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21 Great Escapes: How to Have a Great Time Without Going Very Far

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

On the Escapes page in each Wednesday's Style section and in The Long Weekend, usually the back page of the Sunday Travel section, we offer ideas for nearby places to unwind or, for the more energetic among us, to discover and explore. We try to keep these spots less than four hours by car (Long Weekends can be a little farther away, and sometimes a two-hour flight from Washington). Here are 21 of our favorite regional destinations from last year. You can see on the map where they are.

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For more options, go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/escapes for an index of regional getaways. Also, check with the tourism sites for Maryland (http://www.mdisfun.org), Virginia (http://www.virginia.org), West Virginia (http://www.wvtourism.com), Delaware (http://www.visitdelaware.com), New Jersey (http://www.nj.gov/travel), New York (http://www.iloveny.com and http://www.nycgo.com) and Pennsylvania (http://www.visitpa.com).

1 Dig the dirt. There are real sapphires and rubies in the mud and rocks of southwest North Carolina, some even worth polishing. Info: 828-369-9742, http://www.masonsrubyandsapphiremine.com; 888-817-5829, http://www.gemmountain.com.

2 Follow the money. In the late 1800s, tiny Bramwell, W.Va., had more than a dozen millionaires. What's left are grand Victorian houses and a charming town in coal country. You can visit anytime, but the spring house tour is May 9. Info: 304-248-8381, http://www.bramwellwv.com/townevents.html.

3 Go crazy. The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, W.Va., saw its last patient in 1994 and is now awaiting your visit. Open March 28-Nov. 1. Info: 304-269-5070, http://www.trans-alleghenylunaticasylum.com.

4. Listen to the universe. The National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, W.Va., listens for sounds from outer space in the National Radio Quiet Zone. Ssh! So can you. Info: 304-456-2150, http://www.gb.nrao.edu.

5 Go old school. Ligonier, Pa., boasts bluebloods and an Anglo-centric view of history, plus terrific shops and antiques shows. Info: Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau, 800-333-5661, http://www.laurelhighlands.org.

6 Look for Mr. Wright. The Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania are home to three Frank Lloyd Wright houses. Info: Fallingwater, 724-329-8501, http://www.fallingwater.org; Duncan House, 877-833-7829, http://www.polymathpark.com; and Kentuck Knob, 724-329-1901, http://www.kentuckknob.com.

7 Salute Civil War valor. Visit the New Market, Va., battlefield and its Hall of Valor, which marks the bravery of Virginia Military Institute's teenage cadets who were sent into battle. Info: 540-740-3101, http://www4.vmi.edu/museum/nm.

8 Hit the high C. Charlottesville has it all: Monticello, of course (434-984-9822, http://www.monticello.org), a lively downtown mall, the luxury of the Keswick Hall resort hotel (800-274-5391, http://www.keswick.com) and a lively new beer trail (Starr Hill Brewery, 434-823-5671, http://www.starrhill.com; Blue Mountain Brewery, 540-456-8020, http://www.bluemountainbrewery.com; and Devils Backbone Brewing Co., 434-361-1001, http://www.dbbrewingcompany.com).

9 Celebrate Poe's 200th. Richmond's Edgar Allan Poe Museum lays claim to his childhood and his finest manuscripts. Info: 804-648-5523, http://www.poemuseum.org and http://www.poe200th.com.

10 Take a short walk on a long pier. The 1,000-plus-foot-long Virginia Beach Fishing Pier offers the ultimate in languid saltwater fishing. Open April-October. Info: 757-428-2333, http://www.daybreakfishing.com.

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