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Top 10 Luscious Lodges


Beachmere Inn, Ogunquit, Maine
Run by the same family for three generations, this grand Victorian compound sits on a hill in one of Southern Maine’s most popular beach towns. The stately Victorian Inn is the heart of the property, and it’s lovely to behold. If you turn toward the Atlantic, you’ll see an equally compelling sight _ a seascape that’s drawn artists to Ogunquit since the 1800s. Comprised of the main inn, motel-style units (Beachmere South) and cottage apartments, the Beachmere has its own private beach, plus easy access to Ogunquit Beach. During our visit, we ambled down Marginal Way, a 1.25-mile oceanside walking path alongside the property, and watched fishing boats come and go in Perkins Cove. Taffy from Perkins Cove Candies sweetened the experience. The Beachmere is open March to December.
More: 800-336-3983; 207-646-2021
Rates: $$-$$$

The Birches, Rockwood, Maine (picture)
Located on 40-mile-long Moosehead Lake in northern Maine, the Birches is literally the place to get away from it all. But for adventurous families, the four-hour drive from Portland is worth the effort. The Birches, a 1935-era sports camp turned family-oriented escape, sits on an 11,000-acre wilderness preserve. The main lodge is flanked by fifteen hand-built waterfront log cabins equipped with hot and cold running water, kitchen and bath facilities, and a woodstove or fireplace (no phones or TVs). From these one-to-four bedroom hideaways, you can search for the state animal on a moose watching cruise, hike or mountain bike along 36 miles of trails, boat around the lake (rentals available), or join a whitewater rafting adventure on the lower Kennebec River (Wilderness Expeditions, a top adventure outfitter, is based at the resort). Though it’s more cost-effective to cook in your cabin, it’s worth splurging on at least a few meals in the main lodge, featuring a dining room with a 35-ton fieldstone fireplace and expansive views of Mt. Kineo, the nation’s largest chunk of flint. Other lodging options include rooms in the main lodge, cabin tents, yurts, and private rental homes.
More: 800-825-9453
RATES: $-$$

Grand Central Hotel, Cottonwood Falls, Kansas (picture)
In 1990, the historic Grand Central Hotel in the prairie berg of Cottonwood Falls, Kansas, was nothing but a dilapidated brick shell, with pigeons roosting in the guestrooms and no operable plumbing. It was such an eyesore, the whole place sold on the steps of the Chase County Courthouse for $41. Today, the lodge is the only historic country inn in the state with a four-diamond AAA rating, but there’s nothing fussy about it. With its 1884 facade, rusty stirrups adorning the doors of its ten guest rooms, and scrumptious premium choice steaks, the Grand Central is pure prairie paradise.

In fact, Cottonwood Falls (about eighty miles northeast of Wichita), lies within the only remaining stand of tall grass prairie in North America. It’s one of only four such prairies in the world, boasting more plants and animals than any ecosystem outside the South American rainforest. At the 11,000-acre Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, we searched for collared lizards, dung beetles, and Texas horned lizards, and uncovered a piece of worked flint, possibly from the 1800s, when Kaw and Osage Indians roamed the gently rolling lands.

On the highlight of our trip, we hopped on hay bales in the back of a restored 1958 flatbed wheat truck called the Prairie Drifter. Naturalist Jan Jantzen drove us past golden grassland, swaying cottonwoods, and hauntingly beautiful graveyards on a two-hour sunset tour that departs from the Grand Central.

In his 1882 memoir, Specimen Days, Walt Whitman captured the allure of America’s Great Plains, noting that prairies, “while less stunning at first sight, last longer, fill the esthetic sense fuller, precede all the rest, and make North America’s characteristic landscape.” On our visit to Cottonwood Falls, we got his drift.
More: 800-951-6763; 620-273-6763
Rates: $$

Hawk & Ivy, Barnardsville, North Carolina
During a multigenerational trip to Western North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, my daughter, mom, and I checked into the Hawk & Ivy at dusk. For evening entertainment, Jim Davis, who owns the bed-and-breakfast with his wife, Eve, suggested we sit on the porch of our private cottage and listen to peepers. We did just that, wrapping ourselves in quilts, sipping tea, and relishing a four-star performance by the frog chorale.
After a refreshing night’s sleep in the cool mountain air, we enjoyed a gourmet breakfast in the Hawk & Ivy’s 1910 farmhouse. Eve showed us family heirlooms, including a writing desk that James’s great grandfather, a chaplain, carried with him on horseback during the Civil War. To personalize our meal, Eve invited us each to select an antique plate from the family china closet, a tradition she sometimes observes with small groups. After we dined on Italian parmesan French toast on whole-grain walnut bread, we wandered through the green grounds, whose 24 acres include an organic garden and wild meadows. The mountain views are so peaceful, bridal parties often choose to exchange vows on the hilltop. Since Jim is an ordained minister, and Eve is a master gardener known for her lush floral arrangements, planning the occasion is especially easy.
More: 888-395-7254; 828-626-3486
Rates: $-$$

Hotel Del Coronado, Coronado, California
Stretching along a white sand beach topped by red turrets resembling swanky sunhats, the Hotel del Coronado looks every bit the silver screen star. Indeed, the Del was the setting for the 1958 Hollywood classic, Some Like it Hot, featuring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon. Past guests include Thomas Edison, Babe Ruth and ten U.S. presidents have visited. Just before the birth of our daughter, Bryan and I “babymooned” here.

Sweeping views of the Pacific from our oceanfront suite in the Victorian Building inspired us to call room service more than once. When we could wrest ourselves from our balcony, we brunched in the historic Crown Room (whose crown-shaped chandeliers were designed by L. Frank Baum, Wizard of Oz author), lounged on chaises by the main pool, and walked barefoot on the very beach that tickled Marilyn’s toes. The 13.5-square-mile Coronado Peninsula (linked to San Diego via the Coronado Bridge) is a treat to explore by foot, bike (there are fifteen miles of bike paths), Segway, and even gondola. I enjoyed poking through the well-tended downtown, lined with art galleries, antique shops, day spas, and designer boutiques, then watching Some Like It Hot on our in-room TV.
More: 800-HOTEL-DE
Rates: $$$-$$$$

Hyatt Tamaya, Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico
Don’t let the word Hyatt throw you. This lodge is unlike any property you’ve seen. Through a partnership between the Hyatt Corporation and the Santa Ana Pueblo, who settled on the resort site more than a thousand years ago, the 500-acre Tamaya exudes native culture. The design _ 350 rooms and overlooking patios lined with rosemary, sedum, lavender, and other plants _ was inspired by the layout of the Santa Ana’s original village (it’s nine miles west of the resort and open occasionally to the public for special events).

When Bryan and I visited, we hiked past cottonwood, coyote willow and New Mexico olive trees, rode horses past sacred sites, played in the oxbow-shaped outdoor pool, and dined on churrasco-style rotisserie meats at the Corn Maiden, the resort’s signature restaurant. I even convinced my hub to rise and shine for the Native American bread-baking class, where a Santa Ana baker taught us to make traditional loaves in an outdoor pueblo oven. At the Tamaya Mist Spa, I tried pueblo dry brush therapy, an exfoliation treatment using herbs and grains.
Though we visited without the kids, the Hyatt Tamaya is a special place for children. Family activities include pottery, yoga and pilates, drum making, stories under the stars, and more. The Hyatt Tamaya is also home to the Twin Warriors Golf Club, a par-72 championship layout designed by Gary Parks.
More: 800-55-HYATT; 505-867-1234
Rates: $$-$$$$

Oakland House, Brooksville, Maine
As early morning rain kerplunked on the roof of our cabin on Maine’s serene Blue Hill Peninsula, I pulled the comforter over my head and prepared to sleep in. My daughter, Cady, then three, had other ideas. “Come on, Mama, let’s play with snails,” she said.

Since we’d arrived at the 50-acre Oakland House Seaside Resort in East Penobscot Bay, shut-eye was about as high a priority for Cady as flossing her teeth. And who could blame her, with all the seals, ospreys, and harbor porpoises right outside our door?

In 1889, retired sea captain Emery H. Herrick and his wife, Flavilla, turned their family homestead into a hotel. Today Emery’s great grandson, Jim Littlefield, and his wife, Sally, run the operation – 15 cottages scattered along a half-mile of oceanfront, each with up to five bedrooms. The property also includes the Shore Oaks Seaside Inn, a stone Arts-and-Crafts-era bed and breakfast, for ages 15 and up.
In a pine-scented mist, Cady and I explored lichen-lined hiking trails and spied on beavers at nearby Holbrook Island Sanctuary. We also kayaked through Eggemoggin Reach and sifted through tidal pools. At evening’s end, we got our chocolate tartlet from the resort’s Rusticator Restaurant to go, so we could savor the most memorable course of all _ stargazing on our porch.

Note: In peak summer season, a week’s stay is required. Nightly rates include breakfast and dinner.
More: 800-359-735
Nightly rates: $$-$$$

Steinhatchee Landing Resort, Steinhatchee, Florida
If Tarzan took a vacation, he’d feel right at home in the southeast end of Florida’s Panhandle, an untamed jungle with alligators, century-old moss oaks and silver palms, and spectacular sunsets. Thanks to Steinhatchee Landing, however, families can enjoy the area’s tropical creatures along with creature comforts. Located in the tiny village of Steinhatchee, three miles from the Gulf of Mexico, the resort is modeled after a 1920’s Old Florida village. Yet its thirty-seven, one-to-four-bedroom vacation homes not only have front porches, but all the modern conveniences (a stereo system, microwave, washer/dryer, VCR, and refrigerator).

Families can spend their days cycling and canoeing, enjoying the pool and playground, hiking on nature trails, taking a nature cruise on the Steinhatchee River or embracing the pleasures of bygone days, such as listening to crickets and fishing for crabs and catfish off the dock. (President Jimmy Carter and his clan found the atmosphere so relaxing, they held a 1995 reunion here in cottage #10). What’s more, the area teems with natural springs. Our favorites include Peacock Springs, where certified divers can explore one of America’s largest underwater cave systems, and Manatee Springs State Park, where 81,250 gallons of warm water burble up every minute.
More: 352-498-3513
Rates: $$-$$$$

Turtle Beach Inn, Port St. Joe, Florida
Along a stretch of the Florida Panhandle untouched by theme parks and high-rise hotels, folks gather at the Indian Pass Raw Bar for steamed shrimp, raw oysters, cold beer and long chats. After Cady and I feasted there, we drove down an oyster-shell road to our vacation retreat, the Turtle Beach Inn. Perched above long-needled pine and cabbage palms, with panoramic views of the Gulf of Mexico, the Turtle Beach Inn reminded me of a tree house – albeit, one with an outdoor Jacuzzi.

Everything about the waterside lodge says relax, unwind, detox. In 2006, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection honored the inn for its green policies, which include energy-efficient lighting and low-flow showerheads and toilets. No wonder the inn’s beach is a nesting spot for loggerhead turtles – as well as singles, couples and families who want to savor what local tourism bureau refers to as “Forgotten Florida.”

Prior to check-in, Cady and I explored St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, historic Apalachicola (17 miles east of the inn), and St. George Island. Once settled in our room (the main inn is for guests ages 18 and up; the Sand Dollar Cottage and Turtle Tower accommodate families with younger kids), we hit the beach. Along the path, we encountered beach mats, canoes and hammocks. Cady played with a dog named Turtle, and we searched for shells on a strip of soft sand.

The beauty of the Gulf inspired us to wake early and watch the sunrise. After that spectacle, innkeeper Trish Petrie treated us to a home-cooked breakfast in a dining room decorated with folk-art fishes crafted from native cedar trees.
More: 850-229-9366
Cost: $$-$$$

Wildflower Inn, Lyndonville, Vermont
The inn is set in a corner of Vermont called the Northeast Kingdom, and you’ll understand the royal allusion when you stay at this 570-acre Vermont dairy farm, surrounded by mountains and wildflower fields.

Featuring a main inn surrounded by five lodge buildings on a 1,000-foot ridge, this rural gem invites families to hike, bike, feed animals in the barn, swim in the outdoor pool, play basketball or tennis, or simply sit back and hear the birds tweet. Once you check in, there’s no need to venture far, as there’s a terrific restaurant onsite and the grounds link to hiking and cycling trails.

Innkeepers Jim and Mary O’Reilly have eight children, so they know what it takes to make kids happy. My kids loved the teddy bear pancakes and the chance to bottle-feed a calf. From late June through Labor Day, there’s a complimentary two-hour morning nature program (for children ages 4 to 11), and, at night, children can join their peers (for a fee) for a four-hour activity program at Daisy’s Diner, a converted cow barn. Butterflies, Tots and Forget-Me-Nots is a five-day package (held select weeks) that includes lodging, meals and activities for families with infants and toddlers. No kids in tow? Stay in the private, one-room School House, which the O’Reillys converted into a romantic suite with a four-poster bed. All room rates include a full country breakfast and afternoon snack.
More: 800-627-8310; 802-626-8310
Rates: $$-$$$$


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