the kind of quirky, funky, up cycled home goods you won’t find in a “normal” store? This former mill town may be small, but it’s got some of the coolest shops, and, nearby, a very romantic colonial-era B&B; The Wayside Inn.

FREDERICK MD: Don’t have time to get to Venice? Carroll Creek Park – a mile-long linear park encompassing a canal and landscaped brick walkways – is the next best thing. There are tons of independent shops, great restaurants, and a few miles away, the newly renovated Frederick Inn B&B – built for amore.

MASSACHUSETTS

NANTUCKET:  Islands are just naturally romantic, given that you’ve got to take a boat or ferry to get there. Honeys with a curiosity about American Maritime and Whaling history are sure to find cerebral satisfaction in this preppy place – home to one of the best Whaling Museums in the world, and of course, the iconic Nantucket Lightship Basket. Stay at the Regatta Inn on a little side-street: what rooms lack in size are more than made up for with impeccably luxurious design.

FALMOUTH/SEACREST BEACH HOTEL: Falmouth MA, in the extreme southwest corner of Cape Cod, also encompasses the tiny burg of Woods Hole.  But there are things to see in Falmouth as well, including a recently renovated Victorian mansion turned art museum, waterfront gardens with antique anchors as central features, and some of the country’s most awesome sunsets – right from a newly renovated beachfront hotel resort with rates that won’t drain your bank account. Sitting on a beach chair with a glass of wine, waves gently tickling your feet as the sun goes down, you might just be inspired to give her that ring.

HIDDEN BOSTON MAHipster couples will want to check out these secret spots in Boston. And then bed down in the city’s newest rock ‘n roll (slightly bad-ass) boutique hotel – The Verb, right in the shadow of Fenway Park. Even Bostonians don’t know about some of these places.

MARTHA’S VINEYARD, MA: This New England Island- a ferry ride from Wood’s Hole, MA, delivers on hypnotic sunrises and sunsets, exceptional beaches and intimate hideaways. Even if you aren’t president of the United States, you’ll be treated like one.

PROVINCETOWN MA: Live on the edge on this edge-of-the-world resort town. LGBT couples will find nirvana (and a whole lot of choice re: accommodations), but hetero romantics (and families) will also have a great, high-energy time at the tip-end of Cape Cod.

ROCKPORT MA: You live in Boston or New York, and you both long for a seaside escape with lots of fresh lobster, but just don’t want to drive all the way to Maine. What to do? Head to Rockport MASS – which provides LOTS of New England Coast charm without the hassle. Stay at Yankee Clipper Inn – favorite of many celebrities of yore – a few miles from town on a wind-whipped cliff overlooking the Atlantic. It’s as romantic as all get out.

White Mountains Scenic Vista

NEW HAMPSHIRE

WHITE MOUNTAIN REGION: The White Mountain Region in New Hampshire is so vast, the Getaway Mavens broke it down into three sections. Each area encompasses attractions old and new (mostly old) – perfect for the hiking couple seeking fresh mountain air and classic, old fashioned resorts and hotels. Some, as you will see, score highly on the “Romance” scale.

SQUAM LAKE AND LAKE WINNIPESAUKEE NHThe most iconic old-age romance movies of all time – On Golden Pond – was filmed right on Squam Lake (which served as “Golden Pond”), but lovers of all ages will appreciate the quiet beauty of Squam or the more active spots around the larger Lake Winnipesaukee. Stay at Manor on Golden Pond for classic elegance, afternoon tea and superb lake views.

MANCHESTER NH: New Hampshire’s largest city not only spawned some of the great comedians of our day  – Adam Sandler, Seth Meyers and Sarah Silverman – it gave innovators in wine (LaBell Winery) and chocolate (Dancing Lion Chocolate) a place to experiment and thrive. Hmm… wine and chocolate….? If you’re the kind of sweethearts who are into confections and fruit of the vine, or who gravitate to quirky and charming turnaround industrial towns, Manchester is a must. Sure you can stay in any number of franchise hotels – but you’ll want to bed down in the absolutely adorable Ash St. Inn, just a block from the famed Currier Art Museum.

PORSTMOUTH NH: Perhaps more than in any other New England seacoast town, it’s easy to imagine what life was like in this country when it was new and growing thanks to Portsmouth’s  living history museum, Strawbery Banke, which isn’t a “museum” so much as a collection of 32 homes and establishments, most in their original locations and manned by costumed guides who interpret the lives and duties of the actual families who lived and worked in them. Just one of the draws of Portsmouth, this romantic seacoast town is also known for great dining, fun shopping and the Martin Hill Inn, voted “Best Garden Lovers B&B in New England” by Yankee Magazine.

HANOVER NH: Are you a pair of through-hikers on the Appalachian Trail, a bit tired of camping out, and looking for some luxe digs for one night? You’re in luck. Just 431 miles from its northern end in Katahdin ME (1,713 miles from its starting point in Georgia), the trail runs right by the front door of the newly renovated Hanover Inn, basically on the Dartmouth College campus.

NEW JERSEY

MORRIS COUNTY and SOMERSET COUNTYRomantic history buffs – take heed. Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth (Betsy) Schuyler fell in love in Morristown, and discovering where their relationship blossomed is but one fascinating aspect of the community that saw not one, but two Revolutionary War Winter Encampments. In Somerset County NJ, rich people of the Daddy Warbucks variety have died and left lavish gardens and Green farms –beaucoups land – for the rest of us to enjoy. Stay in the charming Bernards Inn, with rooms right out of George Washington’s “look book” and one of the best restaurants in the state.

SUSSEX COUNTY: Do you and your mate pan for gemstones, or otherwise go gaga over mother nature’s geological features? This getaway is for true rock-hounds – I know, a very niche group. But amore comes in all shapes, sizes, and passions. New Jersey’s Northwest region happens to claim the largest concentration of fluorescent rocks and minerals in the world. You can see a critical mass of these glowing objects at a decommissioned zinc mine, which is now an indescribably awesome museum complex, try some hooch at Sussex County’s first distillery, tour one of the most prestigious wine cellars in the country, golf, ski, zipline, or do nothing to your hearts content on this World of Wonders NJ Getaway

WOODEN DUCK B&B, Newton. If the two of you are into bird-watching, sitting by the pool, or just, “hanging out,” in a place that provides serenity and peace just an hour from New York City, you won’t find much better than this 10-room inn.

WILDWOODS: Duos who groove to Doo-Wop will go wild for the Wildwoods in NJ. It’s got a Jetsons Meets Jersey Shore aesthetic, and more plastic palm trees than any other place on earth.

JERSEY CITY NJThe view. The food. The youthful, collaborative, entrepreneurial energy. And it’s all just one subway stop from downtown Manhattan. I cannot emphasize the vitality of this Hudson River city enough. You thought you knew “The City?” See it with your honey from a different perspective. Then chow down on some of the best food in the tri-state area.

RED BANK, NJ: The perfect spot for hipster romantics.  Two live theaters, quirky world-known stores (one owned by filmmaker Kevin Smith), some of the top restaurants in the USA, and one of the oldest ice-boat clubs in the country – and oh, yea, Jon Bon Jovi  – draw a certain type of tourist. We’re not talking beach bums here.

POINT PLEASANT NJ: Come off season and this normally family-crammed boardwalk beach town turns quiet and dreamy. Find out what’s open and what we believe to be the MOST ROMANTIC B&B on the Jersey Shore, bar none.

SOMERS POINT: It’s the little known culinary hot spot on Great Egg Harbor Bay just a bridge away from Ocean City NJ. With a couple of decent hotels and amazingly good food, this southern NJ town is off the grid in cooler months, thus making it a getaway for couples who “vant to be alone.”

CAPE MAY:   Outdoorsy beer loving duos will love Cape May  – at the tip of Southern New Jersey’s beaches – especially in the off season when Cape May Brewing presents its “Fireside Chats” outside on the patio. This Atlantic Ocean beach town swarms with tourists and annual visitors in the summer, but come late fall and winter,  you’ll have plenty of room to walk the sand, visit the famous Cape May Victorian homes and dine well. Stay at the upscale oceanfront Montreal Beach Resortbuilt by gutsy Holocaust survivors in the 1960’s.

LONG BRANCH: If you are the kind of twosome who wake up at ridiculous hours to watch the sun rise, and appreciate a funky, fantastic boutique hotel, you’re in luck. Long Branch NJ provides. Stay at the Novogratz-designed Bungalow Hotela block from the beach, and a stroll away from shops and great restaurants.

NEW YORK

SENECA FALLS: Though it might be known as the site of the first Women’s Rights Convention in 1848 (with a terrific Women’s Rights National Park, and Women’s Hall of Fame), Seneca Falls was also purportedly the setting for Frank Capra’s movie, It’s A Wonderful Life. So – there’s actually an It’s A Wonderful Life Museum here. If that isn’t sentimental, I don’t know what is. Stay nearby in Newark NY at the idyllic  Vintage Gardens Bed and Breakfast, an exquisite 5-room inn with a special pedigree: It was the home of Charles Perkins and headquarters of the Jackson Perkins Rose Co. – the floral brokers who brought roses to America

AUBURN/SPRINGSIDE INN. If the real possibility that Harriet Tubman helped hide escaped slaves in the thickets behind this luxury inn gives you goosebumps, and you are both fans of this American hero and want to pay respects at her grave, that’s reason enough to make a trip to this Finger-Lake side town. That, and the Springside Inn is a warm, welcoming and upscale place for couples – of any age – in love.

NYACK NY: Take your favorite gal or guy to the newest edgy boutique hotel to hit the outskirts of NYC on the Hudson River. Hometown of American artist, Edward Hopper, Nyack is also the perfect vantage point from which to watch the progress of the midst-of-construction “New NY” Bridge that will replace the getting-dangerous-by-the-day Tappan Zee. Nyack has long been known as a haven for artists, with cool shops and restaurants, but the recent addition of the boutique Time Hotel, has added another level of chic to this Hudson River Town.

LONG ISLAND CITY AND ASTORIA, QUEENS: There’s an abundance of lovey-dovey stuff to do in this long ignored borough of New York City. For starters, THE VIEW – of mid-town Manhattan (UN Building, 59th St. Bridge, Chrystler and Empire State Buildings, etc), followed by an East River esplanade, a museum dedicated to the moving picture industry (now called “Hollywood,” but first studios were actually here), an edgy MoMa, sculptor Noguchi’s first showroom-now-museum, and lots more art. Stay at the Z NYC Hotel for your own private showing of Manhattan sunset and night lights – it’s honestly one of the best places to ask for his/her hand in marriage in The City.

THE PIERRE, A TAJ HOTEL, NY NY: The Pierre sits on what is arguably the most photographed and filmed slice of New York City– the south east corner of Central Park. Within steps of Central Park Zoo, the Wollman Skating Rink, the Plaza Hotel and a slew of here now, possibly gone tomorrow horse-drawn carriages, The Pierre is the epitome of “Romantic New York” – quiet, lavish without being showy, and eminently elegant – all with that rare commodity: a friendly, anticipatory human touch.

TIMES SQUARE, MANHATTAN. Really? That touristy of tourist traps in the whole NY City? Well, read on here to discover the classiest place to stay, unique restaurants and the one and only rooftop bar that will draw out the lovin’ feelings in even the most stoic man or woman.

DREAM MIDTOWN MANHATTAN.  With a double-decker rooftop bar (perched far above Late Night With Stephen Colbert Show), an underground arcade-bar for grownups, and a brand new and brighter look, this Dream is one worth staying asleep for. Especially if your loved one is right beside you.

AKA WALL ST: George Washington was inaugurated President facing what is now the NY Stock Exchange – at Federal Hall. If you’re in Finance and he’s in Government – and you both appreciate a modern, minimalist boutique stay in the canyons of lower New York, AKA Wall St., steps from Federal Hall, is a fantastic choice.

BROOKLYN BOUTIQUES: NU Hotel, Dazzler Brooklyn Hotel, BKLYN House Hotel.  Ever notice that when any place on earth goes hipster, it’s called “The Brooklyn Of…..” or called out for being “Brooklyn-ized.” Well, there’s a reason for that. Brooklyn, the most populous of New York City’s five boroughs, has a special aura. You could call it ruggedly individualistic, artsy-entrepreneurial, a promised land for creatives. And yes, immensely romantic. And guess what? Boutique hotels to fit every purse and mood are cropping up all over the place. Doing business or visiting your kids nearby? Book a room at either Dazzler Brooklyn Hotel in Brooklyn Heights or NU Hotel in Cobble Hill – both a short subway ride to downtown Manhattan and a mile or so to Barclay Center. For the more adventurous “fringe-art” fan, try Bushwick’s BKLYN House Hotel

RITZ CARLTON WESTCHESTER: White Plaines. White Plains, NY might not leap to mind as a particularly romantic city, but what sits at its center is. This Ritz Carlton houses the largest Spa in Westchester County, and the only one on the east coast with ultra-relaxing Japanese Soaking Tubs.

CALDWELL HOUSE B&B, SALISBURY MILLS NY: There are shamrocks everywhere in the Caldwell House, a beautiful four-leaf-clover of a Bed and Breakfast in the Hudson River Valley. A stately home built in 1803 by a wealthy merchant from Ireland,  you don’t need to have the luck of the Irish to be assured a superb stay here. A favorite with honeymooners, you might not want to leave your guest room with fireplace and downy bedding, but if you do, Woodbury Common Premium Outlets, The 1839 Brotherhood Winery (oldest operating winery in the USA), Storm King Outdoor Sculpture Center and West Point Military Academy are just minutes away.

UPPER AND LOWER KINGSTON: Lovers who love Maritime and American History will adore this Hudson River town. Not only is it steeped in Colonial atmosphere – Kingston boasts some of the most beautiful murals in the country, and Brooklyn shops are moving in.

NEW PALTZ/HIGH FALLS: If stone homes turn you on, you’ll find your bliss in this Hudson River Valley town, where you can tour some of the oldest in the country (Historic Huguenot Street) and stay in one (Stone House B&B). Learn about the Canal Barges that plied the short-lived D&H Canal, and commission an artisanal blacksmith to forge something special for you.

BUFFALO NY: Buffalo as a romantic destination? Yes! Especially if you stay at The Mansion on Delaware  where a personal butler is on call 24/7. Just 20 minutes from that Newlywed Destination of old, Niagara Falls, with a burgeoning brew and culinary scene (far beyond the famous wings), a redone Lake Erie waterfront, and lots of Frank Lloyd Wright charm, this proud city is back. And new for 2017, the HH Richardson designed Insane Asylum has been restored as the uber cool Hotel Henry.

FINGER LAKES, NYKEUKA AND SENECA: Wine, freshwater lakes surrounded by rolling vineyards, a growing food scene and charming B&B’s – the Finger Lakes in New York are distinctively built for romance amidst the fruits of the vine. For the ultimate foodie weekend, stay in the adorable Pleasant Valley Inn in Hammondsport. Newly renovated, with just four small but charming rooms (just $158 per night! – includes hot buffet breakfast), it’s got one of the top restaurants two steps from your bed.

BUTTERMILK FALLS INN, MILTON, NY: There’s something divine about the sunrise over the Hudson River and this simple pleasure can be yours on blue-sky mornings at this lyrically set inn – one of the best places to escape New York City with your soulful honey. Bring a book and an appreciation for farm animals, leisurely strolls and the simple life.

BEACON, NY: It’s got just the right amount of cute and eccentric for you and your artsy companion. When large art-installation museum, DIA:Beacon, opened in 2002, it gave culture hounds a reason to come upriver for the day. As more people came, artists, chefs and aspiring retailers did, too. And then, in late 2012, the superb boutique hotel – Roundhouse at Beacon Falls – measuring up to the standards of those urbane museum and gallery goers finally opened in Beacon, creating the perfect overnight arts, shopping, and wine and beer-sipping romantic Getaway.

Sleepy Hollow Cemetery View

SLEEPY HOLLOW/TARRYTOWN NYOne of the most charming, ivy-blanketed cottages on the Hudson River was actually owned by a confirmed bachelor – and a famous one at that. Washington Irving, who brought us Rip Van Winkle and the Headless Horseman, lived in a home made for romance. But there are so many other places that lovebirds can explore, and at least one “royal” place to stay in this Westchester County hamlet just 30 minutes from NYC.

WOODSTOCK and PHOENICIA: Grab your sporty, hippy pal for this mountain escape. Hike, ski, go tubing, join a drum circle, and then plan to stay at the just renovated Emerson Hotel and Spa in this artsy part of the Catskills.

NORTHERN CATSKILLS/GREEN COUNTY NY: You could say that America’s great love affair with the “wilderness” began here. Thomas Cole, father of the Hudson River School of Art, painted Kaaterskill Falls and the mountains and wilds of this valley in the early 1800’s, spawning a thirst for travel here. You can still go hand in hand on a rooty, rocky half mile (each way) hike to the Falls, or mountain bike down ski trails, or catch a concert, and then stay in a lovely historic B&B.

LAKE GEORGE, BOLTONS LANDING NY: There’s nothing like a Lake George sunrise or sunset to spark (or re-spark) a romantic flame, especially if you are watching it from your room at the iconic Sagamore Resort. Take your beloved on a spin around the lake with your private guide through Love is on Lake George Boat Tours. It’s the perfect opportunity to pop the question, or “re-pop” it, as the case may be.

SARATOGA SPRINGS NY: Soaking in warm mineral water is like “bathing in champagne” – a most exquisite feeling. Saratoga Springs was one of the country’s original “spa” towns, and remains ideal for treatments and health-oriented lovers. There’s also the horsey aspect – it’s where Carly Simon’s vain, gavotting guy’s horse “naturally won,” and you can watch future American Pharaohs go through their paces, too.

ADELPHI HOTEL, Saratoga Springs NY: After a 5 year renovation, the Adelphi has managed to recapture its original intent: to impress the jaded, to indulge luxury guests, and, most effectively, to please the eye. It’s a place to impress your honey, for sure.

COOPERSTOWN NY: Have you bonded over “America’s Favorite Pastime” (Baseball Hall of Fame) or beer (Ommegang)? Then this town, far from any interstate, will thrill. Throw in a New York themed carousel with characters carved by history teachers, a pristine lakeside golf course and stunning renovated waterfront hotel (Otesaga), and you’ve got the makings for a heart-felt getaway.

RHINECLIFF HOTEL NY: A hundred miles from NYC, right up the Hudson River, this renovated “Railroad Flophouse” is now a trendy, reclaimed inn just a couple of miles from downtown Rhinebeck NY. With dead-on views of the Hudson River from your balcony, and starting at just $99 off season, this is a hipster-couple – and Getaway Maven – favorite.

HUDSON NY: If the website Etsy was an actual place, it would be Hudson, NY, an artsy town on the Hudson River that has managed to out-Brooklyn Brooklyn in cutesie-pie-ity. This escape is for the couple looking to furnish their nest – and fuel a bit of passion while they’re at it.

WEST POINT NY: Are you the kind of patriotic couple who salutes each other at home?  Then, you’ll want to stay a night or two at the updated and now luxurious Thayer Hotel on the campus of West Point Military Academy. Take a tour, learn about the place that makes officers out of cadets, and moon over each other and the “Million Dollar View” of the Hudson River.

EASTERN LONG ISLAND: What’s your pleasure? The quiet wine region of the North Fork? The remote must-get-to-it-by-boat Shelter Island, the rising hipster cred but ultimately laid back Montauk or the see and be seen Hamptons? Cue There’s A Place For Us from West Side Story, and choose one (or all).

PENNSYLVANIA

 INDIANA COUNTY PA: With Jimmy Stewart and Punxsutawney Phil (Groundhog Day) as hometown “boys,” this mid-PA region can’t help but be all warm and fuzzy. Indiana PA is a college town with lots of good eats and a youthful energetic vibe.

OMNI BEDFORD SPINGS: What began over 200 years ago as a healing retreat centered around what was believed to be curative spring water has become one of prettiest golf and spa resorts in the East. With a complete overhaul over 10 years ago, bringing the property from drab to fab, OBS is the place to book when you want to park once and stay. For days. Or weeks.

RAYSTOWN LAKE REGION: You will not find a more pristine, remote, untouched, serene public access lake anywhere in PA. The ultimate Romantic treat: rent a houseboat for a few nights and just be by yourselves. According to those in the know, there is nothing better than sitting on the top deck hot tub in the middle of Raystown Lake on a moonlit night. “It is heaven on earth,” says one fan. Alternately, book a room at the Gage Mansion in Huntingdon. This stately home of a wealthy railroad executive is now owned and run by Angie and John Thompson, founders of the delightful Thompson Candle Co.

INN @ RAGGED EDGE, CHAMBERSBURG: How dreamy is this place – smack in farm country PA? Dreamy enough to bring World-Class classical music to the locals. And it all began with the purchase of a $100,000 gorgeously restored piano. This inn would be incredibly romantic, anyway, with river views out back.

HERSHEY, PA; Hot Cocoa Baths, Kisses on your pillow.  Nuff said.

Philadelphia Love Sign

PHILADELPHIA, PA. Philly as a romantic destination? Yes. And why give your special someone flowers when you can get him/her the whole garden. Here’s the perfect Getaway for the flora-loving couple.

INN AT BOWMAN’S HILL, NEW HOPE, PA: The owner of this estate is an unabashed romantic – eager to make all of your dreams come true. Luxurious and secluded, this farmland-set lodging is perfect for a celebrating twosome.

UPPER BUCKS COUNTY PA: Ringing Rocks, a Handbell Factory Tour, one of the most innovative restaurants and a luxury inn with the most sensational mosaic showers show lovebirds there’s more to Buck’s County than just New Hope (though that’s great, too).

HOTEL FAUCHERE, MILFORD PAEstablished by a top NYC chef in the mid-1800’s, this Main St. Milford hotel has drawn hundreds of Bold Faced actors, writers, and politicians (including US Presidents). As a Relais & Chateaux property, Fauchere excels at personal service. Two in-house restaurants are outstanding and rooms are contemporary and bright with beds topped with cloud-like duvets you’ll never want to leave.

HAWLEY PA: A tiny town, a big lake, an Ice-Carving Factory, and the largest hand-carved bluestone building in the world, Hawley PA is a magnet for families in the summer who recreate in one of the largest bodies of water in Pennsylvania- Lake Wallenpaupak. But adoring couple will want to visit offseason, though, for greater pleasures. Hawley harbors three upscale inns – The Settler’s Inn, a Craftsman Style beauty, the second- Ledges – a contemporary wonder set inside a whitewater gorge, and the latest – the Lake Wallenpaupak-set Silver Birches.

NEMACOLIN WOODLANDS RESORT PA: What is Nemacolin? It’s a wildlife sanctuary. It’s a small-plane airport ( just don’t ask who’s flying in on his/her private plane). It’s an award-winning golf course (Pete Dye designed Mystic Rock, The Links) and Golf Academy. It’s a Holistic Healing Center and spa for both humans and animals. It’s an Art Museum with a collection valued at $45 million. It’s an antique car museum, a prop-plane museum and an official Jeep Driving Academy. It’s got a climbing wall, a zip-line, x-country skiing, tubing, horseback riding, dogsled rides, canopy tours, paintball. There’s even a piece of the Berlin Wall on the property. Nemacolin is a deliriously wacky, extravagant, homey, friendly, fun whirlwind of a place. And, along with all of this, it’s got a couple of top luxury hotels on the property (take your pick – Paris Ritz or Frank Lloyd Wright style). To top it off, its just a few minutes drive to Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob – two of Frank Lloyd Wright designed homes open for tours.

PITTSBURGH PA: Have you forged a relationship over movies? You may be surprised to find that some of your favorite flicks were made in this West PA city. Take a Lights, Camera, Action tour and you may see a Hollywood star at work on another project.

LODGE AT GLENDORN, BRADFORD PA: Built as an exclusive hunting hideaway by a wealthily oilman, the Lodge at Glendorn is now a perfect escape for Upland-Bird hunters and Fly Fishermen/women who appreciate a roaring fire, a game of billiards and a five-star meal at the end of the day. As I mentioned in the linked post, a stay here makes for a most appreciated Anniversary or Birthday gift for the best friend you just happen to live with.

READING/BOYERTOWN: Ah the romance of train travel – especially the kind of cushy travel our Victorian ancestors enjoyed. This getaway is all about finding art and history in surprising places. Not exactly known as a destination for lovers, reinvented Reading and its environs nevertheless has a captivating castle-like inn, the Stirling Guest Hotel,  for those who wish to feel like the lord and lady of the manor.

LODGE AT WOODLOCH, HAWLEY: If you are a couple in need of a Spa Immersion weekend in the PA Woods, you are in luck. One of the World’s Best Destination Spas is just a short drive from New York and Philly. Staff is friendly and unpretentious, rooms are luxe, food is top-chef excellent and unlike at another top spa that shall not be named here, you can get wine or beer with your meals.

RHODE ISLAND

WATCH HILL RI: Victorians came to this seaside town, with their steamer trucks, for a summer of relaxation. Taylor Swift loved it so much, she bought a house here. Plus, there’s an oyster farm, great brews, sand, and surf. And, if you really want to impress your sweetheart, stay at the ultra-luxe Ocean House hotel, which has recently updated its rooms.

NEWPORT, RI: Newport RI has a flair for the dramatic. The town is both paean to the America’s Cup Yacht Race and the conspicuous consumer lifestyle of the Gilded Age, with lots of shopping, great restaurants and the prestigious Relais & Chateaux’s Castle Hill Inn – an out of town hideaway with the most enthralling views of the Atlantic Ocean from almost every balcony or deck.

NARRAGANSETT RI: Those who believe that New England beach resort towns are dead in the wintertime must visit Narragansett RI – a popular Atlantic Ocean beach community – in the coldest months. For starters, January is the best month for surfing (who knew?), down-filled outerwear is made for brisk strolls on snow-covered sand, favorite restaurants still buzz with happy eaters, shops are open, and best of all, rates at the coolest new boutique hotel, The Break, are satisfyingly low. So bring your Polar Bear honey to the Rhode Island shore for a bracing, romantic getaway.

VERMONT

FOUR COLUMNS INN, NEWFANE VT. Renovated in 2014, and reopened in 2015, this world-renowned New England Inn drew the likes of Mick Jagger (he and Jerry Hall stayed here for his both b’day) and other Boldfaced Names back in the 80’s and 90’s. Not resting on its laurels, the inn has all the elements necessary for a romantic getaway: fantastic food in on-site Artisan Restaurant, a funky pub, and eclectically charming and luxurious rooms. You’ll never have to leave the stunning property if you don’t want to.

RABBIT HILL INN, LOWER WATERFORD VT: Leave it to the 19-room Rabbit Hill Inn  to make log-pine luxurious. The Cedar Glen room, kited out in Adirondack-chic, is an elegant blend of pine and plaid, and one of the most difficult rooms to leave once settled in. But this is not the only reason the Rabbit Hill Inn has been among the top lodging establishments in New England: any country inn can be prettied up. No, Rabbit Hill is tops due to its owners, Brian and Leslie Mulcahy, who have been here 23 years, and exude the kind of warmth and good will that radiates brightly around them. Sure, you can sequester yourselves in a charming room here and never emerge, but RHI is best for happy couples who love to socialize and make friends. It’s got that kind of vibe.

MANCHESTER: This escape is tailor-made for the outdoorsy, adventurous couple. Once known for its Outlet Stores and golf at the age-old Equinox Resort, Manchester VT is transitioning into a four-seasons soft adventure, “Sporting Weekend” hotspot with opportunities to learn extreme off-road driving (Land Rover Driving School), fly fish on some of the country’s best trout rivers (Orvis), and practice your shooting skills without killing anything (Covey & Nye) – all guided by experts in each field. There are plenty of places to stay, but all Kimpton fans will be happy to learn that The Taconic, Kimpton’s first property outside of a city, opened in Manchester last year. So, bring your dog and your sense of adventure. Both with be glad you did.

LUDLOW/OKEMO VALLEY: The bulk of visitors come to Okemo Valley to ski – Okemo is, after all, one of the top ski resorts in the Northeast. But like all other Getaway Maven escapes, this one does not focus on the “One Obvious Thing.” The Okemo Valley Region is comprised of 14 little villages (Ludlow being the largest, followed by Weston and Chester). There is just one traffic light – in Ludlow – and no box stores. You can sign up for a 2-day crash craft-course, wander the halls of one of the first co-ed Academies in the country (now a great museum), shop like a fiend, eat like a foodie, and stay glamorous in a “castle” built by a Vermont Governor – the very baronial and stunning Castle Hill Resort and Spa.

BURLINGTON VT: He loves Teddy Bears. She loves beer. And you both love sunsets over a placid mountain lake. Presenting – Burlington, known as home to University of Vermont and a growing number of micro-breweries. Not to mention Vermont Teddy Bear Co. Choose between two very different accommodations: the fun, quirky 4-room Mid-Century Modern decorated Victorian B&B, Made Inn Vermont, or larger stunning contemporary boutique hotel, Hotel Vermont. Both stress the craft beer experience – Made Inn Vermont treats each guest to a can of Heady Topper and Focal Banger, Hotel Vermont keeps a “Beer Concierge” on staff to direct guests to the best breweries in the area (and even offers a full-day, two night Brewery Tour package every other week).

WILMINGTON VT: Lovers of a certain age will remember spending weekends at Mount Snow (or Haystack) back when  Poncho’s Wreck in Wilmington was the place to go after a day on the hill. Several years ago, Hurricane Irene wiped out most of the town, including Poncho’s. Though that restaurant is no more, plenty of other new highly regarded locally sourced restaurants are. If your days of attacking the mountain are behind you – and you’d like a few runs in the morning followed by puttering around town and eating well, stay at the Wilmington Inn and Tavern, and see how Wilmington is back!

RED CLOVER INN, MENDON VT: Only 15 minutes from Killington Ski Resort, Red Clover Inn – quiet, lovely and oozing romantic appeal – is a secluded hideaway for skiers who want a break from the crazy crowds on the hill.

MIDDLEBURY VT. Horse-lovers, beer and wine lovers, or just lovers in general will love Middlebury. The College campus even has its own LOVE Sculpture. Stay at Inn on the Green, and you can snuggle up while enjoying breakfast in bed.

WOODSTOCK VT: Once a release valve for the Victorian wealthy who’d take the train from NYC or Boston to White River Junction, and then the 14-mile spur into the mountains, Woodstock feels romantically lost in time. This is the region where where the National Park Service chose to impart the history of land conservation in the US. Add to that great hand-crafted cheese, famous artisans, and a historic luxury inn, and you’re golden for a wonderful cozy weekend. Plan to stay or at least book spa treatments at the uber-friendly and recently updated Woodstock Inn and Spa – the town’s centerpiece lodging.

BENNINGTON VT: This was Robert Frost’s “Road Less Traveled” and in fact, America’s famed rural poet is buried in this Vermont burg just over the Massachusetts border. The lush, green mountains around are the defining aspect of this region – inspiration for poets and artists like Frost, Grandma Moses and Norman Rockwell. And for poetry-spouting twosomes as well. Stay in finery in a grand Federalist inn, The Four Chimneys Inn – perfect for the couple seeking a Victorian-age “summer in the mountains” experience along with lightening fast wi-fi access.

THE ESSEX, VERMONTS CULINARY INN AND SPA: Ideal for the foodie couple who yearns to learn to cook together in a professional kitchen with professional chefs, dine on terrific, innovative cuisine and stay overnight in comfy quarters. This property was once a satellite campus of the prestigious New England Culinary Institute until 2009 (when the Institute was consolidated in Montpelier), with the teaching ethos, training kitchens and equipment intact. Since then, the resort has built a world-class spa, kitchen gardens, a beautifully landscaped pool, and is in the process of upscaling guestrooms. With two great restaurants on site – not to mention private kitchens for that “special” event (proposals, anniversaries, etc.) – The Essex is a unique destination resort.

VIRGINIA

STAUNTON: “If music be the food of love, play on.” One of the world’s best known romantics – William Shakespeare penned that phrase, therefore, devoted duos should get thee to a small town in central Virginia that is also Home of the American Shakespeare Center – Blackfriars Playhouse – the “World’s only recreation of Shakespeare’s indoor theater.” The whole town of Staunton is a charming architectural wonder – with plenty for a couple in love to do. There’s a brewery and wine tasting room – and a glass blowing center, Sunspot Studios where you can sign up to make your first seasonal glass ornaments together.

LYNCHBURG: Art and poetry in a town called Lynchburg? Yes. And in fact, the husband of Harlem Renaissance poet, Anne Spencer, was so smitten by his wife, he built his family’s stylish, colorful, whimsical home in homage to her. Starry-eyed adventurous couples will find much to love in Lynchburg, including a quirky old cemetery that’s become a popular wedding venue, and the Craddock Terry Hotel – a boutique inn carved from a repurposed shoe factory.

FAIRFAX COUNTY: Just 20-30 minutes from Washington DC, you’ll find some pretty incredible things to do in Fairfax County, which was home to George Washington at his Mount Vernon estate. There’s the historic home, of course, but also George’s recreated distillery, a Civil War era home filled with some very naughty graffiti, an Air and Space Museum that beats the one in DC, an Arts Center in a former prison, a farm where you can watch baby animals being born and/or milk a cow, botanical gardens, great waterfalls, and compact walkable neighborhoods. Sometimes, you find a romance where you least expect it.

LOUDOUN COUNTY VA: Let the spirits move you. If your idea of a starry-eyed getaway involves hitting up lots of wineries, distilleries and breweries, come to “DC’s Wine Country,” just outside of our Nation’s Capital. While here, stay at the newly renovated Lansdowne Resort, which may look a bit corporate, but has the heart of a much smaller place. FYI – Lansdowne massage therapist, Ismail, at the newly refreshed in-house Spa, is the Best Massage Therapist in the county, according to Loudoun County Magazine.

AIRLIE RESORT, WARRENTON VA. Until a couple of years ago, this achingly gorgeous spot was strictly a conference center and retreat. Now, Airlie is gaining ground as a wedding destination (no big surprise, given the spectacular surroundings) and quickie honeymoon spot for time-starved DC careerists. The new restaurant, Garden Bistro, offers some of the freshest, most innovative cuisine in the Northeast, and another reason to book a cozy room in one of several cottages that dot the grounds.

ALEXANDRIA VA: Feeling amorous, need a quick getaway from Washington DC, and don’t want to leave your doggie behind? Make everyone happy in this incredibly Dog-Friendly town. It’s romantic enough for the Obama’s, who enjoyed anniversary AND Valentines Day dinners here (in two different restaurants. We’ll tell you which ones), and small enough to explore in just two days.

CHINCOTEAGUE, VA; This shoreline town in Virginia is pony-territory, so it’s the perfect place to bring your horse-crazy beloved.  The 1945 book “Misty of Chincoteague,” brought awareness of the wild ponies on Assateague Island to the world. But while most people know about the horses, many are not aware that this is also a NASA hotspot. So, for a great “otherworldly” getaway, with down-to-earth appeal, stay at the Channel Bass Inn – a vintage home with antiques, quilted bedding, polished wood floors and a lovingly tended large English Garden out back. It’s airy, friendly, comfy and Victorian-era romantic.

ONANCOCK, VA: Dangling between the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay, life revolves around the water: oysters, crabs, duck-hunting, millions of migratory birds. The better-known Chincoteague often overshadows the pleasures of the smaller towns to its south, which, for adventurers and seekers of the offbeat, is one reason to go. Two more – Virginia’s Eastern Shore is a mere 5 hours drive from New York City, and attractions, food and lodging are surprisingly sophisticated.  Where else can you kayak to an award-winning vineyard for a wine and cheese tasting afternoon?

KESWICK HALL, NEAR CHARLOTTESVILLE VA: A stunning Italian-style villa overlooking the new award-winning Pete Dye 18 hole course, Keswick Hall is ideal for the golf-loving couple. Even if one lives for the links and the other would rather read poolside, this highly personalized, exclusive resort comes through for all.

THE MARTHA HOTEL, ABINGDON VA: Abingdon is one of those charming historic towns with a linchpin attraction – The Barter Theater – established during the depression when NY actors would “barter” their acting chops for pork chops (or food in general). The Martha Hotel has been putting up theatergoers ever since. Formerly a mansion, then with the addition of two wings, a girl’s finishing school, The Martha has been adjusting and settling into boutique hotel status since it was opened in 1932 (and renovated in 2006).  You’ll likely find guests enjoying conversations on the wide veranda as you walk in to a beautiful mansion foyer, or nipping a glass of (complementary) port before bedtime in the stately library.  But the most romantic draw is the stunning couple’s spa room – call ahead for bath-side champagne.

WINCHESTER VA: There’s plenty of Civil War history in the town that switched allegiances 72 times during the course of the War – and that extends to haunted history as well. If you and your honey are into pub crawls and ghost tours, you’re in luck. Old Town Winchester Ghost Tours runs a “Haunted Pub Crawl” a couple of times a week. Stay at The George Washington Hotel, which has one of the sexiest lounges on this list and fine, upscale rooms.

FREDERICKSBURG VA: If you and your history-loving beau are obsessed with everything George Washington, and want to sleep everywhere that he did, you hit the jackpot here. The Washington family moved to what became known as “Washington Ferry” when George was six years old – and he grew up in this town with so much American history you’d need at least a week to unpack it all. Both George’s Mom and sister had their own homes here with both open for tours. The town’s Rappahonnock River was the dividing line between slavery and freedom during the Civil War – when Union Troops urged Fredericksburg Blacks to swim across to freedom. A living history town, you’ll find one of the most sensual and best-designed B&B’s right on Main St in the thick of a great shopping and dining district – the 1890 Caroline Inn.

SOUTHWESTERN VA: Couple who relish “Roots” or traditional country music will want to spend some time driving the 330-mile venue-studded Crooked Road, flat-foot clog with the locals on a Saturday night at the Carter Family Fold, and listen to the original Bristol Sessions at the Birth of Country Music Museum (a Smithsonian affiliate) in Bristol VA/TN. This is where that twang began.

Romantic Getaways pin

Beacon NY; A Former Mill Town Built for Romance

** Post updated 11-22- 2017

WHY GO: Beacon NY grew up a mill town. Hunched at the foot of mountains and wedged between waterfalls and the navigable Hudson River, factories harnessing raging water eroded beauty from the landscape. Industrial waste turned the Hudson into “a sewer,” according to Beacon’s most famous resident, the late Pete Seeger.

When fortunes and industry fell, so did Beacon.  But then Seeger helped clean up the Hudson, and a contemporary art museum built to house installations too large for MoMa or the Guggenheim, carved from the closed Nabisco Box Printing factory, put Beacon back on the map. Opened in 2003, DIA:Beacon gave culture hounds a reason to come upriver for the day. The boutique hotel, Roundhouse at Beacon Falls, gave them a reason to stay. As more people came, artists, chefs and aspiring retailers did, too, creating the perfect overnight arts, shopping, and wine and beer-sipping Getaway.

Symmetrical grove of trees outside contemporary art museum in Beacon NY

Things To Do In Beacon NY

VISIT: Dia: Beacon. Visit the 300,000 square foot Dia: Beacon on the banks of the Hudson River, and you will be forced to face the question – What exactly constitutes “art”?  This former paper factory, glossed up and renovated for massive contemporary art installations opened in May 2003 and is drawing art students, historians and the merely curious to its soaring halls. Over two dozen masters of visual art from the 1960’s and 1970’s are featured in a space so vast it will take a relatively athletic person a couple of hours just to sprint through.  Mansion-sized galleries highlight Andy Warhol’s Shadows, minimalist Donald Judd’s simple wooden boxes, Sol LeWitt’s weblike drawings, Dan Flavin’s fluorescent light works and the macabre body parts and spiders from Louise Bourgeois tortured imagination. Thurs – Mon. 11am-6pm, $12 adults, kids under 12 free.

Bannerman Castle

TOUR: Bannerman Castle. What’s this ruin of a Scottish castle doing in the middle of the Hudson River? Take a hard-hat tour offered by the Bannerman Castle Trust, Inc. to find out. Oh, all right. I’ll give you some background. It was the “storage shed” of America’s first Army/Navy Store. As a pre-teen in the 1860’s an enterprising Francis Bannerman looked for ways to make money. Utilizing a grappling hook to dredge rope and scrap metal from the Brooklyn Navy Yard, he learned that he could resell these government supplies.  In just a few years, young Bannerman had amassed a mountain of Civil War surplus, including bugles, buttons, swords, scabbards and uniforms in addition to military ordinance – so much, in fact, he opened up a very successful store in Brooklyn.

Guided tours of Bannerman Island on The Estuary Steward. Bannerman Island Tour Poster, Beacon NY

But Bannerman required a remote location to house his ever-growing collection of explosive materials.  In 1900, he discovered an island on one of his trips on the Day Liner up the Hudson and bought it for $1,600. Originally from Scotland and a lover of castles,  Bannerman had this organic-styled warehouse built from a variety of local bricks, cobblestones and boulders; a series of six buildings that ended up looking like a Scottish king’s abode. When Francis passed away in 1916, Bannerman Island passed down to his children. Two years after New York State purchased the island from the Bannerman family, in 1969, the castle caught fire and was engulfed in flames that reached 260 feet above the warehouse roof.  The wooden floors, old ships’ planks impregnated with highly flammable creosote, created an inferno that burned for three days, leaving the castle an empty, weed-choked shell. Plans are afoot to stabilize what’s left of the warehouse and restore the main residence. Take a 2 ½ hour tour aboard the Estuary Steward, a tour boat that shuttles you to the island and drops you off for a fascinating walk around the ruins. Boat leaves Beacon dock Sat. and Sunday May-October 12:30, $35 adults, $30 children. RSVP Necessary, tickets sell out quickly. See Bannerman Island article for tour details.

AIA Award for this Kayak shed on the Hudson River, Beacon NY

SEE: Kayak Pavilion at Long Dock Park. How many kayak storage sheds have won architectural awards?  I assume not many.  But this Hudson River kayak-port has won the AIA (American Institute of Architects) 2013 Honor Award and is as snazzy as they come. From the Pavilion, stroll out to the tip of the formerly industrial 15-acre Long Dock Park to scramble around George Trakas’s steel stair-step sculpture. Park open daily dusk to dawn.

Boardwalk to Hudson River in Beacon NY

DO/SUMMER: Kayak on the Hudson With Mountain Tops Outdoors. If it’s a nice day or evening, squiggle into your own craft with Mountain Tops Outdoors. You can rent by the hour or day – just stop in to the shop on Main Street. Or sign up for one of a few dozen group paddles organized throughout the summer.  Check website for dates and fees.  Kayak rentals $20 per hour, $50 per day;  2-hour Wed night Sunset paddles $20, Bannerman Castle Paddles $100. Check website for others.

DO/YEAR ROUND: Climb Mount Beacon. It’s a mile practically straight up and a nice lung expanding workout. But the views of the Hudson River and Valley are so worth it from the platform up top. Free, Open Dawn To Dusk. 

Glass blown ornaments in window of Hudson Beach Glass, Beacon NY

DO/WINTER: Hudson Beach Glass; Make Your Own Blown Glass Christmas Ornament. Occupying an 1890 repurposed firehouse, Hudson Beach Glass shop/studio/glassworks is a wonderland of color. Blown right on site, pieces can be pricey, but be assured that they are one of a kind. If you visit in November or December, resident glassblowers put a special extension on blowpipes so that you can make a custom Christmas ornament with some assistance.  Choose a color and texture, then make your very own orb in 15 minutes.  Pick it up the next day, or have it shipped home.  $35 from early November to New Years. Ages 6 and up. This DIY activity is becoming very popular so, RSVPs a MUST.

SHOP/WORKSHOP: Knot Too Shabby. Purchase something crafty from this upscale craft shop, or make something yourself. You can sign up for a Annie Sloan Chalk Painting Class, offered five times a month. 3 hours $120. 

SHOP: Beacon Talents. You’ll find jewelry, clothing, handbags, and other “event wear” you won’t find anywhere else at this very funky and fun boutique, including the bold-statement “Light Up” skirts, that, yes, light up ($180).

SHOP: reMADE. This “upcycle” shop will make you want to rethink your own trash. You’ll find functional items made from repurposed vacuum hose, license plates, driftwood, old birdcages, anything really. Plus, there’s a selection of “Beard Oil” for your favorite Brooklynite.

Play, Beacon NY

SHOP: Play. “Play” basically says it all. This is one fantastically awesome store, where Boomer nostalgia meets nods to Millennials, and is not in the least bit “politically correct.”  You’ll find everything from rock-climber earrings to Moomin Valley coin banks, adult coloring books, and even Vincent Van Gogh ear erasers. Plan to spend awhile here: you won’t believe what you’ll find.

Shelves of bar tools and selection of bitters at a shop in Beacon NY

SHOP: More Good. You won’t find a better selection of unusual “Bitters,” bar tools, house-made soda syrups, or loose leaf tea at better prices than this tiny shop on Main St.  Owned by a bartender who couldn’t find decent tools of his trade, he solved the problem by opening his own store. And what’s better than a bevy of bitters? Beneficence! More Good donates 10% of net profits to Generosity Water – an organization dedicated to ending the clean water crisis in developing countries.

Displays of fun plastic products at Dream in Plastic, Beacon NY

SHOP: Dream In Plastic. It figures this “Designer Vinyl Art Store” began online out of Brooklyn, NY.  You’ll find mini works of plastic art (starting at $4.95), stationary and paper goods like a “Decomposition Book” made with recycle materials ($8),  a shelf-full of vintage cameras, including the original Kodak Brownie, and a slew of Polaroid’s among a plethora of colorful plasticine paraphernalia.

Where To Eat and Drink In Beacon NY

DRINK/EAT: Two Way Brewing Co. A bit over 2 years ago, entrepreneurial Michael O’Herron took his Engineering degree and turned it into his passion: beer-making. Discovering a yeast strain on local black berries, he employed this newfound strain in the making of his signature, Saison-ish Confusion. You can down a pint of Confusion, or Farmhouse IPA or any number of brews from this small craft brewery named for the Hudson River – the tidal river, right outside the Brewery’s window, that flows two ways. Come in for great pub food and beer, and bring the kids (juice and healthy drinks for them). O’Herron stocks games for families who just want to hang out together at the end of the day. Open Thurs-Sunday – check website for hours. 

Dennings Point Distillery Beacon NY

TASTE: Denning’s Point Distillery. At Denning’s Point, New York State grains become Viskill and Maid of the Meadow Vodkas, Beacon Bourbon, Great 9 Gin, and Denning’s White Rye Whiskey. Come watch the process, take a tour (and a few sips), and enjoy live Blues Jam sessions the 2nd Saturday of each month from 4-7pm. Tasting room open Fri./Sat, 2-8pm (tours at 2pm, 3pm, 4pm), Sun 2-6. 

DRINK/EAT/MUSIC: Towne Crier. You’ll find blues, soul, rock, World Music, Open Mic, and more at this restaurant/performance venue smack in the middle of Maine St. Beacon. There’s something going on almost every night – just check the website for the latest.

EAT: Pandorica. When “Who-vians come through the door, there are squeals of delight,” says Pandorica owner, Shirley Hot, who closed down her “cup and saucer tea room” in this space and, in 2014, opened up a restaurant devoted to everything Doctor Who. Fans from all over the globe converge on Beacon NY for this restaurant alone: It’s the only Dr. Who themed restaurant in the world. On TV off and on since 1963, Doctor Who has a fan base aged 7-70, and it’s not unusual to see whole fan families gathered together to dine on Fish Fingers and Custard (Who’s favorite meal). “Art, silverware, furniture, menu items are all Who related,” says Hot.

Zora Dora's Natural Popsicles, Beacon NY

SNACK: Zora Dora All Natural Gourmet Popsicles.  This little hole in the wall sells only ice-pops – in flavors you never knew existed.  Try the “Mount Beacon” – a blend of pureed bananas, peanut butter, dark chocolate and Oreos.  Just $3 a pop!

SNACK/EAT: Tito Santana Taqueria. This place, at the foot of Main Street closest to the Hudson River, gets “crazy busy” in the summer. But on a Sunday at 4pm offseason, you don’t have to wait too long for one of the best (and best value) taco’s in the land. Ask for the incredible BBQ Smoked Brisket Taco ($3), stuffed with shredded beef and chopped onions, cloaked in sweet/tangy sauce, and you won’t be able to stop at just one.

Exterior shot of Homespun Foods restaurant in Beacon NY

EAT/LUNCH: Homespun Foods. So good, owners were offered the concession at DIA:Beacon, this adorable 50’s Formica-kitchen-kitsch café serves up the best fresh food in town.  Lines form out the door for meals like the Vegetarian “Meatloaf” – nutty and enhanced by a dollop of homemade smoky ketchup – with a large side-salad for $9.95.

Dining by window overlooking waterfall and Fishkill Creek, Beacon, NY

EAT: Roundhouse by Terrance Brennan. Star chef, Terrance Brennan recently took over the Roundhouse restaurant, and his Nose to Tail, aka “Whole Farm Cuisine,” with most ingredients sourced from the Hudson Valley, befits the stunning David Rockwell-designed dining room overlooking Fishkill Creek. Try for a table next to the curved bank of floor to ceiling windows with an ever-delightful view of the wild water, at night bathed in violet light. There are plenty of craft cocktails and beers on tap, but if you’re a hard-cider hound, you’re in luck: the Roundhouse offers 12 different kinds, including the “Naked Flock Citrus Cider,” with a local back-story worth hearing (ask your server).

For now, Brennan’s Nose to Tail offerings revolve around pork products and so on the Charcuterie Plate you’ll find Fig Ears, Pig Trotters and Bone Marrow among other meat offerings ($32 for 3).   But Chef is not only about meat – there are at least three Vegetarian options on the menu each night, and he tweaks fish like no-one’s business. The signature Ramen’s are deeply flavored and lip-smacking ($16), and the Day Boat Skate “Pastrami” turns Skate into a fish dish brined, smoked and spiced just like its cured beef version, and served with Cabbage and Rye Crumbs ($18 on Lounge Menu, $24 on Dining Room menu). Even if you don’t have room, go for the Lemon Diplomat – a thin disk of crisp meringue over lemon custard dusted with candied olives. Heavenly.

Where To Stay In Beacon NY

STAY: Roundhouse At Beacon Falls. A “Maven Favorite” – you can find the full write-up HERE. Opened in 2012 in a former dye-works (and then lawnmower) factory, The Roundhouse brought boutique cred to Beacon NY. Perched right over cascading waterfalls and boulder-strewn rapids, its crisp, industrial-luxe design drew urbane guests from NYC, giving them a reason to stay in town after visiting DIA:Beacon. Since November 2016, there’s another reason to stay or at least eat at the Roundhouse: Michelin-starred chef, Terrance Brennan has taken over the kitchen. Rooms and suites from $189-$750.

Hyatt House Fishkill NY

STAY: Hyatt House, Fishkill, NY. For those on a relative budget who still require the creature comforts of a stylish,friendly and comfortable hotel, the Hyatt House a few miles up Route 9 (just on the north side of I-84) is a great alternative. Large suites include a sitting room and bedroom, and are equipped with kitchen and pull-out couch.  A hot breakfast buffet is included in room rates  $95 – $160 per night.

Hidden Killingworth CT and the Adorably Hip Chatfield Hollow Inn

Late Fall Chatfield Hollow State Park Killingworth CT

WHY GO: Not many people outside – and even within – Connecticut have ever heard of Killingworth CT. In a wedge of land equidistant from Long Island Sound and the Connecticut River, this rural town is about as “hidden gem” as it gets. Several years ago, there wasn’t much here but farmland and the woodsy swimming hole of Chatfield Hollow State Park. But now, you’ll find a hip and tranquil 5-bedroom Inn, a lavender farm that’s become one of the most visited attractions in Connecticut, a can’t miss wetlands boardwalk, several good restaurants, and country stores galore.

Boardwalk Chatfield Hollow SP Killingworth CT

WANDER/HIKE/WALK: Boardwalk at Chatfield Hollow State Park. If you do nothing else in this wildlife rich 400-acre State Park, traipse across an inland swamp on the 825 foot long Paul F. Wildermann Boardwalk at Chatfield Hollow State Park. In late fall, Mother Nature displays her own preparation for the holidays with red berries and green leaves of the Winterberry Holly against bare trees.

Winterberry Holly Chatfield Hollow SP Killingworth CT

The park itself is a diverse topography of rock ledges and outcroppings, waterfalls, forest, swamp, and ponds (the largest a popular swimming area) – and worth a few hours for some soul-healing “Forest Therapy” (yes, that’s a real thing).

Lavender Pond Farm Killingworth CT

VISIT: Lavender Pond Farm. Just two miles from Clinton Crossing Premium Outlets and Chamard Vineyards, this peaceful, plant-based place is located on a country lane named, incongruously, Roast Meat Hill Rd. Tourists seemed to have discovered this very tucked away 25 acres of serenity, as Lavender Pond Farm was named “Number 1 Attraction in Connecticut” in the 2017 USA Top 10 Reader’s Poll. Lavender has been used as a sleep aid and bug repellent for eons, and lately as a natural way to calm mild anxiety and restlessness, so it makes sense that travelers are seeking this pretty little purple plant out at its source.  Over 20,000 people visit New England’s largest lavender farm in season.

Shop at Lavender Pond Farm Killingworth CT

Lavender Pond Farm owners, Chris and Denise Salafia, opened the property to the public in 2014. Denise, a dance teacher, and Chris, a “software guy” who “rode a desk for 25 years” and now get’s to ride a tractor, tend to 10,000 lavender plants and a gift shop featuring plant-based products made from lavender blooms and oil on site – including essential oil, teas, sachets, jewelry, candles, soaps, lotions, gels, and jellies. Their Smart Flower ™ solar system – solar panels in the shape of a flower – generates 97% of the farm’s energy needs. The Farm is also available as a wedding venue – where the lucky wedding party gets a lift to the altar in a restored red Ford Truck. But you don’t have to get married or buy anything to visit Lavender Hill Farm. “Most people come here just to hang out, it’s so beautiful.” Open daily 10-4.

The Cooking Company Killingworth CT

EAT: Killingworth has several restaurants very close to each other on Route 81, each with its own distinct personality – and each with its champions. The most recommended, Cooking Company, is an upscale artisanal food market (sharing a driveway with a pharmacy, bake shop, and Feed Store) that gets bustling-busy mid-day, with its offerings of custom sandwiches (mine: Maple Smoked Turkey on Baguette), salads, soups, and other choices from heaping ready-made platters in a glass case – to take out or eat in on a few tables. Locals out for a fancy Italian dinner, or who just want a glass of wine and small bite at the large wrap-around bar, go to La Foresta, just down the road a few hundred yards from the Cooking Co. The Copper Skillet Family Restaurant is that “Cheers” kind of local un-fancy spot where everyone knows your kid’s names. (In the multi-purpose Killingworth Village, a shopping center that encompasses a package store, bank, the New Great Wall Chinese Restaurant, Pizzeria Davinci, and June’s Outback Pub, the Copper Skillet is right next door to the resourcefully named Nerds To Go – “the guys who fix your IPhone”). The Country Clover Leaf Store – a general store attached to the gas station around the central rotary – sells deli sandwiches – a great on the go alternative. Also on the rotary, you’ll also find Killingworth Café – home style cuisine in a rambling white farmhouse.

Chatfield Hollow Inn Killingworth CT

STAY: Chatfield Hollow Inn. Mitch and Tema run this upscale guesthouse like a fine machine – with a heart. Set beside a small pond on a farm known for its culinary mushrooms, the Chatfield Hollow Inn experience begins with Tema’s warm greeting right outside the front door, and then into a fragrant, candlelit two-story living room straight out of Dwell Magazine. The quirky-modern-country Chatfield Hollow Inn is the antithesis to the typical doll & doily chintz B&B, with an aesthetic best described as “Mid-Century Modern meets Daniel Boone.”

Manhattan couple, Ken Metz and Forrest King, purchased the property, just a couple of hours from the City, as a country place to bring their young kids on weekends. Chatfield Hollow morphed into a retreat for weary city-folk when, in late 2013, the original 1974 cabin was expanded to five guest rooms. Metz and King hired Tema and his partner, Mitch to run the inn and farm. In short order, Chatfield Hollow Inn has attracted New Yorkers, some Bold Face Names, even, looking for a hideaway, locals in need of a place to sneak away, and countless girlfriend groups for shopping (at nearby Clinton Crossing) and wine-infused weekends.

Hungry Heron Chatfield Hollow Inn Killingworth CT

Pull into the drive of Chatfield Hollow Farm and you’ll pass the Metz/King mid-century-modern home, fruit trees, penned foul, and, farmer-types in flannel shirts and wellies. Continue to the end of the driveway, near the triple garage, and park. If you’re lucky, you may see a sly Blue Heron who has taken to pilfering the goldfish and Koi from ponds and fountains on the property. Tema will help you with your bags, and welcome you into a design forward living room; leather sling chairs, petrified wood accent tables on faux animal pelt rug, large brick fireplace, sculptural wire animal heads, funky table knick-knacks – an eye catching and surprisingly cozy montage.

Kitchen Chatfield Hollow Inn Killingworth CT

The small kitchen, says Tema, is always open for guests – with a coffee and tea machine, and fridge for wine or leftovers.

Sunroom Chatfield Hollow Inn Killingworth CT

The breakfast sunroom, with unobstructed pond and back-patio views, is also a favorite gathering spot at all hours with its dramatic barn wood topped I-beam table. The steel beams, interestingly enough,  are  from road and exit signs discarded during a recent upgrading of the nearby Interstate.

Fitness Cabin Chatfield Hollow Inn Killingworth CT

And outside, in its own building, the nicely equipped fitness center might be small but “it has everything” – including a view into the woods. Those woods, it should be mentioned, border Chatfield Hollow State Park (see above). Tema and Mitch will be happy to point you in the direction of the dirt roads and trails that lead from the property, past waterfalls and ponds, on a terrific hike into the State Park.

Over the years, Metz and King have added creatures, crops, and gardens to their land, and you’re encouraged to walk around. There’s a fire pit and bee hives (used to pollinate flowers, not for honey). There are vegetable, fruit and flower gardens and newly planted fruit trees, which provide fresh produce, and chickens who lay the best and freshest eggs for breakfast. There are buildings for the 1,000 logs used to grow shitake mushrooms. Mitch and other farmhands learned to grow both those and Oyster Mushrooms, which they sell them at local farmer’s markets, from experts at Cornell University.

Budha at Chatfield Hollow Inn

One small pond is overrun with lotus plants, and apparently, over 7,000 goldfish – the descendants of several pet goldfish dumped in the water years ago that obviously proliferated like bunnies. A sitting Buddha overlooks the pond in a small meditation nook.

Peacock Viewing Chatfield Hollow Inn Killingworth CT

The fifteen or so peacocks in the Peacock Aviary are a constant source of fascination for guests – so several chairs have been placed right by the enclosure so you can sip wine and watch these birds as long as you’d like. Two Black Swans had to be sequestered from the other foul due to nasty behavior, so you’ll find those near the veg garden.

Rooms at Chatfield Hollow Inn

Madison Suite Chatfield Hollow Inn Killingworth CT

Knotty pine walls have never looked so chic. It’s country gone Brooklyn here, and, in the much requested Madison Suite you’ll find a bold teal accent wall, dark wood floors, contemporary quilt – in Dijon, grey, and white hues – on a comfy bed, oversize flokati pillow, upcycled multi-colored chest of many drawers, modern lighting, and art on walls: Simple, pleasing to the eye and not overly “done.”  Bathrooms are spa-quality, with stone tiled walls and floor, frosted glass shower and lots of storage room for toiletries. Stone tiles continue into a double-sized shower, providing the semblance of an outdoor experience – with Kiehl products.

Breakfast at Chatfield Hollow

Cheesy Eggs Chatfield Hollow Inn Killingworth CT

At 8:30 or 9:30, a “Continental Breakfast” – plates of crisp croissants, tiny banana pancakes, Yogurt-fresh-fruit-granola bowl, sliced cantaloupe, and other morning delights –  are set out in the sunroom. Tema is known for his cheesy eggs made and served in a mini cast iron crock-pot, so, unless you’re allergic, don’t leave before eating this most delectable morning treat.

Just the Facts

Room rates from $109 (for 50 sq. foot Twin) to $259 (500 sq ft suite in season), include hot Continental Breakfast, fitness center, wifi. The Inn is closed mid Jan. to Mid March.

Saratoga Springs NY: And Your Horse Naturally Won

Roosevelt Baths, Saratoga Springs NY

WHY GO: Saratoga Springs NY is the country’s very first spa town. Health seekers have been coming here to “take the waters” since the mid 1800’s, and thoroughbred horseracing soon followed. The Saratoga racetrack, mentioned in Carly Simon’s song, You’re So Vain, is so distinctive, it served as a film set for The Horse Whisperer and Seabiscuit among many other movies. As a Victorian-era resort, Saratoga Springs attracted families of color to work in the resorts and casinos, and it happened to be where Simon Northup, author of the memoir, Twelve Years A Slave, was living when he was kidnapped and sold into slavery down south. Home to Skidmore College, Saratoga Spring’s downtown has a youthful upbeat vibe, with dozens of restaurants, a great newly renovated historic luxury hotel and yep, “the waters.” Here’s the inside scoop.

Things to Do in Saratoga Springs NY

Saratoga Race Track Morning Training

SEE: Saratoga Race Track. This is the nation’s oldest thoroughbred racetrack, and even if you don’t follow horse racing, you’ve heard about it. That’s because Carly Simon sang, “I hear you went up to Saratoga, and your horse naturally won….” in her hit song, You’re So Vain. Racing season runs six weeks from the last week of July through the first week of September, and you’ll pay dearly for tickets and lodging during that time. Come off-season, though, and you can still get a feel for the ponies as they train. Enter Gate 15 and ask for the Whitney Viewing Stand – a solitary Adirondack-style elevated platform that can hold about a dozen viewers. Open only Saturdays and Sundays, 7am-11am, free.

Filling up bottles with Saratoga Spring Water

DRIVE/PROCURE WATER: Saratoga Spa State Park. Conceived by FDR for his New Deal, the Saratoga Spa State Park encompasses 2,300 acres containing bathhouses, two golf courses, two museums (Dance and Auto), pools, tennis courts, a Performing Arts Center and the Gideon Putnam Hotel. It’s also where several springs are located with faucets oh so convenient for filling up one and five-gallon jugs with clear Saratoga Spring Water. You can’t miss these special fountains –there are generally lines of people waiting with empty containers. Join the crowd, even if all you want is a splash from yours hands for a taste.

Roosevelt Baths Lobby Saratoga Springs NY

SPA: Roosevelt Baths in Saratoga Spa SP. Indulge in the strange but pleasant sensation of a warm and tingly effervescent soak in the mineral water that gave Saratoga Spa its name. You can settle into a deep bathtub in a private room for 40 minutes for only $35. This includes the use of a robe, sauna, and a wait in the stunning “relaxation room.” “It’s like bathing in warm champagne,” says a repeat customer.

 

Private Soaking Room at Roosevelt Baths

Before or after your soak, take a taste of the famous restorative mineral water from one of two water fountains in the bathhouse (the other is clean spring water). Not to all tastes, but certainly worth a sip. Open daily 9am to 7pm, 40 minute soak for only $35, check website for other treatments.

HIking Trail Saratoga State Park NY

HIKE: Saratoga State Park. There are miles of woodland trails within this massive park, so join the local dog-walkers in the woods either before or after a spa treatment or soak.

National Museum of Racing Entryway, Saratoga Springs NY

VISIT: National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame: Walk past the statue of Triple-Crown winner, Secretariat, through an actual starting gate, into the main part of this cool museum to learn that in 1863, before the end of the Civil War, Irish immigrant, John Morrissey, brought thoroughbred racing to Saratoga NY. Horseracing was nothing new – it came to our shores from Europe with the colonist in 1660’s and was a regular event from Virginia to New York. But after WWI, the racing world expanded and remains one of the only sports where women and men race together under equal conditions.

Racing Simulators at Racing Hall of Fame

Try out the popular “Racing Simulator,” a mechanical horse synchronized to move with jockey-cam videos, which provides a rare chance for visitors to feel what it’s like on the track. Used by actual jockeys-in-training, you’ll be required to don helmet, safety jacket, goggles and boots (supplied). If you are thinking about becoming a jockey, you must be a) a horse-rider, b) under 116 lbs, c) small framed, d) have excellent balance and most importantly e) fearless.

Secretariet

Museumgoers might be surprised to learn that there were only 11 Triple Crown Winners (horses and riders who swept the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and Belmont Stakes) between 1899 and 2014. Three races within five weeks will test the mettle of any horse – and its nearly impossible for one thoroughbred to win all three. The 1970’s seemed to be Golden Years for the Triple Crown, with Secretariat winning in ’73, Seattle Slew in ’77 and Affirmed in ’78. Until June 6, 2015, there had not been a Triple-Crown winner since 1978: But crazy-fast American Pharaoh had the heart, physique and determination to sweep all three competitions – an historic win. Open Wed-Sun 10-4, Racing Season daily 9-5, $7 adults, $5 kids.
Museum of Dance, Saratoga NY

VISIT: National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame. Even if “dance” is not your thing, you’ll be entranced by this dynamic museum that celebrates the art of movement in all of its forms. The Museum opened in 1986 in the 1918 Washington Bath House, and showcases fantastic multi-media exhibits featuring household names – Gene Kelly, Tommy Tune, Bob Fossee, Jerome Robbins, Fred Astair, Martha Graham, Michael Jackson, and even John Travolta – hoofing it up on stage and in movies.

National Museum of Dance, Saratoga NY

All involved in dance get due respect here – from choreographers, costume designers to critics, and yes, dancers. Open Tues-Sat 10-4, Sun 12-4, $6.50 adults, $3 kids.

Saratoga Automobile Museum NY

VISIT: Saratoga Automobile Museum. Stand before the crushed remains of a Port Authority K-9 Bomb Detection Police Jeep, used by David Lim and his canine partner, Sirius, on 9-11. Lim survived, but his trusty dog, Sirius, died in the line of duty. You’ll see vehicles both poignant and cheeky in this intriguing, bite-size, and very accessible antique auto museum – located in the former Saratoga Natural Mineral Waters Bottling Plant within the greater Saratoga State Park. Make a point to spend at least half an hour here to see cars and trucks in two floors of galleries that don’t overwhelm.

Port Authority Police Saratoga Auto Museum NY

The ground floor hosts a changing exhibit of historic cars and trucks, including, in October 2017, the above-mentioned police jeep. A 1925 Model T Ford truck chassis –  kited out as a popcorn/peanut wagon – takes center stage. Bid on and lost by Jay Leno, a friend of the Museum, the Popcorn Wagon is one of SAM’s prized possessions. There’s a 1965 Checker Taxi Cab, a 1946 Chevy Suburban seemingly twice the size of its current model, a 1929 Model A Mail Truck, and other pristine vehicles in an exhibit that changes every 6 months.

Popcorn Wagon, Saratoga Automobile Museum NY

Several permanent exhibits are upstairs including Racing in New York and East of Detroit: the latter showcasing the profusion of “custom coach builders” in New York during the dawn of the automobile (e.g Pierce Arrow in Buffalo). The Auto Museum is proudest of its Safe-Driving Initiative for school groups and teens, utilizing state of the art simulators that show real consequences of distracted driving –  principally, of texting while at the wheel. (75% of teen drivers admit that texting while driving is “common among their friends”). The “Distracted Driving” program is so crucial to first responders these days, the Saratoga Sheriff’s Department trains here as well. Open Tues-Sun 10-5, $8.50 adults, $6 seniors.

NY State Military Museum Saratoga NY

VISIT: New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center. Whether you’re interested in Military History, Women’s history, African-American History or even graphic art from 100 years ago, this impactful museum has something for everyone. Starting with the Revolutionary War’s Battle of Saratoga through the war in Iraq, the NYSMM focuses on and pays tribute to New York State’s contribution to the country’s military history. Situated in a former National Guard Armory (until 1989), initially built for the 105th Infantry Regiment, the Museum’s well-planned and fascinating exhibits begin with “A Call Not Unheeded” – telling the story of NY’s Militia and National Guard from 1792-1916 – with glass cases full of documents, like a 1825 Muster Notice, and swords, uniforms, cannons, fancy helmets, weaponry, statues, trophies and newspaper clippings.

WWI Trench NY Military Museum Saratoga NY

In the Civil War exhibit, there’s more on Dr. Mary Walker, born in Oswego NY, who graduated from Syracuse Medical School in 1855, attempted to enlist as a surgeon for the Union side, and was rejected. As her story is further told at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring MD, Walker saved lives as a volunteer, was captured by Confederate forces after crossing enemy lines to treat wounded, imprisoned as a spy, and, at the end of the war, was the only woman ever to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Lest We Perish Poster, NY State Military Museum Saratoga NY

The WWI exhibit, which begins in a makeshift sandbag trench, is particularly engrossing. During WWI, gas masks were used for the first time, “trench foot” was a concern, and Liberty Bonds – which became War Bonds by WWII – were issued to raise money for the military. Posters on display here include one headlined “Lest We Perish” – a $30 million fundraising campaign in 1918 by the American Committee for Relief in the Near East to help rebuild wartorn Armenia, Persia, Greece and Syria. American sentiments have sure changed in 100 years.

The 2,000 strong 15th NY Infantry – an all-Black National Guard Division assembled in 1916 – fought so bravely in France during WWI, they came to be known as the Harlem Hellfighters. The 77th out of NYC, made up of immigrants from all over the globe, was called the “Melting Pot Division.” The WWII exhibit features a whole section on WACS (Women’s Army Corps) and WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) – often forgotten branches of the military. You can spend several hours here reading everything, but plan on at least an hour, even if military history is not your thing. Open Tues-Sat. 10-4, free.

Sign National Bottle Museum Ballston Spa NY

VISIT: National Bottle Museum, Ballston Spa. It’s just about 7 miles from downtown Saratoga, but devotees of the offbeat will want to check out this collection of hand-made glass bottles from the early 1700’s to 1903, when industrial machines took over. Why here? Those who believe that Boomers and Gen-Xer’s started the artisanal sparkling water craze (Perrier, anyone?), think again: between 1823 and 1889, mineral waters from about 30 springs in Saratoga County were bottled and distributed around the world. These special bottles were designed to withstand internal gas pressure and rough handling during shipment – and their distinctive design came to be known as the Saratoga-bottle.

Wall of Glass Bottles National Bottle Museum Ballston Spring NY

In an old 1901 hardware store, floor to ceiling shelves are resplendent with colorful glass from all over the world – and if you can snag the museum director, Gary Moeller, he’ll educate you about the intricacies of glass, including its natural, unadulterated color, and how sunlight can effects that.

Bitters National Bottle Museum Ballston Spa NY

Though most of the bottles in the museum are from the 1800’s, the oldest in the collection are the aptly named “Dutch Squats” made around 1710-1725. There are bottles of all sorts: ink bottles, flasks (mostly whiskey), beer, soda, and mineral water bottles from the Philly area – all in the same shape. One is emblazoned with the accusation, “Stolen from Wm. S. Cheyney” dating from the days your money bought  the contents and not the bottle itself. There’s a whole exhibit of Bitters from the “medicinal” era – when the tonic was marketed as a remedy for all that ailed you, including alcoholism. Most blends were a combination of alcohol, morphine, opium, and cocaine, which of course in the short run made people feel better. Each category of bottles is a fascinating jaunt through history – and an engaging way to spend an hour or so. Open 10-4,  Oct 1-Dec 31, Tues-Sat,  Jan & Feb, Thurs, Fr, Sat,  March 1-May 31, Tues-Sat, June 1-Sept 30, Fr-Tues.

Saratoga National Golf Club NY

GOLF: Saratoga National Golf Club. Designed by a Robert Trent Jones affiliate, this challenging 18 hole course is not for beginners. Opened originally as a private club, the course and clubhouse (including a Golf Shop and Prime Restaurant) are now open to the public. Daily fees range from $70 (Spring and Late fall, after 3pm) to $220 during peak time Racing Season, and includes golf cart with GPS yardage system, all day use of practice facility and use of clubhouse amenities. $60 to rent a premier set of clubs, bag and two sleeves of balls.

Sartoga Lake NY

DRIVE: Saratoga Lake. Yep, Saratoga Springs has a body of water – Saratoga Lake is 4.5 miles long and 1.5 miles wide with two beaches and several marinas. At Brown’s Beach, have a bite to eat at Nest – overlooking pleasing lake and shore vistas.

DRIVE/WALK: Fans of architecture and design will find nirvana just by walking Saratoga Springs’s residential neighborhoods. Union Ave. is lined with grand homes in Greek Revival, Second Empire, and Queen Anne styles.

 

Yaddo Gardens, Saratoga Springs NY

VISIT: Yaddo. Though the mansion itself is off-limits to all but lucky writers-in-residence, the grounds of this beautiful estate are open to the public for free. Katrina and Spencer Trask’s lives were consumed by tragedy and sorrow (their four children died in infancy and childhood) and after her husband was killed in a train accident, Katrina persevered, creating this magical retreat for artists. Wander the gardens, based on Italian Classical layout, with statues, fountains, and a unique 1901 sundial etched with hopeful poetry.

Saratoga Bottles

TOUR: Saratoga Springs History Museum at the Canfield Casino in Congress Park. Naturally, the beautifully bottled Saratoga Water comes from here, but did you know that the Christmas-favorite confection – the Peppermint Pig, as well as the potato chip were also invented in Saratoga Springs? As you wander through three floors of this 1870’s gambling casino, you’ll discover the reasons that Saratoga Springs was called “American’s Baden-Baden,” and about the rules and regulations of mid-1800’s lake house casinos in upstate NY.

Canfield Casino, Saratoga History Museum

The 3rd floor consists of rooms from the Walworth Mansion, formerly located nearby and demolished in 1955. The prominent Walworths entertained the likes of Washington Irving and Ralph Waldo Emerson, and these recreated rooms provide a peek into mid 1800’s grandeur. The 3rd floor is also apparently a hotbed of paranormal activities. The TV show, Ghosthunters, investigated some pretty strange incidents, including the appearance of ghostly figures in Victorian dress, weird fluctuations in temperature, and even invisible slapping. $5, Open Wed-Sun 9-4, and daily in July and August during racing season. 

Tang Art Museum at Skidmore, Saratoga NY

VISIT: Tang Art Center on Skidmore College Campus. This small, contemporary museum makes for a perfect respite on a hot or rainy day. Most exhibits are temporary, borrowed and based on student art.

Best Places to Eat in Saratoga Springs NY

Fish at 30 Lake Pavilion Square Saratoga NY

EAT: Fish @ 30 Lake.  Back home from over a decade in Hawaii, Chef Jeff Rayno is skilled in the art of seafood prep – Fish @ 30 Lake is the go-to spot for Raw Bar fans. Dishes like Line Caught Halibut with Skillet Fried Potatoes ($29) hit the mark, but I’d return any time, any day for the Ahi Tuna Nachos for two ($23, holy-moly-amazing), and Truffle Sweet Soy Roasted Brussels Sprouts. Sharing those two dishes with a glass of wine is my idea of the perfect light dinner.

Prime Restaurant at Saratoga National Golf Club NY

EAT: Prime at Saratoga National. The steak here is prime, no lie. Though a few miles out of town, this clubby, fine dining restaurant, located in a top public Golf Club, is always included in the Best Of Saratoga’s Restaurants list.

Mrs Londons Saratoga Springs NY

EAT/LUNCH: Mrs. London’s Bakery. The pastries are immense at this long-standing Saratoga favorite, and are perfect after a hot bowl of soup, salad, and/or sandwich, also available here.

15 Church, Saratoga Springs NY

EAT: As a college, racing, spa town, Saratoga Springs isn’t at a loss for decent restaurants – in fact, there are over 100 of them. Locals also love Max London’s for pizza and “not overly expensive” fare, Mouzon House for funky artsy New Orleans ambience, Chianti for Italian, Hattie’s for famous fried chicken, and 15 Church, which, according to most, is the best upscale dining in town.

Where to Stay in Saratoga Springs 

Suite, Adelphi Hotel Saratoga Springs NY

STAY: Adelphi Hotel: Good things come to those who wait. The much-anticipated Adelphi Hotel, meticulously reborn after nearly 5 years, is a brighter, lighter, more splendiferous version of it’s former Victorian self; from lobby to classy, luxurious guestrooms. As the highest-end luxury hotel in Saratoga Spring, the Adelphi Hotel is a clear MAVEN FAVORITE, with it’s own write up HERE
Pavilion Grand Hotel Lobby, Saratoga NY

STAY: Pavilion Grand Hotel. Conceived originally as a luxury condo complex, rooms at this now-boutique hotel are larger than most. Some, like the 2,300 sq ft. two-bedroom, two-level Penthouse Suites – are many times the size of a New York City studio apartment, with appointments that any city (or country) dweller would crave. This hotel is also a Maven Favorite – and more about it can be found in this write-up. Rooms from $127-$300, two-bedroom suites from $500-$1500 during racing season.

Gideon Putnam Hotel, Saratoga Springs NY

STAY: Gideon Putnam Hotel. If you prefer traditional and iconic, book a room here. Built in 1935 within the Saratoga Spa State Park, this Grand Dame hotel has gone through several renovations and remains a lasting part of Saratoga Springs hospitality.

Batcheller Mansion Inn Saratoga Springs NY

STAY: Batcheller Mansion. This ornate, baronial home is the first choice for travelers who seek out luxury B&B’s; an alternative to full-service hotels.

Antrim 1844, Taneytown MD: Mid-Atlantic’s Secret Extravagance

Entrance, Antrim 1844, Taneytown MD

For luxury travelers, there really is only one place to stay in Carroll County MD: Antrim 1844. This baronial inn is actually the reason that many people come here, though it’s virtually unknown outside of the Mid-Atlantic. Arriving at the front door, I felt as if I’d been hiking in the deep dark remote woods and, in a clearing, discovered a Civil War era mansion with butler service, finery, champagne, and five star dining. My first view of the high ceilings, grand portraiture, and floating curved staircase in the entry foyer literally took my breath away.

Entry foyer, Antrim 1844, Taneytown MD

Antrim 1844 encompasses 40 unique guest rooms in several buildings on beautifully landscaped grounds. Wine Spectator Magazine has bestowed its Award of Excellence upon the fine in-house Smokehouse Restaurant – with new chef, Andrew Fontaine, late of Napa County CA – and its 22,000-bottle wine cellar (in the original boiler room), 17 years in a row. On par with many Relais & Chateaux or Leading Hotels of the World properties, and on the Select Registry and the National Historic Register, this is not a dusty antique inn resting on its laurels. Kept up impeccably, I was surprised to have never heard about Antrim until now.

Built in 1844 by Col. Andrew Ege, and named for his ancestral home, Antrim was a 400-acre farm, and a Confederate encampment during the Civil War. You can still see Gettysburg from the top of the Widow’s Walk. By 1987, the home had been sitting vacant for 70 years, but was in good shape due to the vigilance of its neighbors.

Garden view from Main House Room, Antrim 1844

When Richard and Dorothy (Dort) Mollett purchased Antrim, there was no running water or electricity. The couple would shower in Baltimore after taking their kids to school each day. In 1988, Richard and Dort, an Interior Designer, opened four rooms as a B&B, and kept improving and adding to the rooms. Dort did much of the enhancements and decorating herself, which makes this place even more remarkable.

Smith House at Antrim 1844, Taneytown MD

Not only did the Mollett’s rescue this home, they did the same for others in town. Smith House – with several rooms on the far side of the garden – was the home of a Taneytown piano teacher. It eventually fell into the hands of the local fire department that used it to set fires for training purposes. The Mollett’s purchased the Smith House for a $200 donation to the Fire Department and spent more money moving it than if they’d built a cottage from scratch on the property.

First Impressions of Antrim 1844

Reception, Antrim 1844, Taneytown MD

After catching my breath, I walked to the reception desk, in a former parlor room right off the center hallway. Check in is rather laid back and friendly. The lack of pretention in such a place was refreshing.

Parlor, Antrim 1844, Taneytown MD

Two grand rooms on the main floor, opulently and impeccably dressed down to the wallpaper that covers and hides electrical cords, impart an era of gentility rarely seen these days. The original horsehair plaster medallions in the ceiling above brass chandlers have been preserved, as the Mollett’s were able to snake electrical wiring through existing methane gas tubes originally used for lighting. Wavy glass windows are also original – almost all were intact when the Mollett’s purchased the place.

Widows Walk, Antrim 1844 Taneytown MD

If possible, ask to go up to the Widow’s Walk – accessible by ladder from the third floor. The views of the property and the land beyond are lovely.

Pool Antrim 1844, Taneytown MD

I took some time to wander the grounds – through striking gardens, sculptural fountains, a croquet lawn, tennis courts, and a beautifully landscaped outdoor pool. Though it’s rather cold in October, I was not surprised to learn that the pool is the most popular spot on hot summer days.

Rooms at Antrim 1844

Guest Room, Antrim 1844, Taneytown MD

My room, The Clabaugh Room in the Mansion, was a Ralph Lauren-esque envisioning of a swanky horse and hound retreat – complete with horse and hound wallpaper in the Carrera Marble bathroom, horse and hound paintings on deep blue walls, a large fireplace, carved four poster bed, fresh flowers, and other regal appointments.

Bathroom Antrim 1844, Taneytown MD

Each of 40 rooms throughout the property, in fact, is distinctly decorated with Dort’s keen eye for design.

Turndown is elegant simplicity itself: one single red or pink rose on the soft white duvet: both soothing and romantic at the same time.

Food and Drink at Antrim 1844

A.M. coffee, Antrim 1844, Taneytown MD

In the morning, breakfast is a two-part affair. Just before 8am, a tray with coffee and scrumptious muffins is presented by a mini-butler at your door. And then, between 8:30 and 10:30 – save room for a full made to order breakfast – frittata, quiche, yogurt, or grains, downstairs in the restaurant.

Pickwick Pub, Antrim 1844, Taneytown MD

The Pickwick Pub is a great on-site spot to kick back with rare brandies, scotch, bourbons, and lots of local wine and beer.

Smokehouse Restaurant Antrim 1844, Taneytown MD

Plan at least one dinner in the Smokehouse Restaurant (situated in the home’s brick smokehouse, meat-hooks still hanging from wooden crossbeams). Your meal begins, with drinks, passed appetizers, and some schmoozing, in one of the parlor rooms. Then, it’s off to the restaurant – part smokehouse, part summer kitchen – where a cistern drain lying horizontally across the brick floor still courses with water on rainy days.

Smokehouse Restaurant Antrim 1844 Taneytown MD

Dishes are excellent, and the menu, based on local farm availability, changes daily. Suffice it to say that the chef knows what he’s doing, and the beautifully plated foie gras, soup, salad, and steak or fish you order will be a knockout.

Just the Facts

Rooms from $205-$415 per night (depending on season, room, and day of week) include coffee/muffin delivery to room, made to order breakfast, afternoon tea, wi-fi and parking.

 

Carroll County MD: Zen Peaceful Between Baltimore and Gettysburg

WHY GO: In contrast to the sometimes frenetic surrounding areas, particularly the District of Columbia, Carroll County MD is “Zen Peaceful” – in only the way that an agricultural region can be. But what puts this Maryland county on this Maven’s Go List is a phenomenal inn whose owners are so humble, they’ve kept news of their superb establishment a secret, at least to regions beyond the Mid-Atlantic. But here’s the thing: Carroll County, which encompasses the towns of Westminster, Taneytown, Hampstead, Mt. Airy, and more, has some pretty quirky and compelling aspects, as well – including a world-renowned PEEPshow, a funky, Woodstock-esque pottery compound, remnants of a civilized way to care for poor families, a young trio of siblings making a splash in the winemaking world, great food, and of course, an ultra luxurious overnight.

Things to Do in Carroll County MD

Carroll County MD Visitor Center

STOP: Carroll County Visitor’s Center, Westminster. As the County Seat, Westminster, founded by William Winchester, is smack on the route from Baltimore to Gettysburg PA (about 1 ½ hour drive), and the perfect place to stop for a few hours or a few days. The Visitor’s Center is located in beautiful Emerald Hill: a whitewashed brick Pennsylvania farmhouse meets Georgian mansion that previously served as Town Hall. Come in for a chat, or to pick up some information and brochures. Open Mon-Sat. 9-4, Holidays 10-2.

Carroll County Farm Museum, Westminster MD

TOUR: Carroll County Farm Museum, Westminster. Let me preface this by saying that this is not your typical Living History Farm Museum. From 1852 until 1965, this was the county Alms House and 300 acre farm – where families and individuals who “lost everything” could work the land and live free – a most dignified and sensible way to take care of the destitute and homeless. Touring it, and its outbuildings and barns, is remarkably compelling.

Alms House Carroll County MD Farm Museum

The main home housed women and children. Men and older boys stayed in what we’d now consider dorm rooms in a separate building. Girls, beginning at age 13, and young men of 21 would be taught a trade, and work as indentured servants for room and board. At its height, about 90 people lived and labored here.

Bank Barn, Carroll County Farm Museum

When the Alms House closed in 1965, the buildings were in such good repair, they needed very little restoration. The Carroll County Farm Museum was opened in 1966 with the mission to foster “the preservation and proper appreciation of the rural culture of Carroll County and the spirit and the values which this culture typifies.”

Brick Oven, Carroll County Farm Museum

To that end, the dozen or so buildings on 160 remaining acres stand as they were. The home is decorated as it would have looked in the 1890’s for upper middle class caretakers who made $400 a year, and lived on the 2nd floor while the poor lived on the 3rd floor.

Mens Dorm Carroll County Farm Museum MD

The Men’s building has been converted into a showcase for different crafts and service jobs. There’s a blacksmith, and tinsmith, a large-animal veterinarian office, hearth kitchen with brick oven – and on weekends, lots of demonstrations. In outbuildings, there are farm implements and exhibits about the crops grown here. In the 20th century, this area of Maryland was rich in wormseed, a very labor intensive crop whose oil was used for myriad reasons: to rid the body of intestinal parasites, as an additive in women’s perfumes, and on ships’ hulls to repel barnacles. Locals could produce ten to fifteen gallons a day (synthetics killed the industry, however).

One barn displays Mail Wagons from the late 1890’s, when Westminster became an RFD. This newfangled personal delivery service faced resistance from local residents who looked forward to daily social interaction while picking up their mail from the General Store.

Hoff Barn interior Carroll County Farm Museum MD

The Hoff Log Barn, a 1794 Bank Barn, was built, as it blares on a large sign, “when George Washington was President.” Visitors learn that the largest animals were positioned near the door to prevent predators from entering, and kids love to test their strength against their 18th century counterparts by hoisting hay via a pulley system. This generally sparks discussions about the fact that farmers had to grow their own hay and grains for the livestock – as there were no feed stores. Open Mon-Fri 9-4:30, Sat 9-4, Sun. noon-4, $5 adults, $10 families, free Jan-March.

Carroll Arts Center, Westminster MD

GO: Carroll Arts Center, Westminster. Have you heard of the PEEPshow? That yearly extravaganza of art made entirely from the little yellow (and now multi-colored) marshmallow chicks associated with Easter Season? If so, you already know about the Carroll Arts Center in this small Maryland town. The original 1937 movie theater was beautifully renovated and reinvigorated in the early 2000’s, and is a vibrant place at all times – what with a constant stream of art shows, book talks, vintage movies, lectures, and theatrical performances. The annual ten day PEEPshow, however, is by far the Carroll Arts Center’s biggest event.

Carroll County Arts Council 2017 PEEPshow – A Display of Marshmallow Masterpieces! Featuring more than 150 sculptures, dioramas, graphic arts, oversized characters and mosaics created and inspired by Peeps®!

It all began ten years ago, after Executive Director, Sandy Oxx, submitted her “Peep With A Pearl Earring” diorama into the Washington Post Peeps Diorama Contest and was rejected. Undeterred, Oxx decided to launch her own competition, widening it to include sculptures and PEEPs art of all sizes (e.g Game of Thrones Dragon was made up of 5,000 Peeps). Over the past decade the PEEPshow has turned into a major happening, bringing upwards of 27,000 of people from all over the world who line up around the block to see the latest creations every late March or early April (2018 dates; March 29-April 10). This is Carroll Arts Center’s biggest fundraiser, and helps cover its annual operating costs. However, according to Oxx, “we’re much more than marshmallows.”

HIstorical Society of Carroll County Westminster MD

VISIT: Historical Society of Carroll County, Westminster. Still in a bit of flux, pop in to the 1800 Kimmey House to see vignettes of the area from centuries ago. I bet you didn’t know that venetian blinds were used in fancy 1700’s homes! Open 9-5 Tues-Fri.

Off Track Art Gallery, Westminster MD

SHOP: Off Track Art Gallery, Westminster. This seven-partner art gallery, across from The Cup Café, and right beside the railroad tracks (hence the name), features unusual and eye catching wall art, home goods, and jewelry.

Ken and Marty Hankins, Shiloh Pottery, Hampstead MD

TOUR/SHOP: Shiloh Pottery, Hampstead. Shiloh Pottery owner, Ken Hankins, looks (and acts) like Santa Claus as rendered by Mad Magazine. A clay-master for decades, his creations tend toward the whimsical – such as serving bowls stamped with a dozen white sheep and one black. His latest – funky chickens – are flying off the shelf. “I just can’t make them fast enough.”

Chickens, Shiloh Pottery, Hampstead MD

If you’ve ever wondered where Woodstock went, it packed up and moved to this jumble of buildings, playground, chickens, woodworking and ceramic shops on land that used to be a “Kosher Jewish Summer Camp” – with pond, pool, and recreational opportunities for Baltimore kids from 1967-1976.

Sink Dragons Shiloh Pottery Hampstead MD

Ken, who has a Masters in Ceramics Education and his wife, Marty, took over and ran Shiloh as a Pottery Camp. The Hankins were educators (Ken has been teaching at McDaniel College for 45 years), and in their semi-retirement, now offer workshops and classes for kids and adults onsite. Ask Ken to show you the Rube-Goldberg-esque faucet system in his studio-classroom sink – with clay dragons spitting out water from a multitude of hoses.

Addirondack Chairs, Shiloh Pottery Hampstead MD

If clay is not your thing, sign up for a four hour make and take Adirondack Chair workshop – on a select few Sundays for now. For just $150 (includes materials), you can make your own outdoor chair, and take it away.

Union Mills MD

TOUR: Union Mills Homestead, Union Mills – 7 miles west of Westminster. A gem of a home in the middle of nowhere, you’ll travel on undulating back roads, traversing farmland with split rail fences, to get to the Shriver homestead, Union Mills – both domicile and business center for B.F. Shriver Company, which operated Union Mills as merchant millers from 1870’s – 1940’s.

Front porch, Union Mills Shriver Homestead MD

In 1797, brothers Andrew and David Shriver built two 14 x 17 ft homes side by side near a creek and set up their gristmill, sawmill, tannery and other shops. Andrew arrived with his wife and six children; David was a bachelor at the time. The home’s last occupant was the artistic and quirky Bessie Shriver Kemp, who planted the property’s beautiful gardens and passed away in 1957. A tour brings you through the two homes, linked together and expanded over 160 years – six generations – of the Shriver family. And yes, this is the same family that eventually merged with the Kennedy Family when Sergeant Shriver, Jr. married Eunice Kennedy. A wonderful tour weaves together tales of both branches of the family, and ends at the still operational gristmill.

Andrew’s side of the house grew faster by necessity, as he and his wife arrived with six children, who originally slept in a loft upstairs. Andrew eventually became Postmaster of Union Mills, and so his living room became the Post Office.

Gristmill exterior, Union Mills MD

In 1824, Thomas Jefferson appointed David Superintendant of Roads (you can see a copy of Jefferson’s missive on Monticello letterhead), so Shriver established a toll road that led to his house and multiple businesses. Union Mills became an important “whistle stop” for celebrities of the day. Francis Scott Key addressed a crowd from the home’s balcony, Washington Irving stayed overnight. James Audubon watched a Baltimore Oriel build a nest in a nearby willow tree, and we all know what he did with that observation.

Wooden machinery, Union Mills MD

In the early days, furniture, like the feather-painted corner hutch, was made on site and much of those pieces are still here. Though the sawmill is gone, the gristmill has been brought back to life. It’s original millstones and recreated wooden shafts and gears provide an accurate depiction of how grain was milled 200 years ago. It is quite thrilling to see how the gears move and hear the rumbling of the completely wooden apparatus, put together with dowels rather than nails. “There are no other mills in Maryland quite like this,” says a docent. Open May and Sept. weekends only noon-4, June-August Tues-Fri. 10-4, Sat/Sun noon-4, $5 for house and gristmill tour.

Taneytown Historical Museum MD

VISIT: Taneytown Historical Society, Taneytown. You’ll often discover the essence of a small town at its Historical Society Museum, and Taneytown MD is case in point. On display are two Taneytown-made Eli Bentley clocks; one made exclusively in the late 1700’s for Michael Waggoner, a Revolutionary War hero whose name graces the clock face. That one was purchased at Sotheby’s and donated to the Historical Society, as Bentley lived in Taneytown, the other donated after serving time in a nearby funeral home for decades.

Mason-Dixon Marker, Taneytown Historical Museum MD

Also exhibited is a rare Mason/Dickson Line marker stone– emblazoned with an M (Maryland) on one side and P (Pennsylvania) on the other. There are artifacts and papers from when Taneytown was a thriving cultural and business center – after the railroad arrived in 1872 folks from all around would come here to shop in department stores, and see traveling shows at the Opera House.

Entrance, Antrim 1844, Taneytown MD

And then, there’s beloved Antrim – a summer home built in 1844, owned by the Clabaugh Family for 100 years, and sold to George Crouse, Sr in 1961. Crouse, who never moved in, saw to it that Antrim wasn’t vandalized. Though it sat vacant for nearly 75 years, thanks to a very protective community the original windows were intact when Richard and Dorothy (Dort) Mollett purchased it in 1987 and opened it up as a B&B the following year. Antrim 1844 is now among the most beautiful inns in the country and the place to stay for a romantic getaway (see below under Where to Stay). Open Fri. 10-2, Sat/Sun 1-4, Spring through Fall.

Drew Baker, Old Westminster Vineyards MD

TASTE: Old Westminster Winery, Westminster. Owned by young couple Drew and Casey Baker, and Drew’s two sisters, Old Westminster Winery is the answer to “What do we do with a family farm when our parents don’t want to farm it?” To that end, Drew and his wife Casey, along with Lisa – a Chemistry major turned winemaker, and Ashley, who, with Drew, was a Business major, banded together to create this up and coming family winery. They hired a French Vineyard consultant, planted their first 7,600 vines in Spring 2011, and bottled the first vintage in Spring 2013.

Hand picked grapes, Old Westminster Winery MD

Experimentation, says Drew, is a core Old Westminster principal. “We make delicious unadulterated Maryland grown wine.” Many blends are “no-makeup-wines,” in other words, authentic vintages without any additives. “Everything is done by hand: powered by sweat, not oil.”

250 year old oak tables, Old Wesminster Winery MD

Though their classic red blends are popular, including the deep, dark, mostly Merlot and Cabernet Franc Black, Old Westminster is known for its unique “pet nat” blends – in the bottle within a month of harvest. An ancient, now resurging method of sparkling winemaking, most of the fermentation happens in the wine bottle. What Drew calls a “dancing wine,” pet-nat is more effervescent than the hard-core bubbly-ness of Champagne, and seems to be the drink of choice for Millennials. Old Westminster was among the first in the county to employ pet-nat in the making of wines, and after releasing its first, The Daily Meal ranked Old Westminster among the Top 101 wineries in the USA.

The Baker sibs are now in the midst of expanding. Adding to their 17 Clarksburg acres, they’ve purchased 117 acres on Burnt Hill in Montgomery County, and will soon be releasing wines under the Burnt Hill label. For now, come to the lovely tasting cottage outside of Westminster for a tasting flight – and sit at 250-year-old-oak topped tables, milled from a tree that fell on the property. Tasting Room open Sat/Sun noon-5.

 

Hal Roche Serpent Ridge Vineyard, Westminster MD

TASTE: Serpent Ridge Vineyard, Westminster. This very small two person Mom and Pop vineyard is owned by Hal Roche and Karen Smith – who moved here in Feb ’14 and produce some easy drinking reds and whites. Serpent Ridge is such a small operation, Roche and Smith cork bottles by hand using the newfangled “Zork” – a bottle sealing device that’s a snap to remove and reseals easily after opening. Open Wed-Fri 12-5, Sat/Sun 10:30-6.

Devilbiss Store, Uniontown MD

EXPLORE: Uniontown. So small, it will take only a minute to drive through, Uniontown is historically significant in that so many Civil War era homes line Main Street (a toll road that originally cost 3 cents to traverse), the whole district is on the National Historic Register. Uniontown Academy (no longer there) was the first school to teach German immigrants English in the 1700’s. The first telephone in town was installed in the still-standing Devilbiss Store in 1908. And, on a somber note, as Uniontown was on the road to Gettysburg, many soldiers marching through took time to pen letters to loved ones, some sending their very last sentiments postmarked from the Uniontown Post Office.

COLLEGE: McDaniel College, Westminster. Formerly Western Maryland College, (which was confusing because it wasn’t in Western MD), this was the first co-ed university south of the Mason-Dixon line. Now, McDaniel College is world renowned for its Masters in Deaf Education.

Where to Eat and Drink in Carroll County MD

Gypsys Tea Room Westminster MD

LUNCH/TEA: Gypsy’s Tea Room, Westminster. It makes sense to enjoy this most English of rituals in William Winchester’s home, built in 1760, when the US was still a British colony. Owner Gypsy Jo Flack provides that elusive “personal touch,” welcoming every guest warmly into her gift shop, though a warren of intimate rooms – and even into the kitchen to make scones with her on select dates. Though not ostentatious, this is a complete Tea with all the bells and whistles – scones and clotted cream, cucumber sandwiches, baked goods, and of course, you choice of tea. You will not leave hungry. Afternoon Tea available daily 11-3, $26 pp.

Cup Tea Bar Cafe Westminster MD

EAT/LUNCH: Cup Tea Bar Cafe, Westminster. There’s an assortment of grilled cheese, from classic to gourmet, at this funky soup, salad, and sandwich shop on Westminster’s Main St., with live music on weekends and a decidedly college-town vibe.

Fratelli’s, Hampstead MD

EAT/DINNER: Fratelli’s, Hampstead. “People come here just for the crab cakes,” says the waiter, which is strange, since this is your basic, casual, neighborhood-choice Italian restaurant. The pastas and other Italian specials are good, too. But, yes, it’s the huge all-meat crab cakes (one $18, 2 for $29) that shine here.

Baugher Farms Westminster MD

ICE CREAM/FARM MARKET: Baugher’s Family Farm. Baugher’s is widely known in the region as a “pick-your-own” farm as well as farm-stand and homemade ice-cream parlor. In the fall, you’re bound to see crates upon crates of apples.

EAT: Locals love Brick Ridge Restaurant in Mt. Airy – a “farm-to-table” eatery before its time, Rock Salt Grill in Westminster for great burgers and shrimp, and Maryland Mallett also in Westminster for steamed crabs and BBQ,

Where to Stay in Carroll County MD

Guest Room, Antrim 1844, Taneytown MD

STAY: Antrim 1844, Taneytown. For luxury travelers, there really is only one place to stay in Carroll County – and actually the reason that many people come here, though it’s virtually unknown outside of the Mid-Atlantic. As a strongly recommended Maven Favorite, the complete write-up can be found HERE.

What Should You Do On Nantucket MA? Everything!

Brant Point Lighthouse Nantucket MA

WHY GO: Most people come to the island of Nantucket MA for the beaches. Or the boutiques. Or the highly respected cuisine. But Nantucket, 26 miles off the Massachusetts coast – the most remote of all New England islands – is so steeped in history, the whole landmass has been declared a National Historic Landmark.

Nantucket Distance Sign

First settled by Europeans in 1659, by the 18th and 19th centuries Nantucket was the center of the Whaling Industry. When whaling companies decamped for New Bedford on the mainland after a fire in 1846 destroyed a good portion of downtown, the end of one industry opened the door for another – recreation. By the late 1800’s Nantucket was a thriving summer resort, mostly for well-heeled travelers, and has been ever since. So, of course, come here for the beaches, shopping, and restaurants – but be sure to delve into Nantucket’s dramatic history. Members of the Nantucket Historical Association, “the keepers of Nantucket’s heritage,” make it fun and engaging. Start here:

Things to Do on Nantucket

Whaling Museum Nantucket MA

GO: Nantucket Historical Association Whaling Museum. The skeleton of a 46 ft bull sperm whale hovers perilously over a harpoon packed whaling skiff – the centerpiece of the Nantucket Whaling Museum. Over the past few decades, this once small whaling museum has expanded into a world-class institution, run by the noteworthy Nantucket Historical Association, which also manages several other worthy historic sites on the island. The unfortunate whale washed ashore nearby on January 1, 1998, and despite attempts to revive it, the whale died (most likely from a tooth infection). Now, the bones of this monster best demonstrate what whaling crews had to harpoon and wrestle with in order to drag it aboard for processing. One young sailor wrote about the “blood stained decks,” and “huge masses of flesh and blubber lying here and there” on a typical whaling ship.

Scrimshaw Whaling Museum Nantucket MA

Nantucket whalers went out for months, sometimes years, at a time, and crews tended to be very diverse: many from the Azores, but others fugitive slaves who found a life at sea the best way to throw slave hunters off the trail. Nantucket was a true melting pot before its time. The men aboard whaling ships were the first Americans to explore the islands of the South Pacific, bringing back bamboo and rattan used in distinctive Nantucket decorative arts. Life onboard was often boring, so sailors would pass the time by carving or etching whalebone and creating gifts for their loved ones – like scrimshaw, corset stays, pie-crimpers, and combs.

View from Whaling Museum Observation Deck, Nantucket MA

Begin with the Island-In-Time exhibit, which illuminates 5,000 years of Nantucket history, from the Wampanoag natives, to the first nine English settlers in 1659, who grew to a population of 9,700 by 1840 while the local tribe dwindled through illness and alcoholism from 3,000 to 800 and then to basically none. Upstairs, several galleries feature temporary exhibits, and one permanent, which happens to be my favorite – the Decorative Arts – showcasing shelves and shelves of elaborate scrimshaw on whales teeth, rolling pins, pipes, and other work of crafty sailors. It’s one more floor up to the Observation Deck, which on nice days is a great spot to sit and just chew on the exceptional views of town, and the open-mouth ferry and wharves in the harbor below. It’s a not so secret meeting place, and quiet space for a breather. Museum open Sat/Sun mid-Feb to mid April 11-3, Mid April to Memorial Day daily 11-4, Memorial Day thru October daily 10-5, $20 adults, $5 kids for “All Access Pass” that includes entry to other NHS properties.

Shipwreck and Lifesaving Museum Nantucket MA

VISIT: Egan Maritime Shipwreck and Lifesaving Museum. A bit out of town, this fantastic museum, celebrating it’s 50th and 10th anniversaries (first for its initial opening, second for its 2007 expansion) is worth the bike ride, or even a taxi ride to see. Shoals surround this 14-mile long crescent moon shaped island: over 700 ships have run aground around Nantucket – and continue to do so. Nantucket has been a magnet for shipwrecks since men set off in ships: the last one in 1995, when the Panamanian cruise ship Royal Majesty lost its bearings and ran aground on the Rose & Crown shoals (floating off, without any injuries, at high tide).

Heroic Maritime Lifesavers, Shipwreck and Lifesaving Museum Nantucket MA

Between 1700 and 1900, over 200 ships a day from all over the world sailed to or within miles of Nantucket, with no GPS. Using only a clock, sexton and compass, many ran up on the shoals, and were broken up by the waves. In wintertime, crews on wrecked ships would often die of exposure, impelling the Boston Humane Society (when it was still “human” oriented) in 1775-1780 to build unmanned shacks on beaches stocked with blankets and stoves so that victims of wrecks could survive the night. (The four “Humane Houses” that remain on the island have been turned into summer homes).

Schooner Witherspoon, Shipwreck Lifesaving Museum Nantucket MA

In 1871, the US Government formed the U.S. Lifesaving Service with paid crews. (The first Lifesaving Station on Nantucket– near Surfside – is now the Star of the Sea Youth Hostel). In 1915, the Service merged with the Revenue Cutter Service to form the U.S. Coast Guard. Learn about early lifesaving techniques, like the “Breaches Buoy” – a method of rescue utilizing a zip-line shot from shore to distressed vessel (last used in 1962 when helicopters couldn’t get to a ship listing near shore). On January 10th 1886, battling strong winds, snow, and heavy seas, the Schooner Witherspoon ran aground, and even though men of the Lifesaving Service on land came almost immediately, the sailors were so frozen, it took them hours just to set up the breaches buoy. A copy of a painting by a witness to the scene is on view along with a splinter from the ship.

Lightship Nantucket Shipwreck and Lifesaving Museum

Other famous disasters happened far from shore. The Nantucket Lightship – sitting miles from land to ward sailors off the shoals – was once called the “Statue of Liberty of the Sea,” as it was the first light mariners would see while sailing from Europe. (Lightships were decommissioned in the 1980’s and were replaced by buoys). On May 15 1934, the sister ship to the Titanic, the Olympic, was following a radio beacon sent from the Nantucket Lightship when the large Ocean Liner rammed and sunk the smaller boat – killing 7 people onboard. And a more recent and well known tragedy that could have been much worse:  the SS Andrea Doria heading to New York on July 25th, 1956, with 1,706 people aboard, collided with the MS Stockholm about 45 miles south of Nantucket. Though 46 people died, many more were saved, as it took over 11 hours for the ship to sink and other ships in the area took part in rescue efforts.

Map of Nantucket Shoals Shipwreck Lifesaving Museum

The beauty of this museum is that shipwrecks come to life here, especially if you enlist a docent who interjects personal tales and adds drama. You’ll also hear about island characters like Millie, who lived next door to Fred Rogers (“Mr. Rogers”) in Madaket, and see life preservers made entirely of cork, spurring one visitor to quip, “that’ll take a lot of wine!” Open Memorial Day to Columbus Day, $10.

Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum MA

VISIT: Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum. The Nantucket Lightship Basket is easily identifiable the world over, though you have to come to Nantucket (or order online from here) to obtain this truly authentic piece of folk art. The woven baskets made from strips of rattan brought back to Nantucket on Pacific-Island-bound whaling ships were first painstakingly fashioned in the 1870’s by men manning the Nantucket Lightship – essentially a floating lighthouse. What came to be known as “Lightship Baskets” were initially given to wives and used to carry crops from fields and gardens.

Eleanor Roethke, volunteer, Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum

But, in 1948, Jose Reyes, protégée of basket-maker, Mitchy Ray, tweaked the utilitarian Lightship Basket, scaling down its size, giving it a cover, ivory clasp, and curved wooden handle. When Charlie Sayles, another famous artisan, placed a carved ivory whale on the lid of this new “Friendship Basket” in the 1950’s, a Fashion Icon, not to mention a coveted Nantucket souvenir, was born. From 1948 until his death in 1978, it’s estimated that Reyes made over 5,000 signed baskets. This very localized form of art is not dying out, thanks to current artisans who are learning from 3rd and 4th generation basket makers. Watch an amateur weaver at work (in photo, Eleanor Roethke, volunteer), see a 12 minute video about the history of the craft, and peruse some of the oldest baskets. Museum open Memorial Weekend to Columbus Day Weekend, Tues-Sat 10-4:30.

Greater Light interior Nantucket MA

TOUR: Greater Light. Not to be confused with the Great Point Lighthouse marking the Northernmost end of Nantucket, Greater Light was the home of a couple of eccentric Quaker sisters, Philly born Gertrude and Hannah Monaghan, who never married and, in 1930, converted an old livestock barn into a “found object” work of art. The sisters had been summering on Nantucket for years, with their wealthy parents, and had garnered a quirky, artistic following. Gertrude as muralist and Hannah as actress and playwright would mount theatrical shows in the large sunlit central room, where now, most furniture is original to the home, and art on the walls came from Gertrude’s own hand.

Greater Light Bedroom Nantucket MA

Most of the architectural elements in this creative abode came from demolition sites, and just “fell into place,” according to the sisters. They procured church windows that also serve as patio doors, and secured the wrought iron railings framing an interior “Romeo and Juliet” balcony from a demolished Philadelphia building. Though the sisters entertained often, they maintained a religious, almost monastic personal life. Their convent-like bedrooms are dark and churchlike, with bubbled yellow glass windows. Gertrude and Hannah called them “rooms of Golden Light.”

Fire Hose Cart House Nantucket MA

VISIT: Fire Hose Cart House, NHA Site. Built in 1886 this small barn is the last remaining 19th century firehouse on the island. Here, you’ll watch a video about the harrowing Fire of July 13, 1846, when a “tiny tongue of flame in a hat shop leapt from a stovepipe into a wall,” setting off a chain reaction that would leave a third of downtown, where the dry goods, grocery and provisions stores were located, in cinders. Nothing in that area survived, necessitating a call for help from off-island. The human-pulled Cataract # 6 was one of the only Hose Carts to survive the Great Fire.

Jethro Coffin House Nantucket MA

VISIT: Jethro Coffin House – the “Oldest House in Nantucket in its Original Location,” NHA Site. Sitting up a hill on its lonesome, this Saltbox home was Nantucket’s largest structure when first built in 1686 as a wedding gift from Jethro’s big shot Dad, Peter Coffin. Peter maintained a financial interest in the New Hampshire Lumber Co., which came in handy, as the brush and spindly trees on Nantucket were useless in construction. In the mid 1600’s, wood had to be imported from the mainland or scavenged from shipwrecks.

Interior Jethro Coffin House Nantucket MA

At age 23, Jethro married Mary, 16, and they were fruitful and multiplied. Mary and Jethro had 8 children, raising 6 in this “over the top McMansion of the day,” and lived here for 20 years. Though the original portrait of Mary is in the Nantucket Whaling Museum, there’s a copy here, and you’ll want to take a close gander: she looks exactly like a Gilbert Stewart rendering of George Washington.

Old Gaol Nantucket MA

TOUR: Old Gaol, NHA Site. Pronounced “jail,” this 1805 Garrison-style prison is one of the oldest in the country. While hardened ciminals were shipped off the island, this is where low level petty thieves and prostitutes were locked up. Now in a residential area surrounded by houses, it was first built next to a House of Corrections (halfway house for orphans and the homeless) and judicial area. Inside, four rooms – two on each floor – held two prisoners each and was quite cushy compared to overcrowded jails of the day.

Old Gaol Cell Nantucket MA

Each prisoner had his own bunk, chamber pot, and some wood for the stove heater. Take the tour to hear engaging stories of those who spent time here, including a town drunk who embezzled from the bank and “must have had connections,” as he lived upstairs in “the penthouse” for three years, made baskets, read books, and was granted a pardon from President Cleveland. The Gaol served as the town’s penal facility until 1933.

Old Mill Nantucket MA

TOUR: Old Mill. Built in 1756, this Dutch windmill is the oldest functioning mill in the United States and opens for tours and demonstrations. Going inside to see the workings of this early machine, the advanced technology of the day, is completely mindblowing.

Nantucket Cobblestone Streets

TOUR: Nantucket Historical Association Downtown Walking Tour: As you stroll the cobblestone and brick-line Historic District, you’ll learn about Nantucket’s transformation from the Whaling Capital of the World to a world-class destination, with a stop at the Quaker Meeting House and Greek Revival Hadwen House. 1 ½ hour tours Mid-May-October, daily 11:15 and 2:15, $10 per person.  

Nantucket Atheneum

 STOP: Nantucket Athenaeum. One of the only grand structures to survive the great fire of 1846, this neoclassical library makes it on many an Instagram page.

G.L. Brown Basket Maker Nantucket MA

SHOP: Brown Basket Gallery, South Wharf. Come down to the waterfront to visit the man and his handiwork. G.L. Brown, one of the very few authentic Nantucket Lightship Basket makers in business for over 40 years, has invented some of his own styles in addition to traditional ones.

Just Off the Wharves, in Nantucket MA

ORIENTATION TOURS: If you only have a few hours, or want to get the lay of the land right off the ferry, opt for one of several sightseeing tours that all run about 1.5 to 2 hours, and bring you to all points on the island. Choose from Barrett’s Tours or Nantucket Island Tours – in coach buses; Gail’s Tours in a luxury Mercedes Benz van, or a custom tour (or just a ride somewhere) with Val’s Cabs.

Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge Nantucket MA

TOUR: Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge. Owned by the Trustees of Reservations, these 1,117- acres of beach, salt marsh, sand dunes, and “forests” of wind-sheared oak and cedar, on the far northern end of the island, allows very limited access. The Great Point Lighthouse now standing was built in 1986 to replace the 1816 structure destroyed during a punishing coastal storm in March 1984. The best way to experience this Refuge is via 3 hour Natural History 4X4 Oversand Vehicle Tour offered Thurs-Mon 9am and 1pm, $60 adults, $20 kids (though not recommended for children under 5).

Wild Nantucket Surfside

GUIDED HIKE: Nantucket Walkabout with Peter Brace. Yet another way to experience the wild side of Nantucket (and we’re not talking Bachelorette Parties here), experienced naturalist, Peter Brace, takes visitors on a 2 hour exploration of his favorite untamed places, with constant commentary on the natural aspects of the island. He’ll even pick you up! Year round, $40 adults, $20 kids

Sankaty Lighthouse and Bluffs Nantucket MA

PHOTO OP: Sankaty Lighthouse. Take the bus or bike about 9 miles from town to Sankaty Lighthouse – most remarkable for the bluff eroding so quickly, the structure had to be moved in 2007. The “ocean from Portugal” has been pounding against the sand here for so long, in fact, Herman Melville himself remarked on it in July 1852 when he visited this light – built just two year earlier. He claimed, “The sea has encroached upon that part where their dwelling-house stands near the light-house, in a strange and beautiful contrast, we have the innocence of the land eyeing the malignity of the sea.”

First Congregational Church Nantucket MA

CLIMB: First Congregational Church Steeple Tower. Whaling captain’s wives paced these “widow’s walks” while waiting for their men to return from the sea. The tower, with sweeping views of the town and island, is open for visitors with hearty lungs (94 steps to the top). Open Mon-Fri 10-2, $5.

Maria Mitchell Aquarium Nantucket MA

VISIT: Maria Mitchell Assoc. Science Center and Observatories. Maria Mitchell, the first “Professional Female Astronomer in the USA,”  was born on Nantucket and was also a naturalist, librarian and educator who believed in “learning by doing.” The Association operates 2 observatories, a natural science museum and aquarium, and preserves Mitchell’s birthplace.

Sunset Madaket Beach Nantucket

SUNSET: Madaket Beach. Join the hordes on clear evenings to watch the sun set over Nantucket Sound. It’s a few miles from town, so either ride your bike or arrange a ride. Remember, you’ll be on the road again when it’s dark.

Transportation

GETTING TO NANTUCKET: Steamship Authority, Hyannis MA. Short of flying in or hitching a ride on your friend’s yacht, Steamship Authority’s Nantucket Ferry is the most popular and consistent way to get to the island, especially if you need to bring your car, as no other ferry service offers it. Car transport is expensive – $225 each way (total with driver at $18.50 each way adds up to nearly $500 round trip) so bringing your car is best for families renting a seasonal house or for people with second homes on the island.

On Nantucket Ferry Steamship Authority

Consider bringing a bike only – at $7 each way, your round trip cost is just $51 on the slow ferry that takes 2 1/4 hours. The Steamship Authority also runs high-speed ferries out of Hyannis – taking one hour – at $69 round trip.

Hy-Line Cruises (no cars) operates year round multiple times a day from Hyannis MA ($77 round trip in season, less offseason), and another high-speed Sunstreak Ferry out of New Bedford MA operates between Memorial Day and Labor Day (no cars, $70 weekdays, $90 weekends round trip).

Bikes in Downtown Nantucket MA

RENT BIKE/CAR: There are plenty of bike rental shops as soon as you exit the ferry wharfs, so even if you don’t bring one, you can rent one. From town, Cisco Brewery is 3.8 miles, Madaket Beach is 6.2 miles, and Sankaty Light is nearly 9 miles – all on wide and easy bike baths that thread the island. Young’s Bicycle Shop (also rents cars), Nantucket Bike Shop, Easy Riders Bicycles, Cook’s Cycles (also rents mopeds and Jeeps), Nantucket Island Rent A Car (at the Airport), Affordable Rentals for cars.

BUS: The NTRA “Ride the Wave” has routes all over the island. May-mid October, 7am – 11:30 pm.

Where to Eat on Nantucket

Ciscos Brewery Nantucket MA

EAT/TASTE/BEER/WINE/BOOZE: Cisco Brewers. As you might tell from the category, this is not just a brewery. Cisco encompasses Nantucket Winery, Cisco Brewery, and Triple Eight Distillery, a gift shop, a live music venue, and various food trucks – in all a party year round on grounds seemingly expanding by the minute. Take your food and drinks to an open-air patio replete with picnic tables, and room to dance if the spirits move you. A few miles out of town, you can either bike here, cab it, or take the free shuttle that leaves every 15 minutes from the Visitor’s Center downtown. Open Mon-Sat 11-7, Sun 12-6.

EAT: Black Eyed Susan’s. The food is fantastic in this sleek sailing yacht- wide restaurant. Winning raves for both its breakfasts and dinners – a feat in and of itself – served either on the luncheonette counter or a few tables, we were happy with fresh salads, and minimally fussed with entree’s like pasta  touched only by sautéed tomatoes, garlic, and not much else.

American Seasons Nantucket MA

EAT: Many locals claim that there is not a bad meal to be had on the Island, as excellent restaurants have raised the bar: a “rising tide lifts all boats” effect. That said, of course, there are favorites: hit up Millie’s on Madaket Beach for awesome sunsets and seafood, Cru at the end of Straight Wharf for oysters and lobster rolls with a harbor view, Dune in downtown for modern American cuisine, The Nautilus for “rustic seafood-centric small plates,” and American Seasons – a lowlit huntsman-cabin-chic favorite, with innovative cuisine and top notch service.

Where to Stay on Nantucket

Regatta Inn, Nantucket MA

STAY: Regatta Inn. Though there are dozens of hotels, inns and B&B’s on Nantucket, the Regatta Inn, renovated in 2016, distinguishes itself as an unpretentious luxury establishment a few blocks from the downtown action, with a thoughtfully designed interior, great attention to detail, and a warm, gracious approach to hospitality: all at a surprisingly reasonable rate. A true Maven Favorite – read the complete write-up here.

Star of the Sea Youth Hostel Nantucket MA

There are dozens of hotels, inns, and B&B’s on Nantucket, and range from Budget to Luxury, from traditional to contemporary. Even the Star of the Sea Youth Hostel is a knockout, for those with limited funds.

 

Falmouth MA: Your First Beach Stop on Cape Cod

Sunset at Sea Crest Beach Hotel Falmouth MA

WHY GO: Falmouth MA, in the extreme southwest corner of Cape Cod, encompasses the tiny burg of Woods Hole – a Getaway Maven hot spot – and the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard – another Maven fave. But there are things to see in Falmouth as well, including a recently renovated Victorian mansion turned art museum, waterfront gardens with antique anchors as central features, and some of the country’s most awesome sunsets. What to do and where to stay in Falmouth? We tell you here….

Things to Do in Falmouth MA

Highfield Hall Exterior Falmouth MA

VISIT: Highfield Hall and Gardens, Falmouth. If ever there was a Demo Diva* story, it’s this one. In 1994, a permit was granted to demolish Highfield Hall, an ornate “Stick-Style” Queen Anne mansion built in 1878 by the heirs of Boston Dry Goods titan, James Beebe. Three Beebe brothers, Pierson, Franklin and J. Arthur, and their sister Emily, purchased acreage in what was then scrublands, and built the 17,800 sq ft. Victorian Highfield Hall and the Colonial Revival Tanglewood next door, establishing one of the first summer retreats on Cape Cod. When Franklin, the last Beebe, died in 1932 leaving no heirs, both homes and the property cycled through a succession of owners.

Highfield Hall – Mirror Stained Glass  – Falmouth MA

By the 1970’s, the summer homes were abandoned and remained vacant over the next two decades. Tanglewood succumbed to the wrecking ball, but in 1994, under threat of demolition, a group of concerned citizens formed Historic Highfield to save the crumbling structure. They ultimately raised $8.5 million and restored Highfield Hall to its original splendor in September 2006, completing the grounds and gardens – including the Ice House – in 2010.

Highfield Hall Art Exhibit, Falmouth MA

Now, the mansion is open to the public as an art museum/gallery/cultural center, where paintings and sculptures mesh harmoniously with graceful architectural elements like floral and geometric stained glass, Majolica tiled fireplaces, crown molding, wainscoting, picture windows, and oriental carpets on hardwood floors. Highfield presents three art shows a year throughout a number of rooms on two floors – so you will experience something different each time you visit. Begin in the Museum Room next to the admission desk to learn about the Beebe Family (some of it quite tragic, with a history of suicide), and then continue on to ogle the artwork in the mansion’s interior. End your visit in the gardens outside.

Highfield Hall Ice House, Falmouth MA

The grounds – which encompass the West Garden (a popular venue for weddings), a Sunken Garden, the 387-acre Beebe Woods, the stunning renovated Ice House, and a good number of dramatic Beach Trees – oblige visitors to meander and stay awhile longer. Highfield Hall also offers world-class music programs, culinary classes and gardening workshops, so check the website for calendar events. Open daily mid-April through October, Mon-Fri 10-4, Sat/Sun 10-2, $5. Free Fridays July and August 4pm-7pm

*Demo Diva – A stunning building saved from the wrecking ball at the 11th hour.

Welcome to Spohr Gardens, Falmouth MA

WALK: Spohr Gardens, Falmouth. The central collection of this very tucked away 5-acre waterfront garden is a quirky and surprising one – antique anchors. And the most prized among them; the 14 ft long, 2,465 pound 1760 English anchor intended for use by the H.M.S. Bounty, but found to be defective, and left aside for repairs. By the 1950’s, Charles Spohr had amassed a large collection of these nautical artifacts – it was his “thing” – and came to the conclusion that his own property was the perfect place to display them. Spohr designed the garden surrounding his home, laying the anchors in an array along a bulwark wall at the water’s edge.

Anchors at Spohr Gardens, Falmouth MA

As friends and then friends of friends found out about the anchor, rock, and flower gardens, Charles and his wife, Margaret, decided to open their property to the public. The Spohr’s arranged for a Charitable Trust to manage the gardens after their deaths (Charles in 1997, Margaret in 2001), so this local treasure, with the help of Friends of Spohr Gardens, remains open daily year round from 8am-8pm.

Falmouth Museums on the Green MA

GO: Museums on the Green. Two 18th Century homes hold a “treasure trove” of artifacts reminiscent of Falmouth life in Colonial times. Open early June- Mid Oct, Mon-Fri 10-3, Sat 10-1, $5.

Where to Stay and Eat in Falmouth

Sea Crest Beach Hotel Falmouth MA

STAY: Sea Crest Beach Hotel. This beachfront, sand in your toes hotel is a favorite of many for a reason. Like Mallory Square in Key West, humans are drawn the Sea Crest Beach Hotel for the breathtaking sunset over Buzzard’s Bay. Late afternoon, they float in the outdoor pool. They lean over the boardwalk railings or grab a lounge chair, with a glass of wine, by the lapping waves. Or, they reserve a seat at Red’s Restaurant, facing outward, to see the marvelous show that Mother Nature puts on nightly.

Romantic Sunset Sea Crest Beach Hotel Falmouth MA

The Sea Crest Beach Hotel is not a luxury property, per se, but it is upscale, and getting more so as guest rooms are refreshed. Renovated lobby and rooms – in one and two story buildings circling a central parking lot – are decked out in either mellow earth tones or nautical hues (depending on room block) with back doors that open onto a courtyard or ocean-view patio. Reception is in the lovingly landscaped main building – which also features a snack/coffee/gift shop, Red’s Restaurant, and several conference rooms. Staff is friendly, with ultimate patience, as the property is large and sprawling and requires a map to find your way (at first). But all that initial confusion melts away at first glance of the beach and bay as you make your way to your room.

 

Sea Crest Beach Hotel Bayfront Rooms Falmouth MA

In a nutshell, the best rooms for dead-on views of the bay and magnificent sunset will be the most expensive. But no matter where you book, you’re within only a few steps of the beach. Though some chambers are muted, colorwise, others have been refreshed with bright nautical blues and greens, so if you have a preference, ask first.

Guest Room in Yankee Girl Building, Sea Crest Beach Hotel, Falmouth MA

My room in Yankee Girl featured earth tones in both the bedroom and small bathroom. Pillowtop bedding is soft, comfy, and high-end, and even though not right on the water, the sound of wind and nearby surf lulled me to sleep. There’s a small galley kitchen, and back door to a large cement courtyard (the other side of the building fronts a sandy quadrant extending to the bayfront beach), just a few paces from a boardwalk that leads out to the beach.

Courtyard view from Yankee Girl Building, Sea Crest Beach Hotel Falmouth MA

In-house restaurant, Red’s, is the place to be at sunset: as you can dine on burgers, steak, and fish while watching the sun go down. Food is good enough to stay on campus– as downtown Falmouth is several miles away – and draws even locals and folks staying in other hotels for its views alone. In the morning, you can enjoy a buffet breakfast ($19), served in the Ocean View Room – and, again, those vistas! Alternately, grab a coffee and pastry at the gift/coffee shop, which opens at the early-to-riser’s preferred hour of 6am.

Amenities at Sea Crest Beach Hotel

Sea Crest Beach Hotel Indoor Pool Falmouth MA

Indoor Saltwater Pool shares a building with an arcade and fitness center.

Sea Crest Beach Hotel Outdoor Pool Falmouth MA

The Outdoor Saltwater Pool is but one exceptional sunset vantage point, as it’s located right off the beach boardwalk.

Plus: Oasis By the Sea Spa, Cabana Rentals on the Beach, Kayak, Paddle Boards, Paddle Boat, and Bike Rentals on Site

Rooms $123-$629 per night, depending on view (oceanfront most expensive) and season, include complimentary wi-fi, parking, and beach access.

Kent County MD: The Surprising Personalities of Chestertown, Betterton, and Rock Hall

Haven Harbour Marina Office Rock Hall MD

WHY GO: You won’t believe who washed ashore and stayed in Chestertown, Betterton, and Rock Hall MD in Kent County on the Upper Chesapeake. There’s a Bobby Flay/James Beard House/NY Bistro Philly born Chef with her own restaurant in a population-300 beach town. There’s a retired Ivy League college professor who opened a shabby chic Music Hall with 125 seats, and enticed jazz great, Charlie Byrd, to play. There’s a brilliant antique appliance restorer who left the Defense Department after 35 years to follow his passion, a furniture maker who has made it his life’s work to help others create their own heirlooms, and much more quirk in an achingly beautiful region where everyone seems to have a back-story. Craft a bench, take a sunset cruise, swim in a clean, nettle-free beach, listen to some new World Music, and stay in a luxury bayside inn or retreat on this Tidewater Getaway.

Things to Do in Kent County MD

Chester River Packet Chestertown MD

TOUR/BOAT: Chester River Packet. Sailing up and down the Chester River at sunset is one of life’s great pleasures, especially if done on a 1920’s style wooden yacht with a drink in hand. The Sunset Dinner Cruise offers a modest ham and salads dinner buffet (with cash bar), for just $30 pp.

Sunset via Chester River Packet Chestertown MD

But the star of cruise is the riverscape and the spectacle of shadow, light, and color as the sun goes down. This mellow excursion seems to attract a bevy of girl/guyfriend groups, romantics, and anyone who revels in the communal celebration of days end. $30pp for 2-hour tour includes casual buffet style dinner. 

Robert Ortiz Furniture Maker Chestertown MD

MAKE OR BUY/FURNITURE: Robert Ortiz, Furniture Maker, Chestertown. Robert Ortiz has been fashioning Shaker and Japanese style furniture in this studio for 22 years and came to a stunning revelation when he helped a client make a piece for his home. The man returned twice more in order to build the same thing three times. Turned out, this customer had three sons who all coveted the same console table he’d made with Ortiz’s help.

Woodworking wtih Bob Ortiz Chestertown MD

Studies have shown that Millennials don’t want their parent’s “stuff,” but will accept an heirloom made by Mom or Dad, especially if said heirloom is a striking wooden bench or table. So, Ortiz decided to open his furniture workshop to the public for 5 day workshops – one on one – where he guides crafters through the process of wood selection from the mill, and then through design, joinery, and finish, using the same tools, jigs and fixtures he’s developed over the years. At the end of five days, you take home an heirloom-worthy piece of furniture. This is not, says Ortiz, a “Master Class.” The daily sessions are project oriented and an experience. “You’ll walk away with furniture you’ll treasure the rest of your life.” 5-Day Workshops from $2450 – $3750 depending on piece made. Does not include housing. 

Dave Hoatson Owner Chestertown Electric MD

SHOP: Chestertown Electric, Chestertown. Dave Hoatson, an electrical engineer in the defense industry for 35 years, wished to retire to a small riverfront college town and concentrate on his passion: repairing small antique appliances. But he didn’t know if his repair shop would be a store or museum. Turns out, it’s both. In Hoatson’s tiny storefront a few blocks from the Chester River, you’ll find some strikingly beautiful, museum-quality phones, fans, lamps, clocks, and other early 20th century electrical appliances from before the 1930’s, in various stages of repair.

Phones Chestertown Electric MD

Surprisingly, “You can call your Mom” on a 1913 Candlestick Phone, which would have cost $2.20 when new. The 6’4” soft-spoken Hoatson “loves” his work, and has stories about every piece in his shop.

Fans at Chestertown Electric MD

Of all the devices, the two most eye-catching are a 1914 General Electric ($900) and a 1934 Emerson Silver Swan ($300), designed by a woman, interior designer Jane Evans, who told the President of Emerson Electric that his fans were ugly. So he challenged her to design a beautiful one. She did. Both are fully functional and throw out more breeze than most fans of their size today. Fan fans come here from all over the country (yes, there is a Fan Club), so if you’re in town, stop in to say hi and pick up that dial kitchen phone from you nostalgic dreams.

Front of Mainstay Rock Hall MD

MUSIC HALL: The Mainstay, Rock Hall. Twenty-three years ago, college PhD Professor and jazz trumpet player, Tom McHugh, walked into this storefront space and saw potential. Despite being told it would never fly, McHugh opened up The Mainstay as a stage for all kinds of music, with a concentration on jazz.

The Mainstay Rock Hall MD

McHugh brought in couches and chairs, set up a little stage, and ran the Mainstay for a year before calling Charlie Byrd in Annapolis through a number he got from a phonebook. Figuring he was calling Byrd’s production office, McHugh was surprised that the jazzman himself picked up. McHugh told Byrd he could offer him $300. “Is that for each of my band or total?” asked Byrd. “Total.” “Let me see what the guys say,” Byrd said, calling back minutes later with a “yes.” “We all got our start in places like yours” by explanation. McHugh recounted that Byrd told him he had a friend “from NY” who wanted to jam with him. So it came to pass that Charlie Byrd and John “Bucky” Pizarelli headlined at this rather boho music hall in a tiny Maryland town.

Tom McHugh Founder The Mainstay Rock Hall MD

Currently, Charlie Byrd’s widow runs the Mainstay Bar, and over a thousand concerts have been held here, from the Preservation Hall Band to Femina (who counts among her greatest fans the rocker Iggy Pop). Carol Colgate is now the Director of the concert venue, which has become an economic driver for the town. Patrons come from DC, Philly, and Baltimore, to hear everything from Blue Grass to World, Folk, Funk, Indigenous, Hip Hop, and of course Jazz, in an intimate space.

You’ll still find the original hodgepodge of couches and chairs that can seat 125 (“135 if you cram them in”) that years ago prompted a well-dressed woman to walk in and exclaim, “it will look lovely when it’s finished.” On any given night, the “savvy and attuned” spectators love to speak to the musicians after the show. “The room, audience, musicians, and music,” says McHugh, “together create a weird synchronicity that is magic.”

TOUR/SAIL: Blue Crab Chesapeake Charters, Rock Hall. Captain Mark Einstein, and his first mate/wife, Suzanne, run 1 ½ hour day sails and sunset cruises from the marina next to Waterman’s Crab House. $35.

Downtown Rock Hall MD

WALK: Rock Hall MD. Rock Hall is a home base for watermen, and known for its 13 marinas and harbor. As a “boaty town,” in fact, many yachtsmen know Rock Hall only from the water, especially if they tie up to the docks to dine at the classic Waterman’s Crab House and then leave. Stay, though, to explore downtown a block over. Take in a concert at The Mainstay (see above), stop in Smiling Jakes for Island Wear, Hickory Stick for “Eastern Shore Gifts for Home and You,” Get the Scoop for a cone or cup of ice cream, and Durning’s for an old fashioned soda and to make a call in a still working phone booth.

Java Rock – Rock Hall MD

Leave a bit of time to rest at Java Rock – not your humdrum Starbucks. This coffee shop also sells wine, gifts, and irreverent (some would say naughty) novelties. A “community hub,” locals come every day and order brews like Brown-Eye Girl (mocha with extra espresso shot), Night Owl (mucho caffeine), and Mocha Mint Patty, among other lattes and espresso drinks.

Pirates and Wenches Weekend Rock Hall MD

It’s here that many a plan is hatched for community events – like the now annual Pirates and Wenches Weekend, with a completely made-up back story of Greybeard the Pirate’s ties to Rock Hall. Everyone gets involved, with decorations and “y’arrrr sales,” and the event draws between 5,000-8,000 people to this town of 1,300.

HIKE: Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge. Wildlife viewing is virtually guaranteed at this 2,285-acre island refuge, a major feeding and resting spot for migrating and wintering waterfowl. There are 6 miles of trails and roads including a handicap-accessible boardwalk. Open all year, 7:30am- 30 minutes after sunset. Closed to general public during certain hunting seasons. 

Betterton Heritage Museum MD

GO: Betterton Museum at the Town Office, and Betterton Beach, Betterton. Before the Bay Bridge was built in 1952, and before Ocean City MD became all that, steamer boats and ferries brought thousands of people per day to Betterton Beach. There were 17 hotels, dance halls and bowling alleys. Now, with a year round population of just 300, which doubles in the summer, the pristine beach is quiet and peaceful. Learn local history from John Smith and other historic figures in this small museum in an old converted Catholic Church (Church of Most Precious Blood) that now serves as a Town Offices and Community Center. Smith’s journals enticed settlers who grew tobacco, peaches and tomatoes. The area was found to have “good fishing,” and by the late 1800’s, was attracting an ever growing number of people who would fish, swim, stay in one of the 17 bare-bones hotels (without indoor plumbing – people swam in the freshwater rivers to clean off), and then return rested to Baltimore.

Betterton Beach MD

The Baybell Steamboat carried 2,500 people at a time, 80,000 people in a weekend, to swinging Betterton Beach, known for “Boating, Bathing, Bowling, and Dancing.” After the Bay Bridge opened, the Atlantic Ocean beaches became more popular, turning Betterton into a quiet bedroom community with “second homes.” But lately, people are rediscovering this little jewel, with it’s good, clean, crisp water, no sea nettles (a problem elsewhere), a fine sandy beach without “towel to towel” crowds, a public bath house, grills, and a pavilion you can rent on a bluff overlooking everything. Museum open Sat/Sun April-Oct. 1-3, Beach 24/7.

Where to Eat and Drink in Kent County MD

Patio Barbaras on the Bay Betterton MD

EAT: Barbara’s on the Bay, Betterton I don’t know what to write about first: Barbara Esmonde or her food. Both are equally astounding, unique, and brilliant. Just the idea that Esmonde – who ran in circles with Bobby Flay, cooked at the James Beard House in NY, helmed the kitchen at an Upper East Side NY restaurant, and competed on Chopped –  would wind up in this tiny, population 300 town of Betterton MD, is, as my kids would say “amazeballs.”

Barbara Esmonde, Barbaras on the Bay Betterton MD

Each move and each job taught Esmonde “what to do and what not to do” when running her own restaurant. She cooked in Oregon, studied in Italy, managed a Country Club restaurant in Chestertown, and one day she walked into this café for sale on a bluff overlooking Betterton Beach and the Chesapeake Bay, and she was smitten. Esmonde has lots of friends willing to help her, so she started a “non-wedding” Registry on Amazon where they could contribute and purchase all the appliances and equipment she needed for her new endeavor. Esmonde makes serious, endearing, connections, and inspires loyalty and service in her staff who have been here since Barbara’s on the Bay opened “at 5pm, October 9, 2014.” She tells them “We’re having some company for dinner. They’re just all coming at the same time.”

Aberdeen Rumble, Barbaras on the Bay Betterton MD

Now, the food: the signature Aberdeen Rumble ($14.99) – dry rub flank steak, caramelized onions, from scratch potato sticks, roasted red pepper sauce on Ciabatta Roll is a Holy Cow! of a meal meant for guys with hearty appetites, or girls who don’t want to miss out. Her Scotch Eggs, a crunchy-soft version of the Irish Pub staple is the perfect snack, as is the orgasmic Pretzel slathered in warm crab dip. Complete your meal with Esmonde’s Mom’s Apple Crisp – it’s worth the calories – which you can work off by walking down to and up from the beach a few times. Barbara’s on the Bay accomplishes the Trifecta of a highly successful restaurant: Great Food, Great Service, and Great Views.

Garlic Shrimp Blue Heron Chestertown MD

EAT: Blue Heron Café, Chestertown. For twenty years, Paul Hanley has been running this little open and airy restaurant right on Main St. as the go-to for fine dining in Chestertown, with reservations required ONE YEAR in advance for Washington College Graduation. I can always tell the quality of a restaurant by its bread, and here, it’s fresh-baked, warm, and perfect – as are appetizers like the Garlic Shrimp with Parmesan Toast Points. Blue Heron was quickly filling up on a Thursday night – evidence of a much-loved establishment.

Alfred Cassinelli Bad Alfreds Distilling Chestertown MD

TASTE/DISTILLED: Bad Alfred’s Distilling aka BAD, Chestertown. The only distillery in Kent County – all brandy, gin, and bourbon made here is “grape based.” That’s because owner, Alfred Cassinelli, has a winery as well, and uses his own Grappa and Lemoncello in his recipes. If the hard stuff is too hard for you, BAD’s got something good for sweet-tooth’s; “Girl Shine” Apple Brandy, the counterpoint to its Moonshine. Come in for a taste, and stay for a bite – you’ll find “from scratch” pub food that includes Cassinelli’s own Red Sauce concoctions.

TASTE/WINE: Crow Vineyard. Wine on a farm!

EAT/CHESTERTOWN: Locals also love Lemon Leaf Café, Charlie’s Bistro, known of its Bourbon Bacon Ice-Cream, and The Freeze – a 50’s style ice-cream shop.

Where to Stay in Kent County MD

Guest Room Inn at Haven Harbour Rock Hall MD

STAY: Inn at Haven Harbor. This chic newly opened 9-room inn is part of a yacht marina complex that includes two pools, shuffleboard, Fishing Pier, Restaurant and Bar, and a huge Marina store.

Chairs behind Inn at Haven Harbour Rock Hall MD

But the Inn itself sits about a block away from the Marina, on a main road, and backs up to a cove where guests can just grab a kayak or SUP from the dock and go forth into the water, no paperwork involved.

Kayak Dock Inn at Haven Harbour Rock Hall MD

Run more like a Guest House than an inn (in this case with no innkeeper on premises, you get your key from the Marina office), rooms are nevertheless upscale, bright, nautical, and spacious, some with balconies overlooking the Inn’s dock and marina beyond. Décor is Chesapeake-chic – heavy on anchors, ships wheels, oars, crabs, sailing ships, and sea charts.

Great Room Inn at Haven Harbour Rock Hall MD

There are several small common rooms on the first floor, but the Great Room is where it’s happening: a game and huge TV room stocked with snacks and drinks throughout the day, and an enhanced hot Continental Breakfast from 7:30 to 10.

Breakfast Inn at Haven Harbour Rock Hall MD

Room rates from $125, Balcony Deluxe Rooms from $185 per night include hot Continental Breakfast, use of bikes, kayaks, pool, snacks.

Guest Room Inn at Huntingfield Rock Hall MD

STAY: Inn @ Huntingfield Creek, Rock Hall. Owned by Jim and Joanne Rich (who also own Java Rock and other in-town businesses) the Inn at Huntingfield Creek is one of the top (if not the top) places to stay in Rock Hall, consisting of 7 cottages and 5 rooms in the main house – all with Temperpedic Beds – on 70 acres, over 40 of which are soybean, Sunflower, and lavender fields.

Wedding Venue- Inn @ Huntingfield Creek – Rock Hall MD

As befits a Select Registry property, guest quarters are exquisite, and the grounds as a whole are quite popular for weddings. There’s an open-air barn dressed up for events, and an arbor outside for nuptials. With a saltwater pool, organic garden, and kayaks to use on Huntingfield Creek – that feeds into the Chesapeake Bay – this is on many a Chesapeake Region Stay List. Cottages from $265-$345 per night.

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