You've had your summer holiday and you should be content. So why do you find yourself staring wistfully out the window as late-summer green gives way to early-fall orange?Well, stop staring and grab the car keys. Whether you want to bask in summer's last gasp at a beach resort or catch the inferno of maples and birches in their autumn getups, here are 20 places where you and your beloved can escape for one last cozy retreat before Old Man Winter puts everything to sleep.
Inn at Cooperstown 16 Chestnut St., Cooperstown, N.Y.; 800/437-6303 or 607/547-5756, fax 607/547-8779; doubles from $98, including continental breakfast. Built by the same man who designed the Dakota and the Plaza in New York City, this 18-room small-town cousin is a haven for urbanites who escape upstate to attend the Glimmerglass Opera, play the public-yet-prestigious Leatherstocking Golf Course, peruse the Fenimore Art Museum, and pay homage to the greats at the Baseball Hall of Fame. But if you never leave your rocker on the porch shaded by 100-year-old golden sugar maples, no one would dream of faulting you.
Holly Inn Village of Pinehurst, N.C.; 800/487-4653 or 910/295-6811, fax 910/215-8270; doubles from $1,470 for two nights, including one round of golf, breakfast, and dinner each day. Though Pinehurst's first golf course and inn were built at about the same time, it's golf that has reigned supreme for 100 years. But the venerable inn's recent multimillion-dollar renovation may change that, leaving golfers torn between inn luxuries such as daily butlered tea service, and the lure of the nearby fairways.
Mayflower Inn 118 Woodbury Rd. (Rte. 47), Washington, Conn.; 860/868-9466, fax 860/868-1497; doubles from $350. Details make the 25-room Mayflower: restorative bottled water from Fiji at turndown; house-smoked salmon at breakfast; homemade soaps and lotions in the mahogany-paneled bathrooms; orchids in every room. Explore the last blooms of the Shakespeare Garden, filled with plants and flowers mentioned in the sonnets. There are also trail maps on hand—the 1,200-acre Steeprock Nature Preserve, a few minutes away, is a great place to see the leaves turn. September is the kindest month.
Shaker Inn 447 Rte. 4A, Enfield, N.H.; 603/632-7810, fax 603/632-7922; doubles from $105, including breakfast. "'Tis a gift to be simple," says a famous Shaker hymn. That refrain was taken to heart during the restoration of the 1841 Great Stone Dwelling, which opened as an inn last summer. The result is dazzlingly simple without being at all spartan. Each of the 24 rooms is an altar of order: there's a total of 200 built-in cupboards and 300 built-in drawers, yards of peg rail, and museum-quality recessed shutters. Want to really live like a Shaker?Room 1, with its cool plaster walls, blue-and-white quilts, and views of a nearby 2,000-acre nature preserve, is the most meticulously restored chamber in the house. The food hasn't escaped the Shaker influence, either. The sect promoted the cultivation and use of fresh herbs in cooking, and the inn's chef makes a daily pilgrimage to the garden to harvest that evening's flavors. The Enfield Shaker Museum, next door, is doing its part to bring back the peaceful feel of this village on the shores of Lake Mascoma. A current project: turning a large parking lot into an apple orchard.
Inn at Little Washington Middle and Main Sts., Washington, Va.; 540/675-3800, fax 540/675-3100; doubles from $340, including continental breakfast. Famous as a culinary mecca, this 14-room inn is also a great place to spend the night. Especially now, thanks to a just-completed $5 million renovation and expansion. Guests can sit at one of two new chef's tables in the kitchen. The public rooms have parquet floors brought over from a French château; hand-painted Venetian silk fixtures illuminate swooping, down-stuffed cobalt blue banquettes; and whimsical painted monkeys cavort on the walls of the bar. Decadent fabrics cover every remaining surface—even the ceilings. It's like a vacation in a jewel box.
The Equinox Historic Rte. 7A, Manchester Village, Vt.; 800/362-4747 or 802/362-4700, fax 802/362-4861; doubles from $179. On a 2,300-acre spread, you can handle birds of prey at the falconry school, kick up mud in an off-road driving class, or hike amid the spruces and firs on Mount Equinox. Sure, you could always settle for a hot muslin wrap at the spa or cuddle up in the four-poster bed of the Eisenhower Suite, but you'd be missing the point of this 183-room resort whose motto is, The great outdoors is just outside our door.
Grand Hotel Mackinac Island, Mich.; 800/334-7263 or 906/847-3331, fax 906/847-3259; doubles from $422, including breakfast and five-course dinner. The 113-year-old Grand lives up to its name. With 343 individually decorated rooms, grounds and gardens that would shame Versailles, and dessert tables that go on for miles, it's no wonder well-heeled Midwesterners clamor for rooms at this island retreat year after year. Hurry: The grand old season lasts only through October.
MacArthur Place 29 E. MacArthur St., Sonoma, Calif.; 800/722-1866 or 707/938-2929, fax 707/933-9833; doubles from $200, including continental breakfast. While the white picket fence and Victorian façade say New England, the smell of crushed grapes in the fall air is pure California wine country. The 150-year-old main house is but a shell of its former self — literally. The exterior was left largely untouched when the interior was gutted a year ago and updated to make way for massive showers, CD players, and walk-in closets. But botanical prints, chinoiserie lamps, and antique daybeds keep the 35 guest rooms (some in cottages) true to their 19th-century roots. The grounds are also a hybrid of old and new. Guests can glide through New Age relaxation classes under 150-year-old magnolias, and the 1857 barn houses a high-tech conference center and 60-seat restaurant. Amid the roses and lavender, it's easy to imagine you're on a country estate. But walk beyond that picket fence, and you're just five minutes from Sonoma's historic plaza.
The Broadmoor 1 Lake Ave., Colorado Springs, Colo.; 800/634-7711 or 719/634-7711, fax 719/577-5700; doubles from $295. This 700-room pink stucco resort feels like a mammoth Italian villa 6,000 feet up in the Rockies. In September, the aspens are just putting on their fall costumes, while the daytime temperature clings to 70. It's the perfect time to see the resort's 3,000 acres via mountain bike, horseback, or hot-air balloon.
Inn at Thorn Hill Thornhill Rd., Jackson Village, N.H.; 800/289-8990 or 603/383-4242, fax 603/383-8062; doubles from $225, including breakfast and dinner. Stanford White paid special attention to light when he designed this house in 1895. Stained-glass panels cast colorful glows in the parlor and guest rooms, while innumerable windows frame autumnal views of Mount Washington. The dining room is also a major draw; locals reserve weeks in advance for Friday and Saturday nights. The huge breakfasts—strawberry-stuffed French toast with chicken-apple sausage, for example—are perfect leaf-peeping fuel.
Timberhill Ranch 35755 Hauser Bridge Rd., Cazadero, Calif.; 800/847-3470 or 707/847-3258, fax 707/847-3342; doubles from $395, including breakfast and six-course dinner. If it's sheer privacy you're looking for, head straight to cottage No. 14, with its valley views and redwood-shaded deck. But each of the 15 cedar cottages on the 80-acre hillside property has the essentials for any escapee: a fireplace, no television or phone, and a jar full of still-warm oatmeal cookies on arrival.