Photo: The natatorium at the Spa at Sea Island is perfect for swimming indoor laps. Contributed by Sea Island Resort
Sea Island Cloister spa weekend
Whether you drive or hop a quick flight to Jacksonville or Savannah, getting to the Spa at Sea Island is worth the trek. Don’t plan on doing anything once you’re there; the pampering staff knows how to indulges your senses. Along with the usual selection of body services, massages, facials, manicures and pedicures, select from specialized packages that blend additional elements into the experience. For example, the Fresh Start includes 60 minutes each of walking and stretching on the beach, personal training at the fitness center, a facial or massage and a cooking and nutrition lesson. Other packages cater to kids, teens, athletes and weekend golfers, to name a few.
In between services, swim a few laps in the indoor pool, linger in the steam shower or sauna, join a hot yoga class, walk the outdoor labyrinth or opt for sitting perfectly still with your feet dangling into the cool water of the rock garden in the atrium. Loll in the cool spa, complete with two levels, waterfalls and views of the lush landscape beyond the picture windows, or slip into the bubbling waters of the outside, arbor-covered hot spa. And no one will interrupt if you doze off on one of the cushioned chaise lounges in the quiet waiting area. Refresh with a bite from the cafe or sip a smoothie or cup of complimentary tea.
Cap off the indulgence with an elegant dining experience in the Georgian Room at the Cloister, the only Forbes Five-Star restaurant in the state, then retire to one of the 40 guest rooms at the Lodge, rated by U.S. News & World Report as the best hotel in the country.
Photo: A national landmark and a World Heritage site, the 1744 Alamo Mission stands in the heart of San Antonio. Contributed by VisitSanAntonio.com.
San Antonio, Texas
Most students of history can recount the story of Davy Crockett and the Alamo, but there’s much more to see and remember about this Texas town of 1.5 million. The influence of the Spanish and their mission forts is an integral part of the local story, and at Missions National Historical Park (6701 San Jose Drive. 210-932-1001, nps.gov/saan) visitors can explore four of them — Concepcin, San José, San Juan and Espada. The 1744 Alamo (300 Alamo Plaza. 210-225-1391, thealamo.org) was the site of Crockett’s death during a 13-day siege in 1836. Nearby is the Riverwalk district (110 Broadway. 210-227-4262, thesanantonioriverwalk.com), a 5-mile warren of sidewalks that winds along the banks of the San Antonio river. Along the way are shops, restaurants and outdoor cafe tables where relaxing over margaritas and cold beers is a favorite pastime.
Just about every holiday is marked with a parade on the river, with decorated Mardi Gras floats in February and boats filled with holiday carolers in December. Along the path is the Briscoe Western Art Museum (210 W. Market St. 210-299-4499, briscoemuseum.org), which focuses on the art and culture of the west. Leave the Riverwalk crowds and find a quieter setting at the Japanese Tea Garden (3875 N. St. Mary’s St. 210-207-3050, saparksfoundation.org), founded in 1899 as a public park with a pagoda, waterfall and koi pond. Walk or drive along the streets of the King William Historic District (122 Madison St. 210-227-8786, sanantonio.gov/historic) and gawk at the gingerbread-adorned homes from the Victorian era.
Photo: St. Augustine is home to this schoolhouse that dates back to Spanish Colonial times. Contributed by Florida’s Historic Coast
St. Augustine-Daytona-Cape Canaveral
It’s not hard to fit three destinations into a weekend when they’re as close by as these locations on the northeast Florida coast. Start in St. Augustine, the town that claims to be longest-inhabited European settlement in the country, with a founding date of 1565. The area claims many “oldest” attractions: the masonry fort Castillo de San Marcos (1 S. Castillo Drive. 904-829-6506, nps.gov/casa), the wooden schoolhouse (14 St. George St. 1-888-653-724, oldestwoodenschoolhouse.com) and its adjacent Spanish-Colonial house (14 St. Francis St. 904-824-2872, oldesthouse.org). Cruise the waterways around the town, or take a seat on the red tourist trains that stop at the most popular attractions. Gawk at the oddities in the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum (19 San Marco Ave. 904-824-1606, ripleys.com/staugustine) or stroll the grounds of the waterfront Fountain of Youth Park (11 Magnolia Ave. 904-829-3168, fountainofyouthflorida.com).
An hour south of St. Augustine, drive right up to the water on the hard-packed sand at Daytona Beach, home of the Daytona International Speedway (1801 W. International Speedway Blvd. 1-800-748-7467, daytonainternationalspeedway.com). Then walk along the boardwalk, lined with amusement-park rides and casual eateries specializing in seafood and beach fare.
Another hour south takes visitors to Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center (1-866-737-5235, kennedyspacecenter.com). With some pre-planning, tie a trip to a rocket launch, then explore the center’s rocket garden, take a bus tour of the grounds and strap into a ride that simulates take-off in the space shuttle.
Photo: The white-frame Thomas Hughes library in Rugby holds more than 7,000 works. Contributed by Historic Rugby Inc.
This tiny Victorian town with three streets sits atop the Cumberland Plateau, not far from Big South Fork National Park. Founded in 1850 by British author Thomas Hughes (“Tom Brown’s Schooldays”), the town was envisioned as a utopian colony for members of the genteel but not-well-heeled upper classes of English society.
During its heyday in the 1880s, about 300 settlers lived among the 70 Victorian-styled buildings and homes, played rugby, croquet and tennis on the town’s sports lawns, and established literary and drama clubs. The crown jewel of the colony was the Thomas Hughes Public Library, filled with books and reference materials. By 1890, a typhoid epidemic, the burning of the town inn and several harsh winters took their toll, and 10 years later, the community was all but abandoned.
Today, Rugby is home to about 90 year-round residents, some of whom trace ancestry to original settlers. Several original buildings remain and are open to the public, including Hughes’ home, Kingstone Lisle; the Episcopal church, where services are open to all each Sunday; and the library, where visitors are invited to don white gloves and examine some of the 7,000 works on the shelves. Have afternoon tea and a meal of favorite British (or American) foods at the Harrow Road Cafe (5545 Rugby Highway. 423-628-2350), and stay overnight in one of the town’s three refurbished cottages.
1331 Rugby Parkway, Rugby, Tenn. 1-888-214-3400, historicrugby.org.
It’s a two-hour flight from Atlanta to one of the continent’s coolest cities — but not quite as cool as you might think. Though it can get down to the single digits, the average winter temperature in Toronto is 30 degrees, and compared with the heat of a Southern summer, a 70-degree average in July sounds refreshing.
Start exploring from the highest point, the 1,815-foot CN Tower (301 Front St. 416- 868-6937, cntower.ca). Not fond of heights? Don’t look down through the glass floor; just keep gazing at the views of Lake Ontario. But if you’re ready for a heart-stopping thrill, take a tethered tour around the outside of the viewing platform.
Catch a Blue Jays baseball game rain or shine in the Rogers Centre (formerly the SkyDome), one of the first stadiums with a retractable roof (1 Blue Jays Way. 416-341-1000, rogerscentre.com). The 710-acre Toronto Zoo (2000 Meadowvale Road. 416-392-5929, torontozoo.com), deemed the third largest in the world, houses more than 5,000 creatures, including Chinese pandas, white lions and polar bears.
The waterside Fort York (250 Fort York Blvd. 416-392-6907, fortyork.ca) is a reminder of the War of 1812, or what locals dub “the war of Southern aggression.” Nearby, the Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay West. 416-973-4000, harbourfrontcentre.com) is home to art galleries, shops, restaurants and a marina. Catch a ferry for the Toronto islands (9 Queens Quay West. 416 555-8987, torontoisland.org), where beaches, picnic areas, bike paths and an amusement park await within view of the skyline.
Explore the region’s edible delights at the St. Lawrence Market (92-95 Front St. East. 416-392-7219, stlawrencemarket.com), a block-long emporium packed with stalls of local products. Pick up a peameal bacon sandwich, made with the local version of Canadian bacon. Hop on the city’s well-connected trolley system to explore the diverse neighborhoods — Little Italy, Greektown, Little Portugal, Chinatown — and their restaurants, markets, shops and entertainment venues.
Photo: Mongtomery, Alabama was the site of the voting rights march of 1965. Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce & Convention & Visitor Bureau.
For many Atlantans, Montgomery is just the halfway mark to the Alabama beaches. But it’s worth a stopover to see what the city has to offer. In 2014, USA Today readers voted it the “best historic city,” and, as the state capital, there is plenty to take in.
Start at the statehouse (600 Dexter Ave. 334-242-3935, preserveala.org/capitoltour.htm), a National Historic Landmark built in 1851. Inside, visitors can climb the curved staircases to the base of the painted rotunda, stand on the spot where Confederate President Jefferson Davis was inaugurated in 1861, and see the steps where the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march ended in 1965. The Civil Rights Memorial (400 Washington Ave. 334-956-8200, splcenter.org), a black granite table inscribed with the names of those who died for the movement, was designed by Maya Lin, who also created the Vietnam Memorial in Washington.
At Troy University, the Rosa Parks Library and Museum houses a children’s wing, artifacts and a replica of the bus she rode, telling the story of the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955-56 (252 Montgomery St. 334-241-8615, troy.edu/rosaparks/museum). Head down to Riverfront Park (355 Coosa St. 334- 625-2100, funinmontgomery.com) to catch a concert, have dinner on a riverboat cruising the Alabama River or catch a ball game with the Montgomery Biscuits, the AA team of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Hank Williams fans won’t want to miss the museum and grave site of the country music superstar (118 Commerce St. 334-262-3600, thehankwilliamsmuseum.net). The Alabama Shakespeare Festival (1 Festival Drive. 334-271-5353, asf.net) stages many of the Bard’s classics, as well as popular favorites such as “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and “Cinderella,” and invites everyone to take a backstage tour.
Photo: The Jamaican home of author Ian Fleming is at the heart of Goldeneye Resort, where guests can stay in the original house or villas on the grounds. Contributed by Peter Brown / Island Outpost
GoldenEye Hotel & Resort, Jamaica
You may recognize the title of one of the James Bond films, but it’s also the name of the five-bedroom house built on the north side of the island by author Ian Fleming at the end of World War II. It was here, on the 15-acre property, that he wrote the spy stories, three of which are set in Jamaica.
In 1976, music mogul Chris Blackwell bought the estate from the Fleming heirs and expanded it into a 52-acre exclusive resort. Guests can stay in one of the home’s five bedrooms or one- or two-bedroom villas or cottages built on the edge of the bay, and they’ll have access to the spa, private lagoon, gardens and pools. Take a bay tour in the resort’s glass-bottomed boat, snorkel, join a yoga class on the beach, paddleboard, go fishing in a wooden canoe (and let the chef cook whatever you catch) or settle in around a beach bonfire for an outdoor showing of Bond films. Stays come with meals and unlimited alcoholic drinks. Off-season rates for a double-occupancy room start at $2,500 per night.
Photo: Aiken, South Carolina, is an equestrian-lover’s paradise, with polo fields, trails and horse-related sculptures. Contributed by H.M. Cauley
How many towns have dirt roads by design? In Aiken, those paths are for the equine residents, who count among their numbers some of the world’s top prize-winners. A horse theme permeates the town, from the horse heads on the street signs to the various life-sized statues scattered around the downtown district. Polo matches and show jumping are part of the entertainment here, and visitors can rent an animal from one of the many stables for a fox hunt, polo match or a leisurely ride along the extensive horse trails.
Those who prefer wheels under their feet can hop on the trolley that takes off from the visitors center and museum and stops at historic sites, the open-air farmers market, notable homes and the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum (135 Dupree Place. 803-642-7631, aikenracinghalloffame.com). A charming downtown features cafes, coffee shops, bakeries and several shops selling equine equipment. Stroll the extensive gardens before having dinner in the converted stables of the 1898 Rose Hill Plantation (221 Greenville St. 803-648-1181, rosehillestate.com), then retire for the night in one of the guest rooms. The glamorous Wilcox Hotel (100 Colleton Ave. 803-648-1898, thewillcox.com) dates back to 1900, when the town was a winter haven for wealthy Northerners.
Photo: The quintessential New England town, Stowe is a a showplace for fall foliage. Contributed by Stowe Mountain Resort.
You could curl up next to a roaring fire at a charming bed-and-breakfast, but with Vermont’s highest peak just outside the door, you’d be missing a lot of action outdoors. Mount Mansfield, towering 4,395 above the town, is the center of sporting life year-round, from skiing, snowboarding and sleigh riding in the winter to mountain biking, hot air ballooning and hiking in the summer.
Glide over the snow in a dog-drawn sled, or over the fields in a cart during the summer (Eden Dogsledding, 1390 Square Road, Eden Mills, Vt. 802-635-9070, edendogsledding.com). Take the whole family on a fly-fishing lesson from the Fly Rod Shop (2703 Waterbury Road. 802-253-7346, flyrodshop.com), then spend the afternoon in the inner sanctum of the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream factory to discover how those irresistible flavors are made (1281 Waterbury-Stowe Road, Waterbury, Vt. 866-258-6877, benjerry.com).
Save room for dinner: This town of just 4,300 is home to a plethora of brewpubs, bistros, after-ski cafes and restaurants with menus to sate just about any craving.
Atlantic City, N.J.
For decades, the main reason to go to this seaside town was to spend the day on the wide beach, then while away the evening sauntering or riding a tram along the boardwalk, lined with shops, amusement park rides, pubs and restaurants. In 1978, the arrival of Las Vegas-style casinos, replete with star-studded shows, lavish buffets and the usual array of betting games, turned the town into more than just a summertime destination.
Though the sluggish economy closed four casinos in 2014, there’s still plenty of action at Harrah’s, Caesars, the Tropicana and five others. Complementing the luxurious hotels are spas, Imax theaters and celebrity restaurants: Stephen Starr’s Continental (1 Atlantic Ocean. 609-674-8300, continentalac.com), Gordon Ramsay’s Pub and Grill (2100 Pacific Ave. 609-343-2600, caesars.com), Wolfgang Puck American Grille (1 Borgata Way. 609-317-1000, wolfgangpuck.com) and Bobby Flay Steak (1 Borgata Way. 609-317-1000, bobbyflaysteak.com).
A favorite spot for families is the Central Pier Arcade (1400 Boardwalk. 609-345-5219, centralpierarcade.com), where paintball, arcade games and go-karts are among the activities. On the bay side, the Historic Gardner’s Basin (800 N. New Hampshire Ave. 609-348-2880, acaquarium.com) features an aquarium, a crafters village, fishing docks and companies offering boat rides. Visitors can combine an Atlantic City trek with a day of sightseeing in Philadelphia, just an 80-minute drive from the beach.