THE United States is dotted with large, self-contained inland resorts, some of them 100 or more years old. During the fall, most have off-season or "shoulder" season rates. Though these prices are still relatively high, the advantages of these classic resorts make them worth mentioning.
I like five in particular, three in the West and two in the East:
* Sun Valley Resort, (800) 786-8259, www.sunvalley.com. This Idaho complex is a vacation village of multiple structures and is one of America's great ski resorts. Recent efforts have been made to enhance its spring, summer and fall use. You'll find a Robert Trent Jones Jr. golf course along with 18 tennis courts, ice skating at two rinks, a movie theater, multiple indoor and outdoor pools, trap and skeet shooting, day camps and play schools for children, family-style river trips, biking, fishing, hunting and horseback riding. Shoulder season rates (Oct. 23 to Dec. 17): $89 to $299 nightly for a room in the inn or lodge. Condos are $99 to $299 per night.
* The Bishop's Lodge, (800) 732-2240, www.bishopslodge.com. This resort, just outside Santa Fe, N.M., was the 19th century hillside retreat of Jean Baptiste Lamy, the first archbishop of Santa Fe and hero of Willa Cather's 1927 novel "Death Comes for the Archbishop." The complex is more than 1,000 acres and has 111 rooms and suites in adobe-style buildings with Southwestern furnishings. The chief activity is horseback riding along multiple trails. Trained cowboys accompany guests and prepare cookouts. There are also four tennis courts, skeet and trap shooting, a heated outdoor pool, indoor whirlpool and saunas, an exercise room, children's play area and hiking opportunities. In November and December, except holidays, standard rooms start at $149.
* Tanque Verde Ranch, (800) 234-3833, www.tanqueverderanch.com. This Tucson facility is one of the nation's most luxurious dude ranches, on 640 acres in the desert foothills near Saguaro National Park. The stable has 120 horses. Guests stay in authentically decorated ranch rooms, most with adobe fireplaces, outside private patios and air conditioning. Other amenities include horseback riding, tennis, swimming, guided hikes, mountain biking, nature programs, spa facilities, indoor and outdoor pools, a Jacuzzi, men's and women's saunas, an exercise room and a fully supervised children's program. Rates include three meals daily and all horseback riding. Shoulder season (Oct. 1 to Dec. 15) prices are $250 to $320 single occupancy, $295 to $420 double.
* Mohonk Mountain House, (800) 772-6646, www.mohonk.com. This Hudson Valley classic in New Paltz, N.Y., 90 miles north of New York City, is a sprawling, castle-like structure of 261 rooms. It is the oldest continuously operated large resort in America, dating to 1869, and it sits amid thousands of acres of unspoiled scenery. Guests can fish in Lake Mohonk or go hiking or boating. Rates include three meals daily; special rates Dec. 7 to 23 are $140 single or $220 double occupancy.
* The Gideon Putnam, (518) 584-3000, www.gideonputnam.com. This Saratoga Springs, N.Y., resort is expensive during the short, famous horse-racing season, from late July until Labor Day. The rest of the year, rates can be as low as $89 per night. It is a large, colonnaded building of reddish-brown brick, standing in the center of the lawns and forests of 2,000-acre Saratoga Spa State Park. It has 132 large rooms, decorated as in a fine country home. A short walk away are popular mineral-spring baths, and surrounding the hotel are two PGA golf courses, eight tennis courts, two outdoor swimming pools and jogging trails.