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Going Our Way: Searching for a romantic B&B getaway

By K.C. Summers
Sunday, January 24, 2010;

Who: Susan Day, 51, and T.E. Lyons, 51, of Falls Church.

Where: A romantic B&B in the mid-Atlantic.

Why: To celebrate work projects completed and surviving a painfully expensive heat pump replacement.

When: A long weekend in mid-March.

Budget: $500.

"We're trying to get the most enjoyment we can without spending money that makes us feel guilty."

Let us now praise B&Bs. At least the ones without teddy bears and doilies. Mercifully, the mid-Atlantic has many sophisticated inns, with fine dining, stylish decor and nary a ruffle in sight. For lots of travelers, a good B&B is a destination in itself.

So it is for Susan Day and T.E. Lyons, who find themselves craving a long weekend in a romantic inn after a winter consumed with work and home repairs. But not just any old romantic inn. They want a water view, proximity to hiking trails and art museums, the option of spa services and, oh yes, a ghost or two would be nice.

We consulted several experts, including Mary White of BnBFinder.com (http://www.bnbfinder.com) and Marti Mayne of BedandBreakfast.com (http://www.bedandbreakfast.com), and came up with five inns that fit the bill, mostly. (We used a bit of poetic license in the ghost department.) All prices quoted are for two people sharing a room, and include breakfast. Transportation and taxes are not included.

A waterfront manor on the Eastern Shore. Great Oak Manor (800-504-3098, http://www.greatoak.com) is set on 12 acres just outside the colonial town of Chestertown, Md. There are 11 guest rooms, some with working fireplaces and water views; public rooms include a library, music room and conservatory with lap pool. But the real attraction here are the grounds: a private beach on Chesapeake Bay, tall forests of oaks and black walnut trees, hiking paths that take you past bald eagles, blue osprey and Canada geese.

Dining options abound in Chestertown and nearby Rock Hall, but if you time your visit right, you can participate in one of the inn's culinary and music evenings, when a chef from the Culinary Institute of America prepares five-course meals and a pianist plays classical and jazz tunes. (There's one scheduled for March 12-13.) No fine-art museums in the immediate area, but Rock Hall and Chestertown are home to several galleries, and there are many more in St. Michaels, a little over an hour away. If you want pampering, the inn will arrange for a massage therapist to make an in-suite visit.

As for the ghost component, will Tallulah Bankhead do? The flamboyant actress is buried in nearby St. Paul's Churchyard.

Rooms range from $165 to $275 a night, suites from $210 to $310. Culinary Weekend packages start at $358 and include two nights' lodging, two breakfasts and a five-course dinner for two.

A Tidewater estate. How's this for a water view? The North River Inn (877-248-3030, http://www.northriverinn.com), on a 100-acre estate in Gloucester, Va., is surrounded by salt water on three sides. A Virginia Historic Landmark, the inn consists of three historic buildings at the ends of private lanes. The eight guest rooms are furnished with antiques and Oriental rugs and have fireplaces. Some have fully stocked kitchens.

You can canoe and kayak on the river and its creeks, visit the inn's 18th-century one-acre walled garden and historic ice house, and check out the colonial town of Gloucester. One must-see: a ruin called Rosewell, once one of the finest mansions built in the colonies (http://www.rosewell.org). Today you can admire the brickwork and imagine the parties and dances that once took place here.

If you crave more culture, drive 15 miles to Yorktown or 35 miles to Williamsburg for museums and galleries galore. And for your ghost fix, head for the county's two historic Anglican churches and their atmospheric cemeteries.

Rooms range from $155 to $255 per night.

A riverfront cottage on the Delaware River. At Chestnut Hill on the Delaware (888-333-2242, http://www.chestnuthillnj.com) in Milford, N.J., you can take your pick of two restored Victorian houses, both with river views. The main house has six guest rooms; there's also a cottage with three all-suite apartments, each with living room, bedroom, bath and fully stocked kitchen. In warm weather, you can take in the water view from the wraparound veranda or a hammock.

There are plenty of dining options in the old river town of Milford, about 3 1/2 hours from Washington.

Also high on the quaint-o-meter: Frenchtown, where you can rent bikes and explore the Delaware River Valley; Flemington, known for its Victorian architecture and steam railroad; and Lambertville, the antiques capital of New Jersey. For more culture, drive half an hour south to New Hope, Pa., and its music, galleries, theaters and more.

There are spas in Frenchtown; the inn can also arrange an in-room visit by a masseuse.

If you're feeling outdoorsy, you can walk or bike the Delaware Canal towpath. Or explore the Milford Bluffs, a mile and a half away; they're known for their rock formations and the largest collection of prickly pear cactus east of the Mississippi. For ghostly encounters, wander through the churchyard of the nearby First United Church of Christ.

Rooms range from $115 to $275 a night; a suite in the Country Cottage is $250 a night.

An alpine inn on the Potomac. The founder of the Bavarian Inn (304-876-2551, http://www.bavarianinnwv.com) hailed from Munich, which explains the elegantly appointed alpine chalets on a bluff overlooking the Potomac in otherwise-rustic Shepherdstown, W.Va. Some of the river-view rooms have private balconies, whirlpool baths and gas fireplaces, and there's an on-site restaurant.

Shepherdstown is darling, with art galleries, shops and several well-regarded restaurants. The Civil War looms large here, with Antietam National Battlefield, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park and Gettysburg National Military Park nearby. These days you can even glide through the battlefields on a Segway, led by National Park Service guides (http://www.tourglides.com).

Lots of hiking, cycling, canoeing and kayaking options here, too. The C&O Canal towpath is right across the Potomac River. There are more hiking trails in Harpers Ferry, about 15 minutes away. For art, check out the galleries in town. And for spa services, Berkeley Springs with its historic spa is just 35 miles away, or stay put and the inn will arrange for an in-room masseuse.

Your ghosts for the weekend: the 281 Confederate soldiers buried in Elwood Cemetery, just up the road from the inn.

Prices for rooms overlooking the river range from $129 to $359 a night.

A Victorian inn in New York's wine country. The Fox and the Grapes (607-582-7528, http://www.thefoxandthegrapes.com), an 1885 bed-and-breakfast in Lodi, N.Y. (about six hours from Washington), is on the Seneca Lake wine trail and minutes away from dozens of wineries as well as national forests and lakes, hiking, antiquing, NASCAR racing, museums and more. Rooms are furnished with period antiques, and there's a sunroom, music room, library and banquet room. You can laze on the deck and porches in nice weather and admire the blue herons, the koi pond, and lake and vineyard views.

For culture, head to Ithaca, about 25 minutes away, and follow the Ithaca Art Trail (http://www.arttrail.com). Nearby museums include the Corning Museum of Glass, Elizabeth Cady Stanton House and the Rockwell Museum of Western Art. The inn can arrange in-room massages. And ghosts? Some say the inn is haunted (by the former owner, the builder, some women and even a little girl).

A balcony suite is $130 per night. Through April, an off-season weekend-only promotion takes half off the second night.

Interested in having us help plan your trip? Go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/goingourway.

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