Going places: Favorite places for winter getaways

Karen Rubin

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Now that winter is finally upon us, there’s no better time than the present to book that winter getaway.

High Peaks Resort on the shores of Mirror Lake makes an excellent base for exploring Lake Placid, where you can feel like an Olympian skiing at Whiteface Mountain, visit the Olympic venues and enjoy all that the Adirondacks have to offer.

High Peaks Resort encompasses three lodging experiences: the main resort overlooking glimmering Mirror Lake, the mid-century modern Lake House hotel that feels like your own home, or the Waterfront Collection hotel room that gives the impression of seclusion, yet is within an easy stroll of downtown Lake Placid’s vibrancy.

Check out favorite pet-friendly trails for snowshoeing and hiking (snowshoe rentals are complimentary at High Peaks and dogs are always welcome). The Cross Country Ski and Snowshoe Package features daily breakfast at Dancing Bears and admission to Cascade Ski Center, with 20km of groomed cross-country ski trails. Rates start at $203 per night through March 31.

Amenities also include outdoor recreation equipment (available at no charge), fitness center, spa and four indoor and outdoor pools (2384 Saranac Ave., Lake Placid NY, 800-755-5598, www.highpeaksresort.com)

Among the sights and activities to enjoy: Wild Lights has returned to The Wild Center in Tupper Lake, where thousands of twinkling lights and music immerse guests in a winter wonderland, complete with warming huts and fire pits, food and hot beverages (through Feb. 26). Ausable Chasm, the “Grand Canyon of the East” and the oldest natural attraction in the United States, is a magical winter getaway for hiking, snowshoeing, ice climbing and cross country skiing.

Also, The Saranac Lake Winter Carnival, the longest-running winter carnival in the Northeast dating back to 1897, returns Feb. 4-13, with the hallmark attraction – the Ice Palace – on full display. Cheer on Team USA from Lake Placid, the site of two Winter Olympics, with many family-friendly activities and events: fly down a world-famous bobsled track at 60 miles per hour, skate on the Olympic Speed Skating Loop, shred down the best skiing and snowboarding mountain in the state (Whiteface) or take the Skyride gondola to the ski jump towers. Beyond Whiteface, Oak Mountain in Lake Pleasant offers many easy to intermediate trails and snow tubing, ideal for families.

The Sagamore, a grand historic hotel dating back to the 1880s that sits on a private 70-acre island on Lake George, is a sensational self-contained world-class resort in one of America’s oldest tourism destinations. It is just 45 minutes from Gore Mountain, one of the best ski destinations in the East, certainly in New York State (a shuttle is provided); also nearby is West Mountain (downhill skiing, tubing, night skiing) and Crandall Park (cross country skiing, night skiing). The full-service resort offers ice skating, snowshoeing, indoor pool and spa (www.thesagamore.com, 866.384.1944)

Mohonk Mountain House has been enchanting guests for more than 100 years. Founded by the Smiley Family in 1869, the Victorian castle resort, a National Historic Landmark, is set on cliffs overlooking a lake, nestled in the Hudson Valley surrounded by 40,000 acres of pristine forest, only 90 miles north of New York City. Mohonk offers a world-class 30,000 sq. ft. “eco-friendly” spa, indoor pool, a spectacular skating pavilion, rock climbing, 85 miles of trails for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Winter “wellness” programming is designed to help guests combat the “winter blues” and embrace the beauty of the season, with new mindfulness offerings that include fireside meditation, winter forest bathing and mindfulness lectures. If you can pull yourself away from its warm embrace, downhill skiing in the Catskills (Hunter Mountain, Belleayre, Windham) is an hour away. (www.mohonk.com, 844-207-8372)

Topnotch Resort is a great base to enjoy Stowe, Vermont four miles away (free shuttle service). Guests will also enjoy the award-winning Topnotch Spa, an indoor pool and Jacuzzi with cascading waterfall, the Topnotch Tennis Academy, sleigh rides via the Equestrian Center. Enjoy a special cocktail or smore’s around the outdoor fire pits or relax in the heated adults-only pool and Jacuzzi with unobstructed views of Mount Mansfield. Stowe Mountain offers a quintessential New England winter experience both on and off the slopes, with snow covered mountains and quiet fireside retreats and a slew of winter activities including Nordic skiing, dogsledding, snowmobiling, fat tire biking and sleigh rides in addition to its renowned alpine skiing. Stowe Village features many locally owned shops and an array of restaurants, music and art galleries. A bit beyond Stowe are many popular attractions including Ben and Jerry’s Factory, Cold Hollow Cider Mill, Vermont Teddy Bear Factory, Rock of Ages Granite Quarries, Stowe Cider, Von Trapp Brewery, Whistle Pig, Alchemist (800-451-8686.www.topnotchresort.com)

The Woodstock Inn & Resort in the quintessentially New England village of Woodstock, Vermont, defines country sophistication in one of New England’s most charming and popular year-round vacation destinations. The 142-room, AAA Four Diamond Resort and a member of the Preferred Hotels & Resorts LVX Collection, offers award-winning dining in two restaurants, ranked among the finest in New England. The resort’s 10,000 square-foot LEED-designed Spa offers nature-inspired ambiance that features nourishing, seasonal treatments and organic products. Outdoor activities include downhill skiing at the resort’s historic Suicide Six Ski Area along with cross-country skiing and snowshoeing from the Nordic Center. The family-favorite retro Game Room is draped in Vermont flannel and fully equipped with a giant Scrabble board, foosball table, vintage pinball machines, board games. Also be sure to visit nearby Billings Farm & Museum. (Woodstock Inn & Resort, 14 The Green, Woodstock, Vermont 05091, 888-338-2745, www.woodstockinn.com)

Mountain Top Inn & Resort, where we have enjoyed the most marvelous Christmas, is breathtakingly enchanting, complete with rides on a horse-drawn sleigh gliding across its expansive fields, a Currier & Ives landscape come to life. The setting, on 350 acres with a 740-acre lake, and ringed by the Green Mountain National Forest, offers its own 60 km cross-country ski trail network; a small old-fashioned (natural) skating pond; snowshoeing (twilight tours available); snowmobiling; spa; hot tub; fire pits; and the coziest fireplaces. It’s also a 30 minute drive to Killington Mountain for downhill skiing (shuttle transportation available at 8:30 am, returning 4:30 pm; reserve in advance). (Mountain Top Inn & Resort, 195 Mountain Top Road, Chittenden, Vermont 05737, 802-483-2311, www.MountainTopInn.com)

The elegant Mount Washington Hotel – “a favorite New England retreat of presidents, poets and celebrities” – is just across the road from New Hampshire’s largest ski area, Bretton Woods (yes, that famous mountain hotel where world leaders signed the 1944 Treaty of Bretton Woods ending the gold standard in, fittingly, the Gold Room), with numerous trails and glades and three terrain parks. The grand resort has its own cross-country skiing on the golf course; one of the longest zip line tours in New England (year-round); a full-service 25,000 sq. ft. spa; two 4-Diamond dining rooms (one is a former speakeasy) and sleigh rides. Now an Omni hotel (www.omnihotels.com/hotels/bretton-woods-mount-washington, 603-278-1000)

One of the most atmospheric inns is the Red Lion Inn in the heart of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, another utterly picturesque New England village which is like a Norman Rockwell painting of Americana – in fact, its Main Street is immortalized in Rockwell’s “Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas”. The Red Lion has been welcoming travelers to the Berkshires since 1773, one of New England’s few inns that has been operated continuously since before 1800. It is beyond charming – with early American furnishings, much of which has been in place for a century. It has hosted five presidents and other notables including Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Cullen Bryant, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. And much to do in Stockbridge, including the not-to-be-missed visit to the Norman Rockwell Museum, as well as Arrowhead Museum, the home of Herman Melville, in Pittsfield. Skiing nearby at Jiminy Peak. (www.redlioninn.com, 413-298-5545)

Further afield, the Tenaya Lodge is an award-winning, all-season resort adjacent to Yosemite National Park’s south gate. Lodge, cottage and cabin accommodations satisfy a wide variety of preferences and are set on 75 acres primed for outdoor recreation that invite visitors to explore and connect with nature. From the nourishing Ascent Spa to custom-curated Yosemite tours, guided snowshoe hikes and seasonal activities, like ice skating on its outdoor rink and sledding on its family-friendly hill, a deep appreciation for the iconic location is infused into every aspect of the resort experience that also includes world-class views, multiple pools and abundant dining options ranging from casual to candlelit. The winter is a great time to visit Yosemite National Park. It’s very quiet and peaceful with fewer crowds. The park is open through the south gate and you can hike (snow shoes or crampons recommended). (Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite, 1122 Highway 41, Fish Camp, CA 93623, TenayaLodge.com, 888-514-2167)

For a real hoot, take the family to one of New York State’s dude ranches – they provide an excellent venue for outdoor fun in winter – including tubing and even their own ski hills. Among our favorites: Pine Ridge Dude Ranch with horseback riding, tubing, ice skating, paintball outdoors, indoor pool (30 Cherrytown Road, Kerhonkson, NY 12446); Ridin’ Hy, year-round inclusive ranch resort in the Adirondacks Preserve near Lake George, Warrensburg, NY 12885, 518-494-2742, www.ridinhy.com); and the ever-popular Rocking Horse Ranch, which has an indoor water park (600 State Route 44/55,Highland, NY 12528, 877-605-6062, 845-691-2927,www.rockinghorseranch.com).

Most of our favorite winter getaway places can be found among the members of Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The more than 300 member historic hotels in 44 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico have all faithfully maintained their authenticity, sense of place, and architectural integrity. Each is distinctive, with its own character. To find a historic hotel in a destination you want to visit, go to historichotels.org, 800-678-8946.
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