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The lobby at Nine Zero. (Photograph courtesy Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants)

5 Green Winter Weekend Getaways

Vacation time can be in short supply after the holidays. Budgets are tight, and winter still has a long way to go.

Time to call in the weekend escape. The winter doldrums come with some good travel bargains in New York and New England – airlines drop their prices, hotels discount rooms, and restaurants offer specials, all to lure wayward travelers biding their time until the summer season returns.

Here are five Friday-to-Monday getaways from Maine to Manhattan that deliver friendly service and great food along with a palpable commitment to caring for the environment:

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The Conrad's chef, Anthony Zamora, tending his rooftop garden. (Photograph courtesy Conrad New York)

The Conrad (Manhattan, New York)
One of Manhattan’s newest and greenest hotels, the Conrad offers a totally different experience. The use of non-toxic indoor materials, a roof-top chef’s garden, water-conservation technology, and other environmentally friendly practices make it one of the first hotels in the city to find itself in line for the U.S. Green Building Council’s coveted LEED Gold certification.

The Battery Park hotel doubles as a haven for art lovers – from the 14-story Sol Lewitt “Loopy Doopy” mural to a Monica Ponce de Leon sculpture that includes 77 tons of aluminum. Cutting-edge smartphone technology, dubbed Conrad Concierge, is another first, allowing guests to personalize their rooms prior to arrival. This residential area is also dotted with neighborhood restaurants and shops, allowing guests to merge into the local scene.

Portland Harbor Inn (Portland, Maine)
Portland has garnered repeated praise for being one of the top U.S. cities to live in, and a weekend stay at the Portland Harbor Inn will quickly reveal why. Just one block from this elegant New England hotel, you’ll be immersed in a working waterfront where lobstermen still deliver their daily catch.

But don’t worry: you’ll be in the center of a kaleidoscope of live music venues, artisan boutiques, microbrew pubs, and a concentration of multiple award-winning farm-to-table restaurants that has earned Portland top recognition as an up and coming food capital (Emilitsa Restaurant, owned by two Greek brothers, rivals even New York’s top establishments). And winter doesn’t dampen the party atmosphere, as locals head out on the town in droves on Friday and Saturday nights to fill the streets with festive action.

Nine Zero Hotel (Boston, Massachusetts)
With a complimentary wine hour each evening, a pet-friendly policy that allows Rover or Kitty  to room with you, and a prime location just two blocks from Beacon Hill and right across the street from Boston Common, the boutique Nine Zero Hotel may be the least known, best place to stay in the heart of historic Beantown.

And that’s even before considering the excellent guest services provided from check in to check out.  Restaurants and pubs abound nearby, including Hillstone – a rising-star culinary hotspot offering great local food and drink next to Faneuil Hall, which has served as a Boston meeting point and marketplace since 1742.

Camden Harbour Inn (Camden, Maine)

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Natalie's, at the Camden Harbour Inn. (Photograph courtesy Camden Harbour Inn)

If a classic Maine village sounds like the perfect antidote to a hectic work week, then snuggle beside the fireplace at Camden Harbour Inn, a two-hour drive north of Portland and a world away from the hustle and bustle of the modern world.

Antique homes line quiet streets, historic light houses mark the coastline, and lobster is ever-plentiful and often the cheapest thing on the menu (try it at the inn’s restaurant, Natalie’s). Maine’s tagline, “The Way Life Should Be” is a fitting tribute to Camden and its signature inn. You will not be the first visitor who came for a weekend and returned with ‘change my life’ plans to move here and become part of the friendly community.

Ink 48 (Manhattan, New York)
Skip the sanitized tourist zone of the once-trendy meatpacking district and head to Ink 48 (the renovated building once housed a printing press) in Hell’s Kitchen instead. This is NYC as it’s meant to be — a little gritty on the streets, but classy and comfortable the minute you walk through Ink’s doors.

In a city known for its foodies, the hotel’s Print Restaurant not only holds its own, but trumps much of the midtown culinary competition. Print’s owner, Adam Block, consulted on projects for Thomas Keller and Alice Waters, so expect lots of organic and sustainably sourced ingredients tastefully prepared.

The location also provides easy access to the theater, shopping, and other entertainment, but when you book on the weekend, you can expect the party come to you at Ink’s hip and popular, Press Lounge, a roof-top bar that offers stunning views of Gotham and the Hudson River. The mellow vibe and soft music mean you can actually have a conversation.

Costas Christ is Editor at Large at National Geographic Traveler, where his column, “Tales From The Frontier,” appears regularly.