Courtesy of The Inn at Château Élan
Where to Go: Braselton, Georgia.
Distance: 30 miles north.
Where to Stay: With its gray pitched roof, wrought-iron detail, and 3,500 acres (with 75 acres of vineyards), the Inn at Château Élan looks like a 16th-century country estate in France; all 346 guest rooms have country-French furnishings and oversize garden tubs. The inn features a winery, spa, tennis courts, four golf courses, and a new Rock Climbing and Challenge Tower, and it has added new cooking classes in a 1,600-square-foot teaching kitchen with high-end Viking stoves.
Room to Book: The Camelot-style Excalibur spa suite channels the setting, with medieval furniture and art—even a suit of armor.
Price: Doubles from $179.
What to Do: Attend a Saturday cooking demonstration by the Château’s own chefs, and watch Marc Suennemann (who won the International Association of Conference Centers’ Copper Skillet Award) make deceptively simple dishes like tomato consommé. Or put on your own toque and take a class; in “Tour of the Southern Mediterranean,” for example, students learn to make Moroccan-spiced chicken with apricot couscous and green olive sauce. With all those cooking-class calories to burn, try the Rock Climbing and Challenge Tower, with seven routes to a 50-foot-high platform. (Climbing reservations recommended.)
Courtesy of The Crow’s Nest Resort
Where to Go: Truro, Massachusetts.
Distance from Boston: 110 miles south, almost the end of Cape Cod.
Where to Stay: Facing the beach and Cape Cod Bay, all 21 bright suites at the Crow’s Nest Resort have kitchens, fireplaces, Jacuzzi tubs, and unobstructed views of the ocean, two lighthouses, and the lights of Provincetown—just two miles away.
Room to Book: Book one of the charming cottages, which are ready-made for families or a group of friends.
Price: Doubles from $209 (rates lower before June 20 and after August 31); cottages from $349.
What to Do: Rent a bike at Gale Force Bike Rentals in Provincetown, pick up a map, and ride five miles along scenic High Head Road to the Cape Cod Highland Lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse on the Cape. Later, stop by Mac’s Shack in Wellfleet for fresh, simply prepared dishes like baked cod, fried prawns, and steamed mussels.
Where to Go: Cape Elizabeth, Maine.
Distance from Boston: 115 miles north.
Where to Stay: Reopened in June 2008 after a multimillion dollar renovation, the pioneering green hotel Inn by the Sea, on Crescent Beach, has a new light-filled dining room, lobby lounge with fireplace, expanded wraparound deck, and classic white Adirondack chairs from L. L. Bean scattered around its five-acre property. All 57 of its stylish and comfortable rooms and suites were redesigned to include bright punches of color, contemporary Maine art, and bold fabrics, and its state-of-the-art organic spa features regionally inspired treatments like hot Casco Bay stone massage.
Room to Book: The duplex Spa Suite has a kitchen, palatial bath with walk-in shower and soaking tub, double-height windows, and a small balcony overlooking the outdoor pool, indigenous gardens, and Atlantic Ocean.
Price: Doubles from $290.
What to Do: Venture into Portland (six miles away) for the evening and dine at Bresca, an intimate 20-seat restaurant. Owner-chef Krista Kern (who worked with Guy Savoy in Las Vegas) is creating some of the most delicious and masterfully executed dishes in Maine right now. Don’t miss her fried almonds with lavender, fennel salad with anchovy beignets, or honey-glazed duck breast with Roman trading spices, poached nectarines, and mascarpone polenta.
Courtesy of Songbird Prairie Bed & Breakfast
Where to Go: Valparaiso, Indiana.
Distance from Chicago: 50 miles southeast.
Where to Stay: The lovely Colonial country home with white-trimmed dormers may attract visitors to the Songbird Prairie Bed & Breakfast, but it’s the grounds’ prairie grass, roses, and many trees that lure the namesake songbirds on their way to and from the Indiana Dunes. The four suites—Bluebird, Warbler, Purple Finch, and Cardinal (with bright red walls, of course)—have whirlpool baths and fireplaces, and a three-course breakfast is served in a sunroom that looks onto the bird-filled woods.
Insider Tip: There’s a microphone near one of the hummingbird feeders so guests can hear them “chirp” (a sound that’s actually made by their tails).
Price: Doubles from $155.
What to Do: Follow the birds 10 miles north to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and wander along the Cowles Bog Trail through wetland, oak, savanna, and swale for two miles until you crest the dunes and are rewarded with an expansive view of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline. Along dune trails keep your eyes peeled for orange butterfly weed and purple blazing star wildflowers, and the endangered inch-wide blue Karner butterfly.
Courtesy of Delafield Hotel
Where to Go: Delafield, Wisconsin.
Distance from Chicago: 110 miles north.
Where to Stay: The stately red-brick exterior and rich dark-wood paneling in the lobby and restaurant of the Delafield Hotel (the only Small Luxury Hotel in Wisconsin) contrast with the lighter, brighter feeling of its 38 luxurious guest rooms and suites; all have handsome antique furnishings, and some overlook the forested Kettle Moraine hills.
Room to Book: For a romantic getaway, choose the Honeymoon Suite with an Oscar de la Renta hand-carved canopy bed and a full-spa bathroom with BubbleMassage “chromatherapy”—sequenced colored lights designed to enhance one’s mood.
Price: Doubles from $200.
What to Do: Browse for restored Victorian furniture and other antique treasures at Rickety Robin or at Christman Art & Antiques (housed in an 1840’s barn) in nearby Wales (three miles away) for 19th- and 20th-century American paintings and estate jewelry. Or poke around downtown Delafield, which is itself an antique, with building façades in Victorian, Williamsburg, and Greek Revival styles.
Courtesy of Tremont House
Where to Go: Galveston, Texas.
Distance from Houston: 50 miles southwest.
Where to Stay: Near the center of the Strand Historic District, and with an elegant portico entrance and a four-story atrium lobby with palm trees and glass elevators, the European-style Tremont House has 119 rooms and suites, each with Victorian styling, enamel and wrought-iron beds, black and white furnishings, and marble baths. Built in 1894, the Toujouse Bar has a handsome all-mahogany bar, and the rooftop terrace gives views of the harbor and town. Price: Doubles from $155.
What to Do: Cool off two blocks away at the Star Drug Store, “the oldest drug store in Texas,” and sit at the horseshoe counter while sipping an egg cream or cherry fountain soda. Or throw your towel on the white sand at the 100-yard-deep beach at 53rd and Seawall, and escape the heat by slurping a sno-cone or wading in the cooling waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Allison V. Smith
Where to Go: Austin, Texas.
Distance from Houston: 160 miles west.
Where to Stay: Located in the modern bohemian neighborhood of South Congress (or SoCo), the über-hip San José Hotel has 40 sleek, minimalist guest rooms with earthy tones, warm woods, and simple, modern lines. A serene garden of native Texas plants has crushed granite pathways linking lobby/lounge, courtyard, and pool. Locals join guests at the lounge to sip Champassions (champagne with passion-fruit juice and raspberries) and Micheladas (Mexican Bloody Marys made of beer, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, soy sauce, lime, and pepper with a salt rim and a lime wedge). At night, red, green, and gold lights illuminate the exterior, giving the hotel a warm and surprisingly homey feel.
Price: Doubles from $200.
What to Do: Music strikes a note in Austin, known as the “Live Music Capital of the World,” so dance your way across the street to the Continental Club for blues, country rock, and rockabilly sounds. During the day, beat the heat by going to Zilker Park (two miles away) and swimming in the three-acre Barton Springs Pool, fed by natural springs with a constant temperature of 68 degrees.
Courtesy of Presidio Motel
Los Angeles: SAVE
Where to Go: Santa Barbara, California.
Distance from Los Angeles: 95 miles northwest, with Highway 1 being the more scenic route.
Where to Stay: The hip and trendy boutique Presidio Motel in downtown Santa Barbara uses colorful customized vinyl decals of peacocks, chandeliers, grandfather clocks, giraffes with parachutes, and other playful images to create a modern and individual style for each of its 16 guest rooms.
Price: Doubles from $99.
What to Do: Eat local by making a “Market Foray,” a guided tour that leads the culinarily curious to fresh foods at the farmers’ market, fishermen’s market, C’est Cheese, and Our Daily Bread—all of which are also ideal spots for picking up picnic fixings for lunch to pair with Central Coast wine. To discover more about the region’s famous grapes, hit the Urban Wine Trail, which includes eight wineries and tasting rooms near downtown. If you tire of walking, hop on the 25-cent electric trolley.
Insider Tip: If wine is not your thing, try the Greyhound Proper, a cocktail made with fresh grapefruit juice, gin, and candied grapefruit peel (or any other drink), at the Hungry Cat (six blocks southeast), which has a constantly changing menu based on what’s fresh from the farmers’ market.
Courtesy of L’Auberge Del Mar
Los Angeles: SPLURGE
Where to Go: Del Mar, California.
Distance from Los Angeles: 100 miles south.
Where to Stay: Reopened in early June 2008 after a seven-month, $26 million renovation, L’Auberge Del Mar marries luxury and the beach. A new 12-foot-tall waterfall and pool bar complement its remodeled lobby and 120 guest rooms and suites with white horizontal blinds, woven grass wallpaper, and the colors of the local beach: pale golds, tans, and sea-foam green.
Insider Tip: Book early for July and August, the peak time for the nearby Del Mar racetrack; rooms fill up quickly.
Price: Doubles from $355; two-night minimum stay Friday-Saturday.
What to Do: Walk across the street to Del Mar Plaza for its 50 upscale restaurants and shops, including the Frustrated Cowboy for western gear and Ooh La La for crystal-embellished blouses, lace-and-ruffle tops, and wildly striped sundresses. Or stroll one block in the opposite direction along a landscaped footpath to the beach for 15 miles of continuous sand.
Courtesy of Kona Kai Resort & Gallery
Where to Go: Key Largo, Florida.
Distance from Miami: 65 miles south.
Where to Stay: With a private white-sand beach, a pool and Jacuzzi, a tropical fruit garden, and 11 guest rooms and suites named after tropical fruits, Kona Kai Resort & Gallery sets a junglelike atmosphere for swinging in a hammock. Bright rooms are stylish with simple furnishings and horizontal wooden blinds, but it is the lush grounds that are the real showstopper. French doors open onto hardwood decks and tiki huts shaded by palms, and paths lead to tennis courts and areas for massage or yoga.
Price: Doubles from $211.
What to Do: This is the “International Year of the Reef,” so escape the heat while you pay homage to wonderful works of nature by snorkeling, scuba diving, or riding a glass-bottomed boat in nearby all-underwater John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Contact Morningstar Charters, which takes groups of six snorkelers on the Morning Star, a 50-foot sailing yacht, to Molasses Reef, Pickles Reef, and other less visited areas.
Insider Tip: If you’d rather stick to dry land, take a 34-mile side trip north to Homestead, and go wild over the exotic orchids in nurseries like Pine Ridge Orchids and R. F. Orchids. Do not leave Homestead without stocking up on tropical fruits like papayas, star fruit, lychees, atemoyas, or monstera deliciosa (which tastes like pineapple-banana) at the Robert Is Here fruit stand—where Robert Moehling has been peddling exotic fruit for 49 years.