A week's happy ending

Does winter’s approach leave you cold? Not a fan of the season’s inevitable doldrums? Why not plan now for a quick escape?

November 14, 2010

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PADDLE AROUND OFF GEORGIA Just across a causeway from storied Savannah, Ga., once-fortifed Little Tybee Island became a summer resort when the railroad arrived in 1887. In the winter, the crowds disappear and the island reverts to its near-natural state of long sandy beaches, moss-hung swamps, and marshlands teeming with egrets, herons, plovers, and ospreys. The water is cool but not cold, and Sea Kayak Georgia offers half- and full-day paddling tours that are the best way to glide silently among the chain of marsh hummocks and barrier islands. Watching a heron fish the shallows banishes all thoughts of snow and ice. Experienced paddlers might also consider signing up for advanced courses in such techniques as surf kayaking.

Watch sandpipers and plovers out your window if you stay right on the beach at the Desoto Beach Hotel (877-786-4542,, $70-$110) for a fraction of the summer rates. Since local shrimpers fish all winter, be sure to order the shrimp and grits at ultra-casual AJ’s Dockside, located on the island’s back river.


GO CARVE UP UTAH Grab the 6:30 a.m. direct flight on Delta from Boston to Salt Lake City, drive the 35 minutes to Park City, and you’ll be schussing by 11 — for free. Thanks to Park City’s Quick Start program (, you can exchange your boarding pass that first day for a complimentary day of skiing at the Canyons, Park City, or Deer Valley ski resorts.

New this winter at the Canyons is a heated, bubble-enclosed quad lift, the first of its kind in North America. The resort also added 300 acres of new terrain and a gondola that transports guests from the center of the village to Red Pine Lodge.

The Empire Canyon area of Deer Valley will see the debut of the new Montage resort (9100 Marsec Ave., 435-604-1300,, $845-$5,000) next month, featuring 154 rooms, 66 one- to four-bedroom suites, the Apex Mountain American Grill, and a 35,000-square-foot spa.

In the heart of historic Park City, at the base of the Town Lift sits High West Distillery & Saloon, the first distillery to open legally in Utah since the 1870s. One snifter of the small-batch rye whiskey and you might suddenly have the edge you need to attempt that black diamond trail. Remember it’s the whiskey talking, so don’t do anything rash.


COUNT B.C.’s BALD BOUNTY Residents of the Squamish River Valley between Vancouver and Whistler, British Columbia, admit they become eagle-obsessed from mid-November into February, when hundreds of bald eagles converge on the area to feed on spawning salmon. Even novices can spot the white heads of the mature eagles, though it’s best to rise early as eagles confirm the adage about who gets the worm, or in this case, the fish.

Brackendale Art Gallery, the informal hub of eagle-watching, coordinates the annual eagle count (scheduled for Jan. 2) and hosts eco-talks during the January Eagle Festival. The 2010 tally of 956 eagles was up over the previous two years, but below the 1994 high of 3,769. The Eagle Viewing Dyke, above a group of sandbars in the river where a dozen or more birds may be snagging salmon at any one time, is among the most popular viewing sites.

Floating downriver on a raft with Canadian Outback Adventures provides an even closer perspective on the magnificent raptors. Bill McComish, proprietor of Nu-Salya Chalet (2014 Glacier Heights Place, Garibaldi Highlands, 877-604-9005,, $129-$169) is an accomplished nature photographer and great source of advice. Most activities are on weekends.


MOSEY AROUND IN MARYLAND In winter, the seemingly impossible happens in the sleepy towns along Maryland’s Eastern Shore. With the tourists gone, the unhurried pace for which this peninsula is known becomes even slower. The town of Cambridge, where time is measured by the tides and the migration patterns of snow geese from Canada and great blue herons, provides a much needed off-season regroup.

Settled on the Choptank River in 1684, Cambridge has an illustrious history. An important hub of the Underground Railroad, it was home to Harriet Tubman and Annie Oakley, who retired from sharpshooting to a home she had custom built to suit her 5-foot frame. Cambridge was one of the inspirations for James Michener when he wrote “Chesapeake,’’ a love letter to all things Eastern Shore.

Located about 85 miles east of Washington by way of the 20-mile Bay Bridge, Cambridge isn’t as touristy as nearby St. Michaels, but there’s still plenty to do.

Retail therapy along Race Street includes Joy Staniforth’s Joie de Vivre Gallery, showcasing locally made jewelry and the work of local folk artist Danny Doughty. A Few of My Favorite Things is a repository of wines, cheeses, fun gourmet gifts, and more.

Crab at every meal is possible here, including topnotch crabcakes at the Hyatt’s Blue Point Provision, with stunning views of the River Marsh Marina. For a change from the seafood motif, opt for fresh greens and homemade pasta at Gigi’s Trattoria.

Stay at the comfy Cambridge B&B (, from $140) or the full-service Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina (, from $160).


WAKE UP WARM IN MIAMI When I muse about escaping Boston in winter, I think about warmth. When envisioning warmer climes, I dream of South Miami Beach. SoBe, as it’s called, is the mirror opposite of Boston. Instead of barren trees, cold brick, gray skies, and Uggs, imagine swaying green palms with shocking red birds of paradise, pastel Art Deco buildings, a cerulean sky above an aquamarine ocean, and flip-flops. (Or sometimes Uggs with mini-skirts, when temps plummet to 65.)

Best of all, it’s an easy trip. Catch the early nonstop flight to Miami and you can be on the beach before noon. And there’s great food, shopping, Latin music, museums, and people-watching all within walking distance of your hotel.

A room at the historic Park Central Hotel (640 Ocean Drive, 305-538-1611,, standard $215-$275) includes two complimentary beach chairs. For memorable pasta, Tuscan-style grilled meats, and seafood at affordable prices, go where the locals hang at La Locanda. Late-night live music fans head to Jazid, where local bands Suenalo, Xperimento, and the Spam Allstars will keep you dancing past your New England bedtime.


WISHING FOR WYOMING If you’re a skier or snowboarder, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Jackson, Wyo., is a bucket-list must, but beyond that, choices here are mind-boggling. Action-central downtown is Town Square, adorned with elk-antler arches and fringed by galleries, specialty shops, and drinking and dining spots. Consider purchasing a custom cowboy hat at Jackson Hole Hat Co. before literally saddling up at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, where the locals two-step into the night. Just outside town is the National Museum of Wildlife Art, home to the nation’s best collection of wildlife-related art in varied media. Pair that with a horse-drawn sleigh ride out to the herd on the National Elk Refuge.

Spend one day getting even closer to nature on a day trip by snowmobile or snowcoach into nearby Yellowstone National Park; by dogsled, snowshoes, or cross-country skis into the Grand Teton National Park; or on a wildlife discovery expedition with Teton Science Schools. Ease out any post-adventure aches with a session at one of Jackson’s many full-service spas.

After catching après-ski at the Mangy Moose, book a table at The Granary at Spring Creek Ranch and dine (elk chops, perhaps?) overlooking the Tetons.

If your primary reason for visiting Jackson Hole is skiing or snowboarding, then stay on the mountain, where the cheapest slopeside digs with private bath are at The Hostel (888-838-6606,, early winter rates from $79 double). If not, the in-town Rusty Parrot (800-458-2004,, early winter rates from $220) puts you within walking distance of the downtown action.


WARM UP TO EAST CAROLINA New Bern’s setting at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers has drawn visitors to this eastern North Carolina city for 300 years. The city of 28,000 residents, including a growing number of southward migrating retirees, is celebrating its tricentennial, with events through December.

Most of the action in New Bern happens within the 15-block red-bricked historic downtown, lined with shops, restaurants, and bears — more than 40 of them decorated by local artists. The animal’s likeness also adorns the ubiquitous city seal. The symbol comes from New Bern’s Swiss founder, who named the city after his hometown of Bern, meaning bear (Bär) in German.

History lovers can get their fix with a New Bern Tours trolley ride, a visit to the re-created 18th-century Tryon Palace, and the just-opened 60,000-square-foot North Carolina History Center, where high-tech exhibits explore early American life. Less-cerebral stops include the Birthplace of Pepsi-Cola, invented here in 1898, and a Nicholas Sparks self-guided walking tour (the locally based romance writer sets most of his novels here). And while the city’s many historic B&Bs are enticing, the view from the Hilton New Bern Riverfront (100 Middle St., 252-638-3585,, from $109) can’t be beat.


SOAK UP THE AZORES A four-hour flight and winter fares as low as $450 round trip (plus tax) put the Azores — a string of volcanic islands 972 miles off the coast of Portugal — closer than California. Although midwinter temperatures hover in the low 60s, restorative hot springs bubble up from the depths, and the steep slopes of ancient volcano cones remain cloaked in green.

In the village of Furnas (“furnace’’), on the largest island of São Miguel, the Terra Nostra Garden Hotel — an authentic Art Deco gem — taps geothermal springs in an outdoor pool of sulfurous ocher water that envelops the body like a liquid blanket. Beyond the pool lies the Terra Nostra Botanical Garden, where streams and paths wind beneath a high canopy of old trees.

From now through April 17, a weekend special (two nights, two adults, one double room) at the Terra Nostra Garden Hotel (011-351-296-301-880,, can be had for a total of about $166, including breakfast.


FEELS LIKE OLD TIMES, VIRGINIA Colonial Williamsburg, Va., is decked out in traditional 18th-century decorations through the holidays. About 150 miles south of Washington, walk among the tradespeople in period dress tending to the routine of 1770s life as horse-drawn carriages roll by and muskets are fired. Find Colonial fare in taverns and contemporary Southern and regional delights in restaurants.

After the holiday rush, the pace is slower through the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum’s collection of British and American antiques and the extensive displays in the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum. Stay in the brick-faced Williamsburg Lodge and rock on a balcony or admire the courtyard. Immerse yourself in a soothing bath of natural herbs and oils at the Spa of Colonial Williamsburg, where treatments range from a 17th-century hot-stone cleansing to a modern ultrasonic microdermabrasion facial.

Get into the swing of things at the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club, a chip shot away from the historic section. Legendary architect Robert Trent Jones Sr. designed the par-71 Gold Course, and son Rees drafted the 7,120-yard Green Course.

The Holiday Stories package is available Nov. 27 to Dec. 31 (800-447-8679,, three days/two nights, starting at $499 per couple and including daily breakfast and admission; January rates start at $159 per night; historic area basic admission adult $36, ages 6-17 $18).


THE WORLDLY-WISE KNOW TORONTO Get away to India, China, Sri Lanka, Italy or Greece — in Toronto. The city of neighborhoods announces itself as your flight comes within view of 70-story office towers. Check into the Gladstone, a designer boutique hotel with character, from $165 a night (1214 Queen St. West, 416-531-4635, www.gladstonehotel). Then get a map, pick a neighborhood, and roam.

Go west on Queen to Ossington Avenue, where hipsters have reinvented the abandoned warehouses with vinyl records in one space and vinyl clothes in the next. Shop for saris in the Indian Bazaar district, where Indians, Bangladeshis, and Sri Lankans do business; or lose yourself in a big, loud Chinatown (Toronto has five) at Dundas Street and Spadina Avenue, where goods spill from stores onto the sidewalks. This is also the place to be if you’re hungry at 3 a.m.

Wander Kensington Market, a warren of streets with sidewalk musicians and good coffee shops. If it’s Sunday, head to Leslieville for French toast at Bonjour Brioche or Lady Marmalade.

Take in the Frank Gehry-designed Art Gallery of Ontario; dine at its locavore eatery, Frank; and finish the evening in Old Town with a brew and live jazz club at C’est What.


SPRING FOR A BERMUDA RESPITE Just a two-hour plane ride from Boston, Bermuda rests in a perpetually pleasant state of spring from December to March. It has no rainy season — and visitors can have the island’s famous pink-sand shores all to themselves.

The seas cool down after November, so it’s best to stay above water or on land. Good thing Bermuda has gorgeous nature preserves that are protected by a national trust; many of the parks and preserves are edged with limestone cliffs and crisscrossed by trails. Hikers will love exploring Spittal Pond Nature Reserve, the largest in Bermuda and a wild seaside sanctuary that’s chock-full of migratory birds — herons, flamingos, terns — in the fall and winter months.

Bermuda is also a world-class sailing center, and avid sailors can rent boats to sail on their own. The less-experienced can book day trips around the island; Bermuda Windsail Charters offers sunset sails for $40 a person.

A picturesque 10-minute ferry ride from Hamilton, the Greenbank Guesthouse & Cottages (17 Salt Kettle Road, 441-236-3615,, from $130) is perched on the Salt Kettle Peninsula overlooking the water.


WALK ABOUT IN HALIFAX A 90-minute flight from Boston, Nova Scotia’s provincial capital teems with night life and the arts.

Stay at Four Points by Sheraton (1496 Hollis St.,, from $90), an ideal starting point in the heart of this supremely walkable city.

Eat Connemara shepherd’s pie, hoist a brew, and listen to Celtic music at the Old Triangle Ale House amid Guinness signs and Belfast Giants posters. There is music every night and never a cover.

Theater lovers will gravitate to Neptune Theatre, in existence since 1915. “Blithe Spirit’’ is coming in January.

For art and history, visit the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, 90,000 square feet of Canadian art, and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Canada’s largest maritime museum and home to poignant exhibits on the Halifax Harbour explosion in 1917, and about the Titanic, which went down near here in 1912.