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Getting a Spring Jump on Summer Vacations

April 08, 2001|ARTHUR FROMMER

Pardon me for jumping the gun, but if you want to snare a space on the best (and best-priced) of this summer's vacation opportunities, you need to book now. Here are five programs that will have openings for just a few more weeks:

* Mixing rural R&R in breathtaking surroundings with a stimulating stint of artisanship, the 400-acre Penland School in Penland, N.C., has been enriching people's lives for nearly three-quarters of a century. As of last week, it still had openings in courses covering glassmaking, drawing, weaving, photography, jewelry making and metal crafts. As you learn, you're also getting away from it all-no phones or TV but plenty of interesting, like-minded people as well as activities ranging from volleyball and swimming to dances.

Tuition this summer (through Sept. 1, after which only eight-week courses are available) is $310 to $380 a week; add three solid meals a day and dorm-style accommodations and your outlay starts at $700. (You can upgrade to more private lodgings for $70 and up per day.)

Telephone (828) 765-2359, Internet

* If a more musical getaway appeals, consider the summer program of the Country Dance and Song Society, an 86-year-old nonprofit organization based in central Massachusetts. Every year from early July through August, these fine folks run three summer camps in the eastern United States (25-acre Pinewoods, near Plymouth, Mass.; 200-acre Buffalo Gap in West Virginia's Appalachians; and 300-acre Ogontz in the White Mountains of New Hampshire). There you can wallow in traditional (mostly American and British) music and moves, from the ancient lute and the Delta banjo to 17th century minuets and the Virginia reel. There's also sword dancing, bagpipes, clogging, bluegrass ... we could go on and on.

For your $581 (with discounts for kids and first-timers), the weeklong programs put you up in rustic but well-maintained cabins, feed you all meals and cover all program fees. Get details at (413) 268-7426 or

* How about a chance to see the United States inexpensively while learning a little something and lending a hand where it's needed, in places like Appalachia and on Indian reservations?

Global Volunteers, based in Minneapolis, runs the projects, such as teaching, renovating homes and helping out in child care programs. Evenings and weekends often are free to take advantage of local sightseeing and culture. Thousands of volunteers in Global's 17-year experience have found this to be a rewarding way to spend vacation.

Your $450 payment covers room and board for a week and local transportation (but not air fare) to the program locale. Information: tel. (800) 487-1074,

* The Sierra Club sponsors 200 trips of varying duration, mostly one or two weeks, with some running into the autumn months, led by member specialists. These folks plan, propose and are responsible for the programs, which range in cost from $56 a day (for, say, exploring the northern Rockies in Montana or hiking the southern Shenandoahs in Virginia) to $71 a day (cycling the coast of Maine and Acadia National Park) to $85 a day (painting Sierra views aided by an expert instructor) to $89 a day (rafting the Hudson and Black rivers in the Adirondacks).

Call the outings department at the Sierra Club, (415) 977-5522, and ask for a free trip guide. Or go to

* Atlantic Canada-Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Cape Bre-ton, Halifax and St. Andrews-by-the-Sea-comes alive when the weather warms. And Atlantic Canada's Maxxim Tours announces its amazingly helpful self-drive arrangements for July through September.

A Maxxim specialist will fashion an itinerary for you and make the appropriate reservations at country inns, B&Bs and intimate hotels. You'll begin and end the trip in Halifax, Nova Scotia, flying there on Air Canada from the U.S.

Typical 10-night tours from Los Angeles cost $1,479 per person, double occupancy.

Contact Maxxim Vacations, Suite 200, 251 Empire Ave., St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada A1C 3H9; tel. (800) 567-6666 (9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays), http://www.maxximvacations .com.

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