Last week my family and I went to Baltimore for five days. Yep, Baltimore. Now before you go feeling sorry for me and my lame-o vacation, here’s what you need to know: We had a blast. Beating the winter isn’t always about escaping to warmer locales — Sometimes you just need to change your locale to have a little fun. We stayed in a nice hotel for less than $179 a night, swam in the indoor pool while it snowed outside, and planned trips to the Baltimore Aquarium and the Baltimore Science Center. (My husband’s family lives in the area so we had incentive to travel down.)
We had so much fun that I put together three mini vacation itineraries from Westchester. All of the destinations are within driving distance, they’re all in good restaurant towns, and they won’t rob you of all of your money, like a vacation to St. Barth’s.
Harbor East, Baltimore, Maryland
There’s a new reasons to visit Charm City: Baltimore’s Inner Harbor has a whole new area to explore, Harbor East. There’s a new Four Seasons here (with a great breakfast) as well as cobblestone streets lined with great shopping. Think: J. Crew, Anthropologie, South Moon Under, Lululemon. Some of my favorite restaurants are within walking distance. DC’s Lebanese Taverna, a haven of mouth-watering middle eastern kebabs and pita, has an outpost in Harbor East, so does The Oceanaire, a seafood lover’s dream, Hawaiian-style Roy’s and Charleston, which is supposed to be one of the best new restaurants in the city. Harbor East is surrounded by marinas and you can easily access a new paved waterfront trail to walk along the water to other neighborhoods like charming waterfront Fells Point, where there’s additional shopping and good eats.
If you stay at the Homewood Suites (one bedroom suite, please), it costs less than $200 a night and includes access to the awesome Maryland Athletic Club’s gym, pool and hot tub as well as free breakfast (and free dinner, if you choose to eat it).
For the kids, don’t miss the Maryland Science Center, the National Aquarium and Port Discovery, the children’s museum. All of them are a short walk over pedestrian bridges and around the Harbor. Or, take a water taxi, as shown above. It stops at Harbor East and the Maryland Science Center. Travel time: About 4 hours by car.
Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz, New York
Look out Canyon Ranch. Conde Nast Traveler just named Mohonk Mountain House the second best resort spa in the country. This mountain-top castle has also been named the “World’s Best Hotel for Families” by Travel + Leisure magazine. It’s easy to see why: They have an amazing kids program to keep your little ones busy, a huge indoor heated pool, ice skating at their open-air Pavilion as well as snow tubing and snowshoeing.When you’re ready to warm up, head inside for afternoon tea and cookies. (During the month of February, March and April, the resort is running a “kids eat free” special too.)
We’re heading here in a few weeks to relax and recharge, and the resort is a huge part of the draw, but not the only one. We love antiquing and Mohonk is close to downtown New Paltz, where there’s plenty of great antiquing along Historic Huguenot Street. Antique capital Hudson, New York is only an hour away as well. Mohonk Mountain House is only about an hour and 15 minutes from White Plains.
Penn Quarter, Washington, DC
There’s no better city to head to in the cold than Washington. With dozens of *free* museums and, according to Bon Appetit, many of the nation’s exciting new restaurants, there’s a little something for everyone. Penn Quarter is a relatively new area of development downtown, but it’s home to the Spy Museum, which is on any kid’s must-do list, and close to numerous Smithsonian favorites. Some of the best restaurants in the city are in this lively neighborhood: Zaytinya (Turkish mezze), Jaleo (spanish tapas by Jose Andres), Hill Country BBQ, Cafe Atlantico (chic eats, not kid-friendly), and Oyamel (stylish mexican).
If you go, don’t miss the city’s new Union Market, an enormous indoor market filled with local and farm to table food options. A foodie’s dream. It’s a short drive away from Penn Quarter.
Book a room at the Grand Hyatt Washington, a beautiful hotel in the heart of the city with a nice indoor pool and four restaurants.
Travel time to DC: 5 hours.