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June 21, 2012

America’s Most Extraordinary Summer Vacations

Explore stateside with these extraordinary experiences found across the U.S.

American summers have long inspired time at the beach, by the lake or out West, with families playing and dining outdoors. And now these oldest of traditions are being refreshed for a new generation. Take, for example, a custom family tour of the Southwest on motorcycles. Besides riding Harley-Davidsons or BMWs on a route that snakes through Utah’s national parks and heads on to the Grand Canyon, you’ll have time for hikes, picnics and boating. Hunky trip leader Kevin Jackson (pictured at left) also has led expeditions on Mount Whitney. Epic Private Journeys (epicprivatejourneys.com) provides the bikes as well as a technician and backup van, so the crew can handle the art of motorcycle maintenance while you and your family focus on the zen of the trip.…

• A new kind of splendor in the grass—at long tables set in meadows—comes courtesy of Outstanding in the Field (outstandinginthefield.com), which hosts culinary events at fabulous farms and vineyards across the country. Most East and West coast dates are already sold out, but at press time, spots remained for the Midwest in mid-August, as well as between the boardwalk and the sea at Delaware’s Rehoboth Beach.…

• Vermont’s most artful country inn is finally opening its doors to families from July 30 to August 3, as well as Labor Day weekend, when Twin Farms allows children. The 1795-era farmhouse (twinfarms.com), once the home of authors Sinclair Lewis and Dorothy Thompson, was transformed two decades ago into a five-star retreat by collector Thurston Twigg-Smith, and its stunning interiors feature works by Frank Stella, Jasper Johns and David Hockney, among others….

• The bar is being raised for summer concerts. Tennessee’s luxury inn, Blackberry Farm (blackberryfarm.com), is launching a series of Music in the Mountains concerts. Guests will include Emmylou Harris and John Oates (of Hall & Oates). Utah resort Amangiri (amanresorts.com) will host soprano Anna Vivette Condren on September 1. Seated in the natural amphitheater near the resort, guests can enjoy the show under the stars.…

• Last summer, Lynn Park Charveriat opened a pop-up shop on Sag Harbor’s Bay Street, stocked with antiques she and her husband have been buying in their travels around France and Belgium. It was such a success that they are opening the more permanent La Maisonette (lamaisonette-newyork.com) on the town’s Main Street.…

• To really enjoy the solitary thrill of fishing, rent your own stretch of river on private ranch land in Montana and Wyoming. Skip well-known waterways, like the Madison River; instead, pay a rod fee and reserve a tributary. You can hike to a one- or two-mile-long spring creek with your own guide (offthebeatenpath.com) on regulated waters that only a few are allowed to fish per week.…

Weekend commuting has gotten an upgrade. The new Surf Air (surfair.com), a membership-based first-class airline, offers intra-California travel with shuttle flights between Palo Alto, Monterey, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. For East Coasters, Tradewind Aviation (tradewindaviation.com) ferries weekenders between New York and Nantucket on shared charter flights.…

Want to discover dinosaur bones? Families are descending upon dig sites in Wyoming (wyodino.org), Montana (timescale.org) and Colorado (museumofwesternco.com) for half- to multiday expeditions with professional paleontologists. Great finds don’t go home but, instead, into a museum, where they’re displayed alongside the discoverer’s name….

• A fresh, modern look has arrived in Maine with seaside suites by Jonathan Adler, adding contemporary design flair to Tides Beach Club (tidesbeachclubmaine.com). Its sister property, Hidden Pond (hiddenpondmaine.com), has tweaked the concept of farm-to-table cuisine by offering private dinners in its garden shed.…

Perfect Picnic delivers gourmet meals (perfectpicnicnyc.com) to enjoy while attending New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Park, SummerStage, HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival, the Metropolitan Opera’s Summer HD Festival and Shakespeare in the Park. As for indoor performances, a picnic in the plaza is a delightful way to begin an evening of theater (say, watching Cate Blanchett in Uncle Vanya at the Lincoln Center Festival) or dance (the Paris Opera Ballet visits in July).…

“Glamping” (aka glamorous camping) has reached Colorado, with Aspen’s Little Nell (thelittlenell.com) now offering overnight horseback trips dubbed Cowboy Camp 101. Guests ride into the White River National Forest and learn the basics of backcountry living, such as starting a fire and catching fish, while guides help set up deluxe tents and the cookout is preprepared by a Little Nell chef. At Dunton Hot Springs (duntonhotsprings.com), there’s a luxury camp being constructed a few miles from the original cabins, which will feature eight plush bathroom-equipped tents set beside the river and open only in summer and early fall.…

• A historic treasure in the Hudson Valley, Glenmere Mansion (glenmeremansion.com), the Gilded Age estate of the Goelet family, has upped the spa ante with a gorgeous $5 million facility. Among its 21st-century features: a marble hammam and stunning treatment suites, each with its own changing area, vanity, soaking tub and steam shower. Even when summer ends, this wellness retreat is sure to draw New Yorkers eager to make the 50-mile trek north to relax in its palatial surroundings.