Late-summer, to me, is one of the most beautiful times of the year. The summer heat is starting to break. Nights are a bit cooler. Days start to get a bit shorter. There's a hint in the air of the Autumn breezes that will come soon. The colors of Nature start to take on a sort of warm tinge, as they soften up from the blazing hues of summer. And soon sweaters will start to come out of closets and drawers.
Here are my five favorite spots to soak in the ambience and warm glow of late-summer...
#5 - THE CHILKO EXPERIENCE WILDERNESS RESORT, CARIBOO J, BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA - We normally don't venture north of the border in this column. But The Chilko Experience is such a - well, experience - that we took a northern trek this time. This resort doesn't use the word "experience" lightly. This is a luxury hideaway on 25 pristine acres, surrounded by 5,000,000 acres of pine-clad wilderness. Up to 22 very lucky guests can be accommodated in six quaint log cabins. The food is gourmet, following drinks and appetizers, and all the wines are from British Columbia. And often afterward there's tall-tale-swapping around a campfire with s'mores. Just a partial list of available activities would include kayaking and canoeing; lake cruises; paddle-boarding; horseback-riding; hiking; ATV-ing; and wildlife viewing of bears, wolves, and bald eagles. You can work out the kinks afterward with the resort's masseuse. And young guests can learn wilderness skills such as blacksmithing.
#4 - CANAAN VALLEY RESORT, DAVIS, WEST VIRGINIA - If you'd like to get your "wilderness" on, Canaan Valley Resort, in a valley whose floor is at 3,200', is the place to do it. Here, in a stunningly-beautiful setting complete with a river for rafting and kayaking, mountains for hiking and climbing and cycling, and dramatic vistas spreading out into forever for ogling, late-summer is a genuine treat. There are comfortable, homey rooms in the lodge, and there are also cabins. On-site activities in addition to the aforementioned include an 18-hole championship golf course, scenic chairlift rides, sporting clay shooting range, bike rentals, mini-golf, Euro-bungy/climbing wall, a "Turtle" slide, and indoor/outdoor pools. When you're hungry, you can choose from among five restaurants. When you've got an itch to explore, you can drive along stunning mountain roads. And when you've got an itch to "go local," you can venture into one of the nearby towns for a colorful festival.
#3 - JW MARRIOTT MARCO ISLAND BEACH RESORT, MARCO ISLAND, FLORIDA - Imagine a tropical island with a picturesque harbor in which you can hop aboard a boat for a sunset cruise with dinner. Imagine a world-class resort on this island, with a beachfront location right on the Gulf of Mexico. Imagine that this beach is the biggest and widest you've ever seen. Imagine letting every muscle in your body relax at the magnificent spa. Imagine a multi-colored sun slipping into the watery horizon while you nurse a tropical cocktail on this huge beach. Then, when you start to get hungry, imagine that you have a choice of nine restaurants, from casual to gourmet to international, in which to try award-winning cuisine. Imagine guest rooms with panoramic vistas of this beach and this Gulf and this sun as it heads for a watery horizon. Imagine on-site shops with fashion-forward leisure- or beachwear or delectable treats that you won't be able to walk past. Then imagine, if you will, that this resort, already considered one of the finest beachside resorts in America, just completed a $330-million upgrade...making it even better! You may never want to leave...
#2 - BAY SHORE INN, STURGEON BAY, WISCONSIN - Sturgeon Bay is in a beautiful part of Wisconsin, the peninsula of Door County, which sticks out into Lake Michigan. The town - and the whole county - is a feast for the senses. Door County is so named because the numerous shipwrecks just offshore caused old-time mariners to refer to the area as "Death's Door." But this door is special. Here, the way it is, is the way it was. Here, the green countryside along Lake Michigan is filled with big red barns and grazing cows and horses. Every ten or fifteen miles there's a small town, each one more charming than the last, with a main street lined with old, atmospheric shops and eateries often made of wood. Folks still say "Hello!" to strangers here. There's still an old - but thriving - drive-in movie here. There are old lighthouses here. There are scenic rural vistas here, set against the grandeur of one of the Great Lakes. If you're lucky, you may be invited to one of the wonderful community "fish boils" here, where the fish and home-made biscuits and potato salad and pies are delicious, and the laughter and fellowship is contagious. And the Bay Shore Inn is a classic country lodge with cozy rooms, sitting right on Lake Michigan, with views that will keep you transfixed long after the sun finally dips into the water.
#1 - EL MONTE SAGRADO, TAOS, NEW MEXICO - Everyone who's been to Taos will tell you the same thing. The light is different here. The air is different here. And the colors are different here. In this most spiritual of New Mexico towns sits a thousand-year-old Native pueblo of adobe houses, with Taos Mountain, sacred to the Natives and forbidden to others, towering above it. And on these leafy streets, with a town plaza dating from the 18th Century, remain some of the most beautiful examples of Colonial New Mexican architecture in the state. One of the new examples of this classic architecture is this hotel. El Monte Sagrado means "The Holy Mountain" in Spanish and "Sagrado" can also mean "sanctuary." This beautiful Southwestern hotel combines a rich blend of Native American, Mexican, Spanish and American-West cultures in a natural, relaxing setting. The Living Spa is one of the best in the area, offering herb-infused treatments using indigenous, organic plants, flowers and minerals. The hotel's restaurant, De la Tierra, has gathered great acclaim from local foodies. There's a fascinating sculpture garden here, too, with waterfalls overlooking the "Sacred Circle," once used by Native Americans for ceremonies.
These are my 5 late-summer favorites...What do YOU think? We'd love to hear about yours!