Albany NY: Beavers, Hamilton, and Artful Architecture

WHY GO: Beavers. OK, now that I have your attention: Albany NY history begins with a slick little creature, whose pelts were coveted in the 1600’s by the fashion plates of Europe, and were found in abundance in this Hudson River region.

Historical artifacts and portraits on display in exhibit on European settlement in Albany, New York on permanent display at the Albany Institute of History and Art.

Exhibit on European settlement in Albany, New York on permanent display at the Albany Institute of History and Art.

So, traders came to the new Dutch settlement, followed by colonists who flourished and became Bold Faced Names of the American Revolution. One of these rebels was Alexander Hamilton, who married an Albany gal, Elizabeth Schuyler, in her parental home. This home, of course, is open for tours and has become a popular attraction due to the success of the Broadway show.

Interior of front parlor at Schuyler Mansion where Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler were married.

Inside the formal parlor room at Schuyler Mansion where Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler were wed.

But Albany has other charms. It is the New York State Capital City, with a neo-classical Capitol Building that stands in juxtaposition to the lean, modern structures on the Empire State Plaza. There are parks and neighborhoods, excellent museums and historic sites, a haunted pub and other terrific eateries, and one lovely upscale Inn close enough to walk downtown, yet far enough to experience peace and quiet. The Getaway Mavens let you in on the best places to eat, snack, and stay. Follow along here…


Things To Do in Albany NY

 START: Discover Albany Visitors Center at Quackenbush Square. Listen to the “clip-clop” of a horse and carriage as you enter the “Welcome to Albany Exhibit” at the Visitor’s Center. With its abundance of beavers whose pelts were in demand in Europe for beaver-skin coats, this Hudson River town became an important New World trading port.

The Olde English Pub at the Quackenbush House in Albany NY.

Built in 1736, Quackenbush House was considered the oldest house in Albany, New York until it was discovered that 48 Hudson Avenue was constructed in 1728.

In 1754, Benjamin Franklin met with representatives of seven northern colonies to develop the “Albany Plan of Union” in defiance of the French during the French and Indian Wars. In 1825, the Erie Canal linked Albany to Buffalo and the Great Lakes, and in 1881, the city was wealthy enough to hire “starchitect” HH Richardson to design the Romanesque City Hall. By the end of the 19th century, the grand neo-classical New York State House, costing more than the U.S. Capitol Building, was completed.

The NY Capitol now anchors one end of the uber-modern Wallace Harrison designed Empire State Plaza that again put Albany on the architectural map in the 1960’s and 70’s. Pick up brochures and advice from Visitors Center staff, and head out to explore.

Schuyler Mansion front exterior.

TOUR: Schuyler Mansion State Historic Park. On December 14, 1780, Alexander Hamilton married Elizabeth “Eliza” Schuyler at her home in Albany, New York. Eliza was one of fifteen children born to Philip and Catherine Schuyler, a prominent family who often hosted the crème de la crème in their mansion, a city landmark on a hill overlooking the Hudson River. Thus began a long and fascinating relationship between one of America’s founding fathers and the City of Albany.

Schuyler Mansion interior room with yellow decor and flock wallpaper.

Shades of yellow and the infamous flock wallpaper at Schuyler Mansion.

It’s no surprise that visitation to the Schuyler home has increased by up to 600% since the musical, Hamilton, became a Broadway hit. Elizabeth married the famous Founding Father right in the front parlor – now undergoing restoration to its original colors. A second parlor, fully decorated in a profusion of golden yellow, would make a cage full of canaries jealous.

Schuyler Mansion interior with Ruins of Rome wallpaper in entry foyer.

“Ruins of Rome” wallpaper hand-painted by Italian artist Paolo Panini. This one at Schuyler Mansion’s entry foyer and second floor is a reproduction. Originals are so rare, only two are found in the USA. The one in the American Wing of  the Metropolitan Museum of Art comes from the demolished Van Rensselaer Mansion, also known as Rensselaerwyck.

There’s been much written about the home and its elements – wallpaper, paint colors, period furniture. It was, for the time, the height of luxury. The hand-painted Panini “Ruins of Rome” wallpaper in the entry foyer was meant to wow visitors. While the flock wallpaper from France, seen in several rooms, cost as much as one tenant farmer would pay in rent over the course of 13 years.

But what’s really exciting about this tour is hearing both the whitewashed version of Philip Schuyler (“major player in the military during the Revolutionary War”) and, shall we say, the “off-color” version (to grab land, he destroyed Iroquois villages, leading to the death of 5,000 – 15,000 Native Americans; he abused laudanum, an opioid solution, to assuage pain from gout; he drank gallons of Madera Wine; and he was a fan of erotic books, the porn of the day. “15 kids – understandable,” quipped the guide).

Katherine, a Van Rensselaer and the “10th wealthiest American in history,” was but a teen when Philip courted her. She and Philip were married just five months before their first child, Angelica, was born. Only eight of their 15 kids survived beyond childhood, and only six outlived Katherine.

Schuyler Mansion Federalist Papers desk display.

Alexander Hamilton began his law practice in Albany NY where he had access to his father-in-laws legal library, the 2nd largest in New York at the time. Later, historians believe that he wrote 3 of the 85 Federalist Papers at Schuyler Mansion.

The hour-long tour covers slavery (the Schuyler’s owned 8 – 15 enslaved humans), Schuyler personalities, and the room in which Alexander Hamilton wrote three of his Federalist Papers. Open Mid-May – October, Wed-Sun 11-5 (in July and August opens at 10am), $5 adults, 12 and under free.

Million Dollar staircase at New York State Capitol in Albany NY.

TOUR: New York State Capitol. The neo-classical New York State House, designed by Isaac Perry and completed in 1899 at a cost of $25 million, is worth stopping into if only to see the Great Western Staircase. Better known as the “Million Dollar Staircase,” four flights of sandstone steps are festooned with ornate carvings and 77 stone faces of celebrities of the day, including Abe Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Lincoln, it’s said by some, still haunts the place.

Capped by a skylight that was covered over during WWII, and restored to its original stained glass beauty in 2002, this magnificent stairway needs no other art or embellishment.

New York State Assembly room seen from overlook in Visitors Gallery.

On the 4th floor you’ll find the State Assembly Visitor’s Gallery, with a bird’s eye view of the proceedings in a magnificent room. In the fall, sign up for chilling Capital Hauntings tour. One hour tours are free, Mon-Fri. 10, 12, 2, 3, Sat. 10am, 1pm. In the fall, sign up for the chilling Capital Hauntings tour. Or take this self-guided audio tour during working hours 7am-7pm.

Art collection on walls of underground tunnels of Empire State Plaza Concourse in Albany NY.

WALK: Empire State Plaza Concourse from the Capitol building to New York State Museum. Take the escalator from the lobby of the NY State Capitol Building to the lower level Concourse, a quarter mile hall that extends beneath the entire Empire State Plaza and is lined with vendors, the Empire State Plaza Visitor’s Center, and a unique collection of Mid-Century Modern Art (including a Robert Motherwell carpet, of all things).

Visitors can stroll at their leisure to explore the labyrinthian underground city that leads to the New York State Museum. Plaza Visitor’s Center open Mon-Fri 8:30-4:30, Tours of Empire State Plaza Art Collecton every Monday at 1pm (except government holidays), free.

September 11, 2001 Exhibit at New York State Museum

The New York State Museum has the largest collection of artifacts from the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

 VISIT: New York State Museum. Climb into an old NYC Subway car. Go into the Adirondack wilderness without leaving Albany. Meet the loggers who wrestled with nature and the rugged individuals and native animals that make this mountain range their home. Tuck into an Iroquois longhouse or come face-to-face with a woolly mammoth. Don’t miss a free ride on the Historic Carousel on the 4th floor that runs every 15 minutes.

The New York State Museum presents endless corridors devoted to the flora and fauna of the Empire State, as well as exhibits about NY’s human story – from the joys of Sesame Street to the tragedy of the World Trade Center’s Rescue, Recovery, and Response. Free, donations are accepted, Monday – Saturday, 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Last ride on Carousel at 4:30.

Empire State Plaza Concourse in Albany NY on a sunny day.

EXPERIENCE: Empire State Plaza & Corning Tower. If you got to the Museum through the underground Concourse, you’ll want to get above ground to the Plaza heading back. The best overview of the whole shebang is from the entrance of the NY State Museum – the vista is of a reflecting pool and ten graceful modern buildings that surround it. “The Egg” – a six-story performance hall that looks more like a flying saucer – is the most iconic.

But tourists flock to the Corning Tower for the swift elevator ride to the 42nd Floor Observation deck and its unsurpassed views of the Hudson River, Albany, the Catskills and Adirondacks (NY), Green Mountains (VT), Berkshires (MA), and beyond. Corning Tower open Mon-Fri. 10-4, free.

In winter, ice skating on the plaza is one of the most romantic things to do in the Capital Region. While in summer, the Capital Concert Series, which includes a spectacular fireworks display on the 4th of July, draws huge crowds.

Hudson River School paintings

VISIT: The Albany Institute of History & Art (AIHA). Though small, this art and history institution, first opened in 1907, has a first rate collection of Hudson River School paintings; a school of art that seems to be coming back into vogue. Yes, there are well-curated galleries containing artifacts from Ancient Egypt and another depicting the Character and Culture of Albany and Upper Hudson River (heavy on pelt trading, Dutch settlers, and West Indies influence).

The cornerstone of AIHA, however, is its 3rd floor gallery, showcasing a large collection of paintings – 83 in all – from the Hudson River School of Art. You’ll find the full spectrum – from the flaming sunsets of Frederick Church, to works by the “Father of the Hudson River School,” Thomas Cole, and even a rare landscape by Sarah Cole, Thomas’s sister, that she painted in the mid-1830’s. Works from William Hart and Homer Dodge Martin figure prominently. This ongoing exhibit is thrilling for all who appreciate mountain and river landscapes suffused with the poetic romanticism of the mid 1800’s. Open Wed-Sat 10-5 (until 8pm Thurs), Sun 12-5, $10 adults, $6 kids.

First Church exterior.

GO: The First Church. Albany NY is the oldest chartered city in the United States, dating back to 1686, although evidence of European settlement can be seen in architecture dating back even further back.

First pulpit at First Church in Albany NY.

Imported from the Netherlands in 1656, the oldest pulpit in America still serves its purpose at First Church.

The Schuyler family belonged to the First Church (designed by Philip Hooker in 1798), which is home to the Reformed Church in America. Established in 1642, this is the second oldest congregation in the United States. 

Exterior view of USS Slater destroyer docked on Hudson River.

TOUR: USS Slater (Destroyer Escort Vessel). Those who appreciate naval ships from WWII won’t want to miss a tour on the USS Slater. Launched in Tampa Florida in 1944, it was named for 22-year-old Frank Slater, killed in action off Guadacanal in 1942. Open April – Nov, Wed-Sun 10-4, $9, must take guided tour.

Dutch Apple Cruise boat docked on Hudson River.

TOUR: Dutch Apple Cruise. Modeled on the Hudson River dayliners of an earlier era that ferried passengers between Albany and New York City, Dutch Apple Cruises offers sightseeing tours of the Hudson River. Couples love the sunset tours; special events such as the Father’s Day BBQ or Golden Oldies tour sell out quickly. Open April – Nov, see calendar for tour schedule.

TOUR: Shaker Heritage Society. Only two Shakers remain–at Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in New Glouster, ME–of the visionary religious group that shaped American culture. But the very first Shaker Settlement–established in Albany, New York in 1776– persists as a living history museum, with educational workshops and a popular crafts fair. (Barn weddings here are especially beautiful.) Open March – Nov, Tuesday-Saturday, 10am-4pm; Nov-Dec, Mon-Sat, 10am-4pm.

Interested in Shaker culture and history? Consider a visit to the Canterbury Shaker Village in New Hampshire, an active site until recently.

EXPLORE: Washington Park. If you can, time your visit to historic Washington Park during the annual Tulip Festival. It’s quite a sight to see over 100,000 bulbs in bloom. But, any time of year, the Olmsted-inspired green space is one of Albany’s loveliest attractions.

Lupines bloom on the pine barrens of Pine Bush Preserve in Albany, New York.

WALK/NATURE: Albany Pine Bush, One of the largest Pine Barrens in the world, Albany Pine Bush’s sandy soils host fields of wild lupines that feed the endangered Blue Karner Blue Butterfly. And that’s just one of many uniquely beautiful attractions at this preserve that makes it a great place to get fit while battling NDD (Nature Deficit Disorder).

Recreational pursuits at the Albany Pine Bush, designated a National Natural Landmark in 2014, change with the season. This is Albany, after all, and we know how to revel in snow. Winter brings plenty of the white stuff for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Come the warmer months, and choices expand to include hiking, biking, kayaking, fishing – fly fishing is a cardio sport, right? Free, The Preserve trails are open year round, 24/7, Discovery Center open Mon-Fri. 9-4, Sat & Sun 10-4.

Minelot Falls in Thatcher State Park

HIKE: Thatcher State Park. Passing under Minelot Falls and along the fossil rich ledges of the  Helderberg Escarpment, the 1-mile Indian Ladder trail is a relatively easy and scenic hike. Other attractions include the Emma Treadwell Thacher Nature Center and the new Wild Play Adventure Course. The park is open year round, 7am until sunset, but the Adventure Course and hiking trails are subject to seasonal closures.

EXPLORE: Upper Madison. This ever-evolving neighborhood encompasses the popular Madison Café (see Where to Eat), a seemingly under-renovation Theater, a tidy coffee shop (Skyline Coffee) notable for it wall murals and cold-brew tower, and an assortment of restaurants including the new and growing in popularity Madison Pour House.

WANDER: Lark Street. Bohemian artists, brownstone buildings, and trees line what Metroland, the Capital Region’s alternative newsweekly, describes as the “warm pulse within Albany’s black heart, the flower busting up through the concrete edifice of the Empire State.” Purple prose perhaps, but Lark Street (between Madison and Washington Avenues, inspires passion from visitors and residents alike. Art on Lark is the second largest street festival in upstate New York, second only to LarkFEST, the largest one day street festival in New York.

Exterior of Palace Theater in downtown Albany.

GO: Palace Theater. Once the third largest movie theater in the world, Albany’s Palace Theater was built as an RKO movie palace in 1931. And it’s still a grand place to take in classic movies like “Rebel Without a Cause” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

A number of touring musicals, comedy performances, and famous artists pass through each year. But as the home of the Albany Symphony Orchestra, it is the adventurous programs spearheaded by the Capital Region’s beloved Grammy Award-winning conductor, David Alan Miller, that capture the hearts of young audiences.

Nipper Statue on rooftop in Albany NY

SEE: NIPPER.  Look up to the roof to spot the world’s largest Nipper statue. Best known as the RCA Records mascot, the terrier mix adds a dash of whimsy to the Albany skyline. 7 Tivoli Street, Albany, NY

Madison Cafe in Albany NY.

Where To Eat in Albany NY

EAT/BREAKFST-BRUNCH: Café Madison. This popular breakfast spot, decked out in vibrantly colored walls enhanced by equally vivid Toulouse Lautrec-ish art, is consistently packed, often with lines out the door. Near St. Rose college in the recently branded “Upper Madison” section of Albany, Café Madison dishes out plenty of clever egg concoctions, but also yummy Asian Buffalo Cauliflower Salad ($12), Tofu Scramble ($12), Fried Oatmeal (2 slices with maple syrup, $6), and other fantastic tweaks on the morning meal.

BLT sandwich at Cuckoos Nest.

EAT: The Cuckoo’s Nest. This Southern food joint just proves that you can succeed in the “College Ghetto” of Western Ave (near Frats and Sororities) if you’re good enough. And The Cuckoo’s Nest is. In spades. Munch on small bites, like Fried Green Tomatoes with Pimento Cheese, Bacon and Buttermilk Dressing ($10.50), choose from among the “Biscuit Situation,” ($9-$11) or “Soul Bowls” ($14 – $16, one with “Hot Chicken”), or order my new favorite lunchtime temptation – the FGBLT (Fried Green Bacon Lettuce Tomato) Sandwich, which will put you off of the bland red tomato version forever. Seems like chef/owners Devin Ziemann and fiancé Kaytrin Della Sala, who also own Crave across the street, have another hit on their hands.

Jacks Oyster House Restaurant exterior

CLASSIC DINNER: Jack’s Oyster HouseAn Albany institution just a stone’s throw from the Capitol Building, Jack’s Oyster House has seen its fair share of politicking. Since it opened more than a hundred years ago, this local classic has hosted every sitting governor and even an American president for at least one meal. Any day of the week, New York’s lawmakers and lobbyists hash out schemes ensconced in turn-of-the-century décor and service.

Jacks Famous Oysters served on a silver platter.

Most recently, Executive Chef Larry Schepici streamlined the menu to a limited core that’s supplemented by seasonal features. The menu is very much of the steak-and-lobster variety; standouts include Jack’s famous 1913 recipe Manhattan clam chowder and a wedge salad (no longer on the menu, but available upon request.)

Bar scene at Olde English Pub.

DRINK: Olde English Pub (next to the Albany Visitors Center in Quackenbush Square). Built in the 1730s, this old drinking dive is one of the oldest pubs in America, and of course, haunted. Employees have seen loaves of bread fly off shelves, heard all the kitchen timers go off at once (and then stop abruptly), and sense a whispering presence at the foot of the stairs. The ghosts, they say, are “not malicious,” just “here.” But of course, that’s not the only reason to patronize this historic spot. There are 16 beers on tap, and Pickle Back Shots are only $6.

EAT: New World Bistro Bar. Food Network’s Chopped celebrity Chef Ric Orlando brings a colorful rock n’ roll sensibility to local, seasonal, and organic. His passion for farm-to-table means that whichever eclectic ethnic menu you choose, and there are several: vegan, gluten-free, brunch, large plate, small daily specials; you can count on locally sourced ingredients. And secrets are revealed: local farms, wineries, and breweries are listed by name. His signature Jerk Chicken is not just free range but also from Free Bird.

Come as you are, the feel is urban chic – exposed brick and repurposed Art Deco mahogany bar originally from the 1939 World’s Fair. A co-venture with funky Spectrum 8 Theaters owners Scott Meyer and Annette Nanes, New World Bistro Bar anchors Albany’s newly energized entertainment and culinary arts “DelSo” neighborhood. This is where you’re likely to run into local media celebrities and discerning restaurant critics.

EAT: Cafe Capriccio. The renowned 4-course family style feast at Café Capriccio’s Chef’s Table is as memorable for the authentic regional dishes as it is for cultural lessons shared by author and proprietor, Jim Rua. Staff and guests are encouraged to develop regional expertise on organized trips to Italy which offer first-hand research and partnership opportunities with farms and wineries such as Fattoria Lavacchio in Tuscany.

Dress up to dine in this intimate establishment popular with Albany elite. Despite a 30-year history as one of the Capital District’s best restaurants, this is not a polished restaurant. The atmosphere is low key and homey, with soft carpeting, knotty pine walls, old posters and opera music playing; it’s like eating at a friend’s house…if your friend is an award-winning chef who grows his own herbs and heirloom tomatoes.

Exterior of Orchard Tavern in Albany NY.

EAT: Orchard Tavern & Restaurant. A rotating display of photographs and memorabilia documents The Orchard Tavern’s rich history of service to generations of workers at the New York Central Railroad’s West Albany yards. Open since 1903, longtime patrons worried that the neighborhood institution would change when Kris Monforte purchased it in 2018. However, the new owner promised minor cosmetic changes but that the menu, with its beloved rectangular pizza, would remain the same.

EAT/DRINK: City Beer Hall. It’s hard to say whether or not The City Beer Hall’s passionate following is a result of free pizza with beer. Who can resist free food? Not when it comes with a selection of 18 beers and ciders on tap, plus many more by the bottle. 

Beer pairings and leisurely brunches are almost weekly events. For a gastronomical splurge, reserve tickets to “Wild Game Nights” when one brewery is matched to an assortment of exotic meats for an unforgettable 4-course meal.

Different thematic areas of the bar include a Main hall with communal tables, an outdoor beer garden, and a newly-renovated Rodeo Bar that hosts a dance floor on weekend late nights.

EAT/INSIDER TIP: When the tulip festival makes its annual return to Washington Park, local fish fries all through the Capital Region open for the season to serve a fried culinary masterpiece found nowhere else. A long narrow piece of fish, about a foot long, fried to perfection, is served in a hot dog bun sometimes with condiments, sometimes not. Available any day of the week, local custom is to take the whole family to the fish fry after softball games on Friday afternoons. Opinions vary greatly as to the best fish fry in the Capital Region. In Albany, folks swear by Ted’s Fish Fry, but the general consensus is that top honors go to Gene’s Fish Fry in East Greenbush.

SNACK: Cider Belly Donuts. Historians tell us that the earliest doughnuts can be traced to the olykoek cakes that Dutch settlers introduced to America. Thus, you can’t fully appreciate New York’s Dutch heritage without sampling donuts, and you can’t do better than to taste the Original Cider Doughnut. Baked fresh daily, open Monday-Friday, 6:30-3pm, Sat-Sun, 8am-noon, or until they run out.

Brownstone doorway at Morgan State House B and B.

Where To Stay in Albany NY

STAY: Morgan State House. Arrange to stay in one of the six lovely rooms in the Historic 1884 Mansion at what is considered the best B&B in downtown Albany. (There are 11 more modern rooms in Morgan State House’s condo at the end of the block).

These rooms – on three walk-up floors – are spacious and tastefully decorated in elegant traditional furnishings, some featuring bay windows overlooking the Frederick Law Olmsted designed Washington Park. Starched sheets and down comforters wrap guests in blissful luxury.

Hotel room at the Morgan State House B and B.

In the morning, converse with fellow travelers while enjoying a Continental Breakfast (complementary with room) around a large dining room table or outside on tranquil backyard garden patio. Room rates in the Mansion from $179-$249, and from $149 in the Condo, include Continental Breakfast and parking.

STAY: Both the upscale Renaissance Hotel and Hilton Hotel offer full-service amenities just steps from the Capitol Building and Empire State Plaza.

Albany NY pinterest pin

New Bedford, MA: A Working Port With Literary, Culinary, And Historic Appeal

Harbor View from New Bedford Whaling Museum MA

WHY GO: Called “The City That Lit the World,” New Bedford MA, once the planet’s premier whaling town, claimed more millionaires than any other city in America. From the 1820’s until whaling’s demise in 1925, when the last whaling ship sailed out of New Bedford Harbor, this city dominated the industry. More pure, smokeless spermaceti (whale oil) came from New Bedford than from anywhere else on earth.

From the Pulpit Seamens Bethel New Bedford MA

In its heyday in the mid 1800’s, 750 whaling vessels plied the Seven Seas from U.S. shores: Of those, nearly 450 hailed New Bedford alone. One was the Acushnet, on which a 22-year-old Herman Melville toiled for over a year.  His experiences, of course, were chronicled in his classic novel, Moby Dick.

Though it’s been through several booms and busts, New Bedford remains today the number one fishing port in the country in profits – based largely on the tonnage of weight-in-gold scallops caught by New Bedford fishermen each year.

In 1996, Congress designated a segment of New Bedford as a National Historic Park, deeming it the best place in America to tell the story of whaling. Since then, the city has transitioned into a burgeoning tourist mecca, and within the past five years has been attracting countless creatives and New Yorkers due to its “exploding art scene” and low real estate costs.

Exterior Moby Dick Brewing Co. New Bedford MA

With upgraded infrastructure, a second boutique hotel, trendy wine and beer bars, and picture-perfect cobblestone streets, this Getaway is perfect for history buffs, Melville fans, and art aficionados who wish to explore a working waterfront and be well-fed in the process.

Things To Do in New Bedford, MA

Front door of New Bedford Whaling Historical Park Visitors Center #VisitMA @GetawayMavens

TOUR: New Bedford Whaling National Historic Park. Begin at the Visitor’s Center for a 22-minute movie, “The City That Lit the World,” and then peruse exhibits that expound upon The Lure of Whaling, Life in a Port City, Faces of Whaling, and Women in Whaling.

Cobblestone Street New Bedford MA

From here, you can take a free 45-minute walking tour of this diverse town. Several narrated walks center on the History of Whaling, Herman Melville, and the Underground Railroad.

In the mid-1800’s New Bedford was “a hotbed of abolitionism” – encompassing a large Quaker community that believed God did not discriminate among his creations. Frederick Douglass and his wife, Anna, fled from slavery to New Bedford, and were housed by free blacks, Polly and Nathan Johnson. Douglass swept church floors, caulked ship hulls, and then, with his brilliant mind, found his footing as an abolitionist crusader.

Whaling Captains, in particular, were color-blind; jobs on a whaling ship were based on merit only and each ship housed a virtual United Nations. Sailors were forced to get along, as teamwork increased the whaling profits that were divvied up at the end of each voyage.

Reading cushions form wall art while not in use in “Makers Space,” New Bedford NHP Visitor’s Center MA

The Visitor’s Center newest sensation is The Maker Space upstairs – where hands on exhibits serve as “inspiration, not information.” Besides watching an artist-in-residence at work, you can participate in games, activities, and craft making. There’s a comfy reading nook, and a 3-D printer. Best of all, on hot days, it’s air conditioned and free to enter. Visitor’s Center open daily 9am-5pm. Maker Space open daily July-Sept. and weekends throughout the year. Free.

The 1850's Gals, Ruth and Abby, dish the latest gossip in New Bedford, MA #VisitMA @GetawayMavens

SEE: Ruth and Abby. Join the fun, the gossip, the banter between two 1850’s busybodies, Ruth and Abby.  Dressed in period garb, they dish about the food of the times, their neighbors, shopping and running a home at the height of New Bedford’s wealth. Mid July – end of August; Thurs 5pm – 6:30pm, Friday 11am-2pm, Sun. 2pm-4pm, Free.

Blue Whale skull still leaching oil at New Bedford Whaling Museum #VisitMA @GetawayMavens

VISIT: New Bedford Whaling Museum. Four fully articulated whale skeletons hang from the ceiling in the entry hall of one of the best Whaling Museums on the planet. There’s a Humpback, a North Atlantic Right Whale with her ten-month-old fetus, and a Blue Whale – the largest mammal on earth.

This juvenile Blue, killed accidentally by a tanker in 1998, is half the size of one full grown, and one of only four on display in the world. Amazingly, even after the bones were cleaned and bleached for months, its sinus cavities are still leaching oil, which drips into a Lucite pan fitted beneath the skull and then transported by hose into a graduated beaker kept at eye level.

Mother Baby Whale Skeleton New Bedford MA Whaling Museum

This is just one of many wows! you’ll experience among 750,000 artifacts, from the Worlds Largest Collection of Scrimshaw to the Worlds Largest Ship Model (at half scale, the Lagoda Whaling Ship, which can be boarded, was built by aging shipwrights in 1916 inside the then brand new museum hall), to products made from bones and baleen, to harpoons – which were kept so sharp, the sailors shaved with them.

Penny guiding New Bedford Whaling Museum MA

For an exceptional overview of the Museum – and stories about whaling ships, sailors, and the whales themselves – be sure to join a one-hour tour docent led tour. My guide was the uber-knowledgeable Penny. Her sweeping narrative covers everything from economics to biology, spotlighting the grim, precarious, but incredibly lucrative business of catching and killing these sentient beings, and rendering their body parts into oil, corsets, home goods, and scrimshaw art.

Lagoda New Bedford Whaling Museum MA

Jobs on a whaling ship – each vessel a self-contained oil factory with all the reeking, bloody, slippery, and dangerous conditions you can imagine – attracted three different kinds of sailors: second-and-subsequent-born farm boys who were not in line to inherit property; adventurers like Herman Melville; and fugitive slaves. Eventually, whaling merchants sought cheaper labor in the Azores off of Portugal, and Cape Verde off of Africa, diversifying the crews even further.

With its head cavity full of spermaceti oil the Sperm Whale was the most coveted of the species – though ships had to travel around Cape Horn to the Pacific Ocean to find them. Thus, whaling was the first “globalized industry.” Sailors returned home with souvenirs, exchanging language and art with people of Asian cultures and beyond.

Scrimshaw New Bedford Whaling Museum MA

Oil from the ground and Edison’s light bulb ultimately killed off the whaling industry, at which point New Bedford transitioned into a textile-manufacturing hub. When that industry went kablooey, it took some time for the city to reinvent itself as a living history museum and art mecca. $17 adults, $7 kids, May-September 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. daily. Jan-March Tues-Sat 9-4, Sun 11-4. Docent led tours at 11am. Penny’s tours on Tuesday afternoon.

Seamens Bethel New Bedford MA

VISIT: Seamen’s Bethel. In the heady days of the great whaling ships, New Bedford’s docks thrummed with bars and brothels. Resident Quakers sought to counteract the “licentious” temptations of the waterfront, first by boarding boats at dock to sermonize and hand out bibles, and in 1832, by building a house of worship for the sailors: The Seamen’s Bethel.

Known as “The Whalemen’s Chapel” in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, the Seamen’s Bethel underwent a $3.2 million renovation in May 2017 to save it from complete collapse. Stucco was removed from the exterior walls, leaving its original pre-Melville stone intact.

A modern breezeway, linking the Bethel to the adjacent Mariners Home, is the Church’s new main entrance and features a reception desk made from 150 year old lumber reclaimed from the renovation.

Bow Sprit Pulpit Seamen’s Bethel New Bedford MA

The bow-shaped pulpit – from which Reverend Enoch Mudge (Father Mapple in Moby Dick) spoke to his parishioners from 1832-1844 – juts into a small bench-lined room. Melville’s pew, the second to last row on the left as you walk in, is of course a photo-op favorite.

New Bedford was unique in that sailors shipping off from here were required to register by name, age, height, complexion, eye color, ship’s name and Captain, and so family members came to New Bedford to determine the whereabouts of their loved ones.

Cenotaph Seaman’s Bethel New Bedford MA

Marble cenotaphs (“empty tombs”) of men who did not return from the sea line the sanctuary walls. One is believed to be Melville’s inspiration for Captain Ahab: Captn. Wm. Swain, who “after fastning to a whale was carried overboard by the line and drowned on May 19th 1844.” Another cenotaph memorializes poor 18-year-old Charles Petty who, in 1863, was killed by a shark while bathing off the African coast.  Apparently whales weren’t the only sea life to be wary of on these dangerous voyages.

These inscribed tablets remain touchstones for the modern fishing community who come to pay respects to those lost. Additionally, every year since Memorial Day 1866, the 1835 church organ is wheeled down to the waterfront in a decorative wheelbarrow, and played during the memorial service for New Bedford fishermen lost at sea.

MA Life Ring Found in France Seamens Bethel New Bedford MA

Don’t miss artifacts on display in several other rooms – one, the Life Ring from a 1988 wreck off of Nantucket that was found on a French beach in 2010, and wonderful drawings of New Bedford by the New Yorker Magazine artist, Sergio Garcia Sanchez. Though, this church does not operate as a house of worship on a regular basis, it’s a popular wedding and baptism venue.

Fishing Heritage Center New Bedford MA

VISIT: New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center. Bring a fishing boat into port, quickly don survival gear, and learn what it’s like to be a commercial fisherman in this small but excellent museum that opened quite by accident. What started out as an office for the annual Working Waterfront Festival has turned into a bricks and mortar space celebrating the “fishing industry of New Bedford Past, Present, and Future.”

Survival Gear Fishing Heritage Center New Bedford MA

This interactive museum is divided into the various aspects of the fishing life. You can watch the construction of a fishing vessel “from keel to launch;” see several oddities in an “Unusual Catches” display; read a whole wall of crazy fishermen nicknames; tie nautical knots; and scroll through an interactive website that details ships that went down, incident reports, and bios on those who died (one of the most utilized exhibits for those who lost loved ones).

There’s a makeshift wheelhouse composed of a navigational simulator (programmed with many American harbors) and all the electronics found on a modern vessel. You’ll even hear radio chatter from corresponding bridge and harbor masters.

Shell Art Fishing Heritage Center New Bedford MA

The most popular activity for teens, though, is the 60-second challenge to dress in survival gear: an endeavor much more difficult than it sounds. Open Thurs-Sun 10-4, free, but donations gratefully accepted.

Fish Auction Warfinger Building New Bedford MA

VISIT: Waterfront Visitors Center in the Wharfinger Building. The small brick structure, built in 1935, once housed the once robust, live New Bedford Fish Auction. You’ll get a sense of the frantic 20 minute New York Stock-Exchange-like negotiations that took place here before proceedings went online in 1985.

New Bedford MA Fishing Fleet

Afterwards, head to the docks for captivating views of the harbor, and if you time it right, you’ll find some of the 200 commercial fishing boats of New Bedford – scallopers and trawlers – offloading catch. Monday-Friday 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. year round
Saturday and Sunday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Memorial Day through Labor Day

SEE: Behind the Customs House was the local recruiting station for the 54th Regiment, the first African American civil war regiment brought to public attention in 1989 by the movie “Glory” staring Denzel Washington. More than 350 New Bedford men of color – both escaped slaves and those born free – served in the Union forces between 1861 and 1865.

New Bedford MA Historic District

TRIVIA: Waterfront Historic Area LeaguE (WHALE). WHALE’s unofficial motto is “two days after the fire — one day before the wrecking ball,” and has been instrumental in preserving the authenticity of New Bedford’s landmark buildings — going so far as to move several to prevent them from being demolished.

Acushnet - Harbor Tourboat for New Bedford Harbor Tours #VisitMA @GetawayMavens

TOUR. New Bedford Harbor Tour. It’s a harbor tour unlike any other – after an hour on the water, you’ll come away knowing why scallop boats are not painted completely, and learn all about one hard-working, fastidious, trash-talking Azorean, known as “The Codfather,” who came to the US dirt poor but managed to amass a fleet of 30 fishing boats (worth tens of millions). If the forecast is bad, you may see the whole fleet at the docks – and get as close to them as possible without being on deck.  You’ll also glide through the longest hurricane barrier (9,100 feet) in the world, which is also the largest stone structure on the East Coast, and hear stories of whaling ships and oil tycoons. Mid-June through end of September, Daily 12 Noon, 1:30, 3:00 & 4:30 PM. September –Weekends Only – Saturday & Sunday, same times. $15 adults, $8 kids.

The Blue Lane New Bedford MA

WALK: The Blue Lane. An elevated waterfront path atop the rocky Hurricane Barrier bulwark linking the Covewalk, Harborwalk, and soon-to-open Riverwalk, this newly sleek and contiguous esplanade has enhanced the 4.5 mile long shoreline experience for New Bedford residents and visitors alike. It’s lit up at night and pet and stroller friendly, too. 24/7, free.

New Bedford City Hall Elevator New Bedford MA

RIDE: New Bedford City Hall Elevator. Here’s something that not many guidebooks will recommend.  Stop in to City Hall to find the Oldest Operating Elevator in the US – a 1912 Otis human-run steel and wrought iron cage with a curved cushioned bench large enough for six. Ask for a ride to the top floor – the 4th. It’s a time machine for sure. Mon-Fri. 8am-4pm. Free.

Vaseline Glass made with uranium glows green under ultraviolet light at New Bedford Museum of Glass #VisitMA @GetawayMavens

VISIT: New Bedford Museum of Glass. Once hidden in the back of the former Wamsutta Textile Mill, the Museum of Glass is moving into new digs at the Wamsutta Club in the James Arnold Mansion up on the hill, and will be reopening sometime in 2019. Glassmaking was a huge New Bedford industry in the 1860’s; tableware, quality cut glass, and fancy chandeliers were all manufactured here.

The Museum of Glass showcases glass of all kind from ancient to contemporary – much of it rare, including shelves of Vaseline Glass, made with uranium, which glows green under ultraviolet light in a dark room. (Listen to the insistent Geiger counter in one of the cases). You’ll find Stuben, Orrefors, Tiffany and Chihuly masterpieces. If you have any interest in decorative glass at all, this unassuming museum is a must-see. Check website for updates on opening, hours, and entry fees.

Rotch-Jones-Duff House New Bedford MA

TOUR: Rotch-Jones-Duff House and Garden Museum. This stunning manor on the hill, built in 1834, gives visitors a glimpse at the lifestyle of wealthy whaling merchants. The gardens are truly enchanting. Open May-Oct. Mon-Sat 10-4, Sun. 12-4, Nov-April Tues-Sat 10-4, Sun 12-4. $6 adults, $3 kids.

New Bedford Art Museum Gift Shop MA

VISIT: New Bedford Art Museum. President Obama’s official photographer, Pete Souza, is from New Bedford, so proud locals came out in droves when, in April 2019, this small art museum mounted an exhibit of his best work (up until June 19th 2019). Though NBAM exhibits rotate several times a year, you can count on the Museum Store to stock one of a kind crafts, clothing, and jewelry. Open Wed-Sun. 12-5, Thurs 12-9pm, $5, free Thurs nights from 5pm-9pm.

UMass Dartmouth College of Visual and Performing Arts New Bedford MA

POP IN: UMass Dartmouth College of Visual and Performing Arts Galleries. It’s free to walk in to these sunlit galleries and see what students are up to.

SEE: Zeiterion Performing Arts Center. Be it a staged show, a ballet, symphony orchestra, or other performing art, there’s always something going on at this historic, renovated theater. Check website for calendar.

Buttonwood Park Zoo

Jacob the Red Panda Buttonwood Park Zoo New Bedford MA

GO: Buttonwood Park Zoo. As of Friday, May 3, 2019 Buttonwood Park will be home to the Zoo’s first ever red panda, Jacob, who was born on June 20, 2017 at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Buttonwood Zoo, has been deemed one of the Best Small Zoos in America.

Fort Taber New Bedford MA

GO: Fort Taber-Fort Rodman Military Museum. Even if you aren’t into armaments or cannon/gun history, come to this seaside granite fortification, built in 1860, for the expansive views of Narragansett Bay.

GO: Kilburn Mill. This is not the first textile mill to be repurposed into artist studios (see Lowell MA), and it won’t be the last. Here, you’ll also find other enterprises and plenty of events and programming. Check website for info on Farmer’s Markets, music, comedy, and beer events.

New Bedford MA Ferry Terminal

FERRY: Seastreak Ferry To Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket. While travelers could always get to Martha’s Vineyard from NB, the Nantucket route is brand new and much anticipated. On the waterfront – Pier 3.

Calico New Bedford MA

SHOP: Calico Boutique, for the latest ladies fashions, cute one of a kind accessories, and “Neue Beige” (New Bedford in Portuguese) t-shirts.

Anthi Frangiadis owner The Drawing Room New Bedford MA

SHOP: The Drawing Room. Architect Anthi Frangiadis owns this newly opened “shop for artful living,” where you can find ceramics, jewelry, paintings, topographical wooden maps, and hefty bronze doorknockers among other statement pieces.

Alison Wells Gallery New Bedford MA

SHOP/LESSON: Alison Wells Gallery. From Trinidad, Alison Wells adds a splash of island color to her paintings. She also hosts guest exhibitions, mixed media shows, and classes for kids, teens, and adults. Sign up for a weekend workshop online.

Brothers Artisanal Jerky New Bedford MA

SHOP/PLAY: Brothers Artisanal Jerky (across from the Whaling Museum). Dehydrated spiced beef, turkey, and pork never tasted so amazing. Though pricey ($8.99 per 2 oz. package), you’ll savor every organic-grass-fed nibble. Brothers is also a funky rec-room of sorts, with billiards, picnic tables, beer and wine bar, and an excess of space.

SHOP: At Bedford Merchant Gift Shop you’ll find typically “resort” like gifts at very reasonable prices. Festoon yourself with craft jewelry from BeJeweled for a lot less than you’ll pay in other cities. You’ll find apparel stamped with everything New Bedford (and mermaid) at The Landing Gift Shop and Chandlery on Front St. Also, be sure to wander the cobblestone streets of the Historic District and stop in to as many of the Art Galleries and studios as you can.

Best Restaurants in New Bedford, MA

Merrills on the Waterfront New Bedford MA

EAT: Merrill’s (on the Waterfront). Right across the parking lot from Fairfield Inn and Suites – diners wishing to stare into the cockpits of scallop boats at dock, while eating, won’t find a better location than this. Besides the proximity to the fishing fleet, if the weather is clear, it’s a safe bet you’ll also observe a dazzling sunset that casts the ships in a rosy-gold hue.

Merrills sunset view New Bedford MA

Views are fine, but the food is, too. Honestly, how can you go wrong with any scallop dish when the source of said shellfish is right out the window? The Pan Seared Orange-Ginger Scallops ($26) are fresh from the sea delectable. And so is the Signature Oven Roasted Cod with Littlenecks, braised kale, and white beans ($25). Not into seafood? Steaks every which way (Filet Mignon – $30), are formidable options.

Ishm-ale Moby Dick Brewing Co. New Bedford MA

EAT/DRINK: Moby Dick Brewing Co. A block from the docks, Moby Dick Brewery is a labor of love for seven co-owners who saw opportunity in this literary-culinary-beverage-brewing mashup of a place. Formerly a chandlery, a marine electronics store, and then a fruit wholesaler (banana hooks are all that’s left in a room downstairs once flooded with carbon monoxide to kill stowaway tarantulas), Moby Dick Brewery opened in March 2017. Brew names refer to Melville’s novel: Ishm-ale (Red Ale), Simple Sailor (Lager), Quick Eternity (West Coast IPA), Sailor’s Delirium (Double IPA), and more.

Fish Tacos Moby Dick Brewing Co. New Bedford MA

The beer is top notch, fresh, and tasty, and the food, gobble-up good. My particular favorites are the Fish and Chips ($17) or Fish Tacos (3 for $18), both with light and airy fried cod, and billowy thin fries. If I lived closer, that would be my go-to dish on the daily.

New Bedford Harbor Hotel Restaurant and Bar

EAT/DRINK: New Bedford Harbor Hotel. The head bartender here takes his cocktails and especially, his craft-draft seriously. You’ll discover new brews, and beer you won’t find anywhere else (like my now personal fave, Jali – a Jalapeño-Apricot Sour from Maine’s Hidden Cove Brewing Co.). The restaurant is currently morphing from traditional entrees to elevated pub grub – Whaling Captain style from around the world and heavy on seafood. Try Little Necks sautéed in olive oil with roast garlic ($14), Shrimp Mozambique ($18), and the lightly battered, fried, and succulently flavored Calamari ($13) – my pick for best dish.

Exterior Tia Marias European Cafe New Bedford MA

EAT: Tia Maria’s European Café. Owned by locals who were thrilled when this Historic District location became available, Tia Maria’s, an adorably homey eatery across from the Whaling Museum, specializes in Portuguese cuisine at reasonable prices. Signature dishes include the broth-based Caldo Verde ($3.15, cup) – a potato-kale-sausage soup served in a rustic crock; Bifana Sandwich – pan fried pork steak topped with hot peppers; Sao Jorge Pizza ($7.50) with Portuguese sausage and Sao Jorge cheese; the often requested Shrimp Cakes with a slight citrus kick; and Chicken Mozambique Sandwich ($8.50) made up of chicken breast in a saffron garlic sauce.

The Baker New Bedford MA

BREAKFAST/LUNCH: The Baker. Whenever locals talk about this bakery and sandwich shop, their eyes light up. Pastries are flaky, not cakey, and bagels are so fresh and chewy as to give your jaw a workout. In a very good way. All accolades are well deserved.

LUNCH: No Problemo. A bevy of patrons, from  tattooed skateboarders to boardroom executives, line up for the fantastically fresh burritos, tacos and all manner of handheld Mexican Food.  When asked about a favorite restaurant, most locals mention this for deliciousness, freshness, speed and low price. Tacos start at $3.00, Tortas at $6.00.

Destination Soups New Bedford MA

LUNCH: Destination Soups. Are the soups “Soup Nazi” good?  I’d say very close, but without the attitude.  Don’t restrict yourself to soup alone, however.  This place does an excellent job with specialty Grilled Cheese, as well, like the Rick Cheese – stuffed with apple, bacon and balsamic vinegar ($3.80 small, $6.00 full size).

EAT: Freestone’s City Grill. The chowder served within this former 140 year old Citizens National Bank Building keeps winning awards. You’ll see why. Close to the Whaling Museum, Freestone’s has been a local favorite for years.

Special Spices and Unique indoor BBQ spit make Churrascaria Novo Mundo a top New Bedford restaurant. #VisitMA @GetawayMavens

EAT: Churrascaria Novo Mundo. Walk into this less-than-nondescript building and you’ll be rewarded with what I’ll go out on a limb to say is one of the top 10 chicken dishes this side of the Azores. Toasted to perfection on an unusual Portuguese indoor barbeque spit, these flattened half chickens come to the table with heaps of fries and rice for just $6.99.

Tasting room of Urban Winery - Travessia in New Bedford, MA

SIP: Travessia Urban Winery. You won’t see a vine in sight, but what you will see, and sip, are some great wines.   Travessia sources grapes from within a ten-mile radius and produces cases of award-winning, light, sweet Vidal Blanc and pleasurable  Pino Noir Rose. Buy local.  Buy a bottle or two of each. Open Wed – Sat Noon – 6pm, Sun. Noon – 5pm.

The Black Whale big chair New Bedford MA

DRINK: There are several bars in repurposed waterfront buildings that attract Vineyard Ferry travelers like frat boys to keg parties. Find vibrant nightlife scenes at Cork Wine and Tapas (for wine flights), Rose Alley Ale House (beer flights), and the newest The Black Whale (oversized Instagram-perfect chair outside).

EAT: Locals also love Café Italia (opening up a second location soon), Brick Pizzeria, and, if you ask, almost every restaurant in town for something or other.

Best Lodging in New Bedford, MA

Reception New Bedford Harbor Hotel MA

STAY: New Bedford Harbor Hotel. Sitting about a quarter mile up Union St. from the waterfront, the brand new New Bedford Harbor Hotel, opened in July 2018, fills a downtown lodging niche close to museums, historic Town Hall, and the cobblestoned Historic District. Like all trendy boutique hotels, the reception area is small, but personable. And rather dramatic. An enlarged photo of a whaling ship takes up the wall behind the desk, and for a moment you feel as if you’re onboard – sailing away.

Main Floor New Bedford Harbor Hotel MA

Carved from a former department store and then office building, the commercial meets maritime vibe is evident on the main floor. Though the soaring industrial ceiling could potentially make the massive space seem stark and cavernous, the room is divided into seating areas, a hopping bar, and restaurant: cozying it up quite a bit. (FYI – the 70 rooms on five floors are serviced by one slow elevator, so, hoof it upstairs or be patient.)

Suite New Bedford Harbor Hotel MA

Tidy, contemporary guest rooms are each configured differently. Some have original hardwood floors, and long narrow entry halls, with brick walls and lots of windows that overlook the distant harbor (over city rooftops).

Long view from New Bedford Harbor Hotel MA

Pared down bathrooms are pristine with granite sinks and subway tiled showers.

For dining – see Food/Drink section.

Rooms Rates $110-$259 include Continental Breakfast

STAY: New Bedford Fairfield Inn and Suites. The Mavens don’t usually extoll the wonderment of chain hotels, but this is one of the few exceptions. In punchy blues and orange hues, this establishment hard by the working docks took a big leap of faith when it opened several years ago.  Now, rooms are nearly 100% occupied in season, because more and more tourists traveling to Boston or the Cape or who come off the high-speed Vineyard/Nantucket Ferry across the street are choosing to stay overnight.  With helpful friendly staff, this franchise feels more like a B&B, offering a free shuttle within a five-mile radius, free Wi-Fi, a small fitness room that overlooks a sparkling indoor pool and complementary hot breakfast.  Rates – $129 to $269 – vary with size of room and season includes internet, hot breakfast, parking, tea and coffee 24/7, and complimentary shuttle.

STAY: Orchard Street Manor. A former 1845 Captain’s home “on the hill,” Orchard Street Manor is filled with antique gleaned from the world travels of hosts Al and Suzanne Saulniers. Enjoy hot homemade muffins and fresh fruit salads each morning in a unique oval dining room, and great insider information about New Bedford from your gracious hosts.  $125-$250 per night includes gourmet breakfast.

New Bedford, Massachusetts, once the inspiration for Herman Melville's Moby Dick, now tells the story of America's whaling history. With new hotels, trendy wine and beer bars, and the most profitable commercial fishing fleet in America, this Getaway is perfect for history buffs and Melville fans who wish to explore a working waterfront, and be well-fed in the process. #VisitMA @GetawayMavens

Fairhaven, MA: Ambrosial Scallops and Astonishing Architecture

Fairhaven MA High School

WHY GO.  Fairhaven MA wasn’t a company town; it was a lucky town.  Henry Huttleston Rogers, President of six (out of 13) Standard Oil Trust Companies (who happened, also, to be a major benefactor of Mark Twain), was overly magnanimous when it came to his hometown, endowing it with public buildings that rival those in the greatest European cities. Sharing a harbor with New Bedford, Fairhaven has also been a center of shipbuilding since the 1700’s. High profile vessels, ferries, fishing boats and freighters come here for repair. This town is also famous for something quite unique; it was where the very first Japanese person to ever live on US soil found a home – back in 1843. In addition, Fairhaven is a pilgrimage site for Seventh Day Adventists, as one of the Church’s founders, Joseph Bates, was born and raised here. This trip, which can be paired easily with New Bedford across the Historic Route 6 Bridge, brings Rogers, Twain, shipbuilding and Japanese-American History together in an enlightening, unexpectedly entertaining Getaway.

Things To Do In Fairhaven, MA

VISIT: Fairhaven Visitor’s Center. Set inside a 1798 One Room Academy, you’ll find relics from Fairhaven’s far as well as recent past. A collection of Gold Bond tins rest inside glass shelves – Fairhaven was the manufacturing home of Gold Bond Power from 1909-1985, when, according to a local  “it was just four or five guys packing the stuff” in a small factory by the river. In addition, Atlas Tack Co. turned out millions of these office staples (favored, too, by school pranksters) in Fairhaven from 1867-1985. Most industry has left this seaside town, but one industrious guy is still plugging away; the One Man Band Fairhaven Tourism Director, Chris Richard. Unless Richard is out giving one of his entertaining costumed walking tours, you can find him at the Fairhaven Visitor’s Center.  Anyone who makes this town their base for even a day or two is bound to meet him. Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri., Sat. 8:00am-4:30PM. Weekly Huttleston Marketplace every Sat. June-Sept. 10-4.  Guide dressed in Victorian man's business suit for walking tour of Fairhaven, MA #Massachusetts @GetawayMavens

WALKING TOUR: Henry Huttleston Rogers Tour. With pocket watch in his Victorian businessman striped vest, Chris Richard (Thurs, Bob Foster on Tues) leads this illuminating 90-minute walking tour of Roger’s life and legacy in Fairhaven. Partners with Rockefeller in the successful Standard Oil Co, Rogers was purportedly ruthless in business but gentle and generous with his homies. He befriended and financially supported Mark Twain and funded Helen Keller’s education in addition to “creating an EPCOT in this little Yankee seafaring town.”  The French-Gothic Town Hall, dedicated by Twain, the Italian Renaissance Millicent Library – built in memory of Roger’s daughter who died at age 17 – and the English Perpendicular Gothic Unitarian Church, a 15th Century Cathedral with 1 ¼ ton cast bronze doors, are among the incredible buildings you’ll visit.

Notes and letters handwritten by Mark Twain hang above a periodicals case at the Millicent Library in Fairhaven, MA #Massachusetts @GetawayMavens

If you are a Mark Twain groupie (like this Maven), you’ll thrill to see his handwritten notes to the Library Trustees, as well as his Town Hall dedication speech just hanging out above a periodical cabinet in the Millicent Library. Just ask the friendly folks at the desk, and they’ll point them right out. Henry H. Rogers Walking Tours, Tues and Thurs. mornings, 10:00 a.m. June through September. Free.

Fort Phoenix Fairhaven MA

TOUR: Pirates & Privateers Presentation at Fort Phoenix. (Formerly the Minuteman Tour). Attacked and destroyed by the Brits on September 5th 1778, Fort Phoenix “rose again” and went on to guard Fairhaven during the War of 1812 and the Civil War as well. It’s a swell setting for this myth-busting presentation about pirates and privateers back in those days. Abby Black, whose husband died at sea, explains how she dresses in men’s clothing and serves as a doctor onboard.  Mr. Church tells historical stories about being a ship’s cook, and Andrew the Powder Monkey climbs on a cannon and explains how it’s fired. Chris Richard MC’s, with a “magic trick” at the end. Fridays, June-September, 10am. FREE. 

New Bedford Fairhaven Hurricane Barrier

SEE: New Bedford Hurricane Barrier. The hurricanes of 1938 and 1954 nearly decimated New Bedford and Fairhaven, so in 1962, the Army Corps of Engineers built this bad boy.  At twenty feet tall and 3.5 miles long, the Hurricane Barrier is so large, you can see it from many vantage points – in fact, it is the largest manmade stone structure on the East Coast. Besides via boat going through the 150 ft wide gates, or from a helicopter, your best view of the exterior barrier wall is from Fort Phoenix.

Joseph Bates Boyhood Home Fairhaven MA

VISIT: Joseph Bates Boyhood Home, Co-Founder of Seventh Day Adventist Church. First a Merchant Ship Captain, and then a follower of William Miller, Joseph Bates suffered a “Great Disappointment” when Miller’s prophecy of a Second Coming did not happen on the first, and then the second appointed date.

Interior Bates Home Founder of 7th Day Adventists Fairhaven MA

Bates surmised that when Christians began to celebrate the Sabbath on the first, not the seventh day of the week, it threw Miller’s calendar completely off. To rectify this, he called for worship on Saturday, becoming the “Father of the Sabbath Message.” There are currently millions of Seventh Day Adventists all over the world. Bate’s newly renovated boyhood home is open for guided tours through rooms with original floors and 18th century wallpaper and another (in a space added on at a later date) designed like a ship’s hold.

Ruins of 1676 Fireplace behind Bates Home Fairhaven MA

Don’t miss the stone ruins of a ten foot wide fireplace behind the house. This is all that is left of the thatched roof cottage built by Thomas Tabor, son-in-law of Mayflower passenger, John Cooke. Cooke lived with his daughter and son in law for a time, and might very well have warmed himself by the fire here. It remains a mystery why William Wood built a home inches from the ruins in 1742 ( which was then sold it to Bates, Sr in 1793). Tours April-October (by appointment) relate stories of those who lived here and their influence worldwide.  Home of first Japanese person to ever live in America, Fairhaven, MA #boston #lovelylocal #bostondaybook #cambridge #thesinclair #harvardsquare #gglocalgems #igersboston #igersnewengland #neverstopexploring #pursuepretty #pulseofboston #harvardsquarefave #thatsdarling #vscocam #scenesofnewengland #cambma #visitma #bostondotcom #Massachusetts #lifeinboston #ig_boston #igersboston #winningmeover #discoveraround #communityfirst #seeyourcity

VISIT: Whitfield-Manjiro Friendship House. In 1841, Whaling ship Captain William Whitfeld discovered 14 year old Manjiro Nakahama shipwrecked on an uninhabited Pacific Island.  Bringing the Japanese boy back to America with him, the widower Whitfield arranged to have Manjiro stay with a local family, and sent him to The Old Stone Schoolhouse to learn English.  After ten years, Manjiro returned to Japan where he was influential in urging his country to trade with the United States. Perhaps not so surprisingly, Manjiro became an instructor in navigation and ship engineering at the Naval Training School in what is now Tokyo. Though relations were strained with Japan after WWII (to say the least), in 1987 Crown Prince Akihito – now Japan’s Emperor – visited Fairhaven in memory of Manjiro and to promote peace between communities.  June-Labor Day, Sat, Sun noon-4pm.

Old Stone Schoolhouse, Fairhaven, MA #Massachusetts @GetawayMavens

SEE: Old Stone Schoolhouse. A touchstone for the Japanese, and Fairhaven’s oldest school, this is where Manjiro Nakahama, learned English. He returned to Japan and acted as an interpreter for Western visitors.Tours by appointment only.

Euro of Phoenix Fairhaven MA

SHOP: Euro/Phoenix. What began as a ships supply store for fisherman changed when owners started adding “gifty stuff.” Now, Euro is a virtual general store, with clothing, shoes, home goods, cards, gifts, toys, pet items, and anything else you’d ever want or need. 
Scallops, asparagus, corn salad and cheddar smashed potatoes plated at Margaret’s Restaurant, Fairhaven, MA Old Stone Schoolhouse, Fairhaven, MA

What To Eat In Fairhaven, MA

Margarets Fairhaven MA

EAT: Margaret’s Restaurant. It’s just a little 43-seat place, but first bite of Margaret’s grilled scallops, sweet and juicy, and fresh from the boat out back, and you’ll be hooked. Established by a scalloper of Norwegian heritage, Margaret’s also excels in crepe-like buttery Norwegian Pancakes – the best choice for breakfast. File under “find.”

EAT: Elizabeth’s.  It’s Margaret’s – but a bit more upscale and with a liquor license. Owned by the same people.

Where To Stay In Fairhaven, MAFDR's Grandparents home, now a Bed and Breakfast in Fairhaven, MA #VisitMA @GetawayMavens

STAY: Delnano Homestead, Fairhaven. FDR’s grandparent’s home is now an upscale B&B. Stately and fine, you’ll be immersed in history as you stroll the same backyard in which young Franklin frolicked.  $130-$160 per night.

STAY: Seaport Inn. Right on the waterfront, this motel-like lodge is undergoing renovations, with rooms updated to clean and modern standards. Rooms from $129-$179.

Lowell MA: America’s Industrial Revolution Began Here

Lowell National Historic Park Visitors Center Lowell MA

WHY GO: A monument to American Industry and Ingenuity, Lowell National Historical Park, in Lowell MA, 30 miles from Boston, is unlike any other U.S. National Park in that it takes up sections of a still thriving (or, as the case may be, reviving) city. This unconventional National Park was established in 1978 to tell the story of innovations in water-powered technology and engineering as it pertained to the Textile Industry in Lowell; the first planned Industrial City in the USA. In the 1820’s, a time when America, like many countries, was transforming from an agrarian society into a nation of manufacturing centers, Lowell’s industrial boom was a model for other growing metropolitan areas in the country.

Power Looms Boott Mills Museum Lowell NHP MA

A town that rose and fell several times, Lowell was hometown to beatnik, Jack Kerouac, and, surprisingly, James McNeill Whistler, the artist best known for painting his Mother. The city is now drawing young people and empty nesters looking for less expensive city living in mixed-use housing and neighborhoods. More tourist-friendly infrastructure is planned. A new boutique hotel (working name, Athenian Hotel) is being built across the street from the National Park Visitor’s Center, great restaurants are opening up, downtown shops sport fanciful signage, and live music fills the air in summertime. It doesn’t hurt that Lowell has been a movie set on several occasions – The Invention of Lying with Ricky Gervias and Jennifer Garner (2009), and The Fighter starring Mark Wahlberg and Amy Adams (2010) – a true story based and filmed in Lowell. See Lowell the Maven Way and read on….

Things to Do in Lowell MA

Diorama of Lowell Mills Boott Mills Museum Lowell MA

TOUR: Lowell National Historical Park Visitor’s Center. In the early years of the Industrial Revolution, venture capitalist Francis Cabot Lowell and power-loom inventor, Paul Moody, envisioned a whole city dedicated to the production of textiles, after having observed factory towns just getting off the ground in England. Lowell established a small textile mill in Waltham MA, on the flat Charles River, but died before his business partners discovered a better place to situate a manufacturing center. The nearby Pawtucket Falls, with its 32 ft. drop, was a superior  source of energy that could sustainably power a whole city’s worth of textile looms. Named for its visionary backer, and as the apotheosis of cutting edge technology, Lowell Massachusetts attracted the attention of other businessmen, of course, but also luminaries of the day, like Charles Dickens, who visited in 1842 to scope out this model city.

Boott Cotton Mills Museum Lowell NHP MAl

Lowell mill owners discovered an untapped workforce in the surrounding farms: young women 16 and 17 years old, who could work long hours for low wages. As a Utopian experiment, and considered “the Silicon Valley of its day,” this Factory Village in the country was, according to historians, revolutionary for the time (1821 – 1836). Young “Mill Girls” would be lifted out of poverty, gain financial independence, live in supervised Boarding Houses, be fed, clothed and watched over, and spend hours doing tedious work at the machines.

Boott Mills Model Lowell National Historical Park MA

In its heyday, Lowell had 10 textile mills, thousands of looms, six miles of canals, and was a template for other industrial cities. First equipped with belt and pulley systems, and then with water driven turbines, the mills employed as many as 6,000 girls from New England farms who worked six days a week from 5am-7pm in dangerously stifling rooms filled with airborne lint.

Mill Products Lowell NHP Lowell MA

As textile costs declined, the mills cut wages, hiked boarding rents, and began hiring less expensive immigrant labor. The steam engine changed the mill industry entirely. No longer requiring waterfalls to power the mills, they could be located anywhere. Many moved South. By the late 1950’s, industry had all but abandoned Lowell. But in the 1970’s the city was recognized as a U.S. National Park based on the Golden Age of the American Industrial Revolution and a radical idea that came to typify the Nation.

Lowell Loom Cloth Lowell NHP Visitors Center Lowell MA

The National Park Visitor’s Center presents a 15-minute orientation video and exhibits about the Lowell Mills, Jack Kerouac, James McNeill Whistler, and the deep diversity of this immigrant city. From here, you’ll want to see the attractions below – and don’t forget to buy a dishtowel ($4.95) still being made on last century’s machines in Boott Mills – a ten-minute walk from the Visitor’s Center. (In season, there’s a free trolley that takes you here and to other points of interest within the park). Guided tours, talks, and canal boat tours leave from Visitor’s Center. Allow 30-45 minutes here, open daily 9-5, free.

Boott Cotton Mills Museum Lowell MA

TOUR: Boott Cotton Mills Museum. Part of the National Park, Boott Mill (pronounced “boot”) is the last remaining fully intact textile mill with working machines, left as a “Weave Room, circa 1920.” It’s thrilling to walk into this vast space to see and hear the contraptions that drove a whole industry.

Loom mechanic, Juan Viera, Lowell National Historical Park MA

The first section showcases the endless number of machines on which millworkers toiled. But be sure to walk to the back, where machine “fixers” and operators, like Juan Viera, watch over these noisy pieces of equipment still churning out bolts of fabric (sold in the Visitor’s Center Gift Shop).

Textile History Boott Mills Museum Lowell NHP MA

Head upstairs to the museum exhibit, which follows cotton processing from raw materials to product output – and a historic timeline from the 1700’s to the 1950’s. Interestingly, during WWII, these mills turned out parachute material, and later became Wang Computer offices.

Lowell Riverwalk Lowell MA

Stroll along the Lowell Riverwalk – an esplanade on the Merrimack River behind the Boott Mills complex, to see firsthand the water source from which canals were built to power the mills. Recommended time one hour, Open Nov-March Mon-Thurs12-4, Fri – Sun 12-5, April – May daily 9:30-5 $6 adults, $3 kids,

Mill Girls Exhibit Lowell National Historical Park MA

TOUR: Mill Girls and Immigrants Exhibit (in Boott Mills Complex). This small museum, in a former boarding house, provides a glimpse of what life was like for young mill girls, with dining room tables set for 16, and bedrooms crammed with beds and personal items. Waves of foreigners (read: cheaper labor) began to replace these girls, so this museum also has an engaging exhibit about the Immigrant Experience in Lowell – a fascinating overview of what was happening in industrial cities all over the country. Open Nov-March Wed-Sun, 1:30-4, daily 1:30 other times of year. Free.

New England Quilt Museum Lowell MA

VISIT: New England Quilt Museum. It makes perfect sense for a Quilt Museum to be situated in a city known for textile manufacturing where Mill Girls often quilted as a pastime. In the refurbished 1840’s Lowell Institute for Savings building, the New England Quilt Museum is worth a visit if you are at all into textiles, fabric art, and, of course, that most social of activities, quilting. Researchers will find a well-stocked library, culture vultures will appreciate the far out and sometimes bizarre contemporary textile creations, and hobbyists will be happy with the great Gift Shop, which stocks everything a quilter needs.

Nancy Messier Heart Quilts New England Quilt Museum Lowell MA

Though there is no permanent exhibit, ten exhibitions a year rotate items from the museum’s antique quilt collection, and showcase Amish, Mennonite, and other PA Dutch creations. Some, from the late 1800’s look positively contemporary. Quilts can be fanciful – as in the case of Nancy Messier’s small animals and hearts designs, as well as controversial. The current show – a gripping exhibition on gun violence in America – will make you rethink this assumed “little ole lady” pursuit. Open Tues-Sat. 10-5, in addition, open Sundays May- Dec. 10-4, $9, under 12 free.

Whistler House Museum Lowell MA

VISIT: Whistler House Museum of Art. Built in 1878 on a side street, this was James Whistler’s birthplace and boyhood home. Born in 1834, he lived here until moving with his Civil Engineer father to Russia in 1843. The Lowell Art Association purchased the home in 1908 as its permanent base, and turned it into a museum in the 1980’s.

Copy of Whistlers Mother by cousin Edith Fairfax Davenport, Whistler Art Museum Lowell MA

James Whistler disavowed Lowell as his hometown, (to say that he did not keep it n dear to his heart is an understatement) and spent most of his years in Paris and London, where, in 1871, he painted the famous portrait of Mom. Whistler’s Mother now hangs in the Louvre Abu Dhabi (though owned by the Musee D’Orsay in Paris).

Interior Whistler House Museum of Art Lowell MA

Visit this 1823 home to see the best of New England Art from the 19th and 20th centuries on three floors, but mostly to gaze on the only permitted copy of Whistler’s Mother, painted by his cousin, Edith Fairfax Davenport, in its original dimensions and paint colors. The copy dominates the museum’s orientation room, where you’ll learn that Whistler’s original name for the painting was “Arrangement in Grays and Blacks.”

Bathroom Whistler House Museum of Art Lowell MA

Upstairs, there are sunlit visiting artist studios, the art of Arshile Gorky – “The Father of Abstract Expressionism” – and some of Whistler’s original etchings in his boyhood room. Plus – another reason to visit – one of the nicest visitor’s bathrooms I’ve ever seen in a museum: bright and airy Victorian décor complete with burnished copper-line bathtub. Awesome. Open Wed-Sat. 11-4, $8.

Western Avenue Studios Lowell MA

GO: Western Avenue Studios. Over 300 artists occupy personal studios on 5 floors of this former factory warehouse, and it is a hoot to wander up and down the corridors, and engage with artisans creating everything from “Steam Punk” Recycled Objects (Bruce Wood #427), to clothing designers, painters, jewelry makers, and so much more.

Loading Dock Gallery Western Avenue Studios Lowell MA

If you don’t have time to spend, get a taste of many artists at the communal Loading Dock Gallery, which provides a representation of all forms of creative and fine art. Open Wed-Sat 12-5:30, Sun 12-4, free. Open House first Saturday of every month.

The Brush Art Gallery and Studio Lowell MA

STOP: The Brush Art Gallery and Studio. This artist collective in the National Park Visitor’s Center complex encompasses a warren of galleries and artist studios. There’s everything from jewelry and quilts, to sculptures to paintings. It’s worth a pop-in to see if any piece of art calls to you.

Where to Eat in Lowell MA

Cobblestones of Lowell MA

EAT: Cobblestones of Lowell. “The Rock,” Mark Wahlberg, Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Oprah, Billie Jean King, the Williams Sisters…. If you are a celebrity filming a movie or playing a sport in Lowell, you’ll eventually end up at this iconic restaurant, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary on June 4, 2019. Situated between the Arena and 2,800-seat Lowell Memorial Auditorium, and at a Lowell Trolley stop, Cobblestones is a convenient place for a meal.

Salmon Burger and Garlic Truffle Fries, Cobblestones of Lowell MA

But what keeps it in business is the pleasant atmosphere, clubby bar, and very good food. Movie buffs will recognize the place from the Gervais-Garner flick, The Invention of Lying (2009), parts of which were filmed here. The menu offers traditional fare – burgers, salads, steaks, chicken, and seafood at reasonable prices (entrees $16-$36). But don’t miss the excellent Truffle Garlic Fries – a tumble of thin golden fries topped with a mound of diced garlic. It’s garlic-lovers heaven.

EAT: Locals recommend Fuse Bistro for comfort food, eclectic pub Warp & Weft , Blue Taleh, and Life Alive (for vegans).

Where to Stay in Lowell

Lobby Groton Inn MA

STAY: Until the new Athenian boutique hotel opens, we recommend you stay 15 miles away at the brand new Groton Inn in Groton MA.

Combine this Industrial Revolution getaway with two that zero in on the American Revolutionary War – both within a 20 minute drive: Lexington MA and Concord MA

Lexington MA: America’s Revolution Began Here

WHY GO: Lexington MA is the best place in the USA to learn about the origins of our country and to celebrate Patriot’s Day. So, tell the truth: if you’re not from The State of Massachusetts, did you even know about Patriot’s Day before the movie about the Boston Marathon bombing came out? You’re not alone. Patriot’s Day, a State holiday that falls on the Monday closest to April 19th, commemorates the first armed rebellion in what became America’s War of Independence, which began in this small MA town 16 miles from Boston.

Fake News 1775 Lexington MA

Though the “Shot Heard Round the World” refers to an episode at the North Bridge in Concord MA, the actual “first shot,” albeit accidental, occurred between two hair-triggered sides in the early dark before dawn in the town considered to be the “base of the resistance,” and “The Birthplace of American Liberty:” Lexington MA. And although Lexington is all about the American Revolution, it’s got some surprisingly excellent restaurants and one Top Hotel of the World – a 22-room Relais & Chateau inn that allows visitors to absorb history without sacrificing luxury. Follow along…. (and to round out your getaway, plan a day or two in Concord.)

Things To Do in Lexington MA

Witness House Battle Road Concord MA

STOP: Minuteman National Historical Park Visitor’s Center, Lincoln. Located between Concord and Lexington, the Minuteman NHP Visitor’s Center interprets the opening battle of the American Revolution on the 5 ½ mile Battle Road which encompasses 11 historic “witness” buildings, informational signage, and pull-outs for parking off busy Route 2A. The Visitor Center offers exhibits, theater, orientation and ranger programs, and should be for stop # 1 for anyone interested in the timeline of events on the first day of the Revolutionary War. Open daily April 1 – Oct 31st 9-5, free.

Lexington MA Visitors Center Gift Shop

GO: Lexington Battle Green and Visitor’s Center. *Please note that the Visitor’s Center will move temporarily to Cary Hall downtown until the completion of the new Visitor’s Center in its present location on the Green. See a meticulous diorama of the drama that took place right outside the door at around 5am on April 19th 1775: the first forcible armed resistance to the Crown in the War of Independence. History in a nutshell:

The Colonists were proudly English during the French and Indian War when British Redcoats and well-armed Colonial militias fought side by side. But the war drained England’s treasury, and in 1763, the government began to tax the colonies for the first time. The colonists groused about these long-distance tariffs. To enforce them, England sent troops into Boston in 1768. The “Boston Massacre” of 1770 got Colonial blood boiling.

Downtown Lexington MA

On December 16, 1773, the Sons of Liberty, in protest of Taxation without Representation, dumped $1.7 million (in today’s dollars) worth of tea into Boston Harbor. In response, in 1774, the British Parliament passed the Intolerable Acts, effectively closing Boston Harbor and prohibiting assembly in Meeting Houses. Colonial Official, General Thomas Gage sent for 3,000 British soldiers to enforce these new policies, so, American resisters moved to Concord, 18 miles away, forming a provisional government boosted by a large stockpile of arms. It was this stockpile that the English were after when they made their way to Boston’s outlying towns.

Hancock-Clarke Parsonage Lexington MA

On April 18th, Paul Revere and 40 other “Riders” warned locals at the Hancock-Clarke House of a British march, 700- 800 strong, first to Lexington and on to Concord. A “training band” of 77 men, under the command of Captain John Parker, mustered on the Lexington Green and waited (then grew tired in the wee hours, and retired to Buckman Tavern (see below).

Buckman Tavern Operations Desk Lexington MA

At around 5am, British finally arrived, and locals on the green, armed with muskets as a show of force, were ordered to lay down their weapons. Someone – it is still not clear whom and on which side – fired a shot, and both side panicked. Some militiamen ran, but some fired back. At the end, 8 colonists were dead and one Redcoat was wounded.

Minuteman Statue Lexington Green MA

From there, the “Regulars” (Redcoats/Brits) marched in victory to Concord, getting to the North Bridge, where they were outnumbered four to one, by 9:30am. The Redcoats retreated back to Boston, fighting a growing number of militiamen along the way. By the end of the running battle, 273 British and 95 Colonial soldiers were killed. Of that day, George Washington wrote in his diary, “On the morning of April 19th, the first blood was spilt in the dispute with Great Britain,” and a few days later, John Adams visited Lexington and remarked, “The die is cast, Rubicon passed.”

Revolutionary War Monument Lexington Green MA

Two of the most photographed structures in Lexington are on the Green: the Minute Man Statue and the Revolutionary War Monument, built in 1799. Seven of the 8 militiamen who perished that April morning are buried beneath this granite obelisk, claimed to be the oldest war memorial in the USA. Visitors Center open daily April-Nov. 9-5, Dec-March 10-4, free. Free tours of the Green on weekends in April and May, and daily from Memorial Day through October.

Buckman Tavern, Lexington MA

TOUR: Buckman Tavern. Even before you enter the rooms of the old tavern, one artifact left from April 19, 1775 should command your attention. The original drum played by William Diamond to muster the town militia to the Lexington Green is very much intact, exhibited in a glass case among other remnants from that morning. After Paul Revere’s midnight warning, the Redcoats hadn’t appeared, so after a few hours, the band of militiamen dispersed. The “drumbeat to arms,” called all within earshot back to formation on the Common around 5am.

Battle Drum Buckman Tavern Lexington MA

In 1775, there were two licensed taverns in Lexington, which were generally patronized by men. But this one, owned by John and Ruth Buckman, had a gentler side, with an elegant tea and hot chocolate parlor for women. In the years leading up to the Revolutionary War, men gathered in the Tap Room to discuss business and politics.

Mens and Womens Parlors Buckman Tavern Lexington MA

But women, too, were involved in “The Cause,” and showed their patriotism by shunning imported goods, growing their own tea, and holding a screw-England “Spin-In” on the Green. (On August 1769, 45 women took their spinning wheels to the Town Common and turned out homespun flax cloth).

Mens area Buckman Tavern Lexington MA

Looking outside, it’s remarkable to think that our country’s War of Independence began right here, though there is one physical proof of that fact – a bullet hole in the front door made by a British musket ball during the Battle. Audio-self-guided tours, $10pp. Open April-Oct. 9:30-4.

Hancock Clarke Parsonage Lexington MA

TOUR: Hancock-Clarke House and Parsonage. This was the first house at which Paul Revere and William Dawes stopped to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who were guests of Reverend Jonas Clarke, that “the regulars are out.” The British forces had begun their march from Boston to Concord.

Adams Hancock Room Hancock-Clarke Parsonage Lexington MA

Built in 1737 for Reverend John Hancock, grandfather of the signer of the Declaration of Independence, the parsonage belonged to Clarke (who moved in 1755 after J. Hancock’s death), and his family during the Battle. A tour begins with a terrific recently made 15-minute video that explains the timeline of that day, and tells the story of the buildup to the Battle on April 19th. Adams and Hancock were staying here when Revere and Dawes arrived in town at midnight, and were able to flee before “the regulars” could capture them. The Green Room upstairs, where Adams and Hancock stayed before escaping, looks as it did that night, complete with a table where the two would have been discussing evacuation plans.

Lexington Green Battle MA

Imagine the chaos of the night when the Riders got there. A letter from Reverend Clarke’s daughter describes the battle scene out of her window. In the aftermath, she, along with other townspeople, walked to the Green to help the wounded and bury the dead. Open April-Oct 10-4, $10.

TOUR: Liberty Ride Trolley Tour. This 90-minute tour, running along the Battle Road Scenic Byway from Lexington to Concord, is narrated by guides in Colonial garb who recount the events of the morning on April 19, 1775. Runs April and May weekends only, daily Memorial Day to Last Sunday in October, $28 adults, $12 kids.

VISIT: Munroe Tavern. A mile outside of town, this is where the British took refuge after retreating from North Bridge in Concord. In 1789, George Washington had a meal here. Check website for dates open and entry fees.

VISIT: Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library. This unique, ok, quirky, museum tells the story of Freemasonry throughout American History. Open Wed-Fri. 10-4, free.

The Crafty Yankee Lexington MA

SHOP: The Crafty Yankee. All kinds of Yankee made ceramics, woodwork, jewelry, glass, clothing and more. A fun shop to browse.

Where to Eat in Lexington MA

Breakfast Artistry on the Green Lexington MA

EAT: Artistry on the Green at Inn at Hasting Park. Artistry is on the plate as well, in this fine, American cuisine restaurant. Starting with an “amuse bouche” that could double as a piece of pop art, order Mushroom Risotto ($32), Cauliflower Steak ($24), Clam Chowder, Roasted Broccoli Salad ($14) and other tweaked New England fare. You will be duly impressed.

Love at First Bite Lexington MA

EAT: Locals also love Love @ First Bite for excellent Thai food in an adorable space (lunch specials at $12 are a bargain), Mario’s Italian Restaurant for casual but down-home good Italian, and Lexx for eclectic fare.

ICE CREAM: Abbott’s Frozen Custard. If you question the existence of a decent chocolate mint frozen custard, be prepared to gain a few pounds putting that doubt to the test. Abbott’s makes the best version of that flavor I’ve ever mmm’d. Period.

Where to Stay in Lexington MA

Suite 22 Inn at Hastings Park Lexington MA

STAY: Inn At Hastings Park. A Relais & Chateaux Inn, IAHP is Lexington’s only luxury hotel and a Maven Favorite. You can read a full overview of it HERE. 

Though the “Shot Heard Round the World” refers to the North Bridge in Concord MA, the actual “first shot” occurred between two skittish sides in the town considered “The Birthplace of American Liberty:” Lexington MA. And although Lexington is all about the American Revolution, it’s got some surprisingly excellent restaurants and one a Relais & Chateau inn that allows visitors to absorb history without sacrificing luxury. #Travel #AmericanHistory #NewEngland #RevolutionaryWar #Luxury #Getaway

Concord MA: Of Walden Pond, Little Women, and The Shot Heard Around the World

Old North Bridge Battle Concord MA

WHY GO: By the rude bridge that arched the flood/ their flag to April’s breeze unfurled/here once the embattled farmers stood/and fired the Shot Heard Round the World. – Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1837

Patriot’s Day, April 19th, commemorates the first act of rebellion in what became America’s Revolutionary War. And though it began a few miles away, in Lexington, the history books peg its origins – “The Shot Heard Around the World” – to the Old North Bridge in Concord MA.

Walden Pond State Reservation Concord MA

But visitors also converge on Concord for its concentration of famous authors and poets. Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women here. Both Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathanial Hawthorne lived and are buried here. And Henry David Thoreau was born and spent over 2 years on the shores of Walden Pond, yep, right here.

Authors Ridge Sleepy Hollow Cemetery Concord MA

Thoreau’s 1847 essay, Civil Disobedience, calling for citizens to protest unjust government policies by refusing to pay federal taxes, has echoes of that first act of American resistance in 1775. There must be something in the water (or the Pond) in Concord MA. Come to feel that vibe – by staying in an inn, built in 1716, that witnessed the original Patriot’s Day, and pay your respects to those iconic American authors and poets at their homes and gravesites. The Mavens tell you all about it here…. (you can round up a getaway by staying a night or two in Lexington as well).

Things to Do in Concord MA

Louisa May Alcott Orchard House Concord MA

TOUR: Orchard House, Home of Louisa May Alcott. Known as the home in which Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women in 1868, the Alcott Family moved into this home on the cusp of the Civil War in 1858 and they lived here for twenty years. Louisa’s father, Amos Bronson Alcott, was one of the principal players in the Transcendentalist Movement, along with Concord neighbors, Henry David Thoreau (who, as a land surveyor, initially surveyed the property for the Alcott’s), and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. The Alcott’s were a family without money who, after living in 27 other places, threw open their home to the needy. As social reformers, they took in workers, educators, and others on the forefront of social change.

Henry David Thoreau Concord MA

Alcott based Little Women on a cheered up version of her home life. In fact, though the deep truths of the family were darker, the spirit of the Alcott family was very much alive in its portrayal of songs, dances, storytelling, and dramatics. Sometimes kooky and definitely unconventional for their time, Bronson and his wife, the social activist Abby May, encouraged their four girls to be independent and free thinkers.

During the Civil War, Louisa moved to Washington DC to serve as a nurse in a Union hospital. May Alcott, an artist, was fortunate enough to learn from Lincoln Memorial sculptor, Daniel Chester French, who also fashioned the bust of Bronson that sits in his study. May’s paintings can be seen throughout the house, hanging on the walls, and in some cases, sketched directly on them. The window-facing desk that Bronson built for Louisa in her bedroom is still there, and visitors can just imagine her, after the War, writing Little Women while staring outside at the beautiful landscape.

Orchard House Gift Shop Concord MA

The Alcott’s fortunes changed when Little Women almost instantly became a best seller. George Healy, who painted the White House portrait of Abraham Lincoln, also painted the portrait of Louisa that now hangs in her room. Louisa hated how she looked in it, as the typhoid and pneumonia she contracted during her time in DC had taken a toll on her health through the rest of her life. Louisa never married (though ironically, several marriage proposals have occurred in this home lately), and she left her estate to her sister Anna’s youngest son, John Pratt.

Your tour begins with an orientation video in May’s former art studio, and progresses through the house stocked with 85% of the furnishings and artifacts from the Alcott family. “This home is like a Rorschach Test,” says a docent. “People relate to different aspects of the book and find their own family here.” International visitors bring Little Women, translated into many languages, along with them. One bookshelf in Louisa’s room is lined with copies in Japanese, Hebrew, and other tongues – gifts from foreign guests. April – Oct. Mon-Sat 10-4:30, Sun 11-4:30, Nov-March Mon-Fri11-3, Sat. 10-4:30, Sun.1-4:30, $10 adults, $5 kids.

Walden Pond Visitor’s Center Concord MA

GO: Walden Pond Visitor’s Center at Walden Pond State Reservation. Henry David Thoreau took one pond (out of hundreds in the region) and made it iconic. The gorgeous LEED-built wood and glass Walden Pond Visitor’s Center is a fitting structure to honor this American naturalist, as is the stunning and intelligent 20-minute high definition orientation video that weaves interviews with David McCullough, Bill McKibben, and Doris Kearns Goodwin with colorful nature scenes. The building and video are worth coming here to see, even if you don’t plan to walk around Walden Pond.

Thoreau Walden Pond Concord MA

Thoreau, the son of a pencil-maker, was born in Concord MA in 1817, and tried his hand at many careers. Repulsed by the society’s mandate to “succumb to a life of quiet desperation,” and concerned about the way civilization was deteriorating in the face of the Industrial Revolution, he impelled readers to “look, stop, listen.” Adhering to the Transcendentalist Movement of the day (which espoused that God was found in nature rather than in churches), Thoreau built a 10’X15’ house on the banks of Walden Pond and lived there for 2 years, 2 months and 2 days, documenting his observations in his signature book, On Walden Pond. “Our lives are frittered away by detail… simplify, simplify,” he wrote. Grounds open daily dawn to dusk, parking $8 in season, Visitor’s Center and Thoreau Shop, free, open daily 10-5.

Audio Box North Bridge Concord MA

VISIT: Old North Bridge. Park across the street, and walk to the bridge, passing on your way a hand-cranked audio box to hear the story of what happened on the bridge right up ahead. On April 19, 1775, for the first time ever, an American militia was ordered to fire on British soldiers in what came to be known as “The Shot Heard Round the World,” ushering in the Revolutionary War.

Battle Road Concord MA

Paul Revere and other message dispatchers rode 16 miles from Boston to warn the outlying towns that 700 British soldiers were marching towards Concord. The Redcoats had planned to destroy military supplies only. But as the townspeople mustered at North Bridge, they saw smoke and assumed that the Brits were burning down the town. As the skittish and angry Colonists advanced, the Redcoats fired into their ranks, killing two. The Colonists fired back – the first time they were ordered to do so. The Redcoats, outnumbered four to one, retreated with the Colonial militia at their heels, “igniting a flame in the hearts of our countrymen. The American Revolution had begun!”

Old North Bridge Concord MA

See the obelisk monument and Minuteman Statue by famous sculptor, Daniel Chester French, on opposite sides of the bridge. The North Bridge Visitor’s Center is ahead up the hill, and shows the film “Treason or Liberty.” Open April-October daily 9:30-5, Nov-Dec. Tues-Sat 11-3, free.

The Old Manse Concord MA

VISIT: Old Manse (near North Bridge). Famous for its literary history, this was home to minister William Emerson, his grandson Ralph Waldo Emerson, and was the honeymoon home of Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne. Open April-October, $10.

Louisa M Alcott Grave Concord MA

GO/PHOTO OP: Sleepy Hollow Cemetery – Author’s Ridge. You’ll find the graves of Concord authors, Louisa May Alcott, Nathanial Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau on a hill overlooking other burial places in this garden-like cemetery. Look for small signs indicating “Author’s Ridge,” park, and walk up a stone path. The graves can be distinguished from others by tokens left around the tombstones – a mosaic of pens, pencils and pine needles. Open daily dawn to dusk, free.

Concord Museum Concord MA

GO: Concord Museum. Going through renovation, this museum will reopen in late Spring 2019. Singular exhibits include the “One if by land, two if by sea” 1775 Lantern, Emerson’s study, Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Pond desk, and much more – a can’t miss museum. Open weekends only for now, $5. Check website for reopening details.

Minuteman Visitors Center Lincoln MA

DRIVE: Minuteman National Historical Park, Lincoln. Though the Visitor’s Center is in Lincoln MA (between Lexington and Concord), there are waypoints and plaques all along the 6 mile “Battle Road” where you can pull off and imagine both the British Army and the American Militia marching and clashing along the way. Grounds open sunrise to sunset.

The Wayside Concord MA

VISIT: The Wayside. You can tour the home of the Alcott family from 1845-1852 and the only home that Nathaniel Hawthorne, who named it The Wayside, ever owned from 1852-1869. Harriett Lothrop, author of the “Five Little Peppers,” (pen name Margaret Sidney) and her daughter, Margaret Lothrop, lived in and preserved The Wayside from 1883 to 1965, when it became part of Minute Man National Historical Park. Open June-Oct, Thurs-Mon 9:30-5:30.

Ralph Waldo Emerson Home Concord MA

VISIT: Ralph Waldo Emerson House (across from Concord Museum). Home of the author from 1835 until his death in 1882 – with original furnishings. Open April – October, Thurs-Sun, guided tours only $9.

Thoreau Farm Concord MA

VISIT: Thoreau Farm: Birthplace of Henry David Thoreau. Open Sat. and Sun. May-Oct, Tours 11, 1, and 3pm.

STOP: Concord Visitor’s Center. Stop in for local information and guided tours. Open April-Oct.

Where to Eat in Concord MA

80 Thoreau Concord MA

EAT: 80 Thoreau. This fine foodie favorite is located on the 2nd floor of the Concord Train Station, and it’s as fun to see the chefs bustle in the open kitchen as it is to watch Boston commuters pour out of trains outside. The one-page menu changes frequently with the seasons and ingredient availability. My Spiced Sweet Potato Soup ($12) was an exceptional complex melding of tiny cubes of cheese, slivers of hot peppers, and the crunch of pine nuts in a puree of spicy warm sweet potato. That and several helpings of the crunchy-chewy warm bread would make a satisfying meal. But adventurous eaters will want to try other items – like the Rye Pappardelle – thick ribbons of pasta, firm to the tooth, topped with mushrooms, hazelnuts, and toothsome sauce.

Colonial Inn Restaurant Concord MA

EAT: Concord’s Colonial Inn. New England fare in one of the country’s most historic inns.

Where to Stay in Concord MA

Colonial Inn Concord MA Exterior

STAY: Concord’s Colonial Inn, Concord MA. For travelers seeking an authentic American History overnight, there’s no better place to bed down in Concord Massachusetts than Concord’s Colonial Inn and Tavern, which was a “Witness Building” on the first day of America’s Revolutionary War. The oldest of the inn’s original three structures, now the front desk and gift shop, dates back to 1716 and was an arms and provisions storehouse for the local militia. A Maven Favoriteyou can read a whole review here.

Patriot’s Day commemorates the first act of rebellion in the Revolutionary War. Though the first shot occurred few miles away, in Lexington, history places the Shot Heard Around the World at the North Bridge in Concord MA. Visitors also come to Concord for its iconic authors and poets. Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women here. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathanial Hawthorne are buried here. And Henry David Thoreau made Concord’s Walden Pond famous. @GetawayMavens #VisitMA #AmericanHistory #Patriots

Concord’s Colonial Inn, Concord MA: A Most Patriotic Stay

Colonial Inn Concord MA Exterior

For travelers seeking an authentic American History overnight, there’s no better place to bed down in Concord Massachusetts than Concord’s Colonial Inn and Tavern, which was a “Witness Building” on the first day of America’s Revolutionary War. The oldest of the inn’s original three structures, now the front desk and gift shop, dates back to 1716 and was an arms and provisions storehouse for the local militia.

Colonial Inn Hallway Concord MA

The office and home of Dr. Timothy Minot, Jr. was located on the western side of the building, and during the Battle of Lexington and Concord, he used what is now the Liberty Room (restaurant) as a hospital, one of his bedrooms (now #24) as his operating room, and another as the morgue (#27). It is for this reason – based on reports of guests who’ve stayed in those rooms – that the Colonial Inn is considered one of the most haunted hotels in America. In spite of this, I enjoyed one of the longest, deepest, least disruptive, and most restorative sleeps I’ve had in months here.

1900 Guest Ledger Colonial Inn Concord MA

Concord’s Colonial Inn, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, sits in the center of town overlooking a rotary and a memorial obelisk. A rambling, multi-building complex, it’s tough to tell where it begins and ends, having been extended over the years. At its core, however, is that feeling of Colonial-era America – made even more poignant because the North Bridge – the site of the “Shot Heard Around the World” – is just down the street a half-mile away.

First Impressions of the Concord’s Colonial Inn

Colonial Inn Reception Concord MA

Reception – in a small, traditionally decorated lobby – is very friendly and casual. While checking in, you’ll probably encounter plenty of community members who come here for meetings, luncheons, and celebrations. A lodging that caters to locals like family is evidently very much loved and admired.

Hallway Tap Room Colonial Inn Concord MA

As a patched together series of buildings, the labyrinth of hallways and stairways gets very confusing, so it’s no surprise that many guests get lost here. Not to worry, however, as there’s always someone around who can help and point you in the right direction!

Rooms at Concord’s Colonial Inn

Colonial Inn Guestroom Concord MA

Guest rooms, renovated in 2012, are now upscale, cozy and fresh. The Prescott Wing, added to the original three structures in 1960, feature less costly rooms with antique reproductions, and are still plenty charming. Mine, with white hip-high wainscoting and walls the color of moss green mixed with mustard yellow, formed an elegant cocoon. Each is equipped with 42” flat screen TV, complimentary water, landscape, floral and Minuteman art, and very comfortable beds.

Colonial Inn Bathroom Concord MA

The bathrooms have been redone with contemporary tile, gleaming white sink, bright light, and a mosaic-tile shower. They are small, but immaculate.

Dining at Colonial Inn

Liberty Room Colonial Inn Concord MA

Choose from a warren of rooms – but be sure to have a drink in the old original Tap Room, where for years only men – and at least one horse (a story in itself) – were allowed.

Colonial Inn Restaurant Concord MA

Have breakfast, lunch, or dinner in Merchant’s Row Dining Room, a drink and bites in Village Forge Tavern, or a meal in the Liberty Room, which served as both a storehouse and hospital on April 19th, 1775,

Just the Facts

Off-season midweek can see rates as low as $109, and can go up to $550 in season for a 2 bedroom suite, includes parking, wi-fi, and morning coffee.

Lancaster County PA; Where Buggy Whips Still Fly Off the Shelves

Amish girls on buggy heading down two-lane Lancaster County PA road

WHY GO: When you come to Lancaster County, PA, please leave your Type-A personality at home.  Time moves slower in this lush farmland, and, wandering the back roads, you will get stuck behind a clip-clopping Amish buggy. Though attractions and shops can be far apart, getting lost on undulating byways is half the pleasure.

Breath slowly while reveling in the stark beauty of early morning sun hitting the facade of a local harness shop, riveting scenes of draft horses and straw-hatted men at work in vast fields, the soft bustle of Amish women mixing jam in age-old kettles. Put away your cell phones.  Be prepared to tuck in early for the night. The Pennsylvania Dutch are custodians of a simpler time, and this Getaway allows you to interact with them like never before.

Statue of Amish farmer and buggy outside of Hershey Farms in Lancaster County PA

 Things to Do in Lancaster County PA

SEE: Amos the Amishman, Ronks. Constructed in 1969 originally to draw tourists in to Zinn’s Diner on Route 30, this 15 ft. hunk of a farmer now stands on  Hershey Farm Restaurant and Inn property. Stop by for a photo op (come on, you know you want to) and for “The Best Chocolate Whoopie Pie” in Lancaster County according to a blind taste test.  Hershey Farms began in the 1970’s as a little pretzel stand, but has grown into a newly renovated hotel (rooms from $69 are nice and modern) and Smorgasbord restaurant where you can watch pretzel-makers hand roll the soft version of the snack. 

Mop top alpaca chewing wire fence at Eastland Alpacas in Lancaster County PA

VISIT: Eastland Alpacas, Mt. Joy. Though not associated with the PA Dutch, alpacas are sweet and gentle and a visit to an alpaca farm makes for a perfect addition to a serene Amish Country weekend.  Plus, just-shorn alpacas are achingly cute. There is no word for the extreme cuteness of these little, trusting, giraffe-necked, big eyed creatures. So when you come to Sue and Kevin Zurin’s Alpaca Farm, where you’ll see 120 registered, named, and micro-chipped camel-cousins huddled together and waiting to be fed, it’s almost too much cute to bear.  

Alpaca fleece – in 22 natural colors – is finer than lama wool, and you’ll find woven products (ie $19 for a pair of alpaca socks) in a small store onsite.  You can tour the 30-acre property and get close enough to these sweet animals to give them hugs. If you fall in desperate love with them, the Zurins will sell their alpacas to good homes. Call or email for tour or appointment (though drop ins are ok for the store), donation only, 10am-4pm is the best time to come.

 VISIT: Lil’ Country Store, Ronks. Speaking of cute, this Amish family raises miniature horses.  Stop by to see them, watch owner Daniel working in his wood-shop (furniture for sale) and grab an ice-cream or other sweet confection at the makeshift concession stand.

Horse and buggy outside of harness shop, Intercourse, PA

TOUR: Amish Experience VIP (Visit-In-Person) Tour. It’s one thing to see these simple folk as they go about their business.  It’s quite another to engage with them in conversation. This unique three-hour, 14 person, end of day tour makes stops at three different homes while granting golden sunset views of this magical land. “The Other” becomes a bit less so as you speak to dairy farmers, proud that their federally-inspected cow’s milk is considered of high enough quality to supply Land of Lakes, then watch craftsmen make use of compressed air and batteries to aid in weaving or woodworking.

Amish Girl - Lancaster PA

The final stop is a meeting of the minds of a sort where you have an opportunity to sit with an Amish family in their own home and ask them about their culture. Though some stereotypes are true (Amish do not want to be photographed), others are not. They do not live a Medieval lifestyle – Amish homes are quite modern (its amazing what batteries, propane and compressed air can power), with indoor plumbing and large kitchens the envy of many “English.” Mid-June-Oct, Mon-Fri – 5pm-8pm, $61.95 adults, $41.95 6-16,  – this experience sells out quickly, so reservations are a must.Confederate General John Mosby's Sword, Edged Weaponry Museum, Intercourse PA

VISIT: American Military Edged-Weaponry Museum, Intercourse. I know; this surprisingly compelling museum is an anomaly in this peaceful place, but it does serve a purpose. Find the former Colonial Revival Bank in the center of Intercourse, and you’ll discover where the guys (and knife-collecting women) go when their spouses and friends are off shopping. In his 70’s now, owner/curator Larry Thomas has been collecting rare knives since High School, roaming the country for the most esoteric blades (and lately, guns).

Beautifully presented, and succinctly described in glass case after glass case, find the personal sword of “The Great Ghost of the Confederacy” – Col. Mosby – the only Confederate officer who never surrendered and was stripped of his citizenship (he was later pardoned by President Grant), a rare WWII Bazooka, a 13-stamp-part “Grease Gun,” and an attention-grabbing assemblage of “spy” weaponry including Coin Knives, Pencil Daggers, and real pen penknives. May-Nov, Mon-Sat 10am-5pm, $5 adults, $2.50 kids. 

Best Shoofly Pie in Lancaster County - Dutch Haven with windmill on top

SHOP/SHOOFLY PIE; Dutch Haven, Ronks. You can’t miss this place.  It’s got the big windmill on the roof, and looks rest-on-its-laurels-touristy. Inside, shelves groaning with souvenirs add to the “tourist-trap” perception. But looks can be deceiving.  This place sells more Shoo-fly Pie than all other bakeries in Lancaster combined.  Why?  Because Dutch Haven Shoofly Pie is awesome; and I don’t use that word lightly. Forget about that gooey, sickly-sweet stuff you endured on former trips to PA Dutch Country. Here, it’s amazing what flour, molasses and water can become. With no eggs or dairy, these pies can stay on your counter for two weeks and in your fridge another two. $10.95 per pie.

"Banjo Jimmy" LaRue and Sideman entertain visitors to Kitchen Kettle Village, Lancaster County PA

DO/SHOP: Kitchen Kettle Village. If you drove by you’d probably dismiss it as a hokey tourist trap, and though you will surely  encounter a coach bus or two in the parking lot, there are several reasons to visit (and stay).  

* When first posted in 2013, I wrote about the wonderful “Banjo Jimmy” LaRue (photo above), who’d been strumming and entertaining visitors for over 35 years. Jimmy used to joke that, he “babysits all the husbands” who get comfy in the center courtyard while their wives shop. Sadly, Banjo Jimmy passed away in June 2018, but left his mark.

For the most part, visitors swarm here for the chow-chow, pickled beets, pepper jam and other small-batch jams and jellies that emerge from decades old kettles; foodies on the lookout for authentic, natural-ingredient condiments are finally discovering this place.  

Quick history: just about the time that the Broadway musical Plain and Fancy exposed New Yorkers to Amish culture in 1954, Pat and Bob Burnley began canning jams, jellies and relishes in their garage. The Kitchen Kettle Village, which evolved from that garage as curiosity about the Amish flourished, now encompasses 42 shops, restaurants, and an Inn, and though modernized, still retains those original kettles and canning methods. Pat Burnley, now in her 80’s, remains a fixture here though her children and grandchildren help run the place.

Endless jam and jelly samples at Kitchen Kettle Village in Lancaster County PA

Jam and Relish Kitchen; An incredible million jars of jams and jellies (90 varieties) emerge from these old fashioned kettles per year with just eight Amish women working at any given time. You can watch these industrious ladies – who learn this lost art by helping their own mothers at home– bustling about in an open kitchen. But “take pictures” only with your eyes; photographing them is prohibited.  What you can do is sample from the myriad jars that abound in the store.  In fact, there are folks who visit JUST to eat, and don’t buy anything.  Many jars are a reasonable $3.99, soup mixes $9.99.  Pepper Jam, the “Caviar of Lancaster County,” is the number one seller – perfect as a meat glaze or topping cream cheese. There’s Chow-Chow, Shoofly Pie in the bakery section, and Mint Chocolate Chip Whoopie Pies – my personal favorite.

Racks of colorful handmade women's handbags in Lancaster County PA

Cloverfield Bags – Diane Vincent makes and sells these cool fabric handbags, duffels and totes. Even better, her designer bags start at $32 for one funky fashion statement.

Vibrantly colored pottery line shelves in Kitchen Kettle Village

Garnet Pottery. Find casseroles, plates and unique knitting bowls in a range of beautifully fired colors.

Village Quilts – It takes an artisan 300 to 600 hours to finish a 100% cotton quilt made by hand. These heirloom-quality quilts – from traditional to contemporary –  each made by one of 140 local quilters, may be pricey but keep in mind you are purchasing an individual work of art. Even if you don’t buy – gawking at the colorful bedding is expected and entirely free. Kitchen Kettle Village is open-Sat 9am-6pm, closes 5pm Nov-April.

Second floor bedroom of luxury suite at Kitchen Kettle Village in Lancaster County PA

Where to Stay and Eat in Lancaster County PA

STAY: Inn at Kitchen Kettle Village. There’s something quirky about staying in what at first glance seems like a “tourist trap.” But guest quarters nestled among the shops and streets of this commercial enterprise are surprisingly fine, with reasonable rates and friendly service that befits a family run business – right down to the welcome treat in each room that includes a complimentary travel mug you can have refilled with coffee any time of day throughout the Village.

If you like your own “cottage,” but care less that the room itself is somewhat plain, choose a Cottage room. For the best luxury bang for your buck, the rooms over the Quilt Shop building are jaded-luxury-traveler-tested stylish. Ask for 902; a two-level charmer with couches and flat screen TV downstairs and a leather reading chair, subtle greens and ecru pallet, a big, sponged-wall bathroom and, like every single room here, features locally-quilted bedding.

Kling House Restaurant

In the morning, order your complimentary breakfast in the Burnley’s former home – The Kling House. Chances are, you’ll meet the famous Pat Burnley, who likes to greet guests in what was once her living room.  Rooms and suites, $149-$209 include home cooked breakfast, travel mugs (with complementary coffee fill-ups throughout the day), wi-fi and parking.

Lancaster County PA

Bewitching Salem, MA

Salem Witch Museum

WHY GO: The phrase “Witch Hunt” has been flung around pretty cavalierly lately, but here, in Salem MA, where it actually happened, the last Witch Trials in the New World will forever be held up as a cautionary tale of mass hysteria, religious fundamentalism, and unbridled power run amok. In January 1692, accusations of witchcraft and Devil worship began in the home of contentious Reverend Samuel Parris and by September, as he felt more and more disrespected, and his sermons grew more and more sinister, nineteen residents were hung and one pressed to death beneath stones for these “crimes.”

Wynott’s Wands Salem MA

The Witch Trials were all about regular people caught up in an insane lie, pointing fingers at each other to stay alive. (In the Devil’s crazy calculus, if you were accused, but then accused someone else, you’d save your own skin.) Where did the objects and stereotypes of witchcraft originate? During the Middle Ages, everyone cooked in caldrons; “eye of newt” and “wing of bat” were most likely plants used for medicinal purposes. And why is Salem now Witch Central? Blame the TV show Bewitched.  Elizabeth Montgomery and her twitchy nose filmed 8 episodes in Salem in the summer of 1970, which garnered great public interest in this New England town. Laurie Cabot – the first “official Witch of Salem” saw a burgeoning tourist market, and opened Salem’s first Witch Shop in 1971. Now, the flying witch is the town’s emblem, the football team is, yep, the Salem Witches, and even cop cars sport the crone-on-broomstick.

Hex and VampFangs Salem MA

Learning about the Witch Trials, and the tragic consequences in the very place it happened is one (but not the only reason) to visit Salem, MA. Stay to hear from real witches of today, to go on a night or day walking tour, and learn how Salem MA went from a town without witches to one with 900 practicing witch residents. To avoid crowds, come during shoulder season and try to keep away in October when Salem brims with broomsticks and pointy hats.

Things To Do In Salem, MA

Salem Witch Museum Salem MA

VISIT: The Salem Witch Museum. A first stop for Salem newcomers interested in an overview of the Witch Trials, this museum accurately depicts what happened here in 1692 via an absorbing multi-media presentation.  It seems a bit like payback to locate this tragic tale of religious and gender persecution in the 1846 First Church of Salem, but the setting makes for a riveting performance.  A new exhibit, about Witch Hunts in our own time (McCarthyism, Japanese Internment during WWII and blaming the AID epidemic on the gay community) adds another dimension. Open daily 10-5 with extended July, Aug. and Oct hours, $13 adults, $10 kids. 

Cas Tour Guide Salem Night Tour

TOUR: Salem Night Tour. In October, up to 1,300 tourists per night take this 1 hour 20 minute “Haunt and History Tour.” (Off-season averages 80 visitors per night). And even on a frigid 20 degree Wednesday winter’s eve, 11 people showed up (mostly from Australia) for this completely outdoor walking tour, which proves that seasonal temps have nothing on the popularity of Salem’s witch history and it’s purported hauntings.

Graveyard Salem Night Tour Salem MA

While Salem Night Tour Guides are steeped in the Witch Trials and local lore, each is free to guide in his or her own unique voice. One of the best is Cas, a striking 6 ft tall professed “history nerd” and ghost skeptic with a sharp, dramatic wit.

Salem Night Tour MA

Cas, dressed in a witch-like hooded mourning cloak, expounds on only the most documented ghost stories, as she guides you from cemetery to former dungeon sites, to the place where a man was “pressed” to death by boulders to elicit a confession, all the while narrating chilling, spooky stories about four-year-old prisoners, evil cops, and the mystifying fire of 1914 that wiped out the town, but began at the location of the Witch Hanging Tree. Tours nightly Nov-March 6pm Sun-Thurs 8pm Fri-Sat, April-Oct 8pm nightly begin at 127 Essex St. (Remember Salem), $15 adults, $10 kids.

TOUR: The Witch Walk. Tom Vallor AKA “Tom the Tour Guide,” who asserts that one is born a witch and after coming to that conclusion, must “come out of the broom closet,” is one of many who live in Salem. Appearing like an Amish rocker with hair to his waist and a healthy chin beard, mild-mannered Vallor begins his 90-minute walking tour asking, “why would real witches want to flock to a place known for executing women and men who were not witches at all?” The answer comes slowly, circuitously, over the course of the tour, which begins with a quick ritual – a Circle of Magic (“Like a Star Trek force field”) using burning sage, a sword and magic words – and ends after a visit to the 1637 Burying Point and Salem Witch Trials Memorial. Along the way, he tells tales about Salem in the 1600’s, habits of the Puritans, and stresses the fact that real witches have been vilified wrongly throughout history. When it comes down to it, Tom’s tour is a lesson in tolerance and levelheadedness.

Black clapboard house - last surviving house connected to the Salem Witch Trials

VISIT: The Witch House; The Witch House is the only surviving structure from the period, and though it’s been painted black (from a nice pea-green), and no witches were ever accused or brought here, its has some ties to the trials; it was the home of Witchcraft Trial Judge Jonathan Corwin.  A guided tour will bring you through rooms decorated as they would have been in the 17th century. Each room provides information on the Witch Trials, superstitions, midwifery, and offers a good idea of women’s lives at the time. Open daily mid-March – mid Nov. daily 10-5, $10.25 adults, $8.25 kids. 

Hope Hitchcock Witch Pix Salem MA

DO: Witch Pix Costume Studio. This is no “saloon gal” dress up tourist trap. For anyone – male or female – who comes to Salem for the witch history, a portrait studio session at Witch Pix and resulting photos are the best souvenirs you can buy. The experience itself is a hoot – beloved by families, bachelorette & entourage, engagements-to-be, High School Grads, Game of Thrones fans, and drag queens alike – with lots of sequins and sparkle, faux fur “pelts”, and um, leather get ups for a certain demographic.

Owner Hope Hitchcock stocks her studio with a huge variety of capes, dresses, and artisanal pointed hats that customers can choose to don (over clothing) for their portraits. The act of choosing is fun enough (and yes, you are helped), but it’s in the photo studio itself that things get really camp, with props like glowing crystal balls, flying brooms (and requisite fan), cauldrons, and skulls. RSVP Encouraged, though walk ins welcome. Photo shoot for 1-5 people results in over 70 digital images. Packages, including a 15-30 minute professionally conducted photo-shoot with chosen costume start at $41 for one Pix Print to $141 for all digital images and four Pix Prints.

Leanne Marrama Hex Old World Witchery Salem MA

DO: Tarot Card Reading with Leanne Marrama at Hex Old World Witchery. It only takes 15 minutes to discover your destiny, according to the awfully nice clairvoyant, Leanne Marrama. Salem Witch and Italian Strega, Leanne, reads your Tarot Cards, asks a few questions and then has you ask about your own concerns. An “intuitive,” she couches everything in the positive, so even a crisis might offer a challenging opportunity. This is a great exercise, even for people who don’t believe in these things, as it leaves you with a sense of optimism – or at least a course of action – especially after a parting hug. 15 minute Tarot Reading $40, 30 minutes $75, Mediumship (speaking to those who have “crossed over”) $75 for 30 minutes.

Voodoo Candles Hex Witch Shop Salem MA

SHOP: Hex Old World Witchery. For all your Voodoo, Dousing, tea and witch’s cape needs.

Tim Maguire, owner, Wynott’s Wands Salem MA

SHOP: Wynott’s Wands. Moved from the waterfront to this Essex St. location next door to Remember Salem, and, though now owned by Tim Maguire, still keeps the Wynott’s name. Are you an aspiring Harry?  Need a specific wand?  Choose among the largest selection of wands (most cost $22.95) this side of Diagon Alley.

Remember Salem Salem MA

SHOP: Remember Salem. The meeting place for Salem Night Tour. Back in the 70’s the TV show, Bewitched, drove a good percentage of Salem tourism. The Harry Potter books and movies are inspiring a whole new generation to visit the country’s center of witchcraft and wizardry.

Crow Haven Corner Salem Witch Walk

MOR TOURS: Other tours of Salem include Hocus Pocus Tours, history with nods to the movie (parts of which were filmed here), Salem Witch Walk – with an authentic town witch, Haunted Footsteps Tour, Black Cat Tours – which promises to cover more ground than any other walking tour, Bewitched After Dark Walking Tours, and  Spellbound Tours, which takes a ghost-hunting a paranormal exploration approach.

Bewitched Statue Salem MA

SEE: The Bewitched Statue. Due to a mysterious studio fire in Hollywood, production of the hit TV show, Bewitched, moved to Salem for three weeks in 1970.  Known as the “Salem Sagas” the show’s presence here brought national attention to Salem and kicked local tourism into high gear.  It’s been high-flying ever since.

FAMOUS FESTIVAL: Salem Haunted Happenings. If you don’t mind elbow-to-elbow crowds, join thousands of visitors for thousands of events from October 1st to Halloween, including Ghost Tours, Pirate Forays, and other ghoulish attractions.

Skulls, flags, talismans, notes on occult alter

SHOP: Three shops offer everything an amateur or professional witch may need.  Crow Haven Corner, Hex Old World Witchery (see above), and Omen are all witch-approved. There are  potions, spell kits, crystals, alters, and poppet dolls galore.

Veggie and Tomato Gourmet Pizza with medium thick crust

EAT: Flying Saucer Pizza Co.  So, it’s not quite witch food, but will Star Trek, Aliens and Pugs in astronaut suits do?  Find sustainable locally sourced chewy-crust pizzas, fourteen local beers on tap, and inexpensive wine in this funky space. Monday night is “Nerd Trivia Night,” just in case you were wondering. Gourmet pizzas $11 – $22.

Looking for hotel and restaurant recommendations? Check out our companion piece, Salem MA Without Witches.

Quick Weekend Getaway In Atlanta GA For Curious First Timers

WHY GO: When Super Bowl LIII plays in Atlanta, Georgia it will be at the still shiny new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Next door, the third largest convention center in the United States, Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) anchors the downtown entertainment hub that’s only a 15-minute Lyft ride from one of the world’s busiest airports. Many of Atlanta’s most popular attractions, hotels, and restaurants are concentrated within strolling distance Centennial Olympic Park, although you can hop on the Atlanta Streetcar to reach even more within a 2.7 mile loop. Big-city glitz wraps this metropolis with gleaming skyscrapers and a cosmopolitan polish, but at heart, Atlanta retains the feel of a charming Southern town.

Couple walks in Centennial Olympic Park with Atlanta GA skyline in background.

Things to Do in Atlanta GA

VISIT: Georgia Aquarium. When complete in 2020, the $100 million, 104,100-square-foot expansion will add an immersive shark exhibit to what was already the world’s largest aquarium from 2005-2012.

VISIT: Atlanta Botanical Garden. Set next to the Piedmont Park, a multi-use green space in Midtown, the botanical collections cover over 30 acres devoted to Southeastern flora as well as rare collections such as that of the Fuqua Orchid Center. Spring through Autumn, drop in on Thursday evening Cocktails in the Garden for specialty drinks and live music in a fairytale setting.

Visitors looking at Civil Rights March exhibit at Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Site Visitor Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

TOUR: Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. Begin with the orientation video and informative displays in the Visitor Center before touring the several buildings and gardens, over 35 acres, that are part of the site. Note that the Birth Home Tours do sell out, plan to go early.

VISIT: Center for Human and Civil Rights. This educational museum is well worth at least a 2-hour visit to learn about the struggle for equality in America; it’s a good complement to touring the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site for understanding the civil rights movement within the context of global human rights.

African American couple views mural about education and Black History in Atlanta GA.SEE: Atlanta Murals. Atlanta has one of the most colorful and diverse mural collections in the country, and it’s growing. In anticipation of Super Bowl LIII, the city is adding 30 murals inspired by the Civil Rights Movement. Check the Atlanta Street Art Map for directions and artist links, as well as self guided walking tours, encompassing the city’s extensive public art works collection.

Employee hands out free cans of soda at beginning of World of Coca Cola tour in Atlanta GA.

World of Coca Cola visit begins with a free can of soda.

VISIT: World of Coca Cola. If you’ve ever dropped into Club Cool at Disney World’s Epcot, you may already be familiar with the soda sampler. Kids (and many adults) grimace over the unusual soda flavors that are popular around the world. Expect even more variety (and weird flavors) at the Taste It! Beverage Lounge. Plan on at least two hours to get through the bottling works display, marketing exhibit, 4D Theater, and interactive Secret Formula Vault. Consider the VIP Guided Tour to avoid long lines and delays.

VISIT: College Football Hall of Fame. More than just a homage to the best of the best college players, the 95,000 square foot venue holds a 45-yard indoor football field with Touchstone Tunnel and Skill Zone Course.

CNN SignTOUR: CNN Studio Tours. Choose from a variety of experience options from Behind the Scenes to live studio options requiring background checks. Reservations highly recommended for specialty options.

TOUR: Southern Food Walk. The city boasts several food tours, some combining history and tastings. The Southern Food Tour stands out by offering 15 food tastings at 7 locally owned restaurants, with a look at the role food played in city history.

Girl rides scooter in front of Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta GA.

GO: The App transportation movement is in full force in Atlanta with a full assortment of electric scooters, bike sharing, and mopeds from Lime, Bird, and Muving. Use with caution, and do consider traveling with helmets.

SAVE: Atlanta CityPass. See five top Atlanta attractions–Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca Cola, CNN Studio Tours, Zoo Atlanta or Center for Civil and Human Rights, and College Football Hall of Fame or Fernbank Museum of Natural History–for $76 adults ($61 child.)

Front facade of The Food Shoppe in Atlanta GA.

What to Eat in Atlanta GA

VIEW: Sun Dial Restaurant. It’s hard to beat the view from atop one of Atlanta’s tallest buildings, but the Westin Peachtree Plaza’s premier dining venue goes all out by maximizing window-side seating in a three-level restaurant that revolves 360 degrees. Delicious farm-to-table fare, an extensive wine list, and signature cocktails ensure a truly special dining experience.

Tasting Menu: Staplehouse. Doing good and being good, meals at Staplehouse benefit the Giving Kitchen, serving restaurant workers in crisis. With seasonal tasting menus described as transcend, this is one of those bucket list restaurants that warrant repeat visits.

CHEAP EATS: The Food Shoppe. Nothing is really cheap in downtown Atlanta, but dishes here are relatively affordable and the location can’t be beat (one block from Centennial Olympic Park. Expect typical creole fare; the Shrimp & Grits, Mac n’ Cheese, and made-from-scratch Jambalaya are outstanding. There’s only a couple of tables indoors, consider doing take out.

Westin Peachtree Hotel Tower view from Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta GA.

Where to Stay in Atlanta GA

STAY: Westin Peachtree Plaza. The plusses: central location, very friendly staff, amazing view, indoor pool, onsite Starbucks, decent size room (for an urban hotel,) and all that one expects from the upscale Westin brand. Only drawback was the $48/night parking fee (not uncommon in major cities,) and that the entire computer system was down upon our midnight arrival, leading to long lines at checkin. (It’s hoped that this was an unusual occurrence.)

HISTORIC/BOUTIQUE: Ellis Hotel. Luxury with a dash of whimsy, some of the hotel’s more unusual offerings include specialty floors for Women Only or Dog Lovers.

Big-city glitz wraps this metropolis with gleaming skyscrapers and a cosmopolitan polish, but at heart, Atlanta retains the feel of a charming Southern town.

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