The Northeast is just spectacular for summer vacations, which is why folks flock here from all over the country at this time of the year. If your family (large or small) is looking to join an adventure scene or just relax in nature, close to your home in the Capital Region, enjoy our suggestions on local vacation trips.
Tripping to Dorset, Vermont
With so many lovely places in neighboring Vermont to visit, I believe Dorset is still a wonderful and well-kept secret. The Village Green is as near perfect as any in the world that I have seen. The Green is dotted with romantic dining and lodging and village stores with everything you would need for a picnic or Vermont food shopping. What I mean by Vermont shopping is shopping for the perfect syrup and honeys, grabbing some of the best Northeast cheese you will ever have, gourmet locally roasted coffee beans and coffee and so much more! Vermont is an overlooked culinary experience.
Back woods with hiking and easy walking trails showcase Dorset, Vermont’s wildlife – wild birds in particular. Grab your bird books, your binoculars and a great sense of awe and wonder.
The Norcross-West Quarry is the oldest marble quarry in North America and what a great treat to swim in. Unique and refreshing and a must-do when visiting. It is internationally known and for the brave at heart. Come on; if I can do it, you can do it.
There is great summer theater, farmers markets, festivals and so much to relax and unwind.
‘Unearthing’ the paranormal
The Old Stone Fort
Well, you don’t have to travel too far for this fun, if you love to be frightened. The Old Stone Fort in Schoharie was built as a church in 1772, then fortified during the American Revolution in 1777. It was the scenes of some bloody attacks during that time. Of course, there is a cemetery (what would be a haunting without one). The staff and guests at The Old Stone Fort have reported “feeling a presence try to stop them from going upstairs, hearing a woman scream from the tower, and even seeing apparitions in the doorway to the library. It’s also not unusual to hear footsteps on the second floor when no one is up there.”
145 Fort Road in Schoharie | 518.295.7192 | hauntedhistorytrail.com
Fort William Henry
We all know and love the Lake George Fort but have you thought about it from a paranormal point of reference? According to HauntedHistoryTrail.com and from our local history, we know the grounds surrounding Fort William Henry had also been the scene for countless battles, terrible disease and harsh climate. A tour of the fort for any reason will point all this out but when you have hundreds of years of history, there are bound to be some ghosts and hauntings.
48 Canada Street, Lake George | 518.668.5471 | fwhmuseum.com
The Finger Lakes Region
FingerLakes.com describes the Finger Lakes as a wonderland of deep gorges, cascading waterfalls, sparkling lakes, and acres of forests, farms and vineyards.
This writer says great historical significance, gourmet food, pristine surroundings, Nascar racing and of course, wine is what the area offers visitors from near and far.
Craft beer, craft food and new European style wineries like Heart & Hands on Cayuga Lake, as well as Bellwether on Keuka Lake, Anthony Road on Seneca Lake and the ever popular and entrenched Dr. Constantine Frank Winery create a complete journey of indulgence.
Eat, drink and explore then crash at one of the many quaint B & Bs and inns; there will certainly be another glass of adult beverage waiting, if you are still thirsty!
Another Vermont treasure lies a bit farther for the Capital Region (about 2 hours) but so well worth a trip and for at least a few days. This is another wonderful example of classic Vermont. Passing by the country’s largest display of covered bridges, this year-round resort community is all about the Farm to Table scene and frankly, countrified sophistication.
I recommend checking out the artisans and their work which are plentiful in Woodstock like Andrew Pearce bowls and boards, Stave puzzles and, of course, Simon Pearce glass.
Quechee, Vermont is within minutes where swimming will not only bring relief from summer heat but a lifelong supply of spectacular photos at Quechee Falls and State Park.
This affluent yet very country casual town is a favorite of many Capital Region families for good reasons in all seasons but the summer is just a feast for the eyes.
Check out one of my favorite resorts in the northeast which just happens to be Woodstock’s crowning jewel, The Woodstock Inn & Resort below.
— By Vikki Moran | The Grateful Traveler
Erie Canal Historic
waterways and new adventures
Two hundred years after the construction of the Erie Canal, we continue to live and thrive in the cities that the canal had a large part in developing alongside it. While the days of commercial trade led by mule and barge have long since passed, travelers still come through on the same route, marveling at the fantastic engineering feat that enables boats to travel from Lake Erie to the Hudson River and beyond, lowered and lifted dozens of feet through the series of locks that connect us and allow us to pass on through.
Walking along the Waterford Harbor recently I met a friendly boater relaxing onboard The Rambunctious, a cruiser she shares with her husband. I plunked down for a conversation that can only seem to occur between voyager and landlubber, yearning to listen about her adventures as much as she wanted to share. Midge Johnson and her husband, Walt, have been on the water for nearly a year completing the “Great Loop,” a journey along waterways throughout the whole eastern part of North America; it’s a trip they have wanted to make for the past 30 years.
“It’s really been the trip of a lifetime” Midge says.
They have set anchor at dozens of ports and have traveled hundreds of miles since setting sail from Dock of the Bay in Sandusky, Ohio, but she says the Capital Region and its canal system hold their own charm, when compared with all the rest.
“This area is really vying for one of our favorites,” she said.
Cruise the Erie Canal and adjoining waters
You don’t need to own a boat to get out and enjoy the Erie Canal and nearby waters. The Captain J. P. Cruise Line in Troy is a four-deck cruise ship that offers various cruises on the Hudson, including a Friday night music cruise and narrated cruise Sundays with a brunch buffet, as well as others that include dancing and entertainment from local comedians. Prices range from around $20, to $33-$43 with dinner included. (captainjpcruise.com)
Dutch Apple Cruises in Albany also explores the Hudson with sightseeing trips, in addition to special cruises from $20-$50, like the Jerry Garcia Birthday Cruise August 1 with live music from Gratefully Yours, and a country cruise with 100.9FM The Cat for $25.25 pre-sale. (dutchapplecruises.com)
Ride the only stern-wheel riverboat on the Champlain Canal, the Caldwell Belle, navigating water as shallow as three feet for $15-$20 per adult. The Belle’s home port is near the village of Schuylerville with Mohawk Maiden Cruises.
Within an easy drive, Erie Canal Cruises in Herkimer gives people the opportunity to listen to an award-winning “Living History” cruise for $59, as well as a Friday night dance party cruise for $20. (eriecanalcruises.com)
Upstate Kayak Rentals
If you want to paddle the waters but don’t have your own kayak, there are more options around the region than ever. Self-service rental hubs are available in five locations around the Capital Region, where, after making a reservation online, you will be sent a code that uses Bluetooth technology right from your smartphone to unlock a kayak. If you feel more comfortable renting from someone who can help with tips and route information, rent your kayak from the Waterford Boat Launch or the Mohawk Harbor in Schenectady. It costs $20 to rent a kayak for two hours, and open hours are Tuesday-Friday (11am-6pm) and Saturdays and Sundays (10am-5pm). (upstatekayakrentals.com)
Upstate Kayak Rentals employee Stephanie Dumont says “You can’t bring your stress on the water in a kayak; it just melts away. It’s a world away from the city.”
Corning GlassBarge The sun shining on the canal on clear summer days makes the slow-moving water look like liquid glass. In honor of the voyage the Brooklyn Flint Glass Company made 150 years ago to Corning via the New York waterways to become The Corning Museum of Glass, the public is invited on the water to get a close-up look at the glassmaking process. Throughout the summer, a 30 by 80-foot canal barge loaded up with all-electric glassmaking equipment will be stopping at various ports from Kingston to its final stop back to Corning in September. The GlassBarge stopped in our region including Troy, Waterford, Amsterdam, Canajoharie and Little Falls. (cmog.org)
Lois McClure Traveling with the GlassBarge from the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum is the Lois McClure, a replica of an 1862 sailing canal boat. Visitors will be able to go aboard the schooner 88 feet in length, which was designed to sail from faraway ports, and then lower its masts to travel the canal.
Hike or cycle the towpaths
Trek the same steps made by mules and “hoagies,” or the boys who led them in the early days of the Erie Canal in the canalway trail stretching from Buffalo to Albany. The 20th annual Cycle the Erie Canal Tour has quickly filled up with more than 650 cyclists interested in the 4-day and 8–day rides taking place July 8-15, but there is still room for the 2-day tour from Canajoharie to Albany on July 14-15 for $325. Communication Coordinator with Parks & Trails New York Jonathan Duda says that this is a historically significant ride, as it’s because of the canal that the western part of the country expanded as it did. “It is such a monumental piece of American history that [cyclists]can see right then and there,” Duda says. “You don’t have to be on the water to appreciate it.” New this year for 2-day and 4-day cyclists is a shuttle service available to transport cyclists’ gear for a fee. The ride culminates at the Albany Visitors Center in Quackenbush Square, celebrating with live music and food trucks. Enjoy nature and history at the 600-acre Vischer Ferry Preserve off Riverview Road. There’s a segment of the original 1825 Erie Canal and towpath, along with structures of the 1842 Enlarged Erie Canal and the present-day New York State Barge Canal. Check out the 1862 Whipple Truss Bridge, as well. In addition to learning about the canal evolution, it’s a great site to explore the wetland ecosystem and Audubon NY has identified the preserve as wonderful bird watching area. cliftonparkopenspaces.org/locations/vischersferry.
You can learn about the Erie Canal in downtown Albany, too. The State Museum is offering an exhibit and related programs on Enterprising Waters: New York’s Erie Canal. Check out the exhibit and schedule of events. nysm.nysed.gov.
Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site
At Fort Hunter, see all three eras of the Erie Canal and the 1841 Schoharie stone aqueduct that carried the water from the Enlarged Erie Canal, over the Schoharie Creek. Also on view at the Visitors Center, open Wednesday-Sunday, are artifacts from the 18th Century Fort Hunter and Lower Castle Mohawk Village. The Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site presents a summer filled with music, history, education, storytelling and a canal days fest. Check out the schedule at parks.ny.gov/events.
CanalFest at Mabee Farm
The CanalFest is a family-friendly event packed with activities such as barn-raisings, campfire demos, a petting zoo and pony rides, live music, and much more! This free event, at the historic Mabee Farm in Rotterdam Junction, is scheduled for July 14 from 11am-3pm and will include demonstrations inspired by the Erie Canal in honor of its 200th anniversary celebrated last year. schenectadyhistorical.org/canalfest.
The annual gathering of steamboats comes to Waterford on July 7 as part of a circuit they make each summer at various ports in our area. Visitor Center Coordinator Chris Callaghan describes the captains as hobbyists skilled in their mechanical abilities to be able to work on the high-pressure steam engines and says many build their own steamboats and maintain them. “You’d think that they’d be very noisy,” he says, “but they’re actually whisper-quiet.”
Around 30 tugboats will also dock at the Port of Waterford September 7-9 for the annual gathering of tug boats, with a tug parade and tug tours available. There will also be a beer barge, live music, vendors and a firework display on September 8.
Dragon Boat Races
When is the last time you’ve seen a dragon on a river? How about a whole fleet? In early Chinese history, decorated dragon boats were used in ceremonies to ward off illnesses and other problems related to the coming heat and humidity of summer. Picture a 40-foot canoe with a painted dragon head in front, tail in back, and 20 rowers in between, and you have a dragon boat and crew. Upwards of 20 boats will be thundering through our waterways on August 18 in the first-ever dragon boat races for our area. The event is free and can be viewed from the Port of Waterford.
Riverside concert series
What better concert scene is there than along the river on warm, summer nights? Check out the weekly concert series in Albany, Schenectady and Troy and check out the lineup of bands on the websites below:
Rockin’ on the River – Hosted at Troy’s Riverfront Park Wednesday evenings from 5:30-8pm until August 8 (except July 4). downtowntroy.org
Harbor Jam Concert Series – Saturday nights from 6-8pm at the Mohawk Harbor Amphitheater at Rivers Casino in Schenectady until August 11. discoverschenectady.com
Alive at 5 – 5-8pm Thursdays at Jennings Landing, Albany, until August 2 (except July 5). Rain location at the Corning Preserve Boat Launch. albany.com.
— By Lindsey Shumway
Woodstock Inn entrance exterior at dusk: Courtesy of Woodstock Inn & Resort
About two and one-half hours from our home in Brunswick and perhaps a bit farther from other Capital Region towns lies the affluent yet country casual village of Woodstock, VT and its jewel in the center of the city, The Woodstock Inn and Resort. I have been to the property and yes, have even written about it, but the most recent renovations and creative culinary changes brought me back to the resort and happily so. While the Woodstock Inn and Resort has always been beautiful and impressive, now there is a new creative spirit and employee pride that is a delight for travelers to experience. The Woodstock Inn and Resort now rivals all others in the northeast. I have to begin with the road trip itself. Wow, what an excellent experience traveling through small cities and towns while traveling north to Woodstock. The route has everything: covered bridges, mountains, farms, quaint stores and places to stop and take it all in.
The Inn was founded by Laurance and Mary Rockefeller, so it is not a surprise that the Inn features only excellent craftsmanship. Throughout the elegant property, there are artisanal amenities that echo Vermont’s authentic country style. Laurance lived to be 94 and was an early leader in venture capitalism and a devoted conservationist. Laurance married Mary French, granddaughter of Frederick Billings, and adored the farm and woodlands of Woodstock, VT. Many confirm that Woodstock cemented in Laurance the commitment to conservation. Mary’s family, the Billings, were already prominent members of Woodstock when they married. Today the Billings (family) Farm & Museum is one of the most beautiful outdoor history museums in the country. It still is a fully-operating Jersey dairy farm full of educational exhibits and interactive programs and events for any family to enjoy. It’s close to the Inn that bears such a striking historical connection through its founders. It is a must-see, and the Inn can make it happen for you.
The Renovations and current creative edge
No expense has been spared in renovations, and the principal designer of the project was Paul Duesing, of the hugely acclaimed resort interior design and architecture firm Paul Duesing Partners. He has worked with hundreds of five-star hotels and resorts, including Capella Pedregal (Cabo San Lucas, Mexico), Tucker’s Point Club (Bermuda), and the Royal Livingstone (Victoria Falls, Zambia). Duesing’s designs are recognized for their affinity to local heritage. The beauty of Vermont and Dueseing’s philosophy is certainly apparent and appreciated at The Woodstock Inn and Resort. The renovation numbers for the guest rooms alone is 6.5 million dollars and overall 16 million was spent over a three year period.
Food and the senses
Gardener Benjamin Pauly and Resort Executive Chef Rhys Lewis are on board to celebrate the bounty of Vermont and their own Kelly Way Gardens as well as the newly designed Red Barns. On Sundays in July and August for evenings of dining featuring the local artistry of Vermont’s Cheese Makers, Farmers, Beekeepers, and Dairymen while celebrating the bounty of Kelly Way Gardens. A calendar of Red Barn events celebrating the bounty of flowers, herbs and vegetables is on the following page. What a team these two professionals make! The Kelly Way Gardens under Ben Pauly and his group of five devoted gardeners and interns are just amazing, harvesting the veggies and greens for the day’s meals under the consultation with Chef Lewis. These dinners are selling quickly so if you are interested, call very soon. Ben Pauly explained, “Diversity is the fun aspect of everything we do; it is all about the taste” and I can tell you first-hand that this philosophy is paying off. You can also enjoy sensory bliss by walking through the garden. The views from the 3 acres of certified organic culinary and cutting gardens may be the best from Kelly Way. Other relaxing activities include Slow Tea in the Garden where you can enjoy a spot of organic herbal tea and honey made from the garden, and held in the garden – a perfect place to relax. Check with the Inn for times and fees. Executive Chef Rhys Lewis has also transformed the cuisine at the Inn from very good to excellent, from breakfast to afternoon tea and cookies to dinners at The Red Rooster or Richardson’s Tavern, in addition to these restaurants, is the The Fairway Grill (more great views and food) and of course the special dinners at The Red Barns at Kelly Way Gardens.
Woodstock Inn Calendar ~ Kelly Way Garden ~
July 7 – The Culinary Herbalist
July 7 – Tour & Tasting
July 8 – Red Barn Dinner
July 14 – Seasonal Florist: The Petal Jedi of July
July 14 – Tour & Tasting
July 15 – Red Barn Dinner
July 21 – Edible Flowers and Great Garnishes
July 21 – Tour & Tasting
July 28 – How to Make a Great Garden Smoothie
July 28 – Tour & Tasting
July 29 – Red Barn Dinner
August 4 – The Tasty Tisane: Herbal Teas from the Garden
August 4 – Tour & Tasting
August 5 – Red Barn Dinner
August 11 – Seasonal Cut Flowers: Captivating Cuts in August
August 11 – Tour & Tasting
Billings Farm & Museum
Free for Inn guests! Experience the heart of rural Vermont at Billings Farm & Museum, just a 15-minute stroll from the Woodstock Inn. Meet the prize-winning Billings Jersey herd, draft horses, and other livestock, explore the fascinating 1890 Farm House, and attend an interactive program or two.
Activities and relaxation
Whatever your soul needs is what your vacation to Woodstock can deliver. There are pools to swim, nooks inside and spectacular lawns outside to read or nap or sip under the Green Mountains, and a spa that is as well staffed as I have ever seen. It has always been a pet peeve of mine that resorts pay so very much to create a gorgeous spa and then leave it understaffed, with guests waiting for answers, products, and services. This is NOT the case at Woodstock. The changing areas, saunas, steams, relaxing areas, hot tub, and pools are monitored continuously and serviced. This is a real spa facility akin to those in Europe. There is an Orvis© Endorsed Fly Fishing Program available as well as a New England Falconry program which is administered by experts and an incredible learning experience. The winter months usher in even more activities as well at the Tubbs Snowshoes & Nordic Adventure Center and Suicide Six Area which the resort owns. I have always viewed Vermont as New York’s quiet and pretty sister, but after spending time at the Woodstock Inn and Resort after their many changes and upgrades, my imagery has changed to add gracious and sophisticated.
The Woodstock Inn & Resort is located at 14 The Green, Woodstock, VT. 888.338.2745; woodstockinn.com.
— By Vikki Moran | The Grateful Traveler