In Boulder, St. Julien Hotel & Spa, a Four-Diamond AAA and Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star resort, book between now and May 4 for a weekend package (starting at $539) and get the room; two 50-minute classic massages at the spa; a bottle of wine on arrival; and $40 credit for dining at Jill’s Restaurant or room service. For information, visit www.stjulien.com
In Bermuda, February is the island’s annual “Love Month,” which includes a couples’ golf tournament at Port Royal Golf Course (duos get a 50-percent discount on greens fees); a “Champagne and Strawberries Afternoon Affair” at the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art; a “Love Train City Tour;” a “Lover’s Matinees” at Specialty Cinema; a love cruise around Hamilton Harbor; and a “Love Tales Walking Tour” in St. George. Check it all out www.gotobermuda.com
Rosewood Tucker’s Point is running an engagement celebration package that includes an 80-minute couple’s massage; daily breakfast on your balcony; and a private dinner customized by Chef Guido. The package, which offers much more, starts at $3,395 the first night, and $295 a night thereafter. Check it out at www.rosewoodhotels.com/en/tuckers-point-bermuda
More warm-weather offerings include Kamalame Cay in the Bahamas, with its “Lover’s Island Rendezvous,” at 20-percent off, which includes three-, four-, or five-night stay, free bubbly and chocolates, an afternoon on a small, private island, couples’ massage and private beach dinner. Three-night packages start at $2,669. Deal runs Feb. 1-28. Visit www.kamalame.com for details.
Also in the Bahamas, Deep Water Cay has an escape package starting at $5,308 for three nights that includes a stay in a one-bedroom cottage, private beach picnic for two and beachside cooking classes. Visit www.deepwatercay.com for details.
In the British Virgin Islands, you’ll find the “Sweet Surf” and “Sweet Sail” packages available from Jan. 31 through March 3. The surf package, which starts at $2,775 per couple, includes a trip to remote Josiah’s Bay for a private two-hour surf lesson. The sailing deal, starting at $3,425 per couple, includes a romantic, five-hour private boat charter on the Caribbean. Both packages include three-nights lodging in a one-bedroom, ocean-view suite; three-course dinner at Caravela at the resort; a 60-minute couples massage at Ixora Spa with 30-minute peppermint mocha or dark chocolate and coconut scrub; champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries on arrival; and breakfast for two each morning of chocolate pastries, hot items and beverages. Also included are unlimited use of sea kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, Wi-Fi, resort ferry and free airport transfers. Check it out at www.scrubisland.com
Bristol House Bed & Breakfast in Bristol, R.I., has a "Romance for Two" package which runs through February and offers two-nights lodging, daily breakfast, two one-hour massages, $50 dining certificate, flowers and chocolate. Rates start at $558. For info, visit www.bristolhousebnb.com
At Rhode Island's southern end, Ocean House in Watch Hill has its “Romance by the Sea” package, that includes a two-night stay in a deluxe room, welcome bottle of champagne, breakfast for two on Saturday, brunch on Sunday. Rates start at $745 per couple, and for info, visit www.oceanhouseri.com
Up in Kennebunkport, Maine, three hotels offer deals dubbed “Five Shades of Red,” where in addition to a two-night stay, you get a lazy man’s lobster dinner for two at One Dock, bottle of red wine and chocolate-covered strawberries, red velvet whoopee pie and red rose turndown and continental breakfast. Hotels are The Kennebunkport Inn, Grand Hotel and Boathouse Waterfront Hotel. Rates start at $339, $412 and $425, respectively. Package is good through March 31.
At Harbor View Hotel on Martha's Vineyard, they have a Valentine's Day prix fixe dinner deal for $48 per couple, which gets you things like sous-vide local lobster, pork tenderloin, chocolate macaroons and truffles. If you stay, rooms start at $179 a night, which includes dinner. Check it out at www.harbor-view.com.
Far away deals include one at the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong, with a “Celebration Retreat” valid for all nights from Jan. 20-Feb. 16 and after that, just on Friday through Sunday nights until the end of the year. Rates start at $651, and include in-room breakfast, welcome bottle of champagne and chocolates, restaurant and spa credits and more. For all details visit www.mandarinoriental.com/hongkong Paris is arguably the world’s romantic city and two hotels have deals for lovers. At Le Bristol Paris, where rates start at $1,200, you get one night, a welcome bottle of bubbly, chocolates and a special surprise, continental breakfast and a cocktail for two in Le Bar du Bristol. A “Romance in Paris” spa package is also offered, starting at $1,064 for two, which includes treatments, treats from the pastry chef, champagne and scented limited-edition Diptyque candle to take home. For all info, visit www.lebristolparis.com At the Mandarin Oriental, the “Love in Paris” package available for February includes a seasonal “Exotic Passion” cocktail, dinner, spa treatments and more. Rates are from $1,681, and for information visit www.mandarinoriental.com/paris
The Palais Namaskar in Marrakech, between the Atlas Mountains and Djebilet hills, has a romantic package available year round, that includes two-nights lodging; round-trip airport transfers; romantic in-room amenities; sliced fruits with cream; and a romantic bath with flower petals and candles. It also gets you breakfast in bed, a “Sunrise Retreat” with five hours in a VIP cabin with private hamman and two Namaskar Signature massages; and a “One Thousand and One Nights” dinner in the gardens or private terrace. Packages start at $1,344. For info, visit www.palaisnamaskar.com
Wine lovers may consider the Sonoma Coast Villa in Spa in California, with fully inclusive rates starting at $1,150 for the nights of Feb. 14 and 15, that gets you a room with fireplace, roses and chocolate truffles, private three-course dinner and one couples’ massage. Check it out at www.scvilla.com
If you seek more heart-pumping adventure of the adventurous sort, consider the Wild Dunes Resort on Isle of Palms, South Carolina, where you can get a three-hour Morgan Creek paddle package and get two nights lodging and a three-hour kayaking journey with rates from $219 a night, or the “It Takes Two: Heart-Pumping & Pamper Package,” which gets two nights, massage and pedicure for two and a choice of a full-body conditioning workout or Vinyasa Yoga session. Rates for that start at $339. Visit www.wilddunes.com for info.
Gamble on love and money with “Lights, Limos and Love” at Harrah’s Resort in AtlanticCity, with the package running through Feb. 16 starting at $899 a night, which includes a $100 dining credit and limo ride to a personal light show and bottle of Etoile Rose Brut Champagne. Check it out at www.harrahsresort.com
There's nothing wrong with hanging around a great Caribbean resort like Harbour Village Beach Club in Bonaire. The food is terrific, the sunsets stunning, the beach a long, puffy sliver of silky white, hammocks slung lazily between palm trees, and enough diving and snorkeling and kayaking to keep you busy throughout.
But getting off property is a must, and Bonaire has ample places to check out. Take a drive over to Lac Bay on the southeast coast, the windsurfing capital of the island, and check out the aptly named Bonaire Windsurf Place, where local legend Elvis Martinus has been teaching the sport to island youth for decades. Martinus, all-Antillean champion and Olympic representative for the sport, is so well known in windsurfing circles he’s featured in an award-winning documentary, "Children of the Wind." And he's an immensely easy person to chat up if you run into him there, always eager to talk about the sport he’s done so much to promote.
Lac Bay, one of the clearest bodies of water I've ever seen, is a broad and shallow place of steady trade winds and a beautiful place to watch colorful windsurfers jet across the surface. Next to it is Beach Hut Bonaire, which had been a small snack and fast-food outlet until 2008 when it was replaced by a sprawling, boat-shaped bar, open sided and facing the bay, where you get things like the half-pound Beach Burger and local goat cheese salad. Stick around at night for the music and dancing in the sand.
In the north central part of the island is a very pleasant little village, Rincon, the island's oldest. Pick up a walking-tour booklet and meander about, seeing things like Cinelandia Theatre, long closed but with plans afoot to make it the Bonaire Heritage Center; a house built of "blokkies," one of the few on the island built of these gray blocks; and the Oficina di Number, a betting office.
Satisfy your hunger at Rose Inn, a local favorite in Rincon, open aired and shaded by intertwined brambles over rickety tables where you can drink Polar beer from Venezuela and slurp some iguana soup, a thick creation with bony pieces of lizard, some with skin attached, and if you're lucky, a leathery iguana egg or two. The goat stew is divine, too, abundant chunks of meat with veggies, plantains, corn meal and beans. It's got a kick all its own, but add some table-top hot sauce if you want to ramp up the heat.
For a truly unique taste, walk over to Cadushy Distillery, run by Eric and Jolande Gietman, Eric a big, blue-eyed Dutchman who happily boasts he runs the biggest distillery on the island – and the only one, which by default, makes it the biggest.
Check out the cactus liqueur, easy enough to find the main ingredient for considering cactus is to Bonaire what pine trees are to Maine. They hand peel them, and dry the flesh in hot car windshields, Gietman said. He also makes sorghum alcohol so strong you can't drink it but can run a car on it. I wasn't sure if he was kidding or not.
They don't export, so buy some to take home, good "suitcase liquor," as he called it. Also taste the cactus vodka, which he said is the only one in the world, the Rom Rincon, a rum spiced with yerba, and Captain Don's Whiskey, spiced with aged Cuba tobacco leaves, named after a local diving legend.Rincon is, Gietman said, "the Bonaire of 30 years ago," a collection of pastel buildings, a few businesses, dogs ambling on never-busy streets, children playing freely on them, and old timers drinking beer and laughing on brightly painted patios.
If you dive, Bonaire is the place in general, and Harbour Village in particular. It is home to the Great Adventures Water Shop in an area long designated as a top dive destination, with 86 well-defined dive sites and more than 30 years of environmental protection laws that make Bonaire a place with the most-preserved marine life in the world.(For information on Bonaire, visit www.tourismbonaire.com. For information and reservations at Harbour Village, visit www.harbourvillage.com)
Fairmont Battery Wharf on Boston’s waterfront celebrates its fifth anniversary with a package that includes an overnight stay and $55 food and beverage or spa credit. The package’s starting rate is $255, available through March 31. Guests can upgrade to a suite for per-night rates from $355 for a one-bedroom suite or from $555 for a harbor suite. Winter attractions at the hotel include toasting s’mores or having a drink at the fire pits outside, afternoon tea, live entertainment and treatments at its Exhale Spa. For information, visit www.fairmont.com/battery-wharf-boston
Strapping on a jetpack to hover above the water doesn't sound like usually family vacation stuff. But they got that going on and a bunch more at Frenchman's Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, with its new “Family Island Adventure” package, aimed at entertaining the whole clan.
The resort's adventure center staff recommends and books family oriented activities, including the island's first water-propelled jetpack experience, where guests get suspended in air 10 feet above water, giving them the experience of defying gravity. Water sports include stand-up paddle boarding lessons for the whole family; swimming with turtles at Buck Island; and taking a night kayaking tour in clear-bottom kayaks ringed with LED lights. And new for this season is night paddle boarding, with special boards lit from beneath.
There's also a shark encounter at Coral World Marine Park, where guests get up close and personal without cages or barriers. And if the kids just want to hang in the water, the resort has four pools, including a new splash pool for younger ones, and there's always the beach.
The package starts at $224 per night, per room, and includes a $200 activity credit at the adventure center. For information, and booking, visit www.frenchmansreefmarriott.com, or call 800-228-9290, and use promotion code ZJL. You've got plenty of time to decided: The package is good through Aug. 31, 2014.
If you've never had johnny cakes, you don't know what you're missing. The little crispy treats are made with stone-ground corn meal, boiling water (sometimes milk), a little bit of sugar and salt, and then poured onto a hot griddle for frying. Plop some butter atop, slather it with real maple syrup and you're good to go.
They hail the johnny cake (derived from "journey cake" in colonial times, when they were made and packed for long trips) at the annual Johnny Cake Festival Oct. 19 and 20, which also celebrates fall, down at Kenyon's Grist Mill in the Usquepaugh village of South Kingstown, R.I. Admission is $3 per person, children under five free, and you can get free samples of said johnny cakes (Kenyon's is an ancient mill that still grinds its own meal), sweets, craft beer, wine and more. There will be more than 125 participants at this year's festival, including farmers, artisans and restaurateurs, along with live music and animals, historians and demonstraters of old-world skills. The event benefits the Jonnycake Center, R.I. Breast Cancer Coalition and more than 20 other nonprofits.
Visit www.johnnycakefestival.com for information. And bring your appetite, johnny cakes are addictive.
Ever wanted to swim with the manatees? You have a chance to with two winter packages at the Plantation on Crystal River in Florida, said to be the only place in North America where you can legally swim and interact with the sea cows in the wild. The breed found at Crystal River is the West Indian manatee.
at $224 for two people, the one-night swim package includes a room,
manatee snorkeling tour for two, equipment included, breakfast for
two and a welcome bag with plush manatee toy, manatee facts and
interaction guidelines. The tour is guided, and leaves from the
The resort also offers a swim-and-dive package starting at $448 for two people, which gives the manatee package, a second night's lodging, and a guided tour for two on Rainbow River. Manatee tours are offered year-round at the resort, but in winter, guests are far more likely to see them. During prime manatee-viewing season, usually Oct. 1-March 31, guests can see and interact with up to 350 of the gently lumbering beasts as they play, eat and socialize with each other.
For information, visit www.plantationoncrystalriver.com or call 800-632-6262.
The government may be shut down, but New England foliage is still wide open for business. We were surprised to see how much color was spreading across the Berkshire Hills in mid-September. And on a research trip up the coast yesterday, we were treated to a show in southern Maine along the Maine turnpike, as the photo above shows. To keep track of how the foliage is spreading in the Pine Tree state, visit the Maine's Official Fall Foliage website.
Listening to music through earphones while running isn't unusual. Having a live band play that music for you while you run might be. But that's the set up for the 3rd annual Rock 'n' Roll Providence Half Marathon on Sept. 29, which features live, local bands each mile of the 13.1-mile journey through city streets and neighborhoods.
Running start at the State House, and the course winds through historic Benefit Street and past the Roger Williams National Memorial as well as three of the city's universities. It also goes for several miles along the Seekonk River waterfront and India Point Park, before winding back to the finish. As runners cross the line, they can hang out and relax with the band, Atlas Genius, at a post-race concert.
New this year is the “Mini Marathon,” a timed, three-mile intro to distance running. The weekend kicks off Sept. 28 with a free health and fitness expo at the Rhode Island Convention Center. For all information and to register, visit www.runrocknroll.com/providence
Another sign summer is drawing to a close: NewportFILM is holding its last outdoor film screening for the summer with the documentary “Diner En Blanc,” a film about the famous secret pop-up white dinner parties that started in Parish 25 years ago. The event is being held Sept. 5 at the Norman Bird Sanctuary in Middletown, R.I., with two options for participating. The first is a “white” cocktail party with wines by Jonathan Edwards Winery at the sanctuary's Paradise Farmhouse, with live music by brother-sister duo, Honey Hollow, followed by the screening. Cost is $30 per person and runs 6-7 p.m. The second option is showing up for the film at 7:15 p.m., with free admission, though there is a $5 suggested donation.
If you opt for option one, all-white attire is encouraged, in keeping with the film's theme. Director Jennifer Ash Rudick will be on hand at the cocktail party and a post-film Q&A. If you go, you're free to bring your own food, though there will be food available for purchase.
The film is about the pop-up parties, where more than 13,000 people, dressed elaborately in white, show up for the pop-up dinners, positioning 4,000 tables, miles of linen and crystal and laying out sterling silver and food. According to the promotion, “they eat, drink and dance until midnight when they depart as swiftly as they arrived.” The documentary shows the evolution, orchestration and challenges of organizing what is said to be the world's largest dinner.
The new itinerary “provides a multitude of ideas on how to enjoy a day outdoors” in the area, said Pam Sullivan, marketing coordinatorfor New Hampshire Grand, the official visitor info source for northern New Hampshire. Check it all out at www.nhgrand.com
By Matt Juul/Boston.com Correspondent
The Mount Washington Observatory will offer guided tours Sept. 13 and 20 exploring the northeast’s tallest peak after traveling America’s steepest railroad tracks on the historic Cog Railway.
The tour will also include a behind-the-scenes look at the observatory’s famed mountaintop weather station, informal educational sessions, as well as plenty of photo opportunities.FULL ENTRY
Newport is known for old stuff, such as the oldest continuing tavern, lending library, synagogue and Fourth of July celebration. But each year, more new comes to Newport, and this year is no exception.
The Doris Duke Monument Foundation between Thames Street and Trinity Church unveils a $3.5 million revitalization of Queen Anne Square, designed by Maya Lin. Entitled “The Meeting Room,” the installation includes three shallow foundations to illustrate the history of the property and provide community gathering spots. The project will bring more green space, seating, trees and lighting to Queen Anne Square. It is intended to honor the memory of Doris Duke, who championed Newport’s historic preservation. Check it out at www.ddmf.org
The old, elegant mansion of Newport have added thing, including the Elms with a new audio tour which includes new information about recent restoration projects in the house and servant life. In addition, Mandarin translations of the audio tours at The Breakers, The Elms, Marble House and Rosecliff will be added as Chinese-speaking visitors are the fastest growing segment of foreign visitors to the mansions. The 2013 costume exhibition at Rosecliff features 20th century highlights from the Newport Preservation Society's collection, and highlights designer pieces by Chanel, Givenchy and Halston. The exhibition runs through November 22. Visit www.newportmansions.org for information
For the adventurous, there is a new Fort Adams zip line, where you can strap in and dive off walls of the fort, North America’s largest coastal fortress, on the 430-foot-long zip line. You start at 50 feet up, sail over the fort’s complex and land on the ground. You can go solo or with a friend on a tandem zip line. Visit www.fortadams.org for info.
The International Tennis Hall of Fame exhibit, “Tennis and Hollywood,” showcases the popularity of the sport of tennis with Hollywood’s elite. A social sport that initially catered to an upscale crowd, tennis became a natural pastime for many big screen stars in the early 1900s. Legends including Alice Marble and Frank Parker were known to share their expertise by giving lessons to stars including Dinah Shore, Charlton Heston, Dustin Hoffman, Clark Gable and Charlie Chaplin. The exhibit will be displayed for one year.
Also, the hall will host the first and only viewing of “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, which proved to be an event that created heightened awareness for gender equality, in honor of its 40th anniversary. King will be present at the special screening on July 14 to introduce the broadcast footage and then discuss her memories of key moments in the match, what the match meant to her personally, and reflect on its lasting impact. Check both hall events out at www.tennisfame.com
The International Yacht Restoration School and Museum of Yachting 2013 exhibition features a diverse collection of Newport yachting and coastal scenes including artwork in various mediums from the 19th century to today. Exhibition opens June 1. Check out www.iyrs.edu for information.
The Newport Dinner Train introduces The Ice Cream Train, a family-friendly experience aboard Rhode Island’s only moving ice cream parlor. During this scenic ride, families get entertainment aboard air-conditioned rail cars as the they travel along the coast while having soft-serve ice cream or sundaes. The train departs Thursdays through Saturdays from the Newport Train Depot, 19 America's Cup Avenue. For information, visit www.newportdinnertrain.com/docs/schedule.htm
Samuel Whitehorne House, a museum of 18th- and early 19th-century Newport and Rhode Island furniture, will feature a new exhibit this year of high chests including one on loan from the Ott family of Providence. For information, visit www.newportrestoration.org/visit/whitehorne
The inaugural Newport Sharkfest Swim will take place Sept. 28 along the waterfront beginning at the harbormaster’s dock at Perotti Park, proceeding past anchored sailboats on the right side of the swimming channel, and continuing for a total 1500 meters to finish on the beach at King Park. This event is for experienced open-water swimmers only. For info, visit www.sharkfestswim.com
As to new lodging, check out the Crow’s Nest Newport, with new lodging at Seamen’s Church Institute, a non-profit with a mission to service those connected to the sea, in its National Register historic building. The space is remodeled and includes 10 guest rooms in the heart of the waterfront. For information, visit www.crowsnestnewport.com
There’s also a new transportation option this year as the Block Island Ferry introduces seasonal high-speed ferry service from Newport to Block Island starting the end of June. Travel time between the two ports will take about one hour on a hi-speed aluminum catamaran ferry, to run several times a day. Visit www.blockislandferry.com for information.
For information on all Newport offerings, visit www.discovernewport.org
Check out the latest outdoor gear and put it to the test for free at the Joe Dodge Lodge in Pinkham Notch, at the base of New Hampshire’s Mount Washington. The lodge, run by the Appalachian Mountain Club, just opened an outdoor gear demo center for lodge guests, enabling them to try out Lowa boots, Leki hiking poles, Osprey backpacks, and Hillsound traction devices, which fit over boots and help keep you upright on slick trails. Equipment is available in all adult sizes, and in children’s sizes for boots and poles. Find something you like and you can get a discount to purchase the same or similar items at the AMC’s Pinkham Notch visitors center. Demo gear is available on a first-come, first-served basis. 603-466-2727, www.outdoors.org/pinkham
Contortionists, jugglers, acrobats and more can be found in Boston at Faneuil Hall Marketplace's first Street Theater Festival Oct. 20-21. Scheduled to appear are Alakazam, aka "The Human Knot," who puts on what is billed as a self-contained freak show as he twists his body into pretzel shapes. Wacky Chad is scheduled to be there as well, a guy who does comedy with tricks and pogo-stick stunts, who has bounced on programs like 'America's Got Talent" and "Live with Regis & Kelly." Also on hand will be magician/juggler/comic/mind reader/fire eater Lucky Bob, and Jason Escape who lives up to his name by wriggling out of constraints, a Houdiniesque display of magic that features him wrapped in 75 feet of rope and hung by his ankles by audience members.
The two-day festival runs 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and is free to all. Check out the full listing of events at www.faneuilhallmarketplace.com/info/streetperformers
Lawrence Millman's newest book, Hiking to Siberia: Curious Tales of Travel and Travelers, came out on Tuesday. Published by a tiny Buffalo press called sunnyoutside, it's a modest compendium of 20 essays about the joys and vicissitudes of travel (which, he notes, shares an etymology with ''travail''). It's small enough to tuck in a backpack to read a tale each night before crawling into a sleeping bag – or to lay by the bedside to encourage dreams of far-off places and the strange characters who inhabit the margins of the world. As Millman writes of himself, ''If a wrong turn can be made, I will find a way, God or his absence willing, to make it....''
We wouldn't have it any other way.
It might be a rainy weekend, but a little drizzle isn't putting a damper on the foliage in central Massachusetts, as we discovered on Friday driving around in the towns just east of the Quabbin Reservoir. In fact, this llama seemed to think the foliage looked good enough to eat, as he pruned some low-hanging limbs.
Photo by Patricia Harris for the Boston Globe
Affinia Manhattan in New York City is offering a "Miracle on 31st Street" holiday package, Nov. 1 through Feb. 26, with rates starting at $209 per night. The hotel is located at 7th Avenue and 31st Street, and the package includes a VIP ice-skating package for two at Bryant Park; 10-percent off your tab at Celsius Restaurant at Bryant Park; a free bottle of wine; 20 percent off holiday dinner at Niles NYC Restaurant and Bar at the hotel; a Macy's 10-percent off savings pass; two winter "rescue kits" with lip balm, ear warmers, hand sanitizer and hand warmers; and an in-room DVD of the classic film, "Miracle on 34th Street."
Affinia Manhattan recently underwent a $25 million redesign with Rockwell Group, transforming the historic, pre-war property into what hotel officials called an urban retreat. Check it all out at www.affinia.com/miracle, or call 866-246-2203 and mention promotion code 31st.
I've probably driven up and down Memorial Drive in Newport a million times, and have long heard of the upscale Chanler at Cliff Walk, but never put two and two together and realized the Chanler was so close to Cliff Walk. OK, so it's smack dab on Cliff Walk, but my reason for not knowing that is a big one: It is completely hidden behind a giant hedge, affording it remarkable privacy and quiet despite being steps away from one of Newport's busiest streets. Set back on a cobblestoned drive, it is a magnificent building, loaded with charm, elegance and a pretty neat history: Built in 1865 as a summer home for New York Congressman John Winthrop Chanler and his wife, Margaret Astor Ward, it was the first mansion built on Cliff Walk and hosted the likes of President Theodore Roosevelt and poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It was later a museum and then a girls' school before becoming a hotel in the 1940s.
We had the occasion to stay there one night and got the Empire Room; each of the 14 mansion rooms in the main building are decorated and named for an historical period based on the furniture design and architecture of that time, themed from Gothic to English Tudor to Greek Revival. One of the many beauties of this place is no two rooms are alike. And throughout, some of the furnishings from the Chanler Museum are sprinkled throughout. There are also three separate garden villas and three ocean villas.
Our Empire Room in the mansion was gorgeous, on a corner facing Easton's Beach and Cliff Walk. The room had a sizable living room with a two-person Jacuzzi on the far wall, which doesn't exactly befit the historical period on which the room is based, but was a very relaxing respite after a long stroll on Cliff Walk. Here, for an extra cost, a butler will come in while you're at dinner, run the bath and leave rose petals strewn about, and lighted candles surrounding the tub set in a mirrored alcove. A more romantic setting we could not imagine.
The fireplace mantel is of antique slate, taken from a mansion in Michigan and painted to look like granite. Empire decor, inn officials said, often used a faux treatment of materials to look like granite or marble. Several antique tiles with figures on them in ochre and lime green are embedded into the mantel, making it more unique and interesting. The room itself is unique; being on the corner, the ceiling height varies from corner to center, from around six feet to more than eight, with a stained-glass skylight in the ceiling. The room's feel is decidedly Victorian but with modern touches such as a triple-head shower in the gold-hued granite bathroom, and iHome docking station.
The main culinary draw is the Spiced Pear, a restaurant with incredible ocean views, some of the best in Newport, and cuisine to match. Give the Spiced Pear martini a shot, with Absolut pear vodka, Amaretto DiSaronno, pear nectar, cinnamon and lemon juice. We also had local chilled oysters, wild burgundy escargot, Narragansett Bay striped bass and the menu's highest priced item, the exquisite butter-poached Maine lobster for $42, worth every melt-in-mouth cent. Before and/or after a meal like that, a long jaunt down nearby Cliff Walk is almost a necessity. Or you could wait until the next day, because breakfast here is insane, too; check out the salmon and goat cheese omelet.
We retired to the bar of hand-rubbed mahogany for a nightcap before heading back to the room where that rose-petal strewn tub awaited, and got more proof of how renowned the Chanler is: The following weekend, it would be closed to the public, privately booked for the wedding of the creator of the Facebook logo. And yes, Mark Zuckerberg was scheduled to attend.
Newport used to go to sleep in the off season, but no more. At the Chanler, a fall two-night special ($425 per night) includes full breakfast, a bottle of Spiced Pear sparkling wine, two tickets to a Newport mansion of your choice, and one, three-course meal for two in the Spiced Pear. Wait until winter and you can get the two-night "A Chanler Christmas," ($375 per weekday night, $430 per weekend night), available Nov. 28-Dec. 29 which gets you the same as the fall special, minus the bottle of wine; instead you get a minted Chanler Christmas ornament. All prices include room taxes, food taxes and dinner gratuity. And if you want to check out other parts of the city, you can get a free ride any place in Newport, up until 11 p.m., first come, first served. Check it out at www.thechanler.com
All that behind a hedge? I have to start paying attention where I'm going.
So the Nantucket Project seems a good fit, it running Oct. 5-8, a veritable think tank which brings together big-brained types from many disciplines, such as writer and businessman Jack Abramoff; CNN political analyst David Gergen; Eric Schmidt, Google chairman; Henry Louis Gates, Harvard professor of black culture; John Abele, founder of Boston Scientific; and Doug Melton, founder of the Harvard/MIT Broad Center for Stem Cell Research. For full information and ticket pricing, visit www.nantucketproject.com/#blank
The Nantucket Project is one of a few cool things happening on Nantucket in the off season, a time with still lots of sun but lower temperatures and prices. For cheaper fall stays, check out the "Hot Dates, Cool Rates" program. Nantucket Island Resorts is offering discounted fall nightly rates, including at places like Jared Coffin House, with rooms going for $125. Check it out at www.nantucketislandresorts.com/hotdates.php
There are a lot of great restaurants on the island, and many are showing their stuff during the Nantucket Restaurant Week Sept. 24-30, including Topper's at the Wauwinet, home of a notable butter-poached lobster, and Brant Point Grill at the White Elephant, known for its duck confit Bolognese. Visit www.nantucketrestaurantweek.com/ for complete information.
The 10th annual Cranberry Festival is scheduled for Oct. 6, when the Milestone Cranberry Bog and Nantucket Conservation Foundation host a festival celebrating the island's historic bogs. Events include cranberry foods of all stripe, bog tours, hay rides, and sheep-shearing workshops. Check www.nantucketconservation.org/page.php?section=3&page=cranberry_festival for more info.
And rounding out the season, the Brant Point Grill offers a New England Thanksgiving and on that morning, the island hosts the 11th Annual Turkey Plunge on Children's Beach. For information on all, visit www.nantucketislandresorts.com or call 800-475-2637.
General admission is $8 for adults, and you can book your own hot-air balloon rides as well. For all ticket prices and information, including where to find lodging, visit www.balloonfiesta.com
Photo credit: Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and photographer Cindy Petrehn
The 2012 Sonoma Wine Country Weekend features Taste of Sonoma at MacMurray Ranch; the 20th annual Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction held at a new venue, Chateau St. Jean; the new Sonoma Starlight Supper Club at Francis Ford Coppola Winery; and various small, exclusive winery lunch and dinner parties at locations throughout Sonoma's wine country.
Proceeds from the weekend support Sonoma County non-profit organizations; to date, more than $10 million has been donated directly to Sonoma non-profits by the local wine community.
Ticket prices range from $85 to $500 per person. Presenting sponsor, Visa Signature, is offering its cardholders even perks and savings. For reservations and information visit www.sonomawinecountryweekend.com
Angel Fire Resort, in the southern Rockies of New Mexico, has opened a multi-station zipline tour at the summit of the resort's ski mountain, which includes one blazing-fast component that has you going downhill, strapped belly down into a safety harnesses and blasting head first down the mountain. The Angel Fire Zipline Adventure Tour is the first of its kind in New Mexico, resort officials said. Another signature segment of the tour includes a tandem zipline, where you shoot down the mountain, above the forest floor some 50 stories, on a 1,600-foot tandem zipline.
The three- to four-hour adventure, costing $89 per person, starts at the 10,600-foot summit (which dwarfs the northeast's highest peak, Mount Washington in New Hampshire, with its comparatively scant 6,288 feet), though a tamer version is available for those with young families.
The zipline tour is part of the resort's new Summit Adventure Center, an activity park at the top of the ski mountain, which includes Eurobungie, mountain biking, disc golf, horseshoes and hiking. Check out the video of the head-first ride on YouTube and all that other stuff that may seem pretty laid back compared to ziplining. For all resort info, check out www.angelfireresort.com and check out some pretty hairy rides at