Visitors can spend the night in 26 historic buildings, offering a total of 74 rooms. Sizes range from small "dependencies" — structures separate from the larger homes, once used as laundries, kitchens, lumber houses or for other ancillary purposes — to the 16-room Brick House Tavern, which dates to at least 1770.

"They are really authentic, and each one looks very different," assures Barbara Brown, communications manager for Colonial Williamsburg. "And you'll be staying right in the middle of the historic area."

While the rooms do offer modern amenities — heat, air conditioning, bathrooms, even flat-screen TVs — every effort is made to replicate the 18th-century experience of the people who would have lived in each particular house. Homes built for the gentry reflect those upper-class surroundings, while homes designed for the lower classes — such as The Quarter, a tiny two-story, three-room structure that was probably home to indentured servants or slaves — are furnished more sparsely.

And then there's the Colonial atmosphere of Williamsburg itself

"You might get up in the morning and hear some of our rare breeds of chicken, or something crowing in the morning, or you might have lambs bleating," Brown says. "You really feel like you're living in the 18th century."

All aboard!

Cass Scenic Railroad State Park

Cass, W.Va.

304-456-4300 or cassrailroad.com

$85-$119, plus train fare

250 miles from Baltimore

Cass Scenic Railroad State Park, in southeastern West Virginia, is a railroad fan's paradise. Steam-driven locomotives, smoke belching and whistles piercing, take visitors from the former logging town of Cass to the top of Bald Knob, at 4,800 feet among the highest points in the state.

Serious rail fans — and we're talking about the die-hards here — have a real treat in store for them, however. Visitors can spend the night in restored company houses, which is cool and all. But the park also offers accommodations in three old cabooses, for an experience even John Henry would envy.

There's little modern about these cabooses, which is what makes them so glorious. You have to ride the train for 45 minutes to two and a half hours to get to them, depending on where you stay. Once you get there and the train leaves, you're on your own; there are no restaurants, no stores, precious little in the way of civilization at all. There's just you and the land and the sky and decades of steam-powered memories.

"For train fanatics, they come and feel like they are living in history," says Shannon Church, a reservation agent at the park. "You're alone. There's no electricity or anything like that. The cabooses are just like camping, only in a caboose.

"But if you like to wake up and be on your own, have a nice peaceful morning with mist rolling off the grass, then this is right up your alley."

Follow the light

Cove Point Lighthouse

3500 Lighthouse Blvd., Lusby, Calvert County

410-474-5370 or calvertmarinemuseum.com