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St. Michaels: It's Not Just For Summer Anymore

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

It may be most famous as a summer destination, but St. Michaels is perfect for a quick winter getaway, too. Here are some ways to spend a weekend on the Chesapeake.

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* PAMPER YOURSELF: There are three pleasant, well-equipped spas in St. Michaels, each offering a wide range of services with their own distinctive character. The newest (and most luxurious) is the Linden Spa at the Inn at Perry Cabin (308 Watkins Lane, 410-745-2200, http://www.perrycabin.com). Signature treatments such as the Linden Ritual (110 minutes, $420) and the Five Flower Solace (80 minutes, $165) use local medicinal plants. The two-story, 6,000-square-foot facility also has a gym, yoga classes, indoor and outdoor relaxation rooms and an infinity pool.

You'll find facial treatments ($95 to $135), massages ($110 to $185) and other treatments at the Spa at Harbour Inn (101 N. Harbor Rd., 410-745-0646, http://www.spaatharbourinn.com). Those in need of more serious pampering may want to try the Winter Detox (herbal wrap, hot stone therapy, reflexology) for $325.

The Five Gables Inn (209 N. Talbot St., 410-745-0100, http://www.fivegables.com) has an indoor swimming pool and a steam room complementing its Aveda spa. A basic one-hour massage runs $100; for $175 you can have a 90-minute hot stone massage. Other treatments include facials ($110) and a sea-salt body polish (90 minutes, $150). New on the menu is the 90-minute Caribbean Therapy Body Treatment ($165), which includes a seaweed masque, body wrap, face massage and restorative body massage.

* DON'T JUST SIT THERE: There's nothing like being rubbed down with warm, aromatic oils when it's freezing outside. But if you feel the urge to actually move around the town, consider visiting the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (213 N. Talbot St., 410-745-2916, http://www.cbmm.org; $13). It's open all year, and you can spend a fascinating day working with skilled craftsmen as they build wooden boats ($25 fee). There are also kids' programs on Jan. 5 and 19; call for details.

For a more dramatic -- if colder -- maritime experience, try winter dredging for oysters on a traditional skipjack with Captain Wade H. Murphy Jr. ( http://www.skipjack.org); call him at 410-829-3976 to arrange a trip. Landlubbers may prefer to visit the Pickering Creek Audubon Center, a few miles north of nearby Easton, for its free Invasives Eradication Workdays held Jan. 26, Feb. 23 and March 22. You'll be put to work yanking up English ivy from the waterfront; you'll feel better, and the bay will thank you. Info: 410-822-4903, http://www.pickeringcreek.org.

Clay shooting, as well as goose and duck hunting, are other fresh-air options. Duck season runs through Jan. 26, and companies such as Professional Guide Service (410-745-2433, http://www.marylandgoosehunting.com) will arrange hunts on private farms.

There's plenty to do indoors as well. The Inn at Perry Cabin (410-745-2200, http://www.perrycabin.com) is holding cooking demonstrations with chef Mark Salter in February and March ($75 per person, including dinner); get him to show you how to make his Grand Marnier Souffle, and you'll never lack for friends. The inn also offers jazz nights (select Saturday nights January through March; packages, including tickets, lodging and dinner for two, start at $525). For more culture, head to nearby Easton, where the Avalon Theatre (410-822-7299, http://www.avalontheatre.com) presents performances all winter, including the Temptations (Jan. 31), the legendary Taj Mahal (Feb. 17) and the music of Puccini, Beethoven and Brahms. Tickets $10 to $60.

* EXERCISE THE CHARGE CARD: The chief entertainment in St. Michaels may be shopping. The main drag of Talbot Street boasts gift shops selling a near-endless supply of Chesapeake-theme knickknacks. If you've been looking for a coffee mug that says, "I'm Feeling Crabby," you've come to the right place. Try A Wish Called Wanda and 3 Krazy Ladies for some of the more entertaining stuff, or pick up expensive froufrou for your loved one at Flying Fred's pet boutique. A little more upscale is Artiste Locale & Frivolous Fibers, where you can acquire a meticulously handcrafted thumb piano (as, um, played by the indigenous watermen?) and other intriguing, if occasionally baffling, objets d'art.

If you're out to spend grown-up money, head down Route 33 toward Tilghman Island and take the turnoff toward Sherwood. Immediately on your left will be Sherwood Antiques (410-886-2562, http://www.sherwoodantiques.com). It may not look like much from the outside, but there's a superb collection of carpets, hand-cut crystal and 18th-century furniture inside, and owner Charlie Freeman will happily show you around. (If you're looking for a Christmas present for me, the 1920 model of the clipper ship Mary Knowles -- a paltry $1,250 -- would be perfect.)

-- S.B.


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