Easy Fall Weekend Getaways
New York: Lake Placid
Set in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, Lake Placid is almost cloyingly beautiful—the kind of place that makes you angry that other people get to live here year-round. In the fall, the hills rising above the twin lakes—Placid and Mirror—are blanketed with rusty hues, and the loudest sound is the splashing of ducks landing on the water. At the Lake Placid Pub & Brewery (dinner for two $50), guests gather at sunset to sip an Ubu Ale or a Lake Placid IPA. Owner and brewmaster Christopher Ericson moved to the area from Stowe, Vermont, more than 10 years ago. “Lake Placid had an immediate draw for me. I’m a huge nature lover. Plus, I wanted to brew good beer for people who appreciate it. This place was a match made in heaven,” Ericson says. The locals think so too. And Ericson’s humble brewery has won a slew of awards, including best in New York State at the TAP beer festival in 2005 and 2007.
New York: Lake Placid
New York: Lake Placid
Down the road the iconic Lake Placid Lodge (doubles from $650) is poised to open its new five-suite, 30,000-square-foot main building—rebuilt after a fire destroyed the original 1882 house in 2005—this month. The new lodge’s style is updated Adirondack with antique local furniture. But the property’s best asset is still down by the private shore: 19 luxe log cabins built in the 1920’s and 1930’s. What seems like an army of unseen elves keeps everything running smoothly here. Return from dinner and a fire has miraculously been lit in the stone fireplace, and wood replenished in a neatly stacked pile beside the hearth. Breakfast (a plate of raspberry pancakes, tiny jars of house-made preserves) arrives magically in a wicker basket and is whisked away when you’re not looking. Blanket-strewn Adirondack chairs form a circle around the fire pit at dusk, with the makings of s’mores (fresh marshmallows, artisanal chocolate) on a tidy table nearby. The Lodge has brought over Kevin McCarthy from nearby sister property the Point—where he was chef for eight years—to create regionally inspired dishes such as apple cider–braised pork belly with tender local blue potatoes.
Lake Placid was home to the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics (Cold War drama unfolded here in 1980 as the “miracle” U.S. hockey team upset the heavily favored Soviets), and the ski jump near Whiteface Mountain (Rte. 86; 518/946-2223) is still open for visitors. The area’s most panoramic views can be found at the top of the ski lifts. Just around the corner is High Falls Gorge (entrance fee $10), where bridges crisscross a clear, cold stream of water that flows through jagged rocks. Back in town, Mirror Lake Boat Rental (rentals from $24) has everything you need to explore the lake, from paddleboats and kayaks to hydro bikes.
People like Rainer Schnaars help give Lake Placid its idiosyncratic quality. Schnaars moved to the area from Bremen, Germany, over 25 years ago to follow true love and to bake. “Things fell apart with the lady, but I stayed for the lake and the bakery,” he says in his thickly accented English. The Blues Berry Bakery (26 Main St.; 518/523-4539) is named for Schnaars’s favorite band, the Blues Brothers, and is where the gregarious, bearded 49-year-old creates pastries like a flaky apple strudel or a decadent Black Forest cherry cake. In the center of town, the Interlaken Inn (doubles from $155), a cozy Victorian hotel built on Signal Hill in 1912, overlooks Mirror Lake. There are 10 tidy, affordable rooms and a stellar restaurant (dinner for two $104) that draws on the region’s bounty. The locally sourced New York strip and horseradish cheese grits stand out for their wonderful simplicity—just like the town itself.
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North Carolina: Asheville
Imagine a place where the local paper advertises an “organic mechanic,” the streets teem with bandana-wearing banjo players, and tempeh is common on menus, and you have the crunchy Southern mountain retreat of Asheville. Encircled by the rolling Blue Ridge Mountains, and a five-minute drive from the bucolic Blue Ridge Parkway, the North Carolina town has been drawing travelers in search of a holistic holiday since the late 19th century.
At the rambling seven-room Black Walnut Bed & Breakfast (doubles from $175), innkeepers Peter and Lori White, who have owned bakeries in Palm Beach and Martha’s Vineyard, serve three-course breakfasts (raisin scones with clotted cream, apple crisp) every morning. After buying the 109-year-old building, the Whites undertook a top-down renovation—fireplaces, marble baths, 600-thread-count sheets.
North Carolina: Asheville
“The allure of Asheville is that it’s quaint but also becoming more cosmopolitan,” says Alicia Sessoms, who moved here from Brooklyn four years ago to open Table Restaurant (dinner for two $84) with her chef husband Jacob. To dress up the warehouse-like space, Alicia gathers flowers (daisies, echinacea, bachelor’s buttons) for the hand-hewn maple tables, while Jacob prepares dishes such as bucatini with fresh snap peas and pancetta, sourcing most of his food from area farms. Local ingredients are given equal billing at casual brunch favorite Early Girl Eatery (brunch for two $24), where lines snake out the door for a spot at the butcher paper–covered tables to sample Southern favorites such as shrimp and grits.
North Carolina: Asheville
While downtown Asheville has plenty to offer, access to the outdoors is the real draw. The surrounding mountains seem to peek out from behind buildings in every corner of town. George Vanderbilt felt the call of these mountains in 1895, when he constructed the grand estate Biltmore (tickets $47) and the 75 acres of gardens, which are bursting with hundreds of chrysanthemums through the end of this month. And along the Parkway, the foliage is at its peak from mid to late October. Asheville’s tourism website (fallinthemountains.com) makes weekly recommendations of the best drives for taking in the kaleidoscope of colors.
Rhode Island: Block Island
Sand-colored bluffs emerge on the horizon as the Point Judith Ferry approaches the tranquil getaway of Block Island. Thirteen miles off the coast of Rhode Island, “the Block,” as locals call it, is a fraction of the size of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard—and far less discovered. There are no hotels with Frette linens and flat-screen TV’s. The appeal lies in its simplicity: a small-town New England culture with only 1,000 year-round residents, set against a fiercely protected, Andrew Wyeth–worthy landscape. Weathered saltbox cottages huddle behind windswept dunes, and 200 miles of Colonial-era stone walls course through verdant fields that end in 250-foot rocky cliffs. “Close to 40 percent of the land is designated as a nature preserve,” says Scott Cummings, director of the island’s Nature Conservancy.
More than 25 miles of hiking trails lead to secret rocky beaches and freshwater lily ponds (maps are available at the Block Island Chamber of Commerce, 1 Water St., Old Harbor). “During the fall, you can spot hundreds of migrating songbirds along the paths,” Cummings says. Biking is another great way to explore the island, thanks to stretches of flat terrain that run along the shore. Rentals are available near the ferry at Aldo’s Mopeds and Bikes (from $20).
Rhode Island: Block Island
Modern and chic are not words used to describe the hotels here, and nobody’s apologizing for it. “There’s a real sense of history on Block, and we want our inn to reflect that,” says Rita Abrams-Draper, whose family has owned the creaky 137-year-old Hotel Manisses (doubles from $260) since 1969. The 16 rooms are decorated with antique furniture, and some have vaulted wood-beamed ceilings and canopy beds. There are also plenty of houses to rent on the island (Atwood Real Estate; Chapel St.; 401/466-5582; weekly rentals from $950), from renovated old country barns to contemporary cottages with wide wooden decks and ocean views.
Rhode Island: Block Island
On a quiet road down the hill from the Manisses is the 12-table Eli’s Restaurant (dinner for two $96), named after the original owner’s black Lab. The bar buzzes after dark in this low-lit gray clapboard cottage, decorated with paintings by island artists. Rhode Island native Becky Hogan has waitressed here for eight years, serving seafood dishes such as steamed crab and Maine lobster over fresh casarecce pasta. “I love the slow rhythm of Block Island, and the people I work with are like family—they’re why I’ve stayed so long,” she says. Perhaps the smallest kitchen in Old Harbor can be found at the pint-size Three Sisters (sandwiches for two from $16), where founding sibling Brigid Price still whips up signature sandwiches for worn-out cyclists. On the southern side of Great Salt Pond, the wide veranda at the casual Oar Restaurant (drinks for two $20) has the best tableside view of New Harbor, which fills up with moored sailboats at dusk.
Hugging the limestone banks of the St. Croix River, 20 miles northeast of St. Paul, this 19th-century lumber boomtown has long lured weekending Twin City dwellers with its Rockwellian ice-cream-cone-by-the-waterfront charm. And many of them ended up staying—opening wine bars, turning well-preserved Victorian mansions into inns, and lending a cosmopolitan air to byways lined with antiques shops.
The abundant trees in Stillwater provide a blazing autumn backdrop for antiquing along Main Street. Staples Mill Antiques co-op of 35 dealers housed in a 50-year-old stone sawmill, is stocked with everything from stacks of Life magazines to cases of Depression glass and costume jewelry. Midtown Antique Mall hosts 90 dealers in a three-story structure; the top level is a giant furniture gallery that features Mission, Colonial, Deco, and other pre-1950’s styles.
Stillwater is also a mecca for bibliophiles. “We probably have a half-million used books within a six-block radius,” says Gary Goodman, the owner of St. Croix Antiquarian Booksellers. You’ll find him at his desk at the front of the store, where he dispenses an encyclopedic knowledge of his own 40,000-volume out-of-print book collection.
The mom-and-pop Lily’s Grill & Malt Shop (lunch for two $25) serves the town’s best burgers, fries, and malteds. For dinner, make the three-mile jaunt south to the Bayport Cookery (dinner for two $150), just outside town, where chef Jim Kyndberg is known for building multicourse menus inspired by one ingredient (a recent morel-themed array featured strawberry shortcake with morel-maple mousse).
Back in Stillwater, the Lowell Inn (dinner for two $66), an institution since 1927, is an over-the-top trip in time, with giant crystal chandeliers, wall murals, and parlor spots for sitting and sipping an old-fashioned. The Rivertown Inn (doubles from $175) was meticulously restored by local residents Jeff and Julie Anderson. The couple filled it with salvaged stained-glass windows and an antique altarpiece, and outfitted the nine rooms and suites with 19th-century furnishings, giving guests a taste of life in bygone Minnesota.
New Mexico: Taos
The desert town of Taos has seen its share of creative types pass through: Ansel Adams, D. H. Lawrence, Georgia O’Keeffe. They were far from the first people to discover its charms, though. For at least a millennium, Tiwa-speaking American Indians have lived in the multistory Taos Pueblo (tours are free), one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in the United States. Spanish farmers followed in the 17th century, while a half-dozen painters showed up around 1900 and established the first Taos artists’ colony. Take in their work at the Taos Art Museum and Fechin House. New Agers, spirulina-smoothie advocates, and second-home owners form the most recent wave. “Misfits from all over the place somehow fit in here,” says river guide Adrienne Reynolds.
The aesthetic is too refined, though, to tolerate scruffiness. Instead, you’ll see elaborate eco-conscious retreats like El Monte Sagrado Living Resort & Spa (doubles from $309), where the 84 guest rooms and suites are detailed with elaborate Moroccan tile work, engraved wood panels, and kiva-style fireplaces. The Taos standard: mixing luxury with a dash of kitsch, as at the outdoor Adobe Bar at the Taos Historic Inn (drinks for two $24). Built in 1936 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it’s marked with a neon sign touting dining, cocktails, and curios. Nora Boxer, a local poet, is partial to the Cowboy Buddha margarita-“cowboy plus Buddha equals Taos,” she says. At Joseph’s Table (dinner for two $100), chef Joseph Wrede serves contemporary Southwestern dishes like hedgehog-mushroom risotto and ruby trout with golden caviar in a cloistered space of dark wood and private alcoves. Diners show up in jeans, of course.
But the outdoor options at Taos are even more enticing than the artsy atmosphere. Blast down Class III rapids on the Rio Grande with Los Rios River Runners (half-day trips $49), or explore the 110 runs at Taos Ski Valley (lift tickets $66; opens Nov. 27). “This town is a pioneer place for building, architecture, and off-the-grid living,” says artist Hillary Kane, whose work is sold at J. Bradford Pottery. “And yet there are tumbleweeds blowing down the street.”
Beneath the green hills that roll east from Puget Sound, on the edge of Seattle’s suburban Eastside, one of the world’s most unusual wine regions is tucked among strip malls and horse farms. Woodinville, Washington, a town of some 10,000 with a climate more suited to pines than vines, sits farther from any workable vineyard than Times Square does, but that hasn’t stopped it from emerging as one of America’s top spots in which to swirl and sip. Using grapes trucked in from growing areas scattered throughout the state’s drier eastern half, its 45 producers turn out bright Cabernet Sauvignons, crisp Rieslings, and smoky Syrahs.
Woodinville had no wineries unstil 1976, when Washington’s second-largest producer, Chateau Ste. Michelle decided to build a Provençal-style castle on 87 acres of vacant land. “We figured, why not just move the grapes?” says Ted Baseler, the company’s CEO. The city caught on, marketing itself as a wine destination. Now a thriving wine community lives amid the Microsoft techies and Boeing engineers. “You can feel the passion for wine here just like in Napa Valley’s St. Helena,” says Mike Januik, a local winemaker. “Only on a smaller scale.”
Chateau Ste. Michelle remains Woodinville’s cornerstone, but wine pilgrims are also drawn to the town’s boutique producers and the chance to sample rarefied bottlings. A short drive down a rural road, Betz Family Winery specializes in Rhône grapes such as Syrah and juicy Grenache. DeLille Cellars makes a firm Bordeaux blend called Chaleur Estate. Farther north are two producers, Januik Winery and Novelty Hill that share winemaker Januik—and also a tasting room. Visitors can try some of Washington’s best Syrahs in a starkly modern, 33,000-square-foot facility that includes a full-time kitchen staff, wine-tasting classes, and even a bocce court.
Woodinville has only one hotel, but it’s a destination itself. The Willows Lodge (doubles from $219 ), a contemporary take on a wood-beamed lodge, landed on T+L’s World’s Best list last year. The 84 rooms and suites have stone fireplaces and oversize soaking tubs, and bicycles are available for guests interested in wheeling along the 26-mile Burke Gilman Trail. Willows’ Barking Frog restaurant (lunch for two $60 ) carries wines from nearly all the best local producers; lunch includes light seafood dishes like hazelnut-encrusted scallops. Next door, the exceptional Herbfarm (dinner for two $358 ) matches nine-course dinners built around ingredients grown on its nearby farmstead with regional wines culled from a 25,000-bottle cellar. Its new chef is Keith Luce, a 39-year-old Long Islander who has migrated westward with stops at Chicago’s Spruce and Napa Valley’s Press. In Woodinville, he has found a community with a love for fine eating and drinking that rivals California’s wine country, but without the astronomical land values. And that, he says, is the benefit of wines without vines: “Up here, we can afford the farm.”