20 Weekends

In search of ideal autumn weekends, we packed up and tried out the luxe-est inns and newest spas, plus urban hot spots and outdoor treks. But while our weekends are all great picks (and short drives or quick flights away), they’re not one-size-fits-all. We found the trip that works (wonders) for you, whether that’s two decadent days at a plush Poconos lodge or ­sunrise-to-sunset salutations at a Catskills yoga retreat. So scan our list, read our lowdowns, and go for what you really need: To clear your head? Rehab your romance? Get outside … and stay there a couple of days? Whatever your travel jones, we’ve got a 48-hour fix.

Rehab Your Romance
Sea Crest by the Sea,
Spring Lake, NJ
If the thought of holing up with your honey at a B&B makes you slightly claustrophobic (the chintz, the toile, the wicker, the rules … ), let Sea Crest by the Sea (19 Tuttle Avenue, Spring Lake; 800-803-9031) change your mind. When Barbara and Fred Vogel bought the circa-1885 Victorian in 1999, they combined smaller chambers to create large spaces replete with every luxury — and plenty of privacy. With nary an instruction, Barbara showed us to our second-floor room, Dolly’s Boudoir, named for her grandmother, whose photos adorn the mantelpiece. Dolly: not so sexy. But the king-size DUX bed, the two-person whirlpool bath, and the ocean-view deck where we could lounge with our complimentary Yellowtail chardonnay and Godiva chocolates certainly were. When we came home at night, we were greeted with cherry cordial, sambuca, amaretto and homemade chocolates. Digs Rooms at Sea Crest feature amenities like the finest linens, cozy fireplaces, Jacuzzis and decks. One of the most desirable, and least Victorian, picks is the newer Hemingway Suite, with whirlpool tub and steam shower for two (rooms $310 to $490 a night in season). Eat Walk the few blocks into town for paella and swordfish at the Island Palm Grill, a Latin BYOB (1321 Third Avenue, 732-449-1909; dinner for two, around $80). Do Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy, then recover from, the inn’s breakfast. Ours spanned two sideboards and included mimosas, omelets, fruit salad, homemade cornbread, potato skins and peach cobbler. Then take a stroll along Ocean Avenue, flanked by palatial houses on one side and a two-mile noncommercial boardwalk and beach on the other. And At night, paddle around the nearby spring-fed lake in Sea Crest’s rowboat; romance guaranteed. Travel time An hour-and-a-half drive from Center City. — Caroline Tiger

Sivananda Ashram Yoga Ranch, Woodbourne, NY
Ready for complete surrender — and/or caffeine withdrawal? On a weekend retreat to this Catskills ashram (Budd Road, Woodbourne, 845-436-6492; sivananda.org/ranch), you’ll wake at 5:30 a.m. for silent meditation, followed by chanting and two hours of a gentle ­Hatha-style yoga that can accommodate, or challenge, all fitness levels. (The routine is repeated again at 4 p.m.) So much mindfulness attracts an eclectic group with the shared goal of escaping their otherwise fast-paced and calorie-laden lives. At the communal meals, you’ll converse with a documentary producer from Arizona, a New York fashion designer, a would-be comedian, a Buddakan waitress, and a former hippie named Raghu Rama, the permanent guest who oversees the ashram. Digs Room service isn’t included. The ashram’s volunteer staff literally made your bed in the wood shop, so you can do your thing each day with the provided sheets. Ask for a spot in the more modern hilltop dormitories ($65 to $70 a night; $25 more for a private room), or, for a private bath, in one of the small apartments ($80 to $85; $25 more for a private room). Eat The mostly vegan, homey Indian buffet (served twice daily; included with your room) is a surprisingly delicious and essential part of the detox experience. Need a treat? No alcohol or cigarettes (or even garlic!) allowed, but there is indulgent organic chocolate for sale in the gift shop. Do Between the required morning and evening classes, linger in the small yoga-and-religion-­focused reading room, explore the 77-acre grounds, attend lectures, assist with ashram chores, or relax in the Russian-style sauna. You’ll be sound asleep by 10 p.m. And For an even more intense experience, visit the ashram for one of its popular sweat lodge weekends (October 6th-9th and 20th-22nd) or fasting weeks (October 27th-November 5th). Travel time A three-hour drive north from Philadelphia. — April White

Mohonk Mountain House,
New Paltz, NY
When I pulled up an online photo of this castle-of-a-hotel tucked into a rocky cliff beside a mountain lake, my husband and I both made the exact same sound: “Ahhhhhh.” This feeling was particularly motivating on our way to Mohonk (1000 Mountain Rest Road, New Paltz, 800-772-6646; mohonk.com) as we clawed around NYC in Friday rush-hour traffic, swearing at each other and to God that this, after the weeks we’d had, would likely require us to stay in separate rooms. And then we got there, deep into the resort’s 2,200 wooded acres in the Hudson Valley, to our (shared) room, restored to the Victorian charm of the 1869 Mohonk, with our own personal wood-burning fireplace, and personal rocking chairs on our personal balcony. But nothing at Mohonk — not the carriage rides nor the private beach nor even the chocolate dessert fountain — could compete with the calming, la-la-land-ish spa, new this year, with its verandas and solarium and outdoor mineral pool and, as if Buddha himself designed it, the 80-minute Mohonk Red Massage that made us feel a little “ahhhh” about each other as well. Digs The rooms are all individually decorated to feel cozy for retiring to with, say, a glass of port. But the most luxurious (and most worth the splurge) are those in the tower (rooms from $415 a night for Full American Plan). Eat All included. Breakfast and lunch are buffets (52 feet long!) in the rustically grand main dining room. Dinner is served, and usually includes mountain-y fare like duck and venison, all much better than it sounds, or perhaps that’s because of the extensive wine list. Do Pray for nice weather, because there’s so much to do here outdoors: canoe, golf, bike, play tennis, hike on the 85 miles of trails, many of which climb to forever views of the Hudson Valley. And Check out the sweet little wooden gazebos peppered along the lake trail, where you’ll find carved messages from Mohonk guests of decades ago. Travel time A three-hour (non-rush-hour) drive. — Vicki Glembocki

Finally Read Five Books
Tilghman Island Inn,
Tilghman Island, MD
Whether your long-neglected reading list includes Turow, Tolstoy, or Oprah’s latest pick, the impossibly laid-back Tilghman Island Inn (410-886-2141; tilghmanislandinn.com) offers plenty of serenity to let you do your thing. While marketing materials might lead you to believe otherwise, the 20-room inn isn’t exactly on the Chesapeake Bay — it actually overlooks a relatively calm inlet known as a “narrow.” Still, it’s close enough (about 50 yards) that you get the soft breeze, the romantic sunsets, and the bobbing mastheads of lazing sailboats. The minimal staff won’t spoil you in any way. In fact, you may not see anyone for hours. Which, in our opinion, is just perfect for digesting a few hundred pages. Digs Not deluxe, but bright, airy and comfortable, and all non-smoking. Some have gas fireplaces, king-size whirlpool tubs, and — most important to ask for — private balconies overlooking the narrow ($250 to $300 a night for a double through November 30th). Eat The inn’s dining room does well using local produce and seafood. Much of the menu comes from waters and farms within 20 miles. The chef’s tasting, paired with wine, is $60 a person. Do Snag the lone table on the dock farthest out in the narrow with your book and your drink. If you tire of the introspection, cozy up to the Tilghman’s outdoor bar, where the locals drink beer and gossip. Or book a private sunset sail at the front desk. And At the weekend piano bar, highly sociable Tilghman co-owner David McCallum will probably buy you a drink (and several for himself) and sing show tunes at the top of his lungs. Travel time A three-hour drive from Center City on one-lane back roads; expect traffic on Fridays. — Victor Fiorillo

Your New- Age Self
The Lodge at Woodloch,
The Poconos
Three crystal chakra bowls stand in the main hall of the just-opened, elegantly rustic Lodge at Woodloch (Route 590, Hawley, 570-685-8500; thelodgeatwoodloch.com). When struck, they vibrate ethereally, harmonically. But keep your boyfriend/husband/partner away from the trio. Let him strum once, and every time the two of you walk past — on your way to the spa for a multi-sensory facial, or for a dip in the hydrotherapy waterfalls, or to the gym for a private Pilates session, or out the door and across the street to play 18 tough holes — he’ll stop to thrum, and you’ll be stuck in the middle of the lodge for five embarrassing minutes while he explores his heretofore-untapped gift for music. The Lodge’s aim, say owners Ginny and John Lopis, is to awaken your inner self. But tell your man to try tai chi instead. Digs Rooms here are surprisingly un-spa-like, tricked out as they are with plasma-screen TVs, wireless Internet, cushy beds, private balconies, and dark chocolate truffles that appear every evening on the bedside table. Per-person packages include room, three meals a day, gym access, classes and a $115 daily spa allowance, for $575 to $1,085 a night. Eat Tree, your source of breakfast, lunch and dinner, feels oddly like the Fountain at Four Seasons, except the view is of a white oak forest, not the traffic around Logan Circle. Its petite gourmet meals, which change daily, break typical spa-cuisine rules: There are omelets and full-caf coffee for breakfast, burgers and smoothies at lunch, and beef carpaccio and molten chocolate soufflés at dinner. Do Wallow in the negative-edge outdoor whirlpool that overlooks the woods. Take classes in Hatha yoga and “healing sounds” meditation. Indulge in a major bevy of transcendent spa treatments. And Get in on a drum circle. Travel time A three-hour drive from Center City. — Lauren McCutcheon

Be Alone
The Chanler Hotel,
Newport, RI
Though the Chanler (117 Memorial Boulevard, Newport, 401-847-1300; thechanler.com) will accommodate children, management gently discourages you from bringing the kids, and understandably so, since this is a vintage Newport mansion filled with oil paintings and crystal chandeliers. So it feels only right that you reserve this 20-room hotel — with its Oriental rugs and clubby paneled bar and dark-suited staffers constantly arriving with snacks and chardonnay — for its obvious purpose: mature, romantic twosomeness. Digs Marie Antoinette meets modern in the Renaissance room, where the bed is draped in damask and the marble bathroom could accommodate the Phillies infield. Along with gold-leafed walls and several chandeliers, there are three flat-panel TVs. (Rooms are $395 to $1,245 a night.) Eat The Chanler’s luxe Spiced Pear restaurant has ocean views along with Kobe beef and surf-and-turf carpaccio (401-847-2244; dinner for two, about $200). For lunch, hit Pasta Beach, a simple café with the best thin-crust pizza and rigatoni marinara we’ve had since Rome (7 Memorial Boulevard; 401-847-2222; lunch for two, about $35). Do Jog along the Cliff Walk, with the ocean on one side and Astor and Vanderbilt mansions on the other. (Park and enter at Memorial Boulevard.) Tour “cottages” such as the Breakers and Marble House. (Buy tickets from the Newport Preservation Society, 401-847-1000.) At night, join yachties (crew members) and heiresses at Sky Bar, the roof deck atop one of Newport’s venerable nightspots (Clarke Cooke House at Bannister’s Wharf, 401-849-2900). And Take a drive past all the mansions on Ocean Boulevard to Bailey’s Beach, Newport’s tightest private beach club. You have to be born or marry into it to get inside, but it’s still fun to snoop. Travel time Just over five hours. — Amy Donohue Korman
The Inn at Perry Cabin,
St. Michaels, MD
The inn (308 Watkins Lane, St. Michaels, 410-745-2200 or 866-278-9601; perrycabin.com) feels like the country house you’d buy if you suddenly sold Main Line Nannies, your reality TV idea, to ABC. Recently expanded in chic and vaguely nautical style, the rambling 80-room manor-house-style hotel — where you can recline with cocktails on Adirondack chairs on the lovely lawn overlooking the St. Michaels waterfront — is exclusive but intimate. It’s also the place to invite five or more of your friends for a lesson in haute housekeeping: As part of the hotel’s Martha Stewart-ish “Unleash the Domestic Goddess Within” package, you’ll make jams and jellies (!) and use inn-grown botanicals to craft body scrubs. Digs Ask for a suite in the new wing, where the decor is beige, white, and all-around modern. The bed has a massive ostrich-leather headboard, and you’ll have a beautiful water view (rooms from $495 to $725 a night). Eat At the hotel’s serene Sherwood’s Landing restaurant, the cuisine is regionally sourced and impeccable — try handmade fennel gnocchi — and there’s always a fantastic crabcake (dinner for two, about $200). For lunch, get crabs and you-peel-it shrimp at classic waterside joint the Crab Claw (304 Mill Street, 410-745-2900; lunch for two, about $50). Do If you’re on the Goddess Plan, your weekend starts with a wine, cheese and fruit tasting upon arrival. Saturday is spent in the inn’s kitchen and with the gardener, who has been planting majestic hydrangeas and roses here for decades. In the evening, you and the girls get a special chef’s tasting dinner, with other lavish meals to follow (two nights for groups of six or more women, single occupancy, with all meals: $930 per person). ANd Find a few hours to kayak with Terry Hebert, the cool and knowledgeable proprietor of ’Peake Paddle Tours, who’ll launch you in the river right at Perry Cabin (410-829-7342; paddletours.com). Travel time A two-and-a-half-hour drive from Center City. — A.D.K.

Coconut Grove
and Miami, FL
Okay, Coconut Grove doesn’t really fit the model for a debauched weekend in glamorous Miami: The hopping-est club in the area is Señor Frog’s, which tends to fill not with celebrities and models, but with drunken frat boys and men who are overzealous with the hair product. But the area has its own kind of charm, and there’s something to be said for staying somewhere that’s not South Beach but is only a $20 cab ride away. (Who wants to wake up pale and hungover and look at a model?) The Sonesta Hotel (2889 McFarlane Road, 305-529-2828; sonesta.com/coconutgrove), a clean, cool — but not too cool — little hotel, makes a good jumping-off place for all points in Miami as well as a very good place to roll home to at night. Digs White-marble-floored rooms are spare and modern, with balconies made for sipping drinks while overlooking the bay or nearly, blessedly, kid-free pool. The hotel’s new “Just Us Girls” package gives you and a girlfriend a double from $259 a night (standard rooms from $180 a night). Eat Much-buzzed-about fusion spot Karu & Y in downtown Miami opens later this month and will eclipse Stephen Starr’s New York Buddakan in the Most Ginormous Restaurant Ever competition, clocking in at 42,000 square feet (71 NW 14th Street, 305-403-7850; karu-y.com; prices weren’t available at press time, but we can safely say that it will be very expensive). Do Paris had her record release party at newish club The Fifth (1045 5th Street, Miami Beach, 305-538-9898), your living room away from home, with leather sofas, bedroom lighting and, oh yes, models — models performing acrobatics in rings above the dance floor. Down the road, at rock bar Snatch (1445 Washington Avenue; 305-531-5027), you can shake your moneymaker to songs by Poison and Mötley Crüe while celebs take turns on South Beach’s only (how is this possible?) mechanical bull. And During the day, hang like the old-time stars at the lush Venetian Pool, an 820,000-gallon extravaganza built in the 1920s, with waterfalls, rock caves, and a palm-tree-ringed island (2701 De Soto Boulevard, Coral Gables, 305-460-5306; venetianpool.com; $9.50 for adults). Travel time A nearly three-hour direct flight on United to Miami. — Jessica Pressler

Live Like
The A-List
Trump International Hotel & Tower,
New York, NY
All in the name of research, we leafed through tabloids and prowled Gawker.com for weeks before our New York City glitz-athon, seeking restaurants that draw catfights and dance-offs from barely legal A-list stars: Where might we see Lindsay Lohan? An Olsen twin? There was nowhere more Page Six-ish to start than at the sleek Trump International Hotel & Tower. Here, where Central Park West and South intersect, you enter the looking glass through a boîte of a lobby lined in glossy maple and marble; park-view suites are far roomier than your average $900,000 Manhattan apartment; and the staff is superbly friendly, as well as willing to dish about favorite guests (Adam Sandler, Mark Wahlberg, the newly buzzworthy David Hasselhoff). Digs Floor-to-ceiling windows, flat-screen TVs, Deco-modern decor, and cinematic views of Central Park and the Time Warner Center make it hard to pry yourself away and experience the city (rooms from $725 a night). Eat Call ahead — way ahead — for a table at Del Posto, the glam new 18,000-square-foot Mario Batali spot in the Meatpacking District (85 10th Avenue, 212-497-8090; dinner for two, $150 and up). For a cozier vibe with just a side of scene, hit nearby Pastis, the brasserie that birthed the Meatpacking boomlet (9 Ninth Avenue, 212-929-4844; dinner for two, about $150). Hotel Gansevoort, with its new, tabloid-ish G Spa & Lounge (18 Ninth Avenue, 212-206-6700) just across the street, is prime for a late-night drink. For lunch, visit Cipriani Downtown (376 West Broadway, 212-343-0999; lunch for two, about $80). Do Escape uptown to see the rooftop installation by Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang through October 29th at the Met (1000 Fifth Avenue, 212-535-7710; ticketweb.com). And Purge a prosecco hangover with a run in the Park or at the Trump’s excellent fitness center and pool. travel time A two-hour drive from Center City, traffic willing; about an hour and a half on the train. — A.D.K.

Just Breathe
Stoweflake Mountain
Resort & Spa, Stowe, VT
Two and a half months from walking down the aisle, fatigued by tax law (him) and wedding planning (me) and in serious need of being out of cell-phone range of my mother, we thought some fresh mountain air might do us good. Quiet roads from Burlington airport led us to the Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa, nestled near the base of Vermont’s highest peak, Mount Mansfield. The resort’s 50,000-square-foot spa with aqua solarium, hydrotherapy waterfalls and mineral soaking pool instantly appealed to my frayed nerves. Snowshoes and the great outdoors beckoned my fiancé. Compromise ensued, and ultimately, our dual focus (hearty activity followed by hedonistic relaxation) provided just the needed tonic. Digs More standard hotel than country inn, but rooms (from $220 a night) are comfortable and spacious, with some beautiful views of the mountains and Stoweflake’s meditative garden. Most have fireplaces, and many feature Jacuzzis. Eat Charlie B’s Pub (the more casual of two on-site restaurants) features spa cuisine as well as heartier selections — winter squash strudel, grilled double lamb chops, Maple Leaf Farm duck breast — that are ideal if you’ve worked up an appetite outdoors (dinner for two, about $40). Do Start by meeting with on-site fitness director Chad Couto to design your outing. We chose snowshoeing, and Couto took us through a network of trails that snaked alongside babbling brooks and snow-painted trees. Later, head to the spa for a Vermont maple sugar body polish and herbal deep-cleansing facial. And For more serious Zen, stroll the on-site labyrinth. Travel time A two-hour flight from Center City to Burlington, then a one-hour drive. — Erica Levi

Hide Out
Ross Mill Farm,
Bucks County, PA
They’d never think to look for you here, at the only boardinghouse in the world for pet pigs — where the potbellies have their own spa, but you’ll have to forgo your ­hydro-massage for more rustic pleasures. Revel in the quiet of your remote, 17th-­century (really!) cottage (down a quarter-mile gravel road from the farm), without Internet, interstates or interruptions (2464 Walton Road, Rushland, 215-322-1539; $100 a night). Relax on the hammock, or fish the fishing hole in Little Neshaminy Creek, less than a mile away. And be sure to walk down the lane for a visit with proprietors Richard and Susan Magidson and their pigs. Digs Romantic for two, the cottage can also accommodate a small group, since it sleeps six. Or seven: The Magidsons sometimes let guests “borrow” one of their pigs for an overnight. We hosted Daffodil, a four-month-old who proved incredibly clean and obedient. Eat Where you might also get spooked. Not by the food, but by the friendly spirit supposedly in residence at the Pineville Tavern (Route 413, Pineville; 215-598-3890), the town’s meeting ground since 1742. Three miles from the farm, the tavern serves up a hearty surf-and-turf and locally famous rice pudding (dinner for two, about $70). Do Cook your own breakfast. The cottage is fully equipped with refrigerator, stove, microwave, firepit and outdoor grill, but you need to supply the grub. So bring your Starbucks; leave the bacon at home. And Consider a winter visit. The huge and functional fireplace will keep you warm after your snowy stroll through the 30 surrounding acres. Travel time An hour’s drive northeast of the city. — Amy Strauss

Shop Around
Leola Village Inn & Suites,
Lancaster, PA
Gawking at the Amish is irresistible, but our favorite Pennsylvania Dutch weekend includes something the Plain Folk don’t much go in for: shopping. At Leola Village Inn & Suites, Lancaster County’s only AAA four-diamond hotel (38 Deborah Drive, Route 23, Leola, 717-656-7002; leolavillage.com), the browsing begins at home. Even the bed in your room is for sale — along with the armchair, the lighting fixtures and the trash can. Hotelier Deborah Shirk wasn’t content to outfit her 61 stylish rooms with high-end linens, sybaritic baths and feather pillows. She also lined the halls with vitrines of handbags, glassware and pottery; installed an antiques store and a collectibles shop; and arranged to sell you anything else that catches your eye. Digs We stayed in a room in the Amos King Barn, a restored tobacco barn from the 1800s, with a cool loft Jacuzzi ($249 a night). But we also loved the stonewalled Wine Cellar ($229 a night) and the two elegant bridal suites ($249 a night). Eat You’ll start your day in Leola’s pretty gold-and-red breakfast room, where complimentary quiche and high-topped muffins are served. Come evening, stroll to on-site Mazzi Designed Dining, where chef Ralph Mazziocchi crafts imaginative pizzas and lays braised lamb tenders across the silkiest homemade spinach noodles ever (717-656-8983; dinner for two, around $90). Do Rockvale Square Outlets (Route 30 East, Lancaster, rockvalesquareoutlets.com) and Tanger Factory Outlet Center (311 Stanley K. Tanger Boulevard, Lancaster; 717-392-7260) are minutes away and feature the discounted goods of names like Polo Ralph Lauren, Coach and Nautica. Or drive 20 minutes to Adamstown and hit the Stroudsburg Antique Mall, with more than 500 dealers under one roof (on Route 272). And Arrange for an Arctic Algae body treatment at Leola Village’s Destinations Day Spa (717-556-0276) or a couples’ massage at Vitality Works (717-656-4256). Travel time A drive of a little under an hour and a half from Center City, unless you get stuck behind a buggy. — Sandy Hingston

Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon,
Tioga County, PA
For a place that isn’t particularly hard to get to, Tioga County, in northern Pennsylvania, can feel like it belongs on another part of the continent (and not just because of the dearth of Trader Joe’s or cell-phone service). Home to stunning mountain vistas, Pine Creek Gorge — “Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon” — and the 165,000-acre Tioga State Forest, the area is fantasy camp for the outdoorsy, with horseback riding, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, hiking, biking and backpacking. For our money, though, the most thrilling way to see the landscape is to bring your mountain bike and hit some of the best single-track in the eastern half of the United States. Digs Make the charming, Rockwellian town of Wellsboro your base camp for the weekend, and stay at the historic (if largely no-frills) Penn Wells Hotel, on Main Street, with upgraded rooms set to debut this month (570-724-2111, pennwells.com; from $60 a night). Eat Timeless Destination, on Main Street, does well with staple Italian dishes like linguine and meatball quattro formaggio (570-724-8499; dinner for two, around $45). The Wellsboro Diner, a few doors down, offers comfort food and not-to-be-missed homemade pies (570-724-3992). Do All ideal in the fall: covered-­wagon tours, sightseeing along the rim of the gorge, 4X4 tours, day hikes or multiple-day backpacking excursions, rafting or canoeing Pine Creek. (The Visitor’s Center, also on Main Street in Wellsboro, can hook you up on these or other adventures.) Mountain bikers: Do yourselves a favor and call Keefer Wetzler at High Mountain Adventure (570-724-1321) for a tailor-made guided trip. And Drive along the rim of Pine Creek Gorge. Travel time A four-hour drive northwest of the city. — Andrew Putz

Warm Up
Pelican Bay,
Freeport, Bahamas
At around 7 a.m. at Pelican Bay, a minimally designed boutique hotel in the middle of Freeport’s Lucaya resort district, a basket of just-baked pastries and muffins is placed in a compartment just inside your suite door. Get up early and wash them down with an Americano from the room’s top-of-the-line espresso machine as you watch the sunrise from the balcony, and I promise you, absolutely nothing will go wrong after that. What Freeport, which was designed in 1955, lacks of Nassau’s colonial charm, it makes up for in spotless efficiency and good grooming. The meticulously kept grounds, three pools and adjacent Port Lucaya Marketplace offer a pleasant little village of things to do when you don’t really feel like doing anything. Digs The grand suites have mahogany four-poster beds plus exquisitely furnished living rooms and full kitchenettes; the still-sizable 750-square-foot bay-view rooms are a bargain in the fall (rooms from $129 a night; suites from $239). Eat If the fact that the hotel’s Ferry House restaurant (242-373-1595) employs an Icelandic chef named Volundur Volundarson doesn’t convince you to try the food, a look at Volundarson’s volunderful $75 daily tasting menu — full of unexpected delicacies like octopus marinated in kimchi vinaigrette — should. For lunch, have barbecued conch at one of the outside beach bars on nearby Taino Beach. Do Freeport is a scuba-diving mecca, but for non-divers, Paradise Cove at Dead Man’s Reef, 35 minutes off, is a mercifully secluded getaway for kayaking and snorkeling. Tours start at $35; call 242-349-2677. And Get your spring break on at Count Basie Square, where local dancers juggle fire and some serious costume changes while college kids mix with boomers under the collective influence of coconut rum. Travel time A total of five hours with a layover in Nassau. — Maureen Tkacik

Bond With The Kids (Without the Hassle)
The Star Inn and Motel,
Cape May, NJ
What you could really use? A little more family time before school and soccer take over. What you keep fantasizing about? Those hip, pre-baby Shore weekends. Your perfect compromise could be swank Congress Hall’s across-the-street property, the Star Inn and Motel (29 Perry Street, 609-884-4590; thestarinn.net). Visitors get the best of both worlds: access to the Hall’s amenities, like the pool — and poolside bar — plus less formal, more family-friendly digs. The vibe is cool and classy, with casual kid appeal. As in, don’t bother to get up from that rocking chair on the porch overlooking the ocean when your kid is making a racket. The place is chic, but it’s still a motel. Digs The spacious rooms are funked-out with cheetah carpet, mini eat-in kitchens and flat-screens. Ask for a suite to get more space and an extra sofa sleeper; those on the first floor have private back patio areas (from $240 a night on weekends). Eat People-watch on the porch at mainstay Mad Batter, where beach favorites like clam chowder get updated with saffron, and classics like chicken and pizza are well executed and kid-friendly (19 Jackson Street; 609-884-5970; dinner for two, around $65). Or hit Congress Hall’s casual Blue Pig Tavern and its many mouthwatering seafood selections (251 Beach Avenue, 609-884-8422; dinner for two, around $65). Do If it’s not beach/pool weather, the County Park (707 Route 9 North, 609-465-5271) has an impressive zoo with playgrounds and picnic tables. Or climb the 199 steps of the lighthouse (Lighthouse Lane, 609-884-8656), take a whale-watching tour (Cape May Whale Watcher, 609-884-5445), or comb the sand for the famed Cape May diamonds at Sunset Beach (Sunset Boulevard, 609-884-6468). And Cape May is a safe place to explore on two wheels, so bring the kids’ bikes. Travel timE About an hour and a half from Center City. — Ashley Primis

Use Your Hands
Annapolis Sailing School,
Annapolis, MD
First lesson at the basic “Become a Sailor in One Weekend” course at the Annapolis Sailing School (7001 Bembe Beach Road, 800-638-9192; annapolissailing.com; $375): Regardless of the height of the waves, “heave to” doesn’t mean what it sounds like. Nor does anything else, really. Rope isn’t rope, it’s “line” — but it can also be a sheet, a halyard, an outhaul or a downhaul. No worries; cheerful, patient instructors and the right ratio of blackboard time to boat time will leave you comfortable enough rigging, trimming and steering to establish a lifelong obsession with gliding across the briny blue. Digs Old salts get mighty uneasy when they can’t feel the spray on their faces, so it’s a helpful thing that some rooms at the Marriott Annapolis Waterfront offer bay views or private balconies right on the water (80 Compromise Street, 888-773-0786; annapolismarriott.com; $229 to $339 a night). Eat The night before you start earning your captain’s bars, feel like a captain of industry at Harry Browne’s, a Deco–style power room at the Maryland State House that serves classic chops and elegantly crafted sides, with a deep wine list (66 State Circle, 410-263-4332; dinner for two, about $100). After that first hard day on deck, revive your strength with sumptuous seafood and a pint or two of Guinness at Galway Bay (61-63 Maryland Avenue, 410-263-8333; dinner for two, about $60). Do You’ll begin each morning at 9 a.m. with an hour in the classroom, followed by two hours on the water in a specially designed 24-foot craft that for all practical purposes can’t sink. After lunch, there’s more classroom and sailing time. And Once you’ve completed any of its courses, the school offers lifetime discounts on future classes and boat rentals. Travel time Two and half hours south of Philadelphia. To avoid I-95, thread your way down the Delmarva peninsula on virtually empty Route 301, join Route 50 as it approaches the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, then sneak into Annapolis from the northeast on Route 450. — Timothy Haas

Jump-Start Your Fitness Routine
Canyon Ranch,
Lenox, MA
Sure, you’ve heard of the smoothly run, expertly staffed Berkshires getaway (165 Kemble Street, Lenox, 413-637-4100; canyonranch.com) and its wellbeing-obsessed sisters. But while the rest of the world catches up — cue the recent explosion of spa and fitness vacations — this modern classic still delivers the targeted kick in the pants you need. Plunked down on its sprawling campus with all the resources in the world to work out and eat right, of course you’re going to get off to a good start. So what if the facility’s 100,000-square-foot spa looks about as hip as that women’s gym you joined in the ’80s? As you’ll learn, it’s the path — not the peach walls — that matters. Digs This is not Deprivation Camp: Rooms are big and beige, with free Internet, DVD players, massive beds, comfy chaises, an in-room dressing sink, and a bathroom stocked with signature bath products. (Packages including room, meals, and access to complimentary classes, from $2,470 for a three-night minimum.) Eat For dinner, hit the dining room and its hearty/healthy salad bar; singles can request the Captain’s Table for staff-led discussion. (To hold you over in between meals, ask for a midday snack pack from the dining room’s hostess.) Do Armed with your Canyon Ranch weekly schedule, you can choose a basic three-mile morning group run and an afternoon tennis clinic, or try more offbeat options like gyrotonics, wallyball, or Nia (a blend of dance and martial arts). Fit in a physiological assessment and one-on-one sessions with a nutritionist and personal trainer, and leave with a personal fitness-and-eating plan. And Schedule a 9 p.m. massage, but give yourself time beforehand to take in the sauna, steam and inhalation rooms. Travel time: A four-and-a-half-hour drive. Or take Amtrak and let drivers pick you up in a luxury SUV (with fruit and water in tow) from the Albany-Rensselaer station, for a scenic 45-minute drive to the resort. — Jessica Blatt

Get Away With the Girls
Nashville, TN
Cowboys. ’Nuff said. In Nashville, a gent still hankers to buy a pretty lady a drink. Yes, it’ll probably be a Pabst Blue Ribbon, but he’ll make up for that with a turn on the dance floor. Hunks are to be found at the honkytonks, the legendary row of bars on lower Broadway that charge no cover and feature live bands all week. Here you can live out your Brad-Pitt-in-Thelma-and-Louise fantasy (what happens in Nashville … ) and proudly fly the country flag you keep closeted back East. When the sun comes up, there’s plenty of shopping to do. Much like Philadelphia, Nashville is a city of neighborhoods, each with its own funky feel and well-curated boutiques. With a car, nothing’s more than 15 minutes away. Digs The gigantic Gaylord Opryland offers bars and restaurants galore and, best of all, a brand-new Relâche Spa on the premises and an outlet mall next door. Ask for a room in the newly renovated Garden Conservatory wing (2800 Opryland Drive, Nashville, 615-889-1000; rooms from $239 a night). Eat Cool and cavernous Cabana (with walls that open like garage doors) serves hip Southern comfort food made with local ingredients (1910 Belcourt Avenue, 615-577-2262; dinner for two, around $60). Do Shop in Hillsboro Village, on 21st Avenue South, near Vanderbilt’s campus. There’s Posh Boutique for trendy fashion (615- 383-9840), Fire Finch for homespun accessories (615-385-5090), and Pangaea for ironic gifts (615-269-9665). Then drive to up-and-coming 12th Avenue South to browse vintage and repro Western wear at Katy K’s Ranch Dressing (615-297-4242; katyk.com). And Visit the (other) Hermitage, the exquisitely preserved home that Andrew Jackson built with his beloved wife Rachel (4580 Rachel’s Lane, 615-889-2941; thehermitage.com). Travel time Two and a half hours on Southwest’s new direct flight. — C.T.

Get Away With the Boys
Nemacolin Woodlands Resort,
Farmington, PA
Girls’ getaways may involve too much white wine and hot stone massages, but guys tend to wind up in the middle of the woods with body odor, beer and locker-room talk. Super-posh and super-huge Nemacolin, in way-western Pennsylvania (1001 LaFayette Drive, Farmington, 724-329-8555; nemacolin.com), offers men a chance to class their act up at the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired resort without relinquishing any testosterone). On its 2,800 acres, you can indulge all your non-fornicatory male fantasies, such as blowing up flying clay targets with shotguns, Cohiba-chomping at the cigar bar, piloting an actual military Humvee through deep ditches and up walls, and swinging clubs at a 72-par PGA-tour golf course. Digs There are three hotels at Nemacolin, totaling 335 rooms, but you absolutely want to stay in one at the top-shelf Falling Rock, where rooms start at $600 a night. Eat The resort’s fine-dining choices, like Lautrec and Aqueous, can set you back $150 for dinner for two without alcohol. We kept going back to the more casual Tavern, with several pool tables and a lot of good beer. Do Take the Humvee Off-Road Driving Course ($275 per vehicle for two hours). Coursing adrenaline guaranteed as the vehicle does all sorts of things it shouldn’t, with you behind the wheel. As for the inevitable aches that will ensue (it’s a really, really rough ride), head to the spa for bit of pounding (50-minute massages from $105). And The girls at home will be thrown (culture?) when you tell them about your side trip to Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright’s miracle of architecture, just 12 wooded miles away in Ohiopyle (724-329-8501; paconserve.org). Travel time A five-hour drive from Philly. Pittsburgh International Airport is 70 miles away, and the resort has a private airstrip for you and your Airstream. — V.F.

Relive Your Urban Youth
Rittenhouse 1715,
Center City
The fact that both our kids are finally in high school seemed a good enough reason for my husband and I to revisit our Center City roots. Well, not exactly; instead of our crappy old rowhouse, we were staying at the sublime Rittenhouse 1715 (1715 Rittenhouse Square, 215-546-6500; rittenhouse1715.com), a 23-room gem just around the corner from the Square. Recent renovations have made it more European-style boutique hotel, less cozy bed-and-breakfast; the Walter Cope-designed carriage house and adjacent townhouse (one more townhouse is scheduled to open later this month) now feature Frette towels and robes, Italian marble baths, Egyptian linens, antiques and fine art. Digs Our Presidential suite sported two flat-screen TVs, a plush sofa, a fireplace, a glass-cube shower, the highest, softest, comfiest bed imaginable, and two-story drapes that were fun to work with the remote control. All the rooms are beautifully tasteful — in an over-the-top sort of way (from $239 a night). Eat At 34-year-old Friday Saturday Sunday — which predates even our city life — the mushroom soup was as smooth as we remembered (261 South 21st Street, 215-546-4232; frisatsun.com; dinner for two, around $70). Turned 33 this year is Astral Plane, where brunch features make-your-own Bloody Marys, as well as pineapple/sage and sesame/ginger gelatos (1708 Lombard Street, 215-546-6230; theastralplane.com). Do After dinner, we had every intention of revisiting our raunchy old haunts — Dirty Frank’s, McGlinchey’s, the Pen and Pencil Club. But then we thought of the French champagne back in our Presidential Suite … the cheese-and-cracker tray … the chocolate-covered strawberries … the remote-control curtains. What the hell. We’re not as young as we used to be. And Did I mention the gratis wine reception every evening in Rittenhouse 1715’s elegant drawing room? You also get an extensive Continental breakfast that includes worth-indulging-in banana nut bread, chocolate croissants, and strong, well-brewed coffee. — S.H.