$550-$1,600 (for minimum three-day stay)
80 miles from Baltimore
The days of the grizzled lighthouse keeper may be long gone — just about all lighthouses operate on their own these days — but that doesn't mean you can't live like one, at least for a few days.
Isolated on a spit of Calvert County land jutting into the Chesapeake Bay, the 186-year-old Cove Point Light is as much a welcome light as a warning beacon these days. And for real lighthouse fanatics, spending a few nights in the adjacent keeper's cottage is a time-traveling opportunity not to be missed.
The two-story house looks almost exactly as it did in 1925, when the last major addition was completed. It still has its hardwood floors, cast-iron radiators and deep-set window sills. Even some of the modern touches retain links to the past: One table is made of lumber from the dismantled Cedar Point Lighthouse, which stood about seven miles down-bay, while another was made from an old countertop from a Lusby general store.
The lighthouse sits on a four-acre private beach, surrounded by a fence that's locked at night. Visitors can rent either one half or the entire keeper's house; a movable wall inside separates the two main rooms on the first floor.
"You feel like you're a million miles away, but we still have wireless; we still have flat-screen TVs; we have all the amenities you're used to," says Vanessa Gill, director of development for the Calvert Marine Museum, which administers the property. "At night, when the sun sets, you have this beautiful lighthouse light that grazes the water. It's magical."
Slept with any good books lately?
The Library Hotel
299 Madison Ave., New York City
190 miles from Baltimore
Books may be a vanishing breed, but not at New York's Library Hotel.
Surely the stuff of a bibliophile's dream, each of the 10 guest floors of this hotel on New York's East Side is dedicated to a category of the Dewey Decimal System, that numerical road map that makes finding books within a library possible. There are floors for the social sciences, math and science, language, technology, the arts, literature, history, philosophy, religion and (for those whose interests defy easy categorization) general knowledge.
But it gets even better: Each room is dedicated to a specific topic within each category. Thus, you can stay in a social sciences room devoted to the law, or an ancient history room, or a philosophy room focusing on logic. But fair warning: Once there, you may never want to leave — each room is stocked with between 25 and 100 books on the particular subject.
"There's just something about walking into a room that's full of books," says Adele Gutman, vice president of sales, marketing and revenue for The Library Hotel Collection. "You'll meet some old friends that you love, and meet some new friends that you didn't anticipate."
What's more, the literary experience extends beyond the hotel's doors. Just one block away is New York's famed main library, the one with the two stone lions out front. And the block of 41st Street alongside the hotel is known as Library Way, with quotations from famous authors embedded in the sidewalk.
Feeling especially ambitious?
For travelers who don't mind going a little farther afield, here are a few more extraordinary places to spend a night or two:
Winvian, in Morris, Conn., (285 miles from Baltimore), offers 18 themed cottages, with names like "Music," "Secret Society" and "Golf"; there's even one that was a rescue helicopter in a former life (860-567-9600 or winvian.com).
Boston's The Liberty (400 miles from Baltimore) was once the Charles Street Jail; its inmates included anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti, Boston Mayor James Michael Curley and civil rights leader Malcolm X (617-224-4000 or libertyhotel.com).
A replica of Dorothy's House from "The Wizard of Oz" is available for rental in Beech Mountain, N.C. (440 miles from Baltimore), where it was part of an amusement park (now in private hands) devoted to the magical land of scarecrows, tin woodsmen and cowardly lions (828-387-2000 or emeraldrealtyandrentals.com).
The 145-year-old Saugerties Lighthouse, on the Hudson River in Saugerties, N.Y., (280 miles from Baltimore), is at the end of a half-mile walking trail (845-247-0656 or saugertieslighthouse.com)