AUTUMN LONG WEEKENDS
Vacation Duration Three days each
Your Assignment Pretend it's still summer and hit the beach
The water remains warm enough for splashing, and the dreaded towel-space encroachers of summer are gone. Now's the time to spread out: set up a volleyball net, play tidal-flat touch football, and build a driftwood bonfire (first nab a permit from the town hall).
THREE A+ BEACHES IN AUTUMN
Menemsha, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
Is that James Taylor tossing his dog a Frisbee?You never know who you'll run into on this calm west-end stretch—perfect for shallow wading, surf casting, and sunset picnics. A short stroll takes you to Menemsha Inn Cottages (508/ 645-2521; menemshainn.commenemshainn.com; doubles from $145; cottages from $210), a gray-shingled compound on 14 acres bordered by stone walls and roses.
Migrating songbirds fill the sky above this southern Outer Banks island, and ocean storms litter the 16-mile-long Atlantic beach with shells—watch for the elusive egg-shaped Scotch bonnet! The waterfront suites at Captain's Landing Hotel, Dockage & Suites (252/928-1999; thecaptainslanding.com; suites from $210) put you right on Silver Lake, Ocracoke's historic harbor.
Orchard Beach State Park
In the fall, there's terrific steelhead and salmon fishing at this Lower Peninsula preserve on Lake Michigan—with soft sand and grassy campsites—just north of the Victorian lumber town of Manistee. 231/723-7422; michigandnr.com; campsites, $24; four-person cabin, $45.
Vacation Duration Five days
Your Assignment Give thanks for a chance to get away
Thanksgiving is a terrific but often overlooked time to carve out a real vacation—and you don't have to skip the cranberry sauce or the postfeast nap.
HOTELS THAT TALK TURKEY
Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Check into this 1890's castle for the T-day brunch buffet and annual Pageantry of Lights (November 24, 7 p.m.), when the switch is thrown on some 200,000 holiday bulbs and animated displays. Don't miss a soak in the giant hot springs pool across the street—so welcome after some early-season skiing at nearby Sunlight Mountain Resort (970/945-7491; sunlightmtn.com), a cozy mom-and-pop alternative to Aspen, 41 miles up the road. 800/544-3998; hotelcolorado.com; doubles from $145.
Palm Beach, Florida
What's new at the glamorous 560-room mansion is a free-form family pool surrounded by posh day-use bungalows with chaises, bathrooms, flat-screen TV's, Wi-Fi connections, and refrigerators. On the docket for Thanksgiving weekend: family football on the lawn and laser tag in the ballroom. 888/273-2537; thebreakers.com; doubles from $560.
Hotel del Coronado
Coronado Island, California
Seaside ice-skating, anyone?This San Diego institution serves up dinner buffets with live classical music in its ballroom and waterside Crown Room, and opens its artfully lit oceanfront outdoor rink for skating sessions daily. 800/468-3533; hoteldel.com; doubles from $295.