Fall Weekend Getaway: The Iris Inn in Shenandoah Valley, VA

A treehouse cabin at the Iris Inn | Photo by Jumping Rocks

A treehouse cabin at the Iris Inn | Photo by Jumping Rocks

I was a little worried that the Iris Inn was going to be one of those typical bed-and-breakfasts, heavy with toile and needlepoint kitsch. After all, it’s very much in the country, as evidenced by the wildlife I saw during my visit: two bears loping along the highway, prancing deer and circling hawks. But the inn’s website showcased treehouse cabins, and I haven’t been in a proper treehouse since I was a kid, so I shrugged off my doubts and headed there, winding through the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge Mountains, happy that I’d ignored instructions to travel through D.C. (You should do the same.)

Admittedly, I was a bit disappointed to discover upon arrival that the cabins aren’t treehouses in the technical, Swiss Family Robinson sense: They aren’t perched in actual trees, shingles mingling with leaves, but rather are modern glass-and-timber structures cantilevered off a hill. (Yes, I’m nitpicky.) But once inside, faced with panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows that looked out on a stunning vista of treetops, mountains and bright blue sky, I didn’t care how they were built. The stress of city rowhome living rolled away, and I felt instantly calmer.

The eminently private cabins are set up for couples: There’s a limit of two people in each, and they’re decorated the way I imagine my Rittenhouse pied-à-terre would be decorated (hey, a guy can dream), with a king-size bed, a shower built for two, and a large hot tub on the secluded deck. (The city boy inside me was worried about bugs until I saw the entire thing was screened in.)

If sitting back and enjoying a book or that outdoor hot tub suits you, you won’t have to leave the Iris Inn once, but know that there is plenty to do nearby, whether you want to go horseback riding, hike to a waterfall, or view the scenery from a hot-air balloon. I’m not a fan of heights, so I visited the nearby Luray Caverns, an enormous, stunning cave — stalactites and stalagmites abound — that’s been a tourist draw since the 1800s. For dinner, I ventured to nearby Staunton, an old Main Street kind of town that’s a surprising foodie destination thanks to some enlightened dining options, including New American spot Zynodoa, which has a farm-fresh menu reminiscent of Philly’s Fork.

As I poked my head into the cool small-town shops along Staunton’s main stretch, I found myself considering purchasing a five-foot-tall wind chime, forgetting that my view at home is of concrete and sidewalk — hardly the place for such things. Who knows? Maybe a needlepoint wall hanging is more appropriate.

Field Guide: Shenandoah Valley Weekend Itinerary

Stay: Iris Inn, 191 Chinquapin Drive, Waynesboro, Virginia; treehouse cabins start at $329 a night.
Play: The Iris Inn’s Sip & Saddle Up package includes a horseback ride along the nearby Rebel’s Run Trail, which conveniently leads to the Afton Mountain Vineyard. The best hike around is the one to Crabtree Falls, the tallest waterfall in Virginia.
Eat: Each treehouse has a full kitchen—the inn’s chef will leave prepared food with prior notice—but the main lodge’s dining room serves a great breakfast, plus complimentary wine in the evenings. Visit Wright’s Dairy-Rite in Staunton, a burger joint where you pick up a phone at your table and call in your order, the same way they’ve been doing it since the 1950s.

See More Fall Weekend Getaways »

This article first appeared in Philadelphia magazine’s September 2016 issue.

Fall Weekend Getaway: Savage River Lodge in Frostburg, Maryland

Fall Weekend Getaways: Inside a yurt at Savage River Lodge

Inside a yurt at Savage River Lodge | Photo by Jennifer Dobson

This sounds ridiculous, but I’m serious: The 4.5-hour drive from Philadelphia to Savage River Lodge — particularly that last stretch on I-68 — is just the thing to get you in the mood for a weekend of camping. The road gently winds along the mountains of Maryland, giving you near-panoramic views of peaks and cliffs and the little villages nestled between them. Time starts to move as slow as molasses. Philly? What is Philly, again?

Despite its remoteness, this retreat — a combination of cabins and yurts — still manages to pack enough luxury to make you (almost) forget that you’re going to be camping. In a yurt. A yurt. The sturdy circular structure features all the trappings of a high-end hotel room: king bed with silky sheets, a bathroom that rivals those found in Main Line manses, pristine white robes, two comfy chairs, a leather couch, a mini fridge, coffee, tea, a French press, and a deck (a deck, for chrissakes!). Staffers will ferry wine to your yurt, and every morning they deliver a complimentary breakfast (carrot muffins and orange juice for me) in a picnic basket. I never knew something could be twee and rugged at the same time.

The only downside? No wi-fi. But maybe that’s an upside in disguise. My inability to follow every fever-dream update of the presidential campaign on social media meant that I actually hiked — several times — on some of the 14 miles of trails maintained by the lodge. While they’re manageable enough for newbies, they also overlap with the Mount Aetna Tract of the Savage River Forest, a fun fact that will satisfy hard-core hikers. As deer, frogs and other critters passed me on the trail amid high grasses and even higher trees, it was impossible not to bliss out. For an even more intimate experience with Mother Nature, bike on the Great Allegheny Passage (the lodge will hook you up with two bikes and a shuttle for $230), or go fly-fishing in sun-dappled streams.

And if you really need your Twitter fix, you can walk three minutes from your yurt down a sprawling driveway, where you’ll find a lodge. You can get wi-fi there, kind of. More importantly, there’s a bar, with good craft beer and solid nightcaps served by an avuncular bartender, where you can raise a glass to life disconnected.

Field Guide: Frostburg, Maryland Weekend Itinerary

Stay: Savage River Lodge, 1600 Mount Aetna Road, Frostburg, Maryland; yurts start at $255 a night.
Play: Book one of the lodge’s private or semi-private fly-fishing trips ($175 per person for a half day), or bring your bikes and the lodge will shuttle you to prime cycling points along the nearby Great Allegheny Passage. Relax post-journey with an in-yurt massage. Drive 20 minutes to Grantsville to shop, eat, and visit the Spruce Forest Artisan Village, where historic log cabins have been transformed into artists’ studios.
Eat: Get your dinner delivered to your yurt, or visit the nearby Cornucopia for drinks and small plates. Or feast at the lodge’s restaurant; get a seat outside (so you can see the hummingbirds flutter around the feeders), and order the meatloaf and chicken marsala.

See More Fall Weekend Getaways »

This article first appeared in Philadelphia magazine’s September 2016 issue.

Fall Weekend Getaway: Glamping at Firelight Camps in Ithaca, New York

An outdoor lounge at Firelight Camps |Photo by Kaylyn Leighton/Seamless Photography

An outdoor lounge at Firelight Camps | Photo by Kaylyn Leighton/Seamless Photography

I approached the water with a bit of trepidation.

I don’t know why I was nervous. I love swimming. I’m relatively good at it. But there was something daunting about this small pond nestled among the waterfalls of Buttermilk Falls State Park in upstate New York. It was a mystery. What if it wasn’t that deep? What if was home to killer flesh-eating bacteria? What if I somehow slipped jumping in and made a fool of myself? Two fellow hikers looked on from the trail above, encouraging me with light mockery. I may have been called a baby. I gathered my wits.

Then my girlfriend jumped in ahead of me without a second thought. Crap.

I had to follow. I cautiously slid into the water, to the applause of the watching hikers. The pond was deep enough that we could tread water, but it was tiny, and the water was freezing. We quickly scrambled out and dried off. I was cold and wet, but also happy. I’m not much of an outdoorsy type, and the swim, however brief, pushed me out of my comfort zone. So did our lodgings: a tent at Firelight Camps, a two-year-old glamping site in Ithaca, New York, owned by a couple of Penn grads.

A glamping tent at Firelight Camps | Photo by Kaylyn Leighton/Seamless Photography

A glamping tent at Firelight Camps | Photo by Kaylyn Leighton/Seamless Photography

The pseudo-outdoor sleeping idea initially gave me pause, but despite its simple exterior, our tent was surprisingly spacious, with room for a queen-size bed, a desk, several lanterns and a back porch—just the right amount of amenities for an apprehensive camper.

Armed with a new sense of adventure post-pond-jump (maybe I was a new man, I thought, one who hikes and bikes and goes camping!), I dove further into our surroundings. Firelight is located on the 70-acre grounds of luxury hotel La Tourelle and links to Buttermilk Falls State Park via a gorgeously landscaped trail. We set out on a journey there as if we were embarking on an epic Lord of the Rings quest. Five lengthy trails wind through the park, dotted with cascading waterfalls. Just a short drive away is Robert H. Treman State Park, which features more waterfalls and part of the Finger Lakes Trail. But we chose to head back to camp for Firelight’s free nightly tasting of locally brewed beers, so perhaps I hadn’t changed all that much. Still, when the next adventure presents itself, I think I’ll be more likely to jump at it. Even into another freezing pond.

Field Guide: Ithaca, New York Weekend Itinerary

Stay: Firelight Camps, 1150 Danby Road, Ithaca, New York; rates start at $179 a night.
Play: Downtown Ithaca, a quaint cluster of shops and restaurants, is just a 10-minute drive from Firelight. Nearby kayak shop Puddle-dockers offers twice-weekly sunset kayaking tours on Cayuga Lake, and there are guided bird-watching hikes at Sapsucker Woods. Or hang at Firelight’s outdoor lounge area, where there are board games and bocce ball.
Eat: Don’t miss vegetarian hot spot Moosewood Restaurant — the soup specials are fantastic. And the Finger Lakes are considered the East Coast’s answer to Napa, with an abundance of wineries. Ask the Firelight staffers for their recommendations.

See More Fall Weekend Getaways »

This article first appeared in Philadelphia magazine’s September 2016 issue.

Fall Weekend Getaway: Glamping at Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort in the Poconos

A riverside tent at the Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort | Photo courtesy Shawnee Inn

A riverside tent at the Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort | Photo courtesy Shawnee Inn

Glamping, for the uninitiated, is the annoyingly buzzy term for glamorous camping, a concept that involves large teepee-like tents tricked out with comfortable beds and feather duvets, wi-fi and electricity. It’s painfully Portlandia-esque, and I was a bit embarrassed to admit to friends and family that I was trying it. I’m a semi-seasoned camper who owns a heavy-duty tent and well-worn hiking boots. Feather duvets aren’t usually on my packing list.

But I was also excited. After all, the only thing conceivably better than camping is camping when somebody else does all the heavy lifting. Never before have I embarked on a camping weekend with less than a car full of supplies, but here I was, pulling into the parking lot at the Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort near the Delaware Water Gap (just under two hours from Center City) with nothing but a half-empty duffle bag. I felt woefully unprepared.

The resort reminded me of the one in Dirty Dancing: rustic (the property is surrounded by thick woods and looks out on the Delaware River); historic (the sprawling 103-room lodge dates back to 1911 and, under famed bandleader Fred Waring’s ownership 30 years later, became a woodsy playground for the likes of Ed Sullivan, Bob Hope and Lucille Ball); and undeniably summer-camp-like (each night, guests gather at the bonfire on the front lawn for s’mores).

I was headed for the Riverside, one of the resort’s two glamping sites — a duo of large canvas tents pitched atop private decks. Each tent is equipped with a queen-size bed and daybed, area rugs, a coffee maker (with all the fixings), side tables, lamps and more, and they’re situated near communal bathrooms with showers. (Towels are included.) They’re perched right on the inn’s grounds in the midst of the resort’s action — handy if, say, you want room service, but not the best choice for peace and quiet. For something a bit more remote (read: no room service here), book one of the four new Island tents, which can only be accessed via canoe. But you’re not left to totally rough it on your own: The resort sends an attendant who tends to the fire and cooks you a hearty breakfast in the morning.

During the day, you can take advantage of Shawnee’s amenities (golf, tastings at the on-site craft brewery, spa treatments) or go off-site for a little adventure. I took a leisurely three-mile kayak trip ($42 a person) on the glassy river—bald eagles galore!—and hiked along the Appalachian Trail with two guides from the resort’s rec staff leading the way (free!).

When the sun went down, I was eager to make use of my glampsite. Once the fire got going (note: the resort even provides the firewood, so there’s no need to scavenge), I sat back, relaxed, and looked at the stars, far more visible from this Poconos perch than from my South Philly patio. What could make this better? I thought to myself. And then it hit me: a glass of champagne.

Luckily, all I had to do was ring the front desk.

Field Guide: Delaware Water Gap Weekend Itinerary

Stay: The Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort, 100 Shawnee Inn Drive, Shawnee on Delaware; tents start at $154 a night.
Play: Rent a kayak or canoe via the resort, or, to experience nature without the sweat equity, sign up for Shawnee’s pontoon-boat tour of the Delaware (starting at $35 a person).
Eat: There’s a stellar weekend brunch at Deer Head Inn, and be sure to grab dinner at the Minisink Hotel, a no-frills biker bar that serves up terrific sandwiches (get the pulled pork) and burgers. Finish the night at the resort’s on-site craft brewery, which pours generous $2 tastings.

See More Fall Weekend Getaways »

This article first appeared in Philadelphia magazine’s September 2016 issue.

Fall Weekend Getaway: Lake Placid Lodge in Lake Placid, New York

Lake Placid Lodge | Photo courtesy Ocean Properties LLC

Lake Placid Lodge | Photo courtesy Ocean Properties LLC

There is a sense of limitless immensity in the nights on Lake Placid — a mix of ceaseless breezes, a star-speckled sky, and a heavy quiet (well, save for the wail of a loon). Even as dawn reveals the edges of the misty lake and the crooked-timber rusticity of your lakeside suite, the spell holds. Read more »

What Happens When a Cemetery Dies?

Photograph by David Huisken

Photograph by David Huisken

Paulette Rhone dared the truck to run her over. She watched the white pickup pull through the front gate at Mount Moriah Cemetery, the trunk overflowing with landscape debris. The two drivers were looking to dump their trash bags, which was not an uncommon occurrence after the cemetery closed its doors. But on this warm spring day in 2012, Rhone, president of the Friends of Mount Moriah, was having none of it.
Read more »

A Visit to Trump Country

Bartender Kyle Hopkins on the porch at the Hodle | photograph by Ryan Collerd

Bartender Kyle Hopkins on the porch at the Hodle | Photograph by Ryan Collerd

When I knock on Ginny Edwards’s door at 4 p.m., on the road where I grew up, she’s still in her pajamas. She’s wearing a frilly white tank top, pink and white flannel pants and fuzzy Barbie-pink slippers. I ask if the Donald Trump signs on the lawn outside are hers, and if she’ll talk to me about him. “Yes! Trump is the man!” she squeals, and grabs two chairs. Read more »

Wigs on Fire: What the Founders Would Have Thought of the 2016 Election

Illustration by The Heads of State

Illustration by The Heads of State

Since the beginning of the republic, Philadelphia has been America’s preeminent convening space for constitutional debate — the city to which all conversations about liberty inevitably refer. In a 2013 speech entitled “Boston to Philadelphia,” Senator Mike Lee of Utah noted that when the postal system was first created, it established throughout the Northeast thousands of stone markers engraved on the back with the legend “M to P,” standing for “Miles to Philadelphia.” The number on each stone — many of them still exist today — represented the distance between that marker and the city that hosted the drafting of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. For Senator Lee, the mile markers represent the distance between the government we don’t want and the government we do, between the tyranny that the American revolutionaries protested in the Boston Tea Party and the liberty they enshrined in the Constitution. Read more »

Pets: 7 Philly Pet Pros Who Take Canine Care to New Levels

Chez Bow Wow | Photograph by Christopher Leaman

Chez Bow Wow | Photograph by Christopher Leaman

High-tech Personal Trainer
Would you describe your dog as “energetic” and maybe also “a handful”? Philly Fit Dog provides both exercise and an outlet for your pup’s, ahem, excess enthusiasm, coming to your home and running with your dog for 20-, 30- or 45-minute sessions. Bonus: Via “Pet Check Technology,” you’re notified at the end of each session and get a GPS map of their route — a nice perk for the slightly obsessive pet owner. Rates: $18 to $35 per run. 215-787-0370.

after the jump »

« Older Posts  |  Newer Posts »