How'd this happen? Labor Day weekend, the symbolic end of summer, is somehow, suddenly, just a few weeks away. If you haven't had your fill of days by the shore or warm evening strolls with an ice-cream cone in hand, you've got one last chance. Here's where to head to give the hot summer of 2011 a fond farewell.
Perhaps most famous for its Gilded Age past as the summer retreat of the Astors, Vanderbilts and other boldfaced names of the 19th century, Newport, R.I., isn't a dusty museum piece. The harbor is filled with diners and drinkers on summer evenings, while others opt to set sail on one of the popular sunset cruises.
Still, a visit to one of the "summer cottages" should be part of any Newport visit, and 10 of these opulent houses from the turn of the 20th century are open to the public. The Breakers, built by Cornelius Vanderbilt, is the grandest of the mansions (44 Ochre Point Ave., 401-847-1000; newportmansions.org). Another option is to follow the 3 1 / 2-mile Cliff Walk for views of the exteriors of the cottages as well as the New England coastline (newportcliffwalk.org).
SLEEP It's hard to pick just one hotel in this city, so we won't. If you want Gilded Age interiors with prices to match, opt for the Chanler at Cliff Walk (117 Memorial Blvd., 401-847-1300, thechanler.com). The Hyatt Regency Newport sits on Goat Island, in the middle of Narragansett Bay, providing a retreat from the bustle of town (1 Goat Island, 401-851-1234, newport.hyatt.com). The new, trendy Forty 1° North is on the harbor if you're one of those people who seeks out bustle rather than avoiding it (351 Thames St., 401-846-8018, 41north.com).
TRAVEL TIME Driving, about three hours and 40 minutes from New York City.
The sun shines only briefly each year on wet and windy Newfoundland, so if you want to see the dramatic coast of this rural Canadian province, now's the time to go. This is a destination for hikers and bikers; go elsewhere if you want big city shopping and dining. The Viking Trail runs from the province's west coast to Labrador and offers the chance to see humpback whales at sea and two UNESCO heritage sites on land (Anse Meadows, with its reconstruction of the Norse settlements, and Gros Morne National Park, carved out by glaciers). If you want to bike Newfoundland in the hands of an experienced packager, one of the best is Freewheeling Adventures, which has an eight-day biking and hiking itinerary around the Avalon Peninsula (800-672-0775; freewheeling.ca).
SLEEP Newfoundland is B & B country. One of our favorites is Seven Oakes Island Inn on Change Island, just a short ferry ride from Newfoundland itself. The hotel, with eight bedrooms and three cottages, is unpretentious and welcoming, just like Newfoundland (709-621-3256; sevenoakesislandinn.com).
TRAVEL TIME Flying, about two hours and 20 minutes from New York City to St. John's.
3. FINGER LAKES
The 11 Finger Lakes, some almost 40 miles long, lie just south of Lake Ontario. Formed by receding glaciers, the deep lakes are surrounded by luxury homes and pine forests; in recent years the region has become a New York version of Napa, with a proliferation of wineries and the local, organic food trend flourishing here. Visit some of the many cheese producers near Lake Seneca and Lake Cayuga (flcheesetrail .com has details and maps) and then pick up a bottle of riesling, one of the region's specialties, from one of the 100 wineries in the area. The new Finger Lakes Wine Center pours wines from more than 30 producers (fingerlakeswinecenter.org).
SLEEP While the area has its share of budget hotels and motels, the Finger Lakes teem with B & Bs. The five-room Sutherland House, built in 1885 complete with a mansard roof, is a welcoming option near Canandaigua Lake (800-396-0375; sutherlandhouse.com). The Finger Lakes Bed and Breakfast Association has listings for other inns and B & Bs (flbba.com).
TRAVEL TIME Driving, about 4 1 / 2 hours from New York City.
4. MARYLAND'S EASTERN SHORE
Maryland's Eastern Shore can come as a surprise to first-time visitors. Somehow in the center of the mid-Atlantic states, among the big cities of the Northeast corridor, there's a little, forgotten pocket of rural America. Quiet fishing villages line the eastern side of Chesapeake Bay, and every window seems to open onto views of water and marsh. Spend days on the beach or antiquing in the towns of St. Michaels and Easton, or rent a boat and get on the water yourself. At the start or end of your trip, make some time for a detour to Annapolis. Maryland's charming capital is filled with Colonial-era buildings and is home to the picturesque campus of the U.S. Naval Academy.
SLEEP The Inn at Perry Cabin is the area's most luxe property, and may look familiar to moviegoers from its appearance in "Wedding Crashers." While the hotel is managed by Orient-Express, the atmosphere is that of an all-American manor house (308 Watkins Lane, St. Michael's; 866-278- 9601, perrycabin.com).
TRAVEL TIME Driving, about four hours and 20 minutes from New York City.
5. RIVIERA MAYA
If you would rather sip margaritas and snack on chips and guacamole than work the grill this Labor Day, head to Mexico's Riviera Maya. The strip of coastline stretches from just south of Cancún to Tulum, with its photogenic seaside Mayan ruins. At the end of summer, there are deep off-season discounts, and while you may imagine that Mexico would be unbearably hot this time of year, the pool or ocean is never far away.
SLEEP The Fairmont Mayakoba resort, a 45-minute drive from the Cancún airport, is laid out along canals that thread their way through the mangroves. It has all the amenities of a big resort, but its low-lying architecture ensures you never feel crowded. Guests can also drop by the sister Banyan Tree and Rosewood resorts, which are part of the Mayakoba development, for meals or spa treatments. The Family Adventure Package includes 30 percent off the best available rates as well as a family cooking lesson (Carretera Federal Cancún-Playa del Carmen, 800-540-6088, fairmont.com).
TRAVEL TIME By plane, it's about four hours nonstop from New York to Cancún; once you land, it's a 45-minute drive to Mayakoba.