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Some people would have you believe that hiking is a 3-season activity. Assuming a concerned tone, they’ll warn you about frigid temperatures, park closures, and impassable trails. And, to a certain extent, they might be right. In the United States, winter is a season for skiing, snowboarding, and ice skating. Or gathering around a fireplace with a few friends and a mug of hot cocoa or mulled wine.
Hikers should know however, that they don’t have to put off their kind of fun until the spring thaw, even if the snowdrifts outside continue to grow. They simply need to pick up a new piece of gear: snowshoes. A basic pair will only cost a little more than the waterproof, Gore-Tex boots you probably already own. Once you’ve chosen your snowshoes, all you need to do next is dress in layers, pack plenty of snacks and water (and maybe a few hand warmer packets just in case), and select a trail. To get you started, here’s a short list of state parks in the Northeast with winter trails and on-site rental facilities. Read more
Boston is about as storied a city as they come in the United States, and if you’re looking to indulge in history, this is the place. If you’re shipped here on business, count yourself among the fortunate. It may be busy (and bitterly cold in the winter), but those who know where to turn can make a memory or two before calling it a week. In an effort to get you outside of the boardroom and into the wilds of Beantown, we’re offering up two restaurants, two attractions, and one bar that you can hit with just a few extra hours between meetings.
If you’re camped out inside the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, you may find yourself hankering for a pick-me-up. A legal one can be found just a few blocks inland at Sweet Tooth Boston. They’ll whip up a cake if you really need to leave a lasting impression on a client, but for quick pit stops, you’ll find some of the best cupcakes in New England.
If you find yourself hungry on a clear day, a quick jaunt to Sam’s overlooking the bay is well worth the walk. It’s a newer place located on the second floor of the Louis Boston, providing excellent harbor views and remarkably good food. As you might expect from an eatery with a water view, the prices are inflated somewhat, but not overly so. Read more
For most of the northeast, camping season ended weeks ago. The foliage is past its peak and as the end of the year creeps closer by the day, temperatures will continue to drop. Many seasonal adventure seekers have probably already put their hiking and camping gear into winter storage. What these people will be missing out on though, is the chance to experience a number of parks and wilderness areas across New York and New England in the off-season – no shivering required.
How is this possible? By staying at a rustic cabin or lodge maintained by the state or a non-profit. In the Pine Tree State, Maine Huts & Trails operates a 45-mile recreation corridor that includes three small, comfy “boutique hostels” (a fourth is due to open in late December) with hot showers, heated bunkhouses, kitchens, and dining rooms. Hike, ski, or snowshoe from hut to hut or choose Poplar, the hut closest to the town of Kingfield, for a shorter, easy-access trip. Sweeping views of Flagstaff Lake and the Bigelow Range are included at no additional charge. Read more
Across the country, fall is in full swing. Pumpkin beers crowd the shelves of bottle shops, trees have begun to shed their colorful leaves, and Halloween is two short weeks away. Which means that cold weather is already creeping south from the Canadian interior and the year’s first frost isn’t far off. Before winter arrives, make the most of October and plan a short road trip around two outdoor activities that are perfectly suited to autumn: hiking and pumpkin or apple picking.
Apple season is over for the handful of orchards between Boston and Providence, but plenty of pumpkins remain to be chosen and carved, and fresh-pressed cider is still available for thirsty pickers. C. N. Smith Farm in East Bridgewater, Mass. is one such place where you can buy a big orange gourd for the front porch. Purchase a ticket for a hayride and you’ll be carried out to a pumpkin field where acres of future jack-o’-lanterns are priced by the pound. On your way to C. N. Smith (or before making the return trip), stop at Blue Hills Reservation, a chain of 22 hills that aren’t particularly steep individually, but add up to a respectable hiking challenge when attempted in succession. Make the short climb to Eliot Tower from the Trailside Museum in Milton, or test your hiking mettle on the nine-mile Skyline Trail. Read more
Making sure the kids (and adults) are entertained while on a summer road trip can really make or break your vacation. The new book What’s Great About . . . I-95 by road trip expert Barbara Barnes offers a fun and educational way to pass the time while cruising down one of the U.S.’s most-traveled stretches of highway.
“It really does make [the ride] go faster,” says Barnes of the book. “It keeps the driver alert, and it makes the drive more fun.”
With sections broken down by state and points of interest designated by mile marker, Barnes maps out all 1,925 miles of I-95 from Houlton, Maine to Miami. The book highlights sights to look out for from the highway (like the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Pennsylvania and the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Virginia) while providing little-known facts about notable people and places (The first woman to run for president? Victoria Woodhull, in 1872).
Now that you’ve got the car ride entertainment covered, we asked Barnes for her advice on planning the rest of your vacation. Here are five tips for the perfect I-95 road trip:
The Fairmont Copley Plaza in Boston is set to turn 100 years old in August, but the celebrations are already starting – $20 million of renovations are underway, and the hotel is also offering themed packages to guests. The hotel’s head-to-toe improvements, set to be completed in the spring, include a revamp of all guestrooms and suites, including the Fairmont Gold rooms and lounge; updates to the grand lobby and ballrooms; an entirely new health club on the rooftop; and the addition of a new restaurant in the space formerly occupied by the Oak Room. (The Oak Room and Oak Bar have been relocated to the St. James room.)
The two themed packages on offer are both available now. If you’re particularly interested in the hotel’s 100 year history, consider the “Celebration of a Century” package, which starts at $200/night for a Fairmont Room. Included in the package is one night in a newly renovated room, a private history tour of the hotel, and a history booklet. The package is offered through December 31, 2012.
The other day my daughter and I were in a neighborhood toy store that had aggressively beefed up its selection of costumes and scary accessories for Halloween. And for some reason I felt the need to point out that beyond late October, we could walk into that store the rest of year and still find good, spooky stuff.
The same holds true for some great destinations. If what’s clogging my inbox is any indication, attractions and hotels nationwide are preparing to roll out over-the-top ghoulish events and shows and candy-laden amenities (if I see “spooktacular” in an e-mail subject line one more time I will simply freak). But the simple truth is, many of us families won’t be traveling on Halloween and will miss all of the seasonal, scary fun in those places. Which is why if you have a hankering for the spooktacular the rest of the year, it helps to know about a few year-round scary sights for kids.
When it comes to value – and avoiding the crowds – fall is the perfect time to visit Nantucket. Bargain prices at Nantucket Island Resorts mean you can stay for as low as $125/night. The Hot Dates, Cool Rates packages also include a $25 dining credit (spend $100) or $50 dining credit (spend $150) and two $25 spa credits (good toward treatments of $100 or more). Participating properties are Jared Coffin House, the Cottages & Lofts, White Elephant, White Elephant Hotel Residences, and the Wauwinet.
THE VALUE: Rates are discounted up to 50 percent off September prices.
THE CATCH: Blackout dates apply. Check with individual properties for available dates.
THE DETAILS: Click on www.nantucketislandresorts.com or call 800-475-2637. Be sure to use promo code GTDLOW.
WE’VE GOT MORE: Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights, hotels, vacation packages, and more travel deals.
For general trip-planning information, see our Nantucket Travel Guide.
As New England’s blazing fall foliage season kicks into high gear, leaf peepers, culture seekers, and outdoor enthusiasts alike will find their paths converging in the leafy cultural hideaway of the Berkshires, a 945-square-mile rustic-chic retreat in western Massachusetts. This pastoral playground has long reeled visitors in (particularly from Boston and New York, at just about a 2.5-hour drive away from each), without ever managing to feel overrun, thanks to the expansive area’s winning trifecta of pristine natural beauty (low-lying mountains, secluded lakes, flourishing forests), picturesque main street towns defined by mom-and-pop establishments and extravagant Gilded Age “cottages” (Lenox, Stockbridge, Great Barrington, and North Adams rank supreme as tourist hubs), and heady mix of museums and festivals showcasing the region’s longstanding artistic and cultural activity (familiar names like Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Norman Rockwell all found creative inspiration here). Read more
Forty: That’s the number of fitness class options I had on a recent Sunday at Miami’s Canyon Ranch Hotel and Spa. And that’s the light day. On Wednesday, there were 59 offerings, ranging from an early morning beach walk to rock wall climbing, three kinds of yoga, and something called stick fusion that combines kickboxing with a padded foam stick to work the entire body. There were also workshops on healthy eating, inner beauty, self-awareness, and understanding Chinese herbs. But here’s the biggest surprise: The classes were included in the price of the room.
Until Canyon Ranch opened its Miami location in 2008, the only way to truly experience the legendary wellness center was to participate in an immersive program of planned meals and activities at the center’s locations in Arizona or Massachusetts. At the Miami property, the company took a more freewheeling approach: Although fitness is included, spa treatments and meals are all à la carte. The resort even serves alcohol, a first for Canyon Ranch. What it didn’t change was the staff’s scope of knowledge. Not only do the fitness instructors know their stuff, but waiters can rattle off every ingredient in your lunch entrée without batting an eye.
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