10 Last-Minute Weekend Getaways
By Linda Tagliaferro
You've been stressed out all week at the office. When you come home, the microwave is broken, the roof is leaking, and your dog is polishing off your pot roast. It's time for a great weekend escape. Here are ten terrific places where you won't have to answer the phone, write a report, shop for food or do the laundry. The best part is that all of these trips can be arranged at a moment's notice.
So pack your favorite clothes, kiss your job goodbye (for now), and get ready for a rejuvenating weekend tailor-made for you.
1. Block Island, Rhode Island. Twelve miles south of Rhode Island and fifteen miles off the eastern coast of Long Island, New York, lies a gem of an island getaway. Block Island offers eleven square miles of ruggedly scenic landscape, 17 miles of beaches, spectacular bluffs and quaint New England charm. In the summertime, reservations are a must in this popular destination, but autumn brings golden-orange foliage, less-crowded beaches and discounts on accommodations.
Choose from cozy bed-and-breakfasts or hotels with a Victorian flourish. Call the Block Island Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-383-BIRI. Block Island Holidays, Inc. (800/905-0590) and the Block Island Tourism Council (800/383-2472) offer travel packages.
2. Big Bear Lake, California. Escape from the freeways, the noise and the heat of the city. Just a few hours' drive from Los Angeles and San Diego, Big Bear Lake is Southern California's only four-season alpine resort. In the autumn, daytime temperatures hover in the high 60s to low 70s, and cool down even more at night.
Unwind on a boat, kayak or canoe tour. Miles of mountain trails wind through scenic national forest for every level of hiking skill. Take a leisurely bike ride, spend your time golfing, or opt to horseback ride through the tranquil scenery of aspens and oaks. Or just sit back on a guided jeep tour of the forest.
Lodging ranges from economical bed-and-breakfasts and cabins to first-class hotels. Call 1-800-4-BIG-BEAR or visit www.bigbearinfo.com.
3. Rochester, New York. Called "The Friendliest City in the United States," Rochester offers beaches on Lake Ontario, colorful fall foliage, and three beautiful waterfalls in the heart of town. Brush up on women's history at the Susan B. Anthony House. Learn about a key figure in African-American history at the Frederick Douglass Museum.
Tour the Erie Canal, or visit nearby Letchworth State Park, one of New York's best-kept secrets. Called "The Grand Canyon of the East," Letchworth covers more than 14,000 breathtaking acres along the Genesee River. The tallest of its three major waterfalls cascades down over 100 feet. Enjoy swimming, fishing, hiking and canoeing. For daring visitors, hot air balloon rides offer an awe-inspiring view of 600-foot cliffs. Call the Greater Rochester Visitors Association at 800/677-7282 for more information.
4. Cruisin' Along. Don't miss the boat on weekend travel. Cape Canaveral Cruise Line's two-night Grand Bahamas Island cruises start at $149 per person and offer Friday or Saturday sailings. Wake up in the Bahamas the next day, and choose from duty free shopping, swimming with dolphins and other shore excursions. Onboard, enjoy fine dining and a full casino. Call 1-800-910-SHIP.
Carnival Cruise Lines (1-888-CARNIVAL) offers a three-day Baja Mexico cruise from Los Angeles on the Holiday. Savor the stops in Catalina Island and EnseŇada for $339 per person and up.
For more bargains, call Spur-of-the-Moment Cruises at 800/343-1991 or visit www.spurof.com. Also check out Cruise Value Center, www.cruisevalue.com or 800/231-7447 and Cruise.com at www.cruise.com or 888/609-8224.
5. Northern Indiana Amish Country. Go back to a time when life was simpler. Visit quaint towns like Goshen, Elkhart and Middlebury. Enjoy museums, unique shops, distinctive restaurants with homemade goods, outdoor recreation and more.
Nappanee antique packages, starting at $69 for adults, include accommodations, lunch and dinner, a tour and a buggy ride. Bed-and-breakfast bicycle packages start at $88 per couple and include one night's accommodations and homemade breakfast. Call 800/860-5957 or visit www.amishcountry.org for more information.
6. Useppa Island, Florida. Once an exclusive hideaway for members only, Useppa Island on Florida's Southwest Gulf Coast is now open to visitors. Stay at the Collier Inn, and choose from cottages and suites with themes like the Baron Collier Room, which boasts oriental carpets, spacious leather chairs and chandeliers. The Izaak Walton Suite features hand-carved furniture and photos of tarpon fishing. Accommodations start at $135, with a two-night minimum on weekends. Enjoy swimming, fishing, tennis, kayaking and a fitness center.
The resort's restaurant features mouthwatering meals like fresh local blue crab cakes, mussels with anise, yellowtail snapper Vera Cruz, and much more. Organic fruit and vegetables are available and breads and desserts are all homemade. Visit www.useppa.com or call The Collier Inn at 941/283-5255.
7. The San Juan Islands, Washington. In northern Puget Sound, you'll find a group of more than 170 secluded forested islands. Several are accessible after a 90-minute drive and a short ferry ride from Seattle. You'll be pleased to find only half the rainfall of Seattle on these peaceful getaways, and you'll discover rolling hills, mountain peaks, cozy inns and friendly local people.
San Juan Island is the most popular of the group and offers the widest variety of restaurants. Choose from Chinese, Mexican, Italian and other cuisine. Golf, bike or hike in these serene settings.
Orcas Island, "The Gem of the San Juans," is a tranquil retreat from your busy life. Stay at a cozy bed-and-breakfast like Kangaroo House (www.KangarooHouse.com) or Rosario, the island's one resort. If you're up for a climb to Mount Constitution, you'll have a spectacular view of all the islands and the Cascade and the Olympic mountain ranges. For more information, call 888/468-3701 or visit www.guidetosanjuans.com.
8. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Just off the Atlantic Coast of South Carolina, you'll find an unspoiled island with lagoons and creeks, oak, pine and palmetto forests and miles of inviting beaches. There's championship golf and tennis, fine dining, shopping and more.
This pristine island enjoys an average temperature of 70 degrees. This makes for comfortably warm walking, shopping, biking, kayaking, sailing, fishing, horseback riding and other enjoyable pursuits.
For culture buffs, there are unique Gullah heritage tours on the island. Originally descended from African slaves who worked in Southern plantations, this culture developed with its own distinctive language, folktales and cuisine.
And speaking of cuisine, savor many different varieties of delectable foods, including French, Italian, Caribbean, Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Mexican.
Accommodations range from comfortable inns to luxurious hotels. Call the Hilton Head Island Chamber of Commerce (800/523-3373) or visit www.hiltonheadlisland.com.
9. Hocking Hills, Ohio. This little-known area in southern Ohio is located in the Appalachian foothills. There are deep gorges, high ridges, rushing waterfalls and caves to explore. See the great outdoors on horseback, or ride the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway, an old-time passenger train that travels through the rolling hills.
Escape to the Glenlaurel Inn, where the sound of a bagpipe calls you to gourmet meals. Or stay at the Inn at Cedar Falls, surrounded on three sides by State Park, and featuring four-poster beds draped with handmade quilts. There are no telephones or televisions to interrupt this great escape. Call 1-800-HOCKING or visit www.hockinghills.com for more information.
10. Solvang, California. Visit a Danish village without leaving the United States. Solvang bills itself as the Danish Capital of America, and you'll see Scandinavian heritage everywhere in this picturesque location. Stay at inns or fine hotels, savor delicious food and drop into the many shops in town. There's even a Hans Christian Andersen museum in this fairytale-come-true.
Wine lovers will appreciate tours and tasting rooms in nearby Santa Barbara County wineries. Close by, Lake Cachuma offers sailing and fishing. Plus, the Chumash Indian Casino, three miles from Solvang, is open seven days a week. For more information, call 800/468-6765 or visit www.solvangusa.com
Quick Tips on Quick Packing
You don't have to pack the kitchen sink for your weekend escape. Here's how to get by with just one tote or duffel bag on your getaway:
1. Wear your heaviest items, and make sure everything you take does double duty. Comfortable, stylish walking shoes in a neutral color can also be worn with eveningwear.
2. Solid-colored tops, skirts or slacks allow you to mix and match. Jewelry, scarves and belts add a sophisticated touch.
3. Take sample-size toiletries and make-up.
4. Roll clothes to avoid wrinkling. Pack socks and underwear last and fit them into leftover spaces.
5. Bring a separate light tote bag for purchases on your trip.
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