Barhopping in Nashville
Travel time: 2.5 hours by plane.*
Nashville’s neon-lit nightlife is the antidote to your staid and seedy Atlantic City escape: You’ll walk from one honky-tonk to another for quality (and often free) live music; pop by Robert’s Western Worldfor more music, drinks and boots; and sup at Puckett’s on real-deal fried chicken. For sleeping: Affordable, respectable chain hotels abound, but for one night, live it up at the so-posh Hermitage Hotel, with the cushiest beds in town. $$
Shopping in Narrowsburg
Travel time: About 3 hours by car.
Don’t knock it, you big-city shoppers: This rural New York hamlet has been lauded by Travel + Leisure and New York magazines as a star small-town browsing destination. A former Vogue editor runs Nest, a sophisticated lifestyle boutique with amazing furniture, and several cool galleries make for a solid shopping day. The homespun rooms of Pennsylvania’s Woodloch resort are 20 minutes away. $
Tubing down Bear Creek Mountain
Travel time: 90 minutes by car.
A fun silver lining in the gray winter clouds: Bear Creek Mountain’s 1,000-foot-long tubing park. (There’s also skiing and snowboarding for $50 per four hours on weekends.) Lodge-style rooms at the attached resort are restful and affordable, the lobby’s stocked with board games, the pools are heated, and the beer flows freely at The Grille. What more could you want an hour and a half from home? $
Tubing Down the Delaware
Travel Time: An hour by car.
Is this the most underrated summer activity ever? Whether you pair up in a two-person tube or float solo, Delaware River Tubing’s four-hour river jaunts feature gentle Class I rapids … and a riverside hot-dog stop. Dry off at the decidedly ritzier Inn at Lambertville Station, then tromp to darling Main Street for window shopping and a big plate of chicken parm at the red-sauce joint Rick’s. $
Chocolate-Bathing in Hershey
Travel time: A little over 90 minutes by car.
Forget the park. You’re here for the Spa at Hotel Hershey, and the chance to spend the day in something called a whipped cocoa bath, followed by a fondue wrap. (See: the Chocolate Escape Package.) The hotel is equally decadent … and you can just imagine the caliber of dessert served at the restaurants. $$
Bonding with the Dog in Vermont
Travel time: About 1 hour by plane into Burlington, then 40 minutes by hotel shuttle.
It’s either a sign of the end times that something called “Rover Reiki” exists, or an extreme example of the lengths the folks at Stowe’s Top Notch Resort and Spa will go to to make sure every guest is happy. Join little Buster in one of the amazing chi balancing massages, then enjoy teatime (where there are treats for both of you)—just call the resident dog-sitter before you hit the tennis courts. $$$
Spa’ing in Boston
Travel time: 1 hour by plane.
The spa at the plush Mandarin Oriental hotel is one of New England’s best—and if you’ve got the ducats (about $600), you should book the full-day package of coffee-and-frankincense scrubs, massages, facials and more. Or do just a couple of hours of, say, underwater hydrotherapy massage—then spend what you’ve saved at the hotel’s wildly sophisticated Mizu hair salon. You’ll only need to leave this luxe Mandarin cocoon for fancy cheeses and seasonal fare at the lauded L’Espalier, just next door. $$$
Biking Through Bucks County
Travel time: 1 hour by car.
Yes, Stockton’s Woolverton Inn is a B&B, but relax: There’s not a doily in sight. No, here it’s all Jacuzzis, Egyptian cotton, and the sort of warm, easy hospitality that makes you reconsider life amongst city folks. Tack $195 onto the cost of your room (from $150) and you’ll get a four-course picnic lunch, a map, and two rental bikes (plus helmets) for pedaling those country roads. $
Drinking in Charlotte, North Carolina
Travel time: 90 minutes by plane.
September 29th is this walkable city’s massive Oktoberfest, for which national and international brewers all show up for five hours of festive (read: bring your lederhosen) drinking. The best hotel in town is the Dunhill—just lose the beer-wench costume; it’s more a Scotch sorta place. Breakfast is next door, at the Harvest Moon Grille, for biscuits and gravy, local sausage, grits … the works. $
Whale-Watching in Cape May
Travel time: About 2 hours by car.
Like the Discovery Channel in real time, the Cape May Whale Watcher sails April through December on, um, three-hour tours—and the captain virtually guarantees sightings. It’s also a chance to indulge yourself at the opulent Congress Hall hotel and the less opulent Mad Batter in the morning for corned-beef hash. $
Getting Away in Fogelsville
Travel time: 1 hour by car.
If a place called Fogelsville doesn’t exactly say “vacation” to you, it’s only because you haven’t been to the Glasbern Country Inn. (Emphasis on the "country.") This bucolic sanctuary sits on 130 acres of Pennsylvania farmland (it grows most of the greens in your salad; it’s home to the pigs that become your supper) and is loaded with cozy amenities like Jacuzzis, steam showers and fireplaces. Outside on the porch swing, look up: You can see all the stars. $$
Dining in Greenwich, Connecticut
Travel time: 2.5 hours by car.
For those who’ve dined at all the best restaurants: Thomas Henkelmann’s eatery at the Homestead Inn ought to be your next reservation. The acclaimed chef runs the Victorian property with his wife, and the magic combination of his food (gratin of Maine lobster, Roquefort terrine with foie gras) and her perfect hospitality (Fili D’Oro linens, hand-drawn walking maps of the neighborhood) is simply too memorable —and too close—to pass up. $$$
Splurging in Manhattan
Travel time: About 1 hour by Amtrak.
Glossy, grand and right off Central Park, the Carlyle is New York the way it ought to be done at least once before you die. You’re right on Madison Avenue, and thus just steps from other NYC classics: Hermès, Oscar de la Renta, Vera Wang, etc. Other musts for a blowout weekend: a lunch break at Nello for people- (celebrity-?) watching; tickets to see Ricky Martin in Evita; and dinner at the Upper East Side’s Post House, which the Times deemed “the paragon of a New York steakhouse.” $$$
Saving in Manhattan
Travel time: About 2 hours by car or Bolt Bus.
Rates for the arty Gershwin Hotel start at $159, and its Flatiron address means that the Museum of Sex, the Fifth Avenue (window) shopping district, the Chelsea art galleries, chef- and celeb-packed Union Square Greenmarket, with local foods galore, and—most importantly—the life-altering burgers at the Shake Shack are all right there. $
Beaching in Rehoboth, Delaware
Travel time: 2.5 hours by car.
When Avalon feels stale, a fresh swath of beach and boardwalk at so-charming Rehoboth awaits—as does the Dogfish Brewpub, with casks full of Delaware’s best. (Snacks, too!) The Bellmoor is a comfy resort with two pools, a spa and a free breakfast, and DelMarVa Board Sport Adventures offers a hilarious-sounding Stand Up Paddling Yoga that’s worth a shot while you’re at a beach where nobody knows you. $