The bad news: Summer is winding down. If you’re like many folks, that weeklong vacation spent on Cape Cod or at the Jersey shore is now but a distant memory. And before you know it, winter will be rearing its snowy head, making travel planning all but impossible.
The good news: Autumn is the perfect season to escape for a long weekend here in the Northeast. Mother Nature usually cooperates, often providing blue skies, pleasant temperatures — and brilliantly colored foliage — in September and October. You can still engage in many of those favorite summertime activities (hiking, biking, wine tasting, antiques shopping) in the fall. And best of all, you won’t have to spend hours riding in the car — or, worse yet, fighting your way to the airport — to reach your destination.
We’ve discovered six locations that offer everything you could ask for in a getaway trip: good eats, luxurious accommodations, interesting sights to see, access to outdoor fun — and abundant fall color. Our profiles highlight locales in Rhode Island, southern Vermont, and northwestern Connecticut — as well as three spots in our very own Hudson Valley. So if you’d like to sleep in a hotel room fashioned out of a helicopter, take a lesson in falconry, hang out at a watering hole where actor James Cagney once held court — or just enjoy some plain old peace and quiet — read on.
Cast away: Located just a short walk from the resort, the Equinox Pond in Manchester is an ideal place to a fly-fishing lesson — or just admire the beauty of autumn in Vermont
Photograph courtesy of Equinox Resort
I can think of few places more picturesque — especially during the fall months — than the southern part of Vermont. Obviously, the spectacular foliage is the main draw (peak time for viewing: September 15-October 15). But the daisy chain of small towns along historic Route 7A — with their red barns, church spires, and well-kept 19th-century houses — makes the area picture-postcard quaint.
The Equinox Golf Resort and Spa adds a touch of luxury to Manchester, a quintessential New England village just three hours from Poughkeepsie. Built in 1769 as a tavern, the building was remodeled in the 1850s into the 200-room Equinox House (named for Mount Equinox, the tallest peak of the Taconic range, which stands directly behind it). The hotel hosted high society guests, including several presidents, throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, earning it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. After a period of decline, it was renovated in the mid-1980s and again in the early 1990s, with much of its former grandeur — including the trademark fluted columns, which stretch more than 280 feet across the hotel’s façade — still intact. Today, it functions as a full-fledged resort, with a golf course, spa with indoor pool, two restaurants, and other amenities available to guests.
Our one-night stay at the Equinox began when Harry — an older gentleman wearing plus-fours and argyle knee socks — met us as we pulled up to the curb, whisked our Honda to the parking area, and hustled our bags into the lobby. At the front desk, the gracious and efficient attendant confirmed our activities schedule and directed us to our room on the third floor.
Newly redecorated in blue and gray geometric patterns, the room was “bigger than the first floor of our house” (or so my husband thought). It had all the bells and whistles that you’d expect: king-sized bed, wide-screen TV, quality sheets and linens, and a fully stocked bath. We especially appreciated the digital thermostat (which kept the temperature uniformly comfortable) and the old-fashioned thick walls, which prevented the comings and goings of the other guests from disturbing our slumber.
After settling in, we went off to explore Manchester. Admiring the foliage, and getting a little exercise in, were among our top priorities. We consulted with the hotel concierge, who provided directions to “the pond.” After a 15-minute walk, we found the carriage road that led to Equinox Pond, which was surrounded by trees exploding with color. Easily accessible by car, the summit of nearby Mount Equinox also offered superb views of the brilliantly hued Green Mountains to the west.
Half a mile south of the Equinox is Hildene, a Georgian Revival mansion built on 400 lush acres by Robert Todd Lincoln, the only child of the 16th president to survive into adulthood. Lincoln’s descendents lived at Hildene until the mid-1970s; now a historic site, the handsome house — which is full of Lincolnalia, including one of Honest Abe’s stovepipe hats — offers tours daily year-round. And just a stone’s throw north of the hotel are the region’s ballyhooed shopping centers, Manchester Designer Outlets and Battenkill & Highridge Outlet Plaza. The fashion-conscious can browse through Giorgio Armani, Michael Kors, Tommy Hilfiger, and many other outlet showrooms, all of which offer designer duds at well below retail prices (and there’s no tax on clothing in Vermont).
But because the Equinox itself offers so much to do, we soon returned to our home base to take advantage of some of the amenities. First it was off to the spa, a 13,000 square-foot facility with a full menu of services, many of which use wildflowers and other indigenous products. My masseuse, Ann, gave me the signature Spirit of Vermont treatment, a combination of massage, Reiki, and reflexology. Well beyond merely relaxing, the 80-minute session was transformative, and worth twice the cost. For a fee, Equinox guests can also play golf and tennis, go fly-fishing, ride off-road in a Land Rover, and take a lesson in archery or falconry (which we did; see sidebar).
The afternoon went by quickly, and it was cocktail hour before we knew it. Savoring a glass of white wine — along with a sumptuous plate of locally made cheeses — on the resort’s outdoor deck, marveling at the view of the mountains in all their fall finery, was definitely a highlight of our stay.
As the sun went down, we headed inside to the Chop House, one of two eateries at the Equinox (the other, the Marsh Tavern, offers a more varied menu). Steak and seafood are the stars at this traditional steakhouse, and our beef — a New York strip for him, filet mignon for me — did not disappoint. A single order of baby iceberg salad easily fed us both (a fact our helpful waiter pointed out before we ordered), the side dish of creamed fresh corn was a rare treat, and chocolate fondue hit the perfect ending note. After a postprandial stroll in the autumn moonlight, it was off to bed.
While my husband and I hardly make a habit of staying in luxury hotels like the Equinox, we have spent the night at a few ritzy places (including the legendary Plaza in New York); the Equinox stood apart from these other hostelries on several counts. For one thing, the laundry list of available activities — all of which can be arranged through the hotel concierge — appealed to us; had we chosen to, we could have filled every waking hour of our stay with a different endeavor. But we were also greatly impressed by the hotel staff. The polar opposite of the stereotypically snooty, condescending workers at some posh hotels, these friendly, helpful-but-never-intrusive people were just plain nice. Just like Vermont itself.
3567 Main St. (Rte. 7A), Manchester Village, VT 802-362-4700, www.equinoxresort.com
Photograph courtesy of Equinox Resort
Guests at resort hotels expect a variety of amenities, like golf privileges or spa services. But the opportunity to try my hand (literally) at falconry was more than a little unexpected.
Dating back more than two centuries, falconry uses birds of prey (eagles, falcons, or hawks) for hunting. Popular among the nobles of medieval Europe, the sport is practiced today by a relative handful of people in the U.S. — some of whom staff the British School of Falconry at the Equinox, where my husband and I took an introductory lesson.
Dawn, our affable instructor, met us at the door and introduced us to Elmer, a Harris hawk with whom we would be working. Known for their hunting prowess — as well as their compatibility with humans — Harris hawks have a six-foot wingspan and razor-sharp talons which they use to kill small prey like rabbits; up close, they are a little intimidating. But Dawn tells us that Elmer only weighs about five pounds — less than my house cat. She calls him out from his cage, he flies over and lands on her gloved left hand. Holding him via two leather thongs attached to his legs, she leads us outdoors to put him through his paces.
Once outside, Dawn swings her left arm forward, releasing the leather thongs from her grip. Elmer swoops to the top of a high perch on our right, lands, and waits. Dawn then extends her left arm, makes a fist, and places a very small piece of raw meat on top of her hand. Within seconds, Elmer lands on her wrist, grabs the meat with his beak, and enjoys his treat.
After several repetitions of this drill, it’s time for us to try it. Still nervous about those talons, I let my husband go first. Eventually, though, I summon my nerve and don the glove. Within seconds, Elmer glides from his perch to my arm; even though he’s traveling fast, he lands gently on my wrist. Tossing him back into the air, I watch him gather speed in order to reach the high perch — it’s obviously an effort for him. We do this successfully a dozen times; although it may seem as though I’m controlling the bird’s behavior, I know that it’s actually the other way around. Thanks to Elmer, I end up looking like the star pupil at falconry school.
The North Shire Lodge
97 Main St., Manchester. 888-339-2336 or www.northshirelodge.com
This lodge — nestled in the foothills of Mount Equinox — has its own private pub with a menu full of fresh, local favorites and a fully stocked bar.
The Wilburton Inn
River Rd., Manchester. 800-648-4944 or www.wilburton.com
This 20-acre Grand Victorian estate is known for its breathtaking views and fine dining. Visitors can stay in the mansion or one of the five on-site villas.
Up For Breakfast
4935 Main St., Manchester. 802-362-4204
Douse your pancakes in authentic Vermont maple syrup at this downtown eatery.
The Perfect Wife Restaurant & Tavern
2594 Depot St., Manchester Center. 802-362-2817, www.perfectwife.com
Enjoy dinner at the restaurant, with classic fare (filet mignon) as well as more unusual dishes (turkey schnitzel, anyone?), then move to the tavern for drinks and live entertainment.
1005 Hildene Rd., Manchester. 802-362-1788
Built by Robert Todd Lincoln, the only child of Honest Abe, this Georgian Revival mansion was called home by the Lincoln family until 1975. Now the house and grounds are open for tours year-round.
Manchester Designer Outlets
97 Depot St., Manchester Center. 802-362-3736
Battenkill & Highridge Outlets
4513-4763 Main St., Manchester
These two malls house high-end designer outlets like Betsey Johnson, Donna Karan, and Anne Klein.
Manchester Hot Glass
79 Elm St., Manchester Center. 802-362-2227
Visitors can browse through the glass showroom, watch master glass-blowers at work, and even take glass-blowing lessons.
All five of the guest rooms at the Inn at Stony Creek in Warwick (above) are furnished with antiques from the Federal and Empire periods
Photograph courtesy of Inn at Stony Creek
When you stay at the Inn at Stony Creek, a gorgeous circa-1840 Greek Revival farmhouse in Warwick, you feel like you’re away from it all. The owners, Bill Signor and Joe Campone, strive to meet your every need, leaving you to relax and enjoy the peace and quiet (although it’s not quiet, as such; the hills are alive with the sound of bluebirds, owls, and other feathered friends who fly hither and yon about the nearby Audubon preserve).
“Our forté is service,” Signor says. “We wait on people hand and foot. From the moment they step out of their car, they are pampered.”
Set a few miles from the center of town on a quiet country road, the inn boasts a meadow, a pond, a hayfield, and the creek from which it takes its name. Here you can commune with nature. You can sit on a lazy rocker on the deep porch and watch riders on the nearby horse trail, or stroll to the chicken coop and visit the Americana hens, who lay eggs of blue, green, and turquoise. If you wander the grounds long enough, you might find the hidden rose garden.
Later, repair to the parlor to hear the concerto playing softly on the sound system and take inventory of the fine Federal and Empire-style antiques that comprise the furnishings. Or, you can venture upstairs to one of the five guest rooms and take a nap on the well-pillowed four-post bed, soak in the Jacuzzi tub, or catch up on your soaps on the flat-screen TV.
If you somehow get tired of the offerings at the inn — and have eaten your fill of fried zucchini blossoms plucked from the garden on the grounds — you can ask Signor to hook you up with a boxed lunch and directions to one of the area’s numerous and manifold attractions. From uncommon woodlands to the Woodbury Common Premium Outlets just less than 30 minutes away, there’s something near Warwick for every taste. You might feel like you’re far, far away, but you’re really right in the thick of things.
34 Spanktown Rd., Warwick, 845-986-3660, www.innstonycreek.com
33 Hathorn Rd., Warwick. 845-986-6099
The nine guest rooms at this stately mansion — home of a Revolutionary War hero — all have different styles. Check out the Victorian bar and fine dining restaurant, too.
Iron Forge Inn
38 Iron Forge Rd., Warwick. 845-986-3411
This charming, cozy restaurant — known for its brunch menu — sits at the foot of Mt. Peter.
526 Rte. 94 N., Warwick. 845-986-5444
Romantic seafood spot set in an inn more than 200 years old.
100 Main St., Warwick . 845-986-9611
Vito Viviano, the chef, was born and raised in Italy, and the menu reflects his rustic Italian roots.
162 N. Main St., Florida. 845-651-5700
The osso buco at this highly regarded eatery is hailed as one of the 10 best dishes in the area.
A visit to the area would not be complete without a trip to Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery, which is renowned for its hard ciders and fruit liqueurs
Photograph courtesy of Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery
Oct. 3, Village of Warwick
Five stages of entertainment, more than 200 vendors hawking crafts and yummy treats, and, of course, veneration of all things apple.
Warwick Valley Winery
114 Little York Rd., Warwick. 845-258-4858
Live music every weekend. Excellent food and fresh-baked bread at the Pané Café. Apple and pear picking from through November. And did we mention the wine tasting?
Pacem in Terris
96 Covered Bridge Rd., Warwick. 914-986-4329
A “trans-religious sanctuary” created by the late artist Frederick Franck, whose works are on display throughout the bucolic grounds. Idyllic spot to indulge your inner Thoreau. On Sunday nights, check out the classical music concerts.
Glenmere Reservoir Lands
Glenmere Ave., Warwick
Catch a glimpse of the endangered northern cricket frog and the orchids growing in the biggest bog in Orange County.
385 Rte. 17A, Warwick. 845-988-1818
The acme of frozen desserts — literally, as the ice cream shop perches atop Mt. Peter. The waffle cones are fresh-baked. Signor recommends the Bellvale Bog: dark chocolate ice cream with brownie chunks and fudge swirl.
Woodbury Common Premium Outlets
498 Red Apple Ct., Central Valley. 845-928-4000
Not exactly the great outdoors, but with 220 outlet stores — including Adidas, Burberry, J. Crew, Prada, and Giorgio Armani — the single best place in the Valley for back-to-school shopping, and a draw for shopaholics from Asia to Arkansas.
Hotel in one: Winvian’s golf-inspired getaway delights putt-putt fans across the board
Photograph courtesy of Winvian
Deep in the heart of the Connecticut woods stands a resort unlike any I’ve ever seen. Here, spread out over 115 of Litchfield County’s prettiest acres, stand 18 cottages and an historic home. Each has a different theme, architecture, and décor. You like antiques? They have one with that. Modern? Check. Log cabin? Of course.
Helicopter? Yes, helicopter.
This is the Winvian, the brainchild of managing director Heather Smith, whose family has owned the property for generations.
Her grandfather, Win Smith, was a founder of Merrill Lynch. Win and his wife, Vivian, bought the place as a “gentleman’s farm,” Smith says. “They came here to relax.” When Win died, Vivian lived here permanently until she passed away in the 1990s. The property went to their daughter, Maggie, Heather’s mother.
They also own a property in Vermont called the Pitcher Inn, where each room is decorated by a different architect. Heather ran the inn for several years. In 2000, she had an epiphany.
“It just appeared to me one day — wouldn’t it be cool to take the inn and make it on larger scale,” she says. “The Litchfield property was just sitting there, so I told my mother the idea, and amazingly, she said ‘I love it.’ ” They named it after Win and Vivian — Winvian.
They took their time developing the property, which borders another 4,000 acres of preserved land. “We hired the top experts in wetlands management, traffic control, everything to have as minimal an impact on the site as possible and maintain the integrity of the property,” she says. That care paid off. The cottages seem as though they grew up from the ground, surrounded by mature trees and undisturbed vistas that must have made construction a major headache but provides remarkable privacy for guests.
For the cottages, the Smiths invited 35 architects to a two-day symposium and asked for building suggestions that reflected Connecticut in some way. “We received about 50 ideas, and my mother and I picked the 15 we liked best,” Heather says. Along with the ones already mentioned, there is the Artist Cottage, based on a 1920s bungalow that includes an adjoining artist’s studio with blank canvases, water colors, acrylics, and oils that guests can play with. The Camping Cottage is airy and open; its floor-to-ceiling windows give views of the forest. There is also a screened porch with an outdoor fireplace.
Other favorites include the medieval Connecticut Yankee Cottage (inspired by Mark Twain’s novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court); the Treehouse, 25 feet off the ground and suspended among three trees; and the Hadley Suite, in the historic 1775 Seth Bird House. The Hadley features chestnut floorboards, a bedroom with canopy bed, and a “servant’s” corridor connecting the living areas with the bar and the bathroom — all overlooking the gardens.
And finally, the Helicopter: a fully restored 1968 Sikorsky HH37 Sea King Pelican helicopter situated in a wide open room houses a bar and entertainment center.
Roughing it: The interior of the “Log Cabin” cottage at Winvian — with its cathedral ceiling, overstuffed armchairs, and tiered chandelier — is a definite step up from most log structures
Photograph courtesy of Winvian
The cottages range in size from 950 to 1,250 square feet. Each has at least one wood-burning fireplace, a wet bar, icemaker, Nespresso coffee system, writing desk/study area, and private screened outdoor porch. For those who just can’t leave work behind, phones and wireless Internet access are available. Bose sound systems, concealed televisions with DVD players, and individual climate controls provide city comfort in a country setting. Each bathroom contains a whirlpool bathtub, separate walk-in steam shower, double vanity sinks, and radiant floor heating.
“We feel everyone has a different style as travelers,” Smith says. “Of course, everyone wants great food and service, so different cottages would appeal to the widest number of guests.”
Food is in the capable hands of Chef Chris Eddy, who previously worked at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, among other fine eateries in New York, Nantucket, and Vermont. If you get up early enough, you can often see Eddy picking the produce of the day from the resort’s organic vegetable garden.
The spa is a major draw, offering a sauna and six other rooms for a variety of transformative treatments. Pilates, yoga, and other classes are also available.
Obviously, relaxation is the order of the day (or days) here. For outdoor fun, there are hiking and biking trails (the resort supplies two bikes for every cottage); fly-fishing (poles and tackle also included); and skiing, skating, and snowshoeing in the winter. Should you wish to venture out, the concierge can set you up with golf, horseback riding, a hot-air balloon ride, or Formula I racing lessons at nearby Lime Rock Speedway.
Or you can just hang. “It’s not unusual to find a guest in the main lobby, reading a book with one leg thrown over the arm of a chair,” Smith says. “Though our services seem very ‘white glove,’ we want to be extremely welcoming and comfortable. If you want lots of care, we’ll be there. If you want to be left alone, we leave you alone. We welcome everyone, whether you want to live here all year or visit for one special weekend.”
155 Alain White Rd., Morris, CT 860-567-9600, www.winvian.com
Abel Darling B&B
102 West St., Litchfield. 860-567-0384
This inn is just a short stroll away from the Litchfield Green, home to a variety of restaurants and quaint New England-y shops.
Tollgate Hill Inn & Restaurant
571 Torrington Rd., Litchfield. 866-567-1233
This charming lodge has been welcoming visitors through its doors since 1745. Patrons are able to choose their sleeping quarters: a tavern, a charming Colonial, and even a former schoolhouse.
The Boulders Inn
East Shore Rd., New Preston . 860-868-0541
This Dutch Colonial mansion boasts an ambiance of elegance while staying true to rustic New England simplicity and charm.
The Community Table
Rte. 202, Litchfield. 860-868-9354
Features exclusively local ingredients from area farmers.
The Woodward House
4 The Green, Bethlehem. 203-266-6902
Offers Zagat-recommended American cuisine in an 18th-century clapboard house.
The Rooster Tail Inn
Cornwall Rd., Warren. 860-868-3100
Another 18th-century B&B with a cozy dining room and an English pub-style tavern.
New England Carousel Museum
95 Riverside Ave., Bristol . 860-585-5411
Vintage carousel horses are brought back to life through masterfully detailed restoration and preservation.
Sunset Meadow Vineyards
599 Old Middle St., Goshen. 860-201-4654
Featured attractions at this vineyard include wine tastings, guided hayrides, and informational tours.
Connecticut Art Trail
With the Connecticut Art Trail pass you’ll be able to explore former artists’ boarding houses, modern art museums, and more at your own leisure ($25 for 15 museums; valid for two months).
Harvest Festival Haight-Brown Vineyard
29 Chestnut Hill Rd., Litchfield. 860-567-4045, Sept. 19-20
This annual festival features local brews, vineyard and cellar tours, music, and children’s activities.
Rte. 61, Bethlehem. 203-266-5350, Sept. 10-12
There’s fun for the whole family at this annual fair, with a western horse show, lumberjack and “hollerin’ ” contests, antique tractor parade, and an “agri-Olympics” competition.
Photograph courtesy of Hilltop House Bed and Breakfast
If you want to enjoy a weekend getaway in the Hudson Valley this fall, why not truly get away? There are no obvious, must-see tourist attractions in northeastern Dutchess County, just peace, quiet, and acre upon acre of bucolic splendor. This is a place where you can lose yourself in the fall foliage, the lush pastures, and the movie-worthy horse farms. Which is what makes this the country redoubt of choice for so many celebrities (that, and the surprising number of superb restaurants). Hey, if it’s good enough for Mary Tyler Moore and Liam Neeson, it’s good enough for me.
Northeastern Dutchess County is loosely centered around two small towns, Millbrook and Millerton, some 20 miles apart on Route 44.
Quaint and unassuming, Millbrook is one of the wealthier towns in the state, and is well-known for its array of antiques shops — although the wares tend to be pricey, as the shops cater to another of Millbrook’s claims to fame: celebrities. The award-winning Millbrook Vineyards and Winery is another area attraction, offering tours and tastings — not to mention wine and food pairing seminars (including one taking place September 11).
Millerton, an artsy village near the Connecticut border, was hailed as one of the “10 coolest towns in America” by Frommer’s Budget Travel. And cool it is. The original Oblong Books and Music is here — one of the best bookstores in the Valley — as well as the Moviehouse, an indie cinema. There’s a music scene, with acts at the Irving Farm Coffee House and the Zagat-rated Manna Dew Café (serving eclectic fare and a stellar variety of wine and beer). And Harney & Sons Tea — well-known to lovers of that steeped beverage — has its shop and tasting room in town.
But the real draw of this area is the scenery. When the well-to-do speak of “going to the country,” this is what they mean. The farms here look like the ones you see in paintings: The pastures are pristine, the architecture gorgeous, and the animals healthy and happy. You could spend a weekend just driving around admiring the farms, equestrian centers, and so forth. You should at least spend an afternoon doing so.
And that’s only scratching the surface. You can hike or bike along the 15 paved miles that make up the Harlem Valley Rail Trail, visit the superb gardens at Innisfree or Wethersfield, have a tailgate party at a polo tournament at the Mashomack Polo Club in nearby Pine Plains (matches take place throughout September), or tour the majestic — and quirky — Wing’s Castle (open weekends in the fall). For a true Valley-autumn feel, visit one of the many area orchards for apple or pumpkin picking.
For my own getaway, I stayed at the Hilltop House Bed and Breakfast in Amenia, a small town located between Millbrook and Millerton, and thus well-situated to take in the area’s many pleasures.
The Hilltop House, as the name suggests, sits atop a hill near the base of the Berkshires, a short stroll from the center of town. The house itself, an architectural charmer, was built in 1909, and features a wraparound porch looking out at the backyard, as well as a veranda, where guests can take breakfast. The interior, sumptuously designed by Penelope Hedges Interior Design, resembles a gentlemen’s club: big stone fireplace, dark wood-paneled walls and hardwood floors, antique chairs and couches in reds and deep oranges, tables of dark wood, patterned wallpaper, old paintings, Persian rugs. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a hot coffee on a chilly fall morning (or a glass of port at the end of a chilly fall day).
Each of the five guest rooms is furnished with antiques — and each has a unique twist. The yellow Sunshine Suite features a crystal chandelier, while the adjoining Firefly Bedroom has old-fashioned wallpaper adorned with dragonflies. I slept in the cannon bed in the George Washington Bedroom, which I found quiet and comfortable. What the rooms don’t have are television sets and alarm clocks — a big plus. However, for those who are not quite ready to unplug from their high-tech lives, complementary Wi-Fi is available.
Sandy Johnson, who with her husband West has owned Hilltop House since last November, has just the right comportment for running a B&B. She’s helpful, she’s friendly, but she’s not imposing. Plus, she whips up a dynamite plate of blueberry pancakes. A longtime resident of Brooklyn, where she owned a bakery business, Johnson saw the house online and fell in love with it. “I knew I had to have it,” she says.
“It’s just so beautiful here. Any direction you look, you’re awed at the scenery.”
For dinner, Johnson recommends I try Serevan, a fancy place close by that has earned raves from foodies from Manhattan to Hartford (including in the pages of this magazine). But I’m more in a burger-and-beer mood. She sends me 10 miles down the road to the Red Devon, a farm-to-table restaurant in the village of Bangall. “They raise their own cattle there and use it to make the burgers,” she says, “I haven’t been there yet, but I’ve heard good things.”
I take my meal at the bar, where I watch well-dressed people stream in from a sudden downpour. In a different era, this was the Stage Stop Restaurant, a country hangout for movie stars. The bartender, Ian, says James Cagney’s mistress owned the place, and I was sitting at Cagney’s personal bar — the one he and Bob Hope danced on in The Seven Little Foys.
The food comes, and oh my. Put it this way: the difference in quality between a burger at Red Devon and a burger at Red Robin is vast. Even the French fries are superb. I wash it down with a fine IPA.
For a quick getaway, I couldn’t have asked for more.
43 Depot Hill Rd., Amenia 917-586-4694, www.hilltophousebb.com
Millbrook Country House
3244 Sharon Tpke., Millbrook. 845-677-9570
British-sounding name; Italian-feeling B&B. Four guest rooms are stuffed with romantic furniture imported from Italy.
Porter House Bed & Breakfast
17 Washington Ave., Millbrook. 845-677-3057
A private residence when built by Italian stonemasons in 1912, Porter House offers package deals with Millbrook Winery, Equine Escape Stables, and Pride of the Hudson boat tours.
Simmons’ Way Village Inn
53 Main St., Millerton. 518-789-6235
In addition to the requisite array of gorgeous antiques, fireplaces, and porch space, this Victorian manse near the Connecticut border comes equipped with its own restaurant, Martha’s.
108 Hunns Lake Rd., Bangall. 845-868-3175
This green restaurant serves farm-to-table fare and promotes sustainability with progressive, eco-friendly technology in its construction.
3278 Franklin Ave., Millbrook . 845-677-8602
This gourmet market — selling seasonal oils, jams, cheeses, and more — is also a coffee shop and a bakery.
Charlotte’s Restaurant & Catering
4528 Rte. 44, Millbrook. 845-677-5888
Charlotte’s offers dishes made from local ingredients in a refined setting which embodies country elegance.
6 Autumn Ln. Rte. 44, Amenia . 845-373-9800
Chef Serge Madikians blends Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors with ingredients from surrounding farms and the restaurant’s own garden.
Mashomack Polo Club
48 Briarcliff Ln., Pine Plains
Host a tailgate party during an exciting match at this polo club, or try your hand at a private lesson.
717 Bangall Rd., Millbrook. 845-677-9085
Tour this historically evocative retreat, built over the course of 40 years by a husband-and-wife duo. Still a work in progress, plans are underway to open a bed and breakfast at the site.
Visit www.millbrooknyonline.com/sources/wineries.html for a listing of nearby farm stands and wineries.
Waterworld: With its long and colorful marine history, Bristol is no stranger to sailing and sailors. The town’s Herreshoff Company built a string of America’s Cup winners at the turn of the 20th century; the Herreshoff Marine Museum is home to sailing memorabilia and the America’s Cup Hall of Fame
Photograph courtesy of Herreshoff Marine Museum
The small, tourist-friendly harbor town of Bristol, Rhode Island is a historic and well-preserved city on the east side of picturesque Narragansett Bay. It combines all you’d want in a vacation: interesting museums, a variety of restaurants and pubs, special events, diversions for the kids, and romance for the grownups draped in natural beauty.
If you’re not familiar with Bristol, it was established way back in 1680 and became a center of seafaring commerce and industry in the 18th and 19th centuries — one of its biggest money-makers being the slave trade.
The DeWolf family was a principal player in the so-called Triangle Trade. The DeWolfs made rum and other goods, and traded them to African merchants for slaves. They then sent those slaves to Cuba and South Carolina for molasses, lumber, and other goods. Their then-center of operations is now the Bristol Harbor Inn, a good spot to set up camp for exploring the area.
The inn was fashioned out of repurposed historic buildings — including James and William DeWolf’s distillery and rum storage room, and a former bank. It features original hand-hewn beams, plaster walls, and pieces of African granite, which was used as ballast on the slave ships. This period architecture is balanced with modern amenities and dazzling harbor views.
Across the street is the DeWolf Tavern, circa 1818. It features a unique menu focused on seafood — of course — but with the added twists of chef Sai Viswanath’s Indian spices and flavorings.
The inn and tavern anchor the Thames Street Landing, a section of shops, restaurants, and boardwalk views that represent how the city has strived to keep things quaint, charming, and tastefully commercial. The rest of the Bristol is easy to traverse and offers a surprising number of things to see and do.
Since the sea is integral to the town’s history, start at the Herreshoff Marine Museum. The Bristol-based Herreshoff Company built five consecutive America’s Cup Defenders between 1893 and 1920, as well as military and commercial vessels (the America’s Cup Hall of Fame is also here). The nearby Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology is devoted to art and artifacts from native peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific.
If you enjoy touring estates, Bristol offers many. Blithewold Mansion is a 33-acre seaside house with world-class gardens; Linden Place is an 1810 Federal-style mansion that was home to the DeWolf family. For a taste of 18th-century life, visit 200-acre Mount Hope Farm, on which the Governor Bradford House was built in 1745 (and featured in the Steven Spielberg film Amistad).
Recreation is a big part of the area’s attractions. Colt Park, former home of Samuel P. Colt (of Colt firearms fame) features magnificent rolling lawns and gardens along Narragansett Bay, and is a good place to catch world-class sunsets. For more active types, the East Bay Bike/Hike Path runs from Thames Street all the way to East Providence.
During the fall, catch family-friendly events like a scary movie festival at the library and a pumpkin sale at the Coggeshall Farm Museum, which features reenactments depicting town life in the 1790s.
If you plan a longer stay, Bristol offers easy access to both Newport and Providence, each about a half-hour’s drive away. Newport, of course, is the home of Homes, the grand Gilded Age mansions of the Vanderbilts and their buddies.
But don’t dismiss Providence, which serves up some fine getaway fun as well. The city’s Waterplace Park and its adjoining cobblestone and brick river walks make up the heart of the renewed downtown, where concerts and other events are held. Providence also has a Little Italy — the Federal Hill area — with terrific restaurants and ambience. You can grab an espresso and cannoli, toss a coin in the DePasquale Fountain, and even take a river cruise — on a gondola.
If Italian food isn’t your thing, try to get reservations at La Laiterie at Farmstead. It offers local, seasonal, bistro-style cuisine that combines hints of New England and Europe. Try their grilled Greek sardines or smoked beef tongue bruschetta to make your Rhode Island getaway even more memorable.
Bristol Harbor Inn. 259 Thames St., Bristol, RI 401-254-1444, www.bristolharborinn.com
Point Pleasant Inn & Resort
333 Poppasquash Rd., Bristol . 401-253-0627
This stately English country manor, situated on Bristol Harbor, offers daily cocktail hours and live weekend entertainment.
259 Thames St., Bristol. 401-254-2005
South Asian-New England fusion in the historic site of Bristol’s most notorious family.
31 State St., Bristol. 401-254-7474
This modern restaurant serves American cuisine, and was named Best Restaurant by Rhode Island Monthly.
301 Hope St., Bristol. 401-254-9732
Fine Italian cuisine and a great wine list in an old-world bistro.
La Laiterie at Farmstead
184-188 Wayland Ave., Providence. 401-274-7177
Features local, seasonal food in what’s called “haute farmhouse cuisine.”
Herreshoff Marine Museum & America’s Cup Hall of Fame
1 Burnside St., Bristol. 401-253-5000
This museum aims to preserve the legacy of its namesake boat manufacturing company; the Hall of Fame honors those involved in the America’s Cup competition.
Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology at Brown University
21 Prospect St., Brown. 401-863-2065
Explore diverse cultures via archaeological findings, researched collections, and native artifacts.
Blithewold Mansion, Gardens, & Arboretum
101 Ferry Rd., Bristol. 401-253-2707
Tour the mansion for a peek at bygone days, or stroll the 33-acre grounds for stunning displays of flora and foliage.
500 Hope St., Bristol. 401-253-0390
Estate and gardens of the aforementioned DeWolf family. The house was featured in the film The Great Gatsby.
Mount Hope Farm
250 Metacom Ave., Bristol. 401-254-1745
The impressive landscape of this saltwater farm features more than 200 acres of meadows, forests, streams, and ponds, with views of Mount Hope and Narragansett Bay.
Coggeshall Farm Museum
1 Colt Dr., Bristol. 401-253-9062
This museum brings the town’s past to life through reenactments, historic structures, and more.
Valley scenic: The grounds at the Buttermilk Inn and Spa are almost preternaturally beautiful
Photograph courtesy of Buttermilk Falls Inn & Spa
I’ve never met a spa I didn’t like. Really. If there is a place where pleasant people rub my weary body and otherwise pamper me with exotic lotions and potions, then I would be hard-pressed to say I didn’t enjoy the experience. But a trip to the Buttermilk Falls Inn & Spa in Milton offers a unique twist on more traditional destination spas. Part cozy country inn, part quirky organic farm, part high-tech green spa, a visit here simultaneously relaxes you while invigorating all your senses. You’ll also be charmed silly. After all, can you help yourself to an amply stocked refrigerator at Canyon Ranch? I think not.
Buttermilk Falls’ setting is key. Perched on 70 rolling acres that cascade gently down to the Hudson River, the ridiculously pretty property immediately brought back my fond memories of an afternoon spent wandering in the Tuscan countryside. Exquisite gardens and wildflower fields are dotted with meandering walking paths; an orchard area features cherry, pear, peach, and apple trees. You can stroll past two ponds where the friendliest gaggle of geese you’ve ever encountered will rush over to greet you — regardless of whether or not you have a scrap of food to offer them. (Should you be so inclined, the staff will happily provide you with some day-old bread to feed your new feathered friends.) And most guests happily take the path down to the river and the namesake falls (which should not be confused with the more famous Buttermilk Falls near Ithaca or the ones in western Ulster County).
The stunning views are naturally a big draw for the dozen or so weddings that are held on the property each year. Would-be brides and grooms are required to rent out the whole property for the weekend, creating a one-of-a-kind escape for their family and friends.
Guests are also welcome to check out the organic gardens, where broccoli, onions, garlic, potatoes, and a wide selection of herbs are growing — much of which will make its way into the bountiful breakfasts served up each morning. (My friend and I are still talking about the herb butter, and it has been more than a month since our visit.) You can also stop by the aviary house, where chickens lay the fresh eggs used daily in the kitchen. Don’t miss the llamas and goats or the chance to ooh and aah at the preening peacocks.
The inn’s 13 guest rooms — including the one above — are cozy and comfortable
Photograph courtesy of Buttermilk Falls Inn & Spa
A quirky collection of buildings and carriage houses also punctuate the property. The main house, built in 1764, has been masterfully modernized, but bits of exposed stone walls and other original features are still visible, which helps the building retain its historic charm. The 13 guest rooms each have a fireplace, private bath, TV, and Internet capability, but are otherwise crammed full of unique features. The Grand Laurel is surely the most spectacular room I have ever had the privilege of calling home for a night. Stepping up into the California king-size canopy bed felt like I was crawling into my own private harem. The Winterberry room has soothingly rich sienna walls and double doors opening onto a private balcony with a view of the river; the Captain’s Room is decorated in full nautical regalia. There is also a carriage house with two separate suites. One, called the Maynor Flat, has a Southwestern flavor; the suite honors Dorothy Maynor, the famous African-American opera singer who owned the inn’s main house from 1953 to 1964. Two remote cottages, and the ultramodern Riverknoll House with three bedrooms and a spectacular deck, round out the accommodations (although a new cottage is in the works).
The spa itself is sleek and modern, and thoroughly committed to using only natural, organic products (including those made by Julique and Babor). But the main attraction is the indoor-outdoor, glass-enclosed mineral pool; almost no chlorine is used and Fastlane technology allows you to swim against a moving current. Let me tell you, it is a singular delight to have your mani/pedi done poolside. The pool, sauna, and steam room — which can be utilized with a day pass for $35 — are all heated using both solar and geothermal energy. The floors in the spa are also radiantly heated. Next summer, a new outdoor pool is scheduled to open.
But the big news at Buttermilk is the debut of its new restaurant this fall. While the name and chef were still up in the air at press time, the eatery — with 65 seats — will be open to the public for dinner. “It will be American regional with an international flair,” says manager Adam Glinert of the cuisine. “And there will be a strong emphasis on locally grown produce.” The facility will also morph into a teaching kitchen during the day, offering a variety of cooking classes.
This autumn might be the perfect time to visit. “It is just absolutely spectacular here in the fall,” says Glinert. “Later in the season, the river views open up even more. It’s just beautiful.”
220 North Rd., Milton 845-795-1310, www.buttermilkfallsinn.com
The Inn at Twaalfskill
144 Vineyard Ave., Highland. 845-691-3605
Any one of the three large guest rooms in this historic 1902 home offers ultimate comfort and an easy walk to the Walkway Over the Hudson.
The Raccoon Saloon
1133 Main St. (Rte. 9W), Marlboro. 845-236-7872
With great views of the Hudson, this eatery is a favorite of the locals. It’s rightly famous for its hefty hamburgers (served with homemade ketchup).
The Gomez Mill House
Mill House Rd., Marlboro. 845-236-3126
The oldest surviving Jewish dwelling in North America can be toured until mid-November. Learn more about the history and role of American Jews as pioneers through many special events.
Franny Reese State Park
Located just south of the Mid-Hudson Bridge, Scenic Hudson’s newest park (dedicated in October 2009) features more than two miles of woodland trails and impressive ruins of former estate buildings. But the Hudson River views make this a must-see destination.
Mt. Zion Rd., Marlboro. 845-236-2684
Pick apples at this family-run orchard, as well as peaches (in early September); take a hayride, picnic by the lake, and attend one of many festivals, including two in September (Peach & Fall) and three in October (Apple, Pumpkin, and a Halloween Costume Party).
1348 Rte. 9W, Marlboro. 845-236-7970
Check out this popular new live music joint that the New York Times called “an unlikely haven for jazz.”