Great Weekend Escapes

Sometimes you just have to get away from it all, and even a night or two will do. Here’s where- and without spending too much time getting there.

Great Weekend Getaways

 

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Many good reasons to hit the road again

Somewhere between the day trip and the full-blown vacation is The Getaway—a not too long, not too short, not too close, not too far respite from the daily grind. Here are some of our favorite places to relax, revive, rejuvenate, retreat, rekindle, recharge and—when all else fails—shop! 

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By Nancy Claus Giles

 

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Milford, PA

 

Norman Rockwell

With a twist

Distance: 1.5 hours

 

Cruising down I-84 into Pennsylvania with the Pocono Mountains looming large, past a series of marts (K- and Wal), I land in the tiny village of Milford, PA (population 1,684), founded in 1733. My instructions were to drive to the light (Yep, the town has only one stoplight and seems darn proud of it) and turn right. I am instantly enchanted.

“Milford has the charm of a small town but with a bit of a twist,” says Sean Strub, who is the editor of Milford Magazine, the owner of The Muir House Inn and Restaurant and six-year resident who acts as unofficial cheerleader for the town—“a good twist, largely created by the influx of new residents and weekenders—mostly Manhattanites.” 

There is plenty here to cheer about. Nineteenth-century architectural gems abound: Grey Towers, the former residence of governor Gifford Pinchot, designed by Richard Morris Hunt; Calvert Vaux, who designed Belvedere Castle in Central Park, did the original post office (now a gallery); John Roebling, who engineered the Brooklyn Bridge, created the bridge that spans the Delaware River just down the road; and Frederick Law Olmstead of Central Park fame even designed the town cemetery for heaven’s sake. Private residences include work by McKim, Mead & White. 

Milford has long drawn an artsy crowd. In the early part of the 20th century, Milford was the location for many silent films; D.W. Griffith directed two films here and others were made starring Lionel Barrymore and Mary Pickford. The prolific Western writer Zane Grey lived and wrote here; his home is now open to the public.

Faces about town could include Frank McCourt, Eric Bogosian and designer Todd Oldham (he has a live-in tree house built 60 feet off the ground!). Spartina author John Casey is said to write in a tent that he has pitched in the woods near his house.

 

What to do when visiting?

 

There are antique shops and galleries aplenty (I liked The Artery and the APA Fine Art Gallery). For outdoorsy types, the Delaware Water Gap National Park is just a hop, skip and jump up the road from Milford where you can fish, hike or bike to your heart’s content.

 

The Milford fluviarchy (or network of waterfalls to us plain folk) is one of the largest in the country. Raymondskill Falls is breathtakingly beautiful; there’s lots of trails to explore to boot. Kayaking or tubing down the Delaware River is another perfect way to laze away a hot summer’s day.

 

There’s The Museum of the Pike County Historical Society, which houses the flag that cradled President Lincoln’s head as he lay mortally wounded on the floor of the Ford Theatre.

 

And there are plenty of eateries including La Petite Provençe for pastries and Fretta’s Italian Salumeria for Italian delicacies. Fine dining options include Strub’s Muir House, Waterwheel Café & Bakery for Euro-rustic fare, Dimmick Inn & Steakhouse for a little bit of everything, with a soupçon of whimsy (the steak sandwich is described as “served on those stupid toast points with a lonely onion ring on top”).

 

And there’s Milford Cemetery for the offbeat. Now I wouldn’t normally recommend visiting a cemetery for a weekend getaway, but when the cemetery in questions is designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, it’s worth a quick (or not) detour.

 

Where to Stay

 

The Muir House, a former barn turned rooming house turned inn, features a romantic candlelit dining room with wood-paneled walls, a grand piano in the bar and the tantalizing smells of fine cuisine being prepared. There are three sweetly creaky rooms upstairs outfitted with all the creature comforts: Frette towels, fluffy featherbeds. One caveat: music plays until 11 p.m. or later, so if you’re an early-to-bed type, bring your ear plugs. In the morning, muffins, scones and croissants await in the common area. Rooms range from $110 to $175 a night (570-296-6373, www.muir house.com). Other options include the Hattree Inn (888-272-1234, www.hat treeinn.com), right in the center of town, and Pine Hill Farm (570-296-5261 www.bbonline.com/pa/pinehill) at the edge of town.

 

Millerton

 

A low key dairy town

goes upscale

Distance: 1.5 hours

 

Millbrook may be better known, but Millerton, in the northeastern corner of Dutchess County, is well on its way to becoming a destination. Just a square mile in size (population 925), the town already has the requisite upscale coffee shop, a restored moviehouse, the tony equestrian shop Salem Saddlery (the sister store is in North Salem), antiques galore and the wonderful Gilmor Glassworks where you can observe glass being blown or pressed. And you might even spot nearby neighbors Meryl Streep and Michael J. Fox on the street or in the shops.

 

The transformation of the town from dairy to desirable began in 1978, when Carol and Robert Sadlon renovated the 1904 Grange Hall (which had been running XXX films) into a three-screen theater specializing in first-run, independent and foreign films, with an art gallery and a café as added bonuses. Then the Sadlons renovated Simmons’ Way Village Inn, a 150-year-old town landmark. (Old-time baseball great Eddie Collins was born in the Simmon’s Way Inn in 1887. Fans can ask for the Collins Room.)

 

Current owners of the Inn (and former White Plains residents) Jay and Martha Reynolds fell in love with the nine-bedroom Victorian Inn at first sight. “We use the whole house as our own and invite guests to it,” Martha says. True to her word, after preparing a scrumptious brunch of caramelized apple pancakes and eggs Benedict, she switched gears from innkeeper to tour guide to show me the area. Driving into the countryside, I had a feeling this was what Westchester must have looked like a few generations ago. 

 

What to do when visiting?

 

Taconic State Park, two miles north of Millerton, offers swimming, boating and camping. Rather bike? The paved path on the old railroad bed, The Harlem Valley Rail Trail, runs through farmland, beaver ponds, wetlands and woodlands. 

For horseback riding, Western Riding Stables (518-789-4848) offers a variety of riding experiences including overnight trips. (In the fall, moonlight trips include dinner by campfire.)

 

Where to Stay

 

Simmons’ Way Village Inn (53 Main Street, 518-789-6235), has nine antiques-furnished rooms. Winter rates are $100 to $150, with breakfast included. After May 1, rates are $130 to $200. The restaurant is open Wednesdays to Saturdays, and there’s brunch on Sundays.

 

Nearby, The Troutbeck Inn in Amenia (845-373-9681) is an impossibly romantic country estate with a garden house, indoor and outdoor pools, and naturally, a trout stream. Rooms range from $650 to $1,050 for a weekend, including six meals.

 

 

Brandywine Valley, DE

 

A house and garden tour (history lesson at no

additional charge)

Distance: 3 hours

 

What the Rockefellers are to New York, the du Ponts are to Delaware. And in the Brandywine Valley—a picturesque region straddling Pennsylvania along Delaware’s northern border—you can visit four du Pont estates: Hagley Museum (302-658-2400, www.Hagley.org) where the du Pont dynasty was born, Nemours (a.k.a. America’s Versailles), Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square PA, (www.longwood gardens.org) and Winterthur (800-448-3883, www.winterthur.org), the 1,000-acre farm Henry Francis du Pont built, which today displays 85,000 American antiques, one of the world’s most complete collections. While you’re at it, you’ll pick up 200 years of history spanning three generations of the du Pont family.

 

Make your first stop the 1802 Hagley Museum, and do take advantage of the quick overview of the company and the complicated family tree of players (Trust me, this will come in handy as you continue your visit from estate to estate). Then hop on the trolley to the first du Pont family manse, Eleutherian Mills, a charming Georgian-style home, which sits high on the banks of the Brandywine and looks over a drop-dead gorgeous garden (who knew a vegetable garden could look so elegant?). Inside, find antiques and memorabilia of five generations of du Ponts. (The manse is closed for renovations until early 2005, but the gardens, mills and machine shops are open.)

 

Nemours, a modified Louis XVI French château with an astounding 47,000 square feet of interior space surrounded by 100 acres of formal gardens (considered to be among the finest examples of French-style gardens in the country) and 100 acres of forest, may be a wee bit smaller than Versailles (with only 102 rooms on 300 acres vs. 700 rooms on 1,800 acres). But everything here feels larger than life, like the one-square acre reflecting pool, or the dining room that could comfortably seat 78(!) guests, lit by the biggest chandelier I have ever seen.

 

The library alone contains four centuries of art—from 16th-century paintings and 17th-century tapestries to cute little china animal figurines.

 

In the lower level of the house, there’s a gym with an old-fashioned steam box, an exercise horse (with tooled leather saddle, it looks like a precursor to the one immortalized in Urban Cowboy), bowling alley, movie screen, shuffleboard table and billiard room. The boy toy tour ends with a visit to the chauffeur’s garage, an autophile’s dream with a 1951 Silver Wraith Rolls Royce, 1960 Phantom V (comparable in size to today’s Navigator!) and a 1933 Buick coupe with rumble seat.

 

Next is Longwood Gardens. This is no garden-variety garden. Longwood is a gardener’s paradise with 11,000 different types of plants on more than 1,050 acres of formal landscapes, meadows and woodlands. The four-acre conservatory has 20 indoor gardens and deserves a full day to appreciate. Don’t miss flowers in the Orchid Display; they are so vibrantly hued, it’s hard to believe they are real.

 

By the way, Brandywine Valley is called the mushroom capital of the world (each year a festival is held to celebrate the versatile fungus), so here is some free advice: try the mushroom soup served at Longwood Gardens’ Terrace restaurant and cafeteria. Bread is served popover style, baked in (what else for a garden restaurant?) terracotta pots and is perfect for sopping up every last drop. 

 

There’s so much to see at Winterthur that you can spend days exploring the museum. My daughters and I found surprises in every room: a rare scallop-top tea table (one of only a few known in the world) with teacups and saucers neatly perched atop each scallop, hand-painted Chinese wallpaper that du Pont actually built a special room for (wouldn’t anyone?), the only black tea set ever designed by Josiah Wedgewood, using the Pompeii digs as inspiration (ladies hands were thought to look paler against the black). “Du Pont,” our guide says, “was a hospitable man who delighted in pleasing his guests.” There is no chandelier in his dining room because he wanted people talking to each other, not looking up.  He even chose the flowers and table settings himself for his parties (he had 50 sets of china to choose from; can you ever have too many?).

 

The museum is surrounded by 979 acres, including a 60-acre garden. A tram can take you on a 30-minute narrated tour with stops along the way—at Azalea Woods, Magnolia Bend and my favorite, the Enchanted Woods. Toadstool lights, fairy cottages with thatched roofs, a mini Stonehenge, a giant bird’s nest, a meditation maze—all sized for the little ones to romp, explore and fantasize.

Tip: Brunch here is wonderful—choose omelets made to order, eggs Benedict, pork or beef tenderloin, fruits, cheeses, cakes and pies. The French toast (stuffed with cream cheese) made a sinful dessert, topped with maple syrup, whipped cream, strawberries and blueberries. Yum!

 

Also be sure to stop by the Brandywine School of Painters Brandywine Museum. (Chadds Ford,  PA, 610-388-2700, www.brandy

winemuseum.org). Picturesque backcountry roads wind you to the home of the Wyeth Museum, a Civil War-era grist mill famous for its collection of art by three generations of the Wyeth family.

 

The Wyeths were a talented lot. Patriarch N.C. illustrated Treasure Island, Kidnapped, The Last of the Mohicans and other children’s classics; his youngest son, Andrew, is best known for “Christina’s World”; and grandson Jamie had his first major show by the time he was 20.

 

Where to Stay

 

While the Brandywine Valley Inn (1807 Concord Pike, Wilmington, DE 800-537-7772) looks like your typical Best Western from the highway, step inside the Winterthur Suites and go back a few centuries or so. Three rooms are done up in reproductions from Winterthur (in collaboration with the museum) but with modern necessities like in-room 25-inch flat screen TV with DVD player, refrigerator, microwave and coffeemaker and luxury amenities like Hermés toiletries (and for the workaholic, non-Winterthur rooms have unlimited high-speed cable internet access, in-room printers and a 24-hour videoconferencing center). Getaway packages with museum tickets start at $128 per couple per night. The Delaware Château Country package, including admission to Hagley, Winterthur, Nemours and Longwood Gardens, starts at $249 for two nights, double occupancy. Complimentary breakfast each morning.

 

Where to dine

 

While Harry’s Savoy Grill (302-425-3000) in Wilmington is known for its prime rib and steaks, the Alaskan King salmon I had here was the best I’ve ever had and the soft shell crabs were pure perfection. Crème brûlée was served just like I love it: crisp on top, warm all the way through. For more casual dining: Buckley’s Tavern on Route 52 in Centreville (302-656-9776), a quirky tavern with a busy bar scene, or for a special occasion, Dilworthtown Inn on Route 202 in West Chester, PA (610-399-1390), a 1770s tavern with inventive American cuisine.

 

 

Litchfield, CT

Distance: 1 hour

 

If you looked up “quintessential New England town” in an encyclopedia, you might well find a picture of western Connecticut’s Litchfield Hills with its quaint covered bridges, white spired churches, winding country roads and charming villages to explore. Bring your checkbook along, there are galleries galore and smart little shops brimful of antiques, crafts and other fabulous finds.

 

The town of Litchfield is perfect for a day of strolling, poking around in antique shops (Jeffrey Tillou has a wonderful collection of 18th- and 19th-century art and accessories, and Bradford House Antiques has lots of silver tea sets, flatware and estate jewelry), checking out boutiques chock full of irresistible finds and lunching alfresco at the Aspen Garden restaurant overlooking the village green (and maybe catching a glimpse of resident Meryl Streep). Workshop Inc. was my favorite find with fun and funky clothing from jeans with elaborate beadwork to slinky dresses along with great gift items: hair ornaments, whimsical pjs, earrings of all kinds.

 

Just three miles out of town is White Flower Farm (860-567-8789), a must- see for avid gardeners. There’s a self-guided walking tour that ends (surprise!) at the garden center store with perennials, shrubs and annuals, all arranged alphabetically (by botanical names, natch) within each section.

 

Nearby Woodbury is known as “The Antiques Capital of Connecticut,” and there are more than 50 shops to browse through.

 

But there’s more than eating and shopping. With kids in tow, go visit Lake Compounce in Bristol (860-583-3300), which has 382 acres of roller coasters and water rides. New this summer is Down Time, a 185-foot drop tower that the park says “will leave kids screaming for more.” Or maybe just screaming. The new owners have invested more than $50 million in new rides and attractions. Tickets will be available online this year as well—that’s one less line to wait on.

 

Quassy Amusement Park in Middlebury harkens back to the days when families would pack a picnic, hop aboard a trolley and leisurely ride the rails to the outskirts of town to the “trolley park.” There used to be more than 1,000 of these parks in the United States; today there are only 11. Only 20-acres in size, it has 24 rides including the Big Flush Water Coaster, a sandy beach and spring-fed lake.

 

Where to Stay

 

The Dolce Heritage resort, (Southbury, CT 800-932-3466) right in the heart of Litchfield Hills, is a great starting point for exploring the region and also a fun family destination in its own right with indoor and outdoor pools and all the requisite athletic offerings. Have a passion for golf or wine? The Dolce Heritage offers weekend packages to fully indulge (not curb) your enthusiasm. And any place that serves up fresh baked cookies upon check in (other snacks are available all day long as well) gets my vote.

 

Fall is a perfect season to take in the foliage while you amble along the Connecticut wine trail (see Food Lovers’ Day Trips, page 48) and enjoy a wine weekend at Dolce Heritage. The Wine Masters dinner I attended was fabulous: a sumptuous five-course feast which included crab cakes served with chipotle pepper and braised veal shank with wild mushrooms perfectly paired with six wines from top American estates. The chef and his helpers emerged to an enthusiastic ovation at the end of the meal (They deserved it). The next night, our palates were taught to discern between various Burgundies and Cabs. “This first wine would make a good one-night stand,” an attendee quipped. “But the second I think I’ll marry.”

 

Getaway packages start at $169 per night for a traditional New England

B&B weekend.

 

For a romantic getaway, The Boulder Inn at Lake Waramaug (New Preston, CT 860-868-0541) is a great choice. Massive boulders stacked into pillars give this romantic country inn its name. Chairs and tables are set up outside as well as in the front parlor and restaurant to take advantage of the spectacular view of lovely Lake Waramaug in this quaint corner of the Litchfield Hills. The 1890 stone and shingle mansion was completely restored in 2003, and its five accommodations are small but exquisitely appointed. (Four guest cottages and a carriage house behind the main house provide an additional 16 rooms and suites).

 

If you and your beloved can tear yourselves away from those rooms, cruise around the lake and see some knock-your-socks-off gorgeous homes, mansions and some more modest abodes, all sharing the same views. Hopkins Inn (860-868-7295), perched at the top of Pinnacle Mountain, overlooks all. But whether you choose to spend the night here or not, stop by the Hopkins Vineyard (860-868-7954) right next door—and bring along a designated driver. (For more information, see page 50.)

 

Stop at Doc’s Trattoria & Pizzeria (860-868-9415), an unassuming little bistro for pasta and pizza near Lake Waramaug. I did, for a vegetarian pizza loaded with eggplant, spinach, mushrooms and tomatoes. Yum. It’s a BYO establishment, so it might be wise to stop off at Hopkins first, to pick up a bottle of their bestselling Sachem’s Picnic wine. I finished lunch after 3 p.m., and the place was still packed.

 

When the sun sets, head on back to The Boulders for a leisurely dinner of innovative American regional cuisine with traditional New England influence.

 

Rooms at the Boulders Inn start at $350 for a queen bed and lake views up to $600 for the Pinnacle suite in

the Carriage house, including high tea and breakfast.

 

 Continue reading for more Great Weekend Escapes

 

 

Cooperstown, NY

Beauty abounds in this sleepy little town, nestled in the hills of rural Otsego County
Distance: 4 hours

The first time I visited Cooperstown, it was at the suggestion of my husband, who lured me with the promise of four days of peace and tranquility, breathtaking foliage, no wake-up calls, tea and scones served in silver pots and china and a quick stop-off in Woodstock on the way home. Sounded good to me. “Oh yeah,” he mentioned nonchalantly as we pulled out of our driveway with our son and a trunk full of luggage. “The Baseball Hall of Fame is there too, I think.”

Of course, if you’re a baseball fan, you probably already knew that. And, if you’re one of the 575,000 people who visit the town each year, you’ve likely made the trek, at least in part, in order to tour the three-story, red-brick homage to America’s Pastime. And it’s no wonder. Cooperstown’s association with baseball is undeniable. In addition to being the site of the Hall of Fame, it is also widely considered to be the birthplace of the game itself, which was probably invented here by Abner Doubleday in 1839.

But baseball is not all—or even most—of what this sleepy little town has to offer. In fact—and I know I’m taking my life in my hands here—it is entirely possible to visit the area without ever setting foot in the Baseball Hall of Fame. If, however, you’ve got men or boys (I know; same thing) in tow, you’ll probably at least want to stop by.

Every year, thousands of wide-eyed little boys leave the Hall on the shoulders of their equally mesmerized dads in search of Mom—who’s nowhere to be found. If she’s like me, she’s antiquing in one of the quaint little shops tucked discreetly between the absurd number of baseball souvenir and memorabilia shops that line Main Street on either side of the Hall. Or maybe she’s savoring one of the better-than-Starbucks lattés down the block at Danny’s, an authentic Italian deli/café and a definite best bet for lunch.

Cooperstown is awash with art and culture and, when it comes to pure, unadulterated beauty, this town, located 70 miles west of Albany in the heart of upstate New York’s Leatherstocking Region (named for favorite son James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales, which were set here) is hard to beat. The town hugs the banks of the 10-mile long, sparkling clean Lake Otsego, where boating and fishing are favorite lazy-day pastimes. In spring, the streets are humming; in summer, they’re bustling. Cooperstown’s “tourist” season begins in mid-April and lasts until early December, though, in my opinion, it’s at its most beautiful (and comfortable) in early fall, when the foliage is spectacular, the air smells of firewood, the crowds are large but not unruly and the weather is chilly but cozy. Many of the town’s events and attractions are centered around the seasons, so plan accordingly.

Of course, Cooperstown is not for everyone. It can be romantic for couples and entertaining for families, but don’t come looking for exciting nightlife—unless counting fireflies or listening to crickets chirp excites you. And forget fast-food drive-thrus—or anything fast, for that matter—they don’t exist here. This town is why the term “getaway” was coined.

Where to Stay
For my money, the only choice is the Otesaga (60 Lake Street, Cooperstown, 800-348-6222 or 607-547-9931, www. otesaga.com), an historic, luxurious, five-star, 136-room grand resort hotel overlooking Lake Otsego, which recently underwent a $34-million renovation to restore it to its original architectural grandeur—and which, by the way, serves tea in silver pots and pastries on Villeroy & Boch china. Most rates include full breakfast and dinner. Note: The breakfast buffet is to die for—particularly for the little ones who can watch as their chocolate-chip pancakes are made to order.
Rooms: $305 to $510. Suites: $435 to $530. Several special packages are available.

for kids of all ages
The Farmers’ Museum (Lake Road, Route 80, Cooperstown, 888-547-1450, www.farmersmuseum.org). Experience 19th-century life firsthand at one of the country’s oldest living history museums. You can see a real blacksmith at work and farm animals at play. Seasonal events include the Independence Day Celebration (July 4); the Cooperstown Chamber Music Festival (August 6 to 22); the Harvest Festival (September 18 and 19);

Family Fun Thanksgiving Weekend (November 26 & 27); Candelight Evening (December 19); and Sugaring Off (Sundays in March).
Fly Creek Cider Mill and Orchard (288 Goose Street, Fly Creek, NY, 607-547-9692; www.flycreekcidermill.com). Watch apple cider being pressed at this 148-year-old water-powered cider mill three miles from Cooperstown. Sample the cider and some warm donuts, then feed the ultra-friendly ducks by the mill pond. But be careful—they eat right out of your hand, and are not too shy to bite little fingers!

for the sports enthusiast
National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum (25 Main Street, Cooperstown, 607-547-7200; www.baseballhalloffame.org). The Hall houses more than 35,000 three-dimensional artifacts, including Joe DiMaggio’s locker, seats from Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field, 5,000 significant baseballs and 135,000 rare baseball cards, as well as several permanent and touring exhibits, including the ever-popular “Babe Ruth Room.” Special events include the annual Hall of Fame Weekend, which will take place this year on July 24 through 26. The Induction Ceremony (which is free and open to the public) for this year’s inductees will take place on Sunday, July 25, at the Clark Sports Center.

Leatherstocking Golf Course (The Otesaga, 60 Lake Street, Cooperstown, 800-348-6222, www.otesaga.com). This championship, 18-hole, par-72, 6,056-yard course on the grounds of The Otesaga was named one of the 10 best public courses in New York State by GolfWeek and was ranked second overall in the New York region by Zagat Survey.

for art lovers
Fenimore Art Museum (Lake Road, Cooperstown, 888-547-1450, www.fenimoreartmuseum.org). Housed in an elegant 1930s mansion overlooking Lake Otsego, this prestigious museum is built on the site of James Fenimore Cooper’s home and showcases extensive collections of folk art. Current and upcoming exhibits include Geronimo! An American Indian Legend (April 1 to December 31) and Winslow Homer: Masterworks from the Adirondacks (June 21 to September 6).

Somehow, it just doesn’t seem right to head off on vacation and leave your poor pooch behind, howling balefully in his kennel cage as you drive off for a fun weekend getaway. But just in time for the dog days of summer, two New York City hotels have come up with a perfect solution: Doggie and Me weekend packages. No dog? No problem; these hotels don’t discriminate against the dogless.

The Ritz-Carlton,
Central Park South
50 Central Park South
New York, NY
(212) 308-9100

You know you’ve arrived when you not only stay at the Ritz, perhaps the, pardon the obvious, ritziest hotel on ritzy Manhattan island (Everything about the hotel speaks of Old World—but definitely not old-fashioned—class from the burl-paneled double height lounge with grand piano and harp to the decadent opulence of the rooms looking out over arguably the best view in all Manhattan), but your dog checks in too. And why shouldn’t Rover enjoy the five-star, five-diamond luxury as well? The recently remodeled 277-room luxury hotel, voted Best of the Best last year by Condé Nast Traveler, has long been pet friendly, offering emergency Burberry rain gear for guests and their dogs (You don’t want to clash as you dash down Fifth Avenue in a sudden downpour, now do you?). On your Doggie and Me weekend, your pet will receive a 22-karat gold-plated ID tag and a quilted travel mat. Then treat your dog to a dog pizza and home-baked non-chocolate bon-bons. And leather jackets and cashmere sweaters are also on loan at the concierge desk so your pooch can pack light. Central Park, Broadway, Fifth Avenue and all they have to offer are just steps away.

Then again, many dogs show little or no interest in shopping (Bergdorf’s is just around the corner), museums (the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Natural History, a stroll through the park) or the theater (Call the desk, and they’ll get tickets for you). Not to worry: a dog sitter is on call in case you want a night on the town. In which case, The Ritz has a Bentley and driver available to squire you around.

Dine at the highly touted French Atelier restaurant; try the bluefin tuna and diver scallop tartare seasoned with Iranian Osetra caviar or the squab and foie gras “croustillant” with caramelized apple cider jus. Need a little pampering? Luxuriate at the La Prairie spa; might we suggest an après shopping pedicure with reflexology?

Staying in a suite? Here’s a sweet deal: complimentary access to the exclusive Club Lounge overlooking Central Park with a dedicated concierge standing ready to anticipate any whim, from unpacking your bags to locating a copy of today’s Le Figaro. (Non-suite guests can join the club for $150 a day, which still works out to be a pretty good deal.) Sorry, this offer is for two-legged guests only.
Weekend Doggy and Me packages start at $1,095 a night. Those who don’t want the puppy package can stay for $650 a night.

Affinia dumont
150 East 34th Street
New York, NY
(800) AFFINIA
while the ritz whispers old

Money, privilege and prestige, the Affinia Dumont exudes a cosmopolitan cool with a younger, hipper and definitely more physically-fit crowd. Billing itself as an “executive fitness” hotel, its gym features a “fitness concierge” along with a locker service and sneaker valet to launder and store workout clothes. There are kits for in-room workouts and for the truly committed, a fitness suite complete with cardio equipment, free weights and a private sauna. (This sports concept seems to be working—I did see an inordinate number of hunky looking guys in the elevator during my stay.) Next to the gym is a lovely spa with the usual assortment of feel-good treatments with a number of treatments geared specifically for sports enthusiasts (lean body compression wrap, decompression zone, sport pack, muscular ease body dip and the Affinia Fat Burner).

But what impressed my daughter and me most (after the hunky guys in the elevator) were the rooms. Our suite was so spacious (even a fully equipped kitchen), so impeccably appointed (an Aeron desk chair) and so darn comfortable, we didn’t want to leave. If only we’d known that we could have brought our dog along—then we never would have.
The first clue the hotel caters to a doggy crowd is its Barking Dog restaurant next door, where the waiters’ T-shirts encourage guests to “sit” and “stay.” In the brick-walled courtyard, there is an outdoor “dog bar” offering liquid refreshment with varying height water bowls. Done up in doggie décor, the bistro serves up salads, sandwiches, steaks and the like along with huge country breakfasts (pancakes, eggs Benedict, omelets with all the fixin’s) just $10 and really, really good.

Upon check-in, pets receive food and water bowls as well as an assortment of treats and toys. Understanding that dogs may wish to have their own spa experience, there is also therapeutic doggie massage cream and relaxing lavender spray available (but no doggie massages on the spa menu yet).
Rates start at $340 per night.

More Bright Lights, Another Big City

boston, MA

Whether cruisin’ for colleges, rooting for the Red Sox or shopping on Newbury Street, Boston’s
a great place to get away
Distance: 3 Hours

What could be more fun than packing your surly teen in the car and starting that annual high school tradition of cruising for colleges? Okay, so maybe this is as much fun as a root canal, but here’s a place to make this rite of passage painless (almost). The Hotel Commonwealth in Boston’s Kenmore Square (866-784-4000; www.hotelcommonwealth.com) is smack dab in the middle of this, the most collegiate of towns. Directly across the street is Boston University, across the Charles River are MIT and, oh yes, Harvard. Within walking distance are Emerson College, Northeastern University, Berklee College of Music and the Boston Dance Conservatory. Boston College is a 20-minute train ride away.

I brought my two teens to Boston for just this purpose. We zipped off to Boston College, then back to Harvard without missing a beat (the train stop is directly across from the hotel). While at Harvard, visit the fabled Harvard Book Store and lunch at Sandrine’s Bistro (617-497-5300) for classic French cuisine in a cozy atmosphere (It was named by Esquire Magazine one of the 10 best new restaurants in the U.S. when it opened in 1996). Walk down Avenue of the Arts, and you can check a few more colleges off your visit list.

But in the event you do not have a 16 or 17 year old and are not obligated to devote every weekend to the college search thing, there are still a few things to do in Beantown.

The Museum of Fine Arts Boston (617-267-9300, www.mfa.com). Hurry to catch the Gauguin Tahiti show (it closes June 20); then get in the spirit of the upcoming Olympics with Games for the Gods, opening July 21 through November 28. Enjoy your art tour with tea, live music and munchies in the Upper Rotunda, October through April ($6 for adults, $3 for children).

The New England Aquarium (617-973-5200, www.neaq.org) may be one of the world’s best with a 200,000 gallon tank and an actual medical center where you can watch sea turtles nursed back to health or mama fishies giving birth. For a really memorable souvenir, why not paint a picture with a sea lion? Yep, they really jump out of their pond to add a distinctive brush stroke or two and perhaps a kiss on your cheek as well if you ask nicely (just $150 for non-members, $125 for members).

Walk into history on The Freedom Trail, a three-mile walking tour of 16 historical sites including the Boston Common, the oldest public park in America, and the Old South Meeting House where Samuel Adams gave the go-ahead for the granddaddy of all tea parties. Get a walking map from www.thefreedomtrail.org or take a 90-minute guided tour leaving from the Visitor Center at 15 State Street (617-242-5642) during summer, fall and spring.

After all that, you deserve a really great meal. And you’re in luck—it’s right at home base. Hotel Commonwealth’s Great Bay Restaurant, voted as one of the top 10 by Boston Magazine, is very swank and sexy, with soaring ceiling-height windows dressed in sheers, and it serves up local faves like Chatham cod, Florida red snapper and whole black bass. You must try the clam chowder, a perfect blend of potato, pancetta and clams, with the broth poured separately from a small black kettle. For dessert, don’t miss the butterscotch pudding or the cherry almond strudel; it made us swoon.

Antique Aficionados Rejoice!

historic
bristol, RI
Distance: 2 hours

My sister was my enabler; she was the one who got me addicted to antiquing (or, as my husband describes it, parting with lots of money for old junk that our grandmothers threw away). So it was only fitting that she planned an overnight jaunt to the historic little town of Bristol, RI, home to an impressive number of antique shops and historical attractions, to celebrate my birthday.

The word for Bristol is unpretentious. Quieter, less crowded and not as fancy-schmancy or expensive as its famous chichi neighbor of Newport, this quintessential New England coastal village, nestled between two bays, features a compact downtown that begs to be explored. Poke around its dusty antique shops, refuel with something chocolate from one of its diet-busting bakeries, browse through its funky gift galleries or settle in at one of its quaint little cafes. Dating back to the 1680s, Bristol’s tree-lined street plan is particularly suited to strolling and showcases outstanding examples of architecture spanning three centuries, from Federal and Greek Revival to 19th-century country estates.

If you become weary of wandering through the shops or want to work off any of those oh-so-yummy carbs, lace up the cross trainers and hit the East Bay Bike Path, an abandoned rail bed along Narragansett Bay that connects a string of eight parks. And while it invites a lot of sweat-producing activities like biking, power walking, running and inline skating, you could just plop on one of its benches to watch the sun set over the water; we did. Then, off to dinner at the upscale The Lobster Pot (reservations suggested; 401-253-9100) where the just-caught, traditionally prepared seafood (remember Oysters Rockefeller?) is served with a panoramic harbor view.

Where to Stay
Home base during our getaway was the comfortable 40-room boutique-style Bristol Harbor Inn (866-254-1444; www.bristolharborinn.com) located on the water at Thames Street Landing. Ask for a water view (Not all rooms have one) or one of the eight historic rooms that feature gas fireplaces, mahogany furniture, chair rails and crown molding. If there’s no room at the inn, or you’re looking for a more old-fashioned lodging experience, check the Bristol web site (www.online bristol.com) for some charming B&B options. Weekend rates start from $169 per night for a double to $249 per night for a water-view suite.

what to do?
For Nature Lovers: the Audubon Society of Rhode Island Environmental Education Center (1401 Hope Street, 401-245-7500). Situated on the 28-acre McIntosh Wildlife Refuge, this interactive museum and nature center features the state’s largest aquarium and includes touch tanks, wildlife exhibits and 3D dioramas (look for the 35-foot long replica of the right whale), plus a one-half mile boardwalk to the shore of Narragansett Bay.

For Gardeners: Blithewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum (101 Ferry Road, 401-253-2707). Explore this 45-room 17th-century English manor-style mansion (featuring mostly original furnishings) and 33-acre grounds overlooking Narragansett Bay. Green thumb-types will want to consult the staff horticulturalist onsite Sundays during the summer, about the Arboretum’s 250 varieties of trees and shrubs.
For Marine Enthusiasts: Herreshoff Marine Museum and America’s Cup Hall of Fame (1 Burnside Street, 401-253-5000). A must-visit for boating enthusiasts (after all, Bristol was once the yacht-building capital of the world). View over 60 historic yachts, steam engines, fittings and memorabilia from the Herreshoff family, builders of many America’s Cup defenders.

For Kids: Coggeshall Farm Museum (Poppasquash Road off Route 114, 401-253-9062). Take the kids to experience this living model of a 1790s marsh farm featuring free-roaming sheep and chickens, outbuildings depicting 18th-century farm life, a working blacksmith shop and a garden with heirloom varieties of vegetables and herbs. End the day with a stroll through the adjacent Colt State Park.
For History Buffs: Linden Place (500 Hope Street, 401-253-0390). The “jewel in the crown” of Bristol’s historic district, this Federal period mansion was built in 1810 by General George DeWolf, whose grandson founded the company that is now Fleet Bank. The mansion has hosted four United States presidents and was once the home of actress Ethel Barrymore. Be sure to leave time to wander around the property’s sculpture-filled gardens.

Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology (Tower Street off Route 136). Brown University’s only major museum, this cultural hothouse features an events calendar chock-full of lectures, performances, symposia and festivals. Located on the traditional lands of the Wampanoag peoples, the museum also displays artifacts from native peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and the Pacific
—Laurie Yarnell
 

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