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This Leesburg mansion was used in the movie "Foxcatcher." Now you can see it decorated for the season. By Andrea Poe

Photograph courtesy of Morven Park.

When you close your eyes and picture the quintessential holiday scene, it probably looks a lot like Morven Park in Leesburg, the 1,000-acre estate of former Virginia governor Westmoreland Davis.

Until December 29, visitors can tour the beautiful Greek Revival mansion and see its halls decked in high 1920s style, with a 17-foot Christmas tree soaring to the ceiling of the parlor and a holiday table set with imported crystal and Tiffany china. The 45-minute tours are offered every hour on the hour. Visitors can also get a glimpse of what servant life was like, through tours of the kitchen and staff quarters.

The Morven Park estate is actually three museums in one. Tucked into a wing of the mansion is the Museum of Hounds & Hunting, which exhibits art and artifacts relating to the sporting tradition. A must-see here is “The Surrey,” an oil painting of an imaginary foxhunt, which features some famous faces such as Jackie Kennedy Onassis.

Also on the property is the Winmill Carriage Museum, which showcases 40 antique coaches, including a diminutive coach custom-made for the performer Tom Thumb from Barnum & Bailey’s Circus.

The estate has been chosen as the new permanent home of Mac and Cheese, the pair of turkeys President Obama pardoned this year before Thanksgiving. Visitors can stroll to the turkey yard to see them scratching about freely, along with Caramel, last year’s freed bird.

Morven Park also happens to be one of the “stars” of this winter’s acclaimed movie Foxcatcher. The stately mansion was used for exterior shots—because the real Du Pont mansion in Pennsylvania had been torn down—and the Morven Park estate is featured on the movie posters.

Entrance to tour Morven Park mansion and museums is $10 for adults, $5 for children.

Posted at 02:44 PM/ET, 12/19/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The annual Memorial Illumination at Antietam National Battlefield shines a light on that battle’s tragic history. By Sherri Dalphonse
Photograph courtesy of National Park Service.

The Battle of Antietam, on September 17, 1862, was the bloodiest single day of fighting in this country’s history, with nearly 23,000 Civil War soldiers left wounded, missing, or dead.

The scale of such loss is hard to fathom. Which is the point of the annual Memorial Illumination at Antietam National Battlefield, this year scheduled for Saturday, December 13. On that evening, some 23,000 candles—one for each soldier—will blaze across the battlefield in Sharpsburg, Maryland.

Visitors cannot walk the battlefield or get out of their car; drivers simply inch along the five-mile route (using only their parking lights), a process that takes about 45 minutes.

“As you’re driving through the park, you have a stunning visual effect because the terrain at Antietam is very rolling,” says Susan Trail, the superintendent of Antietam National Battlefield. “You’ll drive around a corner and you’ll see a large group of candles. Then you’ll see another group. After a while, it’s almost overpowering, in terms of the numbers of candles and thinking of these as individuals who fought in the battle and either died or went missing or were wounded. It’s very evocative.”

In a few spots along the route, you’ll see volunteers in Civil War uniforms posed around campfires, to further add to the atmosphere.

If you’re thinking that this event—now in its 26th year—would make a perfect Instagram shot, you’re thinking about it all wrong.

“If you’re there with your iPhone or your point-and-shoot, the photos are not going to turn out,” because it’s so dark, Trail says. “It’s really something to be savored with the senses.”

It’s a popular event, typically drawing up to 10,000 people. The first visitors are allowed to drive in at 6 PM, and some people line up hours in advance. The line of cars can be up to two hours long, and there are no bathrooms along the way. Trail’s advice? “We cut the line off at midnight. Whoever’s in line at midnight gets to go through,” she says. “It has in the past been better to come later; the line tends to be shorter as the night goes on.”

Directions and more visitor tips are available online.

Posted at 02:28 PM/ET, 12/05/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Holiday shopping may be more fun when combined with one of these exclusive getaway packages. There’s even a ski trip that might make a perfect gift. By Alice Shapin
Take in the beauty of the Tetons with these travel packages. Image via Shutterstock.

Shop Old Town

Where: Morrison House, 116 S. Alfred St., Alexandria; 703-838-8000

What’s special: Warm and welcoming, this Kimpton Hotel in Old Town Alexandria reflects the area’s Colonial charm but has just the right mix of modern luxuries (flat-screen TVs, marble-counter bathrooms, luxe linens). Guests enjoy free use of the hotel’s custom Public bikes, free shuttle to and from Ronald Reagan National Airport, free use of yoga mats, complimentary morning coffee and tea, and free daily wine hour. Pets stay free. If you’re not already a member, you can sign up for the free Kimpton Karma Rewards to get complimentary wi-fi and a $10 Raid the Bar credit. Within walking distance of the hotel are boutiques such as the Shoe Hive (for the latest fashions, including Tory Burch and Kate Spade) and Red Barn Mercantile (for home accent pieces), as well as the Torpedo Factory Art Center.

The deal: The Boutique to Boutique Shopping package includes deluxe accommodations, a $100 American Express gift card, continental breakfast for two, free valet parking, and two cocktails at the Grille. Mention Washingtonian upon arrival to also receive two free appetizers, a $30 value. Discounted rates start at $274 a night. Use the online booking code SHOPB.

When: Valid through December 31, 2014.

Shop Middleburg

Where: Goodstone Inn & Restaurant, 36205 Snake Hill Rd., Middleburg; 540-687-3090

What’s special: The Goodstone Inn & Restaurant sits on 265 acres of countryside. Enjoy a full breakfast in the morning, and cozy up by the fire each afternoon in the Carriage House and enjoy coffee and tea. Guests can also hike the property or drive into Middleburg to do some holiday shopping at the antiques stores and boutiques.

The deal: The Hunt Country Midweek Retreat package includes a two-night stay (Sunday through Wednesday) with the second night at 50 percent off. Rates start at $310 a night. To get the deal, mention the package when booking.

When: Valid through January 2015.

Tax-Free Shopping in Philly

Where: Hotel Palomar, 117 S. 17th St., Philadelphia, 215-563-5006; and Hotel Monaco, 433 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, 215-925-2111

What’s special: Pick the neighborhood—both hotels are central to the city’s shopping destinations. The Monaco is in the heart of Old City’s independent-boutique scene, and the Palomar is steps from Walnut and Chestnut streets, with big-name retailers and local shops. For another fun shopping experience, drive or take public transportation to nearby Manayunk, a small town within city limits that’s been designated a National Historic District. While there, stop at Remix for a wealth of old and new couture finds, and grab something to eat at the Goat’s Beard, with local American fare and domestic whiskeys and craft beers.

The deal: The Cure for Cabin Fever package includes complimentary overnight valet parking (a $42 value), a $20 gas card, and a holiday treat valued at $10. Rates start at $199 a night. To book, click here [] and use the rate code WASHDC.

When: Valid for stays December 2014 through February 28, 2015, if booked by December 31.

Explore New Hope

Where: The Inn at Bowman’s Hill, 518 Lurgan Rd., New Hope, Pa.; 215-862-8090

What’s special: This romantic retreat is on a five-acre manicured estate two miles from the town of New Hope. It features four rooms and four suites. Guests enjoy heated tubs for two, fireplaces, steam showers, king-size featherbeds, gourmet breakfasts, and an optional in-suite couples massage. New Hope offers good dining, a historic railroad you can ride, horse-drawn carriages, museums, professional theater productions, and venues that have live music seven nights a week.

The deal: Book two consecutive nights in the 800-square-foot Penthouse Suite or the 500-square-foot General Washington Suite and receive a complimentary in-suite couples massage (two therapists for 60 minutes); hand-dipped, chocolate-covered strawberries; and two $50 dinner certificates that can be used like cash at one of three restaurants: Marsh Brown Restaurant, Francisco’s on the River, or Bowman’s Tavern (which has live music every night). Reserve two consecutive nights in any other room or suite and get a complimentary one-hour in-suite massage; hand-dipped, chocolate-covered strawberries; and one $50 dinner certificate to be used at one of the three restaurants. Rates start at $395 a night and go up to $895 for the Penthouse Suite. Attention, history buffs: Stay December 24 and receive VIP tickets to view General Washington and his troops reenact the 1776 crossing of the Delaware River, an annual tradition five miles from the inn (weather and conditions permitting). To book, call 215-862-8090 or reserve a suite online and use the code wash2014.

When: Valid December through March 26, 2015.

Fly Direct to Jackson Hole

Where: Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa, 3385 Cody La., Teton Village, Wyo.; 855-842-8798

What’s special: Located slopeside to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, the lodge is easy walking distance to the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort ski lifts and aerial tram. It’s also near the entrance to Grand Teton National Park, and an hour and a half south of Yellowstone. The rooms, with spectacular views of the Teton and Gros Ventre mountains, feature Western decor including reclaimed fir timbers in the lobby, hardwood floors, down bedding, and, in most guest rooms’ living areas, gas fireplaces. Accommodations include rooms, studios, and suites. The lodge has a full-service spa, a fitness center, a rooftop studio for yoga and Pilates, indoor and outdoor heated pools, and five whirlpool tubs (three indoor and two outdoor), including a 24-person rooftop tub. Starting December 20, United Airlines flies nonstop to Jackson Hole from Dulles.

The deal: The Winter 20-30-40 package includes a 20-percent savings on the room, a $30 breakfast credit at Spur Restaurant & Bar, and a $40 spa credit at Solitude Spa. Washingtonian readers also get two free glasses of wine, a $16 value each, at the new Lobby Bar. Rates start at $231 a night. To book, click here.

When: Valid now through April 5, 2015, with blackout dates December 20 through January 3, February 1 through 4, February 13 through 16, and February 25 through 27.

Where: Hotel Terra, 3335 W. Village Dr., Teton Village, Wyo.; 855-842-8798

What’s special: Hotel Terra is in the heart of Teton Village and at the base of the majestic Teton mountains. In the lobby you’ll find fireplaces and antler-adorned walls, but modern furniture and pops of color give it a trendy feel. This luxury hotel features a rooftop spa with a fitness center, infinity pool, and hot tub; two restaurants; a bar; and lobby lounges. The hotel is steps from excellent skiing and snowboarding, and a ski valet will store your skis and offer advice on the best runs and conditions.

The deal: The Powderhound package includes 20 percent off rooms, a $20 daily breakfast credit, and 25 percent off ski rental from Teton Village Sports. Washingtonian readers also receive 20 percent off spa treatments. Prices start at $159 a night. To book, click here.

When: Valid now through April 5, 2015, with blackout dates December 25 through January 2, January 27 through 30, February 1 through 4, February 9 through 11, and February 14 through 16.

Posted at 02:44 PM/ET, 12/04/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
’Tis the season to whale-watch, eat oysters, and take a full-moon tour of a wolf sanctuary. At these 14 nearby destinations, you can do all that and much more. By Judy Colbert, Andrea Poe, Joe Sugarman
Massanutten Resort offers skiing, tubing, skating, and snowboarding—plus an indoor water park. Photograph courtesy of Massanutten Resort.

1. Running With Santa

During the holidays, the boardwalk in Virginia Beach glows with coastal-inspired light displays—pirate ships, dancing seahorses, open-jawed sharks. A fun way to see it is to run the Surf-n-Santa 5 Miler at twilight on December 20. While there, make a weekend of it. You can join naturalists from the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center on a whale-watching trip—winter is when migrating humpbacks trace the coastline. This also happens to be the time of year that horseback riding is permitted on the beach; you can saddle up with Virginia Beach Horseback. Cold weather means oyster season, too, so consider a tour and tasting at Pleasure House Oysters. You can book an oceanfront room at the new Hilton Garden Inn on the boardwalk; it offers a stylish indoor pool and local beer on tap at the buzzy bar. Rooms from $129.

2. A Very Cool Place

Downtown Pittsburgh is transformed into a winter wonderland each year with the outdoor ice rink at PPG Place and a German-style Christkindlmarkt, where international vendors sell handicrafts from wooden chalets. The Duquesne Incline, an uphill cable car that overlooks the city, is lit with hundreds of red lights. And this is a great city for quirky, with events such as the Dirty Dozen (an icy uphill bike race) and, in the hipster neighborhood of Lawrenceville, the Joy of Cookies tour. You can also admire Gilded Age holiday finery at Clayton, the former mansion of industrialist and art collector Henry Clay Frick. Stay at the sleek new Fairmont hotel, which has a resident dog named Edie (as in Sedgwick—this is Warhol’s hometown, after all). Rooms from $259.

3. Take the Plunge

They call the snowtubing park at Virginia’s Wintergreen Resort simply the Plunge—and plunge you will, at speeds up to 30 mph down a hillside with a vertical drop equivalent to that of a ten-story building. With ten lanes running the length of three football fields, it’s the largest snowtubing park in the state. (Ninety-minute sessions are $26 on weekends, $18 weekdays.) For little tubers under 42 inches tall—the height required to take the plunge—there’s Ridgely’s Fun Park with its mini-tubing carousel, bear-paw snowshoes, and a much smaller plunge. $18 for one adult and child, $10 extra per child and $5 extra per adult. Wintergreen has a variety of overnight options, from hotel-like guest rooms ($155 and up) to apartment condominiums ($175 and up) to house rentals ($289 and up).

4. Winter in Williamsburg

The Grand Illumination kicks off the holidays at Colonial Williamsburg. Fireworks blaze over the historic village on December 7, and period homes throw open their doors to showcase holiday decorations through January 4. Meanwhile, the Spa of Colonial Williamsburg, an airy retreat with aromatherapy steam baths, features treatments that take aim at moisture-deprived winter skin. Stay in one of the new cottages fronting the James River, each tricked out with fireplaces and stylish kitchens, at Kingsmill Resort, which runs a free shuttle to the Revolutionary City. Rooms from $149, three-bedroom cottages from $699.

Christmas at Longwood Gardens means elaborate displays and a half million outdoor lights. Photograph courtesy of Chester County Conference & Visitors Bureau.

5. Mansions and Microbrews

In the Brandywine Valley of Pennsylvania and Delaware, beautiful holiday decorations deck the halls at the DuPont family mansions—Winterthur, Nemours, and Hagley, the original homestead—while acres of winter plantings, fountains, and candlelit treehouses tempt at Longwood Gardens. The swank life doesn’t have to end when the mansion tour does: You can dine in front of the fireplaces at the historic Dilworthtown Inn and stay in an 18th-century man-or house at Sweetwater Farm, an estate on 50 acres that’s owned by the late Princess Grace’s nephew. Rooms and cottages from $150. On February 28, Winterfest takes over the town of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania—“the mushroom capital of the world”—with local bites, beers from 40 craft brewers, and live music.

6. Bounty of the Bay

Winter means one thing to many on the Eastern Shore of Maryland: oysters. Harrison House Charter Fishing, owned by the same Tilghman Island family for generations, takes visitors on oyster-dredging outings on a skipjack. Or just eat the bivalves: Back at Harrison’s Chesapeake House, the Friday-night buffet includes oysters Rockefeller, fried oysters, and oysters on the half shell. Stay overnight at the nearby Tilghman Island Inn. The rooms have broad water views, and the restaurant, reimagined under new ownership, serves fresh local seafood like—naturally—oysters. Rooms from $175.

7. Snow Fun

The prime location of Massanutten Resort in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley means it’s tailor-made for winter pleasures such as skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and ice skating. When you’re ready for warmer fun, you’ll find an elaborate indoor water park, a family-friendly spa experience, crafting classes with grown-up offerings like digital photography, and a new healthy-living program in which guests can take healing-herb workshops and tai chi classes. A crisp winter night demands a window seat at Fareways, the resort’s laid-back restaurant, where you can order a flight of Virginia wine and watch the lights from the ski run twinkle in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Rooms from $150.

8. Wine and Dine

Throughout the year, the Peacock Restaurant & Lounge at the Inn at 202 Dover in Easton, Maryland—which Food & Wine named one of the best bed-and-breakfasts in America—celebrates the grape. On February 27, the restaurant hosts an Italian-wine dinner featuring small wineries, such as the Rocca di Fabbri Estate in Umbria run by sisters Roberta and Simona Vitali. The chef, who has cooked at the prestigious James Beard House in New York, will pair the wines with a five-course Italian-accented dinner. You can hunker down at the inn with your honey for the weekend in one of the plush suites, the smallest of which is 600 square feet. The wine dinner costs $100 a person, but if you also book an overnight room—rates start at $475—the dinner drops to $75 a person. Book two nights and the second night is half price.

9. Winter Wildlife

Late February through early March is the peak time of year to witness the annual snow-goose migration, where as many as 80,000 birds create a blanket of white in the sky over northern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Also in February, check out local food, microbrews, and music at the Fire & Ice Festival in Lititz, dubbed the coolest small town in America by Budget Travel magazine. Stay at the Speedwell Forge B&B, an 18th-century stone mansion that’s home to the Wolf Sanctuary of PA, where you can take a full-moon tour and get up close to the 46 rescued wolves in residence. Rooms from $135, cottages from $250.

10. Your Best Foot Forward

The folks at Savage River Lodge in Frostburg, Maryland, say that if you can walk, you can snowshoe, which means you won’t need snowshoeing lessons if you’ve never tried the sport. The lodge offers rentals of snowshoes ($25 a day) and cross-country skis ($35 a day) for exploring the property’s 14 miles of wooded trails. The best part: After your walk in the woods, you can relax with a gourmet meal and a massage by the fire in your own private cabin. Standard queen cabins start at $225.

Chef Tucker Yoder leads hands-on cooking demonstrations at the Clifton Inn in Charlottesville. Photograph courtesy of The Clifton Inn.

11. Cooking in the Country

Hole up in an antiques-decorated room in the mansion or gather a group in the Carriage House at the Clifton Inn, a Relais & Châteaux property outside Charlottesville, Virginia. Chef Tucker Yoder, a farm-to-table devotee, cooks fabulous meals, often with ingredients from the inn’s garden. Learn how to make holiday hors d’oeuvres and cocktails this month during “12 Days of Clifton,” a hands-on cooking-demonstration series at the marble-topped counter in Yoder’s intimate kitchen. Classes run from December 13 through 24 and cost $20 to $35 a person. After the new year, classes, demos, and tastings feature winter’s bounty. Rooms from $199, cottages from $279.

12. Going Cross-Country

About three hours west of DC, White Grass in Davis, West Virginia,is a touch of Scandinavia on the East Coast. It boasts some of the area’s oldest and most extensive Nordic cross-country ski trails, with more than 30 miles of manicured, wooded routes, plus full ski rentals and lessons for newbies ($15 per hourlong lesson). Its laid-back White Grass Cafe serves up tasty organic cuisine and live music on weekends. After a day on the trails, bunk among the funky furnishings at the nearby Cooper House Bed & Cocktail. You’ll have to scout your own breakfast in town, but innkeeper Joy Malinowski provides the hors d’oeuvres—and makes a mean martini. Rooms from $90.

13. Flex Time

No snow? No worries. Head to Liberty Mountain’s Snowflex Centre in Lynchburg, Virginia, the country’s first artificial-snow park. Snowflex is a synthetic material that simulates the feel of the real thing—without the chill—so skiers, snowboarders, and tubers can hit the slopes year-round. The park includes beginner, intermediate, and advanced slopes plus an 11-foot-tall quarter pipe, a wall ride, and a 90-foot-long landing ramp for snowboarders and skiers. An alpine-like day lodge lets you warm up inside—or cool off as the case may be. For overnight accommodations, head to the boutique Craddock Terry Hotel, in a renovated shoe factory in Lynchburg’s historic district. Rooms from $149.

14. Hanging With the Peeps

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is home to the Just Born factory, which produces some 5 million Peeps every day. So it’s no surprise the marshmallow confections are the theme of an annual Peepsfest, December 30 and 31. Live music, an African penguin, a dogsled team, arts and crafts, and a Peeps scavenger hunt are some of the activities, most of which are free. The highlight, though, is the New Year’s Eve drop of a 4½-foot-tall, 85-pound, brightly lit fiberglass-resin Peeps at 5:15 pm (early enough for children to enjoy), followed by fireworks. Known as the Christmas City, Bethlehem also offers horse-drawn carriage rides and other city tours. The Historic Hotel Bethlehem puts you within an easy walk to restaurants, boutiques, and the Moravian Book Shop, the oldest continuously running bookstore in the world (established 1745).

This article appears in the December 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 09:00 AM/ET, 12/03/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Today only, save big on a trip to New York, Puerto Rico, or another fun destination. By Alice Shapin
Book a tropical getaway this Cyber Monday. Image via Shutterstock.

This Cyber Monday, don’t just think TVs, jewelry, and clothing—you can also score some great travel deals. So grab your calendar and click away or call. These deals are all available on Cyber Monday, December 1.


New York City

Where: Triumph Hotels has six boutique New York City properties—the Iroquois New York, Hotel Chandler, Hotel Belleclaire, the Cosmopolitan Hotel-Tribeca, the Gershwin Hotel, and the Washington Jefferson Hotel. Each offers a unique experience in a different neighborhood, whether you want to be on the East Side or West Side.

The deal: Receive 30 percent off all room categories at any Triumph property. Or book between 4 and 5 PM Eastern Standard Time and take an additional 50 percent off premium rooms and suites at any Triumph property.

Valid: For stays December 2, 2014, through March 31, 2015.

To book: Click here or call 855-787-4867.

Where: The Jade Hotel in New York’s Greenwich Village.

The deal: The Jade is offering Cyber Monday shoppers a $500 deal—for that price, get a two-night stay, a complimentary bottle of Prosecco on arrival, and a $150 food-and-beverage credit redeemable at its Grape & Vine restaurant, in the lobby lounge, and for room service.

Valid: For stays January 2 through February 28, 2015.

To book: Click here and use the promo code CYBERMON or call 212-375-1300.

Where: The Maritime Hotel in West Chelsea, across the street from Chelsea Market and around the corner from the Meatpacking District’s shops and nightlife.

The deal: Get 25 percent off rooms.

Valid: For stays December 12, 2014, through March 31, 2015. Blackout dates apply: December 1 through 11, December 31, and February 12 through 19.

To book: Click here and use the rate code MARIMON.

Where: The New York Palace in Midtown Manhattan.

The deal: The 50% Off at 50th and Madison package offers half off Towers Corner Suites. The 1,200-square-foot suites, in the “hotel within a hotel” feature kitchens and dining-room tables and chairs for six.

Valid: January 1 through March 31, 2015.

To book: Click here.

Atlantic City

Where: Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.

The deal: Get a midweek stay in a Classic Room, with complimentary internet, starting at $79 a night. Or get a midweek overnight stay in a Fiore Suite, with complimentary internet, starting at $109. Both are savings of about 60 percent.

Valid: For stays December 2, 2014, through February 26, 2015.

To book: Click here and use the booking code CYB79 for a Classic Room or CYB109 for a Fiore Suite.


Puerto Rico

Where: Copamarina Beach Resort & Spa in Guanica, Puerto Rico.

The deal: Get 30 percent off bookings, with a two-night minimum. Discounted rates start at $135 a night and include two drink coupons on arrival, two gifts at check-in, a room upgrade if available at check-in, and 20 percent off an Enterprise car rental. For the discount code, contact

Valid: For stays December 1, 2014, through March 31, 2015.

To book: Click here and use the booking code CYBER15 or call 800-468-4553.

Where: Hotel El Convento in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The deal: Get 25 percent off the best available room rate with a minimum stay of two nights.

Valid: For stays January 6 through 9 or January 11 through 14, 2015.

To book: Call 800-468-2779 and mention Cyber Monday.


Where: Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort Spa and Casino.

The deal: Get 20 percent off a deluxe room when you book a five-night minimum stay. Also receive a two-person flight tasting of fine tequilas at Mexicado restaurant, a $50 spa credit at ZoiA Spa, and a $50 food-and-beverage credit at Footprints Beach Grill.

Valid: For stays throughout 2015.

To book: Call 800-544-2883 and use the offer code CYBER2014.

Turks and Caicos

Where: Ocean Club West Resorts in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos.

The deal: Receive a fourth night free.

Valid: For stays May through August 15, 2015. Offer excludes studio accommodations at Ocean Club West.

To book: Call 800-457-8787.

Posted at 07:00 AM/ET, 12/01/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Get in the holiday spirit—and delight out-of-town guests on Thanksgiving—with this festive annual tradition. By Sherri Dalphonse
Mount Vernon is open for tours even on Thanksgiving Day. Photograph courtesy of Mount Vernon.

You’re finished with the Thanksgiving bird. You’ve shopped ’til you dropped. Yet you still have a house full of guests for the holiday weekend. What’s a host to do?

Consider taking a candlelight tour of George Washington’s Mount Vernon. The tours begin for the season on November 28, and are offered on various Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights through December 21. The timed tickets cost $22 for adults, $15 for children 11 and under. Tickets can sell out, so it’s recommended you buy them online before going.

Don’t expect elaborate Christmas decorations—the mansion is done up for the holidays as it would have been during George and Martha’s day, meaning just a bit of greenery here and there. Instead, the tour is an atmospheric chance to hear stories about the estate and the family’s life there (fun fact: George Washington, an avid dog lover and breeder, is father of the American Foxhound). Visitors get to see the first and second floors of the mansion—with costumed interpreters scattered throughout, including an animated Martha Washington. Much of the guided tour—which takes at least half an hour—is outside, so be sure to dress for the weather.

After the tour, you can enjoy hot cider and a ginger cookie by a kettle fire; explore the many outbuilding exhibits; check out the resident camel, Aladdin; and watch Colonial dancing in the greenhouse.

Want to visit Mount Vernon this weekend but can’t make it there at night? Take advantage of special admission prices Wednesday, November 26, through Sunday, November 30 (excluding Friday)—yes, it’s open Thanksgiving Day—when adult and youth tickets are 25 percent off. Use the online discount code 20142611 or mention the offer, which is good for up to six tickets, at the box office.

And if you can’t make it to Mount Vernon at all this year, check out the terrific virtual tour.

Meet Aladdin the resident camel on your tour. Photograph by Joe Sliger.

Posted at 10:00 AM/ET, 11/26/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
After being closed for two years, the Baltimore Museum of Art’s American Wing reopens this Sunday. By Sherri Dalphonse
See John Frederick Kensett's "View on the Hudson" in the Baltimore Museum of Art's American Wing. Image courtesy of the museum.

When the 100-year-old Baltimore Museum of Art throws open its doors to a renovated American Wing on Sunday, November 23, even throwing open those very doors will be part of the celebration.

Some of the museum, including the American Wing, is housed in a grand Beaux-Arts building by renowned American architect John Russell Pope, who also designed the National Archives, Jefferson Memorial, and the National Gallery of Art’s West Building in Washington. As part of a $28 million renovation, the historic Merrick Entrance, which had been closed since 1982, will reopen. After passing through the columned façade, visitors can make their way to the newly renovated Dorothy McIlvain Scott American Wing, whose galleries hold more than 800 paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts from the 18th through 20th centuries.

Highlights of the collection include an entire gallery devoted to the stained glass of Louis Comfort Tiffany; two galleries hung with works by noted American artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Jacob Lawrence, and Joseph Stella; another room showcasing works by Maryland artists or about Maryland; and the installation of late-18th-century interiors from four historic homes in Maryland.

Sunday’s festivities will include a ribbon-cutting, artist demonstrations, art-making for kids, gallery talks, and onsite food trucks. Museum admission is always free.

Whenever you may happen to visit, don’t also miss the works of Henri Matisse in the Cone Collection galleries. With more than 1,000 paintings, prints, drawings, and sculptures, the BMA has the largest collection in the world of Matisse’s art; currently 36 paintings are on display.

Posted at 01:00 PM/ET, 11/21/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
A charming small town throws a big festival. By Andrea Poe
Photograph courtesy of Talbot County Tourism.

If a weekend fueled by Bloody Marys, oysters on the half shell, and crab soup—plus world-class art and dog-friendly events—sounds like heaven, you might want to head to this weekend’s Waterfowl Festival on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Some 20,000 people from around the world will converge in Easton for the event, November 14 through 16. Begun in 1971, the wildlife expo and art festival is one of the country’s oldest. Highlights include exhibits by international painters, sculptors, and carvers, along with dog-retrieval demonstrations, goose-calling contests, and children’s fishing derbies.

Downtown Easton is closed to traffic for the festival so visitors can stroll the streets, sampling food and wine that showcase the best of the region—fresh oysters, artisanal chocolates, craft beer.

The event is so big and so beloved that the entire Talbot County school system shuts down on Friday, allowing for school buses to be used to shuttle visitors from historic downtown Easton to nearby event venues, such as the scenic ponds and fields outside of town.

Admission to the festival is $15; proceeds go toward conservation of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. More information is available online.

Posted at 11:00 AM/ET, 11/14/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Two great ways to get into the fall spirit. By Renee Sklarew
Take in some old-fashioned football rivalry this weekend. Photograph by Steve Bittner.

Remember when fall weekends meant football? Not the kind where you rarely move off the couch; the cheer-and-hug-your-neighbor, move-to-the-beat-of-the-band kind of football.

You can relive those glory days this weekend at Cumberland, Maryland’s annual homecoming game. Two teams, Allegany High and Fort Hill High—which are just two miles apart—have been fierce rivals for the past 79 years. This year, Fort Hill’s Sentinels are undefeated and the reigning state champions, while the blue-clad Allegany Campers have a very respectable 6-2 record. The annual clash has been named to the Great American Rivalry Series (created by IHigh to spotlight the best high school rivalries in the nation); the teams are fighting for the right to take home the Black Kettle, a trophy engraved with all the past game scores.

The homecoming game typically fills the 6,000-seat Greenway Avenue Stadium (directions are available online). Spectators are treated to performances by two award-winning bands along with the crowning of the Homecoming Court during the halftime festivities. “There’s a lot of pomp and pageantry,” says Tim Thomas of the Cumberland Visitors Bureau. “We prepare for this day all year.” Kickoff is at noon, with plenty of feasting on hot dogs, pizza, and fried pickles.

Not into football? You can still get on board—literally—another Cumberland institution: riding the Scenic Western Maryland Railroad. “Mountain Thunder” departs from the Cumberland Depot every fall weekend at 11:30 AM for a colorful ride through the mountains. A live narrator shares stories of the region’s history and culture, including tales of George Washington’s time in the area. The coal-powered steam engine blows a smoky trail as it chugs along, stopping for an hour-and-a-half layover in Frostburg, where you can have lunch or check out the shops. The train heads back for a 3 o’clock arrival in Cumberland. Rates start at $18 for children ages 12 and under, and go up to $60 for an adult in first class.

December 6 through December 21 at 6 PM, the train takes a trip full of kids in pajamas to visit the North Pole and meet Santa Claus.

Posted at 12:50 PM/ET, 11/07/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Before, during, or after the holiday craziness, treat yourself to one of these exclusive discounted getaways. By Alice Shapin
Save on a stay in Colorado Springs this month. Photograph via Shutterstock.

Winter by the Water

Where: Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina, 100 Heron Blvd. at Route 50, Cambridge, Md.; 410-901-1234.

What’s special: Enjoy serene Choptank River views and lots of activities—including a heated indoor pool with “dive in” movies, golf, tennis, miniature golf, disc golf, jogging trails, boating, a fitness center, and a renovated 18,000-square-foot spa (which is offering a new Pumpkin Latte Pedicure). In November, the resort hosts special events such as a demo of a decadent s’mores recipe by Sally McKenney (November 8), a workshop by DC’s International Spy Museum about the world of espionage (November 15), and the fourth annual Oyster Week, with oyster-inspired entertainment and entrées (November 22 through 30).

The deal: The Luxury on Sale package includes a cozy fleece blanket, yours to keep, and a complimentary s’mores kit to use at the nightly s’mores roast. Readers who show this article will also get a $25 resort credit to spend on any activity—golf, spa, dining, and more. Rates start at $149 a night midweek and $199 on weekends, up to a 40-percent savings. You must ask for the offer by name or request the offer code LUXRY4 when making a reservation. To book, call 800-633-7313.

When: Available November 2014 through March 31, 2015.

A Good Walk Not Spoiled

Where: Keswick Hall and Golf Club, 701 Club Dr., Keswick, Va; 434-979-3440.

What’s special: This boutique resort is in the heart of Virginia’s horse and wine country. Inside and out, the hotel resembles a private estate, with roaring fireplaces, tennis courts, and views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. There’s also fine as well as casual dining, a spa, and a newly redesigned golf course. Golf legend Pete Dye gave the course, Full Cry, a total makeover; it now features carpet-like fairways, ubiquitous bunkers, fast greens, and journeys through rolling hills. The resort is minutes from three presidential homes open for tours: Jefferson’s Monticello, Madison’s Montpelier, and Monroe’s Ash Lawn-Highland.

The deal: Keswick is offering several Stay-and-Play deals. The Full Cry package, starting at $299 (single occupancy), includes one round of golf with a cart and a night’s stay in a “superior” room; a guest may be added for $80. The Hunt package, beginning at $409 (single occupancy), features 18 holes upon arrival, one night in a superior room, breakfast, and an additional round on the Full Cry course the next morning. You can add a guest for $130. The savings is as much as $290. Mention Washingtonian when booking to also receive a $50 food-and-beverage credit. To book, call 434-979-3440.

When: Valid November 2014 through March 1, 2015.

Without the Crowds

Where: Sanderling Resort, 1461 Duck Rd., Duck, N.C.; 877-650-4812.

What’s special: The summer crowds are gone, making it a perfect time to enjoy North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Sanderling Resort offers spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean and Currituck Sound—meaning both sunrises and sunsets over the water. Last year, Sanderling underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation, and it now has new poolside guest rooms and a redesigned lobby with oceanfront views; the renovated Lifesaving Station restaurant boasts fireplaces and an outdoor deck. You can walk on the beach, relax at the terrific spa, play tennis and golf nearby, or go on a tour to see the wild horses of Corolla.

The deal: The Fall Getaway package lets you pick one of the following: a 50-minute spa treatment per person, one couples treatment, dinner for two in the Lifesaving Station, or lunch at the Lifesaving Station followed by a Wild Horse Tour for two. A two-night minimum stay is required. Rates start at $199 a night, a 33-percent savings. Mention Washingtonian when booking to also receive a free bottle of wine, a $25 value. Call 844-207-8512.

When: November through December 30, 2014.

Western Luxury

Where: The Broadmoor, 1 Lake Ave., Colorado Springs, Col.; 855-634-7711.

What’s special: This world-famous resort, built in 1918, has hosted US Presidents, foreign royalty, and Hollywood celebrities. It’s perched 6,000 feet above sea level but still just at the base of the towering Cheyenne Mountains. The multiple buildings surround peaceful Cheyenne Lake and are connected by a bridge and landscaped walkways. There’s an indoor pool, a fitness center, a spa, three championship golf courses, and tennis. With an average high temperature in the 50s in November (and an average snowfall of less than five inches), you’ll be able to get out and play. On weekends, there are complimentary activities including guided tours of the Broadmoor’s Western art collection; wine, cocktail, and culinary demonstrations; dance classes; golf instruction; and an intro to fly-fishing. The resort has a variety of dining options, including the Penrose Room, Colorado’s only Five Star, Five Diamond restaurant, and Natural Epicurean, where meals use locally sourced ingredients. Outside of the resort, Colorado Springs offers attractions such as the not-to-be-missed Garden of the Gods, nature’s red-rock version of Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.

The deal: The Spectacular Winter Savings package includes accommodations at 25 percent off published suite rates; 20 percent off golf-green fees for stays in November; complimentary golf-green fees (excluding cart rental) for stays in December, January, or February; 15 percent off selected spa services; 15 percent off bowling-lane rental; and discounts on adult tickets at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Children ages ten and under eat free from the kids’ menu when accompanied by a paying adult. Prices start at $105 per adult, double occupancy. The package saves 20 to 25 percent, depending on the period booked. Mention Washingtonian when checking in to also get free chocolates and a signature Broadmoor chef apron, about a $35 value. To book, visit their website.

When: November 2014 through February 28, 2015.

Southern Beauty

Where: Sea Island, 100 Cloister Dr., Sea Island Ga.; 855-714-9201.

What’s special: Midway between Jacksonville, Florida, and Savannah, Georgia, Sea Island resort, on the Atlantic coast, sits amid salt marshes, dunes, and antebellum oaks. The Mediterranean-inspired Cloister, one of the resort’s accommodation choices, features rooms with river views, exposed-beam ceilings, hardwood floors, Turkish rugs, deep soaking tubs, and separate rainhead showers. Guests can enjoy five miles of private beach, lush grounds, tennis, kayaking through the marsh, golf on one of three championship courses, a fitness center, and a luxury spa. Dining options include the casual River Bar, seasonal fare at the Flip Flop Bistro (open January through August), the Forbes five-star Georgian Room, and intimate dinners in the wine cellar.

The deal: To celebrate a current renovation that will eventually add 63 rooms at the Cloister, the Expand Your Stay package offers guests who stay three or more nights a discounted rate of $63 for their final night at the Cloister. Rates start at $395 a night. Washingtonian readers also receive a $200 resort credit good during any non-holiday stay. To book, call 888-973-7947 and mention the promo code WSH200.

When: Valid November 2014 through February 28, 2015.

Posted at 09:50 AM/ET, 11/03/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()