In one of those funny/sad moments, I (Diane) stepped into my hotel room and someone had filled up the tub with bubbles and sprinkled rose petals all around. On the tub’s edge were two flutes and a bottle of champagne. So romantic! Alas, I was traveling solo. After posting on social media, I drained the tub, tossed the rose petals, and drank the bubbly.
Every New England inn seems to promote its romantic vibe. But what if you’re traveling with your bestie, your sister, your bro, your Mom? The good news is there are plenty of lovely, lively places to stay that will suit a lover of some of the other fine things in life, like food, art, and beer. Places that will treat you right even if you’re not half of a kissy-face couple. Here’s a look at some properties that are light on froufrou but big on fun. (Regarding COVID: Follow current restrictions for travel between New England states.)
For beer lovers: Cozy digs (and lotsa brew) in the White Mountains
A cooler in the inn’s lobby, full of canned adult beverages, is labeled, “Beeya Heya.” That says it all. “You can hike or ski, eat, drink beer, listen to some music, and walk across the street to sleep. What could be better?” said brewery tour guide Dan Moody at the Woodstock Inn Brewery in North Woodstock, N.H. (Beer maven note: Moody is the creator of the brewery’s Moody Brew, as well as Cannon Ale, the official beer of Cannon Mountain.)
These days, in light of COVID, they’ve taken things down a notch. Although live music is back on Friday through Sunday nights, “Footloose” rules apply: No dancing. Patrons must stay seated during solo artist performances, and there’s no standing allowed in the four bar areas. Brewery tours are capped at 10 guests, and masks are required, except while eating and drinking.
Family-owned and operated, the inn (a former train station moved to this site) began as humble B&B with a small bar. They began brewing their own beers — Pig’s Ear, Loon Golden Ale, Red Rack among them — in 1995, becoming “one of the earliest craft brewers in New England,” Moody says. Now, they’ve grown into a 30-barrel production facility, with 13 beers typically on tap. Some, you can only get here, at the mothership. Their names are super local — 4000-Footer, Pemi, Lost River — and they’re sourcing as many ingredients regionally as they can, including malt from Maine and hops from Massachusetts. Apples for their hard cider come from an orchard just two miles away.
With the focus on beer, you’d think food would be an afterthought. Nope. It’s surprisingly good, and hearty enough to sate guests who’ve been skiing all day. We fought over the sweet potato ravioli appetizer. As for the meatloaf they call “Better ‘N Mom’s”? No lie. Breakfast, included in the room rate, features a variety of omelets and Benedicts, but oh, those sticky buns! They’re offering igloo seating this season, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (reservations are required).
Guest digs are homey and comfortable, with 40 rooms spread across five buildings. Happily, all rooms have microwaves (to warm up those leftovers) and mini-fridges (to keep the beer cold). Really, what else do you need? Woodstock Inn Brewery, 135 Main St., North Woodstock, N.H.; 603-745-3951; www.woodstockinnbrewery.com; from $99.
For spa lovers: Relaxation with a view
Spending all weekend at home in a bathrobe watching “Dr. Who” is pitiful. Spending all weekend in a robe at a resort is downright wholesome, if there’s a spa and hot tub involved. Such is the life at the Cliff House in Cape Neddick, Maine. Inn guests wander around in public areas rocking their robes — and the hotel’s buffalo-checked version is positively covetable. The sprawling, 70-acre resort sits on Bald Head Cliff, a brisk walk from Ogunquit. But why would you brave those fierce Atlantic winds when you can settle in at the Cliff House and indulge in some water therapy?
Plan to arrive in time for dinner. While you’re waiting to be seated at the Tiller restaurant (a nautical theme reigns, but subtly so), sit alongside the massive stone fireplace and listen to live music, offered on weekends. After downing your lobster mac, hit the outdoor hot tub (it’s open late) and then make S’mores around the fire pit with a soundtrack of breaking waves. Guests can also rent out one of the five Cliff Side Igloos (for groups of up to six), and order food and beverages from Nubb’s Lobster Shack, on site.
You’ve made a spa appointment for the next morning, yes? The Spa at Cliff House is peaceful, restorative space, and the indoor pool and hot tub are glorious places to melt away your winter woes. But if you’re as grooming-deprived as we are, you’ll want to spring for a treatment to bring back your J. Lo glow, like the 50-minute “hydrafacial” with LED light therapy.
During the winter season, the Cliff House works extra hard to offer amusements, including an “indoor plein air art experience” with artist-in-residence Ric Della Bernarda, and stargazing strolls on the property. They also show movies at their own Hartwig Theatre. Admittedly, there are some couples strolling around, but this one is perfection for mother-daughter and BFFs (once we can travel with our besties again).
Your only regret may be that you didn’t visit in 1872, when rates were just six bucks a week, including meals. Cliff House, 591 Shore Road, Cape Neddick, Maine; 207-361-1000; www.cliffhousemaine.com; rates from $299.
For art lovers: A colorful escape in Connecticut
Greenwich, Conn., may be known as a billionaire’s enclave, but this coastal city isn’t all gated mansions and Rolls-Royce dealerships. It also has a lively arts scene, especially in May. From May 6 to May 30 this year, the annual Art to the Avenue festival transforms Greenwich Avenue into an open-air gallery, representing 100-plus artists. Musicians and street performers add to the festivities.
The luxe 82-room Delamar Greenwich Harbor hotel is a dandy base for an artsy interlude. The hotel’s public spaces are adorned with art, much of it by American painter Adolf Dehn. (His most famous piece, “Spring in Central Park, 1941” hangs in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.) Your local tour-de-art might include the Greenwich Historical Society’s Bush-Holley house in Cos Cob, the former home of an American Impressionist art colony that included Childe Hassam. The Stamford Museum & Nature Center is another pleasant stop, built by luxury retail scion Henri Bendel. (Wildlife photography! River otters!) If you plan to visit several museums, consider buying a Connecticut Art Trail passport ($25; ctarttrail.org). The pass includes admission at 21 museums in the state, a $90+ value, and is good for one year. (The Bruce Museum, across the street from the Delamar, is closed for renovation.)
Pop into some of the cool small galleries on Greenwich Avenue before heading back to your cushy home-away-from-home. Once COVID is history, the Delamar will re-introduce niceties such as its nightly wine and cheese hour with a live pianist, and a glass of prosecco at check-in. For now, dinner at on-site L’escale, is still an option, and definitely splurge-worthy: The beautifully composed food looks like art on a plate. Delamar Greenwich Harbor, 500 Steamboat Road, Greenwich, Conn.; 203-661-9800; delamar.com/greenwich-harbor. From $229.
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org