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Going Our Way: Virginia Beach, Brandywine Valley or Savage River

By K.C. Summers
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, July 11, 2010; F03

Who: Tori and Dith Yoder, 33 and 32 respectively, of Richmond

Where: Maryland, Virginia or Pennsylvania

Why: 10th wedding anniversary celebration

When: July or August for four days

Budget: $1,000

"Interests: Hiking, history, shopping, dining and wine tasting."

We should all have siblings like Susan Stoner. "My sister and her husband are the quintessential loving family," the District resident told us. "They rarely take vacations, but after 10 years and two daughters -- they should!" Stoner asked us for help in planning a four-day anniversary trip for her sister and brother-in-law, Tori and Dith Yoder, who live in Richmond. She'd like to keep the cost of the trip under $1,000 and wants to focus on nearby Maryland, Virginia or Pennsylvania.

Lucky Yoders. Here are three options for affordable yet romantic getaways.

A cabin in the woods

And not one of those rustic deals. A 10th-anniversary celebration, after all, calls for a certain amount of elegance. At Savage River Lodge, in Western Maryland's Savage River State Forest, the two-story log dwellings are decidedly upscale, with comfy furniture, gas fireplaces, ceiling fans, oversize soaking tubs and sleeping lofts with down-clad beds. (There's also a queen-size sleeper sofa on the main level, but you're not taking the kids on this trip. Are you?) A coffee/tea setup is included, and in the morning a basket with fresh juice, muffins and a newspaper appears on your doorstep, gratis. Oh, and since it's your anniversary, you also get a free half-bottle of champagne.

There's a restaurant on-site, but if you want a more secluded dining experience or just want to eat in your pajamas, you can opt for In Cabin Dining: Order whatever you want from the menu, and the staff will come set your table, fix you a drink, deliver the meal, pour the wine and then discreetly slip away ($10 service fee). The new-American menu features fresh, locally grown ingredients, with entrees starting at about $27.

What to do: Hike on 15 miles of forest trails. Rock on your front porch. Borrow a couple of mountain bikes and take a spin on the Great Allegheny Passage, a biking trail that connects Pittsburgh with Washington. Go geocaching (a sort of treasure hunt with GPS devices) or fly-fishing. Get an in-cabin massage ($90 per person). Go to a wine tasting ($35 per person).

Cost: A standard cabin for two is $220 per night; a three-night stay, including fees and taxes, comes to $733. If you splurge on dinner one night, say $150 for two, that leaves an admittedly scant $117 for your remaining meals, gas and incidentals. Maybe you could pack a few lunches?

Info: The Savage River Lodge is in Frostburg, Md., about four to five hours from Richmond and three hours from Washington. 301-689-3200, http://www.savageriverlodge.com.

A small-town B&B

Pennsylvania's Brandywine Valley is famous for art, gardens, museums, lavish mansions and great natural beauty. The land has been traipsed over by Revolutionary War soldiers, the illustrious (notorious?) duPonts, three generations of Wyeths . . . and now you?

For maximum coziness, stay in a bed-and-breakfast inn. Bancroft Manor B&B in Kennett Square is a 1909 Victorian on a quiet side street. If you like leaded-glass windows, wraparound porches, high ceilings and fireplaces, this one's for you. Owner Mike Snyder recommends that you stay in the Brantwyn room, which has a queen-size bed, private bath and Turkish robes. And just for you -- okay, for anyone who stays three nights -- he'll throw in two Longwood Gardens tickets worth $32, and a $25 certificate good toward dinner at a local restaurant.

What to do: Visit gorgeous Longwood Gardens, which takes horticulture to new heights. (Plan to stay at least four hours.) Take a scenic drive. Visit a mansion -- Nemours is tops for voyeurs ($15 per person, reservations required; http://www.nemoursmansion.org). Hit the museums, including the Brandywine River Museum with its Wyeths ($10 per person), Winterthur ($18) and the Hagley ($11). Sample the goods at the Chaddsford Winery (seven to nine tastings, $8 per person).

Cost: The Brantwyn room is $130 per night double; three nights with taxes will run $421, which includes daily breakfast. That leaves a whopping $579 for the rest of your meals, gas, admissions and incidentals. Way doable.

Info: Bancroft Manor B&B is in Kennett Square, Pa., about four hours from Richmond and two hours from Washington. 610-470-4297, http://www.bancroftmanor.com.

A long weekend at the beach

If you just can't resist a boardwalk, Virginia Beach has a lively one, plus really wide beaches, complete with cavorting dolphins. But when it's time to come in from the sun, avoid the town's high-rises and motels and head for Barclay Cottage, which bills itself as one of only two remaining original beach cottages in the city. It's a three-minute walk from the beach.

The 1895 inn has five guest rooms and two-story wraparound porches loaded down with wicker. "It's a wonderful place to have a glass of wine," said owner Steve LaFond. Bedrooms are furnished with antiques, vintage quilts and Oriental rugs. The use of beach chairs, umbrellas, boogie boards and bikes is included in the rate, and there's free WiFi and a CD and DVD library. In addition to a full cooked breakfast, there are snacks available all day, plus early-morning coffee service if you want to catch sunrise on the beach. There's also free parking. (Many places in Virginia Beach don't have that.) LaFond's word to the wise: If you're arriving on a Friday, leave before noon to avoid the traffic.

What to do: Go fishing from the Virginia Beach Fishing Pier ($8 per person; no license needed). Visit the Old Coast Guard Station Museum ($4) and the Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum, in a historic oceanfront cottage (free). View the art at the Virginia Contemporary Arts Center ($7). Ride bikes. Watch for shorebirds. Take a 90-minute dolphin-watching cruise ($20 per person; http://www.virginiaaquarium.com).

Cost: Rooms with shared bathrooms start at $155 weeknights, $180 weekends; with private baths, $190 and $225. Including all taxes, a three-night weekend stay with shared bath will run $585; with a private bath, $726. If you take a shared-bath room, you'll have a perfectly respectable $415 left over for food, gas, admissions and incidentals.

Info: Barclay Cottage B&B is in Virginia Beach, about two hours from Richmond and 3 1/2 hours from Washington. 866-466-1895, http://www.barclaycottage.com.

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

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