Jun 30, 2015

Exploring Otsego County, New York

When John and I were in Cooperstown we visited the Ommergang
Brewery which is part of the Cooperstown Beverage Trail. It is New York State’s first official cuisine trail.  Ommergang Brewery is located in a large building that is reminiscent of the breweries in Belgium. The tour of the Brew House points out the attention to detail in the production of Ommergang beers. The water comes from aquifers located on their property. At one time New York was a leading
producer of hops, in fact, at one time the area was the hops-growing capital of North America. The state doesn’t produce enough for the brewery so the hops they use are from Slovenia, Germany and America with special malts from Belgium, Germany and America. I was surprised by the variety of spices they use - paradise, ginger, star anise, cumin,
coriander and orange peel. Actually the Brew House is the kitchen of the brewery. Beer is not made in the Brew House – the “wort” is. The beer is produced in the large, metal vats outside the Brew House. After the tour we went into the bar at CafĂ© Ommergang where we enjoyed a tasting. Our guide explained the different brews and the spices that give the brews a unique flavor. 

Besides breweries, the Beverage Trail includes wineries, a distillery, and an historic cider mill.  The Fly Creek Cider Mill is a destination in itself and obviously a local family favorite. They have been in business since 1856 and have over the years grown and diversified.  Today the mill, besides making its renowned hard cider and selling apples, has a Marketplace. They have partnered with New York State’s Pride of New York so the store features many items grown and produced
throughout the state from pure maple syrup to fresh cheese curds.  There are plenty of foods to sample. In the restored barn adjacent to the mill is their restaurant and bakery where we bought their Cider Mill donuts to save for breakfast and pulled pork sandwiches ending with ice cream. Nestled in a quiet town the Mill has a picturesque setting with a pond, ducks and geese. I’d like to be there when the make the cider – the old fashioned way.  How do you know when they are making cider? The building is shaking!

John and I drove around the bucolic countryside. At the north end of Otsego Lake is Glimmerglass State Park with hiking trails and campsites plus the historic Hyde Hall, a National Historic Landmark. The neoclassic country mansion was built between 1768 and 1835.  It is on NYS’s Haunted Trail.  

Sadly there was not a presentation at the Glimmerglass Opera while we were there.  We had heard wonderful things about it. The other thing we missed was a boat tour on the Glimmerglass Queen but the drive around the lake was beautiful; luckily the forest on the east side of the lake has remains untouched. 

Upon leaving Cooperstown John and I drove north to Cherry
Valley and stopped at their museum.  The museum has an extensive collection but I most enjoyed the informative video.  This quiet little town is an example of survival.  Twice in the 1700s most of the residents were massacred but the survivors rebuilt their community which was once a popular stop for those going west.  The Erie Canal and then later the NYS Thruway bypassed it so now it is a quiet example of Americana. 

Jun 22, 2015

Visiting Clayton, New York

Once again the value of revisiting a place was driven home.  It had been years since we had been to the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton and the museum has expanded so it was as if we had never visited.   

Our main purpose for visiting Clayton was to check out the new hotel which we heard was the best in the 1000 Islands.  The 1000 Island Harbor Hotel has a wonderful location on the waterfront right in town.  Our room had a balcony from which we would watch the sunset each night.  The days were often
cloudy with some sprinkles but come sunset time the horizon was ablaze with color. We also enjoyed watching the ships pass by.  It was especially fun because we had a book called “Know Your Ships” so we could look up each ship to find out if it was a “salty” or a “laker” plus its home port and many other interesting facts about the vessel. (The book can be purchased at the Antique Boat Museum.) 

The first evening we hade a five-star dinner with a view of the river. Other nights we ate on the patio.  Each night we relaxed around their fire pits – great place to watch the sunset if one’s room doesn’t have a sunset view. The hotel is wonderful and they are open year round.  In the winter they have an ice bar which sounds awesome.  I wish we were going to be around to see it. This is definitely a place we want to return to.  It is a great place to celebrate that special occasion. 

On our way to Clayton we stopped at the Coyote Moon Winery.  Besides wine they had wine slushies and wine-infused jams and sauces. They also have a store in town with seating on the river which is an easy walk from the Harbor Hotel.  Both places have music at various times. 

We spent most of one afternoon in the Antique Boat Museum.   I loved their “Canoes to Go” display featuring portable boats.  We were able to take apart the folding canoe but had to ask for the cape boat to be explained.  It was a cape that when taken off and inflated became a canoe! The “Quest for Speed” has its own building which wasn’t open during our last visit.  There were speed boats, of course, and a video of some races.  I learned that the “World’s Fastest Bandleader” was Guy Lombardo. Lombardo
helped popularize the sport and, as a driver, won over a dozen Gold Cup victories between 1946 and 1953.  Another building is home to the “Oar Else” exhibit where I was in for another surprise.  On the wall there were illustrations from Essomarine advertisements by Dr. Seuss.  The characters are instantly recognized as Seussian. 
The highpoint of a visit to the Antique Boat Museum is a fun and informative ride in “Miss TI” a beautiful, gleaming Hacker-Craft triple-cockpit runabout that wends its way around the islands. Visitors can row a St. Lawrence Skiff for free. It seems today that if someone doesn’t have a boat or kayak they know someone who does. At one time boating was

Jun 8, 2015

Visit the Carousel Capital of the World - Binghamton

There is something magical about a carousel or a merry-go-round that appeals to all age groups.  The Binghamton area has been dubbed the Carousel Capital of the World because out of only 150 antique carousels remaining in the United States and Canada, six are in the Greater Binghamton area. All six are on the New York State Historic Register and the National
Register of Historic Places.  They are located in C. Fred Johnson Park in Johnson City, the George W. Johnson Park in Endicott, Highland Park in Endwell, Ross Park in Binghamton, West Endicott Park in Endicott, and Recreation Park in Binghamton.  John and I visited Recreation Park to see their carousel which is one of the most beautifully restored ones.  It was installed in 1925 and has 60 jumping horses, chariots and the original two-roll WurliTzer Military Band Organ with bells. All the carousels were made by the Allan Herschell Company in North Tonawanda in what is called the “country fair” style. 

The area owes its carousels to George F. Johnson, a shoe
manufacturer who, between 1919 and 1934, donated the six carousels to local parks because he felt they contributed to a happy life and would help youngsters grow into useful citizens.  So that everyone could enjoy the magic of a carousel ride he insisted that the rides should always be free and only required that “one piece of litter” be deposited in the receptacles instead of money. 

John and I also visited the Bundy Museum where we learned about the beginning of IBM.  The Bundy brothers opened a time recording clock company.  Time recording clocks were where workers “clocked” in when they went arrived at work and “clocked” out at the end of the day.  The company flourished and eventually grew into IBM. The house is a testament to the elegance and beauty of the Victorian age; however, there is much more to
see in the annex. There is a Broadcasters Hall of Fame next to their broadcasting studio. Especially fascinating was an exhibit dealing with one of their “favorite sons,” Rod Serling. Serling grew up in Binghamton and is best known as the creator of the Twilight Zone.  The displays include replaying some of his famed programs on a vintage TV along with many of the shows props and other artifacts.  

We parked near the Anthony Brunelli Fine Arts Gallery.  The works of Tice Leaner were on exhibit and it was a thought-provoking display of daily life of people in the Binghamton area – the people we never see. Tice tries to showcase life and “show what people walk by daily and ignore.” 

Visitors should not miss the Roberson Museum and Science Center
which has a variety of displays.  We found their “Vintage 1954-1964” a fun trip down memory lane.  In the more distant past their “Journey from our Prehistoric Past” is fascinating with a Randolph Mammoth skull as a centerpiece, the most complete mammoth specimen fount in NYS. Actually, there is a variety of displays to interest visitors. The model railroad display depicts what Binghamton, Johnson City, Owego, and Endicott looked like in the 1950s. There is also a pictorial history of the area. Connected to the museum is the 1904 Roberson Mansion with a sweeping grand staircase.

We know no visit to Binghamton is complete without enjoying their local specialty, spiedies, so we had lunch at Lupo’s where they lay claim to the “original” spiedie sandwich. 

Jun 1, 2015

Unique Places in Binghamton, New York

For years John and I have been driving Route 81 and finally stopped in Binghamton and visited the Cutler Botanic Garden. The Garden is one of about 360 gardens in the United States designated as a display garden for All-American Selections. Each year the staff previews the AAS winners that will be available commercially the following year. What started as a vegetable garden in the 1970s grew to become the cornerstone of Broome County’s Master Gardner program. Today the garden paths twist around gardens of perennials, wild flowers, herbs and more.  
There is a pretty rock garden, a heritage vegetable garden, and the Rose Walk is lined with Antique roses.  The Garden has a truly unique trail: The Shakespeare Trail. Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Shakespeare Dramatic Club of Binghamton have created a trail that identifies plants that are cited in the Bard’s works along with the quotation.  For instance: for the carnation the Winter’s Tale is cited. “Of trembling water, the fairest flowers of the season are our carnations, and streak’d gillyvors.” Very imaginative. We stopped a little too early in the season so most of the gardens were not at their peak. 

Another unique place we visited in the area was the Candyland
which is actually in Port Crane not far for the city of Binghamton and part of the Windy Hill Candy Factory.  They make their own candles including long tapers and floating votive candles. There are candles with every scent imaginable including ones that emit the luscious smell of apple pie and cinnamon buns.  My favorite candle was the one that had
money hidden in it.  They are created in batches of 500 and while all contain money only one in each batch will have a $100, $50, $20, $10, or $5.  Forty-five will have a $2 bill and the rest $1.  Great marketing. Of course, we bought one.  Besides candles and an amazing array of unique gift items the place is “Home to Candyland: The Sweetest Place on Earth.”  Have a favorite candy from your childhood that you thought was no longer available?  If it is still in production you may find it at Candyland where there are stacks of hard-to-find “retro” candies. 

In Binghamton, Clinton Street has been designated as Antique
Row.  The Old, Odd, and Unique is true to its name. At first the owner, Laddie Vanna, was only going to sell “guy gadgets” such as old cameras, tools, and hunting items but now he has an amazing variety of “stuff.” We stopped at The Mad Hatter Antiques.  Sadly my buying days are over because we need to downsize not accumulate more but I still love to browse in antique stores. The three floors are full of antiques, one-of-a-kind furnishings and collectables.  One of the great things about antique stores is that the owners always have time to chat. We enjoyed chatting with Joanna Scott who had often visited our area. 

Binghamton was one of our NYS getaway destinations for this summer.  We checked into the Holiday Inn which is located in the heart of downtown near the conjunction of the Chenango and Susquehanna Rivers. It turned out to be a great choice.  We walked up to the Galaxy Brewery where Michael Weisel and his son, Seth, explained their beer making. We returned to the hotel for dinner on the patio on the river front and enjoyed chatting with some of the walkers along the Riverwalk.  

May 27, 2015

Rochester's a great destination

Rochester is a great destination. Often dubbed the Flower City it was first known as the Flour City. At one point in time Rochester made more flour than any other place in the world. Even Queen Victoria reportedly stocked her kitchen with 6,000 barrels of Rochester flour because, “…it made the best cakes.” 

In the mid-1800s Rochester became the Flower City due in large part to nurserymen George Ellwanger and Patrick Barry then later Frederick Law Olmsted, called the Father of American Landscaping, who created the city’s park system. Other notables have left their mark on Rochester including George Eastman, Margaret Woodbury Strong, Susan B. Anthony, and George Long, Jr.  

George Eastman, a photographic pioneer and founder of the
Eastman Kodak, made photography available to the average person by creating small, easy-to-use cameras. The motto for the camera he introduced in 1888 was, “You push the button, we do the rest.”  A visit to Eastman’s house is to learn more about the man who claimed, “I want to make Rochester the best city in which to live and work.” At the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film see the historical development of photography in the Machines of Memory gallery, visit changing photographic exhibits, wander the gardens, and tour Eastman’s house, a National Historic Landmark.  

Margaret Woodbury Strong agreed with Plato who over 2000 years ago said, “Life must be lived as play.” A prolific collector of dolls and toys, Strong founded her namesake museum in 1968. Today it is larger and more dynamic than ever due to a major expansion project that was completed in 2006.  The carousel and diner are still by the entrance but the museum offers new adventures for young and old.  

On a quiet tree-lined street the home of Susan B. Anthony tells the story of a lady who dedicated her entire life to making America a better place for everyone.  She first became active in the temperance movement and joined the women's rights movement in 1852. She dedicated her life to getting “…women their rights and nothing less." Anthony died 14 years before women got the right to vote with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. 

Rochester is another city that owes its existence to the Erie Canal, which opened in 1825 creating an affordable western route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes.  Even Mary Jemison did not live in Rochester but her legacy lives on in the name of one of two local Erie Canal tour boats. The Mary Jemison, a 1931 historic wooden boat, honors the legacy of "the white woman of the Genesee," who chose to remain with her adoptive Seneca family after being taken captive as a child. The Mary Jemison departs from the trendy Corn Hill area traveling the Genesse River and the Erie Canal offering unique and different views of the Rochester area.

Seabreeze opened in 1879 where the main attraction was the shore-
side picnic area but mechanical rides soon arrived. In 1904 George Long, Jr. and his family brought a merry-go-round to Seabreeze beginning a family legacy that continues to this day with his great-grandchildren working at the park. The park has grown to include a water park with a wave pool and a variety of state-of-the-art thrill rides for all ages. Currently Seabreeze is North America’s 4th oldest operating amusement park with the Jack Rabbit the 3rd oldest operating roller coaster.

May 18, 2015

When in Vegas visit Red Rock Canyon

Las Vegas has changed dramatically over the years. Before the glitzy gambling areas of Las Vegas, the area was a stopover on the way west.  While much has changed since John C. Fremont traversed the valley in 1844.  At that time it was still part of Mexico.  The one thing that hasn’t changed much is the stunning scenery just outside the city.  There are tours of Red Rock Canyon but the best way to experience the area is in a private car. The 13-mile scenic driving loop has several places to pull over, park, and get out and explore. Bring a lunch and enjoy it in one of the scenic picnicking areas.

Red Rock Canyon, located 17 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip on Charleston Boulevard/State Route 159, was designated as Nevada's first National Conservation Area.  The area is 195,819 acres and is visited by more than one million people each year and besides the scenic drive there are more than 30 miles of hiking trails, rock climbing, horseback riding, mountain biking, road biking, picnic areas, nature observing and visitor center with exhibit rooms and a book store.

There is a daily entrance fee of $7 but access is free to those who have the America the Beautiful
Annual Pass or their Senior Pass, Access Pass, or Military Annual Pass. There is also a Red Rock Annual Pass. The first stop should be at the Visitor Center. While there are some exhibits inside the Visitor Center which has a great view of the Calico Hills most of the interpretive exhibits are outside. The exhibits are organized by earth, air, fire and water.

For the youngsters there is a “Junior ExplorerDiscovery Book.” Actually the book is informative for all ages. It’s filled with fascinating bits of information.  Learn how the Mojave Yucca survives in the desert by not shedding its dead leaves.  Instead the dead leaves droop done to shade the trunk. Animals have also adapted. The scaled skin of the Gila monster is
resistant to drying and the big ears of the Jackrabbit catch the cool breeze and it has reflective body hair.  There is information on how to be a friend of nature by leaving no trace and other fun facts.  The interactive displays explain the importance and impact of earth, air, fire and water on the unique environment of Red Rock Canyon. Bird watchers may be surprised to learn that there are nearly 200 different species in the canyon that range from a tiny hummingbird to a mighty eagle.

We have been to Red Rock several times over the years.  At one time it was easy to spot the wild burros and horses but now that there are more than a million visitors each year the wild animals have found quieter places so while they are still there it is not as easy to spot any.It is a hiker’s paradise with  a variety of trails that range from the easy to moderate to Lost Creek – Children’s Discovery Trail where there is a waterfalls at various times throughout the year along with petroglyphs and an agave roasting pit. The trail is a little less than a mile and takes about an hour.There are other things to do after visiting Red Rock – if there is time.  Bonnie Springs/Old Nevada and Spring Mountain Ranch are nearby and both are great places to visit.

May 11, 2015

Visiting Albany, NY is a capital idea

If you haven’t been to Albany recently put it on your travel calendar. The city hosts many festivals, concerts, and special events throughout the year but the most popular is the Tulip Festival held each year in May, but anytime is a good time to visit. 

Albany’s history spans four centuries. Commissioned by the Dutch East India Company in 1609 to report on the new world, Henry Hudson sailed the Half Moon to the upper reaches of the Hudson River. He told of the magnificent river and the bountiful area. In 1621 the Dutch set up trading posts. In 1664 the English sent warships and took over control renaming Fort Orange in honor of the Duke of Albany. Dutch merchants retained control over Albany's lucrative fur trade and continued to farm the fertile land along the Hudson. The people of Albany became a valuable source of contact between the British, the French, and the Iroquois. The area prospered and more immigrants attracted to the rich farmland arrived from Europe. Albany’s strategic location made it a critical player during the colonial wars and, with the completion of the Erie Canal, a hub for Westward Movement. 

All visits to Albany should begin at the Albany Heritage Area
Visitors Center in historic Quackenbush Square. See exhibits detailing Albany's rich history and be transported back through time by watching the center's orientation show “Albany: A Cultural Crossroads.” There are plenty of brochures and information about the region along with a knowledgeable staff ready to help plan a visit. Plan to visit the Quackenbush House located directly next to the Visitors Center. Built in 1736, it is the oldest remaining Dutch building in the city and today serves as a restaurant. 

The Visitors Center is where tours start. Guided tours by trolley, on foot, and even by horse drawn-carriages take visitors through Albany's neighborhoods and historic sites or see the city from the water on the Aqua Duck. Pick up the free “Capital City! A Walking Tour.”  

The best place to learn about the history of both Albany and New
York is at the New York State Museum. Artifacts related to the early Dutch settlement, a colonial rum distillery, the expansion of the city, and the daily life of past residents. Name your interest and you will find it at the museum from a 30-foot skeleton of an Atlantic Right Whale to the
Adirondack Wilderness Area to the birds of New York.  The Fourth Floor is home to a restored 1914 Carousel, which entertains visitors of all ages. There are several historic homes offering tours including the Schuyler Mansion, home of Revolutionary War General Philip Schuyler and his family and Cherry Hill, the 1787 home the Van Rensselaers. Tours are available of the USS Slater, a World War II Destroyer Escort. Today, only one of these ships remains afloat in the United States, the USS Slater. 

Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller wanted to create "the most electrifying capital in the world" with the centerpiece the Empire State Plaza, a complex of 10 buildings that has become a cultural center.  Take a tour of the Capitol building. Begun in 1867, construction continued until 1897 when Governor Frank S. Black declared the building finished, ending one of the longest running public works projects in the state's history. Of special interest is the Million Dollar Staircase with more than 70 faces carved into the pillars.