It’s never too late to find a gift that will make someone happy to be a traveler

(Globe photo illustrations / Jacqueline Berthet )
By Patricia Harris and David Lyon
Globe Correspondents / December 20, 2009

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You know who you are. You slept in on Black Friday, and Cyber Monday launched just another workweek. But Christmas is getting so close that you can smell the candy canes on Santa’s breath and you haven’t started shopping. Now’s the time to get creative with gift certificates for New England travel experiences that your friends and family can look forward to. Here are some suggestions:

If your recipients prefer immediate gratification, the New England Pass lets the holder ride or ski at Sunday River and Sugarloaf in Maine, and at Loon Mountain in New Hampshire. Passes range from $449-$1,049. Buy online at or, or call 800-430-0772 or 800-THE LOAF Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

But if your recipients are good New Englanders who believe that pleasure is best delayed, think ahead to spring and summer. Zoar Outdoor offers gift certificates in any amount that can be applied to its rafting, kayak lessons, zip line canopy tours, and rock-climbing in Western Massachusetts and southern Vermont. Gift certificates of $50-$1,500 can be purchased at or by calling 800-532-7483.

To encourage the object of your generosity to run away to sea, consider a gift certificate with the Maine Windjammer Association, where it’s possible to choose from a variety of sailing excursions. The 12 association vessels range from 19th-century coasting schooners to late-20th-century tall ships crafted for the tourism trade. The certificates are available in any amount; some recipients save up smaller gifts for an entire trip later on. See the whole fleet at, but e-mail to buy a gift certificate.

Memberships help support New England’s worthy nonprofit conservation and preservation organizations and give the recipients free admission all year. Moreover, you’ll also solve next year’s gift-giving in a single stroke: Simply renew!

Mass Audubon operates nearly four dozen wildlife sanctuaries, a handful of which have frequent conservation and bird-watching programs. Individual memberships are $44 (family $58). Each new membership enrolled by Jan. 31 comes with a Mass Audubon baseball cap. Buy at or by calling 800-AUDUBON.

Audubon looks after the wildlife, while the Trustees of Reservations preserves the human landscapes of grand estates, gardens, farms, woodland trails, and even beaches. More than 100 reservations across Massachusetts range from Castle Hill on the Crane Estate in Ipswich to Field Farm in Williamstown. Members generally get free admission. A few sites, like Crane Beach, discount admissions for members. Individual memberships range from $35-$45, family memberships $55-$65. Purchase them at or call 978-921-1944.

The 36 properties of Historic New England span nearly four centuries of local history. The house tours are enormously informative, offering a true glimpse into how New Englanders inhabited these landmarks around the region, from the froufrou Roseland Cottage in Woodstock, Conn., to the sea captain’s Nickels-Sortwell House in Wiscasset, Maine. Individual memberships are $45, household memberships $55. Purchase them at or call the membership office at 617-227-3957, ext. 264.

Membership in Zoo New England would be a good deal even if it provided only free admission to the Franklin Park Zoo and Stone Zoo. But members also enjoy free or reduced admission to about 140 zoos and aquariums around the country. The list is subject to change, but currently includes the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, and the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport, Conn. Individual memberships are $60, family memberships $75. Purchase them at or call the membership office weekdays at 617-989-2076.

Let your gift recipients dream of steamy summer evenings with fireflies flickering in the gloaming as the assembled crowd packs into a historic summer stock theater for a little Broadway razzmatazz. The Ogunquit Playhouse (, 207-646-5511) in Maine and its counterpart on Cape Cod, the equally venerable Cape Playhouse (, 877-385-385-3911) in Dennis, both offer gift certificates on their respective websites or over the phone. Ogunquit proposes either $50 or $100 denominations, while the Cape Playhouse certificates begin at $10.

For theater with a little more adventure, consider a certificate for productions at companies known for developing new musicals. Goodspeed Opera House (, 860-873-8668) in East Haddam, Conn., draws from the classic musical theater canon, while its sister Norma Terris Theatre in nearby Chester focuses on new works. Gift certificates available on the website or by phone are for $50 or $100 toward ticket purchases, or $134 for two tickets to any one performance at the Goodspeed.

Barrington Stage Company (, 413-236-8888) in Pittsfield has won kudos for its world premieres, including “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,’’ which went to Broadway in 2005. The FlexPass ($90-$126 through Dec. 31) offered on the website or by phone provides admission to all three of the company’s main-stage productions.

While Omaha Steaks and the Bacon of the Month Club are always good gifts of last resort, there’s something more personal about giving a getaway that emphasizes good eating. The “Now We’re Cookin’’ package at the Johnson & Wales Inn (, 800-232-1772) in Seekonk includes a half-day cooking class on the campus of Johnson & Wales University in nearby Providence. The package is $369, but you can purchase a gift certificate in any amount to help defray the cost.

Likewise, six Select Registry (, 800-344-5244) inns in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts offer “Fun for Foodies’’ vacations. Each participating inn has its own twist on a culinary getaway, ranging from joining in a lobster harvest or spending the day with a cheesemaker to a cooking class, also at Johnson & Wales. Select Registry offers gift certificates in any denomination, redeemable at any current Select Registry property. The higher-than-usual processing fee ($15) includes the guidebook to the Select Registry properties.

Harried from the holidays? You’re not alone. Give the gift of R&R or peace and quiet. Imagine tranquillity. The Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health ( in Stockbridge is less devoted to pampering than to purification, renewal, even meditation -though the center does offer massage and a choice of accommodations that range from simple to serene. Gift certificates are available in any amount; call 866-200-5203 to discuss options and order.

One town and a whole mindset away, Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club ( offers a long menu of pampering spa treatments as well as a glassed-in pool that looks out on a rolling lawn - snowy fields this time of year. Dining options range from slimmed-down spa fare to meals fit for the robber barons who first made Lenox a country escape. Order on the website in increments from $25 to $3,000, or call 413-881-0736 to customize the gift.

If all that your giftees need for a getaway is a good book and a roaring fire, consider one of these inns with fireplaces. You can get gift certificates in any amount by calling the inns directly. Mountain Top Inn & Resort (, 800-445-2100) in Chittenden, Vt., features fireplaces in its suites and most cabins, as well as a cozy fire in the sitting room and a delightful fireplace in the dining room (book ahead for the fireside table for two).

The Inn at Long Trail (, 800-325-2540) in Killington, Vt., is famous for the grand fieldstone fireplace in the common room of the original inn. In an adjacent building are five modern suites with fireplaces.

Six rooms on the second floor of the Steamboat Inn (, 860-536-8300) in Mystic, Conn., feature woodburning fireplaces or stoves.

The Old Inn on the Green (, 413-229-7924) in New Marlborough is riddled with historic fireplaces. Room 193 and the North Suite in the original inn has them, as do four more luxurious rooms in the adjacent Thayer House. Even better, all dining is by candlelight, and four of five dining rooms also have fireplaces.

Go ahead, book a fireplace room for yourself. After all the shopping you’ve done, you deserve it.

Patricia Harris and David Lyon can be reached at