Winter getaway to the Eastern Shore

Breezing through a weekend at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay

  • The Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort,Spa & Marina sits on about 400 acres in Cambridge.
The Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort,Spa & Marina… (Photo courtesy of Hyatt…)
March 03, 2011|By Michelle Deal-Zimmerman, The Baltimore Sun

You might expect winter on the Eastern Shore to be slow. I know I did. So even though it was Presidents Day weekend, I told my husband that the holiday wouldn't be a hindrance to a quick two-day trip to the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay, a resort I've been meaning to visit for a while.

Plus, I said confidently, Bay Bridge traffic would be a breeze compared with summer. We'd get a great rate — the Hyatt was offering a promotion with rooms starting at $99 a night. It's a huge resort, so we'd likely have at least some portion of it to ourselves. As long as the weather held out, it would be a great escape.

I turned out to be right about just one thing: The bridge traffic wasn't bad at all.

We left on Saturday morning just as a huge windstorm swept in. It was partly sunny with howling 50-mph gusts of wind. Signs along U.S. 50 warned the bridge was subject to crosswinds and, looking down into the Chesapeake Bay, we saw a sea of whitecaps and churning gray waves.

Traffic was so light that we decided to make an unplanned stop in Easton, a town we had not visited in several years. For good measure, we would take a total detour and check out Tilghman Island and St. Michaels too, about 30 miles or so from U.S. 50.

It was before noon when we hit the main drag in St. Michaels, and several shops appeared to be closed. Still, the town looked as lovely as ever and even a little bit in love: Tacked to the light poles lining the main street were large red Valentine hearts with the names of couples and other messages handwritten on them. It was thoroughly charming.

Less charming was the development that has sprung up along the way back to U.S. 50, very close to Easton's historic downtown. There's a Chili's, Target, Chick-fil-A and other chain stores at Waterside Village at Easton. Even a Panera and an Applebee's. That's progress, I guess.

Our destination was Washington Street, just a couple of miles away in Easton. Walking the downtown and fighting off the wind chill, we took refuge in Lanham Hall Design, a blocklong boutique for home furnishings and accessories. We also stopped in at the Green General Store, a boutique devoted to eco-friendly wares and renewable energy.

For lunch, I checked my Urbanspoon iPhone app and turned up a nearby restaurant that was fairly new and getting great reviews. It's a smallish place called The BBQ Joint. Being fans of well-smoked delights, we decided to give it a try.

There's a reason the restaurant gets a 93 percent approval rating on the app — the food is delicious. We tried the ribs and barbecue sliders, with sides of coleslaw and potato salad and a plate of "redneck" nachos. We skipped dessert, but the fried chocolate chip cookie, topped with vanilla ice cream and served in a cast-iron pan, sure was hard to pass up.

Back on the road, we were now falling behind on our goal of getting to the Hyatt Chesapeake Bay in Cambridge before check-in at 4 p.m. Turns out there was no real reason to hurry. Our room wasn't ready. And based on the number of people in the lobby, we weren't alone. It seemed the hotel was booked solid for the weekend. The line to check in stretched from one end of the lobby to the other. There went my idea of peace and quiet.

My plan to get a great rate had already gone out the window days earlier. We paid $170 per night, using our AAA membership, and also received a $40 voucher for breakfast. Not too shabby. (The $99 rates were for Sunday-Thursday stays, but even for a Sunday night, the available rate was $149 — without any vouchers.)

Seems we weren't the only ones surprised by the popularity of a winter weekend escape to the shore. We waited nearly an hour for our room to be ready, sipping on pear mimosas the staff passed out to soothe antsy guests. The lobby is huge, with plentiful comfortable seating areas and a view of the Choptank River that's simply spectacular.

The Hyatt Chesapeake Bay has 400 rooms in a sprawling, 400-acre waterfront resort. The hotel charges a $20 resort fee per room, per stay, to cover some of the activities, including tennis, swimming pools (indoors and out), game rooms, hiking and biking trails, miniature golf, beach volleyball and more.

Our room on the sixth floor was superb — especially spacious and with a vaulted ceiling and water view to boot. If the weather had been warmer and if the step-out balcony had been the kind you could sit on, we might have enjoyed spending the entire weekend right there. But we wanted to get out, see the resort grounds and spend some time at the indoor pool. What we didn't realize was that the pool would be pretty much overtaken by children and their inflatable water toys. It's not a huge pool to begin with, and filled with dozens of super-enthusiastic (i.e. screaming) water babies, it wasn't exactly the atmosphere for a couple. The Hyatt provided a list of weekend activities that did note the pool was reserved for "adult swim" from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. That didn't fit our schedule.

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