There's something quintessentially American about summer in the Northeast. Maybe it's the salty fragrance wafting off the shores of the Maine coast, the mountains of upstate New York, which beg to be conquered, or the quaint towns of Vermont, which evoke memories of times long past.
Besides the dip into nostalgia, there are practical reasons to visit this part of the world during the summer months. For starters, there's the climate: warm (and, sometimes blisteringly hot) during the day, but cool and comfortable at night, especially in the mountains or by the ocean. And there's a range of activities: sailing, hiking, biking, fishing, music and art festivals and an endless variety of fresh-from-the-farm food. You can find places to stay no matter what your budget, from campgrounds to five-star inns. And best of all, most places are accessible with a quick road trip from New York, Boston or Philadelphia, or via a direct flight.
Vermont is renown for its cold offerings—skiing, cheese, Ben and Jerry's—but few people realize it's also a great place in the warmer months. There's hiking. And biking. And cooking. And spa-ing. The Topnotch Resort* in Stowe, (topnotchresort.com, from $325), which is undergoing a multi-million dollar refurbishment, has a 35,000-square-foot spa offering over 120 treatments and services. For sport and leisure, the resort features a tennis center with four indoor and six outdoor courts, fitness center, an indoor pool with a cascading massage waterfall, a whirlpool/Jacuzzi and two outdoor pools with views of Mount Mansfield. Pets are welcome in select guest rooms and suites.
For the golf set, try The Woodstock Inn and Resort (woodstockinn.com, from $260), which has an 18-hole par-70 course designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. Located in the heart of Woodstock, meander down to Main Street, or take a quick 10-minute drive to Quechee, home of the famous glass company Simon Pearce, which reopened last year after a multi-million dollar complete renovation and rebuild. The Mill restaurant at Simon Pearce is a must.
The Essex Resort and Spa, situated on 18 acres between the Green Mountains and Lake Champlain, in Essex Junction, offers culinary vacations— that is, a cooking school where they teach everything from sushi-making to bread baking to classes for kids ages 10 to 16. Called Camp Cook (vtculinaryresort.com/campcook, from $400 per child per week), it begins June 17th and continues on for nine, five-day classes throughout the summer. Kids can gather eggs in The Essex's very own chicken coop, meet the resort's resident farmer, collect fresh ingredients from the extensive vegetable and herb gardens and cook a collection of mouthwatering recipes. After mastering the kitchen, kids go home with a certificate, recipe booklet and chef's jacket so they can continue their culinary journey. Classes are also available for adults.
While Lake Placid, New York, may be best associated with the 1980 Winter Olympic Games, in the summer, people use Lake Placid as a base from which to climb the 46 Hike Peaks in the Adirondack Mountains. It's also a great spot for outdoor activities—you can golf, cycle, run marathons, fish and listen to professional chamber music by the lake. Places to stay in town or nearby: Lake Placid Lodge (lakeplacidlodge.com, from $450); the Mirror Lake Inn (mirrorlakeinn.com, from $304) and the Whiteface Lodge (thewhitefacelodge.com, from $332), whose rustic timber design incorporates the use of traditional Adirondack wood and stone—including local timber milled on site. Lake Placid is a two-hour drive from Albany, New York, Burlington, Vermont and Montreal, and a five-and-a-half-hour drive from Boston and New York City.
Kennebunk has dusted off some of its staid vacation image—although many are attracted to that very character—with lots of new restaurants, shops and hotels aimed at a younger set of vacationers. There are cottages and bungalows at Hidden Pond (hiddenpondmaine.com, from $590); new rooms at the beachfront Tides Beach Club from $265 in July and August; The Grand Hotel from $179, recently opened in Kennebunk overlooking the river and the Kennebunkport Inn from $159 and its restaurant, One Dock.
The Lodge on the Cove (lodgeonthecove.com, from $219) is a new family- oriented boutique hotel with a retro chic design sensibility, which opens on June 15. Guests get complimentary breakfast daily, free bike rentals and use of kayaks. There are also kid's yoga programs, live acoustic guitar by the pool on Sundays, poolside ice cream socials (with icy cocktails for adults) and frequent evening bonfires.
There is a reason both Presidents Clinton and Obama (not to mention Walter Cronkite and Jackie Kennedy) vacationed in this neck of the woods (er, ocean): they are two of the most beautiful islands in the world. The people watching and shopping are both great, but the nature is really the attraction. Best things to do are rent a bike and zip around the islands or hire a boat captain to take you out. On the Vineyard, eat lobster rolls in Menemsha, stroll the art galleries in West Tisbury or Edgartown and golf at Minks Meadows Golf Club or Farm Neck Golf Club.
The 121-year-old Harbor View Hotel (harbor-view.com) in Edgartown is an island institution. With its great views, the property is a favorite among guests to the island for its elegant, yet unintimidating style. Summer rates from $435 and guests with four-legged friends are welcome. Lamberts Cove Inn (lambertscoveinn.com), originally a farmhouse, and dates back to 1790. The main house has seven guest rooms and a 70-seat restaurant and guests of the hotel have access to the private Lambert's Cove beach. (Rooms from $250 mid-May to mid-October, including breakfast in season.)
In 2001, Zita Cobb, who made millions in fiber optics, began injecting money into her homeland, Fogo Island, a freckle of land that lies off the northeast corner of Newfoundland, Canada. In Cobb's words: "It's far away from far away." She started Shorefast, a charitable initiative to kick-start the anemic economy of her hometown. Not only has Shorefast underwritten new buildings and art openings around the island, Cobb has also just opened the luxurious Fogo Island Inn (from $700, including meals and a tour of the island; fogoislandinn.ca.) While the Inn is the most luxurious place to stay, there are small bed and breakfasts like Quintal House Heritage Guest Home (quintalhouse.ca), as well as campgrounds. Things to do on Fogo include whale watching, bird watching, hiking and the Brimstone Head Folk Festival, which takes place from August 9 to 11. There are also plenty of monuments, historic sites, galleries and museums and the World's End Theatre Company hosts an annual festival in July and August.
Caveat: Traveling to Fogo requires time and patience. First, you fly into St. John or Halifax, Nova Scotia, where you can take a connecting flight to Gander. From Gander, it's a one-hour drive to Farewell, where you board the Change Island and Fogo Island ferry for the 45-minute trip. (Ferry service is available every four hours and costs $5.50 each way. The Inn can arrange all travel within Newfoundland.)
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