The weather this March has come in like a lion, and many of us are hoping it goes out like a lamb. Winter storms on top of polar vortices have left much of the Northeast under snowbanks and winter jackets, clamoring for warmer temperatures. While there is still a definite chill in the air, I know I'm not the only one who can see the light at the end of this brisk tunnel. So, as we coast into spring, I'd like to share some of my favorite East Coast beach towns with you, with some warm thoughts for the season ahead. These award-winning destinations are sure to warm not only your body but also your spirit.
How to get there: The 14-mile-long and 3.5-mile-wide island is the perfect getaway that's not too far away. You can take one of several daily ferry rides from Massachusetts's Cape Cod or hop aboard a seasonal JetBlue flight from JFK or Boston's Logan Airport to arrive at your destination in no time. How to get around is a different story: rent a Vespa scooter or bike to navigate the original cobblestone streets.
Where to stay: The White Elephant and The Veranda House offer the perfect accommodations for your vacation on the island. The Veranda House quarters each feature balconies perfect for a nightcap glass of wine with a cool coastal breeze to cut through the day's humidity. If you're traveling with your family or a group of friends, renting a home may be your best option.
What to do: The island may be small, but no matter the length of your stay, there's plenty to do! Get moving with a bike ride to the village of Siasconset on the eastern end of Nantucket for a picnic on the beach, a trip in a kayak from the head of Hummock Pond's conservation area or a walk through Squam Farm in Quidnet. You haven't been to Nantucket if you haven't tried The Juice Bar's homemade ice cream; at peak hours it seems like the entire island is waiting in line for a lick! You'll undoubtedly appreciate the island's pristine presentation from end to end, but know it comes with hard work! Join the Clean Team and spend a Saturday morning having fun as you help preserve the island's beautiful beaches.
Where to kick back: It's not the tropical island atmosphere you may be used to, but Nantucket provides you the perfect opportunity to kick back and relax on your own island time. Grab a sandwich at Something Natural, a popular bakery and lunch spot situated inside a traditional Cape Cod-style home on Cliff Road. Brown-bag it (my favorite is the veggie sandwich) and enjoy it outside at one of many picnic tables. Head to The Chicken Box for live music all night and unmatched people watching -- all walks of life come to this hot spot in town. Check out Cisco Brewers, home to the famed beer brewery, Triple Eight vodka distillery and Nantucket Vineyard. Tour the grounds and enjoy your favorite beverage with live music -- there's something for everyone!
Newport, Rhode Island
How to get there: If you're starting in the Boston area, it's a beautiful ride approximately 60 miles south of the city. With the right person, the trip is more than worthwhile (even from New York City!), and you'll eventually find yourself in a gorgeous environment. I couldn't believe that this stunning place was right beneath my nose and so close to my JetBlue home base of Logan Airport.
Where to stay: From living large to quaint cottages and B&Bs, Newport has it all. The Ocean House Resort is a Condé Nast Traveler 2014 Gold List resort and spa whose Victorian property and Atlantic Ocean views have been enjoyed since the time of the Civil War and where I spent my most recent stay. My favorite part was just relaxing on the porch, feeling like I was at the edge of the world in my rocking chair with birds sailing above.
What to see: Walking along Thames Street, I filled my shopping bags with perfect souvenirs for my friends and family. I wanted to entice them all with a unique piece of Newport from my travels! But if you're up for taking in some more natural sights and sounds, the Newport Cliff Walk is a must -- a 3.5-mile walkway that borders the back lawns of the infamous (and original) Breakers and the other Newport Mansions. Catch another angle of the mansions by cruising down 10 miles of Bellevue Avenue. This historic district is so well preserved I couldn't help but envision the days when the homes were not just beautiful tourist spots but occupied by the wealthiest New Englanders.
Where to eat: For casual dining, sit down at The Black Pearl right at the heart of Newport's bustling harbor waterfront. It's one of the area's best-known and most loved restaurants! For a truly unique dining experience, head to Seasons at the Ocean House for farm-to-table delights.
Charleston, South Carolina
How to get there: Voted Top City in the U.S. by Condé Nast Traveler for the third year, this charming destination is worth the distance. JetBlue offers daily nonstop flights from JFK and Boston's Logan Airport to Charleston and some unique Getaways packages, too. Ditch the metro for this quaint locale that delivers big on small-town charm.
What to see: Be sure to visit Battery Park, which is situated along the Cooper and Ashley Rivers; the area is home to gorgeous Southern mansions as well as rich in history from the American Revolution and Civil War periods. Watch the sunset unfold over the city skyline from the Charleston Harbor or drink in a unique view of the entire peninsula from above with a helicopter tour (complete with champagne).
What to do: No trip of mine would be complete without a little retail therapy -- or at least browsing! Check out City Market, one of the oldest public markets in America, for authentic souvenirs crafted by over 200 local vendors who set up shop in the four-block-long bazaar daily. Take in some of the Southern sunshine by visiting miles of pristine beaches or one of the beautiful barrier islands, which you can get to during a world-class sailing lesson in the harbor.
Where to eat: Meet the locals at Hyman's Seafood on Meeting Street! It's a long wait, but well worth it for the fresh fish that earned a Top 5 spot on Food Channel's "Best in Seafood" category. Virginia's on King has the best crab cake sandwich with sweet potato fries; it's ideal upscale Southern cooking, perfect for an evening in town. Halls Chophouse has some of my favorite sweet Southern foods, including the best corn pudding of all time and homemade cookies served with a cold glass of milk for dessert.
It may not feel like it, but the first day of spring is March 20! Where will you be heading when the temperatures rise? Let me know on Twitter (@Wingwoman_Tracy).