Winter-induced cabin fever is real. Chilly temps and shorter days keep us indoors more. But there’s a three-day weekend coming up (or, if you’re a parent, your kids may be about to take a week-long winter break).
President’s Day gives many of us at least an extra day off, and it’s an ideal time to cure stir craziness with a road trip. The northeast is home to hubs of arts and culture, nature walks and ice cream. This month, consider coming out of hibernation and exploring one of these places along the coastline.
No flights are required, but as always, pack a mask and check current New York state COVID-19 guidelines before your travel.
An art-filled trip to New York City
The City is a Long Islander’s backyard, but how often do we take time to really explore it? Yes, it’s quieter these days because of COVID-19, but think of it as a chance to slow down and enjoy New York without getting elbowed out of the way. Indoor dining at restaurants will return at 25 percent capacity by February 14 at the latest (and hey, there’s always room service).
Stay: Treat yourself to luxurious digs by booking a stay at The Beekman, a Thompson Hotel. The five-star spot in the Financial District (FiDi) is a 14-minute walk from the Brooklyn Bridge and blends contemporary and classic charm. Think modern amenities like Chromecast compatible flat screens and blackout curtains in rooms with vintage furnishings. Le Méridien New York, Central Park is another lavish choice. As the name implies, it’s within walking distance from Central Park. Carnegie Hall, Rockefeller Center, MoMA and Columbus Circle are also a stroll away.
What to do: Tour some of New York’s world-class museums. These institutions are following COVID social distancing restrictions, so guests can take in arts, culture and history without the usual crowds. Note, however, that you will need to reserve your timed tickets ahead. MoMA’s current exhibit, “Engineer, Agitator, Constructor: The Artist Reinvented,” spotlights the essential role of women in 20th-century Europe. Museum of Natural History allows guests to travel back in time and learn about everything from the Tyrannosaurus rex and blue whales to New York lakes and mountains. Or head to the Central Park Zoo to catch the snow leopard and grizzly bear in their favorite chilly season.
A nautical-themed jaunt to Mystic, Connecticut
This maritime village boasts a quintessential New England charm. There are mom and pop shops, waterfront views and can’t-miss seafood. Kids might find it fun traveling there by ferry from Orient or Port Jefferson, too.
Stay: Whaler’s Inn is a boutique hotel that’s a stone’s throw from the Mystic River. The 45 rooms play into the village’s seafaring roots, using nautical artwork and blue-greige-and-white color schemes. Or, head to Inn at Mystic. Set on 14 acres of land in the heart of historic Mystic, it’s the only hotel in town with a view of the harbor and Fisher’s Island Sound.
What to do: Mystic Aquarium is a favorite spot for kids, but people of all ages enjoy it. The aquarium is running modified encounter programs, where people can do everything from paint with a seal to getting up-close with a penguin. Mystic Seaport Museum is the state’s largest maritime museum. It boasts six socially-distant indoor exhibits, including A Way With Wood: Celebrating Craft, a boat-restoration and building workshop. For lunch or dinner (or both), grab seafood at Red 36. Open for dine-in or take-out, the waterfront eatery’s oysters, lobster mac ’n cheese and bang bang shrimp come highly recommended.
Soak up history in Newport, RI
The nation’s smallest state is full of history, unique fashion finds and yes, lobster rolls (even in winter).
Where to stay: Good news for fans of Gurney’s Montauk — there’s one in Newport, too. The luxury hotel offers rooms with waterfront views and select spa services. Restaurants are open for indoor dining at 50 percent capacity, or guests can book a heated igloo. For something a bit more quaint, opt for Admiral Sims’ House. The B&B, set inside an 1883 home, is pet-friendly and near shopping and wharves. The rooms are bright and spacious, some with sinks and claw foot tubs that are original to the house.
What to do: Many towns and villages have Main Streets. Newport has Thames Street. The Salty Babe has perfect picks for a beach vacation, as well as athleisure items in soft fabrics, and Lemon & Line has unique, customizable jewelry. While there, grab a lobster roll for lunch at Benjamin’s Raw Bar. It’s warm (ideal for chilly temperatures), fresh and sautéed in butter. Islanders who enjoy visiting Gold Coast mansions can get an opulent history lesson through the Preservation Society of Newport County’s mansion tours. Bring the kids’ phones and earbuds — they can download an audio tour sharing a children’s-eye view of life in the mansions.
Tracing Black history in Boston
President’s Day isn’t simply a day off — it’s a call to remember our history. Boston is full of it, blending artifacts from our nation’s early days with a modern downtown experience. Most businesses, including restaurants, can move from 25 to 40 percent capacity starting Feb 8.
Where to stay: Moxy Boston Downtown is a hop, skip and a jump from views of the Charles River and Boston Common Park. It’s a trendy spot, with colorful uplighting in the lobby and floor-to-ceiling windows that give guests views of the city. The Godfrey Hotel is equal parts sophisticated and laidback. It has a 1908 Gothic Revival facade, is pet-friendly and is within walking distance from boutique and department stores. Guests can choose between rooms with sweeping city views or ones facing the courtyard for a quieter experience.
What to do: Freedom Trail offers guests a history lesson (and a chance to stay COVID-safe). The 2.5-mile path from Boston Common to Bunker Hill includes stops to Paul Revere House and USS Constitution. The Black Heritage Trail also highlights important sites in U.S. history, including the Abiel Smith School (now Museum of African American History) and the African Meeting House, where Frederick Douglass gave many speeches.