12 Western Weekend Escapes

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Big Sur
A place to fall in love

Love was undoubtedly on Mother Nature's mind when she created the dramatic cliffs that hug the Pacific along the Big Sur coast. The area's handful of restaurants and lodgings are equally romantic. At the Post Ranch Inn, indulge in a couples massage on a deck above the crashing surf; watch the sunset while sipping a strawberry margarita at Nepenthe. On a budget? Sleep under the stars at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park or hike to the clothing-optional Sykes Hot Springs. www.bigsurcalifornia.org.

Torrey, Utah
A place to take a hike

Like a set for a John Ford Western, the red rock mountains of Capitol Reef National Park,www.nps.gov/care, are the backdrop for this outdoor destination popular with hikers, mountain bikers, and backpackers. Follow the footsteps of legendary outlaw Butch Cassidy with Wild Hare Expeditions (888-304-4273), bed down at the Lodge at Red River Ranch (800-205-6343), and fill up on rattlesnake cakes at Cafe Diablo (435-425-3070).

Russian River
A place to paddle
At Johnson's Beach in Guerneville, rent a canoe and paddle to picnic-perfect beaches and refreshing swimming holes. In nearby Monte Rio, stay at the Village Inn where you can practically fish from the decks of some rooms, though the grilled salmon at the inn's restaurant is an easier catch. www.russianriver.com.

Healdsburg
A place to eat
Deciding where to eat in this wine country town is like picking one tomato from a basket of exquisite heirlooms. The food at every restaurant is deliciously garden fresh. Bistro Ralph fuses French and American bistro fare. Cooks at Manzanita pull roasted chickens from a wood-fire oven. At Ravenous, chef Joyanne Pezzolo handwrites a daily menu based on the season and what she feels like eating. For a splurge, try the fixed price menu at New York chef Charlie Palmer's sleek Dry Creek Kitchen. www.healdsburg.org.

Las Vegas
A place to get a massage
Need a weekend of pampering? Surprisingly, the City of Sin is one of the West's best spa destinations, with more than 25 tranquil retreats. You can easily while away days lounging at the Venetian's 65,000-square-foot Canyon Ranch SpaClub. The spa at the Four Seasons complements its Zen atmosphere with Eastern treatments like the Bali spice ritual, which includes a scrub, hydrotherapy, a massage, and aromatherapy. The most popular treatment at the Mandalay Bay spa is the hot stone massage. www.vegas.com/spas.

San Jose
A place to take the kids
Downtown, kids can blow giant bubbles at the Children's Discovery Museum, design a roller coaster at the Tech Museum of Innovation, and listen to a storyteller at the Museum of Art's Kids Art Sundays. Kelly Park offers more family attractions like the Historical Museum, with its old-fashioned soda fountain, and Happy Hollow, where children can pet a pygmy goat, watch a puppet show, and ride the dragon train. www.sanjose.org.

Newport, Oregon
A place to take the kids
At the Oregon Coast Aquarium, walk through a 200-foot-long clear tunnel where sharks, skates, and schooling rockfish swim below, beside, and above you. Along the historic Bayfront, browse trinket shops selling kites and shells, snack on saltwater taffy, watch fishermen unloading their catch from docked boats, and visit the wax museum and Ripley's Believe It or Not! At Port Dock One, check out sea lions while you dine. Are the kids still running in circles? Climb to the top of the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. www.newportchamber.org.

Jacksonville, Oregon
A place to listen to music

Every summer, musical folks such as Dwight Yoakam, Ray Charles, and Jewel roll into this historic southern Oregon town to perform at the four-month-long Britt Festival. Celebrated rock singers, big-city symphonies, and others entertain under the stars. Pick up a picnic dinner at Gogi's before a show. Afterward, get a drink at the Bella Union restaurant, where performers are known to jam with local bands. www.jacksonvilleoregon.org.

Stanley, Idaho
A place to get outdoors

This town is the gateway to the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, with four mountain ranges, 300 alpine lakes, and the headwaters of four big rivers. Raft the Salmon River; scale Elephant's Perch; or canoe Redfish Lake, nestled at the base of 10,000-foot granite peaks. Even if you don't stay at the Redfish Lake Lodge, you can still pay to take the shuttle across the lake to numerous trailheads. www.stanleycc.org.

Centralia, Washington
A place to hunt for antiques

Looking for an art deco chandelier? You're bound to find the antiques on your shopping list at this town's 11 malls. Buy restored mahogany furniture at Duffy's Antique Mall; rare silver dollars at Slusher's; and church pews and fireplace mantels at the American Antique Furniture Market. Take a break at the 1908 Olympic Club with its original snooker tables and Tiffany lamps. Walk to town from the antique-filled Candalite Mansion B&B. www.centralia.com.

Maupin, Oregon
A place to catch a fish

In late summer, bring your rod to this high desert town to battle the Deschutes River's world-renowned steelhead. Year-round, fish for wily native trout. The Deschutes Angler Fly Shop (541-395-0995) gives float trips and free advice on which flies to use. Never fished before? Deschutes Canyon Fly Shop offers private lessons for novices. Stay on the banks of the river at the Imperial River Company, where blackened steelhead is on the menu and fly-fishing murals adorn the walls of the Angler and Flybox rooms. www.maupinoregon.com.

Port Townsend, Washington
A place to visit the past

In the late 19th century, the townsfolk of this once-bustling seaport built Victorian mansions. Today, most of the buildings are beautifully restored; pick up a map at the chamber of commerce for a self-guided walking tour or take a stroll with Joyce Cox, who leads historic "snooping and gossiping" tours (360-385-1967). Sleep like a queen at the Ann Starrett Mansion and dine like a king at the mountaintop Manresa Castle. www.ptchamber.org.

Photography by Peter Christiansen

This article was first published in July 2002. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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