AUTO VACATIONS CLOSE TO HOME, BUT WORLDS AWAY FROM THE EVERYDAY

This Year, With Gas, Airfares Skyrocketing, Hub-and-Spoke is Way to Go

By Karen Rubin

Travel is too precious to give up because of skyrocketing air fares and crushing gas prices. The experience of travel – the time spent with family and friends, or adventuring on your own – is, as Mastercard likes to say “priceless” but also fleeting. The times not spent, the roads not traveled can never be recouped.

Instead, modify your style of travel and choice of destination. There is a world of travel experience within reach of a tank of gasoline (still the cheapest way to travel for a family), or by bus, train or boat. You can tailor your trip to achieve your goals of economizing, reducing carbon emissions, and getting closer to nature – such as biking, hiking, camping, kayaking or sailing.

Our suggestion this year is to “hub and spoke” – find a place that is easy to reach, where you can explore by foot, by bike, by local transportation, a place that offers what I like to call a “smorgasbord” of experiences – from outdoor activities (beach, watersports, mountains) to cultural activities. So here are just a few suggestions based on our prior trips.

For example, within five hours drive of the New York metro area, you can easily drive to fabulous destinations in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Washington DC; or reach by train (such as Boston, Vermont, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC), or by bus. You can even take the Long Island Railroad to a cruise ship at the Port of New York, that takes you to the Caribbean, Bermuda, Eastern Canada and points way beyond.

Pennsylvania

Hershey PA, is the Sweetest Place on Earth, and affords an enchanting family getaway. Splurge in the luxurious, historic, elegant (4-Star, 4-Diamond) Hotel Hershey, a Historic Hotels of America member celebrating its 75th anniversary, with every amenity imaginable, from world-class spa (indulge the chocolate-inspired treatments like the Whipped Cocoa Bath, Chocolate Bean Polish and Chocolate Fondue Wrap) to golf, or the more modest Hershey Lodge. Hersheypark is a fantastic theme park that will delight children of all ages, and this year opened Fahrenheit, its 11th roller coaster, and The Boardwalk, a great place to get cool in summer. There is also the Hershey Museum and Hershey Gardens; take a day trip to explore Lancaster County and the Amish Country. A Hersheypark Family Getaway includes deluxe accommodations and Hersheypark tickets for 2 adults and 2 juniors, priced from $420 (based on availability, until Aug. 31); 800-HERSHEY, www.HersheyPA.com.

It is easy to imagine how people lived before combustion engines when you visit Pennsylvania Dutch Country – still one of the most scenic landscapes since Currier & Ives. For an unparalleled experience, stay on a farm (if you are lucky enough, as we were, you might be there when a calf is born), then explore many attractions in the area. (For a list and description of farm b’n'bs, www.afarmstay.com).

For a different Pennsylvania Dutch experience, choose Willow Valley Resort and Conference Center, a family-friendly resort with three pools and indoor water playground – complete with slides, palm trees and water sprayers; petting zoo and playground, nine-hole golf course, fitness center, tennis and basketball courts (800-444-1714, www.WillowValley.com).

The Pennsylvania Dutch Country CVB offers packages, discounts, idea of what to do and where to stay, Choose to stay at B&Bs, luxury hotels, family fun resorts�or cozy campground cabins, 800-PA-DUTCH,www.padutchcountry.com).

Occupying 5,500 acres at the base of West Mountain, Skytop Lodge, in Skytop PA, offers every amenity and activity – golf, fly fishing, shooting, archery, miniature golf, indoor pool with kiddie pool and whirlpool, outdoor pool, health club; an on-site naturalist leads walkers and hikers through pristine wilderness areas. In the classic style of a grand, historic resort, this is an all-inclusive: rates include accommodations and three-gourmet meals daily. A member of Historic Hotels of America, the lodge’s 1928 Dutch Colonial style stone manor overlooks Skytop Lake, and affords stunning views in every direction (800-345-7759,www.skytop.com).

The Great Wolf Lodge, a growing chain of family-oriented resorts with a North Woods wilderness theme and its signature feature, an indoor waterpark, has settled into the Poconos. Another distinguishing family-friendly features include suite-accommodations in different configurations, many with separate themed sleeping areas for kids, like Kidcabin and Wolf Den; MagiQuest, an interactive, fantasy entertainment game; Aveda Concept Spa, a full service spa, and Scooops Kid Spa, which feature flavorful treatments and ice cream treats for “tweens”; and scheduled activities to delight youngsters (800-905-WOLF, www.greatwolf.com).

Coastal Massachusetts

Coastal Massachusetts is a veritable treasure trove of fabulous, fascinating and fun destinations, which can serve as the hub for a hub-and-spoke-style vacation, or as a stop in a circular itinerary.

Step back into 1627, at Plimoth Plantation, along the Coastal Massachusetts route(© 2008 Karen Rubin).

Plymouth, on Massachusetts’ Cultural Coast, is a treasure trove of history and natural attractions – from Plimoth Plantation and Mayflower II, one of the best living history museums anywhere where you step back into a 1627 village populated with the people of our history books, to whale watching. Ideal for families, the John Carver Inn, right in the downtown, has an indoor waterpark that is just fantastic (John Carver Inn, 25 Summer St., Plymouth MA 02360, 800-274-1620, 508-746-7100, www.JohnCarverInn.com). Check out Destination Plymouth packages, 800-USA-1620,www.visit-plymouth.com.

There are nearby beaches and nature preserves, or cross the bridge to Cape Cod and enjoy Sandwich (and its fantastic town beach and sensational biking trails, including the Cape Cod Canal trail.

Steps away from the historic district, is Sandwich's lovely Town Beach on Cape Cod (© 2008 Karen Rubin).

Cape Cod is quintessential summer. One of our favorite places is Sandwich, a historic village which in addition to having one of the best beaches, has fabulous historic attractions including Heritage Plantation, Sandwich Glass Museum.

Also, Falmouth, a complete destination in itself, where you can park your car and get just about everywhere by bike, even the charming and fascinating Wood’s Hole, where the research institution is based. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at CapeWind Waterfront Resort – so cozy and comfortable, with pool and access to water, and a walk or bikeride away from the beach (check out the gorgeous Shining Sea bikepath) (CapeWind Waterfront Resort, 34 Maravista Extension, Teaticket, MA 02536, 508-548-3400, 800-267-3401, www.capewind.com.)

For more information, Falmouth Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center, 20 Academy Lane, Falmouth, Cape Cod, 508-548-8500, 800-526-8532, www.FalmouthChamber.com.

Massachusetts Cultural Coast is a string of destinations that follow the hook, from Quincy, south of Boston, Plymouth County, Cape Cod, Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, and Bristol County. Each can be a hub for a destination, or string two or more together for a delightful auto trip.

The destinations are also linked by bus and rail transportation, if you would like to simply park and take excursions, even into Boston (commuting distance from Plymouth). Visit www.theculturalcoast.org for more info.

Salem, about 30 minutes northeast of Boston is of course famous for the Salem Witch trials and now, as the Halloween capital of the universe, but a visit here lets you understand colonial history in a way that you would never expect. There are any number of fun and fascinating attractions, from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s House of Seven Gables, to the Peabody Essex Museum, to the Pickering waterfront, to scores of attractions related to the 1692 trials and witchcraft. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Salem Inn (800-446-2995,www.SalemInnMA.com); there is also the Hawthorne Hotel, a member of Historic Hotels of America (800-Say-Stay, www.hawthornehotel.com), and the new Salem Waterfront Hotel & Suites (888-337-2536,www.salemwaterfronthotel.com). For information on visiting, contact Destination Salem, 54 Turner St., Salem, MA 01970, tel. 877-SALEM-MA or 978-744-3663, www.salem.org.

Lenox is a cultural mecca, and The Cranwell Resort is at the hub. The history of Cranwell is also entwined with many stories of the opulent period between 1880 and 1920 that is known as the Gilded Age.� The Tudor-Style Wyndhurst mansion, boasting elegant interiors including the richly decorated Great Hall with dark, wood paneling and French tapestries, is the centerpiece of the 380-acre property with spectacular views of the Berkshires; the landscape was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted who designed Central Park. A championship 18-hole golf course surrounds the structure. A new 35,000-square-foot full-service spa, an expansive�fitness center and�three on-site restaurants reinforce the epic distinctions of�Cranwell Resort, Spa and Golf Club, a member of Historic Hotels of America. The Spa at Cranwell has redesigned new, more flexible ‘Spa Stay Packages and introduced a new program of treatments for teens. Also, Capitol Steps, the musical satire group that was recently nominated for the prestigious Drama Desk award for ‘Outstanding Lyrics’ and the winner of the 2006 WUSA A-List for Best Comedy Club 2006, is doing nightly shows (except Tuesdays), from July 4-Aug. 31. A new one-night Culture in Country package includes two sets of two tickets to a choice of the Clark Art Institute, MassMoCA, Edith Wharton’s The Mount, the Norman Rockwell Museum, Arrowhead, Berkshire Botanical Garden, Berkshire Museum, and Hancock Shaker Village. Full Country Buffet breakfast for two and full use of the Spa at Cranwell with heated indoor pool, whirlpools, saunas, steam rooms and Fitness Center are also included (800-678-8946/413-637-1364, ).

Providence, RI

Get a taste of Venice in highly accessible Providence, Rhode Island; the awesome WaterFire event in not to be missed (© 2008 Karen Rubin).

Providence has been reborn as a cultural mecca for artists, designers, and creative people of all stripes, and offers an amazing array of cultural, historical attractions – not to mention fantastic biking along the East Bay trail, nearby beaches and a hop-skip and even ferry ride to Newport. With its canals and even a gondola, it can be called the Venice of the Northeast, and the annual WaterFire event – a “living art” spectacular that incorporates the elements with music – is not to be missed (for dates, visitwww.waterfire.org); for Providence info,www.GoProvidence.com).

 

Vermont

Smugglers’ Notch, Vermont, is a bit of a long drive, but the award-winning, family-friendly all-suite resort in Vermont’s glorious Green Mountains is worth the trip, and once you get there, you don’t need to get into your car again – everything is walking distance or accessible by a complimentary shuttle. There are pools, restaurants, supervised activities, a lake, waterpark, even campouts (it’s almost like summer camp for the whole family), and activities such as the environmentally themed guided walk, “Where Does the Water Go?” and a SegRide Tour, by Segway personal transporter or visiting the Living Machine, a greenhouse waste water treatment system.

Marko’s Magical Week brings an added dimension: from July 27 – August 1, 2008 this prestidigitation professional will be in residence at the Resort. He will be at the daily Adventure Rangers and Notch Squad specialty camps where he will teach magic. The Adventure Rangers experience is designed for youngsters ages 7-10 and Notch Squad is for 11-15 year olds, and will hold special sessions for adults, too, who can even learn self-hypnosis skills.

Smugglers offers a Family Fun Guarantee, so that if any member of the family participates in one of these summer programs for two days or more and doesn’t have fun, Smugglers’ will refund the entire program portion of that family member’s stay.� It’s as simple as that. Smugglers also has a liberal cancellation policy: a 50 percent deposit is collected when a reservation is made, but should a family’s plans change, deposits are fully refunded with a cancellation notice of seven days or more; for cancellations closer in than that, deposits will be fully credited to a future reservation within two years.(www.smuggs.com, 800-451-8752).

Ascutney Mountain Resort in Brownsville, Vermont, is encouraging guests to take the original public transportation: the train! Amtrak’s Vermonter Line starts every morning from Washington, D.C and New York City and follows the eastern seaboard en route to Windsor, VT, only five miles from Ascutney’s front door. For reservations made through Ascutney Mountain Resort, you’ll receive a 20% discount on your train fare, and a complimentary shuttle service to and from the resort will be included for your further convenience. For those wishing to rent a car during their visit, there’s even a local car rental agency that will provide free pick up and drop off service with each car rental.

Ascutney’s amenities include multiple on-site restaurants, a complete Fitness Center with indoor and outdoor pools and spa, tennis, racquetball and basketball courts, hiking trails, mountain biking, road biking, tennis and tennis lessons, as well as outdoor and heated indoor swimming pools on property. Within a short drive from the resort, you can enjoy a whole range of activities and adventures including: horseback trail rides, canoeing and kayaking, golf, hang gliding rides and lessons, hot air balloon rides, scuba diving lessons, guided fly fishing, local swimming holes, covered bridge tours and the 3.7-mile Auto Road that ascends to the top of Mt. Ascutney, with expansive 360-degree panoramic views. The area offers historical sites and natural beauty: the Vermont Constitution House; the Cornish/Windsor Bridge – the world’s longest two-span covered bridge; the American Precision Museum; Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site; Simon Pearce Glass Blowing; the Montshire Museum of Science; the Vermont Institute of Natural Sciences; Harpoon and Long Trail Breweries; Billings Farm and Museum; plus various antique shops, art galleries, quaint villages and other places of historical interest (800-243-0011, www.ascutney.com).

Basin Harbor Club, in Vergennes, Vermont, on Lake Champlain, was established in 1886 by Ardelia Beach, and today is operated by the fourth generation of the Beach family. The sprawling, 700 acre-resort, a member of Historic Hotels of America, includes 77 distinctive cottages, many with fireplaces, decks and views of Lake Champlain. There are extensive gardens, wildlife, children’s programs, golf, tennis, biking, watersports, outdoor heated Olympic-sized pool, fitness center, and spa services. Explore miles of nature trails and discover the mountains. Enjoy fishing or water skiing. Tap into your creative side with a painting or jewelry workshop. Attend a lecture and book signing by a Vermont author or join a history talk. Catch the magic show or play a healthy game of BINGO. Accommodations include breakfast and a full American Plan is available. The resort (which is pet-friendly) is only open mid-May through mid-October. Visit the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum and the Shelburne Museum. Then follow the Vermont Antiquing guide and local gallery list (802-475-2311, www.basinharbor.com, or HHA, 800-678-8946, www.historichotels.org).

New Hampshire

Wentworth By the Sea Hotel & Spa, a Historic Hotels of America member, is the crown jewel in Portsmouth/New Castle, one of the National Trust’s newest 2008 “Dozen Distinctive Destinations,” with its captivating blend of coastal beauty, historic buildings and lively downtown (603-422-7322,

Eagle Mountain House, in Jackson, NH, exemplifies New England. Its century-old history ties the hotel to the region’s heritage while seamlessly offering pristine air, panoramic views of the White Mountains. The hotel is a short walk from the soothing waters of Wildcat River Falls and minutes from a wide array of outdoor attractions, from the state’s highest peak to some of the regions best fishing and hiking. A spectacular nine-hole mountain golf course, first constructed in 1931, is open from May through October. This affordable, uncrowded and family friendly resort, has initiated a summer incentive program giving guests $20-$150 in Gas Aid dollars. The longer a guest stays and the further they drive to visit, the more dollars they receive. Dollars can by used for food and beverages, greens fees, driving range use, and rental of carts and clubs (603-383-9111, www.historichotels.org,

New Hampshire’s White Mountains: The Glen Oaks Inn, in Intervale, has a four-night White Mountain Experience package that includes four-nights stay, hearty country breakfast each morning, afternoon beverages, a trip for two on the Cog Railroad up to the top of Mountain Washington, dinner for two one evening at an award-winning restaurant, a gondola ride for two over the Wildcat Mountain Ski area; a trip for two on the Moose Tour, a three-hour journey Viewing wildlife and moose while on a 3-hour journey along the picturesque Androscoggin River and into 13-mile woods to view wildlife, and tickets for two on North Conway’s Chocorua Dining Car on a 1-� hour journey through the Mount Washington Valley enjoying the spectacular scenery and a 4-course dinner. (Train runs Tue, Wed, Thu and Sat only). The package for two is $895 (through June 20) and $1095 (9/21-10/18), based on double occupancy (877-854-6535,www.glenoaksinn.com).

Preferred Vacation Rentals can put your family in a private waterfront vacation home on “The Big Lake,” Lake Winnipesaukee, for an entire week in the middle of the summer for only $225 per person. Available properties range from cottages to multi-million dollar homes ranging in peak season price from $600 – $7000 a week and again, when you consider the sleep capacity, even the luxury properties become affordable. (603-253-7811,www.preferredrentals.com to see individual property details and rates).

New York

Dude Ranch Country: at Rocking Horse Ranch, in the Catskills, about a two-hour drive, packages include choice-menu meals, horseback riding and hiking on 500 mountain and orchard acres, water skiing, big banana water sled, kayaks, paddle boats and fishing on a small lake; tennis, heated outdoor adult and kiddie pools with water slides, heated indoor pool with interactive water features, two saunas, indoor fun barn, workout room, miniature golf, beach volleyball, handball, softball, basketball, horseshoe pitching, bocce, crafts, indoor archery and shooting gallery, supervised day camp and nursery, nightly entertainment, cocktail lounges, dancing, 24 hour coffee and cake. Rocking Horse Ranch Resort, 600 State Route 44/55 – Highland, NY 12528, 800-647-2624, rockinghorseranch.com, info@rhranch.com.

Ridin’ Hy, on Sherman Lake in the Adirondacks, has been welcoming families since 1940, and offers an old-fashioned charm. Besides an excellent horseback riding program, even for small children, it has a beautiful lake and waterfront activities, indoor pool, hayrides and rodeos. Open year-round, it offers snowmobiling, downhill and cross-country skiing in winter. Ridin’ Hy is located 220 miles from New York, three miles off Exit 24 of the Northway. Contact Ridin-Hy, Sherman Lake, Warrensburg, NY 12885, 518-494-2742.

Gilded Age Splendor on Lake George: The Sagamore is a Gilded Age resort (and Historic Hotels of America member) on its own island on Lake George, with 350 guest rooms and suites, Donald Ross-designed golf course, European-style spa and fitness center, sailing school, tennis and racquetball (indoor and outdoor), boating, sailing and fishing charters, marina and private beach, indoor swimming pool, and six restaurants. (Bolton Landing, 800-358-3585, www.thesagamore.com).

Lake George/Adirondack Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau, 518-743-8435, www.lgarcvb.com.

Skipper a canal boat on the Erie Canal in New York State (© 2008 Karen Rubin).

Explore New York’s wonder, Erie Canal: try your hand at captaining your own boat or ride your bike along the over 260 miles of the Canalway Trail. Come discover historical sites and quaint Canal-side towns or cast your line into calm Canal waters. – you can rent your own canal boat (bring bicycles on board); visit the official National Parks Website at www.nps.gov/erie/index.htm. We did portions of the Mohawk-Hudson Bikeway – a 60-mile Trail along the Erie Canal and Mohawk River between St. Johnsville and Waterford in the Capital Region, and stayed at a delightful Best Western hotel in Troy, biking a trail along the Hudson River into Albany. Nearby is the Saratoga racetrack (free map of the New York State Canalway Trail System is available from the New York State Canal Corporation, 800-4CANAL4, www.nyscanals.gov. For canal boat rental,http://www.nyscanals.gov/exvac/boatsforhire/bhskipper.html; we saw the lovely canal boats operated by Erie-Champlain Canal Boating Company (1 Tugboat Alley, Waterford, NY 12188, 518-577- 6363,www.eccboating.com.

Other attractions in the Albany-Troy area include the Howe Caverns, which features a boat ride on the underground Lake of Venus, 200 feet below the surface (open year-round; 518-296-8900,www.howecaverns.com). Nearby is the Iroquois Indian Museum, an educational institution dedicated to fostering understanding of Iroquois culture (518-296-8949, www.iroquoismuseum.org). Also, the Schyler Mansion State Historic Site, the 1761 Georgian Home of Revolutionary War General Philip Schyler, featuring 18th century furnishings (518-434-0834, www.nysparks.com/hist).

History and Grand Style in Cooperstown: Famous for the Baseball Hall of Fame, but so much more. Enjoy a grand stay at The Otesaga Resort Hotel, a Historic Hotels of America member, in New York’s Leatherstocking Region, 70 miles west of Albany. The Otesaga, which opened in 1909 and is readying for its 100th anniversary in 2009, remains one of the country’s most storied landmarks ‘ a grand dame whose very presence is inextricably linked with America’s favorite pastime. An AAA Four-Diamond Hotel, The Otesaga, occupies 700 feet of lakefront on the southern shore of Lake Otsego, the famed ‘Glimmerglass’ of James Fenimore Cooper’s novels. The Hotel affords guests a captivating setting for exploring Cooperstown’s cultural institutions ‘ the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Fenimore Art Museum, The Farmers’ Museum ‘ as well as array of recreational facilities, including the top-rated Leatherstocking Golf Course. The Otesaga offers two first-class dining options as well as an array of sports and recreational facilities, including a heated outdoor pool, fitness room, lake canoeing and swimming, croquet and tennis courts and a video game room. Cooperstown houses an unspoiled repository of America’s heritage, rich in history, art, architecture and natural beauty. Some of the village’s key attractions include the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Fenimore Art Museum, The Farmers’ Museum, the Glimmerglass Opera and the Leatherstocking Golf Course, designed by Devereux Emmet in 1909 and considered by many to be one of the East’s most scenic and challenging resort golf courses. (800-348-6222,www.otesaga.com).

Mohonk Mountain House is a National Historic Landmark resort (and HHA member) located on 2,200 acres in New Paltz, the heart of the Hudson Valley region, only 90 miles north of New York City. Mohonk’s inclusive overnight rates offer three meals daily prepared by award-winning chefs, Afternoon Tea and Cookies, and most recreational activities. The 30,000-square-foot Spa wing at Mohonk Mountain House features 16 treatment rooms, a solarium, and outdoor heated mineral pool, along with an indoor heated swimming pool with an underwater sound system, comprehensive fitness center, and yoga/motion studio. The grounds feature exquisite gardens, a challenging nine-hole golf course, red clay tennis courts, and horseback riding and horse-drawn carriage rides. The glacial-formed Lake Mohonk is ideal for boating, fishing, and swimming. Over 40 theme programs annually include culinary demonstrations, gardening workshops, music festivals, nature programs, and more. Avid adventurers will enjoy exciting guided activities, including mountain biking on an extensive trail system, rock climbing on one of the most acclaimed rock faces in the world, and caving within the impressive Shawangunk cliffs. Hiking on more than 85 miles of trails, horseback riding – Western-style, and fly fishing lessons or excursions also offer interesting experiences and challenges. After a day of adventures – whether large or small – guests delight in the award-winning Spa at Mohonk Mountain House. An ongoing “Special Occasion Package” features King-bedded accommodations, a memory album and camera, nightly turndown service with chocolate, three daily meals including breakfast in room when ordered through room service, a gift from the greenhouse, and a range of scheduled resort activities, $285 pp/night, double occupancy; two-night minimum stay required (800-678-8946 or 845-255-1000,www.historichotels.org/hotel/Mohonk_Mountain_House).

New Jersey

The Victorian charm of Cape May, New Jersey, and sunsets to rival Key West, within an easy drive (© 2008 Karen Rubin).

Spring Lake, NJ is this incredibly charming, predominantly residential (that means private) beach community – you don’t even need to bring a car at all – you an incredibly easy ride on the New Jersey transit train (90 minutes from Manhattan’s Penn Station) – you can even take your own bike. And then you don’t even need a car once you get there. There are 11 inns and bed-and-breakfasts (many historic, all are charming) (732-859-1465,www.HistoricInnsofSpringLake.com; for destination information, visit�www.springlake.org).

Hoist anchor! Raise sails! Find out what windpower is really all about, on a Maine windjammer sailing adventure (© 2008 Karen Rubin).

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Spring Lake Inn, just a block off the beach and boardwalk, and a short bikeride or walk from Main Street. The Spring Lake Inn admires guests that travel on train, bus or bike to do their part in the ‘greening of America’. To celebrate their implementation of solar energy throughout their 1888 ‘European Mansion by the Sea’, owners Andy and Barbara Seaman are rewarding their energy-conscious guests when they take a ‘RetroCation’ with $1/per mile trip. From June 15 thru December 15, whether staying one night or a week, all accommodations will be credited with $1/ each mile for guests taking the train, bus or bicycling to the Inn. The Inn’s European-style hospitality, history and contemporary amenities blend into an unpretentious yet elegant vacation – warm and inviting – yet offering privacy when guests need time and space to unwind. Built in 1888 as the Grand Central Stables of Spring Lake, it’s a block to the ocean and private 2-mile boardwalk as well as a short stroll or bike ride to the pristine Lake. From healthy-choice breakfast served in the grand dining room to afternoon tea, the 80-foot Victorian porch is irresistibly alluring. (Spring Lake Inn, 109 Salem Street, Spring Lake, New Jersey 732-449-2010, www.SpringLakeInn.com).

Take a Windjammer Cruise and see what windpower really means� Fantastic for families – this is more like camping than cruising, and a true adventure. A three- to six-day cruise aboard one of Maine’s Tall Ships is a wonderful way to reconnect family members in a fun and meaningful way and experience a simpler life. Many of the ships are historic sailing vessels, some take youngsters from 8 years old; most accommodate teens. Each of the 14 vessels in the fleet is different, with a personality that reflects its captain. Contact the Maine Windjammer Association at P.O. Box 1144P, Blue Hill, Maine 04614, 800-807-WIND or check out the website at www.sailmainecoast.com.

Take the train to a cruise! Take advantage of the growing “homeport” trend. An amazing array of ships depart from the Port of New York on Manhattan’s West Side, such as Carnival, Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruises. And Royal Caribbean International ships depart from Cape Liberty, in Bayonne NJ (800-327-6700, visit www.royalcaribbean.com).

Check out veteran cruise specialist Anne Campbell’s new site, www.cruisingfromnewyork.com, to find out about ships and great deals out of New York’s ports.

For assistance finding sightseeing, entertainment and family-friendly attractions within just a few hours’ drive, check out VibeAgent.com. This new hotel search engine site, can help travelers find the best hotel that meets their needs at the best price. VibeAgent.com features hotel recommendations based on personalized criteria.

Saturday, 05 July, 2008

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© 2008 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit us online at www.travelwritersmagazine.com and at www.familytravelnetwork.com. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com.

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About Travel Features Syndicate

Karen Rubin is an eclectic travel writer who has been spanning the globe for more than 30 years reporting on interesting, intriguing people and places to explore for magazines, newspapers and online. She publishes Travel Features Syndicate in newspapers and online including examiner.com, Huffington Post and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate and blogs at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com. "Travel is a life-changing and an interactive experience that mutually benefits travelers and community." Contact Karen at FamTravLtr@aol.com. 'Like' us at www.facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

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