Q: Can you suggest an easy long-weekend getaway spot on the East Coast with an old-world feel? —Ron Wilensky, Orlando, Fla.
A: Here are three small towns that offer history and local charm. In New York’s Finger Lakes region, Skaneateles’s downtown has restored houses dating back to the late 1800’s. The rooms at the Sherwood Inn—a former stagecoach stop—have lake views and fireplaces ( doubles from $145). Set on Massachusetts Bay, a half-hour drive north of Boston, historic Marblehead is a fishermen’s enclave with brick sidewalks and shipbuilders’ mansions. At the laid-back tavern Maddie’s Sail Loft (dinner for two $30), locals gather to dine on fresh seafood dishes such as lobster mac and cheese. A popular weekend getaway for skiers, 200-year-old Stowe, Vermont, appeals even to nonskiers, thanks to shops such as Cotswold Furniture Makers, which carries classic English-style furniture.
Q: I often see packages with hotel add-ons such as a spa or dining credit through online booking engines like Expedia or Travelocity. How can I be sure I’m really getting a deal? —Sophie Taylor, Atlanta, Ga.
A: “Almost all of these packages offer some savings, but you’ll have to do the legwork to find out how much,” says T+L contributing editor Andrea Bennett. “You might find that the price of the package is actually more than the sum of its parts.” Your best bet is to compare the package price with its à la carte cost by calling the hotel. Be wary of amenities that you might get anyway—such as the promise of free valet parking in a hotel that already has it—and remember to ask whether the property places any restrictions on activity credits. You’re guaranteed to be disappointed if you have to order from a “special” (read: limited) menu if your package includes a dining credit. For more on value-added packages, see 9 Money-Saving Travel Tips.
Q: Are there any guidelines I should follow while visiting Istanbul’s sacred mosques? —Stephen Bartow, Berkeley, Calif.
A: When you’re staying in a city that has more than 2,000 religious sites, knowing proper etiquette is advisable. According to Gazi Erdem, attaché for religious affairs at the Turkish Consulate in New York City, travelers should dress modestly, in long pants or skirts and long-sleeved shirts, and women should wear head scarves (frequently visited mosques like Süleymaniye Camii and Fatih Mosque lend them). Once inside, use common sense: Speak softly, stay within designated tourist areas, and don’t take flash photos during prayer time.
Ask an Expert: T+L Contributing Editors Matt Lee & Ted Lee
Q: I’d like to spend a long weekend on a culinary tour of the South. Any restaurant recommendations? —Bonnie Silverman, Kennebunkport, Maine
A: “Memphis is the perfect jumping-off point for a Southern road trip,” say Charleston residents Matt Lee and Ted Lee. “Drive straight to A & R Barbecue for a smoky pork-rib–tip sandwich. Just a few miles south, Taylor Grocery & Restaurant has crispy fried catfish that is widely considered the world’s best. Continue south to Greenwood, Mississippi, and check in to the contemporary Alluvian for a cooking class at the property’s Viking Cooking School, taught by star chefs like Susan Spicer of Bayona Restaurant. Afterward, head to New Orleans for the fried chicken, gumbo, and Creole cooking at Dooky Chase Restaurant. The last stop: Central Grocery Co., for a muffuletta sandwich (olives, capocollo, and provolone)—a perfect snack for the flight home.”