During a winter that feels like it will never end, New England Inns & Resorts Association (NEIRA) — a group with 107 long winters under their belt — reassures travelers that spring is coming, and with it, the best time to score great rates on high-end lodging in New England. “Mud season,” as the April and early May months are sometimes affectionately nicknamed by New Englanders, tends to keep the crowds at bay, meaning off-season visitors to the region enjoy turn-of-the-season events and activities to fill the warming days without the long lines. Here is NEIRA’s 2014 list of spring off-season travel tips, including some of the most attractive off-season rates on high-end lodging.
1. Earn Some Spring Turns
Mount Washington’s Tuckerman’s Ravine is legendary for the longest lasting snowpack in the East. New England skiers and snowboarders willing to hike to earn their final turns of the season flock to Tuck’s steep-walled bowls. On April 12, the Tuckerman Inferno pentathlon tests the endurance of outdoor enthusiasts in a grueling day of mountain-based competition. Open to teams of five, as well as solo competitors, the event includes an 8.3-mile run, 6-mile kayak race down the Saco River, an 18-mile bike race, a 3-mile hike up the Tuckerman Trail and ends with a 1-mile slalom race down the ravine.
Where to stay: Competitors can stay the night before at nearby Bernerhof Inn and carbo-load for the big event with a free Rattlesnake Pasta dinner, from $129/night. Compare that to $199/night during peak season without dinner.
2. Thaw Out Your Palate
The departure of winter is good news for foodies, with the return of fresh ingredients and bright flavors. In Rhode Island, Newport’s Restaurant Week is a chance for diners to treat their taste buds like the "kings" of the city’s famous mansions, without the high prices. Newport’s chefs craft elegant three-course, prix-fixe menus for lunch ($16) and dinner ($35). Try the Castle Hill Inn's locally-sourced and seasonally inspired menu from executive chef Karsten Hart, who was recently featured in the New York Times.
Where to stay: The Restaurant Week Package at the Newport Harbor Hotel includes a discounted rate for midweek stays and dinner for two at Pier 49 Seafood & Spirits starting at $179/night (midweek). The Castle Hill Inn offers seaside rooms, cottages and suites on an iconic estate, starting at $299/night in April, compared to $799/night during peak season.
3. Spoil your Sweet Tooth
Discover New England’s maple sugaring tradition during a two-hour Maple Experience, offered through April 6 at The Rocks Estate in Bethlehem, New Hampshire. Explore the grounds on a horse-drawn wagon ride, learn to drill and tap maple trees, and, of course, sample plenty of fresh maple treats. Stay at a nearby NEIRA member resort and admission is included.
Where to stay: In Bethlehem, the Wayside Inn Maple Sugaring Weekend runs April 4-6 and includes tour tickets, plus a three-course dinner; from $290 for two nights (tax and gratuity included). The Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa in Whitefield, NH offers a Maple Experience Package (from $149/night) including tour tickets and breakfast; available select Saturdays through April 5.
4. Play Dirty
Once the final remnants of snow have disappeared, New England gardeners get back to earth, literally. Join in the ‘dirty work’ and unleash your inner green thumb during the Work, Stay and Play Weekend, May 9-10 at the Snowvillage Inn in Eaton, NH. Spend four hours working alongside professional gardeners in their award-winning gardens to split and pot perennials. Guests will learn new gardening techniques and can take home three perennial starters for their own gardens. Package includes lodging, Friday Night Lite bites in Max's Tavern, and full country breakfast each morning; starting at $199/night.
Prefer to get dirty on the trails, at the beach or in the mud? Keep an eye out for the New England Inns & Resorts’ “Play Dirty” Photo Contest and share your photos for a chance to win gift certificates and more.
5. Live Like a Local
For an authentic Maine experience, do as Mainers do. The annual Fishermen’s Festival in Boothbay Harbor, celebrates its 40th year on April 25-27 with a host of events as non-frilly as the hard-working fishermen it honors. What it lacks in glitz and glamour, this local tradition more than makes up for in community culture and taste. Highlights include a fish fry and lobster bake, Codfish Relay Races, Trap Hauling Competition, Shrimp Princess Pageant and Lobster Crate Running over 40 degree water. Local art from the Boothbay peninsula is also available for sale.
Where to Stay: Stay at the nearby Harbour Towne Inn on the Waterfront from $149/night, compared to $225/night during peak season.
Find more ways to enjoy the shoulder-season value on your next vacation at http://www.newenglandinnsandresorts.com.