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.
Litchfield Plantation Kings River Rd., Pawleys Island, S.C.; 800/869-1410 or 843/237-9121, fax 843/237-8558; doubles from $88, including continental breakfast. On a finger of land between the Waccamaw River and the Atlantic Ocean, this Carolina Low Country inn is a gentleman planter's dream estate, with a lustrous vermilion dining room, a library paneled in polished mahogany, perilously high four-poster rice beds, and a quarter-mile-long avenue of Spanish moss-draped live oaks leading up to the blindingly white main house. Built in 1750 as a working plantation, the house is surrounded by lingering remnants of antebellum life: former rice fields that are now home to gators and waterfowl; an indigo-drying building made from sand, mud, and oyster shells; a few cockfighting chairs, with attached tables where gamblers could lay their money down; even Dr. Tucker, a former owner whose ghost is said to haunt the grounds. Enjoy the early-fall weather: play a game of tennis on one of the Har-Tru courts, walk in the well-tended pecan grove, or take a dip at the beach, where the water is still a seductive 80 degrees.
Lake Placid Lodge Whiteface Inn Rd., Lake Placid, N.Y.; 518/523-2700, fax 518/523-1124; doubles from $300, including breakfast and afternoon tea. Live like a robber baron on retreat in Great Camp style with Adirondack-style twig beds, imposing granite fireplaces in every room, and tubs with wilderness views. During the day, fish or canoe on the lake or the nearby Ausable River. At sunset, admire the fire-colored waters and trees from your own three-sided lean-to supplied with warm blankets, a pit for building fires, marshmallows for roasting, and a No Vacancy sign.
Inn at Langley 400 First St., Langley, Wash.; phone and fax 360/221-3033; doubles from $199, including continental breakfast. A short ferry ride across the Saratoga Passage delivers you to Whidbey Island, where the Inn at Langley has soothed harried guests for a decade. How?There's a simple formula: a five-course feast culled from the island's bounty every weekend; private 10-by-10-foot decks laden with plants; and a view of the moody waters from your bubbling in-room whirlpool.
Canoe Bay Hogback Rd., Chetek, Wis.; 800/568-1995 or 715/924-4594, fax 715/924-2078; doubles from $270, including breakfast. On departure day, one bewitched guest said to her husband, "Say hi to the kids for me." She couldn't bring herself to leave a place where the only sound you hear is the call of a lonesome loon, where mulled wine and down wraps are served on the wooden decks, and where each of the 18 rooms is a paean to peace.
L'Auberge Provençale 13630 Rte. 340, White Post, Va.; 800/638-1702 or 540/837-1375, fax 540/837-2004; doubles from $145, including breakfast. Stocked with great-grandmother's copper pots and Souleiado fabrics, this 1753 stone house overlooks more greenery than Provence could ever hope for. Breakfast is all that the French setting might suggest: hot croissants, poached eggs on brioche with spinach and quail, even lobster frittata.
Mansion Inn 9 S. Main St., New Hope, Pa.; 215/862-1231, fax 215/862-0277; doubles from $195, including breakfast. New Hope is the perfect hub for exploring bucolic Bucks County. And since 1995, when it became an inn offering nine rooms, this butter-yellow 1865 Victorian has been the place to lay your head. After a hearty breakfast, leave New Hope's hustle and bustle behind and drive the meandering River Road north along the peaceful, and surprisingly undeveloped, Delaware River. Turn off on any side road to find 18th-century stone houses standing in fields, or to search for one of Bucks County's 11 remaining historic covered bridges.
Inn at Bay Harbor 3600 Village Harbor Dr., Bay Harbor, Mich.; 800/462-6963 or 231/439-4000, fax 231/439-4094; doubles from $165. When the first guests at the inn's South American Lounge arrived, the husband went to order a drink and the wife sat down to cry. The bar so faithfully recaptured the atmosphere of its inspiration, a Lake Michigan touring schooner on which the couple had spent the night of their 1947 prom, that the woman was overcome with nostalgia. For a 130-room hotel bent on re-creating the lakeshore's rich past, her tears were the ultimate sign of success. Historic reminders are everywhere at this just-opened beacon on Lake Michigan: a council ring, where Ojibwas and Odawas sat on limestone slabs around a roaring fire; Victorian architectural details such as octagonal towers and miles of crown molding; even big-band music playing through speakers under the porte cochère. A croquet lawn, three golf courses, and a pool edged in blue stone are but a few of the place's diversions. But you could just as easily be waylaid by the pillow-top mattresses, down comforters, and 300-count cotton sheets on every bed in the cheery rooms.
Inn at Sunrise Point Fire Rd. 9 off Rte. 1, Camden, Maine; 800/435-6278 or 207/236-7716, fax 207/236-0820; doubles from $160, including breakfast. Through the windows of each of the four cottages and three main-house rooms, views of ruby-red maples and the sapphire sea gleam—throw them open before bed, and let the lull of the waves off Penobscot Bay woo you to sleep. The place closes down at the end of October, but not before bright orange pumpkins and sunny mums have taken over the grounds.
Deerfield Inn 81 Old Main St., Deerfield, Mass.; 800/926-3865 or 413/774-5587, fax 413/775-7221; doubles from $180, including breakfast. Highfliers like the Aga Khan and Charles Schwab stay at the Deerfield when they want to get away from it all. The inn is right on "the Street," Old Deerfield's famed thoroughfare lined with 18th- and 19th-century houses (many open to the public), so to step outside is to feel as if you're in another time. The proprietors, part of the Historic Deerfield organization, call the neighborhood their American Brigadoon. Furnished with items from Historic Deerfield's renowned collection of Colonial decorative arts, the inn's public rooms and each of the 23 guest rooms are indeed an atmospheric time warp.
An approximate guide to peak fall color across the United States
Inn at Thorn Hill, Jackson Village, N.H.
Shaker Inn, Enfield, N.H.
The Equinox, Manchester Village, Vt.
Lake Placid Lodge, Lake Placid, N.Y.
Inn at Cooperstown, Cooperstown, N.Y.
Inn at Bay Harbor, Bay Harbor, Mich.
Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, Mich.
Canoe Bay, Chetek, Wis.
Inn at Sunrise Point, Camden, Maine
Deerfield Inn, Deerfield, Mass.
The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Mayflower Inn, Washington, Conn.
Mansion Inn, New Hope, Pa.
Inn at Little Washington, Washington, Va.
L'Auberge Provençale, White Post, Va.
Inn at Langley, Langley, Wash.
Holly Inn, Village of Pinehurst, N.C.
Litchfield Plantation, Pawleys Island, S.C.
MacArthur Place, Sonoma, Calif.
Timberhill Ranch, Cazadero, Calif.
Malia Boyd is a freelance writer living in New Orleans.