Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
For the views
Thank goodness for Senator John Weeks, a New Hampshire native who saw his state’s imminent deforestation at the turn of the 20th century and convinced Congress to buy up six million acres of endangered ranges. Looming gracefully at 6,288 feet, Mount Washington is part of that amazing land grab: It sits in the 800,000-acre White Mountain National Forest, an area where a single switchback road ascends into the wilderness, moose munch contentedly on willow branches, and the surprisingly dramatic topography calls to mind the jagged scenery of California and Wyoming. The mountains are especially gorgeous in fall, since they’re studded with zillions of maples that turn spectacularly scarlet, and hiking paths into the mountains offer everything from two-hour rambles to guided overnight tromps where you sleep in a bathroom-free hut. —Amy Korman
BEDDING DOWN: Luckily for those who love indoor plumbing, railroad magnate Joseph Stickney built a grand white wedding cake of a hotel in 1902, now the Omni Mount Washington Resort (310 Mount Washington Hotel Road, Bretton Woods, 800-258-0330). This massive porticoed structure has been renovated, but is still old-fashioned, with its Tiffany-glass stained windows, afternoon teas, and porches designed for sitting with a cocktail. (Take the daily hotel tour to hear tales of Stickney’s young widow, who married a European prince and used to hold court as Princess Stickney in the hotel dining room each night.) Rooms are comfortable, if quite small, and rates start at $289.
DINING: There’s nothing as amusing after a day’s hiking as watching your six-foot-tall husband being politely stuffed into a tiny borrowed sport coat for dinner at the resort’s jacket-required Dining Room. Delightful international waiters serve seared duck breast and veal medallions, and a palate cleanser of lemon sorbet arrives between courses. Stickney’s Pub serves great burgers and excellent mountain views and is centered on a huge stone fireplace.
STATE FARE: Gravy-slathered steak tips and local Tuckerman’s Pale Ale under antler chandeliers? Somehow it all works at the super-casual Muddy Moose (2344 White Mountain Highway, North Conway, 603-356-7696) just outside the state forest. And while you’re there, hit Zeb’s General Store (2675 White Mountain Highway, North Conway, 603-356-9294) for excellent local syrup.
PASTIMES: The Omni canopy tour will have you zip-lining down 10 separate expanses of mountain: It’s not as terrifyingly bowel-churning as it sounds, but for an easier ride, take the lift to the top of Mount Washington, which offers a seriously beautiful lump-in-the-throat view. Or try fly-fishing in the Ammonoosuc River, golf, tennis, the year-round outdoor heated resort pool, or a horseback ride. After all that, there’s the spa, a brand-new cushy wonderland of lemon verbena body polishes and tea-tree-balm pedicures.
DAY TRIPS: We know. It’s sacrilege to go outlet-shopping when you’re in the middle of 800,000 acres of Thoreau-ian splendor, but one of the outlets is L.L. Bean. It’s a 30-minute ride from Mount Bretton over to North Conway, where along with the Bean store you’ll find Settlers’ Green (2 Common Court, North Conway, 888-667-9636), with J.Crew, Adidas, Brooks Brothers and more.
GETTING THERE: Fly into Portland, Maine, or Boston; the resort is about two hours’ drive from each. From the airport in Manchester, New Hampshire, it’s a 90-minute drive.