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Now Buzz Off!

Wednesday, May 26, 2004; Page C02

Oh, the countless swarms! The bulging eyes! The incessant droning! And that's just the media coverage. After three weeks of wall-to-wall cicadas, we're over Brood X. See you in 2021, fellas!

Fortunately, there are nearby places where you can enjoy some silent spring, thanks to soil conditions, tree cover and the random chance of where the 1987 cicadas dumped their eggs. We asked Jennifer Barger to find 10 cicada-free zones.

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Assateague Island. Amusing ads accurately tout Ocean City as a cicada-free zone. Its neighbor, a nature-filled barrier island, isn't getting swarmed either, except by mosquitoes. Pristine beaches and a few wild ponies are an alternative to the boardwalk if you don't want to swap swarms of cicadas for mobs of tourists. Explore by hiking or on kayak tours (Coastal Kayak, 302-539-7999, www.c-kayak.com). Camp in Assateague State Park (410-641-2120, www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/eastern/assateague.html) or Assateague Island National Seashore (410-641-1441, www.nps.gov/asis).

Beckley, W.Va. Visitors can tour miners' old digs in clanking cars at the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine (513 Ewart Ave., 304-256-1747, www.beckleymine.com). Nearby, the Tamarack cultural center (Exit 45 off I-77/I-64, 888-262-7225, www.tamarackwv.com) features Appalachian crafts and music. Its cafeteria, staffed by chefs from the nearby Greenbrier resort, dishes out red velvet cake, country ham and other regional cuisine. Go rafting on the New River or hiking and camping at Babcock State Park (Route 41 south, 304-438-3003, www.babcocksp.com). Chain motels dominate, but nearby Glade Springs Resort (200 Lake Dr., Daniels, 800-634-5233, www.gladesprings.com) offers restaurants, golf and a spa. Info: 800-847-4898, www.visitwv.com.

Charlottesville. Wineries, mountains and history make Thomas Jefferson's home town a good getaway all year. But in summer, C-ville seems particularly pleasant. "It's usually 10 to 15 degrees cooler here than in the bigger cities, and I haven't heard any cicadas," says tourism official Judy Bias. Besides Jefferson's Monticello (Route 53, 434-984-9800, www.monticello.org), the small city boasts cosmopolitan shops and cafes on and around the six-block Downtown Mall. Try Fleurie (108 Third St. NE) for mod French cuisine or Read & Co. (418 E. Main St.) for imported housewares like aboriginal statues and British leather rugby balls. Stay at 200 South Street Inn (200 South St., 434-979-0200, www.southstreetinn.com) downtown, or splurge at villalike Keswick Hall at Monticello (701 Club Dr., Keswick, 800-274-5391, www.keswick.com).

Bedford, Va. This is where Jefferson retreated, to "the solitude of a hermit," at his octagonal Poplar Forest estate (Route 661, Forest, 434-525-1806, www.poplarforest.org), now open for tours. If you want a cicada-free World War II memorial, Bedford is also home to the National D-Day Memorial (Routes 460 and 122, 800-351-3329, www.dday.org), with a victory arch, reflecting pool and statues. The Mayberry-ish downtown has attractive 19th-century buildings, such as the Bedford City/County Museum (201 E. Main St., 540-586-4520) and an 1838 Quaker meeting house (153 W. Main St.). Stay nearby at the Peaks of Otter Restaurant & Lodge (Milepost 86, Blue Ridge Parkway, 800-542-5927, www.peaksofotter.com) on Abbott Lake. Deer and birds are plentiful on surrounding hiking trails; cicadas, thankfully, are not. Info: 877-447-3257, www.visitbedford.com.

Dover, Del. In the split-personality cap city, Colonial sites contrast with such modern pursuits as gambling and car racing. The historic district, which looks like a mini Philly, features the 1792 State House (on the Green, a square laid out by William Penn, 302-739-4266). Dover International Speedway (1131 N. DuPont Hwy., 302-674-4600, www.doverspeedway.com) hosts NASCAR races June 4-6, and slot machines whir at adjoining Dover Downs (800-711-5882, www.doverdowns.com), a glitzy hotel-horse racing-entertainment complex. Info: 800-233-5368, www.visitdover.com.

Upper West Side, New York. "Cicadas? I've heard about them, but I haven't seen one of those ugly little guys in this concrete jungle, and I walk home through Central Park every day," says Manhattan editor Cybele Eidenschenk. The Upper West Side provides a good base for shopping, noshing and exploring. Explore the American Museum of Natural History (Central Park West at West 79th Street, 212-769-5100, www.amnh.org), where 200-plus amphibians will populate "Frogs: A Chorus of Colors" beginning May 29. Also worthwhile: Bite of the Apple Tours bicycle treks through Central Park (2 Columbus Circle, 212-541-8759, www.centralparkbiketour.com).

Ohiopyle State Park, Pa. The Youghiogheny River runs through this rugged preserve at the edge of the Laurel Mountains. "It can be muggy here," says the park's Barbara Wallace. But not too buggy, save for a few mosquitoes and gnats. See the Yough -- pronounced "yock" -- on rafting trips from Ohiopyle Trading Post (888-644-6795, www.ohiopyletradingpost.com) or on hiking and biking trails. The park has campsites and cottages; nearby Nemacolin Woodlands Resort & Spa (1001 Lafayette Dr., Farmington, 800-422-2736, www.nemacolin.com) offers posh rooms and restaurants. Info: 724-329-8591, www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/parks/ohiopyle.aspx.

Richmond. The former capital of Dixie and current capital of Virginia merges modern, citified attractions with signs of the Old South. It's not entirely bugless, though: May 29 through Oct. 1, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden (1800 Lakeside Ave., 804-262-9887, www.lewisginter.org) hosts "Butterflies LIVE!," an exhibit of 400 swallowtails, monarchs, et al. "Most people find butterflies more beautiful than cicadas," says Virginia Commonwealth University entomologist Karen Kester.

Buzz also surrounds the warehousey Shokoe Bottom and Shokoe Slip neighborhoods, with attractions like the 17th Street Farmers' Market (100 N. 17th St.), Euro-chic Berkeley Hotel (200 E. Cary St., 888-780-4422, www.berkeleyhotel.com) and trendy bar-restaurants like Tonic (14 N. 18th St.) and Julep's (1721 E. Franklin St.). Info: 888-742-4666, www.richmondva.org.

Roanoke Island/Manteo, N.C. Outer Banks visitors sometimes overlook Roanoke Island and its main town in favor of the beachier charms of nearby Nags Head. They shouldn't: Manteo offers a picturesque downtown, quirky shops and historic sites. Plus, no cicadas. Visitors can ponder the fate of the Lost Colony at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site (1401 National Park Dr., 252-473-5772, www.nps.gov/fora) or Roanoke Island Festival Park (1 Festival Park, 252-475-1500, www.roanokeisland.com), where costumed interpreters lead tours of the Elizabeth II, a reproduction of a 16th-century vessel. Waterfront B&Bs include the sleek Roanoke Island Inn (305 Fernando St., 877-473-5511, www.roanokeislandinn.com), with bicycles for guests to use, or Tranquil House Inn (405 Queen Elizabeth St., 252-473-1404, www.tranquilinn.com), with its acclaimed 1587 Restaurant. Info: 877-629-4386, www.outerbanks.org.

St. Michaels, Md. "It's gorgeous today, in the 80s with a breeze -- and we've got no cicadas," gloats Bob Frank, a D.C. expat now retired in St. Michaels. "I lived through one cycle in D.C., so I know they're inconvenient." Founded in the 1700s, this Eastern Shore sailing port offers postcard-caliber water views and interesting shops and restaurants. The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (Navy Point, 410-745-2916, www.cbmm.org) plumbs area history via a working boatyard, decoy-carving demonstrations and an 1879 lighthouse. Along Talbot Street, 18th- and 19th-century buildings house restaurants like the "Are we in Paris?" Bistro St. Michaels (403 S. Talbot St.) and stores like Talbot Ship and Rail (211 N. Talbot St.) for model sailboats. Five Gables Inn and Spa (209 N. Talbot St., 877-466-0100, www.fivegables.com) features massages and plush rooms. Info: 800-808-7622, www.stmichaelsmd.org.


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