If you really want to get away, head for the southernmost tip of Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Park in the tiny town of Crisfield ($3 per night at the municipal lot) and board the Captain Jason II ($20 one way) for the 45-minute ferry ride to Smith Island, actually the only two inhabited islands among a number of them in the Chesapeake Bay. You won’t miss your car; the 300-some year-round residents in its three rustic fishing villages, Ewell, Rhodes Point and Tylerton, get around on the unpaved lanes on foot or by golf cart. Crabbing is the principal livelihood and the basis of a uniquely Chesapeake culture complete with its own dialect, a distinctive combination of Cornwallian English and American South.
Drive time: Three hours.
Stay here: When Rob Kellogg picked us up at the ferry dock, he brought a wheelbarrow to tote our luggage to the Inn of Silent Music in Tylerton (2955 Tylerton Rd., 410-425-3541) he operates with his wife, Linda. Surrounded on three sides by water, this laid-back—no phone or TV—three guestroom, circa 1916 home is a no-stress zone. Complimentary canoes, two-person kayaks and bikes and full breakfast are included in the nightly $110-$130 rate (no credit cards).
Eat here: Before I recommend where you eat, I’m going to suggest what you should eat—crab cakes and a generations-old tradition that has become Maryland’s Official State Dessert, Smith Island Cake, eight to 10 super-thin layers of golden cake filled and frosted with chocolate fudge. That said, you can enjoy a seafood-centric dinner at the Inn at Silent Music ($25 per person). For crab cakes, don’t miss the locally-made quarter-pounders with fries and sides for $9.95 at Drum Point Market (21162 Center St., 410-425-2108), Tylerton’s only store. The homey market also carries jellies and jams made from the figs and pomegranates that grow wild on the island. Bayside Inn Restaurant (4065 Smith Island Road, Ewell, 410-425-2771), best-known for its $19.99 double crab cake plus all-you-can-eat clam fritters, baked ham and slew of sides meal.
To-do list: Make sure you watch the video, “Land and Water, People and Time” and listen to the Smith Island-speak audio exhibit at the Smith Island Cultural Center Museum (20846 Caleb Jones Road, Ewell; 410-425-3351; smithisland.org; $3 admission). Then stop in and chat with the watermen’s wives and other local women as they “pick” the day’s catch for home use and sale at the Crabmeat Co-op in Tylerton (21228 Wharf St., 410-968-1344).
Janes Island State Park (410-968-1565, dnr.state.md.us) offers isolated sand beaches for swimming and miles of trails for hiking and wildlife viewing. Rent a kayak ($50) or canoe ($60) to explore more than 30 miles of marked water trails or do some crabbing or fishing. For overnighters, you’ll find campsites ($25/$35 with electricity), rustic camper cabins with shared bathrooms ($50) and full-service cabins ($90).
Thrifty Tips: No need. Everything on Smith Island is inexpensive.
Page 2: Urban Oasis: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
If you think that Harrisburg is a place reserved for suit-and-tie types, you might be surprised to discover that our state capital is anything but all work and no play.
Amid and just beyond the business bustle is a vibrant downtown, a family fantasy island and scenic art-centric back roads, while a luxe resort. And look for city-wide celebrations of Harrisburg’s “Susquecentennial” (harrisburg150.com).
Drive time: One and three-quarter hours.
Stay here: In Spanish, Felicita translates to “great happiness.” So does a getaway to Felicita Garden Resort (2201 Fishing Creek Valley Road, Harrisburg; 717-599-5301; felicitaresort.com), a 12-minute drive from downtown Harrisburg, which offers mountain-view rooms in a California mission-style lodge ($89 weekdays, $119 weekends) or country-style inn ($59/$70) on 750 acres of woodland and themed gardens. Continental breakfast is included. In the Felicita Room you can get a three-course dinner for $23 or five courses for $30 featuring specialties such as shrimp and crab Rockefeller. Golfers will appreciate the challenging course modeled after the legendary Augusta National ($59 weekdays, $79 weekends). And who would turn down one of the spa’s exclusive European Rose Mud Treatments? Ask about all-inclusive Spa and Golf Getaways packages.
Eat here: On downtown Harrisburg’s Second Street Restaurant Row, one of the longtime stars has been Stock’s on 2nd (211 N. Second St., 717-233-6699, stocksonsecond.com), a classy spot renowned for its upscale ($16 to generally under $30) fare—try the “oven-tanned” crab cakes. Nearby, Bricco (31 S. Third St., 717-724-0222, briccopa.com) literally has something for everyone at every price from $11-$14 stone oven pizzas, $18-$22 house-made pastas and other $24-$36 entrées (including melt-in-your-mouth short ribs).
To-do list: Just across from the Capitol via the pedestrian bridge or auto bridge is City Island (717-255-3020, harrisburgevents.com), a more than 60-acre family fantasyland complete with free guarded swimming beach and a championship-style, 18-hole mini-golf course (Water Golf, 717-232-8533; $5.75 for adults, $4.75 for children). It is also the home of the AA Eastern League-winning affiliate pro baseball team, Harrisburg Senators (senatorsbaseball.com., tickets range from $5-$10) and United Soccer League’s Harrisburg City Islanders (717-441-GOAL, $13 adults, $5 youth). Get out on the water in a kayak ($30 half day/$52 full for a single, $49-$62 for a double, $44-$57 for a canoe) from Susquehanna Outfitters (717-503-0066, susquehannaoutfitters.com). They also rent bikes beginning at $10. Or board the Pride of the Susquehanna paddlewheel riverboat (717-234-6500, harrisburgriverboat.com) for a daytime ($9 for adults, $7 for seniors, $4 for children), jazz sunset ($7) or dinner and murder mystery cruises ($42-$49.50).
Discover some of the state’s most talented artists and artisans working in fine and funky styles and media in their studios and public exhibition spaces along the Rt. 15 Byway of the Arts (rt15arts.com). Don’t miss Harrisburg’s Jason Lyons, who creates phenomenal wildlife metal sculptures out of found objects.
Thrifty Tips: Enjoy just about any and every activity on City Island.
Get a free VIP Passport to Savings with coupons for discounts on activities, dining and shopping (717-231-7788, hersheyharrisburg.org).
Enjoy three big days of special events and family fun on City Island at the free Labor Day Weekend Kipona Celebration (717-255-3020), which features a chili cook-off, live music and theater, Native American pow wow and other activities too numerous to mention.
Page 3: Grape Escape: Finger Lakes, New York
Five wine trails bordering seven beautiful lakes, scenic sleepy towns and lively cities; there are a multitude of ways to explore New York’s Finger Lakes region. I selected the areas in and around the historic racing capital of Watkins Glen on Seneca Lake, the quiet rural village of Penn Yan on Keuka Lake and the vibrant college town of Ithaca on Cayuga Lake to give you some idea of the wide range of experiences you can enjoy there.
Drive time: Five hours to Watkins Glen.
Stay here: For pure peace, you won’t find a better spot than Penn Yan’s Top O’ the Lake Bed and Breakfast (128 South Ave.; 315-536-8070; topothelake.com), a charming mid-18th-century home with five guestrooms on four-and-a-half wooded acres ($120-$155).
In the cool Ithaca suburb of Trumansburg, Juniper Hill Mansion Bed & Breakfast (16 Elm St., 607-387-3044, atjuniperhill.com), combines the wow factor of museum-quality Impressionist art with warmth and wit. Blueberry lasagna for breakfast! ($199-$275.)
Eat here: Make sure you have a reservation at Hazelnut Kitchen (53 E. Main St., Trumansburg; 607-387-4433; hazelnutkitchen.com), a super-popular itty bitty eatery, with a thoughtful, non-fussy bistro menu. Entrées are $14-$25.
Pair the artisanal cheese plate ($14) at Simply Red Bistro at Sheldrake Point Vineyard (7448 Country Road 153; Ovid, 607-532-9401; sheldrakepoint.com; entrées are $10-$16), with an outstanding Riesling or the divine not-too-sweet Cab Franc ice wine.
Savor breakfast ($9-$13), lunch ($10-$12) or dinner ($19-$34) overlooking Seneca Lake at the new Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel’s Blue Pointe Grille (16 N. Franklin St.; 607-535-6116; watkinsglenharborhotel.com).
To-do list: Follow in the tracks of the racing legends on the daily Thunder Road Tour at Watkins Glen International (2790 County Road, Rt. 16; 607-535-2486; theglen.com; $25. August 5-8 is the world-renowned NASCAR race; September 10-12 the U.S. Vintage Grand Prix.
Watkins Glen-based Seneca Sailing Adventures (607-742-5100, senecasailingadventures.com) will take you on a glorious three-hour cruise on the 36-foot Lee Sea Anne I for $160 per couple.
You’ll spend hours visiting the more than 200 vendors at the Windmill Farm & Craft Market (3900 State Rt. 14A; Penn Yan; 315-536-3032; thewindmill.com).
Check out one of the world’s most complete mastodon skeletons and 4.5 billion years worth of other artifacts in please-touch exhibits at the Museum of the Earth (1259 Trumansburg Road, Ithaca; 607-273-6623, museumoftheearth.org; $8 for adults, $5 for seniors and students, $3 for children).
Visit Seneca Falls, site of the first Women’s Rights Convention in 1948, for some eye-opening insights into the achievements of American women past and present at the Women’s Rights National Historical Park (136 Fall St.; 315-568-2991; nps.gov; free admission) and National Women’s Hall of Fame (76 Fall St.; 315-568-8060, greatwomen.org; $3 for adults, $1.50 for seniors and students).
Thrifty tips: Join the locals for the charbroiled prime rib ($16.99) at Holly’s Red Rooster (12 Maiden Lane; Penn Yan; 315-536-9800).
You don’t have to be a vegetarian to crave the creations (under $10 for lunch, under $20 for dinner) at the legendary Moosewood Restaurant (215 N. Cayuga St., Dewitt Bldg.; Ithaca; 607-273-9610, moosewoodrestaurant.com).
Browse the blocks of boutiques on The Commons in downtown Ithaca (downtownithaca.com).
Frolic in the natural pool at the base of Buttermilk Falls (Rt. 13 South, Ithaca; 607-273-5761) or take a hike in Taughannock Falls State Park (2221 Taughannock Road, Trumansburg; 607-387-6739), where moviedom’s earliest “cliff hangers” were filmed. Contact nysparks.state.ny.us.
For free or, in some cases, a few dollars, you can do a tasting at any of the Finger Lakes wineries. Make one of them Hosmer Winery (6999 Rt. 89, Ovid; 607-869-3393, hosmerwinery.com) and its takes on Rieslings, Pinot Gris and summery native Cayuga.
Page 4: The Vine and Equines: Loudoun County, Virginia
With more than 300 acres of vineyards and over 20 boutique wineries, Loudoun County, Virginia, and the surrounding area, located 25 miles northwest of our nation’s capital, markets itself as “D.C.’s Wine Country.” But, in addition to being a libation destination, the area has long been renowned as Virginia’s horse country.
Stay here: Innkeepers Carol and Roger Healey are as charming as their six-guestroom (one with Jacuzzi), antique-decorated, circa 1760 home, The Norris House (108 Loudoun St., SW; Leesburg; 703-777-1806; norrishouse.com) in the heart of the historic town of Leesburg. Breakfast is a real treat, too. Rates are $130-$159 weekdays, $145-$199 weekends.
Eat here: A jovial authentic English pub in a mid-18th-century log cabin, Hunter’s Head Tavern (9048 John Mosby Hwy., Rt. 50; Upperville; 540-592-9020; huntersheadtavern.com) serves fish and chips-type fare ($7.95-$17.95) and fieldhand-size meat and potato entrées (try the liver—really!) priced at $17.95-$24.95.
So tiny it fills up really quickly (do make reservations), The Wine Kitchen (7 S. King St., Leesburg; 703-777-WINE; thewinekitchen.com) is the place for playful small plates such as “chicken and waffles”—quail, cornmeal waffles and bacon caramel syrup ($9-$17).
Don’t miss the Brownie Excess Bomb and other to-die-for desserts at Market Salamander (200 West Washington St., Middleburg; 540-687-8011, marketsalamander.com).
To-do list: Let Virginia Wine Adventures (877-VA-GRAPE, vawineadventures.com) drive you on a day-long guided tour, including lunch, of several wineries ($125 per person). Take a guided bike ride and winery visit with Trail’s End Cycling Co. (201 N. 23rd St., Purcellville; 540-338-2773; trailsendcycling.com); $75 per person plus $10 bike rental fee.
First a 19th-century working plantation, then an early-20th-century country-house, Oatlands Historic House and Gardens (20850 Oatlands Plantation Ln., Leesburg; 703-777-3174; oatlands.org) tells a tale of two families from two different eras. Guided tours are $10 for adults, $9 for seniors, $7 for students. Don’t miss the spectacular terraced gardens ($7 without house tour).
A restoration in progress, Historic Morven Park (17263 Southern Planter Lane, Leesburg; 703-777-2414, morvenpark.org), traces the evolution of a simple mid-18th-century fieldstone farmhouse to a grand Greek Revival mansion filled with global treasures. Guided tours are $7 for adults, $1 for children. Don’t miss the Winmill Carriage Museum with its 120 antique vehicles. Check the calendar for equestrian and Civil War-related events.
Play the 18 challenging holes at the super-scenic, Scottish-style, Gary Player-designed Raspberry Falls Golf & Hunt Club (41601 Raspberry Drive, Leesburg, 703-779-2555; raspberryfalls.com). Fees are $85 weekdays, $105 weekends.
Thrill to the 89th Middleburg Spring Races Glenwood Park Racecourse; 540-687-6545; middleburgspringraces.com), the oldest sanctioned annual steeplechase event in Virginia, on April 17; admission is $25 for ages 12 and older. And visit some of the area’s premier breeding and training facilities during the annual Memorial Day Weekend Hunt Country Stable Tour (540-592-3711, stable tour.middleburg.com; $25 per person).
Thrifty tips: Tuscarora Mill Restaurant (203 Harrison St., S.E. Market Station; Leesburg; 703-771-9300; tuskies.com), a.k.a. “Tuskies,” a local landmark for the past 20 years, serves super-yummy shrimp and truffled grits. ($9-$12 for lunch, most dinners under $20).
Bring your own barbecue fixings to grill while you sample the delectable Albariño, Viognier and Virginia native Norton at Chrysalis Vineyards (23876 Champe Ford Road, Middleburg; 540-687-8222, chrysaliswine.com). Taste “The Pig” (Norton), “The Cow” (Vidal Blanc) and other whimsically named wines while admiring the 60-mile view from Bluemont Vineyard (18755 Foggy Bottom Road, Bluemont; 540-554-8439; bluemontvineyard.com). Check out the work of local artists along with the Rhone and Bordeaux varietals at Hillsborough Vineyards (36716 Charles Town Pike, Purcellville; 540-668-6216; hillsboroughwine.com).
Spend a day browsing the one-of-a-kind antique shops, art galleries and retail in downtown Leesburg, Middleburg and Aldie.
Page 5: More Than Just Mansions: Newport, Rhode Island
Unless you have the wherewithal to paper your walls with platinum, the famed mansions that line Newport’s Bellevue Avenue will probably blow your mind. But, even in the “City By the Sea,” some of the best things in life are free—or, at least, inexpensive—whether it’s soaking up the sun on a pretty beach, soaking in the breathtaking water views from a cliffside path, beachside trail or oceanside road, or chowing down on a scrumptious “stuffie.”
Drive time: five-and-one-half hours.
Stay here: Newport-grand, but warm and welcoming, Francis Malbone House Bed and Breakfast (392 Thames St.; 800-846-0392; malbone.com), offers haute accommodations in a restored circa-1760 harbor-side mansion. Included are gourmet breakfast and elaborate afternoon tea ($265-$375 for rooms, $395-$425 for suites, some with Jacuzzis).
Eat here: At Spiced Pear (The Chanler at Cliff Walk, 117 Memorial Blvd.; 401-847-2244; spicedpear.com) executive chef, Kyle Ketchum, uses a skilled yet restrained hand to create deeply flavorful dishes for three- to nine-course tasting menus ($69-$140).
Tucker’s Bistro (150 Broadway; 401-846-3449; tuckersbistro.com) is a local favorite for innovative fare, including many gluten-free options; most entrées are between $20 and $30.
From New England oysters to Texas antelope, Castle Hill Inn & Resort (590 Ocean Drive, 401-849-3885, castlehillinn.com) executive chef, Jonathan Cambra creates amazing combinations of local and exotic ingredients. ($69 for three-course tasting).
To-do list: If you see only one of the nine majestic Preservation Society of Newport County (401-847-1000, newportmansions.org) Gilded Age mansions, make it Cornelius Vanderbilt II’s The Breakers—the one with the platinum walls ($18 for adults, $4.50 for children). Mansion tour ticket packages are available, including five sites for $31 for adults, $10 for children. For Newport life from a different perspective, take the “backstairs” tour at The Elms ($15 for adults, $4.50 for children).
Explore the beach trails on horseback on a 1 ½-hour ($75 group tour/$100 private) or two-hour ($85 group/$125 private) guided ride with Newport Equestrian Academy (287 Third Beach Road, Middletown; 401-848-5440; newportequestrian.com).
Help hoist the sails and take a turn at the wheel during your 1 ¾-hour day ($30) or sunset ($35) excursion on the Schooner Aquidneck (32 Bowen’s Wharf; 401-849-3333; sightsailing.com). You can also rent Jet Skis ($110) or a 13-foot Boston Whaler ($60) for cruising or fishing from Adventure Watersports Rentals (401-849-4820, newportriwatersports.com).
See the mansions and more from the air with Bird’s Eye View Helicopters (Newport State Airport, Middletown; 401-843-8687; birdseyeviewcopters.com; $59-$89 per person).
Enjoy some of the biggest names in music at the 51st Newport Folk Festival (July 30-August 1) and 56th Newport Jazz Festival (August 6-8). Call (401) 848-5055 for information and ticket prices.
Thrifty tips: Park for $2 a day at the Rhode Island Public Transit Company hub (23 America’s Cup Ave., 401-781-9400, ripta.com) and buy a $5 pass for unlimited travel to many of the city’s main attractions.
Parking costs $10-$15 dollars a day, but the fun on Easton’s Beach (401-845-5810, cityofnewport.com) with boardwalk is free.
You can spend hours strolling high above Narragansett Bay along the 3 ½-mile long wildflower-lined Cliff Walk, which winds behind many of the mansions.
Rent a bike ($25 per day at Scooters of Newport, 476 Thames St., 401-619-0573, scootersofnewport.com), pack a picnic and cruise the famous super-scenic 10-mile Ocean Drive.
Stay at the family-owned Hamilton Village Inn (642 Boston Neck Road, 401-295-0700, hamiltonvillageinn.com), about 20 minutes southeast of Newport ($99-$139).
Eat your fill of the jam-packed-with-goodies giant quahogs called “stuffies” (described by some as “clams casino on steroids) for $2.50 each at Anthony’s Seafood (963 Aquidneck Ave., Middletown; 401-846-9620; anthonysseafood.net). Other sandwiches under $10, most dinners $20 and under.