10 too cool, close-to-home escapes to book now
- Last Updated: 3:37 PM, April 2, 2012
- Posted: 3:30 PM, March 19, 2012
According to the calendar, today is the final day of winter. According to the thermometer? It’s almost Memorial Day. If this early onset summer business we’re basking in right now has you jumping the gun and ready to bail on the city, you’re not alone. No need to go off half-cocked, however; we’ve got a whole bunch of standout spring mini-breaks lined up to keep you busy all the way until the calendar says summer. By which time the leaves will probably be turning, if trends continue. Happy Spring, people!
#1 Get high Fresh air, beautiful views and as spring sets in, acres of deep blue trillium and plenty more wildflowers are on the menu for those who hit the 105-mile Skyline Drive in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park before the summer crowds show up. The drive’s northern terminus, in the town of Front Royal, is barely five hours from Manhattan, making this an easier weekend jaunt than many people realize (nps.gov/shen).
#2 Do north Steve Martin once called it “New York without all the stuff,” and while that was a fine example of a really funny joke, it’s not entirely fair to Toronto, Canada’s version of the Big Apple, which really does have tons to recommend it — it’s just that Toronto is really awful at figuring out what New Yorkers want. Not to speak for everyone else, but here are a couple of things that are really turning us on right now: Palatial, hardcore dim sum joints out in super-ugly suburbs like Richmond Hill — Yang’s Fine Chinese Cuisine and Dragon Boat Fusion Cuisine, for example. The coffee culture, showcased in serious roaster/café settings like Te Aro, in funky Leslieville. Exciting little restaurants like Grand Electric, a Mexican gastropub type deal in ever-cooler Parkdale. Check into the city’s newest little non-corporate hipster hotel, the 12-room Hotel Ocho, in colorful Chinatown (seetorontonow.com).
#3 Early bird As large as it looms, for every New Yorker that wouldn’t be anywhere but The Hamptons on a summer weekend, there are dozens — more, maybe? — who’ve never been or don’t care. That’s really unfortunate, because The Hamptons are kind of perfect — far more so without everyone else clogging up the works. For a perfect midweek spring sneak-off, it’s hard to top postcard-perfect East Hampton. Check into The Mill House Inn, which has rooms from $225 right now, plus a Sunday-Thursday special through Apr. 12 for 10 percent off a two-night stay (millhouseinn.com).
#4 New angle An evening swim in an infinity pool at a sleek new Four Seasons hotel, high above the Inner Harbor. A sophisticated dinner celebrating Maryland’s impressive bounty at the Woodberry Kitchen, housed in a converted mill tucked away in the post-industrial Jones Falls Valley. Sparkling new waterfront developments, hipster coffee bars, interesting shopping. What is happening to dear old Baltimore? It’s getting kind of fabulous, is what’s happening, complementing all those pre-existing reasons – such as the art scene, the classic market halls, the super-friendly people – to love one of the East’s most unusual cities (baltimore.org).