Rochester NY: Kodak, Playthings, and Susan B. Anthony

WHY GO: Though Rochester NY is known best for the Erie Canal, George Eastman – of Eastman-Kodak, and several top Universities, a certain powerhouse in the Women’s Right’s movement lived, worked, and is buried here. Susan B. Anthony was the face of Women’s Suffrage in the USA – and a visit to Rochester will not be complete without a tour of her home and gravesite. Anthony is buried near the final resting place of her friend and fellow Abolitionist and Suffragist, Frederick Douglass. Anthony, Douglass, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harriet Tubman, and Mark Twain all gravitated to the Western New York region, a hotbed of Civil and Women’s Rights activism. It still is. Expand your already broad mind on this Radical Getaway.

What to Do in Rochester NY

TOUR: Susan B. Anthony’s House. On a leafy street lined with tidy Victorian homes, Susan B. Anthony’s house has been preserved to honor the face of the Women’s Suffrage Movement in the USA. Anthony never married (though she was asked 7 times), never had children, and was the outgoing Yin to Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s scholarly, but quiet Yang.

Anthony, born in Adams, MA in 1820, came to Rochester NY with her family as Quaker Abolitionists involved in anti-slavery and Temperance activities. Upstate NY was a hotbed of activists, in fact, as it was just 70 miles from Canada across Lake Ontario, a final stop on the Underground Railroad. Frederick Douglas, who had purchased his own freedom, settled in Rochester after the Civil War, writing his Narrative of The Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave. Due to mutual interests, Douglass and Anthony became friends.

A tour of Anthony’s home begins next door where her sister, Hannah, lived. After a short orientation and glimpse at a small exhibit, you’ll step on the same bluestone sidewalk, installed in the mid 1800’s, that the Anthonys did, and enter Susan’s house. Built in 1859, it is not a grand home, but of course its walls hold plenty of tales. Many are told on this tour. Though at the time, women had no financial rights, no control over their own children, and were banned from speaking in public, Susan B. Anthony focused on abolishing slavery and alcohol, not women’s rights. All that changed at a chance meeting on a street corner in Seneca Falls NY, where Anthony was breaking the law by speaking out in public against slavery. Amelia Bloomer (inventor of the garment that would liberate women from tight corsets and skirts) introduced Anthony to the quiet thinker and writer, Elizabeth Cady Stanton – a mother of seven children who had written the Declaration of Sentiments – a parallel Declaration of Independence used as springboard for the July 19, 1848 Women’s Rights Convention.

Melding strengths, Anthony and Stanton became a force to be reckoned with. Anthony babysat for Stanton’s children while Stanton worked on her inspiring essays and speeches, which Anthony would deliver on tours throughout the country. Anthony’s office was on the 2nd floor. From here, she wrote 50 letters a day. Her famous alligator purse is on display – some say it was Susan’s signature to quickly identify her in a crowd.

The third floor – dubbed the War Room – has the most residual juju. It was here that some of the most influential women of the day gathered to plot next moves and write burning compositions to inspire and agitate. You can almost feel the energy up here.

Lastly, as you stand in her front parlor, you’ll hear how Anthony was arrested in this very room. In 1872, when Black men could vote, Anthony used the 14th Amendment (US Citizens shall not be deprived of life, liberty or property) to argue her right to vote with a young fellow overseeing voter’s registration at a barbershop down the street (he relented). Though 15 other women voted (with proper registration) that day, she was the only one arrested. Before her trial, Anthony traveled from town to town, giving her speech, “When is it illegal for an American Citizen to vote?” though on the day of her trial, the judge forbade Anthony to speak on her own behalf. Anthony persisted and spoke anyway, reciting again her “American Citizen” speech to a courtroom packed with reporters. It was a turning point in the Women’s Suffrage movement (and yes, her vote for Ulysses S. Grant did count).

Susan B. Anthony never lived to see the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. She died at age 86 in 1906, her funeral packed with 10,000 mourners. Open Tues-Sun 11-5, $15 for guided tour. 

VISIT: Mount Hope Cemetery for the final resting places of two American heroes – Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. Every four years, on Election Day, several hundred women make a pilgrimage to SBA’s grave to place “I Voted” stickers on her tombstone. On Nov. 8th 2016, so many men and women showed up (some estimate 10,000), it made national news.

A commemorative inscription near the grave of Frederick Douglass reads: born 1818, died 1895; Escaped Slave, Abolitionist, Suffragist, Journalist and Statesman; Founder of the Civil Rights Movement in America; and, according to the current US President, “an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more.”

George Eastman Suicide Note Eastman Museum Rochester NY

George Eastman Suicide Note Eastman Museum Rochester NY

VISIT: George Eastman Museum. Though the George Eastman Museum holds the world’s leading collection of photographic and cinematographic technology, one of the most jarring artifacts in the home of the “pioneer of popular photography and motion picture film,” isn’t a photograph. It’s the nine-word suicide note Eastman left at age 77, when, in declining health and suffering from spinal stenosis, he took his own life. “To my friends: My work is done. Why wait?”

George Eastman Mansion, Rochester NY

George Eastman Mansion, Rochester NY

Oh what work it was. Born in 1854, Eastman established his first “Dry Plate” company in 1881 after inventing an emulsion that allowed photographers to capture pictures without having to haul a complete “wet” darkroom for remote shots. An entrepreneur and marking genius, Eastman made up the word “Kodak” in 1888 to sell a new product that no-one had ever seen before: a roll-film camera. “You push the button, we do the rest.”

First Kodak Camera

“You press the button, we do the rest.” That slogan, which promised to eliminate the mess and mystery of darkroom processing, revolutionized the photography industry, ensuring the success of the Eastman Kodak company.

You’ll learn all about Eastman’s invention, and how this man born to parents of modest means lived his life, on a tour of the home that serves as a museum as well. A life-size copy of the elephant he shot on his first African safari at age 72 takes center stage in a sunny central solarium. Upstairs in his living room – which also served as his office – a portrait of his mother looms over the desk on which Eastman changed his will and wrote his very last words.

George Eastman's Desk Rochester NY

George Eastman’s Desk Rochester NY

Guests enter into a Visitor’s Center, built in 1989, which houses three galleries, one focused on the history of Photography, with historic cameras under glass that may well include the very one used to take the iconic raising of the flag photo on Iwo Jima. The 500-seat Dryden Theater, built in 1951 within the mansion complex, is the only theater in the world equipped for the projection of original nitrate film and has screenings on a regular basis. The museum also offers hands-on workshops in historic and alternative film processes. Register online. Open Tues-Sat 10-5, Sun 11-5, $15, includes mansion tour at 10:30 and 2, Tues-Sat, 2pm Sun.

Sky Diner, Strong Museum, Rochester NY

Skyliner Diner, Strong Museum, Rochester NY

VISIT: Strong Museum of Play. Logic would dictate that a museum devoted to play is fun for kids, boring for adults, right? Nothing can be further from the truth regarding this madcap, frenetic, humongous (285,000 sq ft.) temple of toys that sprang from the toy chest of buggy whip company heiress, Margaret Strong in 1968 (originally in her home). Needless to say, the Strong Museum, opened to the public in 1982, is “family friendly,” but it also transports adults back to childhood, with cherished playthings of yore that serve as conversation starters.

Butterfly Garden Strong Museum Rochester NY

Butterfly Garden Strong Museum Rochester NY

Even before you purchase your ticket – you’re faced with a 1918 traveling carousel (ride-able), and the whole of Bill Gray’s Skyline Diner (operating) in the large lobby. One third of the museum is interactive, another third interpretive, and the remaining third, strictly archival.

Sesame St Strong Museum Rochester NY

Sesame St Strong Museum Rochester NY

The first floor skews younger. Here you can sit on the famous front stoop of Sesame Street, wait for a Muppet Taxi, and join in at a Dance Lab. In Imagination Destination, you can press colorful lit-up buttons on the bridge of a star ship and pilot a rescue helicopter. Enter the “World’s Largest Pop-up Book” in Reading Adventureland. There are pinball machines (small fee for tokens) – and on exhibit, the very first iterations, utilizing actual pins.

Butterfly Garden The Strong Museum Rochester NY

Butterfly Garden The Strong Museum Rochester NY

The Strong has one of the best butterfly gardens I’ve ever seen (and I’ve been to many). Tiny Chinese Button Quail run underfoot as vibrant butterflies flitter around their spa-like sanctuary, with water features, orchids, and piped in calming music. Ruby the Red Footed Tortoise, and Socrates – a bird in the Toucan family – bring even more color to the verdant place.

Virtual Interactive Bubbles Strong Museum Rochester NY

Virtual Interactive Bubbles Strong Museum Rochester NY

The second floor consists of the Toy Hall of Fame – and it’s here that adults get downright nostalgic. Past honorees have included the Wiffle Ball, Clue, and Etch A Sketch, but other choices have caused some controversy. Paper airplanes, cardboard boxes, balls, and just plain ole sticks prompted Jon Stewart to gripe, with hilarious aplomb, on the Daily Show. An interactive “Bubble Wall” allows users to pop virtual bubbles, and take personal photos that show up inside them. The larger – than – life Etch A Sketch will draw your portrait and send it to you via email as a gif.

Missile Arsenal Game Strong Museum Rochester NY

Missile Arsenal Game Strong Museum Rochester NY

The America At Play exhibit generates the most Boomer memories. Yes, there’s Candyland, Shoots and Ladders, Battleship – the icons of childhood. But other more obscure board games tended to follow historic themes. During the Cold War and Space Race, there were lots of guns, planes, action figures, and at least one game called “Missile Arsenal.”

Thomas Edison 1890 Singing Doll Strong Museum Rochester NY

Thomas Edison 1890 Singing Doll Strong Museum Rochester NY

The Strong has also acquired some “firsts.” It’s got the original 1933 hand-drawn (round) Monopoly Game, which Charles Darrow sold to Parker Bros. (good move), and the very first Barbie Doll. But the most disturbing toy is Thomas Edison’s 1890 “Singing Doll.” The figure, with a perforated steel torso, is scary enough, but Edison recorded kids belting out several nursery rhymes, and the resulting screechy static terrified listeners. You can listen to some online or here. Open Mon-Thurs 10-5, Fri/Sat 10-8, Sun 12-5, $15.

Harriet Tubman Sculpture Memorial Art Gallery Rochester NY

Harriet Tubman Sculpture Memorial Art Gallery Rochester NY

VISIT: Memorial Art Gallery. Founded in 1913, and affiliated with the University of Rochester, this comprehensive museum of art and antiquities encompasses many galleries on two floors and out into sculpture gardens. Contemporary pieces hang next to the originals that informed them. There’s a small sculpture of Harriet Tubman (a full size stands in Harlem, NY), “Ashcan Art” – renderings of everyday life, Yayoi Kusama’s Pink Venus, Georgia O’Keefe, Degas, Cezanne, Hockney, European, Islamic, Asian – art from all over the world. Come on the 3rd Thursday of each month for a “DeTOUR” ($10), based on Museum Hack, for lots of fun, laughs, and meme play. Open Wed-Sun 11-5, Thursdays and select Fridays until 9pm. $15 adults, half price after 5 on Thurs.

High Falls Rochester NY

High Falls Rochester NY

PHOTO OP: High Falls. It’s the waterfall right in the middle of the city, and makes a great backdrop for selfies or we-sies.

Sam Patch Canal Boat Pittsford NY

Sam Patch Canal Boat Pittsford NY

TOUR/BOAT: Sam Patch Canal Boat, Pittsford (about 20 minutes southeast of Rochester). Greater Rochester NY school kids are required to learn the words to the 1905 song, “Fifteen Miles on the Erie Canal,” so instrumental is the history of this waterway to the region. The Erie Canal, declared a National Heritage Corridor, was built starting in 1817 to transport goods from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes, but became nearly obsolete when completed in 1825. Constructed by laymen – not an engineer among them – the project was controversial from the start. Thomas Jefferson thought it “a little short of madness,” and cost prohibitive. All work had to be done by hand and pick-axes, as dynamite had not been invented yet, in an area so swampy that malaria killed over 1,000 workers.

Entering Erie Canal Lock on Sam Patch Boat Pittsford NY

Entering Erie Canal Lock on Sam Patch Boat Pittsford NY

You’ll learn this and more as you travel a portion of the originally 40 ft wide, 4 ft deep 323 mile long canal – and into one of the locks that allowed early freighters to navigate these waters. “NY is not flat, and boats don’t like going downhill,” our guide quipped. “The level change from one end to the other is the height of a 50 story building.”

Helping on Sam Patch Canal Boat Pittsford NY

Helping on Sam Patch Canal Boat Pittsford NY

Now, the canal is three times as wide and three times as deep, yet still cannot handle the larger commercial ships built these days. Some barges still do come through, however; most notably, in May 2017, when a few piled with beer tanks for the expanding Genesee Brewery caused quite a sensation in small Erie Canal towns. But, for the most part the waterway and Canal path alongside it are used for recreational boats and bicycles. 90 minute cruises May-Oct. noon, 2pm, $16 adults, $8 kids.

Erie Canalside Pittsford NY

Erie Canalside Pittsford NY

EXPLORE: Pittsford. Before or after the cruise, walk along the Pittsford canal promenade to shop in a handful of cute eclectic stores, and for a glass or flight of wine at the Via Girasole Wine Bar.

Via Girasole Wine Bar Pittsford NY

Via Girasole Wine Bar Pittsford NY

You can make a light dinner of a NY Wine Flight with Orange-Lavender Riesling Jam, local cheeses, meats, and bread in an adorably dressed wine tasting room. I’m a new fan of Sheldrake Point Chardonnay, Boundary Brakes Rose, and Lakewood Cab Franc – all produced nearby. Wine/meat charcuterie, 3 for $17, 6 for $32, flight of 3 wines $18.

Hosmer's Tavern Genesee Country Village and Museum Mumsford NY

Hosmer’s Tavern Genesee Country Village and Museum Mumsford NY

TOUR: Genesee Country Village and Museum, Mumford (about 30 minutes southwest of Rochester). Looking for a unique, fun date night? Hosmer’s Tavern at the third largest living history museum in the USA (in number of historic buildings, after Williamsburg and Greenfield Village), Genesee Country Village and Museum, offers a 4-course meal and candlelight tour of the Village Town Square on select Friday and Saturday nights in Spring and Fall.

Costumed Docent Genesee Country Village and Museum Mumford NY

Costumed Docent Genesee Country Village and Museum Mumford NY

If those dates don’t work, or you want to explore all 68 pedigreed historic buildings on 20 acres, come mid-May to Mid October, when costumed docents bustle around, tending to the duties of a working 19th century village.

Sheep Genesee Country Village and Museum Mumford NY

Sheep Genesee Country Village and Museum Mumford NY

Genesee Country Village, founded with the goal of preserving and sharing architecture of the Genesee region with a focus on life in the 19th century, interprets three time periods – Pioneer from late 1700’s to early 1800’s, the Canal Era (1820’s – 1860’s) and the Gaslight – Victorian Era (1870’s – 1910’s). Each day, 19 different buildings are staffed, and others are open for self-guided tours. You’ll find the whole gamut of village life – houses, businesses, shops, breweries and taverns – open for visitors.

John L. Wehle Gallery Genesee Country Village and Museum Mumford NY

John L. Wehle Gallery Genesee Country Village and Museum Mumford NY

Your first stop should be the new John L. Wehle Gallery just past the Visitor’s Center – renewed and expanded in 2013, with wildlife, hunting, and fishing related art and artifacts, and over 3,000 articles of 19th century clothing and accessories (from Susan Greene collection) in bright galleries. You’ll get your bearings before continuing on.

Anti-Slavery Quilt Eastman Childhood Home Genesee Country Village and Museum Mumford NY

Anti-Slavery Quilt Eastman Childhood Home Genesee Country Village and Museum Mumford NY

Among the most popular buildings in the complex is George Eastman’s Greek Revival childhood home where he lived from birth to six years old, transported here from Waterville. Eastman’s mother was an abolitionist who sewed quilts to raise money at anti-slavery fairs. Now, volunteers create all the quilts that are found throughout the village.

Genesee Country Village and Museum Mumford NY

Genesee Country Village and Museum Mumford NY

If you’re short on time, be sure to see the highlights: The iconic octagon Hyde House is the most photographed building in the museum. The Livingston Bacus home, a large urban house with fantastic carved wood banister, belonged to the second doctor in Rochester. Hosmer’s Tavern, mentioned above, was once on Route 5 between Avon and Caledonia. Also “on campus,” find miles of marked Nature Trails and Grieve’s Brewery – America’s only operational 19th Century Brewery that utilizes strictly handmade wood and copper equipment, liquid is hand-pumped, and the brew kettle is word fired.  This living history museum offers lots of programming throughout the season, including classes in Domestic Skills of the day, and the uber-popular “Soldier Camp” for youth. To maximize your time on a self-guided tour, use your cell phone to access an Audio Tour (585) 627-4128, and follow the prompts. Open Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day, Tues-Sun 10-4, Memorial Day – mid Oct Wed-Sun 10-4, $18 adults, $10 kids.

Where to Eat in Rochester NY

Cub Room Rochester NY

Cub Room Rochester NY

EAT: Cub Room. You’ll find this high-end pub, formerly Ward’s Hardware Supplies, in Rochester’s hipster S. Wedge neighborhood. Named for the private Cub Room in New York City’s former Stork Club, this one has an industrial-chic, quirky literary bent, with pages from The Great Gatsby plastered all over the bathroom stalls. (In fact, the Cub Room throws a Gatsby New Years Eve soiree to beat the band). Food is good to great; oder the excellent “Triangoli” ($20, yes, triangle-shaped ravioli), the delectable Zucchini Blossoms over Couscous ($13), and finish with a simply divine Cub Room S’mores – one humongous charred marshmallow atop graham cracker cake and chocolate. Wow.

Jine's Rochester NY

Jine’s Rochester NY

EAT: Jine’s. There’s usually a line out of the door of this city institution, opened in 1971 before Park Ave. was trendy. Now, it’s a popular modernized Greek diner-type eatery frequented by young professionals, parents with kids, ladies who lunch…everyone really. With a book-length menu and “breakfast all day,” Jine’s is a local hangout, and busy at all hours.

EAT: Grappa/Hilton Garden Inn. This contemporary Italian spot may be situated inside a chain hotel, but it’s a worthy destination for those seeking from scratch soup, pastas and other tastes of Italy. Greens and Beans is a standout – a combo of broccoli rabe and cannelloni beans in broth – the perfect lunch.

EAT/PHOTO OP: 1872 Café. It’s a pizza place named for the year that Susan B. Anthony voted, and yes, the pizza’s pretty decent, too.

Chit Chat Cafe

You’re never alone at the Chit Chat Cafe, where owner Luanne Burgess welcomes customers with a warm, friendly smile and the most delicious homemade bread.

BREAKFAST: Chit Chat Cafe. Warm and friendly, Rochester’s favorite breakfast spot is the kind of place where it’s not unusual to see random acts of kindness: on a recent day, a customer paid forward $100, a sum that goes a long way there. Portions are huge, but even so, don’t miss out on extra servings of the Cinnamon Swirl Toast.

Where to Stay

Porch Ellwanger Estate Rochester NY

Porch Ellwanger Estate Rochester NY

STAY: Ellwanger Estate B&B. First built as a farmhouse in 1817, and then purchased and enlarged by George and Ellen Ellwanger (co owner of Ellwanger and Barry Nurseries) in 1867 and 1910, staying here is an immersion into the wealthy lifestyle of the Victorian Age. A MAVEN FAVORITE – you can read all about it HERE.

Catskill’s Sullivan County NY: Boomer Bliss in Bethel and Livingston Manor

WHY GO: Woodstock. “Three days of fun and music, and nothing but fun and music.” Need we say more? Of course, yes.

Lisa Lyons Morgan Outdoors Livingston Manor NY

Lisa Lyons Morgan Outdoors Livingston Manor NY

Boomers will recognize this area of the Catskills, also, as the former “Borscht Belt.” Summer resorts like The Concord, Grossinger’s, and Kutshers (mostly abandoned and in various states of decay) drew Jewish families from NYC. (This is where the movie, Dirty Dancing, was set). But lately, a new crop of boutique hotels – less glitzy, more design-forward “of the land” – have been drawing a younger crowd in search of history and great hiking in Catskills Park, with cool shopping and farmer’s market eateries to boot. Read on for the Maven’s Best in several Sullivan County NY villages.

Things to Do in Sullivan County/Catskills NY

Site of Woodstock Music Festival Bethel NY

Site of Woodstock Music Festival Bethel NY

GO: Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, Bethel. The name “Bethel Wood”s  might not be familiar, but I’ll get right down to it: this was Yasgur’s Farm – the site of Woodstock Music Festival in 1969 – now a fantastic museum and once again a live music venue. Bethel Woods is hallowed ground and a touchstone for Boomers who lived through the 60’s, and also for youngsters intrigued by that era.

Bethel Woods Arts Center Bethel NY

Bethel Woods Arts Center Bethel NY

The Museum at Bethel Woods does a masterful job interpreting the turbulence, struggles, and ideals of the 1960’s – a decade that saw the assassination of a president, a senator, and a civil rights leader (John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King), the rise of the Berlin Wall, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and escalation of the Viet Nam War. But it also ushered in the “Summer of Love (’67), Women’s Lib, Flower Power, the moon landing, and by decade’s end, in 1969, Woodstock.

Bethel Woods Museum Exhibits Bethel NY

Bethel Woods Museum Exhibits Bethel NY

Originally scheduled in the small town of Woodstock NY, advance tickets for the music festival, which featured The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Janice Joplin, Richie Havens, Joni Mitchell, Santana, Crosby Stills and Nash, Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Arlo Guthrie, Credence Clearwater Revival, and more, sold at such a frenetic pace the venue had to be changed. Max Yasgur famously offered his alfalfa field for the concert, and the rest, they say, is history.

Woodstock videos, Bethel Woods Museum, Bethel NY

Woodstock videos, Bethel Woods Museum, Bethel NY

Over 400,000 people ultimately made their way up to this rural area of the Catskills – turning Bethel NY into the third largest city in New York for three days. Bumper to bumper Volkswagen vans and cars stretched for over 20 miles, requiring musicians to be flown in. The bands loved the space – “it was made in heaven, a bowl with a rise for a stage.” Hundreds of thousands of young folks overwhelmed this small community: the logistics were mind-boggling. But local farmers and nearby residents rose to the occasion, making and distributing sandwiches and “breakfast in bed for 400,000.”

Buses and Bugs, Bethel Woods Museum NY

Buses and Bugs, Bethel Woods Museum NY

The weather was fine and then it wasn’t. But pouring rain and mud didn’t dampen enthusiasm. The Grateful Dead played in the dark. Richie Havens made up his song, “Freedom” on the spot. Canned Heat’s “Going up the country, do you want to go,” referenced the great gathering. Though some people got sick, there were only two deaths: one of a drug overdose, and the other, a 17 year old, killed by a tractor as it ran over his sleeping bag.

Magic Bus, Bethel Woods Museum, Bethel NY

Magic Bus, Bethel Woods Museum, Bethel NY

The Museum at Bethel Woods is infused with the vibes of Woodstock, with large-screen videos, and movies of the concert shown on several large screens and in a psychedelic “Magic Bus.” Those of us who lived through the era will feel a sense of wistful nostalgia tapping into that spirit of community and engagement. Open daily 10-7, $15 adults, $11 youth.

Nemo Fly at Catskill Flyfishing Museum, Livingston Manor NY

Little Nemo Fly at Catskill Flyfishing Museum, Livingston Manor NY

VISIT: Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum, Livingston Manor. Nearby Roscoe, NY was “Trout Town USA.” In fact, fly-fishing actually begat tourism in the Catskills, so it makes sense to stop in to this informative museum, set on 53 riverfront acres, dedicated to preserving the fly-fishing heritage. In addition to being able to fish in the Willowemoc Creek, picnic in a family pavilion, and practice casting, in the museum, you’ll find lots of glass cases, walls, and corners filled with everything to do with the Angler lifestyle: delicate hand made flies, photos of famous fly-tiers, tourism posters, and a unique Casting Simulator Machine. Open daily April-October 10-4.

Main Street Farm, Livingston Manor NY

Main Street Farm, Livingston Manor NY

EXPLORE: Livingston Manor. This small town, like many in the Southern Catskills NY, has been going through a Brooklynish revival. Cadres of cool kids, partial to farm-to-table fare, hand crafted beer, and home-goods, have been leaving the city behind for a more bucolic life with like-minded folks. These are our favorite shops and attractions:

Catskill Art Society - CAS - Livingston Manor NY

Catskill Art Society – CAS – Livingston Manor NY

GO: Catskill Art Society (CAS). See the best of local contemporary art in two and a half bright galleries. A great temperature controlled diversion on a freezing or swampy day. Open Mon, Thurs, Sat 11-6, Sun 11-3, free.

Morgan Outdoors, Livingston Manor NY

Morgan Outdoors, Livingston Manor NY

SHOP: Morgan Outdoors (next to CAS). Owner Lisa Lyons has a keen eye for ambling aptitude: she can assess your hiking level as soon as you walk through the door, and will size you up and send you on your way with a map to her favorite spots. Sullivan County, the “gateway into the 287,500 acre Catskill Park,” has hundreds of miles of trails for beginners and intermediates as well as for the most strenuous hiker, so being unfamiliar with the terrain can waste lots of time unless someone with local knowledge points you in the right direction – with the proper gear. Morgan Outdoors, purveyor of clothing, footwear, and all the necessities for 4-season outdoor adventures, has it all.

Hiking Poles, Morgan Outdoors, Livingston Manor NY

Hiking Poles, Morgan Outdoors, Livingston Manor NY

Lyons focuses on the region’s five steel Fire Towers that remain (out of 23), initially built to protect the forest, now offering hikers a 360 view above the treelines. She’s a huge advocate for hiking poles – vastly different than your tree-limb walking sticks – and sells them like crazy in her store. Even if you don’t need anything, Lyons invites you to pop in for a “hand-drawn map” of local trails. They’re free.

Willow and Brown, Livingston Manor NY

Willow and Brown, Livingston Manor NY

SHOP: Willow and Brown – fun and eye-catching housewares and kitchen tools, jewelry, and clothing for men and women. Shares space with Sugar Blossom Flowers.

Nest, Livingston Manor NY

Nest, Livingston Manor NY

SHOP: Nest. Goods, clothing, and jewelry from all over the world. This is the second location for Anna Bern, former Design Director for Vogue Magazine, who has another Nest in Narrowsburg NY.

Upstream Wine, Livingston Manor NY

Upstream Wine, Livingston Manor NY

SHOP/WINE: Upstream Wine and Spirits. What a beautifully curated wine selection. And informative, too.

Dette Flies, Livingston Manor NY

Dette Flies, Livingston Manor NY

SHOP: Dette Flies. Walter Dette opened his first fly-fishing shop in 1928. At 90 years old, Dette Flies is considered the “Oldest Family Owned Fly Shop in the World.” The location has changed seven times since then, and Dette’s is now run by grandson Joe Fox, but this establishment never strayed from its original purpose. Come in to buy flies, tie your own, and/or learn how cast. Dette’s is a perennial destination for “dry fly fishing” accoutrements.

Where to Eat and Drink in Sullivan County NY

Catskill Brewery, Livingston Manor NY

Catskill Brewery, Livingston Manor NY

BEER/TASTING: Catskill Brewery. Known for its craft lagers, wood aged brews, and fantastic sours, Catskill Brewery credits “excellent town water” that “doesn’t have to be treated much at all.” Like all microbreweries, names of beers recount local places and legends. To whit – “Freak Tractor – a 100% Belgian Blond – references the vehicle that ran over and killed a teen-ager at Woodstock. Though you may be able to find some crafts on tap in NYC and surrounding areas, you’ve got to get here for the “very precious” Catskill Grand Cru – a sour beer aged in Chardonnay oak barrels. It’s one of the most delicious sours on the planet.

Oscar Brown's at Sullivan Country Club NY

Oscar Brown’s at Sullivan County Golf and Country Club NY

GOLF/EAT: Oscar Brown’s At Sullivan County Golf and Country Club, Liberty. If you’d like to combine a round of golf with a meal, Oscar Brown’s, on an Historic golf Course property, offers “Nine and Dine” specials in an unpretentious pub-like restaurant. It’s most gorgeous on a spring or fall late afternoon at sunset.

Main Street Farm, Livingston Manor NY

Main Street Farm, Livingston Manor NY

EAT: Main Street Farm, Livingston Manor This counter service sandwich shop slash market would not look out of place in Brooklyn – it’s a mash up of a rustic/funky NYC deli and farm-share. Pierced and sunny staff offers menu advice to multi-culti locals who’ve moved up, or have summer homes here, along with a growing number of visitors. There are terrific vegan options as well as organic, humanely raised meats.

Cabernet Frank's

Cabernet Frank’s

NIGHTLIFE: Cabernet Frank’s, Parksville. Food is secondary to the beer, wine, and music at this “Borscht Belt BBQ” spot in an otherwise lonely, but possibly up and coming downtown. It’s Exit 98 off Route 17 – the original Borscht Belt highway.

Where to Stay in Sullivan County NY

The DeBruce Livingston Manor NY

The DeBruce Livingston Manor NY

STAY: The DeBruce, Livingston Manor. Built in 1880 as an inn, and then a boarding house, the DeBruce has not roamed far from its origins – except stylistically. Now a cool-bean 14-room boutique hotel, owned by hospitality maestros, Sims and Kirstin Foster, who also own the equally cool Arnold House, North Branch Inn, and 9 River Road, the DeBruce is emblematic of a new kind of Catskill Hotel: less mass market resort, more high-end, mid-century-modern getaway geared toward travelers who appreciate design and good food. Recently, the DeBruce was recognized by Conde Nast Traveler as one of the Best New Hotels in the World. This is a Maven Favorite with a complete write up HERE.

Hudson Valley Rose, Middletown, NY – A Country Weekend to Remember

Hudson Valley Rose B and B exterior

Your first view of Hudson Valley Rose Bed & Breakfast in Middletown, NY is that of a tree-lined gravel road that seems to go on and on and on. Surrounded by all the lush foliage, you might be tempted to belt out the 1960s hit TV Show theme song, “Green Acres is the place to be. Farm livin’ is the life for me. Land spreadin’ out so far and wide Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside.”

Set on over 60 acres of Hudson Valley forest and farm land, the estate was the country home of an illustrious list of tastemakers that includes designer Laura Ashely and makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin. Today, New York City expats Doug and Jace have transformed the private home into a intimate retreat with three uniquely luxurious rooms in the original 1847 Stone House, and the sumptuous Manchester Cottage that’s perfect for a romantic getaway.

Farmer Owner Sutton Green proudly added his name to one of the stone tiles at the top of this exterior wall, but it was overshadowed by the much larger tile signed by Stone Mason Charles Wilkison.

First Impressions of Hudson Valley Rose B&B

A stay at Hudson Vally Rose B&B begins with an email listing things to do in the area and driving instructions (although GPS works well in the area, printed routes can be invaluable on country roads.) Upon arrival, Doug and/or Jace and their adorable toddler (the family and their friendly dog live onsite in a separate cottage) are there to meet guests with a warm greeting that extends to going above and beyond to stock rooms with thoughtful amenities.

Guests find a generous collection of drinks and snacks, including freshly baked cookies, awaiting them in their room.

You might expect the monogramed robe and high end toiletries, but less usual is a wicker basket tempting you to toss your itinerary in favor of a picnic on the lawn. (Note that picnic food is available at an additional charge.)

But it soon becomes clear that an appreciation of the outdoors is integral to the Hudson Rose. And why not? Hudson Valley is one of the most scenic areas in the Americas, so beautiful in fact, that it inspired the Hudson River School, an art movement of landscape painters influenced by Romanticism.

A tour of the property might begin outdoors, skirting picnic tables and perennial gardens, to see the fields leased out to farmers and onward past rose brambles to where hiking trails lead into the dense forests. Indoors at the Stone House, accommodations are upstairs, while the main level separates into a main living room and sunny breakfast room with attached reading nook.

Hudson Valley Rose Living Room

The front living room runs almost the full length of the house, offering multiple seating areas. Furnished with an eclectic collection of antiques and curiosities, the decor itself becomes a topic of conversation.

Rooms and Suites at Hudson Valley Rose B&B

Hudson Valley Rose Ashley Room

Each room is unique. The Laura Ashley room, inspired by the famous designer’s penchant for floral motifs, surrounds a queen-size bed, fireplace, and claw-foot bathtub with rose-motif wallpaper and linens. The Wilkison room, named for the stone mason who built the house, exposes an original stone wall as well as wood ceiling beams.

Hudson Valley Rose Cottage

Most charming of all, a short garden path past peonies and daylilies leads to Manchester Cottage, named for the 1990s owner who sourced materials from regional 18th Century barns to construct two cottages on the estate.

Barn-like high ceilings made of salvaged wood are softened by luxury lines and the glow of tapered lights reminiscent of candlelight on a central chandelier.

A tall brick fireplace dominates the space while windows on three walls, plus French doors invite the outdoors in, and visa versa.

An ample walk-through glass-wall shower provides all necessary functionality, but the star of the bathroom is a therapeutic copper Japanese soaking tub.

Breakfast at Hudson Valley Rose B&B

Gathered for breakfast at Hudson Valley Rose

Doug and Jace’s unstinting attention to detail is most evident at the breakfast table. Not only do they bring in farm to table–the eggs are picked up two doors up the road–but they’ve clearly put a lot of thought into the presentation of the yummy offerings. Rich brewed coffee is poured into hand-made clay mugs stamped with the Hudson Valley Rose logo.

Hudson Valley Rose Breakfast Skillet

Thick slabs of bacon are presented upright in a glass jar accompanying a frittata which arrives in a personal-size iron skillet. Conversation, fueled by hearty fare and the Sunday New York Times, flows freely at the farm table. The breakfast table is made for leisurely-paced meals where guests may linger as long as they like. Like every facet of Hudson Valley Rose, it invites guests to forget their day to day lives in favor of the relaxing pleasures of a perfect country weekend.

Just the Facts

Rooms from $200-$500 depending on day and season, includes full breakfast, parking, wi-fi. Ask about available gear such as picnic baskets and fishing rods.

Nearby Hudson Valley Getaways:

Seacoast New Hampshire: Roots of Our Nation in Exeter, Barrington, Rye, and New Castle

WHY GO: Visitors to Portsmouth New Hampshire are missing a great deal if they ignore the city’s outlying areas – within the region dubbed Seacoast NH. Small town Exeter, home to the venerable prep school, Phillips-Exeter, will charm you to pieces – and also provide an enlightening glimpse of our Founding Father’s debate over what makes “a more perfect union” at the American Independence Museum. From one of the oldest Country Stores in America, to exotic creatures from the Gulf Of Maine, to the Hotel that hosted a world-famous Peace Treaty – this Getaway stands on its own as a true Patriotic New England escape. But add Portsmouth to get the very most out of a Seacoast NH discovery tour.

Things to do In Seacoast NH Region

American Independence Museum Exeter NH

TOUR: American Independence Museum, Exeter. One of the many misconceptions about the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution is that they emerged from the minds of our Founding Fathers fully-fledged, Intelligently Designed. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Both were works in progress, with many reworked drafts, and the American Independence Museum, located in the Ladd-Gilman House, illuminates this better than any other historical museum.

Interior American Independence Museum Exeter NH

Interior American Independence Museum Exeter NH

The circa 1721 Ladd-Gilman House, home to signer of the U.S. Constitution and State Senator, Nicholas Gilman, Sr. and his brother John Taylor Gilman, served as the New Hampshire Treasury (Nicholas), and Governor’s Mansion (John), and is now The American Independence Museum, renowned for historical documents dating back to the birth of our nation, and for a Club formed right after the War – The Society of Cincinnati.

Fort William and Mary aka Fort Constitution Portsmouth NH

In the 1700’s, the New Hampshire coastline was a British stronghold – Fort William and Mary (renamed Fort Constitution), a repository for gunpowder. Though there was never a major Revolutionary War battle in New Hampshire, the American raid on the Fort in 1774, to steal stockpiled arms, is considered one of the first (if not the first) volley in the Revolutionary War – a year before the Shot Heard Around the World in Concord MA. The gunpowder, subsequently used in the Battle of Bunker Hill, was shipped to several other outposts, some to Exeter, and stored in the Powder House that you can still see across the river today. For a moment in time, when the British fleet threatened Portsmouth in July 1775, the government of New Hampshire was moved 27 miles upriver to Exeter.

George Washington wearing the Society of Cincinnati Medal, American Independence Museum, Exeter NH

After the War, in 1783, Military Officers formed a club; the Society of Cincinnati, named for Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, a Roman statesman and military leader who retired to work his farm after heroic service. (Interestingly, the city of Cincinnati OH is named for the club, not the man). Membership in the Society, which still exists today, was initially passed from father to first born son, and then expanded to include other sons and family members. But never women: the Society remains a male-only club. The Society of Cincinnati purchased the Ladd-Gilman House in 1901, a few years after the last Gilman family member passed away, and used it as a clubhouse until 1991, when it was opened as a museum.

Original Draft of US Constitution, American Independence Museum, Exeter NH

As a Society made up of Revolutionary War Officers, you can imagine the treasured documents they held and passed down through the ages. In 1985, researchers discovered an original broadside of the Declaration of Independence in the attic: one of 200 printed by John Dunlap in Philadelphia that were distributed to the original 13 colonies. This was the very same document read to the public by John Taylor Gilman (who served 14 years as New Hampshire Governor in the late 1770’s and early 1800’s) on July 16, 1776. The museum still owns this original Dunlap Broadside (one of only 26 known to exist), and though a facsimile is on display year round, each year, on the weekend closest to July 16th, the original is removed from the vault and an actor dressed as John Taylor Gilman reenacts the public reading.

Boston Massacre Trial Transcript, 1770, American Independence Museum Exeter NH

The museum also features an original iteration of the United States Constitution, which is notated and differs from the final Constitution in one very significant way: it begins, “We The People of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island,” etc., spelling out each state rather than the collective “United States of America.” Why was it not finalized this way? The delegate from Rhode Island never appeared to the signing for fear of being found guilty of treason, and so that state could not be included. Again – a copy is on display in the museum, and the original is taken from a secure place and shown to the public for a day.

The first two drafts of the Declaration of Independence were never signed – it was still being agonized over, as you can see from a copy of the first draft with Thomas Jefferson’s notations. The museum also displays one of the original trial transcripts (printed in book form) of the Boston Masacre Trial dated 1770, a portrait of George Washington wearing the blue Society of Cincinnati Medal, and a double-sided “Partner Desk” just like one owned by George Washington.

Folsom Tavern, American Independence Museum, Exeter NH

Speaking of GW, the Folsom Tavern, moved to this property in 1929 and recently renovated, served as a high-end road house and was supposed to host a commesuratly high-end dinner for President Washington in 1789. But the honored guest arrived early, and staff scrambled to serve a quick brunch, which Washington scarfed down in the casual tavern room before he continued on his tour of the United States. Both the home and tavern are included in a modest entry fee. You can ask for a guided tour – a docent will be happy to show you the highlights. Open May – Nov. Tues-Sat 10-4, $6 adults, $3 kids. The museum offers plenty of programming including Lunch and Learn, Tavern Talks, Ghost Tours, and Beer-related events.  

Boathouse Phillips Exeter Academy

EXPLORE: Exeter NH. Known mostly as home to the elite Phillips-Exeter Academy, Exeter NH, an Amtrak stop (7 minute walk from the station to downtown) on the Boston MA to Portland ME line, is also a Portsmouth NH commuter town with a funky, open-minded, intellectual vibe. Exeter is so emblematic of a “small New England town,” in fact, there’s a bandstand in the center of Main St. just made for a 76-trombone-type parade. There are plenty of boutiques and restaurants – so plan to stay awhile. See below in “Where to Eat” for recommendations.

Kids Section, Seacoast Science Center, Rye NH

Kids Section, Seacoast Science Center, Rye NH

VISIT: Seacoast Science Center @ Odiorne Point State Park, Rye. Situated in a State Park with a good chunk of New Hampshire shoreline encompassing a rocky beach, walking trails, and remnants of WWII military fortress, the area is a fascinating place to explore even without the Seacoast Science Center. But plan to add 30 – 40 more minutes onto a park visit to get a gander at what’s inside this compact, entertaining, and engaging institution. A stone building, the original Officer’s Quarters of the WWII fort, is completely encased within the Science Center’s modern structure – used for programming now. In fact, the center was built around it. What was once the wrap around porch is now enclosed – but look out the picture windows to see the harbor, lighhouses, and, at low tide, families with buckets exploring the tidal pools a few yards away.

Purple Sea Star Seacoast Science Center Rye NH

Though traveling exhibits are compelling, don’t miss what makes this place tick. Most popular are the “Touch Tanks,” with sea stars, sea urchins, and other creatures of the tidal pools; during exceedingly hot or nasty weather, best observed inside. “Jumpin’ Jay’s Discovery Dock” is also a hit with kids, who pretend to pilot the wooden boat, fish, and sell their catch – surrounded by a photographic mural of Rye Harbor that places them right in the middle of the action.

Red Anemone from Gulf of Maine Seacoast Science Center Rye NH

Red Anemone from Gulf of Maine Seacoast Science Center Rye NH

There’s a Hurricane Exhibit with touch-screen showing videos on demand of some of the most devestating storms, and a whole room devoted to sea creatures found in the Gulf Of Maine. There’s 23 year old Raspberry – a 3-toed Box Turtle, two giant forty year old Blue Lobsters, a tank full of large active Sea Horses, and an assortment of Skates, Flounder, freaky Cuttlefish, Spider Crabs, Alewives, and in a tropical tank donated to the aquarium – a couple of Blue Tangs, recognized by squealing kids as “Dory!” Most surprising to me, however, were the Red Anemone – in vivid rosy shades I’d expect in the Caribbean, but not in the Northeast. Under the Sea indeed. Open Mid Feb-Oct daily 10-5, Nov to mid Feb, Sat – Mon 10-5.

Calef's Country Store Barrington NH

Calef’s Country Store Barrington NH

SHOP: Calef’s Country Store, Barrington. As I walked into this 150-year-old Country Store on a country road in rural NH, “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” was playing on the radio. How amazingly coincidental, I thought. Calef’s, “a New Hampshire Tradition since 1869,” is certainly the real thing, with its original creaky wood floors and wood stove – “buying local” since Ulysses S. Grant was President. Those in search of old-fashioned, personal service, hot and BBQ sauces, NH craft beer, bread mixes, canned brown bread, soaps and lotions, kitchen gadgets, and a deli known for “Rat Trap” Cheddar, will find all that and more here.

Calef's Country Store Barrington NH

Calef’s Country Store Barrington NH

This well-trafficked store supports nearly 300 local vendors, and staff turnover is low. One employee, Joel Sherburn, has been at the deli counter for 60 years (a book about Joel, “60 Years of Cutting the Cheese” is on sale near check out). Recently, an 86-year old woman came in and mused, “I haven’t been here since I was six.” She was probably one of the many children who honed her math skills in the penny candy section – still there with a whole jar of candy for one cent each (and several others for two cents) and still attracting school kids who learn to make change though their purchases.

Where to Eat in Seacoast NH On Portsmouth Outskirts

Wood Fired Meatballs at Salt Kitchen and Bar, Wentworth By the Sea, New Castle NH

Wood Fired Meatballs at Salt Kitchen and Bar, Wentworth By the Sea, New Castle NH

EAT: Salt Kitchen and Bar,Wentworth By the Sea, New Castle. The formerly fusty Wentworth dining room is now contemporary and bright, yet retains its original hand-painted domed mural.

Salt Kitchen with Original Hand-Painted Dome Ceiling, Wentworth By the Sea, New Castle NH

Salt Kitchen with Original Hand-Painted Dome Ceiling, Wentworth By the Sea, New Castle NH

Dine on raved-about small plates like Handmade rustic Wood Oven Roasted Meatballs ($9 – bring me another plate of these, please), light and ethereal Hand Rolled Gnocchi ($10); Prosciutto Wrapped Maine Scallops ($10) and lip-smacking Aragosta Flatbread with Caramelized Shallots, Lobster Cream, Lobster chunks and a tinge of honey – like Lobster Bisque pizza.

Blue Moon Evolution, Exeter NH

EAT: Blue Moon Evolution, Exeter.  For two decades, this upscale organic restaurant, owned by a mother and her two daughters, has been winning awards for its mouthwatering soups and other fresh fare. The vegan Cream of Asparagus Soup (made with coconut milk), paired with warm crunchy-chewy sourdough bread to die for, makes for a perfect lunch ($9).

EAT/EXETER: Locals also recommend Otis, Green Bean, Sea Dog, and 11 Water St.

Where to Stay in Seacoast NH Outside of Portsmouth

Garrison Hotel Dover NH

STAY: The Garrison Hotel, Dover. Though a visitor might first size up The Garrison as a high-end motel, walk through the door and this new hotel has all the earmarks of an upper-mid-level boutique. The lobby and common area are crisply styled in nautical fashion, with shiplap structural posts, rough-hewn ceiling beams, and fireplace. The dining area features a communal table with hidden electrical outlets for both work and morning breakfast, which is complimentary with guestroom. Directly outside French doors, you’ll find a pretty patio with fire pit for evening conversation. The indoor pool is relatively substantial, though the fitness room is on the smaller side.

Guest Room Garrison Hotel Dover NH

Rooms, in earthy hues, are brand new, with comfy beds clad in white, punched up by a poppy pillow, and immaculate modern granite counter, ceramic “faux hardwood” floor bathrooms. Rooms from $107 offseason to about $259 in season include complimentary breakfast.

Wentworth By the Sea, Marriott Hotel, New Castle NH

Wentworth By the Sea, Marriott Hotel, New Castle NH

STAY: Wentworth By the Sea,New Castle. One of New Hampshire’s last grand hotels, the 1874 Wentworth- a landmark in Victorian-era travel with as imposing a history as the presence it commands on Portsmouth Harbor – was rebuilt as a flagship Marriott Hotel. President Teddy Roosevelt earned the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize by negotiating, in absentia, the end of the Russo-Japanese war here (The Treaty of Portsmouth), and treaty delegates stayed at Wentworth (30 days at no charge) while conducting formal negotiations at the Shipyard. Though much of the hotel was renovated in 2003, the central portion, including the main entrance and lobby fireplace, remained intact. As a full-service resort, rooms are luxe and come with a number of amenities and activities. Room rates start at $179 off season, $379 in season up to $1500 per night for 2 bedroom villa.

STAY: Inn By the Bandstand, Exeter. Patrons rave about this very upscale canary yellow boutique inn right by the bandstand in downtown Exeter.

Portsmouth NH: Seaport, Shopping and Full-On Culinary Scene

Portsmouth NH From River

Portsmouth NH From River

WHY GO: As a Colonial seaport and one of the country’s oldest Naval Shipyards, Portsmouth was open to many immigrants from foreign lands who lived and socialized together in an enclave picturesquely called “Puddle Dock.” The town bustled with shops and eateries, barges plied the rivers delivering goods: it was lively and friendly – and still is. At one time, Portsmouth was home to the country’s largest brewery, and craft brewers still take their beer seriously here. Known for unique boutiques and shops, zero sales tax on purchases, and for a burgeoning culinary scene, Portsmouth NH melds history with pleasure in the best of ways.

Things to Do in Portsmouth NH

Discover Portsmouth NH

WALKING TOUR: Discover Portsmouth Walking Tours. To understand this multi-layered city, the 4th largest during the Colonial era, it’s a good idea to start at Discover Portsmouth – the large Federal Style brick building (built in 1810 as an Academy with 25 women in the first class) right across from the John Paul Jones House (more on that in a minute). An art museum, gallery, and great gift shop, Discover Portsmouth is also the starting point of several 75-minute walking tours that begin with a 12 minute video.

Fort William and Mary aka Fort Constitution Portsmouth NH

Portsmouth NH was founded for economic, not religious, reasons. Five tributaries pour into the Piscataqua River, and the area was found to be rife with timber and fish – quite a boon to England. In the 1700’s, English shipbuilders and ship’s Captains grew wealthy working for the King, but when Paul Revere warned the populace that the British would be confiscating all gunpowder, a locally formed militia stormed nearby Fort William and Mary (which became Fort Constitution), absconding with 96 barrels of gunpowder in the first act of defiance leading to the Revolutionary War.

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery ME

The newly formed U.S. Navy began to build ships here, which is when John Paul Jones entered the scene. He lived in Portsmouth for a short time in 1777 while overseeing the construction of his Naval ship, the USS Ranger, which he subsequently sailed to France and the Irish Sea to assist with the American cause. Post War, the shipyard, and thus the local economy, was in the doldrums, until the mid to late 1800’s when the titan of beer-making, Frank Jones, turned Portsmouth into a brewery town, employing over 500 people and shipping off 250,000 barrels of beer a year.

John Paul Jones Stayed Here Portsmouth NH

John Paul Jones Stayed Here Portsmouth NH

During the early years of the 1900’s, over half a million people had been killed in the war between Russia and Japan. In a Camp David move of his day, President Teddy Roosevelt appealed to leaders of both nations to come to the coast of New Hampshire, where made sure that local dignitaries fêted them with dinners and lawn parties (while he stayed in the White House at a respectable remove): a diplomacy that culminated in the “Treaty of Portsmouth,” signed at the Wentworth Hotel on September 5, 1905 – an historic event that made Portsmouth famous.

The Naval Shipyard pulled the local economy out of the Great Depression. In fact, the city’s location and ample employment opportunities during WWII drew a slew of African Americans, women, and immigrants – you know, real Yankees – who all lived and worked together in one big melting pot. (The best place to learn about this era is at the living history Strawberry Banke Museum, see below).

African Burying Grounds Portsmouth NH

African Burying Grounds Portsmouth NH

The walking tour takes you to the house that John Paul Jones rented, past the African Burying Grounds Memorial (when civil engineers were laying sewers, they unearthed caskets and bodies of slaves), and through small cobblestone streets – with great stories along the way.

Tide Clock Portsmouth NH

Tide Clock Portsmouth NH

Our guide pointed out the Tide Clock on top of People’s Bank – indicating how important the tidal swings are to the local economy – and St. Paul’s Church, which has one of 12 “Vinegar” Bibles in existence. Printed in 1717, the heading of one chapter in this multi-typo’d version of the Holy Book read “The Parable of the Vinegar” instead of “The Vineyard.” Historic Downtown Tour, 75 minutes, daily, 10:30m, $15 per person.

Warner House, Portsmouth NH

Warner House, Portsmouth NH

VISIT: Warner House. Built in 1716 for a sea captain, the Georgian style Warner House is the oldest urban brick house in Northern New England. After six generations, the house was rescued from demolition by the Warner House Association in 1932 and opened as a museum. Open June-October Wed – Mon 10-4. $8 adults, $4 kids.

PortCity Bike Tours, Portsmouth NH

PortCity Bike Tours, Portsmouth NH

BIKE TOUR: PortCity Bike Tours. An alternative way to see Portland while on the move, PBT offers a Historic Tour, Coastal Tour, Island Tour, and Neighborhood Tour. Check website for dates and times.

Strawbery Banke Living History Museum, Portsmouth NH

Strawbery Banke Living History Museum, Portsmouth NH

TOUR: Strawbery Banke. Perhaps more than in any other New England seacoast town, it’s easy to imagine what life was like in this country when it was new and growing thanks to Portsmouth’s living history museum, Strawbery Banke.  Strawbery Banke isn’t a “museum” so much as a collection of 32 homes and establishments, most in their original locations, manned by costumed guides who interpret the lives and duties of the actual families that lived and worked in them. When English merchants first sailed up the Piscataqua River in 1630 and noticed wild berry bushes along its shores, they called what is now Portsmouth “Strawbery Banke.” The living history museum of that name depicts 400 years of life in Portsmouth with costumed re-enactors, hands-on-archaeology digs and other innovative programs. Plan on at least two hours to wander ten acres in some of the authentic homes and shops that are in various stages of repair. You’ll engage with costumed role-players who interpret the people who actually lived or worked in each home or shop, such as “Mrs. Shapiro” – a Russian immigrant who arrived here in 1909, innkeepers at the Pitt Tavern – the origination point for the first Portsmouth to Boston stage coach, where wayfarers could find three meals a day served family style, and the “owner” of the Little Corner Store – that served as a community center where locals traded ration stamps for canned goods and gossip about the neighborhood during WWII.

Jewish Immigrants in Puddle Dock (A Section of Strawbery Banke) Portsmouth NH

Jewish Immigrants in Puddle Dock (A Section of Strawbery Banke) Portsmouth NH

Begin with a 7-minute video that fills you in on the history of this settlement. In the 1700’s, Portsmouth rivaled Boston and Philadelphia in overseas commerce, and the streets bustled with trade. The 1800’s Industrial Revolution brought immigrants to town: Italians, Russians, French, Germans – over 30% of the town’s citizens were foreign born.

Sheva Shapiro demonstrates Russian method of drinking tea through a sugar cube at Strawbery Banke Museum, Porstmouth NH

Sheva Shapiro demonstrates Russian method of drinking tea through a sugar cube at Strawbery Banke Museum, Porstmouth NH

Though all buildings hold interest, my favorites were the home of Ukrainian Jewish immigrant, Sheva Shapiro (built in 1775, she and her family were the 13th family to live there when they immigrated from Russia in 1909), and the Abbot’s Corner Store. Enter the Shapiro’s home, and it’s 1919. Sheva, dressed in period clothing, might show you how Russians drink tea through a sugar cube. She’ll talk about her home-apothecary garden, her daughter Molly’s tenth-year birthday gift – a pogo stick – sitting in the corner (if you ask, she may allow you to use it), and about the innovative way she expanded Molly’s sweaters as her daughter grew. After the “War to End All Wars” (WWI), Sheva explains, it was her “patriotic duty” to rent a room to Mr. Russell, who worked in the Naval shipyard across the bridge. You’re invited to visit Molly’s room and the rest of the house –and to see pictures on the walls of the family that “Mrs. Shapiro” brings to life.

Little Corner Store, Strawbery Banke Museum, Portsmouth NH

Little Corner Store, Strawbery Banke Museum, Portsmouth NH

At Mrs. Abbott’s Little Corner Store, the “War Effort” is on full display. This was a Naval town – most residents worked in the shipyard where dozens of submarines were built during WWII. Patrons used ration stamps to purchase cans of food (on display), most grew “Victory Gardens,” and managed to stretch their food in ways that are just coming back into style today.

"Wax Melts" at Pickwick's @ Strawbery Banke, Portsmouth NH

“Wax Melts” at Pickwick’s @ Strawbery Banke, Portsmouth NH

New to the Banke is a shop like no other. Pickwick’s @ The Banke is a theatrical, sensory experience incorporating a costumed shopkeeper and artfully displayed Maritime Heritage gifts. Named after the Charles Dickens character, the shop is meant to evoke the curiosity store of Victorian times. Two consecutive day pass to Strawbery Banke is $17.50 adults, $10 youth, May 1- Oct. 31 daily 10-5. Weekends other times of year (check website).

Isle of Shoals Steamship Authority Portsmouth NH

Isle of Shoals Steamship Authority Portsmouth NH

BOAT TOUR: Isle of Shoals Steamship Authority. Both ships in the Isle of Shoals Steamship Authority fleet leave from the Market St. dock between the two bridges that connect Portsmouth NH to Kittery ME. On a narrated tour, passengers get a good overview of the natural and maritime history of Portsmouth Harbor, before heading seven miles out to nine small islands collectively called the Isle of Shoals.

Oceanic Hotel, Star Island Isle of Shoals NH

Oceanic Hotel, Star Island Isle of Shoals NH

On the border of Maine and New Hampshire, five of the Isles belong to Maine, four to New Hampshire. The second largest, Star Island, is the only island open to visitors, and you’ll want to spend at least an hour there.

Art Barn, Star Island, Isle of Shoals NH

Art Barn, Star Island, Isle of Shoals NH

Now owned by the Unitarian Universalist Church, the whole small land mass is comprised of residences, a Chapel, and the Oceanic Hotel, built in 1875 – one of the only Victorian era hotels in New England still standing in its original state.

Front Porch Oceanic Hotel Star Island Isle of Shoals NH

Front Porch Oceanic Hotel Star Island Isle of Shoals NH

Walk around the whole island via its outer dirt road, scramble over rocks for one of the best views of the Atlantic Ocean waves bashing up against granite cliffs, or just hang out on the front porch of the Oceanic Hotel watching the boats in the harbor. Those who wish to stay overnight can do so by signing up for a weeklong conference, or a few nights for a “personal retreat.” Contact starisland.org for arrangements. Portsmouth Harbor and Star Island Tour (3 hr 45 min), $37 adults, $27 children. There are also Portsmouth Harbor Tours, Star Island Full Day Visit, and Sunday Sunset Harbor cruises. Check website for details.

Gundalow Captain sailing past the crumbling but still grand decommissioned Naval prison referenced in the movie “The Last Detail” - Portsmouth Harbor NH

Gundalow Captain sailing past the crumbling but still grand decommissioned Naval prison referenced in the movie “The Last Detail” – Portsmouth Harbor NH

DO: Sail on Piscataqua. Experience a Portsmouth harbor tour on a gundalow, a flat-bottom sailing barge considered “the semi-tractor-trailer truck of its day.” This replica, which took wooden boat craftsmen six months to build in 2011 at Strawbery Banke, represents those that plied  New England rivers and bays from 1600’s until early 1900’s, when it was more efficient to ship lumber, bricks, cotton, farm goods, oysters and other products by boat than by land.

Heave-Ho on the Gundalow; Portsmouth NH

Heave-Ho on the Gundalow; Portsmouth NH

You can join the crew and “heave-ho” the sail, while passing sights like the crumbling but still grand decommissioned Naval prison (referenced in the movie “The Last Detail”) and Fort Constitution at the mouth of the river. The Fort is considered the site of the first Revolutionary War act – when, in Dec. 1774, Patriots stole munitions from the British stronghold.

Submarine coming into Portsmouth Harbor

Submarine coming into Portsmouth Harbor

The Piscataqua River, a 12-mile long tidal estuary that empties out into the Atlantic Ocean, is rife with fish and tankers, and, if you’re lucky, a Naval submarine coming in for repairs. As the gundalow is an open boat, you’ll want to bring rain gear if raining and plenty of sunscreen if not. For lunchtime sails, pick up a boxed lunch at The White Apron Café at Strawbery Banke across the street. Check website for schedule of a variety of afternoon and sunset cruises. Tickets $20 – $40 adults, $10-$20 youth.

Granite State Growler Tours, Portsmouth NH

Granite State Growler Tours, Portsmouth NH

TOUR/BEER: Granite State Growler Tours, Portsmouth. Hops on and hops off on this intimate and engaging bus tour to several of the NH Seacoast’s best breweries and pubs. Guides for Granite State Growler Tours harbor a deep affection for beer. Such affection, in fact, they conduct these brewery tours on their time off, as most have other, full time jobs. GSG owner/founder, David Adams, launched these bus excursions through the NH Seacoast’s brewery history on a whim, even enlisting his Mom who makes the now legendary “fluffy” pretzels distributed during each outing.

Earth Eagle Brewery Portsmouth NH

Earth Eagle Brewery Portsmouth NH

Guides elucidate on beer and the seedier side of Portsmouth history – “what they don’t tell you on regular city tours” – such as the fact that last century, the whole working waterfront was a red-light district with 140 bars and brothels. Portsmouth was also one of America’s original brewery towns – in the late 1800’s the Frank Jones Ale Works was the largest brewery in the United States, shipping out 250,000 barrels of beer and employing over 500 workers. (The buildings have been converted into apartments and restaurants)

There are six nano or “nano-plus” breweries in Portsmouth, and more than 25 in the surrounding area – plenty to choose from on each tour that introduces you to three of them. One of the most popular is the rare women-owned Throwback Brewery – on a sheep farm in North Hampton NH. In my case, I visited two very distinct spots within city limits – Earth Eagle Brewing, and Liar’s Bench Beer Co.

Earth Eagle Brewings exterior, Portsmouth NH

Earth Eagle Brewings exterior, Portsmouth NH

Earth Eagle Brewings: Owned by bro-in-laws, Butch Heilshorn (author of Against All Hops) and Alex McDonald, the hole in the wall Earth Eagle (nickname for wild turkeys) offers a full pub menu, tastings, growlers and 4-pack cans. Alex is the traditionalist, Butch leans experimental – choosing to brew “medieval style” (prior to the use of hops), incorporating herbs, bark, flowers, wheat – and even in one case, elk head meat in his concoctions. One of EE’s more unique ingredients is the invasive Japanese Knot Weed – aka “Monkey Weed,” which, when steeped with hibiscus flower, tints Earth Eagle’s signature gruit, “Monkey Weed,” pink. “This is a great beer to cook with.” $11 for six 4 oz tastes.

Liars Bench Portsmouth NH

Liar’s Bench Beer Co.: With its outdoor dog park/beer garden, this nano-plus brewery is a hit with neighbors with canines in tow. Owned by Dane and Dagan (who makes his own sausage), Liar’s Bench (named for the seat at the terminus of the Appalachian Trail where hikers are known to spout some tall tales) just celebrated its second anniversary. Take your No Dice Pilsner, Babble On Saison, Punxsutawney Swill, and other brews on draft to the convivial atmosphere outside, where a hub of beer lovers play with puppies and converse with each other – not a cell phone in sight.

Not to be left out, other breweries in town include Beara Irish Brewing, Great Rhythm Brewing, Loaded Question Brewing, and Portsmouth Brewery. On each tour, guests meet and talk with the brewers, sample local craft beer, see historic brewing locations. Tours start at $65 per person, all tastings and transportation included. Three hour tours generally on weekends. Check website for dates and times.

Futuristic Lounge at The Music Hall, Portsmouth NH

Futuristic Lounge at The Music Hall, Portsmouth NH

SEE: The Music Hall. Even if you don’t see a show at this 900-seat theater (built in 1878, renovated in 2008), pop in to see the otherworldly blue-lit lounge, jack-hammered out of a wall of rock, and the Harry Potterish bathrooms with circular sink and elaborate mosaic floor.

Wildly funky bathrooms at The Music Hall, Portsmouth NH

Wildly funky bathrooms at The Music Hall, Portsmouth NH

Showmen and women have been hoofing on these floorboards since this Beaux-Arts Theater opened, and during renovations, workers found decades old candy wrappers that had fallen beneath the floorboards and are now on exhibit. See musicians, top authors, comedians and indie movies throughout the year. Or just stop in to say hi and check out the bathrooms.

The Albacore Sub, Portsmouth NH

The Albacore Sub, Portsmouth NH

TOUR: The Albacore. Nicknamed the “Sub in a ditch,” the Albacore is far from the waterfront and situated, literally, in a hole in the ground. This diesel and electric powered submarine was built in Portsmouth in 1952 as a prototype test vessel in the newest design and modern technology of the day, and was returned to Portsmouth in 1985 without having been to war. The first sub ever built with this fish-like streamlined shape, it was fabricated to be hydroponically correct – at its best underwater – and could reach speeds in excess of 45 knots (faster than nuclear subs). Now, you can take a very hands-on self-guided tour to learn how 55 men could work and live in a 205’ by 27’ space. Sit in seats and initiate dive sequence, drive the sub and wedge into bunks: It’s all highly interactive and great for kids and kids at heart. Open daily Memorial Day to Columbus Day 9:30-5:30, closed Tues/Wed other times of year. $5 adults, $3 kids 7-17.

DO: Portsmouth Kayak. Modern day paddlers can view Strawberry Banke living history museum while kayaking around gentrified Portsmouth. Or circumnavigate New Castle and the beautifully restored Wentworth By the Sea. Or choose from a variety of kayaking tours. A spectacular way to get out on the water. Tours $45-$75 per person.

Market Square, Portsmouth NH

Market Square, Portsmouth NH

WANDER/SHOP: Market Square and its offshoots. The center of Portsmouth, Market Square, is also the center of boutique shopping and for many visitors, the town’s number one lure. Running off of the Square, wander up Bow Street (curved like a bow), rebuilt in brick after a devastating fire in 1806 completely consumed the original wooden structures.

Bow Street, Portsmouth NH

Bow Street, Portsmouth NH

At the back of Bow St. you’ll find a selection of waterfront restaurants: Ferry Landing for fried Shrimp Basket, Harpoon Willy’s, the River House for chowder and the relatively upscale Martingale Wharf featuring a fire pit and baskets of blankets.

Shopping alley, Portsmouth NH

Shopping alley, Portsmouth NH

Fun independent shops include Gus & Ruby Letterpress, Pickwick’s Mercantile, Kennedy’s Gallery, Pretty Poppy, Scallops Mineral & Shell Emporium ,Puttin’ On the Glitz for the perfect hat, and one of my favorite spots, Hazel Boutique for unique clothing. Foodies may find The Salt Cellar – offering exotic salts from around the world – particularly tasty.

Izzy's Portsmouth NH

Izzy’s Portsmouth NH

ICE CREAM: Izzy’s. Izzy’s frozen stuff seems fresh from the cow. Ten minutes before closing time on a hot midweek June evening and the line is out the door. No big surprise – the ice cream and fro-yo is that good.

Best Places to Eat in Portsmouth NH

Nibblesworth Portsmouth NH

Nibblesworth Portsmouth NH

EAT: Nibblesworth- Wood Fired Grill. In the Nutter-Rymes House, a circa 1809 building on the Historic Register, Nibblesworth (formerly Blue Mermaid) named for a family cat, turns out innovative “New American” cuisine with ingredients sourced from local farms. Nibblesworth is owned by former Dow Chemical engineer, Tom Nelson, and his restaurant industry wife, Jenny, who has a penchant for unconventional dishes like “When Pho Met Borschtaka” ($23) – an amalgam of red cabbage, beets, fried sweet potato rice noodles and seared tamarind scallops, Spring ChicPierogi (3 for $10) – crispy and stuffed with pulled chicken, and Poutine every which way.

Bloody Caesar, Nibblesworth, Portsmouth NH

Bloody Caesar, Nibblesworth, Portsmouth NH

There’s a funny back-story to “The Time Butch Lost His Bangs” (a S’mores-style dessert, $8), just ask. Whatever you do, don’t miss the flame-licked “Bloody Caesar” ($6) a wood fired grilled kimchi-rubbed romaine heart salad that I’d return for nightly if I lived in town.

The Goods - Portsmouth NH

The Goods – Portsmouth NH

EAT: The Goods- Local Market and Cafe. Tucked away downtown in the small pedestrian Vaughn Mall, The Goods is exactly that – GOOD – with a seriously excellent coffee and smoothie bar, bakery, specialty pizzas, and sandwich shop with salads as fresh picked crisp as any place on earth – from pluck to plate in under one second. How? There’s a “Grow Tower” replete with lettuces and herbs of all kinds that dominates the front window.

The Goods Grow Tower, Portsmouth NH

The Goods Grow Tower, Portsmouth NH

Owned by expat New Yorker, Jacqui Harmon, and her two daughters, Kayla and Shoshanna, The Goods is “all about healthy. Everything is made from scratch,” except the bagels, which are imported from NYC. Try the Chef’s Favorite Cali Wrap – a cocoon of eggs, avocado, roasted veggies and goat cheese that comes warm and crispy – and one of the “cleanest” tasting foods I’ve ever tried. No wonder people were swarming in on a random June weekday.

BLT Roundabout Diner Portsmouth NH

BLT Roundabout Diner Portsmouth NH

EAT: The Roundabout Diner. Located at the Route 1/I-95 roundabout, it’s easy to dismiss this place as just a coach bus stop, but don’t. Formerly Howard Johnson’s and then Bickford’s until 2010, this fun “breakfast all day” eatery is now a “50’s classic retro style diner with modern twists. Surprisingly, it’s got a strong local following. Some of this has to do with the diner’s full bar, rare for this type of eatery. Other reasons include way above average food and specials. On the menu are un-dinery dishes like Truffle Lobster Carbonara and Sirloin with Truffle Jam and Risotto. The BLTCA (BLT with Cheddar and Avocado) is the best of its kind – anywhere – due to locally sourced “killer” maple bacon (yeah, baby). Owners try to utilize local purveyors when possible, and mostly everything is made from scratch, including the homemade desserts, which are “all you can eat” on Sundays. Plus, as the owner quips, “the line goes quicker with liquor.” The Roundabout installed a “Build Your Own Bloody Mary Bar” on Sundays – a resounding success.

EAT: Café Espresso. In a strip shopping center a bit out of town, this casual spot is a local favorite, especially for breakfast. Besides the “Best Omelets,” it’s got great salads and “Lobsta Your Way” – Lobsta Salad ($11.99) and Lobsta Roll ($11.9White Apron Cafe at Strawbery Banke Museum, Portsmouth NH

EAT: White Apron Café.  No need to leave Strawbery Banke now to eat. Grab a salad, sandwich, homemade soups and sweets at this casual, from scratch spot. Arrange a gourmet picnic to go, as well. Perfect for an al fresco lunch overlooking the  waterfront, for an event at Prescott Park or for the lunchtime sailing on the gundalow Piscataqua.

Cava Wine Bar, Portsmouth NH

Cava Wine Bar, Portsmouth NH

EAT: There are “as many restaurant seats as citizens” in Portsmouth, so it will be virtually impossible to nail down the very best in this guide. But the following were mentioned again and again. Cure, owned by Chef Julie Cutting, which won Top Restaurant in NH, Row 34, Lexie’s Joint, Black Birch, Popovers on the Square for, well, the signature dish – a breakfast favorite for locals, Black Trumpet Wine Bar for Southern inspired farm to table cuisine, modern-American Tapas at Moxy, Cava for small plates and great tasting menu, Jumpin’ Jays Fish Cafe for exceptional fish, and BRGR Bar for very popular “Adult Milkshakes,” like the Orange Creamsicle ($10) or Bacon Marmalade ($10).

Best Places to Stay in Portsmouth NH

Martin Hill Inn backyard patio and gardens, Portsmouth NH

Martin Hill Inn backyard patio and gardens, Portsmouth NH

STAY: Martin Hill Inn. There are plenty of full service hotels in Portsmouth, but Getaway Mavens readers generally seek a more intimate, singular, personalized, gourmet breakfast type of experience, and you won’t find one better in Portsmouth than the Martin Hill Inn.  Hosts Meg and Russ took over this 7-room 2-building B&B – just a ten-minute walk to Market Square – in 2013 and are keen on the little details that make a B&B stay so special: soft drinks available round the clock, complimentary sherry in the afternoon and evenings, baked goods at check in and a full-gourmet breakfast (not to mention free wi-fi and parking). Rooms, named after clipper ships, are dressed in colonial-era finery.

Ranger Suite at Martin Hill Inn, Portsmouth NH

Ranger Suite at Martin Hill Inn, Portsmouth NH

The Ranger Room on the first floor features two beds (a double and single – perfect for friends traveling together), a corner hutch, other Federalist furniture and a picture of George Washington to evoke the proper era.  There’s a gorgeous garden out back, perfect for an afternoon glass of wine (or summer’s eve sherry), and baked treats to welcome you back from a day of exploring. Breakfasts consist of locally grown and sourced ingredients- quiches, frittatas, stuffed French Toast and the like – and cooked to your preference. Rates are reasonable, even in high season, topping out at $210 per night. $135-$210 includes sherry, afternoon refreshments, gourmet breakfast, parking and wi-fi.

Fairfield Inn Portsmouth Seacoast NH

Fairfield Inn Portsmouth Seacoast NH

STAY: Fairfield Inn Portsmouth Seacoast. This well rated, fully renovated hotel a couple of miles from town was fully booked on an early June Tuesday night. Why? The rooms are trendy-modern and spotless, beds are comfy, there’s a complimentary shuttle into town (no parking headaches), a complimentary hot and cold breakfast buffet, nicely landscaped outdoor pool, free wi-fi and complimentary USA Today. And best of all, rates are slightly lower than in town, starting at $170 per night.

STAY: If you prefer an in-town full service hotel, the Hampton Inn and Suites and the Residence Inn By Marriott are both clean, comfy and fine.

Northern Chester County PA: Small Hidden Towns That Ooze Charm and…The Blob

Martha Stewart at Chanticleer Garden Wayne PA

Martha Stewart at Chanticleer Garden Wayne PA

WHY GO: While Longwood Gardens and QVC are the most visited attractions in Southern Chester County PA (covered in this post) other, smaller, lesser known gems – a 35-acre “pleasure garden” favored by Martha Stewart and Brits; two tiny “Brigadoon”-like hamlets with world-renowned cred; the place where an iconic campy horror movie was filmed; a still operating tavern trashed by the Red Coats – can be found in the more remote Northern Chester County PA and are worthy of more than a passing glance. Here, the Getaway Mavens discover Yellow Springs (aka Chester Springs), St. Peter’s Village, Chanticleer Gardens, and more. You want offbeat? You got it!

Things to Do in N. Chester County PA

Chanticleer Garden Wayne PA

Chanticleer Garden Wayne PA

VISIT: Chanticleer Garden. “Every gardener is like Oscar Hammerstein’s Optimist, for the very act of planting is based on hope for a glorious future.” – Adolph Rosengarten, Jr., benefactor, who left this property to the Chanticleer Foundation upon his death.

Visitor's Entrance Chanticleer Garden Wayne PA

Visitor’s Entrance Chanticleer Garden Wayne PA

At 35 acres, and with 60,000 visitors a year, Chanticleer, opened to the public in 1993, is smaller and more intimate than nearby Longwood Gardens (1.5 million visitors per year). But this former private estate of the aptly named Rosengarten family is a genuine “find” in the rural landscape of rolling hills, farms, and country homes. Interestingly, people from England (and Martha Stewart, who comes on occasion) have discovered Chanticleer, comparing this small “Pleasure Garden” favorably to Longwood.

Chanticleer Garden Wayne PA

House Corgi, Monty, on his daily rounds of Chanticleer Garden Wayne PA

The grounds are embellished with hand-crafted and uniquely designed functional sculptures – benches, water fountains (constructed to send excess water back into the flower beds), whimsical Plant List boxes, and even a pedestrian bridge shaped like a fallen tree – fashioned with great care by five titled gardeners who each have complete authority over a designated section of the garden.

Overlook Terrace of Main Rosengarten Home Chanticleer Garden Wayne PA

Overlook Terrace of Main Rosengarten Home Chanticleer Garden Wayne PA

Given extensive creative latitude, these horticulturalists have free reign to translate their unique visions into botanical and sculptural art. Visitors are encouraged to bring a book, pack a picnic, relax on the inviting Overlook Terrace of the Main House, or just wander among the cheerful flowerbeds and shade trees.

Imaginatively raked gravel driveway Chanticleer Garden Wayne PA

Imaginatively raked gravel driveway Chanticleer Garden Wayne PA

The main Rosengarten home – sometimes open for tours – is approached via a circular graveled driveway. “Every day, the staff rakes the gravel in a different pattern,” says Chanticleer Director, Bill Thomas. “We never know how it will look.” Thomas loves his job, and his sense of humor is readily apparent. Pointing to a copse of hand-made ceramic bamboo – each stalk topped with an orange comb, he quips, “This bamboo has been genetically crossed with rooster genes.”

Fallen Tree Pedestrian Bridge Chanticleer Garden Wayne PA

Fallen Tree Pedestrian Bridge Chanticleer Garden Wayne PA

In Spring, the Magnolia and Cherry Trees burst into various shades of pink, and 250,000 yellow daffodils sprout from the earth. It’s a spectacular time to come, but every season from April through October has its charms, with “luxuriant foliage and exotic flowers” at every turn.

Elevated Walkway Chanticleer Garden Wayne PA

Elevated Walkway Chanticleer Garden Wayne PA

A new Elevated Walkway, paved with springy shredded tires and pervious material, snakes downhill, making it easy to get to the meadow, an area blitzed through with bulbs that bloom in the Fall.

Reflections in "The Ruins" Chanticleer Garden Wayne PA

Reflections in “The Ruins” Chanticleer Garden Wayne PA

The Asian Garden, with plantings from China and Japan, is farthest from the Visitor’s entrance. When gardeners realized the need for a restroom here (for themselves and guests), they built the “Japanese Pee House” in the image of a…. well, you know.

The Ruins, Chanticleer Garden, Wayne PA

The Ruins, Chanticleer Garden, Wayne PA

Besides the Main House, two other homes, built for the Rosengarten’s children, were located on the property. Once now serves as the Visitor’s entrance, and other was demolished and replaced by “ruins” on its former footprint. Here, the walls come alive with flowing plants reflected in small pools of water. Captivating.

Spring pathway, Chanticleer Garden PA

Spring pathway, Chanticleer Garden PA

There are more surprises amid the creeks and footpaths: sticks of Ostrich Fern form an organic “fence” that protects vulnerable spring flowers, and shredded tires have been dyed to look like wood chips in the Native Plant Garden. Best of all, these gardens help the community. The small vegetable garden is harvested three times a week in season. Two thirds of the gleaning goes to staff members – the last third to a local homeless shelter. Open April – Oct. Wed-Sun, $10, kids 12 and under free.

St. Peter's Village Historic District PA

St. Peter’s Village Historic District PA

EXPLORE: St. Peter’s Village Historic District; 40 minutes from West Chester. A quaint ‘burg, St. Peter’s Village is not gussied up or interpreted for tourists.

French Creek, St. Peter’s Village PA

But seekers of off the beaten track will find much to love here – especially the rocky, tree-studded French Creek that both rages and meanders over and through boulders behind Main St.: such a stunning scene that those who know how to find St. Peter’s compare it to Brigadoon. A former quarry town, St. Peters had to reinvent itself when that business closed down in the 1960’s. The shuttering of the local Inn (just recently) hasn’t helped much.

St. Peter's Bakery PA

St. Peter’s Bakery PA

Most locals flock to St. Peter’s Bakery for coffee and flakey pastries fresh out of the oven. On sunny days, patrons take their crispy croissants, sandwiches, and lattes out to the back deck to watch the water dance around and over boulders and tree roots on French Creek.

Healing Bowls, Healing Spirit Cafe St. Peter's Village PA

Healing Bowls, Healing Spirit Cafe St. Peter’s Village PA

Shops in town run the gamut of antique stores, a wine tasting room, an old fashioned pinball arcade, and Healing Spirit Café, owned by Terry, who, besides offering Reiki sessions, sells crystal and hammered metal “Healing Bowls,” along with elixirs, salt lamps ($25), and a bounty of other transcendental accoutrements.

Glasssblowing class Glasslight Studio

Glasssblowing class Glasslight Studio

DO: Glassblowing at Glasslight Studio, St. Peters Village. Having had experience with half a dozen drop-in glassblowing classes in other studios around the country, I can honestly say that the full-day make-and-take class at Glasslight is the most hands-on, immersive experience you will ever have as a novice. It is worth a drive from anywhere.

Contemporary Menorah Glasslight Studio St Peters Village PA

Contemporary Menorah Glasslight Studio St Peters Village PA

But, to me at least, that was not the biggest surprise in this small, seemingly middle-of-nowhere artist studio. Glasslight owners, Joel and Candice Bless, are the designers of one of the world’s most recognized contemporary glass Hanukah Menorahs in the world. Joel had been experimenting with glass casting right around the Jewish Holiday of Lights. Candy said, “why don’t you make something useful – like a Menorah we can use.” And thus, the Shofar Menorah was born. The Bless’s design was included in the Bloomingdales catalog that year, and according to Joel, “we had to work 7 days a week to fill orders.” The Shofar Menorah is still for sale in most Jewish Museums and Judaic Shops. In fact, in 2010, the clear and blue menorah graced the cover of the book, 500 Judaica: Innovative Contemporary Ritual Art.

Hands On Glassblowing Glasslight Studio PA

Hands On Glassblowing with owner, Joel Bless, Glasslight Studio PA

Glasslight Studios still does custom work for homes, businesses, and houses of worship, fabricating metal in house as well, and though you might be tempted to purchase something in the studio shop, visitors eager for a more immersive experience will want to sign up for a One Day Class on the weekend. You’ll help “pull molten glass” from the furnace, blow it till you look like Satchmo, help shape and cut it, and learn firsthand how glass art is made. For $190, you’ll make four pieces – a paperweight, a bowl, a drinking glass, and a vase – an unheard of value.

Historic Yellow Springs PA

Historic Yellow Springs PA

GO: Historic Yellow Springs/Chester Springs. Years ago, I wrote a short story about a cowboy who wins a whole, nearly abandoned, “tumbleweed tract” town in a poker game. Yellow Springs PA, which has changed hands multiple times, could have been that fictional town. The Village itself is on the National Historic Register, with a history dating back to before the American Colonies, when the indigenous Lenape Tribe named the area “Yellow Springs” for the iron-tinted color of the spring water.

Remains of Revolutionary War Hospital Yellow Springs PA

Remains of Revolutionary War Hospital Yellow Springs PA

Researchers discovered a newspaper announcement from 1722, enticing visitors to bathe in the springs for their medicinal qualities. George Washington was well aware of this “Spa Town” when, after loosing the Battle of Brandywine in 1777, and during one of the deadliest Winter Encampments nearby in Valley Forge, he petitioned the Continental Congress to build a 126-bed state of the art Military Hospital to be located here. It served as a Medical Center until 1781, when the War moved south. Visitors can climb a small hill to see the ruins of this historic building.

From 1810 until the Civil War, Yellow Springs was a bustling resort town – a place to see and be seen, with bowling alleys, ice-cream parlors, and hotels. Jenny Lind, the Swedish Nightingale, brought to the USA by P.T. Barnum, came to Yellow Springs to recover from her whirlwind American Tour. By 1838, the entrepreneurial Margaret Holman, owned a “good chunk” of town, taking the reins of property ownership away from her drunk, n’er do well husband, Frederick, at a time when women were not allowed to own property. (Holman’s son acted as her agent after Frederick died in 1820).

Walking Tour Historic Yellow Springs PA

Walking Tour Historic Yellow Springs PA

After the Civil War, the appeal of spa towns waned, and in 1868, Yellow Spring was converted into an orphanage for war orphans and a boarding school for children of destitute military veterans, which operated until 1912, when the whole village was put up for sale.

Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts owned Yellow Springs from 1916-1952, until the genteel art of “plein aire” painting lost favor, and the town was once again on the block. This time, Irwin “Shorty” Yeaworth saw Yellow Springs as the ideal place to shoot religious films and promote Christian messaging through his Good News Productions. But those endeavors didn’t pay the bills, so Yeaworth and his wife, Jean Bruce, turned to making campy horror movies, establishing the for-profit Valley Forge Productions. Yeaworth’s most enduring Cult Classic? The Blob, partially filmed in nearby Phoenixville (see below).

By the 1960’s, a local group started renting the buildings in Yellow Springs for art classes, finally forming a 503(c) Nonprofit organization and purchasing the town outright to promote the arts in Chester County. Dedicated to the visual arts, environment, and the village’s 300 year history, Historic Yellow Springs now hosts one of the largest Annual Art Shows in the region, showcasing the work of 209 artists over a 2-week period every spring.

Wood Kiln Yellow Springs PA

Wood Kiln Yellow Springs PA

Though a variety of art classes are offered here, Yellow Springs is distinguished by its very active Ceramics Studio with a large wood kiln (built in 2014) that draws students from Philly and elsewhere (the nearest one of comparable size is in Baltimore). Though guided walking tours of Historic Yellow Springs can be arranged for groups of 10 or more for a fee, mentions Executive Director, Eileen McMonagle, you can pick up a self-guided walking tour brochure in the Lincoln Building. Free.

VISIT: Colonial Theater, Phoenixville. The movie theater is packed.  Suddenly, a ball of icky goo murders the projectionist and starts after the rest of the gang.  Mayhem ensues. Moviegoers run from the theater; a young Steve McQueen among them.  The Blob, as memorable as a B-movie gets, was filmed right here in Phoenxville, PA. To raise money for the theater that by the 1990’s was in its final frames, the newly formed Association for the Colonial Theater screened The Blob – and the event was a hit.  Now, every year over a weekend in July, BlobFest takes over Phoenixville, drawing Blob lovers from all over the world.

John-Luttman-Artifaqt-Phoenixville-PA

John-Luttman-Artifaqt-Phoenixville-PA

STROLL/SHOP/EAT: Downtown Phoenixville.  What was once a steel foundry town has been reinvented as an arts and epicurean hot spot. Have a cup of joe amid the vibrant paintings and ceramics at Artisans Gallery and Café, where people sip specialty espressos after catching a flick at the Colonial Theater.  Try a few vintages at the Black Walnut Winery Tasting room or a custom Italian Soda at Steel City (a venue for local and regional musicians nearly every night).   If you can snag a seat, try for one at the newest little BYOB restaurant sensation, Andrew Deery’s Majolica or Black Lab Bistro (see recommendations below). And definitely plan to spend more time than you originally allotted for a perusal of the Diving Cat Gallery (named after owner Markels Roberts’ philosophy to just dive into life the way cats dive after prey). Roberts considers her store as “one big sculpture,” and you’ll loose yourself amid the ceramic cats, Buddha’s, clothing, scarves, jewelry and thousands of can’t resist impulse purchases. Before leaving town, you’ll have to make one last stop at  Artifaqt, both a factory and artist studio. It’s not generally open, but if you press the buzzer, owner/craftsman John Luttman will let you into his world and work, which includes designing for Disney, the Bronx Zoo, Longwood Gardens (cheeseboards made from Longwood’s fallen trees), star chef and restaurateur, Jose Garces and others. Great chefs and Disney bigwigs make pilgrimages here to see the artist at work and discuss their newest projects, but you can, too.  Just push the buzzer.  “The curious are always welcome.”

Where to Eat in North Chester County PA

Ludwig's Inn famous French Onion Soup PA

Ludwig’s Inn famous French Onion Soup PA

EAT/PROVISION/SHOP: Ludwig’s Grille and Oyster Bar, Glenmoore. What was once the General Store and Post Office (built in 1848) on the rural intersection of Routes 100 and 401 (“Cornerstone Pike”), and then the Black Angus Inn, has, since 1992 been restored, strangely enough, as an Oyster Bar with a New England theme. The original “Buck A Shuck” – $1 per shucked oyster – has not gone up in price in 26 years! No wonder Ludwig’s sells on average 3,000-4,000 oysters per week. But that’s not all Ludwig’s dishes out – and other items are equally excellent. Take the popular French Onion Soup – chock full of sweet, caramelized onions and capped with a prodigious amount of melted gooey cheese. Or the “Wedge Salad” deconstructed and chopped, with Bibb Lettuce to soften each fresh bite. These, and craft cocktails, steaks, burgers, sandwiches, and of course those oysters, keeps this crossroads restaurant hopping.

Eleanor Russell Gift Shop, Ludwig's Corner PA

Eleanor Russell Gift Shop, Ludwig’s Corner PA

In the same complex, find a small upscale Ludwig’s Village Market (with Market Café opening soon), perfect for provisioning and picnics. A few doors down, Eleanor Russell Gift Shop – in case you’re hunting for the perfect unique hostess, wedding, or baby gift. Owner Lori Musson, who has a penchant for dogs and equestrian themed items, named her store after her grandparents, Eleanor and Russ.

EAT: Black Lab Bistro, Phoenixville.  Highly rated, often cited as the “best restaurant in town,” accolades are well deserved. Try the warm sushi-rice and seaweed salad topped Tuna Tartar ($12) with a texture/flavor combination that leaves a gal wanting more. The menu is inventive and the room cheerful – and not a Blob in sight.

Interior of farm to table Restaurant Alba, Malvern, PA

EAT: Restaurant Alba, Malvern. Chef Sean Weinberg, a James Beard darling, dedicated to high quality, locally produced foods, opened up this big city caliber eatery in the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town of Malvern a few years ago and the great reviews are never ending.  Go local for the Wood Grilled PA Trout, Arugula, Pickled Onions, Almonds and Pesto ($20), or small bites with 5 inventive Bruchettes for $17.

Where to Stay

Desmond-Hotel-Malvern-PA

Desmond-Hotel-Malvern-PA

STAY: Desmond Hotel, Malvern. Though the hotel itself is sized for a corporate clientele, rooms at the Desmond are nevertheless charming, with four-poster canopy beds and Federalist furniture.  Three on-site restaurants assure that you’ll find something as casual or as fine as you’d like, and in fact, the service and dishes in the in-house Fork & Bottle are very fine indeed. Rooms and suites from $169-$289.

Richmond VA: Founding Fathers, Finding Poe And Feasting Finely In This North/South Border City

WHY GO: A few years ago, Richmond was named one of the top Ten River Cities in the country for Class IV whitewater kayaking. When Patrick Henry bellowed the famous “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech, when George Washington planned out the 1.25 mile Canal Walk, when Thomas Jefferson designed the State House, when Edgar Allan Poe flirted in town gardens, kayaking wasn’t even a thing. Now, more and more people are venturing into a transitioning downtown to explore warehouses and row homes that have been repurposed into trendy restaurants and inns. Whole neighborhoods are being flooded with breweries, distilleries and cideries. There’s a vibrant, youthful, Brooklyn-before-it-got-upmarket vibe in Richmond and great ways to access that energy. Let the Getaway Mavens clue you in on this getting cooler by the year, cusp-of-Old-South escape.

Things to Do in Richmond VA

Visitors Center, Virginia State House Richmond VA

Visitors Center, Virginia State House Richmond VA

VISIT: Virginia State Capitol. Designed by Thomas Jefferson, and completed in 1788, the blazing white neoclassical Virginia State House stands proudly atop a hill adjacent to the small but beautifully landscaped Capitol Square Park, where Jefferson Davis took the Oath of Office as President of the Confederate States.

Start at the Visitor’s Entrance down the hill on Bank Street (across from the newly renovated Commonwealth Hotel). After clearing security, you can either take a guided or self-guided tour, which brings you through underground tunnels, past informative exhibits, and then into the Capitol Building itself.  The most life-like sculpture of George Washington in the world sits in the center of the Capitol’s rotunda. Sculptor Jean Antoine Houdon traveled to Mount Vernon to take measurements and a life-mask of the country’s first President – and used them to carve the perfect replica of GW specifically for this space in 1796. During the Civil War, Robert E. Lee accepted command of the Virginia forces here on April 23, 1861, and nine years later (April 27, 1870), the floor above – the Supreme Court of Appeals – collapsed, killing 62 and injuring 251 people who had crowded in to watch the proceedings in a contentious case.

Don’t leave before heading up to the 3rd floor rotunda Governor’s Gallery, ringed by portraits of Virginia’s Governors – with a great bird’s eye view of the George Washington statue. Open Mon-Sat 9-5, Sun 1-5, free one hour guided tours.

St. Johns Church, Give Me Liberty of Give Me Death Speech, Richmond VA

VISIT: St. John’s Church. It was a sentence that spurred a Revolution: “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!” Virginia was the wealthiest of the colonies with the most to loose, and St. John’s Church was the largest building in Richmond to hold a political gathering, thus George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Richard Henry Lee were in attendance on March 23, 1775 when Patrick Henry thundered his fateful words, inspiring them to take action.  Take a “tour” – more like a one-man show – and I dare you not to be inspired as well. Sit in the Church pews, and Ray Baird (or an alternate guide), wearing Patrick Henry garb, takes us back in time explaining to visitors that for 150 years England has left the Colonies alone while we elected our own officials and grew rich on our own, thank you very much.

Ray Baird as Patrick Henry at St. Johns Church, Richmond VA

Now, England is in debt and relies on the Stamp Act to generate revenue, which leads to the “No taxation without representation” Tea Party revolt and British soldiers with guns appearing on our shores. It’s happening in Boston. It’s just a matter of time before they come here, to Virginia. What would you do?  It’s a thinking-person’s tour, timely in any political climate and should be a mandatory first stop in Richmond. The fact that it’s entertaining and engaging makes it all the better.   You can wander the church grounds and cemetery for free – to see the graves of Edgar Allan Poe’s biological mother (who died when Poe was a year old), and George Wythe, the first law professor in the USA. Open Mon-Sat 10-4, Sun 1-4, tours on hour and half hour (last one at 3:30), $7,closed January. Complete reenactments take place every Sunday from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Edgar Allan Poe Museum, Richmond VA

VISIT: Poe Museum. Edgar Allan Poe was born in 1809, the same year as Abe Lincoln and Charles Darwin. And though his 1844 poem, The Raven, made him a huge success, he received only $15 for it, and earned an estimated mere $6,200 over his lifetime, mostly from speaking engagements near the end of his life at age 40.  It’s this kind of perspective that makes the Poe Museum in Richmond stand out from others. Poe arrived in Richmond, VA as a baby – his 24-year-old mother deathly ill from typhoid. When she died, the Allan family adopted him – endowing him with the middle name that would identify him through life and death.

Bust of Edgar Allan Poe with kisses, Poe Museum, Richmond VA

Though the museum is not located in any home that Poe inhabited (and there were many along the Eastern seaboard), it does hold artifacts like his boyhood furniture, elaborately stitched clothing, portraits of the women in his life (again, there were many), first copies of his published books, handwritten poems, his notes on Milton and Shakespeare, a backless chair (his boss cut off the back to make him sit up straight), and many decidedly un-sinister photographs of the handsome young man. Poe died in Baltimore under mysterious circumstances: he was found delirious and in strange dress, and the cause of his death remains in dispute. Take a 45-minute audio tour, and if you’d like, smooch his bust in the outdoor courtyard. Lipstick marks attest to the fact that Poe remains a beloved cult figure. In addition to weddings and tours, the museum offers creative programming, like the very popular afternoon “Unhappy Hour” and Paranormal Investigations. Tues-Sat 10-5, Sun. 11-5, $6.

Segway of Richmond Tour, Richmond VA

TOUR: Segway of Richmond. The best way to see a large swath of Virginia’s State Capital city is via Segway, and Segway of Richmond offers a good variety of tours.  If this is your first time in Richmond, take the popular Richmond Landmarks Tour, which rolls down sidewalks of cobblestone streets, through the Canal Walk, to Monument Ave., the State House and other historic sites. Or opt for a tour of the Hollywood Cemetery – the second most visited cemetery in the country where three US Presidents (Tyler, Monroe and Davis) are buried. If you’ve been there done that, the Downtown Public Art Tour brings you to the best murals and sculptures in neighborhoods where the bold and talented are turning things around. Check website for tour times, rates from $50-$68 per person.

DO: River City Food Tours, Carytown Tour. “Over the last 8 to 10 years, Richmond has turned into a ‘food powerhouse,’” says Brian Beard, the bearded owner/guide of River City Food Tours, and on this tour, guests sample the goods from six restaurants and cafes. Though the amiable Beard and his guides run several tours, funky Carytown is a good first choice, and ever changing. “With our tours, we want you to feel that you have a friend in the neighborhood. We want you to feel like an insider.” Brian has indeed proven to be that friend – his River City Food Tour business growing leaps and bounds in popularity with both tourists and locals.

Cary Court Photo, Richmond VA

Cary Court Photo, Richmond VA

One can say that Carytown originated as a shopping district in 1938, when the first shopping center on the entire East Coast that could accommodate scores of cars – Cary Court – was erected here as the city of Richmond spread west. Cary Court still draws them in, with fun boutiques and restaurants. Look for the photo from 1947, which shows Maytag, A&P, and other stores long gone.

Brian Beard, River City Food Tours, Richmond VA

Brian Beard, River City Food Tours, Richmond VA

Though Beard changes up the stops, your tour might begin at the popular coffee and Panini eatery 10 Italian Café, move on to the 13-year-old French Brasserie, Can Can in Cary Court, then to Home Sweet Home – a new rustic down-home restaurant in the former Mezzanine space, and next, the lively tea spot, The Tottering Teacup, owned by the bubbly and colorful Anatash Werne.  Beard loves to promote new restaurants, and the Broken Tulip is a worthy and unique one. Sariann Leher, and her husband, David, plan to “build a community around food” with 6 course tasting dinners and local chefs invited to set up pop-up kitchens here midweek. You’ll most likely end the tour with sweets at Carytown Cupcakes where the baked goods are so delectable, lines form out the door. You’ll end the tour happy, full, and ready for a nap! Carytown Tour Sat and Sun 2-5, $58 per person.

Real Richmond Food Tours, Richmond VA

TOUR: Real Richmond Food Tours. As Richmond is a city of growing culinary delights, you can never get enough when it comes to city food tours. Real Richmond runs a series of ten neighborhood tours throughout the year, and if I lived in Richmond, I’d be signing up for every one. Susan Winiecki, editor of Richmond Magazine, leads groups on a culinary exploration of Richmond’s neighborhoods, “taking to the streets to show you the inside scoop on what’s going on in Richmond today, seasoned with River City’s lively history and impressive architecture.”  One example – The Wards: The Art and Soul of Richmond – covers the gentrifying Arts District and the “Harlem of the South” – Jackson Ward neighborhood. Home to free Blacks, immigrants and the working class pre-Civil War, this neighborhood claims the largest concentration of Antebellum houses with wrought ironwork second only to New Orleans. In 1870, the area was home to 50 Black owned businesses. By the early 1900’s over 400 African Americans owned establishments here.

Tastings at Lift Coffee House, Real Richmond Food Tour, Richmond VA

Trooping past tattoo parlors and empty storefronts, you’ll meander on sidewalks heaved up by roots of old trees to places like trendy coffee shop, Lift – bright green, funky and indicative of the establishments that are re-wiring, and “lifting” blighted neighborhoods from gloom. Next to the Southern-cooking, soul-food mecca, Mama J’s. and oyster-haven Rappahannock where you might find Chef Dillon Fultineer shucking those bi-vales at the front of the bar. Onward to experimental South-American-influenced Saison, and ending at the newly designed Lemaire Restaurant at the Jefferson Hotel.  Most public 1.5 mile neighborhood tours last roughly 2 ½ to 3 hours and cost $56.60.

VISIT: Virginia Holocaust Museum. Warning – this is a tough hour for anyone who walks though the door of this excellent, compelling, somber, and oft-times horrifying museum, with a no holds barred examination of an incomprehensible era in recent history. Exhibits includes graphic photos from Death Camps, Displacement Camps, and a recreation of parts of the Nuremberg Trials via diorama and audio. A recent study showed that Americans are “forgetting about the Holocaust,” with a fifth of Millennials not even sure what it is. That is terrifying – and a reason that more people should visit. Open Mon-Fri 9-5, Sat and Sun 11-5, Closed on Jewish High Holidays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Eve, and New Years Eve, free.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens Richmond VA

Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens Richmond VA

GO: Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Blooming with flowers in Spring, this city respite pleases the eye, calms the mind, and somehow gets kids to love, respect and appreciate flowers. On 50 acres, with ponds, pedestrian bridges, fountains, a conservatory, a butterfly zone, and massive gift shop, I wanted to stay way past closing time just to Zen out within a marvelous landscape.

Statue in Conservatory at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens Richmond VA

Statue in Conservatory at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens Richmond VA

Kids and those who love them also clamor to the Tree House, Children’s Garden, and Water and Sand Activity Areas, where they can play all day. There are daffodils, ornamental grasses, hillside meadows, Cherry Trees, and more than 1,800 roses in the Louise Cochrane Rose Garden. Though considered the #4 Best Public Garden in North America by readers of USA Today, the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is somewhat under the radar for visitors from outside of Virginia. I’d say it should be near the top of the attractions list for first timers to Richmond. Open daily 9-5, $13 adults, $8 kids 3-12.

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Richmond VA

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Richmond VA

VISIT: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. This world-class encyclopedic museum – covering ancient to modern in two distinct wings – can take hours to see. If you just have an hour or so, beeline to the Faberge Egg and Art Nouveau/Art Deco exhibits, which are approachable in their scope. Open daily 10-5, free for general admission.

Virginia Historical Society Richmond VA

Virginia Museum of History and Culture Richmond VA

VISIT: Virginia Museum of History & Culture. You’ll find this sounds-boring-but-is-actually-fantastic museum right next door to the VMFA (in fact, they share a parking garage). Chock full of local history curated for maximum impact, don’t miss “The Story of Virginia: An American Experience” in the Edmund Randolph Williams Gallery, illuminating those pivotal points in Virginia History that made the USA what is it today.

Confederate Murals, Virginia Historical Society Richmond VA

Confederate Murals, Virginia Historical Society Richmond VA

The most imposing room, by far, is the Cheek Mural Gallery, a soaring space devoted to dramatic depictions of “Seasons of the Confederacy,” painted by artist Charles Hoffbauer specifically for this space. Open daily 10-5, $10 adults, $5 youth.

Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, Richmond VA

Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, Richmond VA

VISIT: Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia. This small, minimalistic, two story museum is the polar opposite of the venerable one in Washington DC. Moved to the renovated Armory (built in 1895 for African American Militia) turned school turned recreation center, turned museum in 2016, this welcoming and thought-provoking place highlights Slavery, Emancipation, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, Brown Vs. Board of Ed, Civil Rights Era, and Black notables, in several spare rooms – utilizing enlarged photos, quotations, and interactive boards to minimize clutter.

Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia

Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia

The contemporary glass entrance can be found at the rear of the 1895 building. An original Woolworth’s sign and a recreation of the soda fountain from the Greensboro Sit In graces the gift shop area. $10 adults, $6 children, Open Tues-Sat. 10-5, Sunday by appointment only. Closed Mon.

Statue of Maggie Lena Walker Richmond VA

Statue of Maggie Lena Walker Richmond VA

PHOTO OP: Statue of Maggie Lena Walker – erected in July 2017. Walker, the daughter of a slave and self-made millionaire, was the first woman of any race to charter a bank in the United States (in the early 1900’s).

Institute for Contemporary Art Richmond VA

Institute for Contemporary Art Richmond VA

COMING: Institute for Contemporary Art Richmond on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University. This is Virginia’s Capital City’s first and only freestanding contemporary art museum. According to a recent piece in the NY Times (by Hilarie M. Sheets), the ICA “opens with an exhibit called ‘Declaration’ that will boldly confront pressing social issues in a city that was once the capital of the Confederacy.”

KAYAK/RAFT: Riverside Outfitters.  Yes, astoundingly, there’s whitewater right in Richmond.  In fact, you’ll begin miles out of town, float and splash through calm and rapid streams to end up at 14th street.  It’s a blast in season and just another way to view Richmond from yet another perspective. Flatwater kayaking tours, $50, whitewater rafting trips, $70.

 Best Places to Eat and Drink in Richmond VA

TASTE: Blue Bee Cider. You’ll stumble on Blue Bee Cider in an old Police Horse barn in the Scott’s Addition neighborhood of Richmond – an industrial area where breweries and cideries are opening at a blistering pace. So blistering, in fact, Scotts Addition is alternately termed “The Beverage District.” Try a flight of dry or sweet hard ciders ($9 for 3 1oz pours) infused with bourbon, ginger, or other innovative ingredients – to enjoy either inside or outside in the former stables courtyard.

Vasen Brewery Richmond VA

Vasen Brewing Co. Richmond VA

For those eager to try other spirits, wander the transitioning Scotts Addition sector of Richmond. Join any party in process in nearly 30 breweries and wineries from The Answer Brewpub to Vasen Brewing Co. With food trucks galore, you don’t have to even leave for a quick dinner.

TEA: The Tottering Teacup.  Owner Anatash Werne keeps a trunk brimming with fancy hats for customers to don while they sip a variety of teas from china cups, and nibble on the delectable little cakes. Don’t expect doilies and old-fashioned food in this bold-hued parlor. Playful and spacious, it’s for a whole new generation of tea lovers.

EAT: 10 Italian Café, where the proprietary dark-roast coffee is a hit in the mornings, and Grandma’s crispy bread recipes give Panini’s a tastey and tooth-pleasing crunch.

EAT: Little Saint. This little spot, serving “thoughtfully sourced food and drink,” in a former gas station, has made a big splash in Richmond – for good reason. Friendly bartenders mix up “Cocktails by Era” – reviving anachronistic concoctions from The Golden Age Pre Prohibition (1880-1920), International Era (1920-1930),Tiki Boom (1934-1950) and Rat Pack Era (1950-1960) and of course contemporary drinks.

Little Saint Richmond VA

Little Saint Richmond VA

Ask for iced tea and your server will pluck a mason jar from the windowsill – tea brewed perfectly by the sun. A taste of the wildly incredible Fried Mushrooms ($5) elicits joy, as does the Chicken Shepherd’s Pie – made with roasted chicken, ginger, jalapeno ettouffee, and curried mashed sweet potatoes piped like icing on a cake.

Can Can Brasserie Richmond VA

Can Can Brasserie Richmond VA

EAT: Can Can Brasserie in Cary Court. A bone fide French Brasserie, with every piece of décor made in France, the cavernous mosaic floor center room, and smaller party rooms, hold over 600 people per meal in total, rendering Can Can one of the largest restaurants in Richmond. Helmed by Richmond native, Chris Ripp, who got his first pair of shoes in the shoe store formally in this space, Can Can serves up everything from French pastries to five course meals paired with wine. In need of a snack?  Can Can’s “Frites” are amazingly out of this world.

Sariann Leher, Broken Tulip Richmond VA

Sariann Leher, Broken Tulip Richmond VA

EAT: Broken Tulip. Sariann Leher, and her husband, David, serve a complete 6 to 12 course meal for 26 twice an evening every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. There is no menu – everyone eats the same thing – but you can be sure the chefs showcase the best of local farms, and plan to “build a community around food” with local chefs invited to set up their own pop-up kitchens here midweek. Sari and David started a supper club in their home in Portland OR, and kept their original dining table as a reminder of their restaurant’s origins. It now serves as one of two large tables around which patrons dine family style. Dinner, $50 per person, with “generous-pour” wine pairing an additional $42.

Home Sweet Home Richmond VA

Home Sweet Home Richmond VA

EAT: Home Sweet Home. Were tomato soup and grilled cheese your childhood comfort foods? You’ll find excellent and unique versions at Home Sweet Home – a new rustic down-home restaurant in the former Mezzanine space.

Citizen Cafe Richmond VA

Citizen Cafe Richmond VA

EAT: Citizen Café. A communal, amiable, fresh-food spot near the State House – it’s got “international” offerings from tacos to falafel. My favorite – the Fried Piri Cauliflower sandwich (comes with Chicken, too $9.75).

Sub Rosa Bakery Richmond VA

Sub Rosa Bakery Richmond VA

EAT: Sub Rosa Bakery. Lines into Sub Rosa Bakery form early in the charming historic neighborhood of Church Hill, and no wonder. Pastries, brown and flakey-crunchy, emerge warm from the wood-fired oven and are immediately snapped up. Flat buns are as big as salad plates, and I’d drive 7 hours from my Connecticut home just to have one again. They are that ambrosial.

SBs Lakeside Love Shack Richmond VA

SBs Lakeside Love Shack Richmond VA

EAT: SB’s Lakeside Love Shack, across from Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. Take the B 52’s song, Love Shack, break it up into menu items, and you’ve got Jukebox Money Grilled Cheese, It’s As Hot as An Oven Grilled Cheese, Wearing Next to Nothing Egg Salad, It’s About To Set Sail BLT – you get the idea. You might just pass this Funky Little Shack, which isn’t a shack at all, but a storefront in a strip shopping center, but you probably won’t, as The Whole Shack Shimmies on the days that cocktails, called Love Potions, rule. A solid 5 on most review sites, SB’s Love Shack rocks in more ways than one.

Rappahonock Oyster Restaurant, Richmond VA

EAT/OYSTERS: Rappahannock. Come right into this plucked-from-the-bay-fresh oyster spot, and you’ll find bartenders reaching under the bar to shuck those bivalves right before your eyes. Compare the salty, briny taste of Chincoteague Oysters to the sweet clearwater Rappahannock River Oyster – you don’t have to choose. This restaurant is basically a delivery device for the underrated Chesapeake Bay area oysters, and they will hook you (or is that scoop you up?) for sure.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts, The Roosevelt Restaurant, Richmond VA

EAT: The Roosevelt Restaurant. In a former pharmacy, tin ceiling and worn wooden floorboards still intact, this new Nouvelle Southern eatery has gained notice and even on weekday nights hums with a diversely aged crowd.  As is the trend now, cocktail names reflect a youthful sense of humor. Order The Seersucker – bourbon, sweet tea, bitters with “charred lemon cube,” or She Wolf Paw – apple brandy, green chartreuse, crème de cacao.  The menu features down-home cooking: Catfish, Black eye Peas and Rice ($17) hits the mark. Graze on sides like fried Brussels Sprouts ($4), and end the meal with Coca Cola Cake or the inexplicable Foie Gras Pound Cake (?!).

EAT: Acacia. Acacia is  the most consistently recommended surf-and-turf-to-table restaurant in Richmond. Rockfish, Grouper, Chicken, Pork Chops expertly prepared – all in the mid $20’s range.

Mama J's Kitchen, Richmond VA

EAT: Mama J’s.  Chef/owner Velma Johnson worked for the Sheriff’s Department before opening up her own catering business. Evidently filling a niche in Richmond, her food was in such demand, clients urged her to open a restaurant.  She did and it hasn’t been empty since. Johnson makes the most superb catfish nuggets ($6), yams, and her famous “Rum Cake” – ideal for people who don’t think they like rum cake – and  incredible, pork-free, vegetarian collard greens ($3).  I’d like a vat of that, please.

Small bites at Saison Restaurant, Richmond VA

EAT: Saison. Passionate chef-owners are on the cutting edge of the craft beer and modern whimsical cocktails revolution with a Jumbo-jet-sized drink menu in a Smart-Car dimensioned space. Saison has curated a peculiar draft list that “plays well with food,” and wait-staff are happy to pair up drinks with the innovative Southern and Central American inspired cuisine, or, in quirky cook-speak, “Colonial foodways coming up from Latin America.”  Fun menus pasted into travel-guide photography books delineate offerings like toothsome Oxtail Sopes with Masa Cakes $9, a cornucopia “Fall Salad” ($7) and Cilantro Mint Ice-Cream. Bring in your favorite vinyl record and get $5 off your bill if it’s chosen to play. The strangest one yet? Sermons by Billy Graham.

Lemaire Restaurant, Richmond VA

EAT: Lemaire Restaurant at the Jefferson Hotel. Renovated inn 2009 to reflect a more casual dining environment, Lemaire reigns as one of Virginia’s Favorite Restaurants. Using local purveyors, honey from rooftop hives, and on-site garden herbs, New American dishes take your taste buds on a flavorful ride. The Butternut Squash soup is certainly a “Hug In A Bowl,” and other playful menu items are a far cry from the fine, but stuffy restaurant it was before. The more casual bar draws an “after work” crowd with “Create Your Own Manhattan” swing, and you can find fascinating frugal foodstuffs – just 3 appetizers for $30 – in the dining room.

 Best Places to Stay in Richmond VA

Lobby The Commonwealth Hotel Richmond VA

Lobby The Commonwealth Hotel Richmond VA

STAY: Commonwealth Hotel. What once was just a plain Jane “Government hotel” is now an artsy, luxury boutique hotel. Its claim to fame? Sweeping views of the Virginia Capitol Building on the hill, from several corner suites. A Maven Favorite, you can read the complete review HERE.

Quirk Hotel Richmond VA

Quirk Hotel Richmond VA

STAY: Boutique Hotels are booming in Richmond – starting with the above Commonwealth, the below Linden Row Inn, and the newest funky-spacious Quirk Hotel, and Graduate Hotel Richmond.Linden Row Inn, Richmond VA

STAY: Linden Row Inn. Stay historic without paying a fortune. The Linden Row Inn incorporates five Confederate row homes and two girls schools, and is regarded as one of the country’s best surviving row of Greek Revival architecture today. According to historians, Edgar Allan Poe (who lived across the street), first courted his life-long love, Elmira Royster, in the garden where Linden Row now stands. And when Irene Langhorn attended school here, her wealthy parents held a monthly “suitor party,” for years, but the picky future first “Gibson Girl” never found one to her liking. On the National Historic Register, Linden Row Inn was the brainchild of artsy, affluent, entrepreneurial Mary Wingfield Scott, who bought up these seven homes in 1949, connected the balconies and first rented to artists before turning the property over to Historic Richmond Foundation in 1980. In 1988, the Inn underwent a major renovation and in 2003, bathrooms were updated to luxury standard. Elevators may be creaky, floorboards warped and slanted, some curtains frayed, but rooms are charming and clean, with much more luxurious appointments than you’d expect at this price-point. Rooms $109-$155 per night, Parlor Suites $209 night include Continental Breakfast, complimentary shuttle, free wi-fi, free YMCA fitness pass.  

Jefferson Hotel Lobby, Richmond VA

STAY: Jefferson Hotel.  The premier destination hotel in Richmond, it once sported alligators in the Courtyard fountain. Built by Tobacco magnate, Major Lewis Ginter, it was and remains opulent lodging built for tycoons. If you’ve got the bucks and want to check one of 33 Forbes 5-Star and AAA 5-Diamond hotels in the country off of your list, here’s your chance. Weekend discount rooms from $255, weekday room rates from $345.

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Washington DC For Second Timers: New And Notable In Our Nation’s Capital (2018)

Cherry Blossoms around Tidal Basin, Washington DC

Cherry Blossoms around Tidal Basin, Washington DC

WHY GO: If you’ve been to the Nations’ Capital before, you’ve probably visited the Monuments, the Capitol Building, the White House – and presumably the more popular Smithsonian Museums. But there are new and other lesser known institutions – like the Museum of African American History, Museum of the American Indian, Museum of the Bible, the bigger and better Newseum, a soon to be moving Spy Museum, the Library of Congress, and Museum of Women in the Arts, that have either been miles off your radar or impossible to get into.

Also new this year: the reintroduction of the Watergate Hotel after a major renovation. Far from whitewashing its notorious history, this reborn hotel embraces it.

Spring, and the blooming Cherry Trees and their lush, pink blossoms, draw crowds to Washington DC every year. Come in late March and early April, and you’ll be in plenty of company. To buck the crowds and gain access to the more popular attractions, come off-season – in winter or dead of summer.

New, Notable, or Under The Radar in Washington DC

National Museum of African American History and Culture Washington DC

National Museum of African American History and Culture Washington DC

VISIT: National Museum of African American History and Culture. “The NMAAHC is a tougher ticket than Hamilton,” I was told, before embarking on a three-day trip to DC. Good thing I was persuasive, and it was just little ole me – who wouldn’t take up too much space at the opening bell on an early April morning. But FYI for everyone else – if you plan to go, sign up for a Pass on the NMAAHC website. As of now (April 2018), it’s scheduling three months out.

National Museum of African American History and Culture Washington DC

National Museum of African American History and Culture Washington DC

And, no wonder. This is an exceptional museum, with plenty on exhibit, and plenty to unpack; from somber to razzle-dazzle. Plus, it’s chatty as all get out. While the Holocaust Museum stuns visitors into silence, this museum has the opposite effect. Every section sparks conversation, admiration, motivation, reaction, and reflection in those who move through its many halls. While the darkest and most challenging aspects of Black history are not glossed over, more attention is paid to the achievements and strong communities of the African American experience.

Segregation National Museum of African American History and Culture Washington DC

Segregation, National Museum of African American History and Culture Washington DC

 

It begins in the hold of a Slave Ship, in a subterranean part of the museum three levels below the basement floor, accessed by a glass elevator. Dark and dimly lit, the roots of slavery in America start here. Moving from the American Revolution to the Civil War; President Lincoln, Frederick Douglas; Reconstruction leading to Segregation and Jim Crow, to the Civil Rights Movement. Near the display showcasing a lunch counter stool from the 1960 Greensboro Sit In, I overheard a Mom tells her two young sons, “If you know the difference between right and wrong, you can make a change…you can start a movement.” They listened raptly – seeds for future leadership firmly planted. I heard these kinds of conversations throughout the museum.

Contemplative Court - Segregation National Museum of African American History and Culture Washington DC

Contemplative Court – National Museum of African American History and Culture Washington DC

As you climb the ramps, watch for a sign showing the way to the “Contemplative Court.” Don’t miss it. An upside-down fountain raining from the ceiling in a vast room, the installation is Martin Luther King’s “justice runs down like water,” made manifest.

President Obama National Museum of African American History and Culture Washington DC

President Obama National Museum of African American History and Culture Washington DC

It might take a couple of hours just to get through the lower level history sections, but there are four other floors to explore – each easily taking an hour or more. From Tubman to Winfrey, Douglas to Obama – A Changing America points to Black Is Beautiful and Black Power of the 60’s as pivotal movements.

President Obama National Museum of African American History and Culture Washington DC

President Obama National Museum of African American History and Culture Washington DC

Another floor engages kids and adults with ‘The Step Show” hip hop instructional and interactive dance class, and a “Choose Your Route” as a “Negro Tourist” in 1962 as you attempt to take a road trip across America. Choosing either to eat in a restaurant or sleep in a hotel that will allow Blacks -but not both – it’s a sobering exercise in Jim Crow restrictions.

Sports Greats - National Museum of African American History and Culture Washington DC

Sports Greats – National Museum of African American History and Culture Washington DC

The third floor consists of the “Community” galleries – Foundations of Faith, Military, Education, Medicine, and Sports – illuminating the extremes of African American life, from the high-society Black “cottagers” in Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard since the late 1800’s, to the originators of Hip Hop in the struggling Bronx. There’s a section on “Game Changers:” Jesse Owens, Arthur Ashe, Venus and Serena Williams, Mohammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and other household names in the sporting world.

P Funk Mothership - National Museum of African American History and Culture Washington DC

P Funk Mothership – National Museum of African American History and Culture Washington DC

You’ll want to devote at least an hour to the top floor – the Culture Galleries, starting with “Foodways” of various communities. Take your time in the maze of rooms that feature a wiz-bang collection of the greats in TV, Hollywood, Theater, Dance, and Music: the P-Funk “Mothership” concert prop and Chuck Berry’s Eldorado figure prominently. Museum open daily 10-5:30. Timed pass necessary – booking three months out.

Library of Congress Jefferson Building Washington DC

Library of Congress Jefferson Building Washington DC

TOUR: Library of Congress Jefferson Building. Those who relish books and iconic artifacts will not want to miss a free hour-long tour of the Library of Congress. The oldest cultural institution of the US Government, and home of the U.S. Copyright Office, I guarantee that you will be inspired and entranced by the our Nation’s Library, which holds billions of words and more literary treasures than any other library in the world. Those include the 1502 “Book of Privileges” by Christopher Columbus, the 1632 book written by Galileo that led to his condemnation by the Church, the oldest Koran in existence, one of 4 maps, wrinkled with use, carried by Lewis and Clark on their American expedition, a first printing of the Declaration of Independence, the first video of a football game in 1903 – Yale vs. Princeton – and a $5 Confederate bill found in Abraham Lincoln’s pocket on the eve of his assassination. The Library of Congress has in its archives over 167 million items, with 12,000 added per day.

Main Reading Room - Library of Congress Jefferson Building Washington DC

Main Reading Room – Library of Congress Jefferson Building Washington DC

The Library of Congress Jefferson Building was constructed from 1889-1897 in the Italian Renaissance style at a cost of $6.5 million – a fortune at the time. It’s central court is palace-like in its lavishness: stained glass ceiling, compass rose inlayed floor, two sweeping marble staircases that ascend to a viewing gallery (into the Main Reading Room) where Elihu Vedder’s murals depicting the consequences of Good and Bad Governments (comparing corrupt self-interested leaders with those who govern for all, leading to anarchy vs. prosperity) can be seen up close.

Thomas Jefferson Library - Library of Congress Washington DC

Thomas Jefferson Library – Library of Congress Washington DC

You can see the Capitol Building through the windows. In fact, when the Capital of our new country was moved to Washington DC, Congress recognized the need for a research library. The first, containing 740 books and 3 maps, was installed in 1800 in the Capitol Building – in what is now Mitch McConnell’s office. These initial books were destroyed when the Brits torched DC’s public buildings in August 1814. In 1815, Thomas Jefferson sold his complete 6,487-book library to the Library of Congress (for $23,950) and it was reborn. Now, Jefferson’s original library is on exhibit for all to see. Though 3/5ths of his books were destroyed in a 1850’s fire, some (marked by green ribbons) survived, others are exact copies of those that burned, and still others are being sought to complete his collection.

First Map of America - Library of Congress Washington DC

First Map of America – Library of Congress Washington DC

Our guide was keen to show us another little known remnant of history – hidden in an exhibit wing behind one of the temporary displays: “The Birth Certificate of America.” It’s a 1506 World Map, drawn by a German monk who inked as accurate depiction of the world as could be imagined in the 16th Century. While the continents of Africa and Europe are relatively spot-on, the New World is drawn as thin as a Finger Lake, stretching from extreme North to South. Look closely though, and you’ll see what is now South America labeled simply “America.” It’s the first known document on which that name appears. Open 8:30-4:30. The free tour is worth an hour of your time, every hour on the half hour from 9:30-3:30.

Newseum - Washington DC

Newseum – Washington DC

VISIT: Newseum. This riveting museum does a bang-up job in promoting, explaining and defending the Five Freedoms of the Constitution’s First Amendment: Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, Freedom to Peaceably Assemble, and Freedom to Petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

To that end, it behooves every citizen to visit Newseum, even though it charges a fee. Start downstairs in the Orientation Theater for a six-minute “What’s News” video featuring key stories “of our time.” The museum also is home to the largest piece of the Berlin wall – a tactile reminder of the difference between a repressed population and a free one, separated by mere inches.

View of Pennsylvania Ave from Newseum Top Floor

View of Pennsylvania Ave from Newseum Top Floor

Take the elevator to Level 6 for a direct view of the Capitol Building down Pennsylvania Ave. And here, you’ll also find Today’s Front Pages of newspapers from all 50 states and around the world (updated daily).

1776 Breaking News - Newseum Washington DC

1776 Breaking News – Newseum Washington DC

Plan to spend some time on the 5th floor in the News Corporation News History Gallery, which explores the dangers inherent in war reporting, women in media, and now – the spread of immediate “news” through social media and blogging. Here, you’ll be privy to still-relevant front page news from the past: the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, the Scopes “Monkey Trial” in 1925 (once again a topical item), FDR’s first radio Fireside Chat in 1933, the Challenger Disaster recorded in real time by CNN in 1986, the breaking of news via Blog in 2002, and again in 2009 on Twitter when Janis Krums posted a photo of the “Miracle on the Hudson” plane just after it landed safely in the water.

Contemplating Freedom of Religion - Newseum Washington DC

Contemplating Freedom of Religion – Newseum Washington DC

On the 4th level, see the broadcast antenna that once stood atop the World Trade Center near the 9/11 Gallery along with the First Amendment Gallery, which explores stories of people who have used their First Amendment Freedoms to enact change.

Pulitzer Prize Photos - Newseum Washington DC

Pulitzer Prize Photos – Newseum Washington DC

On the third floor, the Bloomberg Internet, TV and Radio Gallery traces the evolution of the spread of information – with captivating print, audio, and video displays. Also here, a world map marking the existence or absence of journalistic freedoms around the world (the vast majority of people on earth live in countries with restricted or a complete shut down of freedom of the press). A Journalists Memorial bears the names of over 2,300 reporters, photographers, editors, and broadcasters who died in the line of duty. (As an aside here, when I hear the words “fake news,” I always think of these brave people who put their lives on the line while seeking and disseminating real, dangerous news, and feel they – and all other reputable journalists have been dishonored greatly.) You can “be a reporter” on the 2nd floor, where there’s also some groovy selfie-spots, but save time for the Pulitzer Prize Photo Gallery on the main floor. I saw more people sobbing – or at least tearing up – here than at any other exhibit. Open 9-5 Mon-Sat, 10-5 Sunday, $24.95 plus tax, adults, $14.95 plus tax, youth.

Cyber Spying - International Spy Museum - Washington DC

Cyber Spying – International Spy Museum – Washington DC

TOUR: The International Spy Museum. It could be hokey. It could be cartoonish. And yes, it has some elements of both. But you may leave the International Spy Museum trusting no one, due to some revealing and shocking unclassified information, including the Russian use of nerve gas (hidden in cylinder wrapped in a newspaper) to eliminate double agents, from the 1950’s! Also on view, dog poop surveillance, gadgets and weapons that 007 could only dream of, pigeons equipped with cameras (our first drones), a car cleaved in half showing how escapees from Communist countries contorted themselves under engines and in wheel wells for hours, and so much more.

I Was Never Here - International Spy Museum - Washington DC

I Was Never Here – International Spy Museum – Washington DC

Soon to move to larger digs, this museum illustrates the “Tradecraft” of spying, with video interviews of those who were once in the “game.” Yesterdays Spymasters included Moses, Harriet Tubman, and George Washington: all relied on intelligence to lead. Adopt a “Cover Identity” then wind through the exhibits, and, if fit enough, climb though vents in the ceiling – but very quietly. You don’t want anyone to hear you. Open daily – check website for hours, usually 9 or 10 until 6 or 7, $22.95 adults, $14.95 kids.

National Museum of the American Indian Washington DC

National Museum of the American Indian Washington DC

VISIT: Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. Though this incredibly moving museum is often overlooked in the constellation of Smithsonian Museums, it shouldn’t be. Highlighting the indigenous natives who were here before the first Europeans arrived, original Americans are given their due here. Representing 12,000 years and hundreds of tribes throughout North and South America, the exhibits and collections can be overwhelming.

George Washington Letter to Seneca Nation 1790 - National Museum of American Indian DC

George Washington Letter to Seneca Nation 1790 – National Museum of American Indian DC

Our initial contact with Native Americans was promising, represented by the “Two Row Wampum Belt” that embodied insight on how different Nations could co-exist. In 1790, George Washington offered the Seneca Nation “security” for their lands. “The government will not consent to you being defrauded. But it will protect you in all your just rights.”

Trail of Tears - National Museum of American Indian Washington DC

Trail of Tears – National Museum of American Indian Washington DC

A mere 40 years later, in 1830, “bloody, bloody” Andrew Jackson, signed the Indian Removal Act, justifying the removal of over 67,000 American Indians from their land with these words: “They have neither the intelligence, the industry, the moral habits, nor the desire of improvement which are essential to any change in their position. Without appreciating the causes of their inferiority or seeking to control them, they must yield to the force of circumstance and ere disappear.”

Nation to Nation - National Museum of American Indian Washington DC

Nation to Nation – National Museum of American Indian Washington DC

This expulsion, leading to the Trail of Tears, represented one of our country’s darkest measures. Still, today, Native Americans are attempting to return to the ideals of the Wampum Belt. Be sure to have lunch in Mitsitam – the Native Foods Café on the main floor – featuring representative dishes from a variety of regions in the USA. It’s one of the best meals in town. Open daily 10-5:30, free.

National Museum of Women in the Arts - Washington DC

National Museum of Women in the Arts – Washington DC

 VISIT: National Museum of Women in the Arts. No big surprise that women have been underrepresented in most of the world’s venerable Art Museums. The National Museum of Women in the Arts, opened in 1987, sought to rectify that, as the only museum in the world dedicated to women’s creative contributions.

National Museum of Women in the Arts - Washington DC

National Museum of Women in the Arts – Washington DC

You’ll find the bold renderings of Frida Kahlo, women’s genitalia from Judy Chicago, 18th Century portraits done by Elisabeth Louise Vigee-LeBrun, the scribbles of Elaine de Kooning, sculptures by Sarah Bernhardt, and so much more on four floors. The NMWA is situated in a stunning 1908 Classical Revival –originally built as a Mason Temple. At the time, the Masons, ironically, did not allow women as members. Open Mon-Sat 10-5, Sun 12-5, $10.

Bibles Through History - Museum of the Bible - Washington DC

Bibles Through History – Museum of the Bible – Washington DC

VISIT: Museum of The Bible. This relatively new museum (opened November 2017) focusing on one of the Best Selling books in the world – the Bible – covers a lot of ground. Walk through 40 ft tall bronze doors, emblazoned with text from the Guttenberg Bible, into a soaring hall with a 140 ft. digital ceiling, pay the suggested $15 donation, and head up to the 5th floor to start your tour, beginning with ancient artifacts unearthed in Israel. On the 4th floor, wander through The History of the Bible Exhibit, where a babble of voices in Hebrew and English waft through the air while you scan a dizzying array of relics, signage, and quotes from both the Hebrew Torah and New Testaments. Though all forms of the Bible are displayed (you can watch a Torah Scroll being inscribed by a Rabbi who has set up his desk in the museum), this institution does have a slight bent towards the Christian version of the Good Book.

History of the Bible - Museum of the Bible Washington DC

History of the Bible – Museum of the Bible Washington DC

The most popular “exhibits” are actually 30-minute multi-media walk-through experiences – and lines to enter form early. One revolves around the stories from the “Old Testament – the “Tanakh” – which employs blazing white light for the “G-d said let there be light” opening scene, and other exciting sensory experiences that add some pizzazz to the Burning Bush, Ten Plagues, and splitting of the Red Sea. Two other walk-through experiences incorporate the New Testament and “The World of Jesus of Nazareth.” The 2nd floor exhibits focus on the impact that the Bible has had on music, fashion, government and American Culture – displays sure to encourage discussion. Open daily 10-6, $15 suggest donation.

Where to Stay in Washington DC

Watergate Hotel Lobby

STAY: The Watergate. The scandal that took down a Presidency happened in this very complex, and the newly renovated luxury Watergate Hotel plays its history to the hilt. A Maven Favoriteread the complete review here.

Kimpton Mason and Rook Washington DC

Kimpton Mason and Rook Washington DC

STAY: Kimpton Mason and Rook. One of the newer Kimpton hotels in DC (out of 11), Mason and Rook sits quietly on a residential street near a growing-in-popularity neighborhood – the 14th St. District. Another Maven Favoriteread all about it here.

Moss Living Wall Canopy Hotel N Bethesda

Moss Living Wall Canopy Hotel N Bethesda

STAY: Canopy Hotel Bethesda. If you’re driving down, and prefer to stay outside of DC city limits, saving some money (overnight parking at $25 per night vs. twice that in DC), and taking the Metro into town – this brand new Canopy Hotel, a funky boutique in the Maryland ‘burbs is ideal. Another Maven Favoriteclick here for the write up.

The Watergate Hotel, Washington DC: Fraught With Baggage and So Much Fun

There’s never been a hotel so fraught with figurative baggage, so memorable in its role in the takedown of an American Presidency, as The Watergate Hotel in Washington DC. The suffix, “gate,” in fact, has applied to every scandal since, traced back to this newly renovated and mod-sexy hotel on the Potomac River. Yes, Richard Nixon ordered the “hacking” of the office of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) during the 1972 Presidential Campaign; a burglary of hard-copy files that now seems downright quaint in light of current breaches in our nation’s cyber-security.

Interestingly, the new and improved Watergate Hotel, a five minute walk from the Kennedy Center, does not hide its notorious history – it celebrates it with a sense of humor – and therein lies its vast appeal. That and the fact that the whole place glistens with groovy 60’s architectural elements and stylish rooms. The Watergate is, according to its new tagline, “Unapologetically Luxurious.”

First Impressions of the Watergate Hotel

The Watergate Hotel blends seamlessly into the curvilinear Watergate Complex, a six-building compound in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of DC, conceived and constructed in the Mad Men 1960’s.

Standing in the hotel lobby is akin to being inside a golden Slinky; coils of gold everywhere – as reception desk base, on support columns. It’s quite the snazzy décor, mirroring the exterior of the surrounding buildings, and continuing on in the lobby’s Next Whisky Bar – separated from incoming guests by a curvaceous, glowing wall of bottles the color of flaxen hair. The Midas Touch abounds.

Next Whiskey Bar, Watergate Hotel, Washington DC

Next Whisky Bar, Watergate Hotel, Washington DC

Employees are on the ball, friendly and efficient – but must move you along quickly. The place crawls with well-heeled guests, no doubt a certain morbid curiosity at play. But really, there is nothing morbid about the current hotel, a Legend in the Preferred Hotels and Resorts of the World group. It’s a stunner.

Rooms at the Watergate Hotel

Some guestroom dimensions might be on the small side, but the impact is large, especially if you ask for a room with balcony overlooking the Potomac River.

The coil motif continues into the rooms, on leather bed backboards and 70’s leather chairs. Each white duvet is warmed up with a grey houndstooth throw.

Bathrooms, with huge rain showers, are dramatically masculine, with black marble floors and sink, and grey and white striped marble tiled walls.

There’s a mod-sexy grouping of cocktail glasses on a side table, a flat screen TV, and all the modern amenities that a luxury hotel can throw at you.

But, here’s the fun part. Bedside tables look like filing cabinets (haha), the complimentary pencils are stamped, I stole this from the Watergate Hotel, and room key cards read, No need to break in.

For a once in a lifetime kick – reserve the “Scandal Room 214″ (starting at $1200 per night). According to The Watergate’s website:

On June 17, 1972, E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy, who helmed The Watergate break-in team, stationed themselves in The Watergate Hotel’s room 214. They used the room to monitor the burglary at the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate Complex office building, next to the hotel. This room has been decorated in collaboration with Lyn Paolo, the costume designer for Scandal, and contains items from the Watergate Scandal period. A record player with 45 singles, binoculars, a manual typewriter, a reel-to-reel tape recorder, curated book collection and several pieces of furniture serve as a throwback to the 1970s. Modern amenities are also included– a 48″ flat screen TV with episodes of Scandal available for viewing. A spa-like bathroom with La Bottega amenities and two “Cover Up” robes to enjoy during your stay.

Food and Drink at the Watergate Hotel

Kingbird Restaurant Watergate Hotel Washington DC

Kingbird Restaurant, Watergate Hotel Washington DC

The in-house Next Whisky Bar, Kingbird, and Top of the Gate all offer food and drink. Top of the Gate is the place to be for summer sunsets – with far off views of the Washington Monument.

Watergate Hotel Amenities

Fitness Room Watergate Hotel DC

Fitness Room Watergate Hotel DC

Indoor Pool Watergate Hotel DC

Indoor Pool Watergate Hotel DC

Argentta Spa

Just the Facts

Rooms and suites from $225 per night for smallest room on summer weekends to over $3,000 for a Diplomat 2-bedroom family suite. The Scandal Suite from $1,199 per night.

Montgomery County MD: Urban and Urbane Just Outside of Washington DC

Gift Shop/Library Strathmore Mansion N Bethsda MD

WHY GO: You’ll probably recognize names of the towns that make up Montgomery County MD, on the northwest border of Washington DC: Rockville, Silver Spring, Bethesda, Chevy Chase and others. Once considered the “Land of Malls,” this Maryland county is transitioning into attractive “Town Centers” – perfect for those who want to work, eat, and play within steps of their front door. But Montgomery County MD is fast becoming a draw for tourists, too, with a top-tier High Tea accompanied by live Classical Music, a famous still-swinging Dance Palace, a former amusement park turned Arts Center, a medical museum displaying the bullet that killed Abraham Lincoln, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Grave, an under-the-radar trolley museum, and so much more. It’s time to revisit this “bedroom community” so close to home.

Things to Do in Montgomery County MD

High Tea Strathmore Mansion N Bethesda MD

DO: Tea With Chamber Music at Strathmore Mansion, N. Bethesda. There are two buildings on the Strathmore campus, and it is impossible to confuse them. One is the contemporary 2,000-seat modern glass concert hall that would not look out of place among the theaters at, say, Lincoln Center in NYC. The other is the 1899 Georgian Mansion, “one of the handsomest summer homes near Washington,” according to the Washington Evening Star in 1903. The latter is where you want to be for an indulgence rarely seen anymore: high tea in a soaring wood paneled room while classical musicians play. Dining on scones with clotted cream, crustless cucumber sandwiches, and an abundance of sweets in the middle of the day is the ultimate guilty pleasure.

Tea treats Strathmore Mansion MD

People of all backgrounds, colors, ages, and nationalities have been partaking of this sophisticated ritual at Strathmore Mansion for 35 years, taking tea on proper china served by cheerful volunteer “Tea Ladies.” You can quickly identify the regulars: they are the ones who come solo, book in hand. While waiting for the event to begin, peruse the latest art exhibit throughout the mansion, and spend time in the great gift shop. Tea on select Mon, Tues, Wed 1pm-2:30, $24, includes performance and light lunch ($28 for premium teas).

Glen Echo Park Entrance MD

EXPLORE/TOUR: Glen Echo Park. Unleash your creativity (or put on your dancing shoes) at this former amusement park turned Performing and Fine Arts Center, where budding photographers, painters, silversmiths, jewelry-makers, sculptors, writers, musicians, actors, glass and clay artists, and ballroom dancers can learn from the best. There are over 1,000 classes to choose from – from short drop-ins to multi-month long series – for adults, kids, and teens, though just walking around the leafy acreage on a fine fall or spring day brings joy.

Crystal Pool Glen Echo Park MD

In 1891, what became Glen Echo Park was built as the Chautauqua Assembly – an educational summer camp, but by the late 1890’s it had transitioned into an amusement park. The trolley line came right up to the stone-tower entrance, and through much of the 20th century, Glen Echo was one of the premium amusement parks in the DC area. In 1960, students from Howard University protested the park’s policy of segregation, and by 1968, it closed down (some blamed those protests for the Park’s demise). By 1971, Glen Echo was turned over to the U.S. Park Service and effectively abandoned. But starving artists saw an opportunity. Early on, some began to set up shop in the decaying buildings. Adventure Theatre and Academy moved to Glen Echo in 1971. The Puppet Co. moved here in 1983. Other fine artists followed.

Art Galleries Glen Echo Park MD

Glen Echo is now part of the George Washington National Memorial Parkway, one of the few National Parks that is arts-oriented, and managed by Montgomery County’s Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture. In 2009, a $23 million renovation brought facades and interiors of buildings back to their original boldly colorful, geometric Art Deco grandeur. Following an expensive face-lift, the 1921 Dentzel Carousel spins once again, and is the only ride left over from Glen Echo’s Amusement Park days. You can learn the art of wheel throwing and hand clay building in yurts run by Glen Echo Pottery. The former Crystal Pool- is now a glassworks studio. The entry towers, Candy Corner Concession, and other former ride offices have been turned into art galleries, studios, and drop-in-arts for kids.

1921 Dentzel Carousel, Glen Echo Park MD

There are two Children’s Theaters on premises – so the landscape turns into a rush of screaming kids on any given school day. The Washington Conservatory of Music moved into one corner of the former arcade, and provides classes in every conceivable musical instrument, even ukulele, folk guitar, Irish Fiddle, and voice. There’s an Aquarium where kids can learn about sea creatures and climb the tree house-pirate ship. For some reason, the old bumper car pavilion is a wedding venue favorite. And the former Hall of Mirrors is now, ta-da! a Dance Studio for children and adults.

Empty Spanish Ballroom Glen Echo Park MD

And speaking of dance, the famous Spanish Ballroom, opened in 1933 with 7,500 square feet of dance space to accommodate 1,800 foxtrotters, still attracts thousands of people a week from all over the country. There’s Thursday Night Blues Dancing, Friday and Sunday Contra Dance, and every Saturday night – Swing. Amazingly, $18pp buys you an hour Swing lesson and three hours of dance time to a live band – one of the cheapest date nights ever. Though it’s open year round, the Spanish Ballroom is not heated or air-conditioned. Thankfully, body heat and constant motion will warm you up in winter – but in the summer….well, that’s what the fans are for.

Richard Batch Photographer Instructor Glen Echo Photoworks MD

Of all the studios, my favorite is Glen Echo Photoworks, drawing faculty the caliber of Richard Batch, who has captured iconic images of a young Bill Clinton and Jackie Kennedy, among hundreds of other notables. Photoworks is both gallery and school, with forty 3-month classes and workshops per year, including several in “old fashioned” film photography utilizing darkrooms stocked with enlargers and film developer trays. Classes are popular, as this emerging, highly visual generation looks for ways maximize cell phone and digital camera skills, and use their “retro” 35 mm ones more effectively. Check website for classes, events, and gallery hours.

C and O Canal Visitors Center Canal Boat MD

VISIT: C&O Canal Great Falls Tavern Visitor’s Center, Glen Echo. It’s a lovely mile walk along the canal to the Great Falls overview from the Great Falls Tavern, built in 1823 – now a Visitor’s Center and Museum. Plan to spend an hour or so here, especially if you want to take a canal boat ride (in season only). $10 per car or $5 per person to get into the park.

Exterior National Museum of Health and Medicine MD

VISIT: National Museum of Health and Medicine, Silver Spring. Founded by Surgeon General William A. Hammond in 1862, this institution highlighted the “Medical and surgical history of the War of the Rebellion.” Now, the Department of Defense’s National Museum of Health and Medicine is tucked away in a modern building behind the U.S. Army Forest Glen Anex. Since 1862, the Museum of Medicine has moved nine times (last located in the now defunct Walter Reed Army Medical Center), until this edifice was built as its permanent home in 2011.

National Museum of Health and Medicine Silver Spring MD

The earliest artifact can be seen just inside the entrance – a human skeleton purchased from Auzoux Labs, in Paris, France, in 1867. An array of glass cases hold a multitude of specimens: bone fragments with gunshot wounds, diseased appendages, medical tools, shrapnel, innovations in medical technology, and some pretty significant relics.

Lincolns Final Hours National Museum of Health and Medicine MD

The most macabre pieces of history are on view in the Abraham Lincoln’s Final Hours exhibit – including the bullet that killed him, and several pieces of his skull removed during the autopsy. Nearby, another display delineates all the ways a human brain can be damaged, from blunt force to projectiles to bullets.

Dr. Mary Walker National Museum of Health and Medicine MD

Learn about Dr. Mary Walker who was initially rejected by the Union Army during the Civil War, volunteered as a surgeon in a DC Hospital, was captured by Confederate forces, and, later in life became the only woman to receive the U.S. Army Medal of Honor.

Section of floor from Trauma Bay II – Air Force Theater Hospital Balad, Nat Museum of Health and Medicine MD

The most stirring artifact is a section of the pitted and iodine-stained concrete floor of Trauma Bay II from the Air Force Theater Hospital Balad in Iraq – which boasted a 98% survival rate. A semi-permanent medical tent, it was demolished in 2007. Open daily 10-5:30, free.

National Capital Trolley Museum Colesville MD

National Capital Trolley Museum Colesville MD

VISIT/RIDE: National Capital Trolley Museum, Colesville.  Most people come to this museum for the mile-long streetcar ride – the hallmark of this institution – and then leave. But there is much more to this small trolley museum than the “primary interpretive object outside,” according to the Museum’s Director, Ken Rucker, who chafes when parents come through the door making a “choo-choo” sound. “It should be ‘ding-ding’ or ‘clang-clang.’”

Antique Streetcars at National Capital Trolley Museum Colesville MD

Antique Streetcars at National Capital Trolley Museum Colesville MD

The second most popular exhibit is the hands-on diorama of the Rock Creek Railway from Chevy Chase to DC – a streetcar system built in 1890’s for the sole purpose of “getting wagons out of the mud.” Rather than “dirt” roads, these “rail” roads, could withstand heavy loads (mostly coal) without sinking into the muck on rainy days. Steam locomotives could not maneuver the streets, so trolleys, first pulled by horses, then cables (ergo: cable-cars) and finally electricity, became prevalent. Early on, overhead poles were forbidden within city limits, so streetcars entering DC had to switch to an underground middle-rail conduit current. Manually done, this claustrophobic task, necessitating one man to crouch in a narrow trench to insert or remove a conduit “plow,” was a dangerous one.

Snow Sweeper, National Capital Trolley Museum Colesville MD

Snow Sweeper, National Capital Trolley Museum Colesville MD

Don’t leave before meandering around the “Street Car Hall” with 19 cars of various ages in the collection. The oldest is the 1898 Washington DC Electric Car – its route identified at the time by its color: this one a forest green. There’s an 1899 “Snow Sweeper”, which cleaned the tracks by pushing snow to the side with heavy bamboo bristled brooms. There’s a 1934 “Pleasure Beach” trolley car from Blackpool, England, that looks like a boat (several are still in operation there), and several vandalized cars in need of TLC. A DC Street Car, a city bus look-a-like, was in operation from 1937-1962, when trolley service ended in the city. There’s plenty of signage about trolley communities and engineering as well. Open Thurs/Fri 10-2, Sat/Sun 12-5, $7 adults, $5 kids includes trolley ride.

Conservatory, Brookside Gardens Silver Spring MD

GO: Montgomery Parks Brookside Gardens, Silver Spring. Don’t be in a rush here – plan at least an hour to meander through and around fifty stunning acres of gardens, woodlands, ponds and terraces – and an indoor Conservatory. Free, gardens open daily sunrise to sunset, Visitor’s Center 9-5.

Stone Barn Woodlawn Manor MD

TOUR: Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park, Sandy Spring. The walls literally talk at Woodlawn Manor. After a major renovation in 2016, the 1832 Stone Barn on this farm managed by the Montgomery Park System offers one of the most engaging ways to learn about slavery and the difficult decisions encountered by both the enslaved (to run or stay) and the slave owners (to free them or not). Interactive exhibits highlight the area’s agricultural landscape, the Underground Railroad and the Quaker experience in Montgomery County, revealed through the lives of the Woodlawn’s residents – the Palmer family and enslaved laborers.

Stone Barn Musem Woodlawn Manor Sandy Spring MD

Dr. William Palmer, a Quaker, built the farm in 1832, and though he did not believe in owning other human beings, his second wife brought as many as 13 slaves into the marriage. This decision cost Palmer his standing in the Quaker faith. He was excommunicated – or in Quaker terms, his fellows “read him out.”

Wall projections, Woodlawn Manor Sandy Spring MD

The three-story Stone Barn serves as a multi-media museum, where roughhewn stonewalls come alive with projections of ten 90-second video vignettes of actors in period dress interpreting the enslaved and slave-owning families. You’ll see Quaker kin discussing potential punishments for breaking the law – harboring runaway slaves in defiance of the Fugitive Slave Act, and enslaved families deliberating on whether or not to attempt escape at risk of death. One segment depicts a young couple telling friends that freeing their elderly slaves seems cruel: “Where would they live? Who would care for them?”

Livestock area Stone Barn at Woodlawn Manor Sandy Spring MD

Continuing on through the barn, the lower level served as stables and root cellar, where now enlarged photos stand in cleverly for the livestock that would have been kept here.

Woodlawn Manor gardens Sandy Spring MD

For now, the Mansion itself, renovated in the 1970’s with no original furniture, is a popular backdrop and staging area for weddings, with plans to expand children’s hands-on programming, period dancing, and adult lectures. Walk over there on a fine Spring, Summer, or Fall day, and the gardens pop with color.

Underground RR Experience at Woodlawn Manor MD

Woodlawn Park also features a 4-mile round-trip hiking trail, marketed as the Underground Railroad Experience. Numbered landmarks include “The Brambles” – where freedom seekers could conceivably hide, and the Y-Shaped tree which could have been a coded meeting place. Though there was no evidence of this particular forest path being an escape route, it’s a way to tell the story that is very much a part of Montgomery County. Trail open daily dawn to dusk, Stone Barn Open April-Nov., Fri and Sat 10-4, Sun. 12-4, $5. Check website for Night Hikes on the Underground RR Trail and other events.

Sandy Spring Museum MD

Interior Sandy Spring Museum MD

VISIT: Sandy Spring Museum, Sandy Spring.  Characterized as a “mini-Glen-Echo,” this small but stunning arts and culture center has a bit of everything, from contemporary art, to antique artifacts, to interactive classes and workshops in several barn-like galleries and artist studios. The Sandy Spring Museum serves as a true grass roots “community center,” where people from the area come with ideas – which Museum employees help to “professionalize.” There are concerts, book talks, lectures, studio tours and even classes.

Art Studio at Sandy Spring Museum MD

Art Studio at Sandy Spring Museum MD

Though the bulk of the museum was recently built to “blend into the architecture of the town,” the 19th Century barn, moved here board by board, is original and houses artists studios, such as a jeweler who offers a 3-hour Hammered Cuff ($95) or Sterling Silver Stacking Rings ($95) workshop. Open Wed-Sat 10-5, $5 adults, $3 kids.

PHOTO OP: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Grave in St. Mary Churchyard, Rockville. F. Scott and his wife, Zelda, are buried together in this family plot. You never know what you’ll find on the tombstone of the man who wrote The Great Gatsby and other icons of American literature. On a recent visit: two letters, a few pens, and three dying roses.

OPENING SOON: Glenstone, Potomac. If you’ve seen the 15 ft. Blue Rooster atop the National Gallery in Washington DC, you’ll have an idea of the treasures to come when the Glenstone Museum – promoted as a “Contemporary Art, Architecture, and Landscape” public institution – opens later in 2018. The Blue Rooster, in fact, belongs here and is on loan to DC’s venerable art museum for an indeterminate amount of time. Of course, visitors to the new Glenstone can meander the 230 acre property, encompassing walking and bridle trails, and a succession of modern, clean-lined concrete buildings that incorporate exhibit spaces, bookstore, 2 cafes and a Visitor’s Center. What will set a visit apart here, however, is “the whole Visitor’s experience:” tours led by Art History majors trained to read the body language of the guests. Nervous or quiet? These docents will understand how to seamlessly engage.

DO: Adventure Time @ Sandy Park, Sandy Spring. Test your upper body strength on this ropes-zip-line tree canopy course: a great alternative for those who tire of (or are not interested in) history and shopping. Open day and night, Spring through Fall, check website for rates and times. $55 adult for 3 hours of climbing.

Happy Hour at Republic, Takoma Park MD

EXPLORE: Takoma Park. Formerly a hippy hangout, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between Takoma Park and Park Slope, Brooklyn at the moment. On the DC border, this enclave of independent shops, boutiques, and restaurants – jammin’ with young parents pushing strollers and holding toddlers in check – was declared Washington DC’s “Coolest Suburb in America’s 35 Biggest Cities” by Thrillist in 2016.

Bethesda MD Arts and Entertainment District

EXPLORE: Bethesda Arts and Entertainment District. Thirty years ago, there was “nothing here,” but you’d never know it now. This area of Montgomery County has over 200 restaurants, theaters, shops, and hotels – the latest splash a completely renovated Hyatt Regency that sits atop a Metro Stop.

Night Silver Spring MD

EXPLORE: Silver Spring. The most urban Jumbo-tronny of all Montgomery County towns, Silver Spring is a business and burgeoning entertainment center. Plenty of decent restaurants, the new Denizens Brewery (corn hole, anyone?), and quiet, quaint, and laid-back Urban Winery (see below) are bringing this business center to life after dark.

Pike and Rose N. Bethesda MD

EXPLORE/STAY: Pike and Rose (on the border of Rockville and Bethesda). This brand new and still expanding mixed-use development was constructed deliberately to appear as if buildings were of different styles and ages. Pike & Rose has all the trendy big box fun and games – and some newly emerging names. Find R.E.I., LL Bean, Nike, Gap, Sephora, H&M, Lucky, Pinstripe Bowling and Restaurant, I-Pic Movie Theater (with lounge chairs, blankets, food and beverage service), and a Porsche Dealer, as well as some of the area’s best restaurants. The trendy Canopy Hotel opened in March ’18, drawing more and more people to this hopping section of N. Bethesda.

Regal Theater at Rockville Town Square MD

EXPLORE/STAY: Rockville Town Square. Another mixed-use development, this one with the vintage-looking Regal Theater Cineplex, plenty of eateries (e.g. Mellow Mushroom Pizza), a brewery (Gordon Biersch Brewery), and indie shops, proves that Montgomery County has figured out how to create lively, walkable neighborhoods from scratch within steps of a Metro Stop. (See Cambria Hotel in Where to Stay below).

Where to Eat and Drink in Montgomery County MD

DRINK/TASTE: Olney WineryOlney.  This winery’s tasting room, situated in a suburban strip mall, might be a bit off-putting – but inside, it’s pretty and bright, with lots going on. Known for its fruit-infused wines, and very creative pairings (Potato Chip and Wine, Cupcakes and Wine) and other enjoyable events (slogan is “Good Wine Made Fun”), Olney is popular every minute of every day and night it’s open. Try “Fire & Ice” – a Riesling Ice Wine jazzed up with a whole jalapeño pepper, or stay safe with Peach Chardonnay, Watermelon Merlot, or dozens of other blends ($8 for 5 one-ounce pours). You can also make your own wine with customized label – a great party idea. (Yields about 28 bottles from $495 for Sangiovese to $825 Barolo).

Urban Winery Silver Spring MD

WINERY: Urban Winery, Silver Spring. It’s all about the wine (made on premises with grapes purchased “from all over”) at this mellow side-street spot. Try a flight of house wines, produced by Greek owners with Mediterranean flair. Both Silver Spring White and Silver Spring Red pair well with the delectable “mezze” plates, charcutterie and cheese platters, and flatbreads from the kitchen. You’ll probably want a double or triple portion of the warm, crusty-chewy bread straight from the oven. Tuesday night is Flight Night (wines from around the world), Wednesday is Trivia Night, and check website for other events like the hands-on “Personal Winemaking Experience.”

BREWERIES: Waredaca. What to do with an old boy’s summer camp turned equestrian center? Keep the horses, and add beer. Come taste, ride, tour and bring the kids. Alternately, Brookeville Beer Farm – Montgomery County’s newest craft brewery – is also fun for families. Plus, you can bring your dog!

Clydes Tower Oak Lodge Rockville MD

EAT: Clyde’s Tower Oaks Lodge, Rockville. With its American Indian meets Adirondack décor, the very distinct Tower Oaks Lodge is an anomaly in the corporate high-rise section of Rockville. The Great Room is actually a disassembled and rebuilt barn from Vermont, now stocked with canoes, fly-fishing lures, and other antiques, including juggling pins from the defunct Barnum and Bailey Circus. You can spend your whole time here studying the artifacts, but do try the “Clyde’s Classic” Trout Parmesan ($17.99), flash-fried, parm encrusted, and tasty as all get out.

Mon Ami Gabi Bethesda MD

Mon Ami Gabi Bethesda MD

EAT: Mon Ami Gabi, Bethesda. If you have a hankering for “sizzling” Escargot, book a table at this Mon Ami Gabi (one of 5 countrywide). This classic French bistro features all of your favorite saucy, buttery dishes done to perfection – including, of course, Steak Frites. So popular, there was nary an empty seat on a cold April Monday night, RSVP’s are highly recommended.

 

Summer House Pike and Rose MD

EAT: Summer House Santa Monica, Pike & Rose, N. Bethesda. This whitewashed, cathedral-ceilinged, wood table, stylish eating establishment, fresh both in its food offerings and bright and airy ambiance, has that unmistakable California vibe. Naturally, handcrafted sandwiches ($13-$17), soups, and salads are popular – but the Summer House standouts are the Poke Bowls, which come in Classic Hawaiian, Salmon, and Spicy Tuna ($15.95), served over rice or greens.

EAT: Founding Farmers, Potomac. Everything’s made from scratch in this farmer-themed restaurant, including the sodas – called “Rickeye’s” here. There’s all manner of burgers, flatbreads, greens, and Southern comfort foods, but Founding Farmer’s signature dish is Spatchcock Chicken ($17), a quarter bird quick-roasted in an 800 degree oven, which keeps the meat moist and the skin crackly. Scrumptious.

Roasted Cauliflower Republic Takoma Park MD

EAT: Republic, Takoma Park. I can’t wait to get back to this hipster bar/grill for the decidedly un-greasy upscale bar-food, like the Roasted Spiced Cauliflower ($9) and Tempura Green Beans ($9) – the perfect accompaniments to $4 craft beer during Happy Hour. Locals also love Mark’s Kitchen – right across the street for breakfast and excellent vegan cuisine.

Urban BBQ

Urban BBQ

EAT: Urban Bar-B-Que. A “mostly MD” franchise, Urban BBQ has its fans, especially those who rave about the signature “Soul Rolls” – beef brisket, caramelized onions, and three cheeses wrapped up like an egg roll ($7.99). The Smokehouse Pulled Chicken” ($10.99) is also a good choice.

Silver Diner Rockville MD

EAT/BREAKFAST: Silver Diner, Rockville. It’s a chain, but a good one, with 40’s era décor, and twists on traditional breakfast food, like the Coconut French Toast and perfectly cooked Egg White Omelets.

Where to Stay in Montgomery County MD

STAY: Canopy Hotel, N. Bethesda. In Canopy Hotel vernacular, employees are “Enthusiasts” in their respective posts: ergo, the Director of Food and Beverage is the “Food Enthusiast,” Marketing and Sales is “Sales Enthusiast,” and so on. And, The Mavens are so enthusiastic about this brand new boutique hotel, it’s earned Maven Favorite status. Read a complete write-up HERE.

Lobby Cambria Hotel and Suites Rockville Town Square MD

STAY: Cambria Hotel & Suites, Rockville Center. Once catering to a mostly corporate and government clientele, Cambria – the higher end choice of the Choice Hotel Group – is transitioning of late from a limited to full service lodging. This Cambria, opened in May 2015, is just two blocks from the Rockville Metro Stop. Staying here is a great alternative to more expensive options in Washington DC, a 25 minute metro-ride away. Plus, overnight parking here is relatively cheap – just $15 per 24 hours. The stylish lobby – in hues of brownstone and sand – serves as a popular gathering place, with plenty of seating and outlets for laptops. Sunlight, pouring through floor to ceiling windows, reflects off a curved separation wall of sparkly quartz.

Lobby Cafe Cambria Hotel and Suites Rockville MD

The ground floor also features a café that offers “Fun, Fresh, and Familiar” fare – a $15 all you can eat buffet breakfast, and later in the day, upscale pub food like sliders and mac & cheese with local craft beer and wine. There’s a Get Cetra “grab and go” section offering yogurt, granola, salads, and other healthy options in case you don’t want a whole meal, which you can bring back to your room to store in the refrigerator or heat up in the available microwave.

Guestroom Cambria Hotel and Suites Rockville MD

The smallest guestrooms, in neutral woodsy colors, are a spacious 320 sq feet, and though not opulent, are upscale in the ways that count: black out shades, lots of drawer space, Keurig coffee makers, and electrical outlets on bedside tables. Floating platform beds are dressed in ultra-comfy sheets and duvets. Bathrooms are sleek and large, with ample lighting, counter space – and double glass rain shower. All guestrooms were installed on only one side of each corridor– designed that way to minimize noise. Ice, soda, and snacks are available on every one of eight floors. And for all of those explorers who land here after a few days on the road, you’ll be happy to find complementary washer/dryers (purchase soap downstairs) – a nice perk.

Indoor Pool Cambria Hotel Rockville MD

Add to all this an indoor pool, extensively furnished fitness room, and multi-plex cinema right outside the front door, and you’ll be surprised to find that room rates start at $109 per night – through $399 per night in season for the largest 450 square feet Tower Rooms.

C and O Canal Lockhouse 10 Cabin John MD

C and O Canal Lockhouse 10 Cabin John MD

STAY: C&O Canal Lock House #10, 8250 Clara Barton Parkway, Cabin John MD. The C& O Canal Quarters program has welcomed over 18,000 guests in seven restored buildings on the 184.5-mile C&O Canal to “Experience the life of a lock-tender!” since Lock House #22 opened in 2009. A stay at the two-story renovated Lock House #10 right on the popular Canal bike trail is a win-win for all.

Interior of C and O Canal Lockhouse 10

Interior of C and O Canal Lockhouse 10

Interpreted to look like it did in the 1910’s and 20’s, with room for 6-8 people in two spare bedrooms, and including a bathroom, kitchen, screened in porch and fire-pit, it’s an upgrade from the more rustic “stone tent” lock-houses along other parts of the canal path. Your $160 per night rate goes back into the C&O Canal Trust, which has been restoring these pieces of history ever since it was established. No internet, no TV, bring towels and sheets. RSVP 6 months in advance.

Welcome Wine Hyatt Regency Bethesda MD

Welcome Wine Hyatt Regency Bethesda MD

STAY: Hyatt Regency Bethesda. Built in 1985 (“where there was nothing out here”), perched atop a Red Line Metro stop, and now newly revived (after a $40 million renovation in November 2017), the Hyatt Regency Bethesda is once again the best place to stay for luxury weekend travelers who don’t want to deal with the hassles (or price) of driving and parking in Washington DC. With the Metro Station right downstairs, it takes less than 20 minutes to get to downtown DC. On weeknights, there’s a “Welcome Wine and Cheese,” and on Wednesday nights a Manager’s Reception with wine, beer and small bites.

Hyatt Regency Bethesda Atrium View From Above

Hyatt Regency Bethesda Atrium View From Above

The lobby is Hyatt-soaring, with trademark center atrium reaching to the stars, and all 390 guestrooms are handsome and tidy: nice havens for both the corporate and leisure traveler. Plus, the hotel is within steps of over 200 restaurants, boutiques, galleries, and theaters in the adorable Bethesda Arts and Entertainment District. Rates $99-$149 weekends, $209-$300+ during the week, with parking $18 weekends and $22 weekday nights.

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