For most of us, there's already a hint of Autumn in the air. The harsh, sidewalk-baking temperatures of summer have started to lower (for most of us!). The breezes are turning cooler. And soon the leaves will be turning colors. It's time for football and tail-gating and sweaters. Time to get together with old friends again. Time to enjoy a new season. And time to take a day off from work and celebrate the uniquely-American work ethic...with our families and our good friends. It's Labor Day weekend! And here are my Top 5 places to enjoy a great Labor Day Getaway...
#5 - THE PITCHER INN, WARREN, VERMONT - Conjure up in your mind a beautiful, intimate, homey, charming New England inn...and you'll be conjuring up The Pitcher Inn. This is a Relais & Chateaux property, with all the luxury and amenities that brand is known for. And it sure doesn't hurt that the inn is in the Vermont Mountains, where the colors of Mother Nature burst out at you everywhere you turn, and where each meandering country road leads to more surprises. If, on the other hand, you'd like to burn off some calories, the inn's just a few minutes from the renowned Sugarbush and Mad River Glen ski areas. If you're here in the warmer weather, you can kayak the Mad River or fly a sailplane over the mountains, tap trees for maple sugar or go antiquing, or golfing at Sugarbush or hiking just about everywhere. Meals at the Pitcher Inn are taken on tables of cherrywood, and feature farm-to-table gourmet specialties and a wine cellar that's been honored by Wine Spectator. Right across the street from the Inn is a Vermont landmark called the Warren Store, where you can find that one-of-a-kind item to bring home or that one-of-a-kind treat to bring back to your room.
#4 - LANDMARK RESORT, EGG HARBOR, WISCONSIN - If you've never been to Door County, Wisconsin, you've got to see it. Perched on the shores of a peninsula sticking out into Lake Michigan, this is a region of tiny villages with interesting shops, friendly people, excellent wineries, cheese-makers, cherry-pie bakers (the county's known for its delicious cherries), historic lighthouses, deep-green pastures filled with grazing horses and cattle, and big red barns with silos. And Landmark Resort, in the picturesque village of Egg Harbor, is the perfect place from which to enjoy it. Every one of the 294 accommodations here is a suite, all of which sit on a wooded bluff overlooking the Bay of Green Bay. And "Rooms With A View" doesn't even begin to describe them. The resort boasts three outdoor swimming pools and one indoors, a game room, tennis courts, pickleball court, shuffleboard and more. The award-winning Carrington Pub & Grill offers American classics and great desserts, as well as one of the best Sunday Brunches in Door County. And downtown Egg Harbor - in addition to its wonderful name - is a fun walking experience, with locally-owned shops and restaurants such as Parador (Spanish tapas) and Glacier Ledge (seasonal small plates).
#3 - ADVENTURES ON THE GORGE, LANSING, WEST VIRGINIA - West Virginia is something of an undiscovered gem, with deep-green forests, mountains beckoning hikers and climbers, and rapid rivers with myriad opportunities for thrills and chills. You can experience all three of these natural wonders off the beaten (tourist) path at Adventures On the Gorge. And "Adventures" is exactly what you get. This resort, offering accommodations ranging from log cabins overlooking the thundering New River Gorge (some with wraparound balconies) to spacious cottages and even a bunkhouse, has been named one of the top six adventure resorts in America by U.S. News & World Report. Situated on some 250 acres on the rim of the spectacular gorge, the resort offers whitewater rafting on both the New and Gauley Rivers; an aerial adventure park; two zip-line courses; rock climbing; rappelling; kayaking; stand-up paddle boarding; fishing; mountain biking and hiking. Here, you can thrill to the sounds of the rapids below you. Or just luxuriate in the subtle sounds of the silent forest surrounding you. And when it comes time to relax, you can choose from among five dining options, among them Smokey's Cast Iron Grille, which offers breathtaking views of the gorge along with excellent cuisine.
#2 - COTTON GIN VILLAGE, FREDERICKSBURG, TEXAS - The winding country roads, gentle green slopes, and grazing horses and cows of the Texas Hill Country are reminiscent of old technicolor postcards. And so is one of the scenic little towns here. Fredericksburg was founded by German settlers in the mid-1800's, and the aromatic restaurants and bakeries in the atmospheric little downtown are testament to traditions still lovingly nurtured. So is the town square. And so are the beautifully-preserved, tiny "Sunday Houses" built by settlers who brought their families in from their outlying farms to Sunday church services. Fredericksburg is where you'll find Cotton Gin Village, a scenic Old Time slice of a long-ago Texas. Here, you'll walk along winding pathways lined with authentic log cabins for lodging, each of them unique, and each outfitted with furnishings and interior touches of Old Texas. Cotton Gin Village offers a choice of accommodations, too; you can choose from the original 1800's hand-hewn log cabins, or homey, rustic cottages, many constructed in the original settlers' Mid-European style. Local roads are lined with a surprising number of award-winning wineries. And Fredericksburg has several German-style restaurants specializing in schnitzel, strudel, and ambience that's truly gemutlichkeit. But you don't have to leave Cotton Gin Village to get a great meal. The on-site Cabernet Grill is one of Fredericksburg's best restaurants.
And now, my choice for the No. 1 place in America for a great Labor Day (and anytime!) Getaway...
#1 - SUNDANCE MOUNTAIN RESORT, SUNDANCE, UTAH - In 1969, actor Robert Redford bought the land he now calls Sundance - after his famous role in the classic Western movie "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" - and created on it one of America's great resorts. He envisioned it as a place of learning and culture and preservation of nature amidst the magnificence of the Wasatch Mountains, and as a place to get away from it all...including the crowded commercialism of so many resorts. Today his dream has come true. Sundance Mountain Resort offers premium accommodations, outdoor adventure, culture, and cuisine...in structures that are truly "Old West" yet blessed with modern conveniences and appliances. Sundance is built on the slopes of 12,000' Mount Timpanogos, snow-capped pretty much all year long. As a result, the resort offers spectacular views, mountaintop caves for exploration, world-class skiing, and perhaps the world's greatest zip-lining experience, which actually goes not from the top of one mountain to the bottom, but from mountain to mountain. There are six dining options here, offering award-winning cuisine in rustic ambience. There's a dedication to service - including a fleet of cars and drivers to take you anywhere on the resort - that most resorts can only envy. There's the Owl Bar, purchased by Redford some years back...with the actual bar at which Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and their outlaw gang hid out. There are great stage performances in summer, and incredible skiing in winter. Everywhere you look, there are rushing creeks (and soothing sounds) and picturesque pathways and foot bridges and hills with wooden steps and deep-woods greenery. And, yes, Robert Redford does have a home here. And if you're lucky, you might just see him eating in one of the restaurants!
These are my Top 5 Labor Day Getaways. Got any favorites of your own? We'd love to hear about 'em!