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New England travel

24-hour travel: Visiting Martha's Vineyard in the off-season

Posted by Melanie Nayer November 22, 2013 09:19 AM

lighthouse.jpgThere are a few well-known secrets New Englander's like to keep to themselves, such as which pubs are distinctly "local," the back roads to Gillette Stadium to avoid the traffic on game day, and the beauty of visiting Martha's Vineyard in the off-season.

No, you won't get to enjoy the rocky beaches and no, you probably won't want to golf on icy links or take the boat out of a chilly spin. But, Martha's Vineyard does have some alluring qualities in the winter, and even better: it's about half the cost and there's only half the people that are usually there in the summer months.

If you're looking for a quick trip out of the city and want a no-frills, laid back, intimate weekend away, Martha's Vineyard in the off-season might be the perfect escape. All you need is a heavy jacket, a pair of boots, your favorite pair of sunglasses, and you're off.

First things first: book your boat ride. The Steamship Authority provides year-round passenger and car service from Woods Hole on Cape Cod to Martha’s Vineyard. As the season gets cooler, the boat rides gets fewer. Make sure you reserve a spot ahead of time.



Road trip: Main Street, Great Barrington

Posted by Melanie Nayer September 15, 2013 08:58 AM

One of the great things about The Berkshires is that it's charismatic little towns, like Lenox, Lee, Stockbridge and Great Barrington. While there's plenty of antiquing and leaf-peeping to see, take time out to also explore some of the fun shops in the centers of these towns.

Great Barrington is just two hours from Boston and a few minutes from Tanglewood, the Norman Rockwell Museum and the Lee Premium Outlets. Everything you'll want to shop for is on or around Main Street, including food and cafes. The funky Gypsy Joynt is a popular place for lunch, and where you'll also find sweet snacks for that mid-afternoon pick-me-up. Fuel Coffee is an Internet cafe with - you guessed - some great coffee. You'll also find art galleries, antique stores and speciality stores around the block.

cheese.jpgStop into Rubiner's Cheesemongers on Main Street for some gourmet meats and cheeses. This high-end grocer has some unique tastings, and some great sauces, oils and rubs. It's bit like stepping into a French cheese store, complete with fresh baked breads and a few sweets to nibble on.


Hotels prep for Fall with special foliage packages

Posted by Melanie Nayer September 6, 2013 08:17 AM

Omni Mount Washington-Exteriors  34.jpgPictured: Omni Mount Washington, Bretton Woods, NH
Summer ended and with a flick of a switch, fall was here. While you still might be hanging on to hopes that we'll get a few more days of summer-like weather before the leaves on the trees really start changing, you might also want to start planning for the inevitable.

There's already a Fall feeling in the air, so why not embrace it? If there's one thing New Englanders can be proud of in the fall (aside from football), it's our foliage. These hotels in Boston and around New England are offering some special fall foliage packages:

The Essex Steam Train & Riverboat’s 2 ˝-hour journey begins at the historic 1892 Essex Station for a 12-mile, narrated round-trip into the heart of the unspoiled Connecticut River Valley. The steam locomotive pulls vintage coaches at 20-mph through the quintessential New England towns of Deep River and Chester. The picturesque countryside includes meadows, a quaint farm, a millpond with waterfall and trestles and bridges over river and creeks. A natural highlight is the undeveloped Selden Neck State Park, accessible only by boat.

Every Saturday afternoon during peak foliage season at Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee, VT, guests of all ages can learn to make – and taste! – freshly-pressed apple cider during complimentary lessons from the resort’s cider press team. After picking their own apples, guests will “smash and sip” at the resort’s own refurbished hand-cranked cider press set amongst the scenic autumn landscape of its Mapleview Gardens. Saturday evenings is “Cider Hour” in the panoramic lakeview Steamboat Lounge. Kids can try different varieties of apple cider while the Lake Morey Beer Master serves up delicious local tastings for adults, from hot mulled cider and Woodchuck Cider to a wide range of seasonal local brews.

Available weekends from Sept. 20 - Oct. 20, 2013, rates for the Smash, Sip, & Stay package start at $398 per adult (kids 3-12 are $80 and kids 13-17 are $130), double occupancy, plus 9% VT tax, and include:

  • Two nights accommodations (Friday/Saturday)
  • Dinner on Friday and Saturday night
  • Breakfast on Saturday and Sunday morning
  • Complimentary apple cider pressing (lesson included) on Saturday afternoon
  • Complimentary “Cider Hour” on Saturday evening (food/non-alcoholic beverages are included…alcoholic drinks additional)
  • Complimentary evening bonfire with make-your-own s’mores
  • Use of the resort’s standard seasonal amenities


Lobster-lovers: 'Crustacean Crawl' comes to Kennebunk

Posted by Melanie Nayer July 12, 2013 07:59 AM

You've bar crawled, enjoyed a wine tour, and maybe even joined a foraging trip to pick and cook your own food. But when New England chefs get involved, it comes down to one thing: seafood.

The White Barn Inn Restaurant in Kennebunk is joining the food trip craze and, with Chef Jonathan Cartwright in toe, giving guests a chance to learn a little more about lobsters, first-hand. With the newly created "Crustacean Crawl," guests will join the award-winning chef at the White Barn Inn for a leisurely 6-mile tour, learning all about lobsters and finishing with a decadent lobster dinner.

Want to tag along? We got the goods on the trip:


Stoweflake celebrates the 27th annual hot-air balloon festival

Posted by Melanie Nayer June 30, 2013 07:56 AM

Stoweflake Balloonfest.HiResTopShot.jpg
If you're looking for something unique and entertaining for all ages, head toward Vermont for the 27th annual Stoweflake Hot-Air Balloon Festival.

Voted a Top Ten Event of Vermont, the Stoweflake hot-air balloon festival kicks off Friday, July 12, 2013 at 4 p.m. with festivities and a twilight balloon launch at 6:30 p.m. The event will continue with two additional launches on Sat., July 13th at 6:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. and a final launch on Sunday, July 14th at 6:30 a.m.

Watch as more than 25 decorative balloons take flight July 12-14, 2013. Tethered rides are available for $10 per person. Or, you can lift up with the other balloonists for a New England hot-air balloon ride for $275 per person, plus tax (advanced reservations are required for these rides).


Berkshire sommeliers choose best wines to represent the Berkshires

Posted by Melanie Nayer May 6, 2013 08:48 AM

BTP-wines.jpgFinding the best wine and the best price is always a fascinating hunt for oenophiles, but a few sommeliers west of Boston are hoping to make things easier for you.

The Berkshire Tasting Panel, an experienced group of sommeliers at hotels and restaurants in The Berkshires, kicked off the “Berkshire Summer Wine Challenge” - a challenge to choose a white, rose or red wine, retailing under $20, "that represents all the Berkshires has to offer…artistry, history, poetry, purity, relaxation and lastly great taste."

The panel members were Sommelier Dan Thomas from the Red Lion Inn, Kollin Kozlowski CSW and Wine Director at Kelly’s, Blanytre’s Sommeliere Christelle Cotar and Front End
Manager of Mezze, Caitlin Harrison.

The judges participated in two roundtable blind tastings where each judge selected a rose or red wine out of a group of over 100 samples. On April 22 at Blantyre in Lenox, the judges revealed their choices and announced the “Quintessential Berkshire Summer Wine”

Here's what the panel had to say about the winning wines, both of which hailed from Spain:

The most surprising choice, our #1 red wine, a Cannanou (Grenache) which the group agreed/guessed was a southern French red, maybe a Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, Cinsault blend because of its earthy, ripe and mature character. Much to our surprise it was from Sardinia (I guess you could call that “extreme southern France!”). Grenache is a great summer choice, fresh and fruity, with minerality and acid backbone. The same descriptors could be said about Albarino, or even Chacoli for that matter. Ultimately our white wine choice was the Chacoli, produced not far from Rias Baixas, the “green” land of northern Spain. This wine stood out for its purity, lively personality and true sense of terroir.

New England Inns & Resorts offer packages for beer enthusiasts

Posted by Melanie Nayer April 23, 2013 07:40 AM

woodstockinn-brewery.jpgSome of America's finest beers are crafted here in New England. To help bring beer lovers together, the BrewInn was created - an opportunity for beer lovers to embrace travel while taste-testing their way through different brews.

New England Inns & Resorts is made up of nearly 250 properties, many of which have their own breweries or pubs, or have tapped into the local craft beer movement in their area. The BrewInn offerings vary by property, but sample packages include:


Nantucket Wine Festival returns for 17th year

Posted by Melanie Nayer March 10, 2013 05:16 AM

nantucket-wine.jpgThe Nantucket Wine Festival is one of the nation’s most celebrated wine and food events, and a favorite escape for Boston wine enthusiasts.

The festival kicks off its 17th year on May 15 for 4 nights, featuring a schedule filled with celebrity chef cooking demonstrations, tastings, seminars, symposia, auctions, world class wines and a special charity gala.

The place to be Nantucket's landmark hotel, The White Elephant, which will host many of the wine festival events including The Grand Tastings (new for 2013) and Harbor Gala. The White Elephant and sister properties White Elephant Village and The Wauwinet are offering weekend packages including overnight accommodations, event tickets, dinners at Brant Point Grill and TOPPER’S, as well as Bloody Mary-fueled brunches.


Nantucket hotels announce special pre-season packages

Posted by Melanie Nayer February 11, 2013 05:03 AM

veranda-house.jpgIt's never to early to plan your vacation. Some of the best rates are often off-season, so if you can escape before school vacation and avoid holiday weekends, you could take advantage of some great pre-season summer packages on Nantucket.

Nantucket’s The Veranda House and Chapman House are currently offering a special "Countdown to Summer 3-2-1" package available from May 27 through June 27. The package includes two complimentary round trip passes on the Steamship Authority’s FastFerry service from Hyannis (valued at $158) and a three night stay and one complimentary pass for a two night stay.

Rates for the pre-season package start at $199 mid-week and $249 on the weekends at The Veranda House, and $169 midweek and $209 weekends at Chapman House.


New England escapes: Chatham, Cape Cod

Posted by Melanie Nayer January 28, 2013 09:20 AM

View-from-deck.jpgView from the deck of an Ocean View room in the Main Inn at Chatham Bars Inn, Chatham.

While the rest of the world flocks to Cape Cod for the summer months, local New Englanders know the beauty that Cape Cod beholds in the off-season.

Snow-covered beach walks, hot chocolate strolls, slow-roasted dinners, after-dinner drinks by the fire in the bar. These are the things that make Cape Cod worthy of a winter escape. Add to this the discounted hotel and resort rates, and relatively empty stores and restaurants (read: no waiting in long lines or reservations necessary), and you've got yourself a great weekend getaway at a fraction of the price.

I took a quick trip to Chatham this weekend to check things out. Yes, it was cold. Yes, it was quiet. Yes, it was perfect. And shouldn't every day, regardless of the weather, start with a walk on the beach?

A few things you should know before you go:

  • Cape Cod is unvisited in the winter months, which means a lot of shopping and restaurants you would frequent in-season are shut down from November - February or March. This is your time to try something new. Make a reservation somewhere you would normally have a hard time getting into during the high-tourist season and enjoy a leisurely dinner.
  • Regardless of when you visit the Cape, the beach will be hard to resist. Enjoy a morning or afternoon walk in the snow-sprinkled sand. You'll see plenty of people walking their dogs, going for a jog or taking photos. Bundle up and join the fun.
  • While many bars and restaurants are open, the hours are varied to accommodate to the slower season. Call ahead before you go to make sure your favorite hole-in-the-wall bar is open or that the restaurant you want to dine in is accepting reservations.
  • The nice thing about visiting the Cape off-season is the opportunity for more hotel amenities, like easy upgrades, thanks to low occupancy. However, low occupancy means there might be fewer staff on call, so be patient. Just kick back and relax.

About the author

Melanie Nayer is a travel writer who spent many years in the newsroom before jetting off to see the world. Her goal is to bring readers the best insider information More »

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