Americans love chocolate so much that, according to one study, we eat more than 3.1 billion pounds each year, or 11.7 pounds per person. No wonder there is a National Chocolate Week (March 20-27) and no wonder the travel industry is happy to help you get your fix of that sinfully sweet, highly caloric substance that nonetheless may have some health benefits. Here are some ways to indulge yourself this month without ever leaving New England:
The fifth annual Chocolate Lover's Weekend at the Colby Hill Inn in Henniker, N.H., takes place next Friday-Sunday. Things begin with an afternoon chocolate tea on Friday. Come Saturday morning, there will be a chocolate cooking class led by Adrian Westrope, a New England Culinary Institute pastry chef instructor and author. A sleigh ride with s'mores will follow, and in the evening, guests will have a four-course dinner featuring the chef's chocolate dessert. The weekend includes two nights' accommodations, breakfast each morning with chocolate selections, and the aforementioned events. Rates begin at $433 per couple. (For a review of the inn, see Checking In, Page 15.)
Call 800-531-0330 or visit www.colbyhillinn.com.
Also next weekend, the Historic Inns of Rockland, Maine, will team with other businesses for a Chocolate March featuring many chocolate creations and demonstrations on Saturday, and an inn-to-inn tour on Sunday that will show that chocolate is appropriate for every meal, including breakfast. A two-night package includes accommodations, a gift bag of chocolate samples, tickets to a Saturday matinee of ''Chocolat," participation in the Saturday and Sunday events, and a voucher good for dessert for two at participating restaurants. Prices range from $285 to $405. Tickets to the chocolate events alone are $25 in advance or $20 at the door, if still available. The inns are the Captain Lindsey House, Berry Manor Inn, and LimeRock Inn.
Visit www.historicinnsofrockland.com or call 877-ROC-INNS (762-4667).
Romance is stressed along with chocolate at the Bernerhof Inn in Glen, N.H. A two-night package called For the Love of Chocolate features two nights in a deluxe room with Jacuzzi, breakfast each morning, and a dinner each night with such delights as chocolate fondue for dessert, chocolate-covered strawberries, a Chocolate ''Bomb," a Chocolate Truffletini martini, chocolate chip cookies, and a chocolate kiss on your pillow. The price is $599 for two.
Call 800-548-8007 or visit www.bernerhofinn.com.
The Golden Eagle Resort in Stowe, Vt., has a Sweet Chocolate Getaway in the Green Mountains. Upon arrival, participants are given a chocolate heart, and in their suite is a sample assortment of chocolate covered strawberries and truffles. The package also includes a full breakfast for two each morning, fresh flowers, locally made chocolates, and your choice of champagne or dessert wine in your room on arrival. Rates range from $239-$294 per night.
Call 800-626-1010 or visit www.goldeneagleresort.com.
The Chocolate Lovers Welcome at the Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, is a two-night package for two, at $939. Highlights are an ocean-view, two-level condo-style suite, a cocoa butter body wrap, champagne and hand-dipped chocolate strawberries, a three-course meal, one breakfast in bed for two, and a gift certificate to nearby chocolate confectioner Len Libby, home of Lenny the six-foot chocolate moose.
Call 800-888-4287 or visit www.innbythesea.com.
The Chocolate Decadent Spa Package at the Portland Regency Hotel in Portland, Maine, gets you accommodations for two and either a chocolate mousse body wrap or a chocolate spa pedicure, with a soak in a chocolate mineral foot bath, followed by a chocolate foot scrub and finished with a chocolate butter cream foot massage. The price is $339.
Call 800-727-3436 or visit www.theregency.com.
In Falmouth, the ShoreWay Acres Resort Inn has a two-night Chocolate Welcome Basket getaway featuring that basket plus an in-room Make Your Own Chocolate Brownie Sundae Bar, as well as breakfast two mornings, use of the indoor pool and saunas, and health club privileges nearby. There is also a chocolate spa treatment at extra cost. Rates start at $139 Sunday through Thursday and $170 Friday and Saturday. Call 800-352-7100 or visit www.shorewayacresinn.com.
Information on all packages except the two chocolate weekends can also be found at www.newenglandinns.com by clicking on For the Love of Chocolate. The offers are available through March.
Shop and Stay
If you have ever visited Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise, Fla., then you know the meaning of ''megamall." The giant south Florida retail and entertainment center now has Shop and Stay hotel packages featuring transportation to Sawgrass, shopping discounts, and other amenities. Nightly prices begin at $89.
Visit www.sawgrassmills.com, click on Visitors and then Hotels.
Oh, to be in Washington when the cherry blossoms are out. The Fairmont Washington, D.C., has a Cherry Blossom Package available March 15-April 30, with overnight accommodations for two, complimentary valet parking, and a box of Cherry Blossom note cards. Rates start at $229 per night. (The National Cherry Blossom Festival will be March 25-April 9.)
Call 202-429-2400 or 800-257-7544, or visit www.fairmont.com/washington.
$499 Casablanca fare
Lovers of a certain classic movie may be interested in knowing that Royal Air Maroc has an introductory offer of $499 round trip from New York to Casablanca. The fare is for departures booked by May 1 for travel between May 17 and June 12.
Call 800-344-6726 or visit www.royalairmaroc.com/eng.
Here is yet another tool for comparison shoppers: PriceGrabber.com has launched PriceGrabber Travel, where travelers can compare air and hotel options from dozens of partner travel sites, including JetBlue and InterContinental Hotels. The site also has information such as comparative on-time flight ratings.
When not included, hotel taxes, airport fees, and port charges can add significantly to the price of a trip. Most prices quoted are for double occupancy; solo travelers will usually pay more. Offers are subject to availability and there may be blackout dates. RichardP. Carpenter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.