York, nestled on the coast of southern Maine, has multiple villages — and personalities. There’s quaint York Village, with historic Colonial buildings and museums; pretty York Harbor, with its picturesque cove; honky-tonk York Beach, with its string of souvenir and T-shirt shops, and Cape Neddick, home to the famous Nubble Lighthouse. In summer, every section bustles, as visitors clog Route 1A, wait for tables and parking slots, and stake claim to a towel-size patch of sand on the beach. We prefer it now, when the crowds are gone, and York shows yet another personality: its laid-back, chill side.
No matter that the weather has turned cold and blustery; you’ll be toasty warm at the oh-so-romantic York Harbor Inn (480 York St., 207-363-5119, www.yorkharborinn.com, $99-$269). This longstanding grande dame has kept her reign on the southern Maine coast, offering historic charm and elegance. Rooms vary in size, spread out across six buildings, but all pay homage to their Colonial roots with classy antiques and quality reproductions. Some have four poster beds, spa tubs, and ocean views. The restaurant (see Dine section) is one of the finest in town. You can nearly feel the ocean spray from the Union Bluff Inn (8 Beach St., 207-363-1333, www.union
bluff.com, midweek $69-$159, weekends $109-$219) overlooking Short Sands Beach. Opt for a room in the main building, preferably one fresh from a recent renovation, and with ocean views. The no-frill rooms are modest, but comfortably furnished. The sprawling Anchorage Inn (265 Long Beach Ave., 207-363-5112; www.anchorageinn.com), across the street from the ocean, is more motel-hotel than country inn. Choose from a variety of accommodations from simple, clean, and value-priced standard rooms (winter rates starting at $70) to newer, larger, contemporary suites with separate sitting areas, fireplaces, and flat screen TVs; some have full kitchens ($194-$250).
It’s worth getting out of a warm bed for breakfast at the Stolen Menu Café (127 Long Sands Road, 207-363-0298, www.thestolenmenucafe.com; $3.95-
$13.95). Locals can’t seem to get enough of their homemade sticky-bun French toast; if you prefer savory over sweet, try the house-made, roast-beef hash benedict served on a grilled buttermilk biscuit. Grab a table by the fireplace at oceanfront Lobster Cove (756 York St., 207-351-1100, www.lobstercoverestaurant
.com; $12.99-$27.99), with a wide-ranging menu that includes fried seafood baskets, prime rib, and comfort food classics, like pot roast, chicken pot pie, and gooey lobster mac and cheese. End with a bowl of warm bread pudding doused in whiskey sauce, and who cares if it’s snowing? For the best meal in town, reserve a table at the 1637 Restaurant at York Harbor Inn (entrees $17.95-$28.95; see Stay section). Start with the creamy seafood chowder, followed by signature dishes, like the Yorkshire Lobster Supreme, stuffed with shrimp, crabmeat, and scallops, apple-cider brined pork chops, or the rich, seafood ravioli. For ultra-filling, casual fare, you can’t beat Woody’s Brick Oven Pizza (11 Railroad Ave., 207-363-0060, www.woodysbrickovenpizza.com), with a popular cast of sandwiches ($6.95-$8.95), giant, stuffed calzones ($11.95-$18.95), and a slew of specialty pizzas ($13.95-$20.95).
Head to Sohier Park for a great view of the Nubble Lighthouse (11 Sohier Park Road, www.nubblelight.org, free). It’s especially pretty this time of year when it’s famously decorated with holiday lights. Of course, there are walks on Long Sands and Short Sands beach, but for a more strenuous workout, hike or snowshoe the trails at Mount Agamenticus (186 York, 207-361-1102, www.agamenticus.org, free), a former ski resort turned conservation land. On clear days, you’ll have ocean to mountain views from the bare summit. The 30-mile or so stretch of road between York and Arundel is home to the largest concentration of antique stores in Maine. In York, check out Bell Farm Antiques (244 Route 1, 207-363-8881, www.bellfarmantiques.com), with two floors of Victorian and country furniture and accessories, and York Antiques Gallery (746 Route 1, 207-363-5002, www.yorkantiques.com), with more than 60 dealers. Wanna-be top chefs and gourmands can sign up for cooking lessons at Stonewall Kitchen (2 Stonewall Lane, 877-899-8363, www.stonewallkitchen
.com/cookinghome.html; most $45-$60). Classes are offered on weekends and several weekdays, covering a variety of themes, like “A Perfect Paella,’’ “An Elegant Evening in Italy,’' and “A French Countryside Dinner.’’
Few would consider York a hot spot for night life. But, you can belly up to the bar with the locals at Union Bluff Grill & Pub, a home-y, everyone-knows-your-name kind of place, with stiff drinks and friendly bartenders. The more elegant Ship’s Cellar at York Harbor Inn is a very cool tavern, modeled after a fine sailing yacht, with mahogany woodwork, brass accents, and cozy leather banquettes; there’s live entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights.Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at email@example.com.