Indulge yourself with a couple of days to recharge at one of these luxurious destinations for summer's last hurrah.
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Easy Weekend Getaways
Somehow summertime has almost slipped by and you never got that vacation you promised yourself. Well, it's not too late. Even better, you can score a rate at these top-notch destinations that will make waiting until the last minute the smartest thing you ever did. We chose 8 of our favorites, each quite different in appearance, but all perfect for an easy weekend retreat.
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Bald Head Island, NC
A leisurely pace is awfully important on this island, a dot near the southern tip of North Carolina's coastline. You better leave your desires for an up-tempo weekend on the mainland, because your fastest mode of transportation is a golf cart.
The best way to hop to the island is by the ferry that leaves on the hour from the Indigo Plantation ferry landing in the small town of Southport.
Bald Head Island Limited offers several lodging options. Condominiums, two-bedroom cottages, villas, and three-bedroom houses. Included in the price of any Bald Head Island Limited rental accommodation is a temporary membership to the Bald Head Island Club and the Shoals Club and the use of a golf cart, the primary form of transportation on the island.
Just minutes from Wilmington, Delaware, and about an hour and a half from Baltimore/Washington International Airport lies a rural retreat named The Inn at Montchanin Village. Once a working community for 19th-century laborers, Montchanin has been restored and transformed into a world-class resort.
A trip to this pastoral hamlet will reveal winding pathways that curl between 11 quaint buildings constructed in the mid-1800s, 9 of which now house guestrooms. Lush gardens surround the property, where visitors can relax amid the blooms. The atmosphere is elegant but informal.
Palm trees. Warm sea breezes. Miles and miles of sandy beaches. You've been craving one last trip to the beach before Labor Day signals summer's end, and you'll find it here on South Padre Island. This 34-mile-long sliver of sand sits at the very tip of Texas, just northeast of Brownsville and 30 miles north of the Mexican border. You can while away the hours lying on the beach or indulge your more adventuresome side. All you have to decide is what to do first.
For a short stay, we prefer the convenience and amenities of a full-service hotel. Cushy beds and an inviting pool keep us coming back to the Sheraton Beach Hotel & Condominiums (1-800-325-3535 or www.starwoodhotels.com). The nearby Radisson Resort ( 761-6511 or www.radisson.com) offers both guest rooms and condos. In both cases, call or check the websites for seasonal deals.
5 of 9Art Meripol
No Southern city provides respite from a steamy August night quite like Natchez, Mississippi. In an area rich with enchanting inns and award-winning accommodations, Dunleith Plantation encompasses all that's pleasurable about the region. Here, lodging isn't merely a place to lay your head but rather a truly stylish, truly Southern experience.
If you yearn for one last summer jaunt to the beach, look no further than Amelia Island, Florida. Just 30 minutes north of the Jacksonville airport, its emerald waters have long attracted visitors. Coupled with excellent restaurants and a myriad of activities for when the sun shines too hot (or not at all), Amelia Island Plantation creates a retreat like no other. This 1,350-acre full-service resort offers golf, tennis and ocean-view rooms.
The Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa in San Antonio might as well claim its own zip code. With an 18-hole championship golf course, a 950-foot Ramblin' River for tubing, multiple swimming pools (one in the shape of Texas), trails for hiking, a manmade beach, a relaxing spa, plus divine dining, this oasis masters the all-inclusive moniker. Throw in the staff's warm Southern hospitality, and what else could a vacationer want?
This quaint harbor town is often called "America's Sailing Capital," but you won't need a brochure to tell you that. Don't worry though. You don't need your own boat to join in the fun. The city offers plenty of diversions, from sailing to shopping. That's what makes it such a great place for an end-of-summer getaway.
A trio of storied houses, Historic Inns of Annapolis, gets our stamp of approval for a weekend. Completely redecorated in 2006, these three inns pair the elegance of yesteryear with today's modern amenities.
Ditch the crowds, and explore this secret outdoor playground near Jamestown, Tennessee. There's enough to do for a weekend-or a week.
The Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area lies more than off the beaten path. It's off the radar of most Tennesseans―and certainly most Southerners. Yet it's one of the prettiest places in the state. Rangers from the Smokies vacation here. Straddling the Kentucky state line, about three hours from Nashville, it's not as remote as it seems.
Charit Creek Lodge: Accessible by 0.8-mile Charit Creek trail or 1.7-mile Twin Arches trail (preferred). www.charitcreek.com or (865) 429-5704.