3 Northeastern Weekend Getaways
Published: January 2011
By Peter Jon Lindberg, Heather Smith MacIsaac, Meeghan Truelove
The seaside charms of southern Maine; antiquing in the Hudson River Valley; and Virginia’s emerging wine country.
Maine’s Southern Coast
(260 miles round-trip from Boston)
This is Maine at its most alluring: a rich landscape where sunrise on a sandy beach can be followed by a hike through a mist-shrouded wildlife preserve, where a lobster-roll lunch can precede an afternoon of blueberry picking, where Skee-Ball by the boardwalk can segue into a candelit dinner at a country inn. Our list of favorites for a weekend away is as much about the land as the sea—pine forests and Colonial-era villages meet lighthouses, harbors, and the spray of the surf.
Lay of the Land
Right over the New Hampshire border, about an hour from Boston, Kittery is best known for outlet shopping, but its tranquil residential enclaves are a world apart: woodsy Kittery Point has a top-notch lobster shack and a virtually undiscovered state park, Fort Foster. • Next up the coast are the Yorks: Rockwellian York Village, blue-blooded York Harbor, and honky-tonk York Beach, where old-time motels, ice cream parlors, and arcades face the sand. Off nearby Cape Neddick stands whitewashed Nubble Light, the state’s most celebrated lighthouse. • A low-key version of Provincetown, gay-friendly Ogunquit is a long-standing artists’ haven (several galleries line Shore Road). It has the loveliest beach on the coast, framed by grassy dunes and a tidal river. Walk the oceanfront Marginal Way foot-path to Perkins Cove, a minuscule marina traversed by a pedestrian-only wooden drawbridge. • The Bush family may have put Kennebunkport (and its sister village, Kennebunk) on the national map, but old money has been ensconced here for ages—only now those elegant captain’s mansions and Federalist houses have luxury sedans parked out front. For all the patrician polish, there remains a salty authenticity to the “K’bunks,” especially beside the marina, along the beaches, and in the many lobster pounds lining the shore. • Forty-five minutes away lies Portland (population 64,500), which may seem like a small town on paper but is Maine’s largest and most cosmopolitan city, with eclectic shopping and a thriving culinary scene. For the quintessential Maine coast experience, catch a ferry at the Casco Bay Lines terminal to one of the hundreds of islands in breezy, briny Casco Bay.
—Peter Jon Lindberg
Boston to Cape Neddick: 72 miles
Cape Neddick to Ogunquit: 9 miles
Ogunquit to Kennebunkport: 12 miles
Kennebunkport to Portland: 30 miles
Hudson River Valley
(250 miles round-trip from NYC)
Just in time for the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s initial voyage up the river, the Hudson Valley has emerged from a deep slumber. The landmark mansions and mom-and-pop storefronts have been joined by galleries, performance spaces, and flourishing restaurants; locals run the gamut from farmers to art-world heavy hitters (is that Brice Marden at the local tavern?). History meets new energy in our ideal weekend mix.
Lay of the Land
The small cities of Hudson and Beacon bookend this stretch of the Hudson River Valley, with larger Poughkeepsie in the middle. All three suffered a period of decline in the 20th century, but have since gone to great lengths to spruce up their main streets, lined with 18th- and 19th-century buildings running perpendicular to the Hudson River. Hudson in particular has scarcely a vacant storefront left; galleries and cafés join the antiques shops on Warren Street, where goods range from the ancient to the modern—a Sheraton looking glass to a set of Frank Lloyd Wright tables. Spend a lazy afternoon browsing the 12,000-plus volumes at Hudson City Books. • Further downriver, in Annandale-on-Hudson, the Frank Gehry–designed Fisher Center for the Performing Arts landed like a meteor on the Bard College campus, its rippling sheets of stainless steel startling and spectacular amid a landscape still dominated by farms, stone walls, and Calvert Vaux cottages. • Nearby villages Tivoli, Red Hook, and Rhinebeck are abuzz with new enterprises in art, music, and food (just try to find a chain restaurant outlet amid the pick-your-own orchards and cut-your-own flower fields). • Even before the arrival of Dia:Beacon in 2003, artists were already homing in on Beacon as an affordable alternative to New York, but the opening of the contemporary art venue immediately catapulted the working-class town from former “hat-making capital of the U.S.” to essential destination on the international art map. As befits the so-called Brooklyn North, galleries—more than 10 on Main Street alone—dominate the brick storefronts; Homespun Foods, the local coffee spot, percolates all day long; and a resourceful, communal attitude prevails.
—Heather Smith MacIsaac
New York City to Beacon: 62 miles
Beacon to Annandale-on-Hudson: 39 miles
Annandale-on-Hudson to Hudson: 22 miles
Virginia Wine Country
280 miles round-trip from D.C.
East of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Piedmont region of Virginia still has the same rolling hills and fields that captivated Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe—only now it lures the likes of locals John Grisham and Robert Duvall. Country lanes wind through villages of trim clapboard structures and around pastures framed by white fences. Recently, progressive farms and serious wineries have blossomed, but life continues at a blissfully slow pace.
Lay of the Land
JFK and Jackie may have put Middleburg in the national spotlight when they chose it for their weekend escape from D.C., but it’s long been loved by the horsey set for its polished, hunt-country style. Dignified estates, where the paddocks and barns are as well kept as the houses, ring the compact, low-key downtown. Tucked away from busy Route 211, tiny Washington (69 miles from Washington, D.C.) still occupies the same five-block by two-block grid laid out by the first president himself. The neat-as-a-pin brick municipal buildings would seem out of a period movie if the town weren’t so vibrant. The Inn at Little Washington draws a well-heeled crowd that has helped turn the community into an impressive hotbed of culture, with two theaters and a clutch of excellent galleries. In the past two decades, the Main Street of Culpeper has gone from run-down Americana relic to lively commercial hub. On the town’s southern outskirts, Chuck Miller turns corn into Virginia Lightning, using an old family recipe and one of the state’s only legal moonshine stills. Moseying speed is best for sampling the area’s small burgs. On a stroll through Madison, on rural Route 231, you’ll find an old wooden church converted into a quilt shop, a diner where high school teams gather postgame to wolf down fried cheesecake, and front porches meant for lingering. Charlottesville may be best known as home to the University of Virginia, but much of the action revolves around the pedestrian mall, where a free-speech monument—a massive slate wedge with chalk for passersby to scrawl their thoughts—was just unveiled in front of City Hall. Our founding fathers would be proud.
Washington, D.C. to Middleburg: 42 miles
Middleburg to Washington, Va.: 43 miles
Washington, Va. to Charlottesville: 58 miles
Where to Stay
THE NEWCOMER Set on 60 wooded acres, Hidden Pond (354 Goose Rocks Rd., Kennebunkport; 888/967-9050; hiddenpondmaine.com; doubles from $695) opened last summer; each of its 14 two-bedroom cottages has a full kitchen, screened porch, and outdoor shower. Breakfast arrives by golf cart.
THE SYBARITE The White Barn Inn (37 Beach Ave., Kennebunkport; 207/967-2321; whitebarninn.com; doubles from $450) occupies a gracefully updated 1865 farmhouse; whirlpool tubs don’t feel out of place next to sleigh beds and English antiques.
ON THE WATER Sister property to the White Barn Inn, the Yachtsman Lodge & Marina (57 Ocean Ave., Kennebunkport; 207/967-2511; yachtsmanlodge.com; doubles from $319) is a chic converted motel beside the Kennebunk River. Rooms have cathedral ceilings, beadboard paneling, and French doors.
Great Value At the 20-room Captain Lord Mansion (6 Pleasant St., Kennebunkport; 207/ 967-3141; captainlord.com; doubles from $169), a pale yellow 1812 folly with Federal-era antiques and stately fireplaces, sip iced tea in the shade of the chestnut trees.
Where to Eat & Drink
STAR CHEF Sleek, modern Blue Sky (2 Beach St., York Beach; 207/363-0050; dinner for two $125) is a new entry from celebrated Boston chef Lydia Shire, whose menu includes her famous lobster pizza (way better than it sounds).
INTIMATE GEM In a 1774 clapboard house facing busy Route 1, Joshua Mather of Joshua’s (1637 Post Rd., Wells; 207/646-3355; dinner for two $90) delves into his family’s garden with inspired results. One highlight: potage of leek and potato spiked with Parma ham and neon-green chive oil.
SEASIDE BISTRO Wraparound picture windows frame knockout ocean views at MC Perkins Cove (111 Perkins Cove Rd., Ogunquit; 207/646-6263; dinner for two $100), which serves up plank-roasted cod and deconstructed clam chowder.
DOWN-HOME LOBSTER The Clam Shack (2 Western Ave., Kennebunkport; 207/967-2560; lobster rolls for two $25) has our pick for best lobster roll, on a toasted hamburger bun.
LOCAL SECRET A fixture since 1948, Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier (16 Chauncey Creek Rd., Kittery Point; 207/439-1030; lobsters market price) feels like a lobster bake in someone’s backyard. Choose your catch from the tank and enjoy it on a riverside picnic table; BYO everything else.
DECADENT DISH It’s worth the hour-plus wait for one of the copper-topped tables set around an open kitchen at Fore Street (288 Fore St., Portland; 207/775-2717; dinner for two $100). Start with oysters, then order the wood-grilled harlequin quail, basted in a stock of shiitakes, veal, and duck fat.
BEST DOUGHNUTS EVER Take your pick of fluffy raised ones or the dense, cakelike variety at Congdon’s (1090 Post Rd., Wells; 207/646-4219), which opens at 6 a.m. and sometimes sells out of doughnuts by noon.
What to See & Do
QUIET ESCAPE An 88-acre town park, Fort Foster (Pocahontas Rd., Kittery Point; 207/439-3800) has the remains of a circa-1910 naval bunker.
COASTAL ICON From the rocky headlands of Cape Neddick, gaze at the famed Nubble Lighthouse. (The pulley and cable stretching across the channel were used by the keeper to collect supplies.)
SUMMER STOCK The Ogunquit Playhouse (10 Main St., Ogunquit; 207/646-5511) is one of the longest-running repertory theaters in the country.
INTO THE WILD The 5,300 acres of white pine forest and salt marsh in the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge (Wells; 207/646-9226) are a bird-watcher’s idyll—and easily explored via a mile-long nature trail.
Where to Stay
ON THE RIVER After a five-year renovation, the 1854 Rhinecliff Hotel (4 Grinnell St., Rhinecliff; 845/876-0590; therhinecliff.com; doubles from $240) is once again a bustling hub. The nine rooms have balconies that seem to float over the Hudson. Fair warning: they also hover over Rhinecliff Station’s railroad tracks, so be prepared to hear the whistle blow.
COUNTRY CHIC Tivoli has one main intersection, and it’s anchored by the Madalin Hotel (53 Broadway, Tivoli; 845/757-2100; madalinhotel.com; doubles from $199). The 11 rooms mix old and new, as in flat-screen TV’s atop antique bureaus. Pub grub and a carved 19-foot-long bar make the downstairs tavern a neighborhood hot spot.
Where to Eat & Drink
HOT TABLE Thanks to the recently opened DABA (225 Warren St., Hudson; 518/249-4631; dinner for two $100), Hudson finally graduates to destination dining.
SWEET SPOT Long lines are the norm at Holy Cow (7270 S. Broadway, Red Hook; 845/758-5959), an ice cream spot that’s especially popular after the nearby multiplex lets out. Sweetest of all: friendly service and retro prices ($1 for a kiddie cone, $3 for a brownie sundae).
PASTA CENTRAL Diners jam the homey Mercato (61 E. Market St., Red Hook; 845/758-5879; dinner for two $60) for chef Francesco Buitoni’s homemade pappardelle and a chance to spy what Mario Batali (Buitoni’s former boss) just ordered.
ROADSIDE GEM From the window of a cute-as-a-bug trailer emerge fat burritos and guacamole-topped quesadillas—and that’s just about the entire menu at Bubby’s (Rte. 9G at Rte. 199, Red Hook; no phone; lunch for two $12), a summer-only operation. Chow down at a picnic table in the shade.
BURGER TIME Choose your own bun, cheese, sauce, and extras to dress the Coleman natural-beef burger at Terrapin Red Bistro (6426 Montgomery St., Rhinebeck; 845/876-3330; dinner for two $25). Save room for house-made cookies across the street at indie movie house Upstate Films (6415 Montgomery St., Rhinebeck; 845/876-2515).
What to See & Do
ON POINTE Set on an estate that once belonged to Eleanor Roosevelt’s grandparents, Kaatsbaan (120 Broadway, Tivoli; 845/757-5106; kaatsbaan.org) provides dance companies with studios and a performance space as large as the Metropolitan Opera stage. Check the calendar for shows from the likes of the American Ballet Theatre.
CAMPUS RADICAL At Bard College, Frank Gehry’s Fisher Center for the Performing Arts (Annandale-on-Hudson; 845/758-7900; bard.edu/fishercenter) hosts cultural events as creative as its architecture. For four weeks this summer, the Spiegeltent, a mirrored pavilion staging everything from circus acts to saucy cabaret, sets up camp.
WORLDLY GOODS A stationery store extra-ordinaire, Paper Trail (6423 Montgomery St., Rhinebeck; 845/876-8050) stocks whimsical gifts and housewares: birdhouses, bookends, ribbons, and hand-blocked quilts from India.
HIGH ROAD Few public works aim as high, literally, as the old Poughkeepsie Highland Railroad Bridge—now called the Walkway over the Hudson (Poughkeepsie; walkway.org), which is currently being revamped. When it reopens in October 2009, it will be the longest pedestrian bridge in the world, spanning 1.28 miles across the river.
ART XXL No New York institution displays monumental modern art better than Dia: Beacon (3 Beekman St., Beacon; 845/440-0100; diabeacon.org). The former Nabisco factory shows notable works like Richard Serra’s 1997 Torqued Ellipses.
Where to Stay
GRANDE DAME The Inn at Little Washington (Middle and Main Sts., Washington; 540/675-3800; theinnatlittlewashington.com; doubles from $510, dinner for two $300) is a cocoon of Brunschwig & Fils fabrics and impeccable service. Chef-owner Patrick O’Connell has a sly sense of humor that keeps things from getting too twee. The restaurant serves haute American fare, complete with a cow-shaped cheese cart announced by the clang of an old-fashioned dairy bell.
GEORGIAN VILLA Occupying a stately manor and its 18th-century cottage, rooms at the 1804 Inn (17655 Winery Rd., Barboursville; 540/832-5384; barboursvillewine.net; doubles from $225) have original wide-planked floors and period oil paintings. The picturesque ruins of a Thomas Jefferson–designed house are a quick stroll away through a boxwood garden.
Great Value Built by a master carpenter on the edge of the University of Virginia campus in 1817, the eight-room Dinsmore House (1211 W. Main St., Charlottesville; 877/882-7829 or 434/974-4663; dinsmorehouse.com; doubles from $159) retains its Federal-era charm with carved fireplace mantels and four-poster beds.
Where to Eat & Drink
SPANISH FLAIR At Mas (501 Monticello Rd., Charlottesville; 434/979-0990; dinner for two $60), chef Tomas Rahal turns out authentic tapas (grilled gambas, killer tortilla) in an industrial-chic space defined by a poured-concrete counter.
REGIONAL PRIDE Dishes at wood-beam–ceilinged The Local (824 Hinton Ave., Charlottesville; 434/984-9749; dinner for two $50) showcase homegrown ingredients, as in Blue Ridge Mountain brook trout with Cajun rémoulade. Virginia gets its own section on the wine list.
PIT STOP The juicy pulled-pork platter at Pig-N-Steak (313 Washington St., Madison; 540/948-3130; lunch for two $21) draws ‘cue fans from across the state. Sides of sugary baked beans and heaps of crispy fries don’t hurt either.
PICNIC FIXINGS The hive of shops at the Main Street Market (416 W. Main St., Charlottesville) includes Feast! (434/244-7800), for artisanal cheese from nearby farms, and Gearharts Chocolates (434/972-9100), which spikes its ganache bonbons with ancho chile and candied ginger.
WHOLE HOG For more than 40 years, folks have flocked to Calhoun’s Country Hams (211 S. East St., Culpeper; 540/825-8319) for hand-rubbed, air-cured meats. Sandwiches are piled high with silky slices; pick up a bone-in whole ham to bring home.
What to See & Do
GRAPE TOUR Serious vintners have taken Virginia wine making from novelty act to professional pursuit. White Hall Vineyards (5282 Sugar Ridge Rd., White Hall; 434/823-8615) makes a jammy Petit Verdot. Italian-owned Barboursville Vineyards (17655 Winery Rd., Barboursville; 540/832-3824) produces top-notch Barberas and Sangioveses. The just-opened Mountfair Vineyards (4875 Fox Mountain Rd., Crozet; 434/823-7605) focuses on small-batch, Bordeaux-style blends.
MASTER BUILDER The ultimate country-squire estate, Monticello (931 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy., Charlottesville; 434/984-9822; monticello.org) was the life’s work of Thomas Jefferson. A new 42,000-square-foot visitors’ center debuts this month. Or check out his other local creation, the University of Virginia (434/982-3200; virginia.edu); tours are held daily.
TOP SHOPS Around Charlottesville’s trendy Warehouse District, Bittersweet (313 Second St. S.E.; 434/977-5977) sells flirty silk tops and Frye boots; Georgie (126 Garrett St.; 434/295-5001) has dresses by Alice+Olivia and 3.1 Phillip Lim; and Pillow Mint (310 Second St. S.E.; 434/293-3582) stocks John Robshaw quilts and Blissliving bedsheets.