KEEP IT SIMPLE
Summer Lake Towns 2009
Retreat to an easygoing American lake town, where you can find simple, affordable pleasuresfishing, hiking, bumper cars, and old-fashioned desserts. We've picked eight we love; chances are, there's a similar one near you.
Where to refuel Gourmet food at a gas station? That's what you'll get at the Whoa Nellie Deli, at the Tioga Gas Mart in the nearby town of Lee Vining. Try the lobster taquillos with tomatillo-pineapple salsa (760/647-1088, entrées from $15).
Where to stay Cinnamon Bear Inn is a downtown B&B popular with outdoorsy travelers (800/845-2873, cinnamonbearinn.com, from $99).
Easy escape from Carson City, Nev. (135 miles), and Fresno, Calif. (186 miles)
LAKE PLACID, FLA.
on LAKE PLACID
When Melvil Dewey, creator of the Dewey Decimal System, settled in this area of south-central Florida to open a hotel, he found it so similar to his hometown of Lake Placid, N.Y., that he convinced residents to change the name. Shops sell crafts, clothes, and antiques in the small town, which has an outsize reputation for its caladiums: leafy red, pink, and white plants that peak in late summer. The lake is a convenient jumping-off point for exploring wildlife preserves and state parks. Twenty miles to the north, Highlands Hammock State Park is a dense jungle of cabbage palms, ferns, hardwood trees, and orchids and other air plants (park admission $6 per car). You may spot river otters, barred owls, white-tailed deer, and, if you're lucky, a panther or a bobcat. The elevated wooden Cypress Swamp Catwalk allows visitors to make their way through the swamp floodplain, which is crowded with alligators, turtles, and wading birds.
Where to refuel Jaxson's Restaurant takes pride in its farm-to-table approach: fresh herbs from its own garden, ground beef from Hartzell's Meat Market, and even local gator tail, fried or grilled. There's a covered outdoor patio and a laid-back bar; Thursday is karaoke night.
Where to stay Tully's Silver Sands Cottages' two-bedroom lakeside cottages sleep six to eight people. After making dinner on the charcoal grills, guests can unwind on private docks as the sun sets over the water (863/465-1354, tullyssilversands.com, from $150, with a two-night minimum).
Easy escape from Orlando, Fla. (100 miles), or Miami, Fla. (160 miles).
See last year's list of Summer Lake Towns here.