Oh the new year. The first couple months get bullied and hated on for good reason. The best way to escape the winter blues is to take it literally: escape somewhere to take your head out of the daily city grind. Weekend trips to the wilderness can add up quickly, but there are a few ways to keep it reasonable, if you dig around. For under $100, you could stay in a fully functional treehouse less than half a day’s drive away (No, really). For even cheaper, someone will pick you up from the city, give you outdoor equipment and feed you wine. Here’s how:
Where to stay: A new site that has become an addiction recently is airbnb.com, a seemingly simple idea: regular people with houses or apartments that they are not currently inhabiting, renting them out for a much cheaper price than hotels to regular folk looking for a getaway. In December, I stayed in a magical treehouse in Lincoln. The treehouse is heated and has electricity, so you don’t have to have nightmares about hypothermia. With a cozy and comfortable lofted queen bed and with the price (at anytime of year) fixed at $79 a night, it’s a great steal for two people. The hosts were incredibly friendly and the price includes all linens and toiletries, a delicious breakfast of fresh granola, fruit, yogurt, eggs etc. and access to a hot tub in the snow. Booking details and more pictures here.
Getting there: It’s a five to six hour drive direct to the treehouse if you can borrow or rent a car (which we did: Priceline has deals from $36 a day). Jetblue And Delta have round trip flights for under $100, Greyhound runs more expensive at a round $126 round trip to Burlington, which is less than an hour away. Amtrak costs about $102 round trip.
While you’re there: Nearby Bristol (10 minutes away by car) has a main street with cute gift shops and good options for food — none of them chains. The Bristol Bakery & Cafe offers delicious breakfast for under $5. They also offer lunch with a mix of salads and sandwiches for under $7. Next door is the super adorable Snaps restaurant, which has classic American food for reasonable prices. You can re-live Thanksgiving with the “Hot Gobbler:” oven-roasted turkey on homemade toast piled high with mashed potato, herb stuffing and gravy with a side of cranberry sauce ($9.95).
Where to stay: A small tree house on stilts in Charlottesville, Virginia rents for $70 a night. Equipped with wireless and a burning wood-stove and situated adjacent to a creek, you can choose to take it easy or explore: It’s a 10 minute walk to downtown Charlottesville, which is also on the local bus line.
How to get there: NYC Shuttle has a round-trip bus fare for $179. Otherwise, you can try a combination of Greyhound/Amtrak/Chinatown and find cheap passage [Our friend in Charlottesville offers this advice: “Take the bolt/mega/chinatown bus to DC, whichever is cheapest, walk 10 blocks east to Union Station and get on a greyhound or Amtrak to Charlottesville, which is about $22.”-Ed.]
While you’re there: The food within walking distance is a mix of chains and independent food joints: local Thai restaurant Pad Thai gets good reviews. For any beer fans out there, Beer Run has 15 different beers on draft and daily events/specials. There is also a super charming local winery not far from downtown Charlottesville if you feel like spending a little extra on a cab. The family run Sweely Estate Winery is open daily 11am -5pm.
If staying in a treehouse doesn’t quite jibe with your crippling fear of squirrels, Air Bnb is still a great resource for finding unusual places to stay. The site makes it easy to have frequent and simple contact with the owners you will be renting from, and they give clear and specific travel directions to get you to their door. Search around and you might find an even better deal than these.
NEW YORK AREA
Straying from our faithful tree houses, I discovered Outdoor Bound, a great company for winter excursions that has amazing day trips for very reasonable prices — trips that include travel and equipment to boot.
Fancy some snowshoeing along a trail in the Hudson Valley? What if I told you it ended with a wine tasting? There you go, now you’re into it. All of that will run you $89. They will tell you everything you need to bring (warm clothes, extra socks), pick you up from the Upper West Side and whisk you off for a winter adventure for the day.
Or, try cross country skiing and snowshoeing where they provide all gear and lessons ($89).
And if all that snow and equipment scares you,wait until March (26 days away and counting) and you can hike to a beautiful waterfall in Minnewaska State Park. The hike starts at a famous glacial lake and provides views of the Hudson Valley ending at Awosting Falls. This sigh of relief and entry into spring runs you only $59!
Most of the trips leave from the corner of 73rd and Broadway (but always check with your individual trip).