Looking for a mid-summer vacay that’s not too far from home? We’ve got you covered with four fabulous (and fabulously close) picks.
LANGDON HALL, CAMBRIDGE, ONTARIO
What was once a forest and sheep-grazing pasture is now, more than a century later, celebrated for its chic elegance. But it is still country chic, to be sure, in the way that the grand estates of England — and Canada — are country chic, exuding a bucolic charm while catering to every modern expectation.
Langdon Hall Country House Hotel & Spa, nestled in Cambridge, Ontario, is a mere three-hour drive from Metro Detroit, but it will land you in another era.
Langdon Hall was built in 1898 as a magnificent summer home for American Eugene Langdon Wilks (great-grandson of John Jacob Astor, founder of New York City’s Waldorf-Astoria), who was looking for an escape from his homes in New York and London and his chateau in the Loire Valley.
He found it in the 25,000-square-foot, 32-room manse, with grounds designed by Central Park’s famed landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmstead.
Every detail of the Federal Revival-style home was meticulously restored in 1987 by current owners William Bennett and Mary Beaton, who transformed it into the ultimate country manor retreat: fifty-two luxurious guest suites with wood-burning fireplaces and brimming with antiques (check out the new graciously rustic rooms in the former stable, all with therapeutic whirlpool baths), a full-service spa (try the Vichy Aroma Rain Scrub with Dead Sea salt under a Vichy waterfall) and a Five-Diamond, award-winning Dining Room (a destination in itself) overlooking a lily pond with menus prepared from the estate’s own fruit, vegetable and herb gardens.
Roam the 200 acres of sweeping lawns, picturesque gardens — including a formal water garden — and four walking trails through rich Carolina forest. Play a game of tennis, croquet or billiards, cool off in the outdoor heated pool or, if you’re really dedicated, burn off your breakfast of Rye Whiskey French Toast, lake trout or goat-cheese tart — or traditional English afternoon tea — in the palm-tree lined Conservatory with a visit to the gym.
WHILE YOU’RE THERE Visitors can bike to nearby Paris following the Trans Canada Trail along the historic, postcard-perfect Grand River (don’t forget your Langdon Hall-provided knapsack with maps, a snack and lunch) and canoe the Grand River, with trips arranged by the Hall.
Browse world-class antiques in the farm towns in the region of Waterloo with a self-guided tour arranged by Langdon Hall, or choose from a variety of golf packages on the championship-style course at Whistle Bear Golf Club.
• RATES: Rates begin at $279, Canadian dollars.
• CONTACT: (519) 740-2100; langdonhall.ca
THE INN AT BAY HARBOR, BAY HARBOR, MICH.
No time for a weekend jaunt to New England? Here’s a runner-up: the Victorian-inspired Inn at Bay Harbor — a Renaissance Golf Resort. The gorgeous locale, along Lake Michigan’s breathtaking Little Traverse Bay, is just three miles north of Petoskey, and barely 4½ hours away from Metro Detroit.
Opened in 1998 by Boyne Resorts, and a member of Renaissance Hotels & Resorts since 2003, the Inn is fashioned after Northern Michigan’s romantic turn-of-last-century inns — and all the luxuriously elegant trappings that went along with them.
Named among the “World’s Best Hotels” by the readers of Travel + Leisure magazine, the Inn is steeped in elegance, from cottage-like guest rooms appointed in crisp whites and sea blue, to the plush bedding and attentive staff (a thing of the past in itself).
Many of the 84 one-, two- and three-bedroom suites offer fireplaces, whirlpool baths, private balconies and magnificent Lake Michigan views. Or, check out Bay Harbor’s Lakeside Cottages, with expansive porches and brick sidewalks, and the Cottages at Crooked Tree, perched high atop a bluff to provide an unobstructed view of Lake Michigan and the Crooked Tree Golf Club.
Stroll along the Inn’s private stretch of pristine white-sand beach on Little Traverse Bay or take a dip in its heated outdoor pool and whirlpool, then grab lunch at the Cabana Bar. The Inn’s lakeshore frontage offers a croquet course, life-size chessboard, Adirondack lounge chairs and swinging hammocks along the shoreline, where you can visit the evening campfire for marshmallow roasting and s’mores.
And the Inn is the only Michigan resort ever to earn the Gold Medal in Golf magazine’s Premier Resorts: Choose from the Crooked Tree Golf Club, perched high above Bay Harbor, or the Bay Harbor Golf Club, whose 27-hole Arthur Hills-designed course along the bluffs has earned it the nickname “the Pebble Beach of the Midwest.”
At the posh Spa at the Inn at Bay Harbor, guests can indulge in an 80-minute Trip to Zen, featuring a full-body mandarin orange exfoliation; moms-to-be can try one of the new maternity treatments, like Mellow Momma and Yummy Tummy. Chase the experience with views of Lake Michigan, strawberries and lemon water in the Relaxation Room.
Drop in for yoga or Pilates before heading to the on-site Sagamore’s Dining Room for Chilean sea bass and Charlevoix’s John Cross whitefish — or a spectacular morning buffet with make-your-own chocolate waffles, omelets and more.
WHILE YOU’RE THERE Head to Boyne Mountain for a scenic chairlift ride, Twin Zip ride or guided Zipline Adventure. While away the day at the Village at Bay Harbor (walk over or pick up the Inn’s complimentary shuttle) for boutiques, restaurants and a stroll along the marina; or take the short drive to downtown Petoskey, Charlevoix or Traverse City.
• RATES: Midweek rates for July and August start at $250 per night; following Labor Day, rates start at $152.
• CONTACT: (800) 462-6963; innatbayharbor.com.
CRYSTAL MOUNTAIN RESORT & SPA, THOMPSONVILLE, MICH.
If Crystal Mountain brings to mind a wintertime wonderland, think again. Yes, it is famed for snow — even voted by Parents magazine as a Top Ten Snow Resort for Families — but it also is an all-inclusive summertime haven for families looking for fun in the sun and relaxation.
Opened in 1955 as a community ski area, the resort has been family owned for almost 50 years, with new enhancements (including a widely lauded “green” initiative) constantly added to lure travelers looking for comfortable digs and daytime adventure set amid a pristine Northern Michigan backdrop.
Spread out along 1,500 acres of exquisite rolling terrain, and deep peaks and valleys (there’s a reason it’s a mecca for skiers), the resort is just four hours northwest of Metro Detroit and two hours southwest of Charlevoix — and offers 250 hotel rooms, suites, condos, town homes and resort residences, most with in-room whirlpools, to suit each family’s needs.
Visitors’ first stop: the Mountain Adventure Zone at the base of the Loki lift at Camp Totem, where guides can help plan the best activities for your family, including tubing, kayaking and canoe trips along the nearby Betsie or Platte rivers, paintball, disc golf, mountain biking and more.
Ride the Loki triple chairlift to the top of Crystal Mountain, then cruise down the spectacular 250-foot-high, 1,600-foot-long Crystal Coaster, Michigan’s only alpine slide. Hike through the on-site 30-acre Michigan Legacy Art Park, where art and nature integrate seamlessly along the densely wooded trails.
Cool off at the Park at Water’s Edge, a one-acre watery playground with a zero-depth entry pool, multi-platforms, a tumble pail, bubbler jets, water cannon, a hot tub, 32-foot climbing wall, sand play area and more.
And practice your swing with the kids on Family Golf Nights, a package of hot dogs and nine holes on the Golf Digest four-star-rated Betsie Valley course (or escape on your own to the panoramic views of the Mountain Ridge course).
Onsite childcare camps (with arts and crafts, hikes, field games, fish-feeding and lunch) and in-room babysitting mean Mom and Dad can escape to the luxe Crystal Spa for a dual massage or soak in the outdoor meditation garden’s hot tub.
Maybe treat yourself and your teen to a Totally 4 U side-by-side massage and pedi package. Plus, take part in an endless roster of family activities, including tie-dyeing, scavenger hunts, life-size checkers, a family campfire with s’mores and movies under the stars.
WHILE YOU’RE THERE Drive 40 minutes to the majestic Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore along Lake Michigan for beach time, a dune picnic or cruise.
• RATES: The Pure Michigan Family Vacation package starts at $199 per family, per night; lodging-only starts at $119 per person, per night.
• CONTACT: (800) 968-7686; crystalmountain.com.
HOCKING HILLS, OHIO
If you think Ohio is flat, time for a second look. For a back-to-basics, unplugged reminder of what is spectacular in this world, head to Ohio’s Hocking Hills, where you can stand behind a crystal-clear waterfall, take in a soaring 90-foot-tall rock shelf and hike a craggy cave — once home to Native Americans, then frontiersmen and bootleggers.
Southeast of Columbus and a 4½-hour drive from Metro Detroit, the Hocking Hills region encompasses 11,000 square acres defined by the Hocking River Watershed, which follows the Hocking River from Lancaster through Logan to the Ohio River.
The heart of the Hills, though, is the Hocking Hills State Park, where rivers and streams snake through deep gorges enveloped by soaring rock faces and dense, verdant forests abound with a seemingly endless variety of flora and fauna.
The state park, which offers free admission, is home to seven areas, including the popular Old Man’s Cave, where a breathtaking mile-long gorge allows visitors to peer into the Earth’s subsurface. Dotted with waterfalls, sandstone cliffs and rock formations, Old Man’s Cave is named after a 19th-century hermit who lived in the rock shelter and, it is said, was buried there (the caves also were hideouts for early bank robbers).
Another favorite is the awe-inspiring Ash Cave, the largest recess cave in Ohio, with a horseshoe-shaped rim that spans 700 feet and a dramatic cascading waterfall. And at Cedar Falls, water plunges 50 feet to feed a stream of sparkling, fresh water that is home to large snapping turtles, smallmouth bass and more — as well as, at one time, an early-1800s trading post used by Indians and early settlers.
WHILE YOU’RE THERE Take advantage of Hocking Hills’ breathtaking beauty through hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding, tube floating and more. Embark on a family-friendly narrated train ride through the Hocking Hills in a historic train with Hocking Valley Scenic Railway (740-753-9531; hvsry.org); get up close and personal with wildlife on a guided kayak tour; canoe under a full moon; fly through the tree canopy, day or night, on the Midwest’s premiere Zipline adventure; and explore the region by horseback to see the paths less traveled.
Play 18 holes under the shade of 100-year-old oak trees at Adventure Golf, and feed deer and pygmy goats at Ruby’s Petting Zoo, both at Rempel’s Grove (oldedutch.com). Experience the Wild West in Ohio and bunk on a working cattle ranch, like Smoke Rise Ranch Resort (800-292-1737; smokeriseranch.com). And, if the kids will allow it, visit the area’s many boutiques, antiques shops, farm stands and flea markets in the charming towns of Logan and Lancaster.
• CONTACT: For help planning your trip, including information on the hundreds of hotels, inns, lodges and camping spots plus restaurants and picnicking available in the area, call (800) HOCKING or visit 1800hocking.com or