By Rhea Saran
Spring is finally here and Cancun is already overflowing with the college set. But for those with a more mature concept of spring break, here is range of more sophisticated destinations catering to different budgets, tastes and time frames.
1. Crystal Springs, N.J. From $500
If a packed work schedule only allows for an overnight weekend getaway, consider an alternative to the Poconos or the Catskills and head instead to Vernon, NJ, a mere 47 miles from the city. Here, the Crystal Springs Resort is a quick escape that doesn’t require much time but doesn’t skimp on resources either.
Stay at the Minerals Hotel, where the guestrooms and suites have mountain, pool or golf course views. Amenities include access to a state-of-the-art fitness center, indoor and outdoor heated pools, tennis and racquetball, the Elements Spa, and preferred tee times on one of the 6 courses. The resort is also good for kids, with activities planned especially for them, including junior golf and tennis clinics, swim lessons and pool games. Babysitting services are available, ensuring that parents get me-time, too. Dining at one of six restaurants provides enough variety to keep everyone happy. The wine list at Restaurant Latour comes recommended. Room rates start at $150 per night for a deluxe room and at $350 for a presidential suite.
The getaway is just an hour away, so driving is probably the best option. The resort does offer complimentary parking.
2. Lancaster, P.A. From $750
Deep in the heart of Dutch Pennsylvania, this old city is set by the Susquehanna River. For a short, interstate getaway that doesn’t involve much time or traveling, Lancaster is an ideal retreat. The city is big on art, with over 50 galleries, museums, antique galleries, performing arts centers and even an art institute.
Can’t get enough art? Visitors can stay at the Lancaster Arts Hotel, an establishment with its own collection. Formerly a tobacco warehouse, this boutique hotel is dedicated to art. There is an in-house gallery with a collection of both historic and contemporary art, and the portraits lining the hallways blur the distinction between museum and hotel. Rustic exposed brick rooms and suites have art hanging on the walls. Room rates vary by class, but begin at $160 a night in the spring.
Food at the hotel’s restaurant is organic, eco-friendliness being stressed upon at this establishment. There is a main dining room, a patio and a full-service bar.
Other Lancaster attractions include the Fulton Theatre, the Central Market (purported to be the nation’s oldest farmer’s market), and the Cultural History Museum. And, of course, the ubiquitous art galleries and antique shops.
Flights from New York to Lancaster start at $250 roundtrip with a stop in Pittsburgh on most major domestic carriers.
3. Lenox, Mass. From $900
Set in Berkshire County in Western Massachusetts, Lenox is known for its fresh air and beautiful landscape, a country getaway for city people. And given its location only two and a half hours north of New York, it’s an ideal long weekend destination.
Stay at Wheatleigh Hotel while here. Set on 22 acres overlooking the Berkshire mountains and lakes, this 19-room Florentine-style getaway might lead you to think you’re in Italy or France. The Aviary, a two-story tree house suite perched in a Norway spruce, and the Terrace Suite with wide mountain vistas, are recommended for a unique experience. The acclaimed tasting menus in the dining room are a must. Service, from beginning to end, is what makes this hotel – staff rival those in any high-end European establishment. The smallest rooms, which aren’t that small at all, start at $645 per night. The Aviary begins at $1,550 and the Terrace Suite at $1,400.
A mere stroll from the hotel brings guests to Tanglewood, another one of Lenox’s claims to fame, the home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The city is certainly a cultural hub, so if luxuriating at the hotel isn’t enough, wander out to the performance houses, galleries and museums in the city. Outdoor activities are also popular.
Lenox is a two and a half hour drive from New York City.
4. Banff, Canada From $1,000
Canada is a great option for a close-to-home but still international mini-break. Spring time skiing in the Canadian Rockies is ideal for vacationers interested in an active, outdoor respite from city life. Head to the town of Banff, nestled amid the 2,500 square miles of mountain, valleys, forests, rivers, glaciers and parkland that make up Banff National Park.
Fifteen minutes away from the heart of the town is Sunshine Village, a ski resort that boasts 100 percent natural snow on its slopes – three mountains in total – and about 12 lifts. It is also the site of Delirium Dive – purported to be the most extreme ski experience in the country. Advanced skiers who attempt the thrill are cautioned, ominously, to bring avalanche transceivers, a shovel and a partner. Not such a daredevil? There are plenty of intermediate and beginner slopes, and also a ski and board school for lessons at every level. Ski season lasts into late May.
Stay at the Sunshine Inn, an 84-room ski-in ski-out lodge. Starting the 1st of April, they have spring break packages starting at $399 per person for 4 days skiing and a 3 night stay. The in-house dining options include a fine dining restaurant, Eagle’s Nest, and a more casual lounge, Chimney Corner. Guests can also take a gondola to the heart of the village for other options. The Inn has a fitness center, a large outdoor hot tub and a spa with treatments to soothe aching post-ski muscles.
Plane tickets from New York to Calgary (the closest international airport) start at about $300 round trip on Air Canada. Buses from Calgary to Sunshine Village run about $25 one-way.
5. Barcelona, Spain From $2,500
Looking for a little culture? Barcelona might be just the place. It has a little bit of everything, from beaches and a hopping nightlife to historic locales and museums filled to the brim with art. This is a getaway for travelers who are interested in some sightseeing.
Wandering the streets of Barcelona alone is an experience. There is, of course, the most famous street of all – Las Ramblas, a long meandering pathway running from Place de Catalunya to the Columbus statue, along which artists, florists and a whole range of humanity have a lively coexistence. Other neighborhoods worth visiting are the Gothic Quarter (Barri Gotic) and Barri del Raval, which used to be a red light area but is now filled with restaurants and bars.
Art is a part of the architecture of the city. Antoni Gaudi’s work can be seen in several places, including the Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, Casa Batllo, Casa Mila (La Pedrera),etc. Museums in the city are worth visiting, too. Don’t miss the Museo Picasso, which has an important collection of the late artist’s work.
Barcelona is also known to make gastronomes happy, so food and drink should play an important part of any holiday here.
Stay at the Hotel Arts, a high-end establishment with stunning views of the Mediterranean or the city’s skyline from its rooms. Of particular note is 2 Michelin-starred chef, Sergi Arola, who runs the main restaurant. The Six Senses spa is also worth a visit. The hotel will even arrange yacht rentals. Rooms start at about $300 per night.
Roundtrip flights begin at $800 from New York to Barcelona.
6. Istanbul, Turkey From $3,000
For a slice of history in a cosmopolitan setting, there are few cities that rival Istanbul. Straddling two continents on either side of the Bosphorus, Turkey’s good-time destination is also one steeped in a colorful and important past. The best way to enjoy this city is to mix it up – sightseeing in the day and the buzzing restaurant, bar and club scene by night.
Most of the must-see sights are in Sultanahmet, the Old City. Topkapi Palace, the throne of the Ottoman empire for several centuries; the Hagia Sophia, an ancient Byzantine church and one of the city’s best-known landmarks; the Blue Mosque; and the Kapali Carsi or Grand Bazaar are not to be missed.
The climate and geography of the city allows for spectacular open-air restaurants and bars, many set alongside the Bosphorus. Bars span the spectrum from low-key lounges to venues for live concerts. Young people out and about at night are fashion-conscious and it would behoove visitors to be so, too, to blend in.
Stay at the Four Seasons Istanbul for a truly luxurious experience. A relatively small hotel with only 65 rooms, this used to be an old Turkish prison, but feels nothing like that now. Views from the rooms are of a sculpted courtyard or the city, or even partial views of the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. The in-house restaurant serves a variety of foods, but stepping out to try more local specialties is recommended. Standard room rates begin at $370 per night, but vary according to room.
Flights from New York to Istanbul begin at $900 on Turkish Airlines.
7. Maui, Hawaii From $3,500
For a tropical beach escape that doesn’t involve leaving the United States, hop a plane to the Hawaiian island of Maui. Although it’s just past whale watching season, there’s still plenty to do on this island – from snorkeling and scuba diving to mountain biking and hiking. Of course, vacationers could just lie on a beach all day, too.
Southern Maui is fast growing and also boasts some of the best beaches on the island. Stay at the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea for a complete pampered resort experience. The U-shaped hotel affords views of the Pacific from the majority of its rooms – and landscaped garden views from the others. Activities offered at the resort include golf, tennis, water sports and a full spa, with numerous luxurious treatments available. The large main pool, facing the ocean, is heated and has whirlpools on either end. Standard room rates begin at about $440 per night, but would depend on the class of room/suite. An Ocean View room would run about $780.
If lounging around a resort all day isn’t enough, there are other activities to keep visitors busy – whether they prefer to travel by air, land or sea. Helicopter tours are popular, given that it’s the most time-efficient way to see the varied landscape of the island. A 40-minute ride can cover the Hana Rainforest, the Haleakala Crater and the Honokahau Falls. Hikes, horseback rides and bike safaris round out the on-land part of the adventure. And take advantage of the myriad water sports available, whether it’s scuba diving, water skiing or parasailing over the water.
Flights from New York to Kahului airport involve at least one stop and start at $650 roundtrip on major US carriers. Since public transportation is spotty, a car rental is the best bet. Mid-size rentals begin at about $30 per day.
8. Fiji From $6,000
This pristine archipelago is a non-visa requiring international tropical getaway – a South Pacific alternative to the Hawaiian islands, if you have the time to travel almost as far as Australia. Day-to-day itineraries depend on where vacationers are staying, and on the activities and amenities on offer at those places. But there are some independent activities that anyone can take advantage of, including fishing, sailing, snorkeling and diving.
The Royal Davui Fiji is an exclusive resort on a private island with only 16 villas, tucked away amidst lush vegetation and surrounded by white sand beaches and green-blue waters. Especially idyllic for couples, each villa is its own little world with private infinity pools that overlook the lagoon. Some of the complimentary activities at the resort are kayaking, hiking, snorkeling and croquet. Food at the resort is Pacific Rim-inspired and the bar is stocked with fine Australian and New Zealand wines. Starting at $1,185 per night, with all food, beverages and activities included.
Wandering away from the resort to sample other forms of traditional cuisine is recommended. Fiji’s unique culinary flavors come from a blending of cultures. Make sure to try kava, an herbal drink that causes mild intoxication when drunk in large quantities.
Getting to Fiji from New York involves stopovers, but there are direct flights from Los Angeles to Nadi International Airport in Fiji on Air New Zealand and Fiji-owned Air Pacific (starting at $1,300 roundtrip). Travelers could also take Quantas to Australia and fly on to the islands from there. Car rentals, abundant taxis, inter-island ferries and helicopters are the modes of local travel available. Royal Davui resort recommends the Island Hoppers Helicopters, a 40 minute ride from the airport to the resort ($500 per person roundtrip).
9. Corsica, France From $7,000
Located southeast of France and just west of Italy, this island is a mélange of the two cultures while officially remaining one of France’s 26 regions. The signature Mediterranean weather of islands in this region makes Corsica popular with tourists – as do its almost 200 beaches and contrasting mountainous terrain – but it is still relatively unspoiled.
Stay at Le Grand Hotel Miramar, near the town of Propriano in the south. It has only 27 rooms and 5 suites, making the experience of staying there intimate. For further privacy, stay at La Villa Miramar in the gardens of the main hotel. The two oversize suites come with either a terrace with views of the Gulf of Valinco, or access to a private flower garden. Hotel amenities include a pool and sauna, access to a beach and dining along the oceanfront. Regular rooms begin at €200, but the Villa rates start at €1950.
Fishing and wild boar hunting are popular activities on the island, as are snorkeling, diving and jet skiing. Boat cruises are also arranged by the hotel. Propriano has an array of nightlife options, too. The hotel is a half hour from Filitosa, one of the historic sights worth seeing. Make a day trip to this site where 4,000-year-old stone sculptures dot the landscape.
Dining in Corsica is often a fusion of Italian, French and uniquely Corsican dishes. Seafood is fresh and abundant, and wild boar is a delicacy.
Flights from New York to Ajaccio, Corsica’s capital city, start at $1,000 roundtrip on Air France and require a stopover in Paris.
10. Botswana From $8,000
For those who believe a vacation means getting away from the bustle of city life to a place that’s as natural as can get these days, a trip to this Southern African country might be just the thing. Nature is at its utmost here, with a landscape that goes from desert to delta, populated with wildlife that still feel at home, not having been chased out of their natural habitat as they have been in other parts of the world.
Moreover, safaris today are no longer necessarily about roughing it out. Luxury and wilderness can go hand-in-hand. Camp Moremi in the Moremi Game Reserve is situated in the Okavango Delta, overlooking Xakanaxa Lagoon. The camp accommodates only 22 guests at a time in its 11 hotel-room-sized tents, which come completely furnished and with private hot showers. The elevated Moremi Tree Lodge houses the main lounge, dining area and bar, and reference library. Animals that are sighted regularly include lions, elephants, giraffes, hippos, zebras, antelopes and wild buffalos, but cheetahs and leopards have been spotted, too. Excursions in open-air Land Rovers are arranged by the camp, as are boat trips. Rates begin at about $350 a night.
Getting to Botswana from New York involves much plane-changing and rates begin at $6,000 on most major carriers.
11. Dubai, U.A.E. From $8,000
If you’re an urban creature and living larger than life is your thing, then head to Dubai for some spring time indulgence. This ever-developing city, where you can almost smell the wealth, doesn’t hold back on everyday luxuries, shopping or entertainment. They have built the tallest luxury hotel in the world, the largest man-made marina and the largest man-made island. Clearly, Dubai is not content with second place.
It is home to the seven-star Burj al-Arab, a 321-meter luxury hotel shaped like a billowing sail and set along the coast. Luxury reaches new heights, literally and figuratively, with services such as personal chauffer driven Rolls Royces, in-suite check-in, reception desks on every floor and butlers at guests’ beck and call. Even the bathroom amenities are designer: a range of Hermés knick knacks. Several restaurants and bars, with award-winning menus of both international and ethnic cuisines, are available. It all comes at a price, of course, with spring time rooms beginning at $2,040.
Shopping is a must-do and is certainly enticing, given the duty-free status of the entire city. Gold, jewelry and designer clothing and accessories tend to be most popular. But there is a kaleidoscope of other activities available, including desert safaris, water sports, yacht cruises, museum and art gallery visits and golf.
Nonstop flights from New York to Dubai begin at $1,200 on Emirates.
12. The Maldives From $9,000
Resorts in Asia are synonymous with luxury. This spring, it might be worth getting off the beaten track and winging your way to an island nation in the Indian Ocean: the Maldives. Made up of a group of atolls, the Maldives is situated south west of Sri Lanka and India, where pristine aquamarine waters lap white sand beaches.
These islands are heaven for visitors who are aquatically inclined. The Maldives boasts some of the best scuba diving in the world, with visibility often up to 50 meters, year-round warm waters and an abundance of coral reefs. Snorkeling, sailing and surfing are other popular water sports. Not inclined to actually get in the water? Submarine trips to explore the reefs can be arranged, as can dolphin and whale watching excursions. Fishing, the industry on which the island thrives, can also be organized for visitors.
One of the top-rated resorts is One & Only at Reethi Rah, located on an island that is part of the North Malé atoll. The resort, which prides itself on privacy, is villas-only, with views of and access to the water from each one. Asian-inspired in design, the beach villas are nestled in lush vegetation a short way from the shore, while the water villas hover above the surf on stilts. Some have private pools, others over-water decks or beach patios. The resort arranges mini excursions – whether on a traditional dhoni (sailboat) or a luxury yacht or seaplane – and activities for guests. Villa rates depend on the amenities offered, but range from $1,200 to $5,500 per night.
Flights to the Maldives from New York involve multiple stops, generally in Europe and the Middle East. Tickets begin at $4,000 roundtrip on several international carriers.
Celebrity Vacation Spots
Celebrities have been beating winter blues by jetting off to warmer climes. Here are some of the balmy destinations where they’ve been spotted: Nicole Kidman and husband Keith Urban were spied earlier this month on the beaches of St. Barth in the French West Indies. Ashley Olsen, the infamously skinny half of the Olsen twins, took some time off in Mexico, as did Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz and singer Ashlee Simpson, who might be dating. Earlier this year, just coming off her break up with Justin Timberlake, actress Cameron Diaz spent time with surfer friend Kelly Slater in Hawaii. A couple months later, Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas and actor Josh Duhamel also got away from winter by escaping to the island state. Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes honeymooned in the Maldives after their November 2006 nuptials.