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TRAVEL Q&A

Chill on the Cheap

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By K.C. Summers
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, October 19, 2008

Q. My husband and I are in dire need of a budget weekend getaway within a two- or three-hour drive of D.C. We'd like to get a massage or other spa treatment, and we would appreciate a good meal. A little hiking would be nice. We're flexible about location: Mountains, bay, beach, lake, woods or quaint town are all okay.

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Maria E. Blaeuer, Silver Spring

A. We all could probably use a bailout getaway right about now. Here are two trips that combine many of your interests and can be done on a budget. And both include a quaint town at no extra charge.

· St. Michaels, Md., a historic waterfront village on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay about two hours from Washington, is chockablock with shops and affordable diversions. You can wander the Colonial streets, peek into the museums (including the top-notch Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum) and explore the wonderfully flat terrain by bicycle. Many inns provide bikes for free.

Lots of dining options here, from the boisterous Crab Claw Restaurant (304 Mill St., 410-745-2900), known for its steamed Maryland blue crabs, to the gourmet 208 Talbot (208 N. Talbot St., 410-745-3838), which is offering a three-course prix-fixe menu for $35 from 5 to 6 p.m. For your spa treatment, there's the Inn at Perry Cabin's Linden Spa (308 Watkins Lane, 866-278-9601, http://www.perrycabin.com) and the Five Gables Inn & Spa (209 N. Talbot St., 877-466-0100, http://www.fivegables.com) .

The Parsonage Inn (210 N. Talbot St., 800-394-5519, http://www.parsonage-inn.com), an 1883 Victorian B&B, has rooms starting at $140 a night double, dropping to $110 in mid-November. For more inns and seasonal deals, see the St. Michaels Maryland Business Association Web site, http://www.stmichaelsmd.org.

· Berkeley Springs, W.Va., a spa-centric enclave about 90 minutes from Washington, has galleries, shopping, hiking and great natural beauty. The cheapest digs are at nearby Cacapon Resort State Park (304-258-1022, http://www.cacaponresort.com), where rooms at the lodge start at $81 a night double through October, $64 November through March. Cabins with fireplaces go for $108 weeknights, $125 weekend nights through October, $82-$99 November through March.

If you'd prefer to stay in town, the Victorian Highlawn Inn (171 Market St., 888-290-4163, http://www.highlawninn.com) has rooms starting at $98 a night double, including breakfast). For more options: Travel Berkeley Springs, 800-447-8797, http://www.berkeleysprings.com.

You'll have no trouble finding a massage in this burg, from the centuries-old historic baths in Berkeley Springs State Park to an assortment of contemporary spas in town. The most affordable, if a bit rustic, options are at the park (800-225-5982), where a 15-minute bath and 30-minute massage go for $40 on weekdays, $45 weekends and holidays.

Your Turn

Several readers wrote in with additional recommendations for the couple who want to spend their wedding anniversary traveling on an Amtrak sleeper car (Travel Q&A, Sept. 21). As many pointed out, we unaccountably omitted Amtrak's Crescent route from Washington to New Orleans. "From there, one can take the Sunset through the Southwest to Arizona or Southern California," said Renee Luebke of Alexandria.

Constance Cohen of Arlington recommends taking the Capitol Limited to Chicago, then visiting Glacier National Park and the Isaac Walton Lodge ("which people rave about in the winter") on the Empire Builder. And John Flood of Vienna likes Amtrak's AutoTrain, from Lorton to Sanford, Fla., outside Orlando.

Send queries by e-mail ( travelqa@washpost.com) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Please include your name and town.


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