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29 Reasons We Love Belgium

By Darley Newman
March 25, 2016
Dinant Belgium
VanderWolf Images/Dreamstime
From classic Belgian waffles to fanciful delights like Mini-Europe amusement park, this little country is big on culture, cuisine, and creativity.

Belgium pops off the map, alive with modern, artistic lodgings, unconventional museums, and beloved regional food and beer. During a 10-day trip through Brussels and Wallonia, I made sure to hit the most popular travel sites, including Waterloo, Bastogne, and Brussels, but I also made a point to stray from the traditional spots…and I was glad I did. Ready for a grand tour? Here are 29-plus reasons you’ll love Belgium as much as I did.

Brussels: Chocolate, waffles, and…beer!

Brussels is the home of the European Union and a truly international city. The beautiful Grand-Place and infamous Manneken Pis are must-sees, but for a different perspective, take a bike tour with Pro Velo; it’s a unique way to admire the city’s diverse architecture and chat up a local (provelo.org). My guide, Riet Naessens, gave me a tour focused on the city’s art deco and art nouveau architecture through burgeoning and luxurious neighborhoods I might not have reached on my own. We passed by designs by some of art nouveau’s most famous architects, Victor Horta and Paul Hankar. Stunning glasswork by artist Ernest Delune at Rue du Lac 6, often seen in art history textbooks, was a highlight, as was the Horta Museum, a World Heritage Site. Pro Velo also offers a popular Beer and Breweries tour, which I’d warn beginning bikers against for obvious reasons.

Ingesting and investing in some chocolate while touring Brussels is crucial for any visit. Laurent Gerbaud has some outstanding chocolates, many mixed with tart and sweet dried and candied fruits (chocolatsgerbaud.be). Gerbaud’s interactive workshops offer students the opportunity to make and taste their own concoctions. His shop also has a café, so take a seat and enjoy the full chocolate experience. It’s close enough to do some oh-so-convenient chocolate shop–hopping at Place du Grand Sablon, where many of Belgium’s top chocolatiers have stores. 

For another sweet Brussels fix, walk a few feet from the popular naked Manneken Pis statue to feast on a Brussels-style waffle with chocolate, whipped cream, and strawberries at the Waffle Factory (wafflefactory.com). When in Brussels…

Next up: a trip to the Atomium, a bizarre remnant of the 1958 World’s Fair, which might be the very definition of interesting and offbeat. This structure symbolizes an iron crystal expanded 165 billion times and houses an exhibition space. Nearby is another weird find, Mini-Europe, where you can walk among famous European monuments in miniature, including Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower (minieurope.com). Kids are the perfect audience for Mini-Europe—as are adults on the hunt for funny Instagram photos.  

Dinant: Paddle through town and discover a new way to make music.

The fairytale-like setting that makes up Dinant is marked by a grand 13th-century church on the banks of the Meuse River, backed by an imposing high cliff where the Citadel rests. To take in nature, go kayaking on the nearby Lesse River with Olivier Pitance of Dinant Adventures (dinant-evasion.be). Small rapids turn to quiet currents and revert back again as you paddle and float by rock outcroppings, lush forests, and medieval castles. 

In town, don’t miss the House of Pataphony, where you can expand your mind making music with everyday objects you wouldn’t normally think to “play,” from a chandelier made of cutlery to antique keys (pataphonie.be). The wildly inventive museum was dreamed up by instrument maker Max Vandervorst. It makes sense that it’s located in Dinant, the home of Adolphe Sax, the inventor of the saxophone. You can visit his home, now a small interactive museum (sax.dinant.be). Stay nearby in a castle at La Saisonneraie (from about $168 per night, lasaisonneraie.be), a former château in Falaën that tempts guests with exceptional croissants for breakfast.

Liège: Forward-thinking art and cuisine, plus Belgium’s biggest market.

If you’re looking to do all of this and still take a breath, you’ll want to stay in Brussels for few days. The chic Hilton Brussels Grand Place is well situated for guests to comfortably take on the city by foot (from about $245 per night, hilton.com).

Start your morning trying Liège waffles at the best place in town, Maison Massin (Rue Puits-en-sock, 6-8- 4020 Liège). It’s where the locals get their waffles. Choose from traditional Liège waffles, sugary, chewy waffles that are ovular and unevenly shaped, or more embellished versions such as grilled strawberry or rhubarb. Sunday is market day in Liège, and whatever you’re craving or coveting, you’ll find it at La Batte, the oldest and largest market in Belgium. Local produce, cheese, fish, clothing, and books are all ripe for the picking at this riverside shopping mecca (liege.be). 

From the market, walk to Curtius Brasserie to sample Belgian craft beers (lacurtius.com). En route, you’ll want to snap a photo of the Mount Bueren stairs, an epic 374-step staircase located just beside “Brasserie C.” Once inside the beer hall, there’s an exciting energy. Started by young entrepreneurs, this Belgian brewery is housed in a former monastery. You can take a tour of the production area and pair cheese or meatballs with beer on the lovely outdoor terrace.

Avant-garde art lovers, your new haunt is the Cité Miroir, an unusual cultural venue (citemiroir.be). Exhibitions are held in a 1930s building once home to public baths and a swimming pool: The remnants of still remain—works of art in themselves. Locals may tell you they learned to swim there.

For dinner in Liège, you have to try boulet, a traditional beef-and-pork meatball that’s highly popular in the region. One of the best places to feast on boulet is Amon Nanesse, where large meatballs are served up in sweet sauce consisting of a mixture of pears and apple syrup, wine, onions, and peket, a local spirit (maisondupeket.be). Naturally, boulet is best complemented with a heaping helping of crispy fries. I had a boulet connoisseur introduce me to this filling dish: Sebastien Laviolette, from la Confrérie du Gay Boulet, is part of a guild of folks who make it their mission to secretly taste test meatballs at restaurants throughout the region and rate the best. 

Many of these Liège attractions are reachable on foot from both the historical center and boutique Hotel Neuvice, where 10 contemporary rooms surround an open-air patio (from about $109 per night, hotelneuvice.be).

Mons: This culture capital invites.

Mons is a university town with cool street art, museums, restaurants, and European charm—so much of it, in fact, that it was named the 2015 European Culture Capital. In the lively Grand-Place, pet the somewhat-freaky brass monkey statue for good luck before entering the Town Hall, Hôtel de Ville. Ascend the stairs of the 15th-century structure to take in the views of the striking square with its myriad architectural styles, ranging from Gothic to neoclassical. Inside Town Hall, admire gilded carvings and ornate tapestries, a gift to the town from France’s Louis XIV.

Climb up higher, past the city’s historic brick homes, to Parc du Château, Mons’s highest point, where the magnificent belfry is located. The only baroque-style belfry in Belgium, the belfry is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an exceptional place for photos. Next, walk down to the Saint Waudru Collegiate Church to see its exquisite stained glass windows and 18th-century golden carriage used in the annual celebration of the saint (waudru.be). 

Mons has several museums worth seeing, including BAM, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the fascinatingly bizarre, recently renovated Mundaneum, which contains a massive collection of photos, newspapers, posters, and books from Belgian philanthropist Paul Otlet, who spent nearly 50 years compiling every noteworthy piece of human thought ever published or recorded (mundaneum.org). Talk about a huge undertaking. Called a printed precursor to the internet and social networking, the museum has a partnership with Google. 

After all that cerebral reflection, grab a drink at La Cervoise, where there’s a dizzying array of more than 150 beers to choose from (32/65-35-15-25). Carnivores may stay to cook a steak on a stone, the most notable entrée at this Belgian beer hall. Others may wish to snag a table outside at Ces Belges et Vous, in Grand-Place, to take in the ambience of this historic square while feasting on traditional Belgian cuisine (cesbelges.be).

One of my favorite hotels from my Belgium travels is Hotel Dream, in Mons. Nestled in the historic center, the hotel is in easy walking distance of Grand-Place—key since parking can be a hot commodity. The building is a former convent and chapel, so stained-glass windows and high ceilings are sprinkled in amid modern design and graffiti art (from about $103 per night, dream-mons.be).

Durbuy: Europe’s coolest small city? You decide.

One of Durbuy’s claims to fame is its title of “smallest city in the world”—or at least it used to be. The exact wording might be lost in translation, because they also had “smallest town” emblazoned in several spots. How it’s defined, I’m not so sure, but I’m chalking it up to another of the city’s endearing idiosyncrasies.

Durbuy is a charming combination of cobblestoned medieval streets, historic sights, and lovely shops. There’s a local count here who still lives in a castle overlooking the town and the Durbuy Topiary Park (topiaires.durbuy.be). Billing itself as the “largest park in the world devoted to topiary that is accessible for the public” (that’s quite the moniker), there are more than 250 plants, some more than a century old. Stroll through these green sculptures, and you may recognize some of the shapelier box trees, including a larger-than-life topiary of Pamela Anderson on the beach, Manneken Pis from Brussels, jumping jockeys, ducklings, elephants, and several other creatures great and small. 

Shop in La Vraie Confiture du Durbuy for local artisanal jams and sweets for your friends (and yourself), then grab a traditional unfiltered amber brew at Marckloff Brewery, where beer is produced in small batches on site (confitureriesaintamour.be). Stay one or more nights right in town at Le Sanglier des Ardennes, a modern hotel overlooking the Ourthe River that serves a fabulous breakfast (from about $90 per night, sanglier-des-ardennes.be).

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Inspiration

Bueller... Bueller... Ferris Fest Celebrates the 30th Anniversary of 'Ferris Bueller’s Day Off'

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." —Ferris Bueller, Ferris Bueller's Day Off Talk about travel inspiration! That was the only reason '80s icon Ferris Bueller needed to devise the coolest staycation in movie history: ditching high school with pals one last time before graduation for an epic day in the city of Chicago, from cheering on the Cubs at Wrigley Field to having an existential moment at the Art Institute of Chicago. And now you have the best excuse ever to visit the Windy City from May 20–22: Ferris Fest: A 30th Anniversary Leisure Weekend, three days of fun celebrating the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off's 30th anniversary (tickets $10 and up, ferrisfest.com). What can you expect? A series of events that'll have you following in the footsteps of Ferris, Sloane, and Cameron. These attractions are only the tip of the iceberg: • A live re-creation of the film’s “Twist and Shout” parade. • A replica of Ferris’s room by artists Sarah Keenlyside and Joe Clement that you can step inside. • A two-day, two-part bus tour of the filming locations, including Cameron’s house, Glenbrook North High School, the Art Institute of Chicago, Northbrook Water Tower, and Wrigley Field. • A screening of the movie at the John and Nancy Hughes Theater in Chicago suburb Lake Forest. Stars from the film will participate in a Q&A, and the superfans organizing the event have confirmed appearances from a few cast members, including Cindy Pickett and Lyman Ward, who played Ferris’s parents, and Jonathan Schmock, the French restaurant maitre d'. Who knows who else might show up? Ticket prices range from $10 for to see the parade and Ferris's room all the way to $300 for a full three-day package. Reserve yours ASAP, because they're going fast. The priciest package is already sold out, but the event organizer says tickets for individual days and attractions are still up for grabs, with "more to come soon." Keep an eye on FerrisFest.com for more info—or try your luck persuading someone in charge that you're Abe Froman, Sausage King of Chicago, and you need a ticket pronto.* One thing is sure: This is not the time to pull a Cameron and pretend you're sick so you can bail. And if you can’t get off work, in the spirit of Ferris Bueller, play hooky! *We don't actually suggest doing this.

Inspiration

Editor’s Pick: Luxe Montreal Hotel for Just $144 Per Night

There’s no need to fly across the pond for Francophiles to get their fix—now a taste of the City of Lights can be had right here in North America. Montreal has always been an alternative to Paris when it comes to French flavors at slashed prices (that’s why we’ve celebrated it in the past), and the new Renaissance Montreal is offering quite a deal. To celebrate its debut, now through April 23, they’re offering a special discovery rate of $144, compared to the regular $210. Located in the heart of downtown Montreal, the 142-room hotel has major perks that belie its price point. The design is an intriguing blend of art deco architecture, modern furnishings, street art by local artist Alexandre Veilleux, and contemporary art by other local artists as well, playing off of the unique aesthetic of Montreal. A DJ booth—complete with swinging benches—delivers live entertainment in style, while master mixologist Lawrence Piccard dreamed up a creative cocktail menu at East, the hotel’s contemporary Pan-Asian restaurant, located just off the lobby. And starting in April, they’ll have the bragging rights to the only rooftop terrace in downtown Montreal, when the 12th-floor oasis opens its doors to panoramic views. It also boasts a full bar, bistro kitchen, and a stainless steel plunge pool. The deal doesn’t end when you walk out the doors—there are plenty of free things to do the in city. Here are just a few: • Take a free walking tour of Old Town, courtesy of Free Montreal Tours, and learn all about the city’s history, architecture, culture, and more. • Check out modern urban and street art at the Station 16 Gallery, which features new artists from around the globe. • For a dose of history, visit Mount Royal Cemetery—one of the first rural cemeteries in North America, making it an official National Historic Site—and take a self-guided walking tour. Nature lovers should pick up the tree brochure that outlines the cemetery’s arboretum with more than 100 species of tree on 165 acres, and there are more than 145 bird species too. • During the warm months, enjoy complimentary dance, music, and film performances at Parc Lafontaine, and in winter, it’s popular for ice skating. • The Segal Centre for Performing Arts offers many free lectures, including its Sundays @ The Segal series.

Inspiration

Three-Day Weekend: Berlin

I was still in a pleasant, gauzy, art-induced haze after laying eyes on the Nefertiti Bust in Berlin’s Neues Museum when the November rain pelting Museum Island stopped for a few blissful minutes. I seized the chance to lower my umbrella and linger in the middle of Friedrichsbrücke footbridge, on the Spree river. Above, the sky was damp, hazy, and green-gray; reflections from yellow streetlights glowed warm in the rippling water. I ran my fingers along antique German script etched in the bridge’s concrete, the lettering like medieval calligraphy. The 18th-century Berlin Cathedral presided over it all, its tarnished sea-green dome stately and gothic. This view, I remember thinking, this dramatic vignette, is like a woodcut from an Edgar Allan Poe novel.  As I turned to continue down the cobblestoned path, a murder of crows began to swirl and scream overhead. It couldn’t have been more appropriate. It couldn’t have been more bizarre. And it couldn’t have been more magical. This was the Berlin I’d hoped to experience: the fiercely authentic, austere, urbane city that I’d read about in newspapers’ style sections and seen on TV in 1989, when the Wall fell.  Witnessing the crows was one of many far-out moments I had in the city’s bubbling cauldron of rich history, modern art, addictive street food, avant-garde design, and friendly people. I did it all on a budget in one long weekend, with the trendy Mitte district as a home base. And I didn’t want to leave. Stay in hip, surprisingly affordable Mitte. After my redeye on Airberlin, direct from New York City’s JFK airport to Tegel in Berlin, it was morning when I arrived in the trendy Mitte district—known for its café scene, galleries, and cool shops—and checked into the design-forward, you-won’t-believe-these-low-rates Circus Hotel (from about $95 per night, circus-berlin.de). The hotel isn’t whisper-quiet or plush, but its decor is youthful and energetic—silhouettes of birds on a bright-green background were painted on my room’s walls—and the Rosenthaler-Platz U-bahn subway stop is steps from the front door. I stowed my suitcase and waited for my room to open at the adjoining restaurant, Fabisch. Alongside heaping spreads of German wurst, cheeses, eggs, and breads, its 9-euro breakfast buffet offered nine kinds of hearty cereals, like “choco muesli” and rye “roggen flocken,” lined up neatly, waiting to be spooned into bowls. Lodging rates across the street, at the similarly named Circus Hostel, dip even lower (from about $21 per night for a shared dorm room, from about $62 per night for a private room, circus-berlin.de). Generator Berlin Mitte hostel, with its hip, warm, wood-heavy décor is close by too (from about $21 for a shared room, from about $58 for a private room, generatorhostels.com).  Shop local, drink cheap, take a throwback selfie. When I ventured out that first morning, the streets were abandoned until about noon, when Berliners began to stream past wearing understated parkas, dark skinny jeans, and delicate nose rings—and exuding an effortless cool. The city is a night owl.  “Where should I go out tonight?” I had asked the hotel’s front-desk clerk. His buddy next to him, exuberant with a half-shaved head and ponytail, grabbed a red Post-It note and scrawled the best places to go clubbing: “Berghain, Tresor, Kater Blau, Watergate.” “Go early,” he urged me. “Go before 2 a.m., because from 2 to 6 a.m. it gets really crazy. Also, people might be having intercourse next to you, but it’s normal.”  After living in a sanitized New York City for years, sanctioned public intercourse seemed like a breath of fresh air. I was disappointed when, after my redeye, I couldn’t stay awake past midnight. But before the clock struck 12, I found the perfect bar. A smoky, red-lit dive with psychedelic toile wallpaper, Muschi Obermaier has vintage memorabilia shellacked to the walls: print advertisements from the 1960s, band posters, photos of nude models, and film stills (muschiobermaier.de). A giant bottle of Augustiner Lagerbier Hell cost less than $4; a small glass of Berliner Luft peppermint schnapps was under $3. Reclining on overstuffed leather couches or standing three deep at the bar, the men resembled Sting or Jack Antonoff; the women were petite, brunette versions of Brigitte Bardot, touseled bangs included. I lingered as long as I could. The next day, it was pouring rain when I reached Mauerpark, in Prenzlauer Berg near Mitte, for a Sunday-only flea market where incense and mellow German tunes filter through the air, its stalls selling kitschy T-shirts; jewelry; clothing patches for 3 euros, some depicting the German flag; and vintage finery (flohmarktimmauerpark.de). Twentysomethings haggled for chunky knit sweaters, furry coats, silk shirts, and Vanna White–style sequined shells or sat, sheltered from the rain, at picnic-style tables drinking cold beer. Afterward, I ducked into one of Berlin’s Photoautomat booths—an art project started in 2004—and dropped 2 euro coins into the slot (photoautomat.de). The light flashed four times, and I waited as the machine churned and groaned and finally spit out a strip of vintage-cool black-and-white photographs that smelled of darkroom fluid. I waved it in the wind to dry it, like an old Polaroid, later tucking it into a book for safekeeping. Prioritize the art—especially the free stuff. Art in Berlin stretches far beyond gallery walls, the city’s creativity spilling onto brick buildings, into alleyways, and coating the Berlin Wall itself. Street art rises high and bold in the up-and-coming Kreuzberg neighborhood. Richard Ash’s “Astronaut Cosmonaut” floats above Skalitzer Street. “Pink Man,” made of small, writhing wormlike humans, dangles his prey close to his mouth near Oberbaum Bridge. Back in Mitte, the alleyway next to Haus Schwarzenberg museum is covered with art, including a portrait of Anne Frank by artist Jimmy C and images of Little Lucy, a cartoon character continually finding creative ways to kill her pet cat. Intrigued? Take a free three-hour tour with Alternative Tours Berlin to see important works and hear an elegant explanation of the difference between street art, tagging, and graffiti (free, alternativeberlin.com). Outside Haus Schwarzenberg, note the “stumbling blocks” on the sidewalk, one of many clusters of gilded stones in Berlin that serve as tributes to Jewish families who were forced out of their homes during the Holocaust. Nearby, Museum Island—five museums on a stretch of land in the Spree River—is a treasure trove of ancient art and modern works. The best deal is to buy a one-day area ticket for access to all five (about $20, smb.museum). I was crunched for time but determined to see the Egyptian antiquities, including Nefertiti’s Bust, at the Neues Museum (admission about $13). An architectural wonder of old and new, the building was bombed during WWII and built up again on the ruins; inside, the brick foundation rises and collides with new, clean lines. As for Nefertiti, she was was even more regal than I had hoped: so reverentially lit she glowed, encased in glass at the center of a room all her own. I followed the Spree River south to the Berlin Wall, with the murals of the East Side Gallery painted on its side (free, eastsidegallery-berlin.com). They’re alternately jarring and dreamlike: “The Kiss” between socialist leaders Erich Honecker and Leonid Brezhnev; a Trabant car bursting through the Berlin Wall; vibrant Batman characters populating “Sonic Malade.” Between art-gazing, culture-lovers should take a mandatory spin through the ultra-modern Mitte bookstore Do You Read Me?! (doyoureadme.de). Bathed in white neon light, its streamlined shelves are stocked with mesmerizing avant-garde fashion magazines, quarterly literary 'zines. One evening, I wandered into Me Collectors Room, a combination café/gallery showcasing both a Cindy Sherman photography exhibit and a long hallway filled with ancient curiosities, such as a narwhal tusk once thought to be a unicorn horn (admission about $8, me-berlin.com). For food, think high/low. Street food like currywurst (sliced sausage the consistency of an American hot dog, doused in curry ketchup and sprinkled with curry powder) and fine dining are within reach in Berlin. Near Circus Hotel, Curry Mitte dishes out an entire currywurst meal for about $5, including French fries and a beer or soft drink, like local citrus-flavored soda Mezzo Mix (currymitte.de). I ate currywurst twice in three days: Once for lunch, sitting in the window, people-watching at the busy corner, and once after a pilsner at Z-Bar, a bar/cinema with red glitter–laquered tables and bottomless bowls of “peanut flips”—puffed corn chips with a sweet, peanut-butter-like coating (z-bar.de). The flavor was reminiscent of E.T. Cereal, sold back in the ’80s. In other words, just like heaven.  In Kreuzberg, eats are cheap and clustered together: Four pieces of baklava are about $1 at Salut Backwaren bakery (49/30-6182405). Not far away, Burgermeister, a former public restroom converted into a snack bar, grills up burgers and cheese fries doused with sauces like peanut butter and mango curry (burgers from about $5, burger-meister.de). The doner kebab was supposedly invented in Berlin, so it’s only right to grab one at Baghdad Bistro—it does brisk business after 2 a.m. (less than $4, bagdad-restaurant.de). With the money you’ve saved, treat yourself to weinerschnitzel and apple streudel at South German restaurant Alpenstueck, where a chic crowd wearing dark sweaters and black spectacles befitting an architect sit at shiny gray tables arranged in neat lines (generous entrées from about $17, alpenstueck.com). Catch a boho vibe while sipping wine and sitting on homey, tapestried pillows at farm-to-table resto Katz Orange (glasses of wine from less than $4, entrées from about $19, katzorange.com). The lavender sausages, delivered in a cocotte on a bed of greens, were the best links I’ve ever had ($7). For further savings, split a slow-roasted “candy on the bone” short rib, melted pork belly, lamb, or Duroc pork entrée for two, with second helpings and sides in little terra-cotta crocks.  Value-wise, though, it’s hard to beat the Vietnamese cuisine at Chén Chè tea house, where a heaping tray with bowls of red coconut chicken curry, fried chicken, jasmine rice, soup, and salad costs less than $12 (chenche-berlin.de).  As you leave the tea house, look up, to your right. The Fernsehturm television tower is glittering like a disco ball, and your night is just beginning.

Inspiration

6 Unbeatable Spring Hotel Deals

There's no better way to shake off a long winter than taking a spring trip. Plus, springtime is shoulder season, which means your wanderlust dreams can come true at slashed prices, some with savings of more than 50 percent. Before the crowds descend for the summer, beat the rush—and the high-season surge pricing—with these six spots during the month of May. Sea Crest Beach Hotel: Cape Cod, Massachusetts The deal: Score a room for $134 per night before the summer rates kick in, from $266, seacrestbeachhotel.com Why go: Think classic Cape: long walks on the hotel’s private Old Silver Beach, a spin on two wheels on the trails of Shining Sea Bikeway, and keeping the kids busy on rainy days at the indoor swimming pool. Nearby, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and Marine Biological Laboratory and Nobska Lighthouse make for great educational excursions. Fort Lauderdale Marriott Pompano Beach Resort and Spa: Fort Lauderdale, Florida The deal: Rates drop as much as 38 percent to just $143 per night, marriott.com Why go: The boutique-style resort calls Pompano Beach home. The up-and-coming locale boasts some of Florida’s best diving, offering prime views of sea creatures, reefs, and wrecks. The nearby South Florida Diving Headquarters offers training for beginners, so it's ideal for all levels. After a dive, chow down and kick back with a craft cocktail at the property's Prohibition era–themed McCoy’s Oceanfront. Harbor View Hotel: Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts The deal: Snag a room for $159 per night, compared with $319 in the summer, harbor-view.com Why go: Join the storied property in celebrating its 125th anniversary. You’ll feel like an insider on Martha’s Vineyard before the summer crowds set in, since that’s when you can get the best access to the top beaches, boutiques, galleries, and restaurants, including the hotel’s new eatery, Lighthouse Grill, serving contemporary New England fare. 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel: Clayton, New York The deal: Rates start at $129 per night in May, which is 24 percent off the June rate, 1000islandsharborhotel.com Why go: A boater’s dream, the hotel is in the Thousand Islands region, right next to the newly completed 49-slip Transient Dock Facility. For a nautical adventure, charter a yacht for a private cruise down the St. Lawrence, or rent a fishing charter or boat. Once you’re back on dry land, the river village offers quaint shops, museums, vineyards, and plenty of outdoor activities to keep you entertained.  Kelley House: Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts The deal: The typical $252 starting summer rate is slashed to $117 per night, kelley-house.com Why go: Location, location, location. Kelley House is tucked into an historic home right in the heart of Edgartown, one of the most elegant and charming towns in Martha’s Vineyard, and houses Wave Pool Bar, a hot spot on the island. Take a rental bike to explore, go golfing at one of the nearby clubs, or visit the Kelley House Gallery to see local artists' work. Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort and Spa: Palm Beach, Florida The deal: Prices drop up to 58 percent to $207 per night, palmbeachmarriottresort.com Why go: Private beach. Need we say more? The luxury all-suite resort features condo-style rooms with kitchens and a washer/dryer, so it’s perfect for families. While Mom and Dad are at the beach, at SiSpa, or relaxing poolside in a cabana, the little ones can have fun at the Kids Club. They also offer Parent’s Night Out on Fridays and Saturdays, with a long dinner at 3800 Ocean.

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