Get in your car or on a plane, but get going this summer with some terrific deals designed to broaden your horizons.
By John Seeley 06/01/2010
WITH WITTY GUIDE, THE MOOR THE MERRIER
Explore the eerie beauty of Devonshire’s Dartmoor and Exmoor, site of Sherlock Holmes’ adventures in The Hound of the Baskervilles, on an eight-day/seven-night trip from Sept. 26 to Oct. 3, led by the witty and well-known travel blogger Everett Potter. The Wayfarers, declared one of the “best hiking companies” by National Geographic Adventure, leads the way and makes sure guests are served quality Devon cream tea. This year’s itinerary adds a pre-walk fitness program and a boat trip to Greenway, Agatha Christie’s summer home now open to the public. Among the stops are the ancient harbor of Dartmouth and Castle Drogo, said to be the last castle built in England. The tariff is $3,795 per person double occupancy.
Visit thewayfarers.com or call (800) 249-4620.
A WHALE OF A TIME AT DANA POINT
Dubbed the Whale Capital of the West, Dana Point is a famous gathering area for marine mammals. So for whale lovers, The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, on a 150-foot bluff overlooking the Pacific, offers “The Biggest Show on Earth: A Whale-Watching Experience,” starting at $500 for overnight garden/pool view accommodations and a two-hour whale-watching excursion with Dana Wharf Sportsfishing. During the summer, blue whales, now an endangered species, pass Dana Point as they migrate to tropical waters to mate and bear their calves. The largest mammals ever to roam the earth, blue whales can grow up to 100 feet long and weigh as much as 150 tons. About 2,000 blue whales live off the California Coast and migrate to Mexico and Costa Rica.
Call (800) 241-3333 or (949) 240-2000 or visit ritzcarlton.com/en/
WALK WRIGHT IN ON CHICAGO ARCHITECTURAL LANDMARKS
The Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust will host an architectural trek through the Chicago area from June 23 through June 27, with tours of Wright-designed and privately owned residences (including the Robie House, a masterpiece of the Prairie style). Also on the itinerary are visits to the architect’s home and studio; Crab Tree Farm, a museum dedicated to the Arts and Crafts movement; and the new Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago. The trip, including four nights at the legendary Drake Hotel, costs $3,095 ($2,795 for Preservation Trust members).
GO GREEN ON MEXICO’S PACIFIC COAST
Playa Viva is a sustainable boutique hotel nestled between the sparkling Pacific and the majestic Sierra Madres. Do you like your eco friendly? The hotel runs on 100 percent off-grid solar energy and is built from local materials — rooms are constructed with bamboo from Veracruz, and the property’s palm fronds are used for thatched roofs. If you’re feeling energetic, you can help the chef shop for dinner at the nearby farmers’ market. Creature comforts include fixtures from San Miguel de Allende, yoga classes, massage and organic tequila. Even better, there’s a chance to comfort creatures: At the adjoining sanctuary for endangered turtles, nature-loving guests can help bury eggs and shepherd newborns to the safety of the sea. Rates start at $195 per night.
Visit playaviva.com or Facebook or call (650) 292-0432 .
A MONTH IN MENDOCINO
June and July are great months in Mendocino County for nature walks, bird- and whale-watching, kayaking the Noyo River and savoring warm days and cool nights. Culture also abounds: You can check out the Mendocino Film Festival from June 4 to 6 (visit mendocinofilmfestival.org or call  937-0171), the Laytonville Rodeo June 12 and 13 with broncos, barbecue and live music (see visitmendocino.com or call  984-7480), the Taste of Redwood Valley wine weekend June 18 to 20 (visit atasteofredwoodvalley.com or call  760-3739) and the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival with its ’60s-esque songfests and storytelling (visit snwmf.com/ or call  777-5550).
HOP OVER TO HOPI LAND
On the well-traveled route from the Grand Canyon to Monument Valley, The Moenkopi Legacy Inn & Suites, the first hotel built on Hopi tribal land in 50 years, opened this spring with 100 rooms, a saltwater swimming pool and whirlpool and outdoor performance spaces. Everything from the carpets, bedding, artwork and architecture was approved by tribal elders to spotlight Hopi culture, one of the world’s oldest (the nearby Hopi villages date back to 950 AD). Authorized Hopi guides provide private tours to the villages and to Dawa Park — a site with thousands of rock art petroglyphs. Summer room rates start at $129 per night.
CALL “FORE” ON FOREIGN LINKS
Tee off in the Celtic climes of Wales or to reggae on Jamaican greens at special rates offered at Marriott’s courses around the world. Golfers traveling light can check the “No Clubs, No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem” package at the White Witch course at The Ritz-Carlton Resort in Rose Hall, Jamaica. Rent clubs, shoes, cart, caddy and balls, all for just $149.
During the 2010 Ryder Cup, you can play the Old Course in the rolling hills of South Wales at the Marriott St. Pierre, built around a 14th-century manor house. The package, from Sept. 24 to 27, includes room, meals and three rounds of golf and costs £279 (about $405 at presstime).
Call 011-44-01291-625-261 and mention code ER5.
TRACKING GOOD TIMES UP IN NAPA VALLEY
The Napa Valley Wine Train, which winds through vineyards and villages, offers special summer tours: June 26 features the “Full Strawberry Moon” with a five-course gourmet dinner in the Vista Dome dining car ($154 per person); on July 4, a scenic sunset dinner is capped with a fireworks show ($104 to 147 per person); and July 22 brings Murder Mystery Dinner Theater ($135 per person), coinciding with a detectives’ convention. Off the track, there’s the Father’s Day Auto Show on June 20 in Yountville, while on Bastille Day (July 14 — and July 11, for extra measure), baguettes and Brie abound (French musique too).
For rail events, visit winetrain.com or call (800) 427-4124. For car show information, see vmarketplace.com. For Bastille Day frolics, visit domainechandon.com and bouchonbistro.com.
TUNE OUT URBAN STATIC, CROSS THE CHANNEL
Though only an hour’s drive plus another hour by boat from Arroyoland, Channel Islands National Park seems like it’s a world away, with its gulls, barking sea lions, starfish and tiny tide-pool critters — not to mention stillness and tranquility. The Ventura Beach Marriott (30 minutes from Santa Barbara, one hour from L.A.) offers an Island Adventure Landing Cruise package, which starts at $230 per night and includes a guided hike through Anacapa or Santa Cruz island, where crystal-clear waters are ideal for swimming and snorkeling. Breakfast buffet for two is included.
Visit marriott.com/hotels/hotel-deals/oxrvb-ventura-beach-marriott/ or call (800) 228-9290 and mention code P 53.
ADIRONDACK SHARE-CATION SHAVES RENTAL COSTS
The economic downturn doesn’t mean turning down travel — you can cut costs with group rates by sharing with friends or relations. Whiteface Lodge near Lake Placid in upstate New York’s Adirondacks offers seven-night “Share-cation” programs for three- and four-bedroom suites, some with sleeping porches. Canoeing, kayaking, water-skiing and horse shows head the list of summer activities at this Winter Olympics venue. Rates start at $6,950 per week for a three-bedroom suite for eight guests.