Stay in a treehouse, wagon or caboose
So you’d like to get away for a while without driving too far, but the idea of a cookie-cutter hotel doesn’t appeal. Fortunately there are enticing alternatives for a variety of preferences and pocketbooks, from treehouses to houseboats to museum-like houses that allow you to step into chapters of history.
It’s no surprise that treehouse accommodations exist in a state that’s virtually blanketed by forests. Those at Pinehaven in Beaver, West Virginia combine an introduction to unspoiled nature with welcome creature comforts, including a full bathroom, heat and air conditioning. A private hot tub is an added bonus. (For more information visit pinehaven.com.)
If you don’t mind driving a bit farther, you’ll find nine houses perched in trees at the unlikely named Mohicans Resort and Wedding Venue in Glenmont, Ohio. They can accommodate two to six guests, and facilities include both outdoor showers and full indoor bathrooms. Some structures were designed by a leading treehouse designer and featured in a Discovery Channel series (themohicans.net).
Rock to sleep on a houseboat
There also are options for those who like accommodations that move with the wind and waves. The houseboat Pisces, docked in downtown Philadelphia, can sleep six people. A kitchenette, roof deck and parking spot add to its appeal (sleepafloat.com).
Rather than being anchored, houseboats on Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia are free to explore miles of unspoiled shoreline and hundreds of protected coves. This typically uncrowded body of water is a fisherman’s paradise and the site of numerous tournaments for anglers each year (houseboating.org).
Lock houses on the C&O Canal
The past comes alive at seven historic lock houses that line the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, which stretches 184 miles from Washington, D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland. The narrow waterway was constructed from 1828 to 1850 to enable cargo, primarily coal, to be transported in mule-drawn barges. A total of 74 locks were installed to deal with the 605-foot elevation change, and lock keepers and their families lived in houses adjacent to those structures.
Seven of the historic buildings have been equipped with period furnishings and are available to overnight guests. Each lockhouse is designed to relate a different time period in the canal’s history (canaltrust.org).
The C&O Canal passes near Frederick, Maryland, where another historic event took place. In 1863, John Greenleaf Whittier penned a poem about Barbara Fritchie in which she pleads with a Confederate general, “Shoot if you must this old gray head, but spare your country’s flag.”
Despite the fact that the incident described in the poem probably never occurred, it made Fritchie an instant heroine and part of American folklore. (It is true that she was a Union sympathizer and did have a flag.)
After the original early 19th-century house was destroyed in 1927, it was reconstructed using documents and photographs. Today, although it’s not open to the public, it’s possible to rent it to catch a glimpse of artifacts from Fritchie’s life. If you’re thinking of overnighting there, be forewarned that some people who say it’s haunted have claimed to have seen Barbara’s rocking chair moving on its own (stayinfrederick.com).
Conestoga wagon replicas
In the 1700s and 1800s, canvas-topped Conestoga wagons were the primary cargo vehicles used to cross the Appalachian Mountains.
Some campgrounds include Conestoga reproductions among their campsites and RV hookups. The Kampgrounds of America (KOA) Delaware Water Gap site in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, rents out a Conestoga wagon with a king-sized bed and bunk beds as well as three teepees. Other members of the KOA chain also have Conestoga wagons and other different accommodations (koa.com).
Starting in the 1850s, Conestoga wagons were replaced by trains. Railroad buffs are likely to enjoy sleeping in renovated cabooses in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Fancy Gap, Virginia. They offer a kitchenette, private bath and other comforts, along with access to Jacuzzis in the depot (grassycreekcabooses.com).
A very different environment greets visitors to Cherry Hill, New Jersey, at the Feather Nest Inn. Its fantasy suites include a Natural Cave, which is decorated with reproductions of prehistoric cave paintings, faux animal skins and rock piles, a boat-shaped bed, shipwreck salvage-like furniture and a waterfall in the Treasure Island room (feathernestinn.com).
Would-be campers might find that a Safari Tent pitched near the shore of Rehoboth Bay in Delaware meets their comfort level. Queen-sized beds, a futon sofa, electricity and use of a golf cart transform a roughing-it experience into a memorable one (masseyslanding.com/accommodations).
Other unique overnight spots include a rustic 65-foot-tall fire tower with 360-degree views over West Virginia’s largest state forest; the 183-year-old Cove Point Lighthouse and keeper’s home on the shore of Chesapeake Bay, and several family-operated farms in Pennsylvania’s Amish country where guests may help with chores, interact with cows and other animals and enjoy farm-to-table meals (onlyinyourstate.com/west-virginia/thorny-mountain-wv, calvertmarinemuseum.com, painns.com).