Five great winter getaways in New England
Don’t let this time of year get you down. Embrace the blustery season with a tailor-made getaway that will cure your cabin fever and chase away the doldrums.
If you’re longing for simpler times when families explored the outdoors together, shared home-cooked meals, and played board games until lights out, then check out the Purity Spring Resor t, located about 15 miles south of North Conway in East Madison, N.H. This charming throwback, set on more than 1,000 acres surrounding a spring-fed lake, has been family-owned and -operated for more than 100 years. Generations of families return each year to snowshoe or cross-country ski through the pine forests of the adjacent New Hampshire Audubon Sanctuary, skate on the covered ice rink, tackle the chutes at the tubing park, and take a horse-drawn sleigh ride through snowy fields. There’s also skiing at King Pine, a small, friendly mountain with three triple chairlifts, rope tow, and several short, ego-boosting runs, and a fitness center with an indoor pool and hot tub. At the end of the day, families gather at communal dining tables to share hearty, home-style fare. The resort offers a variety of affordable accommodations, including country inn and lodge rooms, cottages and full service condos. Standard doubles from $77, condos from $220. American (three meals daily included) and Modified American Plans (breakfast and dinner daily) available. 603-367-8896, www.purityspring.com
New Haven, with its hardscrabble core and industrial waterfront, is a delightful surprise. Home to Yale University and famous for its Neopolitan-style pizza, it’s packed with unique museums, great theater, and lively, up-and-coming neighborhoods. Stay at the highly-touted The Study at Yale boutique hotel (1157 Chapel St., 203-503-3900, www.studyatyale.com, from $199) with a handsome book-filled lobby and convenient university location. You may be tempted to hunker down in the comfy leather chairs with a book, but don’t. Head out to visit the recently-renovated Yale University Art Gallery (1111 Chapel St., 203-432-0600, www.artgallery.yale.edu, free). The complex of three structures, including a fabulous Louis Kahn-designed building, holds an impressive 200,000-piece collection spanning ancient Egypt to the present. Across the street, the Yale Center for British Art, also free, houses the largest collection of British art outside the United Kingdom. Culture mavens may also want to visit the magnificent Beinecke Library with some 600,000 rare books, including one of the only surviving Gutenberg Bibles, and the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural Hi story (170 Whitney Ave., 203-432-5050, www.peabodyyale.com, $9), jam-packed with dinosaur fossils, rocks and minerals, and wildlife dioramas. Save one night for the theater; New Haven has three award-winning regional theaters, including the Yale Repertory Theatre (1120 Chapel St., 203-432-1234, www.yalerep.org), housed in the former Calvary Baptist Church.
The town is full of good food; we like the upscale Union League Cafe (1032 Chapel St., 203-562-4299, www.unionleaguecafe.com, entrees $23.75-$39) for its classic French food and grand Beaux Arts setting, and Claire’s Corner Copia (1000 Chapel St., 203-562-3888, www.clairescornercopia.com, sandwiches $6-$8.50, entrees $7.50-$10.25) for vegetarian and vegan cuisine. But don’t miss the perfectly-charred, thin-crust pizza at Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana
(157 Wooster St., 203-865-5762, www.pepespizzeria.com, specialty pies $12.75-
$26.25). 203-777-8550, www.visitnewhaven.com
You have to love a place that encourages you to stay in your robe and slippers until dinner. For the ultimate in relaxation, check into the Spa at Norwich Inn in Norwich, Conn., (860-425-3500) set on 42 acres, with 100 rooms, suites, and condo-style villas. Head straight to the 25,000-square-foot spa with an indoor pool, saunas, whirlpools, and steam rooms. The facility boasts an array of services from organic facials to tarot card readings. Start with the milk and honey body wrap, perfect for hydrating dry winter skin, followed by the 80-minute firm body massage. Other popular choices include the Luminous Facial and the stress-relieving aromatherapy. There are more than 60 services in 37 treatment rooms. You also can sign up for fitness classes, including cardio, weight, and pilates sessions, or meet with a personal trainer to develop a take-home program. We joined the complimentary morning walk and guided meditation session, had lunch in Ascot’s Tavern, featuring informal pub-style fare, and attended the free afternoon tea and the complimentary evening wine tasting.
We slipped into finer clothes for dinner at Kensington’s, the inn’s more formal dining room. We dined on rich potato gnocchi with garlicky escarole, lobster spanakopita, and grilled rack of lamb. We left the next day, feeling rejuvenated and relaxed, and ready to face the next polar vortex. Winter Rejuvenation Package, including lodging, three-course dinner, breakfast, two spa services, fitness class, afternoon tea, and wine tasting from $348.47 per person, per night. www.thespaatnorwichinn.com
There’s no denying the stunning beauty of the northern Maine woods in winter. The problem is that access to remote beauty spots often requires hard work. But even winter wimps can handle the easy hike to the off-the-grid Flagstaff Hut in Maine’s High Peaks region. The short, 1.7-mile jaunt meanders through snow-covered birch and pine forests, with glimpses of Flagstaff Lake and Bigelow Mountain peaks. The path is wide and relatively flat, perfect for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. The best part: a hot shower, hot meal, and warm bed wait at the end of the trail. The next day, explore the scenic woods surrounding the hut, including an easy 2-mile hike around the lake.
Flagstaff Hut is part of the Maine Huts & Trails system, made up of four eco-lodge huts connected by 50 miles of nonmotorized trails. (Future plans include 12 huts connected by 180 miles of trails.) If you’re up for an adventure, consider a guided or self-guided trek to all four lodges. Regular winter rates including dinner, breakfast, and trail lunch, start at $54 per person per night. This winter, a backcountry three-day, two-night beginner package is available, including lodging at Popular Hut or Flagstaff Hut and meals, starting at $188. Maine Huts & Trails, Kingfield, Maine, 207-265-2400, www.mainehuts.org
What better way to spend a winter weekend in New England than in the picturesque, snow-covered mountains of Vermont? Add loads of activities, comfy digs, and fine dining and winter could become your favorite season. Check into the slopeside Jackson Gore Inn at Okemo Mountain Resort in Ludlow (standard rooms from $154) with indoor and outdoor pools, hot tubs, dining, and easy access to the mountain. It’s a top-notch ski mountain with 120 alpine trails spread across 655 acres. There are plenty of other thrill options including a ride on the Timber Ripper Mountain Coaster, reaching speeds up to 30 miles an hour as it loops through the woods, or try the Sawyer Sweep Zipline, ending with a 30-foot fall into a giant airbag. There’s also cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snow tubing, ice skating, and snowcat rides. Or spend the day curled up in front of the lobby’s roaring fireplace soaking in the sweeping mountain views.
Award-winning chef Jason Tostrup heads up the culinary team at Epic, located at the Solitude base area. On Saturday night, treat yourself to his snowcat dining experience, riding a heated cat to the on-mountain restaurant for a memorable five-course fireside meal. Okemo Mountain Resort, 802-228-1600, www.okemo.com