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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 not one size fits all. We found the trip that works (wonders) for you, whether that 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 got a 48 hour fix.
Sea Crest by the Sea, Spring Lake, NJ
If the thought of holing up with your honey at a 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 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 $320 to $500 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 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 rowboat; romance guaranteed. Travel time An hour and a half drive from Center City. for silent meditation, followed by chanting and two hours of a gentle Hatha style yoga that can accommodate, or challenge, all fitness levels. At the communal meals, you 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 included. The ashram 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 ($70 to $80 a night; $25 more for a private room), or, for a private bath, in one of the small apartments ($85 to $95; $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. 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. And then we got there, deep into the resort 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 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 $630 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 because of the extensive wine list. Do Pray for nice weather, because there 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 find carved messages from Mohonk guests of decades ago. Travel time A three hour (non rush hour) drive. While marketing materials might lead you to believe otherwise, the 20 room inn isn exactly on the Chesapeake Bay it actually overlooks a relatively calm inlet known as a Still, it 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 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 dining room does well using local produce and seafood. Much of the menu comes from waters and farms within 20 miles. The chef 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 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. 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 stop to thrum, and you be stuck in the middle of the lodge for five embarrassing minutes while he explores his heretofore untapped gift for music. The Lodge 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 $530 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 souffl at dinner. Do Wallow in the negative edge outdoor whirlpool that overlooks the woods. Take classes in Hatha yoga and 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. 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 $275 to $1,195 a night.) Eat The Chanler 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 caf with the best thin crust pizza and rigatoni marinara we 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 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 venerable nightspots (Clarke Cooke House at Bannister Wharf, 401 849 2900). And Take a drive past all the mansions on Ocean Boulevard to Bailey Beach, Newport tightest private beach club. You have to be born or marry into it to get inside, but it 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. 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 also the place to invite five or more of your friends for a lesson in haute housekeeping: As part of the hotel Martha Stewart ish the Domestic Goddess Within package, you 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 have a beautiful water view (rooms from $385 to $770 a night). Eat At the hotel serene Sherwood Landing restaurant, the cuisine is regionally sourced and impeccable try handmade fennel gnocchi and there 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 on the Goddess Plan, your weekend starts with a wine, cheese and fruit tasting upon arrival. Saturday is spent in the inn 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 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). Travel time A two and a half hour drive from Center City.
Okay, Coconut Grove doesn really fit the model for a debauched weekend in glamorous Miami: The hopping est club in the area is Se Frog 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 something to be said for staying somewhere that not South Beach but is only a $20 cab ride away. 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 new Us Girls package gives you and a girlfriend a double from $229 a night (standard rooms from $139 a night). 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 M Cr while celebs take turns on South Beach only (how is this possible?) mechanical bull. Travel time A nearly three hour direct flight on United to Miami. Here, where Central Park West and South intersect, you enter the looking glass through a bo 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 $705 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). And Purge a prosecco hangover with a run in the Park or at the Trump 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.
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 highest peak, Mount Mansfield. The resort 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 fianc 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 $200 a night) are comfortable and spacious, with some beautiful views of the mountains and Stoweflake meditative garden. Most have fireplaces, and many feature Jacuzzis. Eat Charlie B 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 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
Ross Mill Farm, Bucks County, PA
They 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 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 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 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 drive northeast of the city. Amy Strauss
Leola Village Inn Suites, Lancaster, PA
Gawking at the Amish is irresistible, but our favorite Pennsylvania Dutch weekend includes something the Plain Folk don much go in for: shopping. Even the bed in your room is for sale along with the armchair, the lighting fixtures and the trash can. Hotelier Deborah Shirk wasn 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 start your day in Leola 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). 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 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 Grand Canyon, Tioga County, PA
For a place that isn 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 or cell phone service). Home to stunning mountain vistas, Pine Creek Gorge 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 bri