From falls to dolls to balls to y'alls, there's a getaway for just about any interest within a few hours of the Beltway. We've pulled a few of the juiciest from recent Escapes columns, the regional travel feature that runs each Wednesday in the Style section.
-- Steve Hendrix
For People Who Love Animals
* Trek With a Llama. But not on a llama. The llamas of the Applewood Inn and Llama treks near Lexington, Va., don't carry people on their long treks into the Blue Ridge. It's more like taking llama on a walk, a chance to bond with one of nature's more curmudgeonly creatures, not to mention woolier. 800-463-1902, www.applewoodbb.com.
* Hawk Watching. Each year, during the September and October migration, a whole bunch of raptors get a bird's-eye view of a whole bunch of birders at Pennsylvania's Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, a vast patch of mountain trails and viewspots an hour northeast of Harrisburg. 610-756-6000, www.hawkmountain.org.
* Horse Camping. Put a little giddyap in your getaway with a day-and-a-half trail ride and overnight campout in rural West Virginia. Starting out in Hico, about 300 miles from D.C., Horseshoe Creek Riding Stable offers overnight trips with a campfire-cooking, tent-pitching guide year-round, weather permitting. 888-658-7433. www.horseshoecreek.com.
* Critters of the Old Dominion. Virginia is ahead of other states in promoting statewide wildlife viewing oportunities with a series of free guides. The "Discover Our Wild Side: Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail Guides" series details hiking and driving loops in the coastal, mountain and central Piedmont regions. 866-822-4737, www.virginia.org.
For People Who Love History
* The Johnstown Flood. On May 31, 1889, a dam collapsed and loosed 20 million tons of water on Johnstown, Pa., a steel boom town between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg. Today, the story of one of America's most devastating catastrophes is grippingly told in a moving museum and national memorial. 800-237-8590, www.visitjohnstownpa.com.
* It's a Twang Thang. The roots of mountain music go deep in the hollows of southwest Virginia. Starting in Ferrum, a 250-mile route called the Crooked Road is a driving tour of bluegrass venues, weekly jams, public dances and music museums, not to mention hearty cooking and Appalachian scenery. 866-686-6874, www.thecrookedroad.org.
* Weekend Warriors. Get off the reenactment sidelines and into the genuine fake battle at Civil War Adventure Camps in Pamplin Historical Park south of Petersburg, Va. On selected weekends from July to October, sign up for a fake musket, your choice of blue or gray duds and 18 hours of period living. 877-726-7546, www.civilwaradventurecamp.org.
* One Night in the Navy. The Battleship New Jersey was launched one year to the day after Pearl Harbor. Now, after being decommissioned in 1991 as the second most decorated ship in Navy history, it's back in Camden, N.J., doing duty as a pierside museum. But why just tour the ship when you can sleep on it? Families and groups with at least one minor over the age of 7 can sign on for a berth, dinner and breakfast in the mess and a night aboard the longest battleship ever built. 856-966-1652, www.battleshipnewjersey.org.
For People Who Love Small Towns
* Carlisle, Pa. Less touristy than neighboring Gettysburg and more textured than Harrisburg to the north, Carlisle is comfortable in a history that runs much deeper than its one-time role as host of the Redskins training camp. The Civil War cannonball dents in the courthouse are unrepaired, the Colonial street plan is largely untouched, and its spacious historical society complete with library, gift shop and walking tours is impressive. 717-243-5627, www.visitccpa.com.
* Reedville, Va. It seems that everyone in this Chesapeake fishing outpost has a backyard dock with a killer view. Three hours from Washington, Reedville and the Northern Neck is a place of great natural beauty and rich Colonial past, where hard-working watermen get up early to haul in the day's catch, and restored plantations and presidential birthplaces keep company with fishing charter outfits and farmers markets. 800-393-6180, www.northernneck.org.
* Frederick, Md. It's less than an hour from Washington, rush hour excepted, but Fredrick feels farther away and somehow longer ago. The second-largest city in Maryland is surrounded by big-box stores. But the thriving 50-block historic district and surrounding neighborhoods is more about 19th-century row houses, candy shops and flower boxes, an exceptionally well-stocked Small Town U.S.A. Mayberry with wine bars. 800 999-3613, www.fredericktourism.org.
* Berkeley Springs, W. Va. This mountain spa town, long a destination for those seeking the mineral water cure, seems to specialize in eccentrics and extremes. New Age meets Old Timey in a place where an herb shop sits across from a church billboard threatening damnation to sinners. We found the good, the bad and the oily in the town's many massage offerings, but restaurants that definitely rubbed the right way. 800-447-8797, www.berkeleysprings.com.
For People Who Love Cities
* New York's Meatpacking District. Until the late 1990s, this enclave between Chelsea and the West Village was known for butchers and packing plants. Now it's a gathering place of edgy fashionistas and late-night partiers, with all the resources of an urban escape: trendy restaurants, casual wine bars, cafes, clothing boutiques, jazz joints and late-night dance clubs, all within a few square blocks. 212-484-1200, www.meatpacking-district.com.
* Baltimore, Baltimost. We went looking the superlatives in the city with the comparative name. Among them: the Gaudiest Place (Bingo World on Belle Grove Road); the Oldest Church (the Old Otterbein Church, in continuous use since 1785 on Sharp and Conway streets); the Oldest House (the 1765 Robert Long House on South Ann Street); the Narrowest Rowhouse ("The Little House," less than nine feet wide, on Federal Hill); and the longest row of town houses (the 2600 block of Wilkens Avenue). 877-225-8466, www.baltimore.org.
* Pittsburgh Rocks. Esquire magazine raised eyebrows when it named Pittsburgh the No. 1 "City That Rocks" last year. But this post-industrial town is packed with undiscovered, paid-in-beer local bands playing raw, passionate and original rock in clubs that occupy former churches, warehouses and factories. Common denominators include high-decibel sound, low-watt lights and a refusal to cover Top 40 radio. 877-568-3744, www.visitpittsburgh.com.
* A Philly Pen. On your next visit to Philadelphia, avoid the usual suspects -- Washington, Jefferson and Franklin -- and their regular hangout, Independence Hall. Instead, visit the huge, castlelike Eastern State Penitentiary, which opened only 50 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Now it is a spooky tourist attraction for those who want to see Al Capone's well-appointed cell and the chilling 8-by-12-foot cells of regular inmates. 215-236-5111, www.easternstate.org.
For People Who Love Country Inns
* Savage River Lodge, Frostburg, Md. In the winter, this isolated enclave in the middle of state forests and cross-country ski trails 21/2 hours west of D.C. can be hard to reach, and even harder to leave once you're in the grip of its log cabins with down comforters, soaking tubs and cast-iron stoves. In the summer, the trails are for hiking rather than snowshoeing, but the cellar of reasonably priced wines and the kitchen that produces four-star meatloaf are open whatever the weather. Cabins begin at $210 a night, double occupancy. 301-689-3200, www.savageriverlodge.com
* Allenberry Resort Inn and Playhouse, Boiling Springs, Pa. From October through April, they're knocking 'em dead at the Allenberry. Murder Mystery Weekends give guests at this small town inn two hours north of Washington a chance to express their inner Miss Marples. The plot begins to thicken at Friday dinner and doesn't stop until all is resolved at Sunday brunch. Don't worry, there are plenty of unscripted chances to do yoga, walk the handsome grounds or get massages. Rates are $350 per person, double occupancy, for two nights and six meals.800-430-5468, www.allenberry.com.
* The Inn at Montchanin Village, Wilmington, Del. This elegant small hotel is built from a 19th-century hamlet that housed workers from du Pont gunpowder mills. Now, restored and refined, it is an incomparable base for exploring the historic estates, museums and gardens of the Brandywine Valley. After exploring, return to marble bathrooms, Frette linens and, best of all, Krazy Kat's, an exceptional three-star restaurant. Rooms begin at $169. 800-269-2473, www.montchanin.com.
* Sleeping with the Forefathers. Like a little history in your hotel? We've found several Colonial-era digs still serving weary travelers: the Georgian House 1747 Bed and Breakfast in downtown Annapolis (begining at $160 a night, 800-557-2068, www.georgianhouse.com); the circa-1745 General Warren Inne near Valley Forge, Pa.(beginning at $120 a night, 610-296-3637, www.generalwarren.com); and the Glasgow Inn, a 1760 plantation house on the Choptank River near Cambridge, Md. (beginning at $100 a night, 410-228-0575, www.glasgowinn.com).
For People With Young Kids
* Loco for Locos. Forget shopping mall choo-choos or anything your uncle labored over in the basement: Northlandz, a model train extravaganza in Flemington, N.J., just under four hours from Washington, makes a reasonble claim for wonder-of-the-world status. Guinness has called it the biggest model railroad on the planet: 100 trains, many running all day long, eight miles of track, 4,000 buildings, 400 bridges (one of them 40 feet long), a half-million "lichen trees" and a 30-foot mountain. Oh, and a doll museum. 908-782-4022, www.northlandz.com.
* Candy Land. Pennsylvania's Hersheypark retains some of the small-world feel it must have had when Milton Hershey opened it for his chocolate factory workers in 1907. But now the kiddie rides and carnival games sit among world-class roller coasters and high-tech water rides and, of course, lots of the sweet brown stuff. Where else but Hershey, about two hours from Washington and just east of Harrisburg, can you sleep in a luxury hotel at night and shake hands with a colossal Milk Dud in the morning? 800-437-7439, www.hersheypa.com.
* Girl World. American Girl Place is the toy line become a destination. Since opening in late 2003, the Fifth Avenue outlet of the popular line of historical dolls has become a New York must-see for tens of thousands of families. They spend long hours -- and big money -- eating brunch or dinner in the cafe, watching the Broadway-style "American Girls Revue" in the theater, pampering their little plastic wards in a veritable spa for dolls and trying on look-alike clothes for both toy girls and real girls at eight in-store boutiques. 877-247-5223, www.americangirlplace.com.
* Where Muppets Drip. In Langhorne, Pa., about 30 minutes north of Philadelphia, Sesame Place is about small people getting wet, getting thrilled and getting to see, live, the characters that have captivated them on television. It reveals, at heart, their secret 5-year-old lives: Maybe they've moved on to Mary-Kate and Ashley and declared Dora the Explorer a "baby show," but deep down, they still harbor that early love of Elmo. Elmo plus water slides? Call it bliss. 215-752-7070, www.sesameplace.com.
For People Who Love Sports
* Love at the Beach. The Sea Colony Resort at Bethany Beach, Del., is a sort of Wimbledon of the waves. Its tennis center, a few blocks from the ocean, is open year-round. There are four indoor courts and 30 outdoor -- 12 are clay. During the summer there are weekly clinics, junior clinics, round-robin tournaments, a junior academy and other tennis-oriented goings-on. In the winter, longtime teaching pro Dave Marshall runs weekend mini-camps in which his team of aces roam the courts dispensing point-winning tips. 302-539-4488, www.tennisadvantage.com.
* Canaan Valley. Driving up the curlicue roads and looking down on on a broad valley tucked 3,200 feet in the sky and rimmed by snowy hilltops, you can just imagine a hidden Tibetan enclave -- Shangri-La with Nascar prayer flags. Canaan Valley, W. Va., makes Washingtonians feel as if they've gotten somewhere remote, especially skiers. You won't confuse Canaan Valley, four hours from D.C., with Aspen. But with two downhill resorts, hundreds of miles of excellent cross-country trails and some of the region's heaviest snows, at least you can ski till it hurts. 800-782-2775, www.canaanvalley.org.
* Baseball Sleepover. All summer long, baseball fans of the more obsessive sort come to Doubleday Country Inn and Farm in Landisburg, Pa., about 21/2 hours from D.C., to don 1930s-style uniforms and play ball the way it was before gloves had webbing, and long before steroids and nine-figure contracts. The hot dogs and rustic setting are small-town. But some of the players are big league. Every summer week, a former pro joins the amateurs for up to three games a day. 717-789-2456, www.doubledayfarm.com.
* Golf Shores. In the past decade, Ocean City, Md., better known for tacky T-shirts and boardwalk fries, has matured into a burgeoning golf destination in the round-a-day mold of Myrtle Beach, S.C. We found a week's worth of compelling courses within 20 minutes of the boardwalk, including Lighthouse Sound (888-554-4557, www.lighthousesound.com), Rum Pointe Seaside Golf Links (888-809-4653, www.rumpointe.com), River Run (800-733-7786, www.riverrungolf.com) and the Beach Club (800-435-9223, www.beachclubgolflinks.com).
Who Love Americana
* Jersey Rodeo. Guess where the longest-running Saturday-night rodeo in the country takes place every summer weekend? Why, just 117 miles from D.C. outside of Woodstown, N.J., under a 30-foot roadside cowboy. Jersey's Cowtown is more Toby Keith than Bon Jovi, a gen-u-wine buckin' and kickin' hootenanny where men in hats battle bulls and wrestle steers, and spectators munch on fried Oreos and cheese fries. 856-769-3200, www.cowtownrodeo.com.
* Patsy's Town. Little Winchester, Va., didn't always love Patsy Cline when she was growing up (too brash, wore pants), but they now love that homegirl enough to have a named a few miles of highway for her, throw a festival every Labor Day weekend and devote much of the visitors center to her memory. They'll tell Patsy Pilgrims how to find her grave, her little white house, Lynette's Triangle Diner (where she might have worked) and Gaunt's Drug Store (where she definitely did). 877-871-1326, www.visitwinchesterva.com.
* Righting Wright. Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, straddling a Pennsylvania creek and waterfall, was declared "the building of the century" by the American Institute of Architects. Still, rotting concrete almost turned Fallingwater into Fellinwater. But after a 21/2-year, $11.5 million restoration, visitors are again touring, and relishing, one of America's most famous houses. 724-329-8501, www.fallingwater.org.
* Planks for the Memories. The boardwalk was born in Atlantic City to keep people from dragging sand into the hotels. Now they are a coastal institution around the country. But nobody does boardwalks like New Jersey, where they range from wholesome to honky-tonk. In addition to the A.C. original, the 127-mile Jersey shore features the doo-wop of Wildwood, the taffy temperance of Ocean City, hard partying Seaside and the Boss's Asbury Park. 800-847-4865, www.visitnj.org.
For People Who Love the Outdoors
* Deep Freeze Lake. You don't have to fly to Minneapolis to chop a hole in the ice and drop a hook. Maryland's western panhandle, rising into the highlands, is a virtual corridor to another climate, and Deep Creek Lake hosts an ice fishing scene that can last into March. Around the lake, about four hours from D.C., local outfitters offer cold-weather anglers guides, gear and lots of hot coffee. 301-387-4386, www.garrettchamber.com.
* Pennsylvania Turn-bike. All cyclists have ever wanted was a superhighway to call their own. Now they have one, a genuine stretch of what used to be the Pennsylvania Turnpike. After the turnpike was rerouted through bigger, four-lane tunnels, a local conservancy turned the decommissioned eight miles into the Pike to Bike Trail, a stretch of car-free riding complete with dark and spooky two-lane tunnels. Even better, it's in Bedford County, about two hours from D.C. and known for its rich countryside cycling. 814-623-7900, www.saconservancy.org.
* Trailtown USA. Damascus, in Southwest Virginia, resembles other small southern Appalachian towns with Victorian houses, brick storefronts and green looming mountains. But it has a surprising Lycra side as the crossroads of several major hiking and biking trails. With the Virginia Creeper Trail, the Appalachian Trail, the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail and the Iron Mountain (mountain biking) Trail all converging here, quite a collection of outfitters, cafes and ice cream stops have sprung up to serve the weary wanderers. 276-475-3831, www.damascus.org.
* The East's Big Water. Rafting aficionados know that in the spring, the most rambunctious river in the East is West Virginia's New River. For a few weeks in April and May, the New becomes nearly as rowdy at the thundering rapids of the West. About four hours from D.C., the river cuts for 53 miles through massive rock cliffs, creating the New River Gorge National River. This is rafting central, with dozens of outfitters offering day trips on Mother Nature's roller coaster. 800-927-0263, www.newrivercvb.com.
For People Who Might Be Crazy
* Sky Diving. Until 20 years ago, new jumpers were required to attend six hours of classes for a risky solo jump. These days, anyone can sky dive without much planning beyond booking a reservation. It's called tandem jumping: A novice hooks up to an instructor who actually controls the ripcord. Virginia's Skydive Orange is one of several tandem outfitters. 877-348-3759, www.skydiveorange.com.
* Trapezing. Ever since Carrie Bradshaw went a-swinging in a "Sex and the City" episode, the New York Trapeze School has become a bona fide Thing to Do. Two-hour classes typically include up to 10 students, mostly novices. Now the school has branched out to Boston and Baltimore's Inner Harbor. The Boston school is open year-round; the New York and Baltimore rigs will come down in the fall and return next spring. 212-678-0728, www.trapezeschool.com.
* Surfing. Hey, it's not Waikiki, but the humbler waves of the Atlantic may actually be better for beginning surfers. At least, that's what the folks at Rehoboth's Boarding School say. Using the three- to six-foot swells, they can teach the basics and usually get even first-timers up during a two-hour lesson on Rehoboth Beach. Half-day workshops are taught on Assateague Island and run through mid-October. 302-270-8103, www.boardingschoolrb.com.