YES, YOU'D LOVE to get away from home for the weekend, but no, you can't leave your kids. You can't find a sitter, the baby is still nursing and, besides, between your jobs, their school, basketball practice, piano lessons, swim meets, Scouts, the Civic Association and the League of Women Voters, you all never see each other anyway.
How about a weekend together in a place where your boss and the children's friends won't call, the laundry won't beckon and all those Important Things to Do don't exist? How about a place where you can take a walk in the woods, make hot chocolate and cupcakes together and play Monopoly (okay, Trivial Pursuit) in front of the fire? How about these places, all within two hours of Washington?
ALGONKIAN REGIONAL PARK -- 1600 Potomac View Road, Sterling, VA 22170. 703/352-5906. Just past Reston on the Potomac River, the Algonkian offers fairly posh, fully furnished, fireplace-warmed cabins of three, four and five bedrooms, plus a deluxe VIP cabin, complete with spa tub, that sleeps six. Prices range from $160 (three-bedroom) to $225 (deluxe) for two nights. The park has an 18-hole golf course and hiking trails. You need to reserve at least 10 days in advance.
GETTING THERE -- From the Beltway, take I-66 west to Rte. 7-Tysons Corner exit; Rte. 7 past Sterling to right on Rte. 637; park is 3 miles ahead.
OLE MINK FARMS CABINS -- 12806 Mink Farm Road, Thurmont, MD 21788. 301/271-7012. Just three miles from Cunningham Falls State Park and 31/4 miles from Catoctin National Park, Ole Mink is a perfect place for outdoors families. They have sledding on the campgrounds; the national park offers cross-country skiing; and if it's not too icy, your kids will love climbing up Cunningham Falls; and all three locations have miles of hiking trails. The grounds, which accommodate trailers year-rond, also have a fishing pond and trout stream. And they're only a 20-minute drive from Gettysburg, if you're feeling touristy. They offer four two-bedroom cabins for $85 (two people) to $125 (for a family of four) for two nights. All cabins are fully equipped, and include wood-burning fireplaces -- they supply the wood. Reservations are needed six weeks in advance. A friendly, private place.
GETTING THERE -- From the Beltway, take I-270 to Rte. 15; 18 miles on Rte. 15; then west three miles on Rte. 77; left for three miles on Catoctin Hollow Road; right 1.7 miles on Mink Farm Road to entrance.
TIDEWATER INN -- Dover and Harrison streets, Easton, MD 21601. 301/822-1300. An old hotel in a quaint town, the Tidewater can be a quiet headquarters for an Eastern Shore tour of Easton, Oxford and St. Michaels. Rooms cater to nearly every need -- smoking, nonsmoking, twin, double, queen- size beds. Some have a colonial flavor, with wooden chests and canopy tops. And there's a fireplace in the lobby. For $142.50, you get two nights' lodging plus a Friday night seafood spread, which runs to things like crab cakes, and a Sunday morning buffet where you can get real scrapple. Kids under 18 can stay in the room for free, but their meals are extra. The Tidewater holds a dinner dance Saturday night, which brings in the locals; and they can steer you to local tennis courts, the Hog Neck golf course (two 18-hole rounds, one 9-hole), movies, bowling alleys, boutiques, bicycle renters and waterfowl carvers. The inn advises making reservations one month in advance.
GETTING THERE -- From the Beltway, take U.S. 50 to Easton; in Easton take right at second light onto Dover Street; inn is at corner of Dover and Harrison streets.
CLOSER TO HOME
Maybe you want the best of both worlds -- a place where you can see the kids but have some time alone with your True Love, too.
Try something like the Embassy Suites at Tysonsorner, which gives you two rooms (and two TVs!); has a video game room for the kids while you relax in the lounge; an indoor pool for the whole family; a big buffet breakfast; and kids 12 and under stay free.
Or how about the Radisson Mark Plaza or the Bethesda Mariott, both of which have health clubs for your exercise enthusiasts, indoor pools, game rooms and a staff tolerant of children. (For more on these and other local hotels with an eye out for children, read through the couples' romantic getaway article on pages 5 and 6 -- and sigh.) Some places, in particular many Holiday Inns, can arrange for babysitters, too, if you want someone to stay with the kids in the room while the two of you have dinner.