Five unique accommodations in the Maryland area

You don't have to travel far to find a Hobbit hole, a lighthouse or other unique accommodations

May 15, 2014|By Chris Kaltenbach, The Baltimore Sun

No offense to conventional hotels, but sometimes you just want to stay someplace a little different, a little avant-garde, someplace you'll be able to tell the grandkids about someday.

You know, someplace that, once you post a picture on Facebook, will make every one of your 732 friends positively green with envy — or at least scratching their heads, wondering how you ever found this place.

(And preferably, someplace that won't require taking out a second mortgage to get there and hang out for a few days — which, regrettably, precludes anything atop Mount Kilimanjaro.)

With that in mind, here are five unique accommodations, all within easy driving distance of Baltimore, that are pretty much guaranteed to be unlike anywhere you've stayed before.

Living among the trees … or in a Hobbit hole

Maple Tree Campground

20716 Townsend Road, Rohrersville, Washington County

301-432-5585 or thetreehousecamp.com

$43-$72

75 miles from Baltimore

Butting up against the Appalachian Trail and 20 minutes from Antietam, Maple Tree Campground offers a rustic oasis just 90 minutes west of Baltimore. Which means, of course, lots of tents and trees, wooded trails and river rafting, camp fires and wildlife.

But this 20-acre campground, operated by the Soroko family since 1972, throws in a couple of unique twists. For those who have ever wanted to live like the birds or the butterflies, 10 treehouses offer the chance to sleep up there, on stilts between eight and 10 feet off the ground. With a capacity of six to 12, they're pretty basic: no wood stoves, no mattresses (just bunks). Eight are screened but largely open to the elements; two are more deluxe, enclosed and insulated.

"It takes people back to being a kid," says owner Louise Soroko, who's continuing down the path started when her mother, Phyllis, opened this Washington County campground for rentals in 1972. "Nature is always rejuvenating."

The campground's newest addition, perfect for Middle Earthers, is the Hobbit House: a 20-by-26-foot underground cottage with two skylights, a thatched roof and, presumably, plenty of pipe-weed for relaxation. Plans are to open it this summer, at a rate of $138 per night. While hobbits are known to be on the small side, however, Soroko assures that modifications have been made, especially with regard to the ceiling. "It's designed for tall hobbit people," she promises.

Living like our forefathers (and mothers) did

Colonial Houses — Historic Lodging in Colonial Williamsburg, Va.

888-965-7254 or colonialwilliamsburg.com/stay/colonial-houses

$135-$485

200 miles from Baltimore

Colonial Williamsburg has always offered visitors the chance to follow in the footsteps of Jefferson, Washington and others of our Founding Fathers. But did you know it offers to chance to sleep there, too?

Visitors can spend the night in 26 historic buildings, offering a total of 74 rooms. Sizes range from small "dependencies" — structures separate from the larger homes, once used as laundries, kitchens, lumber houses or for other ancillary purposes — to the 16-room Brick House Tavern, which dates to at least 1770.

"They are really authentic, and each one looks very different," assures Barbara Brown, communications manager for Colonial Williamsburg. "And you'll be staying right in the middle of the historic area."

While the rooms do offer modern amenities — heat, air conditioning, bathrooms, even flat-screen TVs — every effort is made to replicate the 18th-century experience of the people who would have lived in each particular house. Homes built for the gentry reflect those upper-class surroundings, while homes designed for the lower classes — such as The Quarter, a tiny two-story, three-room structure that was probably home to indentured servants or slaves — are furnished more sparsely.

And then there's the Colonial atmosphere of Williamsburg itself

"You might get up in the morning and hear some of our rare breeds of chicken, or something crowing in the morning, or you might have lambs bleating," Brown says. "You really feel like you're living in the 18th century."

All aboard!

Cass Scenic Railroad State Park

Cass, W.Va.

304-456-4300 or cassrailroad.com

$85-$119, plus train fare

250 miles from Baltimore

Cass Scenic Railroad State Park, in southeastern West Virginia, is a railroad fan's paradise. Steam-driven locomotives, smoke belching and whistles piercing, take visitors from the former logging town of Cass to the top of Bald Knob, at 4,800 feet among the highest points in the state.

Serious rail fans — and we're talking about the die-hards here — have a real treat in store for them, however. Visitors can spend the night in restored company houses, which is cool and all. But the park also offers accommodations in three old cabooses, for an experience even John Henry would envy.

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