Keuka Lake NY: A Small Finger Lake With Big History

 

Sunset on Keuka Lake in Hammondsport NY

Sunset on Keuka Lake in Hammondsport NY

WHY GO: Three years ago, I wrote of the then sleepy Keuka Lake, the one with “Shape Pride:” Of all the 11 Finger Lakes, Keuka Lake is not the largest, smallest or deepest. But it does have one feature that instills pride in all who live along its shores.  It has a “shape.” An organic, divining rod “Y” shape to be precise.  And I also chimed in: Keuka Lake is also where this country’s version of European wine grapes were first successfully cultivated, although the area around the Finger Lakes has been a “native” wine region for centuries. Before Prohibition quashed the industry,  many vineyards throughout this section of New York turned out mostly ceremonial wine. Now, there’s a new “vinifera” renaissance, one that is being recognized by sommeliers at the best restaurants in New York City and elsewhere.  But that’s not the only reason to visit Keuka Lake. It has an old fashioned “summer by the lake” vibe. At sundown, its southernmost town, Hammondsport, feels bathed in the 50’s and lost in time.”  

Well, three years later the “renaissance” is in full bloom. There’s still a strong sense of community where “everyone promotes each other.” That hasn’t changed. But now, it’s not just wine lovers who will find Nirvana here. Tastemakers in beer and the harder stuff can discover new breweries and distilleries in the FLX mix. What else has changed? What’s stayed the same? Read on for some more recommendations to get the most out of a quick overnight around Keuka Lake in the Finger Lakes.

Native wines flourished around Keuka Lake and the Finger Lakes in general, prior to Prohibition

Native wines flourished around Keuka Lake and the Finger Lakes in general, prior to Prohibition

This Getaway lets you in on the origins of European wine in the Eastern USA,  a museum that celebrates one of the country’s most unsung but ingenious inventors, the world’s premier Museum of Glass, and a surprisingly amazing restaurant/inn where you’d least expect it. Read on for the best, updated advice from the Getaway Mavens.

Things to Do on Keuka Lake

Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery, Keuka Lake NY

Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery, Keuka Lake NY

VISIT: Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery. You wouldn’t expect the genesis of European wine production in the Eastern United States to be so off-the-beaten-path. But over 70,000 people per year find this vineyard on a just-paved road above Keuka Lake.

Fred Frank, third generation owner of Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery

Fred Frank, third generation owner of Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery

Until the 1950’s, only native grape varieties  – Concord, Katoba, Delaware, Niagra – called Vitas Labrusca, could grow in this cold climate. But fine wine production took a quantum leap forward when Dr. Konstantin Frank, a PhD in viticulture working at Cornell Agricultural Experimental Station, began planting European vines here in 1958. The cool climate, similar to Northern Europe, lent itself to Rieslings, Gewürztraminer and Grüner Veltliner. Frank soon discovered that a pesky bug, Phylloxera, killed Vinifera roots but left resistant native Labrusca roots alive. Frank posited that by grafting Vinifera vines to Labrusca roots, he’d be able to grow these European wines in the States. Cornell did not agree, but his theory caught the attention of neighboring Gold Seal Winery, and Frank was proven correct.

An Early Dr. Konstantin Frank Cabernet Sauvignon, 1963 Vintage owned by Jeff Ingersoll of McCorn Winery Lodging

An Early Dr. Konstantin Frank Cabernet Sauvignon, 1963 Vintage owned by Jeff Ingersoll of McCorn Winery Lodging

Generous with his knowledge, Dr. Frank spread the word to neighboring states. Now, third generation Fred Frank runs the vineyard with his Winemaking daughter, Meaghan, fast on his heals, expanding the winery offerings to include the less expensive “value” label, Salmon Run. The L.A. Times just rated Dr. Frank’s Reisling #1 in the world, three wines were rated 90 in the July issue of Wine Enthusiast Magazine, and Dr. Frank finished 2013 with 129 Gold Medals in National and International competitions.

Dr. Konstantin Frank 2013 Dry Riesling

Dr. Konstantin Frank 2013 Dry Riesling

And here’s a tip from an award winning winemaker. These whites, like reds, age gracefully and improve and get more complex over time. Taste a couple of times a year just to make sure they are not turning.  “We’re still opening up Rieslings from the 60’s,” says Frank. Due to its remote location, there is no tasting fee here. Come and sample away, and you’ll leave with some great history about the region and Dr. Konstantin Frank. Tasting room open Mon-Sat 9-5, Sun 12-5, free. And brand new this year –  wine-pairing dinners Fri, Sat and Sun include tour of vineyard and 4 pairings of wine and food. 

VISIT/TASTE/PLAY: Cider Creek Hard Cider, Canistio. From Hammondsport, you’ll drive about 40 minutes on breathtaking country roads, passing wind turbines, silos and farmland, climbing and descending hills, to get to this cidery, but once here, you’ll want to stay for a bit. The setting is stunning- with Adirondack chairs on a patio overlooking a rushing creek, a large lawn anchored by a newly built stage (for live music), and a humongous tasting/event barn with a farm-industrial-funky interior, colorful mood lighting, barn-wood backed bar with reclaimed wood from the family farm, and a stone fireplace built entirely of rocks pulled out of the creek.

Originally from here, owners, Kevin and Melanie Collins lived in Boston where Kevin home brewed beer and established relationships with local breweries and wineries while working in the Dental Implant business. Kevin’s father, “a surgeon by trade, and hobby farmer with 300 head cattle,” wanted to establish a business to sustain his 2,500 acres of land here, and settled on opening a cidery, which Kevin’s brother, Chip, operated. Chip’s untimely death propelled Kevin to move back home from Boston to run Cider Creek.

It was a good move. In just three years, little out of the way Cider Creek has medaled in every Hard Cider category worldwide, and in 2017 was the 3rd most awarded cidery on the planet. Cider Creek ciders are sold at Wegman’s and other large grocery stores in 4 US states and Canada (MA, NY, CT, VT) with more in the pipeline. Cider Creek gets its apples from local orchards and presses the juice to ferment – most from 4-6 weeks – in tanks uplit by changing-colored lights. “We make Old World Cider with a New World influence,” says Collins, who uses ale and beer yeasts to create these award-winning drinks. “That makes it more versatile for beer and wine drinkers, too.”

There’s always something new brewing here, and patrons find new favorites all the time. “One in A Million” is a Saison with watermelon puree for summertime. Cran-Mango Cider is so, so easy to drink. Spy Games is made with 100% Northern Spy Apples and Champaign and Sasion yeasts, Saison Bratt – a puckerish sour – just won Gold at GLINTCAP – Great Lakes International Cider and Perry (pear and apple blend) Competition. My favorite, however, is The Flight of the Concord – a 2 year bourbon-barrel aged grape cider that goes down warm and ultra smooth.

TASTE: Ravine’s Wine Cellar, Keuka Lake. Many would argue that the best place for dry wine lovers is Ravine’s, which has a non-producing cellar/tasting room on Keuka Lake. For the ultimate tasting, go for the cheese/wine pairing – everything made right in this region. Ravine’s crisp Dry Riesling 2015 earned a 91 from Wine Spectator, and its Red Dry Riesling has made it to Wine Spectator’s “Top 100” list for its ’09, ’12, and ‘14’s. Keuka Village White makes a great table wine, its Pinot Noir is mildly spicy/smoky. Peppery Keika Village Red is a blend of Cab Franc and Noiret – a grape developed by nearby Cornell University. For those who want a sweeter experience, try Ayre – a honey-colored sparkling Muscat cooler that tastes like peaches. Perfect for after dinner.

TOUR: Bully Hill Vineyards, Hammondsport. This 40-year-old winery – a massive hillside compound, actually, that encompasses museums, a gift shop, an art gallery, two tasting rooms, a restaurant, and production area – with motto, “Wine with Laughter” has a somewhat rowdy reputation, draws a slew of bachelor and bachelorette parties, and has a back story to beat the band.

Walter Taylor, whose family owned Hammondsport’s Taylor Winery (established in 1883), was effectively kicked out when Coca-Cola purchased the company and Taylor name in 1977. In response, Walter opened his own Bully Hill Winery on original Taylor Estate property, bringing over cases of wines labeled with his name on them. Coca-Cola refused to allow the word “Taylor,” even on the labels’ small print, and so Walter held a “Black Out Party” with 18-year-old Cornell Students wielding black markers to cover every single instance of his last name.

 

Still miffed, Walter painted the word “Taylor” on a live goat, paraded it through town, and dropped it off at Taylor/Coca-Cola’s front door to prove a point. “Take the goat, you own my name, you own the goat,” he said. Or something to that effect. Coke didn’t want the goat, and, dejected, Walter came home, stewed for a few days, and realized he had the perfect coined phrase: “Coca-Cola, you can take my name, but you can’t get my goat.” That goat, named “Gilt Free” is now on many a Bully Hill Wine Label, which feature Walter Taylor’s own artwork as well. When Walter passed away in 2001, his wife and two sons took over the operation, which draws 150,000 people annually.

Come for the fun, for smashing views, and really good food. Chefs smoke meats (awesome brisket) right on site and everything on the plate is straight from the farm fresh.

TASTE HISTORY: Pleasant Valley Wine Co. Established in 1860, Pleasant Valley Winery is the Finger Lakes oldest winery and U.S. Bonded Winery No. 1. It’s also known for its Great Western Champaign (yes, Champaign – the French designation was grandfathered in), first sparkling wine to win a top spot worldwide in 1867 (and still in production). Come for a historic tour of the caves and redwood tanks, and of course to taste.

TASTE/BEER: Steuben Brewing Co. It’s all about the water at Steuben, where owner, Chad Zimar’s attention to detail is apparent in the final product. To whit – Zimar painstakingly blends hard and softened water to match what comes from the ground in Ireland for his Irish Red. Chad has enlisted his parents, Candy and Jim, to help him out where needed – a real family operation. Ask for a flight of four 4 oz. pours ($5) to try a few, then head outside on the deck overlooking Keuka Lake. Most popular – NY Pilsner, a light summer brew; Hometown Brown, best all around; and my personal favorite, DH (Toasted) Rice Pilsner.

TASTE/BOOZE: Krooked Tusker Distillery. This distillery’s got the hooch. And a great party vibe – with bartender concocting craft cocktails using freshly distilled QKA Kismet Vodka, Imbura Joe Vodka (infused with coffee), QKA Hooch, Hell Hound Hooch (smoked grains), and South Pultney Gin (teamed through 13 botanicals). It’s not your father’s wine-sipping crowd.

Heron Hill Winery, Keuka Lake NY

Heron Hill Winery, Keuka Lake NY

VISIT: Heron Hill Winery. Sip top Rieslings and twenty other wine varieties inside a vast wine barrel.  At least that’s what Heron Hill’s tasting room is built to look like. One of the most innovative buildings in the Finger Lakes designed by Charles Warren, the assemblage of architectural styles incorporates a barrel, a silo and other elements of the region.   Wine and Spirits Magazine June 2014 issue named Heron Hill Dry Riesling one of the Top 100 Value Wines of the Year (Under $15) – a bargain for this very flavorful drinkable white.

FLY: Finger Lakes Seaplanes. Take 30 a minute flight over Keuka Lake, or an hour flight to both Keuka and Seneca Lakes for the thrill and optimal aerial photography. Owner/pilots Bob Knill and Andy Sable will fly year round “as long as there’s no ice on the water.” Fall foliage, naturally, will be “huge.” 30 minutes $180 + tax for 3 adults, 1 hour $325 + tax for 3 adults. Daily 9am-7pm.

BOAT/JET SKI: Keuka Water Sports. The warmest of the three largest Finger Lakes, Keuka is usually calm and great for SUPing as well as boating. Rent jet skis, pontoon boats with slides, and other water craft at Keuka Water Sports.

Glenn Curtiss Museum: Cradle of Aviation, Hammondsport NY

Glenn Curtiss Museum: Cradle of Aviation, Hammondsport NY

VISIT: Glenn H. Curtiss Museum. Museum curators have managed to assemble 25 full-sized aircraft, a couple of dozen automobiles, a good number of boats and countless bicycles and motorcycles in a 57,000 sq. foot former wine warehouse. It’s a veritable Smithsonian of early flight and experimentation, concentrating on the life, time and accomplishments of Glenn H. Curtiss, born in Hammondsport.

Glenn Curtis Museum, Hammondsport NY

Glenn Curtis Museum, Hammondsport NY

The “Father of Naval Aviation” (Curtiss sold the Navy its first plane) began his career racing and building bicycles and lightweight-engine motorcycles. On July 4, 1908, Curtiss flew the first publically announced and witnessed flight (the Wright-Brothers’ puddle-jump was done privately) in his “heavier than air” aircraft, June Bug.

Glenn Curtiss photo from Glenn Curtiss Aviation Museum, Hammondsport NY

Glenn Curtiss photo from Glenn Curtiss Aviation Museum, Hammondsport NY

Curtiss palled around with the likes of Alexander Graham Bell, was considered the “Fastest Man on Earth” in 1907 when he reached a speed of 136.4 miles per hour on his motorcycle in Orlando, FL, built the Hercules, Marvel and Curtiss Motorcycles which at the time outsold both Harley and Indian combined, and developed the town of Hialeah, FL in 1921. Curtiss died from appendicitis at age 52 and is buried in Hammondsport. Monday – Saturday  9 am to 5 pm Sundays 10 am to 5 pm in Winter open till 4pm.  $8.50 adults, $5.50 students.

Finger Lakes Boating Museum, Hammondsport NY

Finger Lakes Boating Museum, Hammondsport NY

VISIT: Finger Lakes Boating Museum.  This freshly opened museum, housed in the former Taylor Winery, celebrates a Finger Lakes industry of yore. Before fine-winemakers, there were boat-builders – dozens of companies large and small situated all around the Finger Lakes. Penn Yan, Skaneateles (pronounced “skinny atlas”), Fay and Bowen, Thompson, Morehouse and many others produced beautiful wooden vessels that plied these long narrow bodies of water.

Make a Boat, Finger Lakes Boating Museum, Hammondsport NY

Take a Boat-Making Class at Finger Lakes Boating Museum, Hammondsport NY

If you are at all interested in running your eyes over gorgeously crafted boats, or taking a class on boat building, or are just curious about old abandoned winery buildings, you’ll appreciate this museum-in-process. On display are examples of iconic Finger Lakes boats: a Ben Reno Keuka Lake Trout Boat with sloped stern to prevent fishing line from snagging, motorboats in three configurations – inboard, outboard and a combination of the two, a 1905 double-ended rowboat that looks like a canoe, a 1990 Dan Sutherland, and a whole display of steamboat models representing the boats integral to the development of the Finger Lakes.

Boat Builders around the Finger Lakes NY

Boat Builders around the Finger Lakes NY

Wooden-boat restorers work on small craft in a room where visitors can also take boat-building workshops to learn the ins and outs of measuring, forming and finishing (in canvas and silica wrap) a small dinghy from experts like famed boat builder, Patrick Smith.  Check website for times and events.

Eight Heads of Harvey Littleton, Corning Museum of Glass NY

Eight Heads of Harvey Littleton, Corning Museum of Glass NY

TOUR/MAKE: Corning Museum of Glass, Corning. About 25 miles from Hammondsport and the perfect stop on your way back to points East, this intriguing museum brings you closer to the best of contemporary studio glass and glass throughout the ages than any other institution in the world. If you go today (2014), you’ll find a huge construction site slated to be the new home, sometime in 2015, for the highly admired collection of Contemporary Glass.

Dress With Shall Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY

Dress With Shall Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY

Glass started out functional but, thanks to Harvey Littleton and the Studio Glass Movement, it turned to form, and it is celebrated in many ways here.  For now, begin in the Contemporary Glass Gallery in the main building (one of three on campus) where “Eight Heads of Harvey Littleton” – literally eight different glass portraits – introduce you the forerunner of Studio-glassmaking. Among my favorites throughout hundreds of displays: tropical bird hued bowls made by Toots Zynsky from strings of pulled glass, a provocative “Evening Dress and Shall” sculpted to show belly-button and anatomical parts, and a 12-sibling “family tree” represented by a molecular structure rather than limbs.

Extravagant Glass Furniture, Corning Museum of Glass, Corning NY

Extravagant Glass Furniture, Corning Museum of Glass, Corning NY

Plan to spend an hour perusing the History of Glass section, which begins with “The Origins of Glassmaking” in 2,000 BCE. Naturally, there’s lots of pearlescent Roman Glass: those ancient Italians invented glassblowing, which up until then had been made in molds. You’ll see a good amount of dainty, colorful Islamic glass, which introduced relief or cameo-style elements, Venetian Glass, gilded Russian Glass, deeply colored chandeliers popular with Indian Royalty, and fantastical glass furniture. One, an ornamental glass table topped by a frenetic, Rococo-ish punch bowl is said to have a twin once owned by Liberace.  Naturally, you’ll find American glass from Jamestown to Corning – aka “Crystal City” – the Waterford of America with concentration on cut glass from the 1850’s to early 1900’s and the “largest collection of glass paperweights in the world” including “Megaplanet” – the “World’s Largest Paperweight by Josh Simpson (available for $80,000 in the gift shop).

Author making glass flower at Corning Museum of Glass, Corning NY

Author making glass flower at Corning Museum of Glass, Corning NY

Before seeing a “Hot Glass Demo” where a bowl is made on the spot, take some time to explore three floating pavilions of the interactive Innovation Center. For the ultimate in interactive, book a Make Your Own glass from $12 for a sandblasted bowl to $29 for glass flower or ornament. I can attest to the thrill of working with molten glass as it emerges from a 2,000-degree furnace.  There’s nothing like it.  RSVP is necessary – and slots fill up quickly. Museum open daily 9-5pm (until 8pm in summer). $16 adults, under 19 free.

Where to Eat on Keuka Lake

EAT: Pleasant Valley Inn, Hammondsport. Built in 1848 as a private house, the New Orleans-style inn features a cozy, but busy bar and pub room, in addition to a fine dining restaurant. So, you can take you pick to be as casual or fancy as you’d like. It’s all good here.The fancier dining room hasn’t changed much in 25 years – still with floral wallpaper, tapered candles (yes, real flames!), and a menu featuring traditional fare like Rack of Lamb ($38), Chicken Milan ($23), Hand-Cut Steaks ($28-$38), Baked Onion Soup ($10) and the like. In the hands of the magical Chef Drew Miller, who makes everything – even the mayonnaise – from scratch – these long-term favorites are enhanced by innovative sides, which elevate the meal to a true culinary adventure.

EAT: Union Block Italian Bistro, Hammondsport. This charming little Italian spot wins kudos from locals and seasonal visitors.

Freshest salad ever at Blue Heron Cafe, at Heron Hill Winery, Keuka Lake NY

Freshest salad ever at Blue Heron Cafe, at Heron Hill Winery, Keuka Lake NY

EAT: Blue Heron Cafe at Heron Hill. Amazingly fresh, lake views, great Rieslings, this little café is the bees-knees for an al fresco lunch with just picked from the ground salads.

Top of the Lake Penn Yan NY

Top of the Lake Restaurant ,Penn Yan NY

EAT: Top of the Lake, Penn Yan. At the northern end of the easternmost “Y,” this little nondescript spot puts you in perfect position for a serene, colorful sunset. You’ll watch water-skiers through lush hanging plants and gaze at marinas while dining on dishes like “Chicken French” egg-battered in sherry-lemon-butter sauce ($16), which comes with potato and salad for an amazing deal.

Where to Stay On Keuka Lake

STAY: Pleasant Valley Inn. For the money, and for its exceptional cuisine, there’s nothing better than the Pleasant Valley Inn. This Pepto-pink roadside tavern/inn is not situated on a lake or mountaintop. At the juncture of two busy streets several miles from the shores of Keuka Lake, it’s easy to whiz past on your way to the wineries. But that would be a big mistake. Such a mistake, the Mavens have deemed Pleasant Valley Inn a Maven Favorite, with a colorful and complete review HERE.

STAY: There are several dozen lodgings around Keuka Lake. Other recommendations include the eclectic Black Sheep Inn in Hammondsport,  Blushing Rose B&B, and Moonshadow B&B high on a hill.

Migis Lodge on Sebago Lake ME: 100 Years of Lake Cottage Traditions

By day’s end, the Sebago Lake (ME) chorus reaches its crescendo – repetitive loon calls, frogs that trill like never-ending car alarms, murmurs of mothers and fathers putting their kids to sleep in nearby cottages – all merging into one great Migis Lodge reverie. It’s a symphony that singles, couples, and families have been listening to at this upscale but down to earth Maine resort for 100 years.

Though there are other ways to access Sebago Lake – camping at Sebago Lake State Park, renting a condo at Sebago Point, staying at non-lakefront hotels on main roads – Migis Lodge is a self-contained summer camp, mostly for a highbrow clientele, but also for those who’ve saved up to splurge, with everything you need right on the grounds. The restaurant is the finest in the area (three meals a day included), and there are many ways to get in or out on the water, from the swimming platform, sandy beaches, canoes, kayaks, sup’s, sail, and motor boats.

Legend has it that Migis is Native American for “A place to steal away,” and though that might not be completely fact checked, the translation certainly fits. People have called this place “magical” – which is the real reason guests come every year, generation after generation.

First Impression of Migis Lodge

Driving in, my first sense of Migis harked back to my days at sleepaway camp in the Adirondacks, with dirt roads and rustic cottages peppered throughout the woods.

That initial impression – of moldy towels and hard bunk beds – was quickly dispelled at first view of the country-posh reception area in the Main Lodge with its view of the pristine lake, and the incredibly personable, anticipatory Migis staff and family, which includes, happily, a tropical bird.

If owners Tim and Joan Porta are around, you’ll meet their African Grey Parrot, “Deets,” who apparently has a vast vocabulary but was mute on the day I arrived.

The main lodge features couches in front of a roaring fireplace (all summer long!), reception, the dining room with outside deck, and upstairs, several guest rooms. As I checked in near the dinner hour, I saw men and boys, dressed in jackets for dinner (required), appearing as if they’d just walked off a Ralph Lauren shoot.

Rooms and Cottages at Migis Lodge

Cottages are upscale-country, with great internet service, lots of outlets, travertine marble tiled bath and showers, and cathedral ceilings.

Daybreak, a one bedroom cottage overlooking the resort’s sole sweat-lodge – aka a dry sauna hut heated by firewood, its little chimney pumping out smoke – also has a living room with fireplace and porch with views out to the lake.

All cottages and houses have been refreshed, some with renovated bathrooms, and are kept up and furnished as befits first-class lodging.

Dining at Migis Lodge

Three meals a day are included in the cost of a stay. Breakfast and lunch are informal affairs, but Migis has kept up its dress-for-dinner tradition. Men must wear jackets – and for women, resort casual dress applies. Seasonal wait-staff, like the genuinely friendly Anna Bolduck, are unpretentious as can be, and make sure that everything goes well, and is to your liking.

Each 5-course dinner includes a starter, salad, soup, main dish with side, and dessert, which you choose from a menu that changes often. On the menu the night I dined were old-fashioned favorites like Pan Seared Cod Loin, Veal Oscar, and Baked Lobster Thermidor. But chefs are adept at catering to a variety of dietary needs – so vegans will find several options, like the Vegetable Pad Thai, as well.  I could have slurped down several bowls of Wild Mushroom Ginger Soup, a sweet and hot consommé loaded with chunks of al dente mushrooms. A groaning dessert table, presided over by two young pastry chefs, featured Migis Lodge’s signature chocolate chip cookies and almond brittle, among other delectable desserts. This is not the place to start (or even adhere to) your diet.

Migis serves most meals in the dining room, but does have its annual traditions. Wednesday Lunch is “Island Cookout Day” – when guests are taken to Migis Island for a swim and meal. Every Friday Evening, it’s the popular Lobster Bake. Saturday night is Buffet Night, and Sunday morning brings Breakfast Cookout at the Point.

Amenities at Migis Lodge

Explore Lake Sebago via kayak, rowboat, SUP, or canoe (complimentary use), or motorboat (nominal fee). You can spend a whole day on the 5 mile by 7 mile lake (43 miles of shoreline!) paddling, rowing or motoring to Eagle Island (protected, with lots of Bald Eagles), Frye Island (where locals used to jump off the cliff at “Frye’s Leap” – no longer allowed), or spend most of the day cruising from Sebago to Long Lake via the Songo River and it’s one ancient lock.

It’s a bucolic ride to the lock and its adjacent hand-cranked swing bridge– either by car (very fast) or boat. If Migis takes you back to a simpler time, this bridge and lock experience will cement you there. (Songo Locks are open May 1-June 15, and Labor Day to Oct 15 8am-4:30pm, and June 15-Labor Day 8am-7:30pm.

Weekly activities are part of the fun here, and are included in the nightly room/cottage rate. There’s a Migis Cocktail Party on Mondays (complimentary cocktails), A Lake Cruise on Tuesday and Thursday, Bingo on Wednesday Night (with great prizes!), and Karaoke after Friday’s Lobster Bake.

Besides the above, Migis offers water-ski and wakeboard instruction three times a day, and fishing poles for those so inclined to drop a line.

There are several tennis courts and a 9-hole Disc Golf Course with equipment loaned for free.

The open-air Fitness Center has the most updated machines.

And the supervised children’s programs keep little ones busy, with hands-on activities like tie-dying and crafting.

Just the Facts

Rates range from $334-$434 per person per night in summer and $204-$296 from after Labor Day to mid-October (depending on accommodation), and includes three meals a day, complimentary use of non-motorized watercraft, children’s programs, fitness center, Waterskiing and Wakeboarding group instruction. Though open seasonally from Father’s Day weekend in June until Columbus Day Weekend in October, high season is July and August. To avoid crowds, the best time to come is in mid June or September, when the weather is still warm enough to swim – or at least take advantage of the lake. Just be warned: Migis takes check or cash only for payment. No credit cards.

Monhegan Island ME: Artist Paradise

WHY GO: Ten miles off Mid-Coast Maine, Monhegan Island is known for its artists and lobstermen, who live, symbiotically, on this tiny crust of land just under a square mile in size. Though the population dwindles to 50 year round, when lobstermen continue to pull in those popular Maine crustaceans, warm weather brings artists, writers, birders, nature lovers and curious tourists who don’t mind experiencing a simple life without cars (or paved roads), private bathrooms, or even, in some cases, electricity (which costs four times more than it does on the mainland). But, ah, those views: The views that inspired some of America’s most famed artists. Those are what you came for, anyway.

Things to Do On Monhegan Island

GET HERE: Monhegan Boat Line, Port Clyde. It’s a ten mile, 70 minute crossing in good weather (possibly a bit longer in rough), but you won’t even register time going by if you sit on the top deck and revel in the seascape, islands, and approach to this cut-in-two island that seems more like Ireland than the USA (the larger island is Monhegan, the small green one is Manana).

If it’s windy, it’s a bronco ride. You’ll want to stay below, protected from the elements. In season, the ferry runs 3 times a day (off season, just once), and island life revolves around arrival times. If staying overnight, luggage is tagged with your hotel identification and will be picked up at the wharf. $38 round trip per person includes luggage, and another $7 to park your car in Port Clyde. Monhegan Boat Line also runs 2 ½ hour Puffin, Lighthouse, and Sunset Cruises out of Port Clyde.

GET HERE: There are two other ferries that come to Monhegan Island once a day: The Hardy Boat from New Harbor and the Balmy Days II out of Boothbay Harbor, which offers daytrips only.

DO: Read notices on the Rope Shed. You’ll find this community bulletin board, plastered with posters, ads, lost keys, and announcements – everything that’s going on island-wide that day or week – on the path to Monhegan House.

DO: Wander the dirt roads. Check out artist’s studios, and galleries (many artists open their own home studios). Go to “Fish Beach” – a tiny sandy spot that passes for a beach here. It’s also where you’ll find the best fish tacos at Fish House (see below under Where to Eat). At night, there are no streetlights (remember the cost of electricity) so if you plan to meander after dark, bring a flashlight.

HIKE: All Over. Grab an island map and explore. There are 17 miles of mostly “moderate” or “difficult” trails through woods, over rocks, and to surf pounded shoreline. And we have Thomas Edison’s son, Ted, to thank for them.In the early 1900’s, after artists had discovered this spit of land, the island was split into tiny residential lots. By the 1950’s, a “population explosion” created the need to contain development. Enter Edison, who owned land and inherited more, and who felt the “wildlands” required protection. He created Monhegan Associates – a public Land Trust – to keep 300 acres of undeveloped land wild in perpetuity.

Most of the trails are narrow, rugged and rocky with wet areas, exposed tree roots, steep climbs, sheer drops and dense growth. You’ll definitely want to get out to Lobster Cove to see the wreck of an old tugboat, the D.T. Sheridan (grab a brew from Monhegan Brewery on your way), Whitehead – for sea views, and Cathedral Woods for the “Fairy Houses.”

VISIT: Monhegan Museum of Art and History and Lighthouse. The climb up to the museum is lung-expanding, but worth it. The lighthouse, built in 1824, is the 2nd highest light on the coast of Maine (highest is in Casco Bay) and was automated in 1959. The Keeper’s House was saved from demolition by Monhegan Associates and turned into a museum featuring the art of the island’s most well known painters, interspersed among historical artifacts and photographs. (Edward Hopper picture of Monhegan Island, below, from Portland Museum of Art in Portland ME).

Divided into two buildings, the bright art gallery launches a yearlong show each season, focusing on one major artist with ties to the island. In 2017, the featured artist is Andrew Winter who lived here in the 40’s until his death in the 50’s. In 1858, Erin Draper Shaddick of the Hudson River School of Art, was the first artist to come to Monhegan to paint, followed, in 1892, by S.P.R. Triscott, who loved Monhegan so much, he lived here until his death.

The early 1900’s was the “heyday” of Maine as an artist colony, and many a famous name came out here to paint, among them, Rockwell Kent, Edward Hopper, Winslow Homer, N.C. and Andrew Wyeth. In later years, Jamie Wyeth and even Andy Warhol, along with other landscape artists, came to Monhegan to capture its beauty on canvas. The tradition continues. You cannot stroll a few yards without seeing an earnest painter at his or her easel.

The main museum in the Keeper’s House is a lot larger than it first seems. Covering history from Native Americans who camped here in the summer to take advantage of the rich fishing grounds, to the first permanent settlement by Europeans in the 1600’s and again in the mid 1800’s, when the population bloomed to over 200 people, to the turn of the 20th century when artists and vacationers started swarming here, to the lobster industry of modern day, within each room, you’ll see local art comingled among personal artifacts, providing a cool and different perspective on life here.

During the summer, the public is invited to go up into the lighthouse tower for singular 360 degree views of Monhegan Island and up close inspection of the bulb that emits enough light to be seen 20 miles away “on a good night.” Open July and August 11:30-3:30. Late June and Sept. 1:30-3:30.

SHOP: Lupine Art Gallery. There are several galleries and gift shops, but this is the only real strictly art gallery on the island.

SHOP: Winterworks. Rather than 2-D art, you’ll find Monhegan Island made crafts in all mediums: clay, fiber, wood and more.

SHOP: Both the Black Duck Emporium and Elva’s Old P.O feature gifts, jewelry, t-shirts, and lots of fun gee-gaws.

PROVISION: L. Brackett & Son. Yep, there’s a whole back room of wine and beer here, but as Monhegan Island’s sole grocery store, you can pick up fresh produce and other foodstuff as well as breakfast and lunch.

Where to Eat and Drink on Monhegan Island

TASTE/DRINK: Monhegan Brewing Co. Even this tiny island has its own brewery – a hot spot for sure, and perfect place to meet fellow hikers on the way to or from Lobster Cove. The beer, by the way, is great.

EAT: Monhegan House Restaurant. It’s a Tuesday night in June, ten miles out on the Atlantic, and this modest guesthouse restaurant is busy. Why? The food, care of Chef Michael Cennamo, is excellent, innovative, and surprisingly sophisticated; so good, in fact, this tiny island eatery can stand on its own in any major city. Live music, or piped in jazz/classical plays as you dine on ambrosial freshly baked (daily) warm, crusty-chewy Focaccia bread (served with a little pot of warm olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper), Grilled Romaine ($12), “Smoke and Salt” House Smoked Cured Salmon with marinated Watermelon Radish ($15), Olive Oil Poached Salmon Salad ($25), House Made Lobster Gnocchi ($29), and the like. If you wish to enjoy wine with your meal, you must purchase it beforehand (from almost any shop on the Island, including The Novelty, behind the Monhegan House).

EAT: Fish House. This shack on Fish Beach doles out some of the best Fish Tacos and Lobster rolls this side of the Atlantic. Take your “catch” outside on picnic tables overlooking the harbor.

EAT: You’ll also find good pizza and some of the best ice cream and selection of wine at The Novelty (behind Monhegan House), and good soups, sandwiches and pastries (and bottles of wine) right on the wharf at The Barnacle.

Where to Stay on Monhegan Island

STAY: Monhegan House. If you’re traveling solo, for my money, there is no better room than one of the top floor (4th, walkup) shared-bath single-twin ocean view rooms at Monhegan House – arguably the best harbor view on the island.

A well-kept secret, it’s just $95 low season, $115 high season. OK, so you have to walk downstairs to get to several shared, but immaculate, bathrooms. And there’s no TV, heat, or AC (however, there is internet service). And yes, the room is tiny, with just the bed, small chest of drawers, lamp table, and cane chair. But, with fresh paint, cloudlike comforter, and that view, it was cozy bliss.

 

Though the original home was built in the mid-1800’s, Monhegan House began taking guests in 1870. Over the years, the lodge has expanded, been electrified, and just this past year, went through a major renovation and updating. Most bright rooms share a bath here, though a few suites have en suit bathrooms.

Check in is as chill as it gets. Your luggage will be brought from the ferry to your room as you walk the 1/4 mile, so all you have to do is announce yourself to the owner, who will give you your room assignment. No keys. (Rooms lock from the inside). The main floor is more living room than lobby – with lots of cushy seating and fireplace – though on nice days, you’ll want to secure a rocking chair on the porch and meet your fellow guests.

The very reasonable room rate includes a full hot, made to order breakfast. Wednesdays are “Eggs Benedict Days” – but you can get your basic two eggs, bacon, phenomenal home fries, and toast as well. Open Memorial Day through September. Rooms $88- $235 (high season for Queen Suite with pull-out couch) includes hot made to order breakfast. Be advised that check-out time is 9:45am with bags down to the desk ready for transport to the docks.

STAY: The most “upscale” hotel is the Island Inn – the first building you see overlooking the harbor as you come off the ferry. Rooms have been updated, and most offer private baths.

For an old timey Monhegan experience, stay at the Trailing Yew, which still features kerosene lamps in the rooms – no electricity – and shared bath, $105-$175.  You can also rent cottages through on-island rental companies.

Camden ME: Beyond Schooner Daytrips

WHY GO: There’s a reason Camden ME is one of the most popular tourist towns on the Mid-Maine Coast. With its protected harbor jammed with schooners and recreational ships, it is breathtakingly gorgeous.

At one point, there were 4,000 ships in Penobscot Bay, transporting lime, granite, lumber, fish, ice, and other Maine resources to points south, and visitors can tap into that maritime heritage by taking a cruise on one of the many sailboats available for daytrips or overnight.

But those who wish to dive deeper into Camden history, read on. Highlights include a nouveau outdoor Amphitheater, radical for its day, tales of the early feminist poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, who attended High School in Camden, and a young early 20th century philanthropist who was responsible for transforming Camden ME into the jewel it is today. Oh yeah – and we also let you in on the best places to eat and stay. Start here….

Things to Do In Camden ME

DO: Historic Camden Walking Tour. (Co-Sponsored by the 1928 Camden Public Library, tours are led by Dave Jackson, Director of the Camden Harbor Park and Amy Rollins, from the Penobscot Bay Chamber of Commerce). This walking tour – that begins in the Children’s Garden outside the Camden Library – is a fantastic tell-all about the origins of classic Camden. Though tourists swarm to Camden for its stunning land and seascapes, few stop to wonder about the parks and public spaces that attracted visitors here in the first place. Many would be amazed to discover that most were funded by a teen-age woman.

At age 19, heiress Mary Louise Curtis Bok, daughter of Cyrus Curtis – the Philadelphia publisher of the Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal and other magazines – sought to “give back” to her beloved summer home. A few years after the hilltop Ocean View Hotel burned down (in 1917), Bok purchased the property and donated it to the town of Camden with the understanding that it would be the site of a Public Library for all to use. The Camden Library opened its doors in 1928.

In 1931, after purchasing land adjoining the library property, Bok hired the son of Frederick Law Olmstead – Frederick, Jr. – to design a park that would slope down to the harbor, offering vantage points, appropriate plantings, and seating. Bok also chose another landscape architect, Fletcher Steele (who happened to be a student of Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr. at Harvard) to shape a natural Amphitheater, still in almost daily use in season. After Harvard, Steele studied landscapes in Europe, and this, his first commission, a French Modernist design, was revolutionary for its time. The amphitheater is so historically significant, in fact, it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2013. It was the depths of the Depression, and Bok put many people to work, turning Harbor Park and the historic Amphitheater into the spectacular attractions they are today.

Steele was known for his inability to stay within budget. He designed a stone and iron “Compass of Winds” to be embedded within the amphitheater, but it was too expensive to install. As a result, the incomplete compass rose was stored in an old boathouse until just a few years ago, when it was found and completed with an old millstone at its center and granite arrows cut and polished by local stonecutters.

The Compass is now fixed in the lawn just above the terrace steps (closest to the library) used as seating for Shakespeare plays, concerts, weddings and other community events. While most indoor (and even outdoor) theater venues require man-made scenery, this one boasts the bustling harbor as a “living” backdrop.

The Camden Library itself, a community hub, is also architecturally noteworthy for its latest 1996 addition. To maintain the integrity of original building, the expansion was constructed underground, nearly doubling the library’s space. You’ll come in what is now the main entrance, tour the interior of the library – both the new and old sections, and then exit and cross over to Harbor Park.

In addition to the drama in the harbor, there’s more commotion on the path that traverses the Harbor Park waterfall – the terminus of the Megunticook River, which descends 142 ft. over three miles and exits into the sea right here. The tour ends on Main Street at the Camden Opera House. Guided Walking Tours Fridays at 4pm, beginning last Friday in June – Mid-September. Free. PHOTO OP: Statue of Union Soldier with cracked leg. The broken leg of the granite man, placed at the top of the Megunticook River stairs on Main St. has nothing to do with the wounds of war and everything to do with a modern accident. A few years ago, this Civil War Memorial that stood in the middle of busy Route 1 was hit by a car, fell and broke. The statue was repaired and moved to this location to protect it from future mishaps.

WANDER/SHOP: Main St. Though Camden fell victim to several fires since the 1700’s, the last one in 1892 devastated the town. But the following year, the town, in the spirit of hardy Mainer’s, “got to work,” basically rebuilding – in brick this time – all the structures you see today. Some of the most popular shops – Once A Tree, Smiling Cow, and the oldest – The Village Shop.

HIKE: Mt. Battie at Camden Hills State Park. Edna St. Vincent Millay’s favorite hike! From Maine.gov website – “0.5 mile, moderate: Offers a relatively short, but very rewarding hike up the south-facing side of the mountain. Although there are some steep pitches, and a bit of scrambling through rock and ledge areas is required, the view over Camden and the islands dotting Penobscot Bay makes this climb well worth the effort. Ascending the 26 ft. 1921 stone tower on Mount Battie’s 780′ summit further enhances the opportunity to soak in the 360-degree panorama.” For those who don’t have the time, there’s a 1.6 mile auto road to the summit as well. Camden Hills Campsites available May 1-Oct 15, trails year round daylight hours only.

SAIL: Schooner Tour. There are dozens of ways to get out on the water in Camden, including SUP’s and kayaks (Mainesport.com), Lobster Boat, multi-day Windjammer Cruises, and the perennial favorites – 2 hour to daylong Schooner, Sloop, Ketch, and Cutter sails. Most have harbor-side carts (look for the array of umbrellas), though some, like the Olad Schooner and Owl Cutter maintain an office on Main St.

VISIT: Camden Opera House. This Richardson Romanesque style theater was the largest building in the county when it was built in 1894. Today, it still features live performances, but also houses town offices and a small orientation center where you can learn all about its history. The Opera House sits across from the Town Green, a postage-stamp park also saved by Mary Louis Curtis Bok, who, in the late 1920’s, heard rumors that a gas station was going to mar the property. Now, it is a shaded place bounded by a Memorial to all Camden natives who served in all American wars from the 1700’s on.

Best Places to Eat in CamdenEAT: There’s a slew of places to choose from – but standouts include Boynton-McCae for eclectic light meals, Mariner’s, a chowder house that’s a hit with tourists, but locals like it, too, Camden Deli for unique twists on deli food, Fresh & Co., lauded by visitors and residents alike for its devotion to local farmers and fishermen, and Hartstone Inn for great seafood in funky surroundings.

Where to Stay in CamdenSTAY: Again, a huge choice. And most are very good, so it’s difficult to come up with absolutes. Some travelers like traditional Yankee décor, others want contemporary or funky. You can get all here. Standouts include the relatively new 16 Bayview boutique hotel in the Waterfront District, and the funky eclectically designed Whitehall – a far cry from the whitewashed antique farmhouse exterior, just slightly out of town. Camden Main Stay Inn and Grand Harbor Inn also win high marks from travelers. But the most posh spot is the Relais & Chateaux brand Camden Harbor Inn – right on the bay.

 

 

 

 

 

The Northwest CT Border: Lakes and Racetracks

Twin Lake CT Boathouse

WHY GO: Meryl Streep, Kevin Bacon, Daniel Day Lewis and Oliver Platt all have homes in these parts. Paul Newman was a frequent visitor – mainly to race his cars at Lime Rock Park. In California or New York, A-List stars are hassled and harried. Not here. So it’s no surprise that even stressed out New York Paleface Names come up to the extreme Northwest section of Connecticut to hide out. Most of the area’s attractions revolve around its many lakes, though the Racetrack remains its main draw.

Come up and we’ll introduce you to the places we love to paddle, shop, race cars (well, dream of racing), and eat, along with a couple of renovated inns worthy of the Getaway Mavens traveler.

What to Do in Northwest CT Border Towns

 

BOAT: O’Hara’s Landing Marina, Twin Lakes, Salisbury. Fish, canoe, kayak or just cruise around the larger of the “Twin Lakes” (562.3 acres), then come back for a quick meal in O’Hara’s restaurant. It’s a small town, small lake marina and particularly mesmerizing at dawn and dusk. Canoes, kayaks, rowboats, $20/day, 14 ft. rowboat with motor $65, pontoon Boats for 8 – $295 per day. Consult website or call 860-824-7583 for reservations and for other rental rates and hours.

Between the Lakes Rd. Salisbury CT

DRIVE: Between the Lakes Rd., Salisbury. On your way to downtown Salisbury CT, from O’Hara’s, take the self-explanatory Between the Lakes Rd. – a dirt road that cuts through East and West Twin Lakes. You might see herons standing stately on docks, lily pads in bloom, and views shaped by green hills and pristine lakes.

RECREATE: Salisbury Town Grove, Lakeville. The only place to launch a boat (10HP or less) into the fish-rich Lake Wononscopomuc is at Town Grove Park in the Lakeville section of Salisbury. A public park ($10 use fee, $10 launch fee), Town Grove also has a small beach with lifeguard, a small store, and a fishing pond for kids. Open 7am-8pm daily, $10 per person. $10 to launch trailer boat. 

VISIT: Salisbury Association Historic Museum, Salisbury. Illuminating the town’s obscure history as an iron mining and manufacturing center that supplied cannons and munitions to George Washington’s army during the American Revolution, the tiny Salisbury Association Museum is located inside the 1833 Salisbury Academy Building, built of handmade brick and beautifully maintained. Open 9-1 Mon-Fri., free.

SHOP: Passports, Salisbury. Find a great selection of reasonably priced home accessories, gifts and clothing cultivated from the owner’s world travels

SHOP: Salisbury General Store and Pharmacy, Salisbury.  The Salisbury Pharmacy has a whiff of old-fashioned Florida souvenir shop (minus the coconut monkeys) meets 1800’s apothecary about it, with “period” children’s toys, sundries, and a real old-fashioned hometown pharmacist that you hardly see anymore.

Lime Rock Park CT

GO: Lime Rock Park Racetrack, Lime Rock. Catch a car race or special event at what was Paul Newman’s “home away from home”, Lime Rock Park. He last raced on this 1.53-mile course at age 82, a year before he died, and there are still swashbucklers that age taking the wheel of high performance cars here. Various prestige car clubs (e.g. Porsche) rent the track for a few days for “Driver’s Ed”, and of course Lime Rock hosts important races. But the vibe is friendly, inclusive and welcoming – especially towards drive-by tourists who hear the roar of the engines and just want to gawk for a while. Unless there’s a mega race going on (tickets required), you can enter for free. And if you have the guts, sign up with the Lime Rock Drivers Club, and enjoy four hours of track time with a coach as co-pilot, in your own car for “your own personal track day.”  $1,250 weekday, or $1,450 Saturdays. Track open various times during the season – check website for details.

WALK: Industrial Walking Trail, Falls Village center of town. This quarter mile trail that takes in a hydro-electric power plant and foaming waterfalls tells the story of this industrial center with pictures and signage. It also happens to be the entrance to the Appalachian Trail, with an 8 mile hike (16 round trip) back and forth to get to Rand’s View, called the “Jewel of Connecticut” by AT through hikers.

Dennis Hill SP, Norfolk CT

DRIVE/PICNIC: Dennis Hill State Park, Norfolk. Drive to the top of the hill for sweeping vistas of the Berkshires, New York’s Hudson Valley, and northern CT. There’s a covered pavilion with picnic tables – so enjoy some local wine and cheese with the view. Open daily 8-sunset.

Infinity Hall, Norfolk CT

MUSIC/ROCK. Infinity Hall, Norfolk. This fully restored 1883 theater – complete with highly regarded Bistro –  hosts world famous rock, folk and jazz bands on a regular basis, and sits right across the road from….

MUSIC/CLASSICAL: Yale School of Music Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, Norfolk. Listen to some of the best orchestral music in the hills of CT during the summer.

Beckley Furnace, CT

VISIT: Beckley Furnace Industrial Monument, Canaan. Though not usually identified with heavy industry, this section of Connecticut was once so rich in iron ore, it must have glowed from the light of dozens of iron furnace fires. One of the last of these furnaces to operate in the USA (from 1847-1919) is now a marvelous State Park with interpretive signs. This particular furnace produced the ingots used to make the wheels of newfangled railroad cars in the mid-1800’s. My favorite quirky remnant; a “salamander” – a multi-ton chunk of melted iron formed through leaks in the masonry.

CowPots from CT

SHOP: Freund’s Farm Market, East Canaan. Buy plants, baked good, produce, preserves, cheese and lots of ancillary products at this farm-side market. On its surface, it may look quaint, but the adjacent Freund’s Farm is the first dairy farm in Connecticut to incorporate “Robotic Milkers” to milk its 300 cows. Freund’s is a multi-generational family farm with focus on sustainability and ingenuity. Thus inspired, the Freunds created the best-selling bio-degradable manure-based seed-starter, CowPots ©.

Where to Eat in Northwest CT Border Towns

EAT: Morgan’s at the Interlaken Inn, Lakeville.  Reviewed last year as “Very Good” in the New York Times, Morgan’s excels in farm-to-table cuisine, winning raves from both tourists and locals. Though located inside a hotel, Morgan’s is a destination restaurant in its own right, with fresh from field, ranch, stream, and sea ingredients and a relatively new top chef, John Welch.

EAT: The Lockup, Salisbury. The new Lockup Restaurant (opened Nov. ’16) is what you get when you cross a funky mosaic-floor French bistro with a billiards lounge and gaming arcade. The food (like the toothsome Salmon Tartar) is winning raves, but so is the “kid friendly” backroom that encompasses a Foozball table, recording studio, and video game room.

COFFEE/BREAKFAST: Sweet Williams Coffee Shop and Bakery & Dessert and Scoop Shop, Salisbury. First thing in the morning, locals, second home owners, and tourists gather at Sweet Williams for warm, ethereal, just out of the oven Ginger Apricot scones, croissants, and cookies, and deeply flavored coffee and freshly squeezed lemonade. Next door, the Ice Cream Shop doles out Bette Midler’s favorite brand of frozen sweet stuff –  Kingston NY based Jane’s Ice Cream, seemingly made of 1000% butterfat.

Falls Village Inn Restaurant CT

EAT: Falls Village Inn Restaurant. Dine in either the restaurant or more casual Tap Room. Locals love it for consistently good food. I adored it for the quick and friendly service, decent house wines by the glass, reasonable prices, fresh “from down the street” produce and meats, and the fact that my comfy, cute room was right upstairs (see below). Dishes range from Fried Oysters ($13), Shrimp Satay ($13), Fish and Chips ($18), Steak ($28), Chicken Francaise ($24), and “The Whip” – a grass-fed beef burger from Whippoorwill Farm “just down the street.”

Mountainside Cafe, Falls Village CT

EAT/BREAKFAST: Mountainside Café. Right on Route 7, this new restaurant is starting to gain attention for its fresh cuisine in a modern-country space. Basic breakfasts (eggs, toast, home-fries, bacon – $8) are delish, served on handcrafted inlayed wood tables. Even better, Mountainside café is affiliated with the Mountainside Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Treatment Center, providing extended stay clients with a supportive work environment. Service is friendly, and the chef, Charles Dietrich, knows his stuff. Eating here is a win-win for all.

The Woodland Restaurant CT

EAT: The Woodland, LakevilleThirty years ago, this place was a shake shack (no, not that one), but eventually became the local hangout it is today. Trendy places might come and go, but “everyone ends up here,” says one patron who lives nearby. The chef does wonders with a range of food. Munch on specials like the Caprese Salad on Baguette ($16), Sushi ($18) or burgers always on the menu. It was packed on a mid-summer Tuesday and the busy bartender stated that it’s “like this year round.”

Where to Stay in Northwest CT

STAY: Interlaken Inn, Lakeville. A $5 million renovation has put this resort back on the “stay” list. A Maven Favorite, you can find the complete write up HERE. From $249 plus tax per night.

Falls Village Inn CT

STAY: Falls Village Inn, Falls Village. When gutting a disintegrating flop house and revamping it into a stylish inn, it pays to be friends with a renowned New York City Interior Designer – in this case, Bunny Williams, queen of cozy-comfy chic. The NY Times wrote of a typical William’s interior – it’s “a place to put your feet up and your drink down.” This is precisely how you’ll feel at this newly renovated boutique inn just a few miles from Lime Rock Racetrack.

Falls Village Inn Tap Room

Across from a package store and Jacobs Garage, Falls Village Inn has delivered a bit of elegance and outside interest to this quiet hamlet. The restaurant is a draw in itself, but rooms are lovingly and beautifully redone with wainscoting, colorful art, fine antiques, soothing pastel colored walls and soft luxe bedding. It’s Ralph Lauren Country with a lighter, more feminine hand. Each room is a perfect retreat after a meal downstairs – and an excellent base for those heading to Lime Rock Park or learning to race at the Skip Barber Racing School. FYI- this is not a “B&B” – no breakfast is served in the morning. But you are directed to the Mountainside Cafe – just a mile plus down Route 7.  Rooms $239, 2-room suites (king and day bed) $299 year round.

 

Okemo Valley Region, VT: It’s Not All About the Hill

WHY GO: The bulk of visitors come to Okemo Valley to ski – Okemo is, after all, one of the top ski resorts in the Northeast. But like all other Getaway Maven escapes, this one does not focus on the “One Obvious Thing.” The Okemo Valley Region is comprised of 14 little villages (Ludlow being the largest, followed by Weston and Chester). There is just one traffic light – in Ludlow – and no box stores. You can sign up for a 2-day crash craft-course, wander the halls of one of the first co-ed Academies in the country (now a great museum), shop like a fiend, eat like a foodie, and stay glamorous in a “castle” built by a Vermont Governor. In the Fall, back to back buses clog the roadways for foliage viewing. To avoid the crowds, better to come in late Spring.

What to Do in Okemo Valley VT

SKI/MOUNTAIN BIKE/ZIPLINE, ETC.: Okemo Mountain Resort. It’s what’s been bringing tourists to this region for eons, and new features like the zip-line keep them coming year round.

VISIT: Black River Academy Museum and Historical Society, Ludlow. Built in 1888, Black River Academy drew male and female students from 158 towns, 26 states and even Cuba. One was our 30th President, Calvin Coolidge. A rare co-ed school for its day, Black River saw its last graduating class in 1938 when a new High School was built in town. After a stint as a nursing home and then vacant from 1968-1972, the Richardsonian – Romanesque Style building was preserved and opened as a museum in 1973.

This place is worthy of at least an hour – more so for what has not changed. Here, it’s not the walls that talk, but the stairs, worn and warped where hundreds of feet trudged or skipped up and down (hugging the right-hand side each way). A short video shines a light on student life here, including the many pranks the kids would pull. In one case, a donkey was led upstairs into a classroom. Who did it? When asked, the young Coolidge did not confirm or deny.

Other notable graduates of Black River Academy included Ida May Fuller, who received the very first Social Security Check in 1940, and early vacuum cleaner inventor Frank Agan. Paul P. Harris, founder of Rotary Club International, spent a few months here before being expelled for extreme pranking.

There are several exhibit halls on three floors. The first, on the main floor, designed and built by Ludlow students, resembles Ludlow Main St. 1900; with a blacksmith shop, doctor’s office with pre-nursing home adult cradle, a general store, a country store, and a barber shop where some old-timers stop to reminisce about getting a haircut in that very chair.

Ludlow was known for its five woolen mills, and one of the prettiest artifacts in the museum actually served a utilitarian purpose – a voluptuous green blown glass jug that held oil for the mill machines.

On your way upstairs (look down at those worn steps), you can ring the school bell – a favorite of student groups, who also take giddy delight in pictures of old t-shirts with the school’s acronym – BRA. The second floor was the Assembly Hall, now repository for the largest Finnish Exhibit in Vermont. There are also photos of two devastating Ludlow floods – in 1927 and 2011 – and wonderful in-depth stories of local families written by local 6th graders. Apparently, the very creative Ludlow Elementary School teacher, Heidi Baitz, involves the students in joint history projects – a win win for the town and Historical Society.

The top floor now serves as a Country School where teachers lead local students in an immersive “One Day in A One Room Schoolhouse.” Kids learn to write with quill pens, do math problems on slate, have period-appropriate snacks, and play outside. It’s an innovative way to utilize what could have been just another stuffy museum, turning it into a history class using all the senses. Open June-1st Sat in Sept, Tues – Sat 12-4, Sept-early Oct, Fri/Sat 12-4, $2 adults, under 12 free.

GO/COOL OFF: Buttermilk Falls. At the end of Buttermilk Falls Road you’ll find access to this local favorite swimming hole. It’s just down a steep embankment. Bring water shoes. The water, even in summer, is bracing.

FACTORY TOUR/SHOP: ClearLake Furniture. Vermont is known for its Master Craftsmen and handcrafted, hardwood furniture, and that’s what you’ll find in this supurlative store/workshop.

Come in and owner, Brent Karner, will take you downstairs to witness all the work that goes into fashioning these pieces of art for the home. My favorite? A smooth, comfortable rocking chair made from tapped Maple trees – the tap holes a conversation piece, for sure.

SHOP: Blue Sky Trading Company, Ludlow. This is a great browsing shop, with seemingly everything from jewelry to mugs to Vermont-made stuff, and has stayed a favorite of many Okemo-goers since it opened in 1995.

SHOP: Depot Street Gallery – Home of the Silver Spoon. If you’ve ever wondered about the afterlife of antique silverware, come to this crafts gallery, and you’ll see the many ways it can be fashioned into functional artwork. Over 120 artisans are represented here – all from New England – and each with their own take on this Yankee-ful region.

STOP: Green Mountain Sugar House. On busy Route 100 (for the time being, blocked from Route 103 by bridge work), stop in for some Vermont Maple Syrup and a “Cremee” ice cream.

DO: Fletcher Farms School for Arts and Crafts, Ludlow. Vermont was once known for these “crafting” schools, which could be found all over the state. Now, just a few are left, including this one, turning 70 years old this year, on property once owned by Governor Allen Fletcher, (who also built the mansion now known as Castle Hill Resort). So, while your brood is bombing down Okemo on mountain bikes or skis, you can be learning the fine art of Bob and Lace, Digital Photography, Basketry, Fiber Arts, Soap Making, Quilting – or choose from dozens of other craft and Fine Arts classes. Open daily in Summer, weekends in Fall and Winter.

VISIT: Weston VT. On Route100, 10 miles south of Ludlow, you’ll find Weston, and in it, The Vermont Country Store, which is to this little burg what LL Bean is to Freeport Maine. It basically takes over Main Street with several retail shop buildings, Mildred’s Dairy Bar and Bryant House Restaurant. Even if your skin crawls at the thought of shopping, you will no doubt find something from your youth that reminds you of simpler times (in my case, Silly Putty and that precursor to Nurf products, the plastic Lunar Launcher). These kind of things, from penny candy to sock monkeys are Vermont Country Store’s stock in trade, and the reason so many coach buses stop here.

But wait! Weston has other such shops, including the Weston Village Store, The Weston Village Christmas Shop and the tidy Village Green Art Gallery.

VISIT: Chester VT. Take Route 103 about 12 miles to Chester – a sweet little town that locals say is inexpensive enough to be “up and coming” for new homebuyers (read: young people). Around the Green, you’ll find two B&B’s – Inn Victoria, which serves afternoon Tea, and the Hugging Bear Inn and Toy Shop – for anyone mad about stuffed Teddies (they are all over the place – in each guestroom, common rooms, and by the thousands on three floors in the Toy Shop).

The Southern Pie Company opened up their second shop here (the first in Ludlow), and to satisfy your mind, an indie bookstore – Misty Valley Books, saved by Phoenix Books out of Burlington, Essex and Rutland. One independent bookstore rescued by another one? Justifiably awesome.

Where to Eat in Okemo Valley

EAT: Castle Hill Resort Restaurant. Though menu items are also available a la cart, opt for the three-course price fixe ($47-$65), which turns a good meal into a lingering experience. What is now the dining room was once the mansion’s wood paneled billiards room, and you’re made to feel right at home. The library has been updated within the year (2016), so there’s plenty of pretty seating in silver grey that brightens up an otherwise dark space. In winter, start with drinks beside the vast fireplace that’s topped with original Tiffany sconces and plastered with field and farm themed tiles. Or, in warmer months, sip on the patio overlooking the surrounding mountains.

Chef Alphonsus Harris has helmed the kitchen for 17 years, presenting patrons – at classy candlelit tables covered in linen and set with crystal wineglasses and china – classic chicken, rack of lamb, and steak dishes. Service is warm and gracious – with a cut lemon after finger food to clean those sticky fingers.

EAT/GOLF: Willie Dunn’s Grille @ Okemo Valley Golf Club. Some of the best mountain views can be found from the back patio of this little known golf-course-side restaurant. You don’t have to be a Golf Club member to wolf down great, fresh salads (I highly recommend the Cobb with candied bacon bits), burgers and other elevated pub food.

EAT: Locals also love Mojo Cafe for fast, casual Creole, Home Style Hostel for creative comfort food and craft cocktails, DJ’s – a Ludlow staple, and The Downtown Grocery for great wine and mixed drinks.

Where to Stay in Okemo Valley

STAY: Castle Hill Resort and Spa, Portersville. Built in 1901 in the “English Cotswold Style” of rough-hewn granite, as a summer home for industrialist Allen M. Fletcher (who was elected Governor of Vermont in 1912), the 10-room “Castle,” the first home in Vermont to be wired for electricity, is on the National Historic Register and a Historic Hotel of America. It’s also a Maven Pick – with a complete write up HERE.

The Taconic, Manchester VT: Kimpton’s First Hotel Outside a Major City

Kimpton’s first hotel located outside of a city, the 86-room Taconic in Manchester VT is less flashy than those in metropolitan areas. There were several hotels on this Route 7A property between the Equinox and downtown, before the last was torn down and replaced by the Taconic in late 2015. I make no bones about it – I’m a huge Kimpton fan, and have been since the brand opened its first hotels on the East Coast in the mid 2000’s. Why? I love Kimpton’s thoughtfully conceived décor and friendly attentive service, the delicious, social aspects of its nightly wine and nibbles hour, complimentary bike use, and how Kimpton staff fawn over each Fluffy and Fido that walks through the door. (FYI – for things to see and do in Manchester VT – check out this Getaway Mavens post.)

First Impressions of The Taconic

Reception, Kimpton- style, is friendly but not gratuitously so. Kimpton’s pet-friendly policy allows you to bring any housebroken or crated creature from dogs to cats to potbelly pigs up to the size that can “fit comfortably in an elevator.”

Those familiar with the urban Kimpton aesthetic might find the earth tone palette here uncharacteristically subdued. But, while the Taconic is not wild with color and funky knickknacks, there are touches of Kimpton whimsy – like a gilded deer skull – scattered about.

When cold out, there’s a fire ablaze in a comfortable lobby. And no matter what the season, the huge front porch with tables and rocking chairs (blankets offered when it’s chilly) is tailor-made for brisk fresh-air and sunset enthusiasts.

Rooms at The Taconic

Wood tones, from birch to mahogany, bespeak a hike in the mountains that ring the town. The feeling is comfy-cozy, without a stick of frou-frou or stark modernist to be found. Upholstered chairs, a bureau with twig shaped pulls, and bed sheathed in a white duvet – the gestalt is “woodland-chic,” as it should be in these parts.

Bathrooms have glass showers with white subway tile and plaid print wallpaper. At turndown, you’ll find an old-fashioned alarm clock placed on one bedside table which also features, conveniently, two embedded electrical outlets.

Dining at The Taconic

The Copper Grouse, with rough-hewn dark wood floors, tufted leather banquettes, espresso-colored wainscoting, and fowl and cornucopia art aplenty, is a Ralph Lauren-esqe version of a hunting-lodge. In the morning, try the signature Lemon Ricotta Pancakes ($12) with fresh blueberry syrup along with fresh-pressed juices like “Drop the Beet,” and Carrot Ginger concoctions. By night, the scene is farm-to-table locavore – with tweaks on the familiar. You’ll find Mustard Seed Crusted Atlantic Cod ($27) and Misty Knoll (VT) Stuffed Sattler Chicken with Vermont chevre ($33), among other takes on New England favorites.

Amenities at The Ticonic

Wine and Nibbles Hour – 5-6pm each day. This is a great opportunity to meet and converse with fellow guests. For some reason, Vermont only allows one glass of wine per person. Take your drink out on the front porch, or enjoy it near the fireplace in the lobby. The Copper Grouse Chef always creates a mouthwatering appetizer (also complimentary) to stave off hunger before dinner.

Loaner bikes complimentary for guests.

Dog Walkers ($10 per 15 minutes).

Morning Coffee and Tea

Just the Facts

Rooms from $149 midweek offseason to “mid-$500’s” on peak weekends include one glass of wine and nibbles during wine hour, use of bicycles, wifi and parking.

Northeastern Connecticut: The Quiet Corner Growing Louder

WHY GO: Connecticut’s Northeastern-most section, bordering Rhode Island and Massachusetts – has been dubbed the “Quiet Corner.” But it is quiet only in the way that a duck seems stock still while paddling furiously underwater. There’s an energy here that’s driving positive changes, mostly of the artistic and culinary sort, in the small towns of Putnam, Pomfret, Woodstock, Brooklyn, and Killingly/Danielson while simultaneously maintaining a pastoral vibe.

Though most of these towns are best known for farming, gardening, and private Prep Schools, one stood out as an industrial center. From the 1800’s until 1965, Putnam was a textile mill town. When those closed, Putnam was reinvented as an Antique Center. Because virtual shops, like E-Bay, have changed the way antiques are sold, Putnam had to redefine itself yet again. And it’s doing so magnificently. This Getaway to Northeast Connecticut, the “Quiet Corner,” takes you to the oldest private bowling alley in the country, a rare-tropical-plant gardening center, to cool local art venues, incredible dining, surprisingly abundant nightlife, and a historic overnight.

Things to Do in CT’s Northeast Corner

TOUR: Roseland Cottage, Woodstock. Silk built this shockingly colored Gothic Revival summer home in Woodstock CT, but Temperance kept it in the pink. Let me explain. In 1846 Henry C. Bowen was a 34-year-old silk tycoon, who, with lovely wife, Lucy Tappan, built this summer cottage, Roseland, in his ancestral home of Woodstock CT, right on the town common (now Woodstock Academy). A well-dressed, almost dandyish, Brooklyn NY man, Bowen was of devout Congregationalist New England leanings, yet was all but conservative when choosing the color of his country home. He painted Roseland Cottage a standout pink, and it has gone through 13 different shades over the years. In the 1890’s The New York Times called Roseland’s color “a brilliant crushed strawberry.” It is now a deep coral.

The silk business went belly-up in the later 1850’s, but Bowen had already established The Independent – an anti-slavery, temperance magazine that brought him more fame and fortune. In 1860, President Abraham Lincoln appointed Bowen Tax Collector for the 3rd District of New York.

Every summer, the Bowens invited hundreds of guests for their 4th of July party, attracting the most influential people in politics, including four US Presidents. The annual celebration was so gossip-column-worthy, in fact, The New York Times and other newspapers across the country covered it each year.

Roseland Cottage has been owned and maintained by Historic New England since the last Bowen died in 1968, and a one-hour tour, which begins by the stunning boxwood framed gardens and continues inside the home, is a fascinating look at the pre and post Civil War wealth of one prominent family.

Roseland’s Gothic Revival style was appropriate for a “dynamic man” of the day; its church-like pointed arches and stained glass windows testimony to Bowen’s faith. All of the furnishing belonged to three generations the Bowen family, and can be seen in numerous photos scattered around the home, providing a very personal insight into those who lived here.

Walls are clad in unique, thick, textural Lincrusta, created by the originator of linoleum, Frederick Walton, in the 1860’s. (Though a British-based company, it was quite possible that Roseland’s wall coverings were manufactured at the Lincrusta-Walton factory in Stamford CT). The hanging lamp in the foyer is etched with a picture of the Brooklyn Bridge – a nod to Bowen’s main NYC home. Rather than the religious themes of typical stained glass, however, windows in Roseland are, like its exterior color, rather modish and wild.

Lucy Bowen died giving birth to her 10th child, at the young age of 38. Her “mourning portrait” hangs prominently over the living room fireplace. Henry next married Ellen, and had one more child with her. There are photos of both Lucy and Ellen, and all 11 kids, upstairs in the bedrooms.

Your tour of Roseland ends in the carriage house, where you’ll enter the oldest privately owned bowling alley in America. It was here, on these old wooden boards, that Henry C. Bowen, who shunned drinking, smoking and card playing, brashly asked President Ulysses S. Grant to step outside to smoke his cigar. Open June 1-mid October, Wed-Sun 11-4, $10 guided tours on the hour.

SHOP: Martha’s Herbary, Pomfret. Right across the street from the Vanilla Bean Cafe, Martha’s will claim a bunch of your time, especially if you are a fan of local crafts, comfy clothing and, sure, dried herbs. From the name, you’d think this would be a stuffy little shop full of lavender sachets and the like, but quite the contrary. Carve out some perusing time either before or after a meal at the Vanilla Bean.

WALK/HIKE/NATURE: Connecticut Audubon Society Pomfret Conservation Center/ Bafflin Sanctuary, Pomfret. Almost 700 acres of rolling hills, scrubland, grassland and woodland, managed by the Connecticut Audubon Society, is open to the public thanks to one Louis Orswell, who sold off her valuable art collection to purchase the four dairy farms that abutted her Bafflin Estate. Take a walk on over 10 miles of trails and count the number of bird species you spy. Over 210 have been sighted here. The scenery is spectacular – the well kept trails a perfect leg stretcher. Start at the barn Visitor’s Center, where you’ll see taxidermied animals found in the surrounding region. Open Mon-Fri 9-4, Sat/Sun noon-4, free.

WANDER: Downtown Putnam. Back in the 50’s, Putnam was, according to locals, “a Mayberry RFD kind of town,” with a Montgomery Ward, a Drug Store and other establishments where Andy Griffith and Opie might have shared an ice cream soda. Montgomery Ward closed after the mills shut down in the 1960’s, leaving a shell of a 4 story building on Main Street. Now, that shell is filling up with independent businesses due to grassroots initiatives and accommodations for artists of all kinds. Putnam has become a performing and fine arts center – with, incredibly, four performing arts and music venues (unheard of for a town of 9,000) and some great shops as well. The following are drawing visitors from Boston (less than an hour away), Providence RI, New York, and from even farther afield:

WALK/BIKE: River Mills Heritage Trail. This 1.1 mile trail commemorates, with historical markers, Putnam’s link to the Industrial Revolution along the Quinebaug River. Make sure to see the Cargil Falls Mill on Pomfret St. – the oldest cotton mill site in the country (1807).

SHOP/TAKE CLASS: Sawmill Pottery. Nine years ago, owner Dot Burnwood took a chance in Putnam by being one of the first artisans to set up camp in less than gentrified surroundings. Things have changed quite a bit since then – and Burnwood’s pottery center is one of many cool places to check out in town. Sawmill Pottery has a small shop, and a larger classroom where you can take a 2-hour “Beginner Wheel 101” workshop ($55, sign up ahead of time), or drop in and paint your own ceramic piece (to take home the next day.).

SHOP: Wonderland Comics and Collectibles. On the lowest floor of the old Montgomery Ward building, this comprehensive comic book store has been on national (and even international) radar for years. Though it looks small from the outside, indoors, it’s quite expansive.

SHOP: Arts & Framing Sochor Art Gallery, Montgomery Ward Building. Sheri Sochor is a mega advocate of Downtown Putnam and a proponent of local artists who tend to be trendsetters in touch with the times. Her latest find? A guy who makes lamps from industrial leftovers – plumbing pipes, fence finials, etc. – that he finds around his house (Three Boy’s Lamps). A fabulous idea for your favorite engineer.

SHOP: The Flying Carpet/Montgomery Ward Building. Anne Monteiro brings in terrific, one of a kind gifts, crafts, jewelry, and house-wares. It’s one of those great didn’t know you needed it till you saw it kind of shops.

SHOP: A&L Emporium, Organic and Chemical Free Bath and Body Products. This funky shop has an “Essential Oil Bar” (make your own $7 small jar, $11 roll-on), a corner just for “Gentlemen,” and a modern, friendly vibe.

GALLERY: Silver Circle Gallery and Art Center, Putnam. Come in to see the work of talented local artists. This organization also offers classes for all ages.

THEATER: Bradley Playhouse of Northeastern Connecticut, Putnam. This regional theater packs ‘em in for shows and musicals, and is still going strong.

PERFORMING ARTS: The Complex Performing and Creative Arts Center, Putnam. In it’s new space (in a repurposed bank building), The Complex adds yet another dimension to Putnam nightlife and the performing arts.

MUSIC/FOOD: The Stomping Ground, Putnam. This community hub is like Cheers, with live music. There’s a live band here 6 nights a week, and so many plusses: like Craft Beer, artisanal potpies, and a very convivial atmosphere.

MUSIC/FOOD: Victoria Station Café, Putnam. This seems to be the gathering place in the morning – or at least where you pop in for a specialty coffee and baked good. Eat inside or on the brick patio outside. Best known for its coffees, pastries, sandwiches and ice-cream, Victoria Station has lately become a concert venue as well.

VISIT: Logee’s Greenhouses, Killingly/Danielson. The Logee family put down literal roots in CT’s Quiet Corner, establishing rare, tropical and fruiting plant greenhouses here in 1892. Now, 125 years later, Logee’s is still owned and operated by the family (3rd Generation – the Martins), and the historic Lemon Tree, which, in 1900, came from Philadelphia on a train, was picked up from the station by horse and carriage, and planted in the middle of the first Logee greenhouse, is still standing, and still growing the American Wonder Lemons that have no right to be so enormous.

Logee’s found national fame after its Miracle Fruit, and Logee’s itself, were featured on the Martha Stewart show. Eat the Miracle Fruit berry, and it changes the sense of your taste buds from sour to sweet.

Though over a million catalogs are mailed out, many people make the pilgrimage here, “especially in early May,” to see what’s new. Visitors can walk through several humid, jungle-like enclosures, filled with colorful and fragrant wonders you won’t see anywhere else.

And you’ll learn a few things, especially if you walk around with owners, Byron and Laurelynn Martin, whose positive attitudes make even the most brown-thumb plant-killer believe she can grow Meyer lemon trees or coffee plants in containers. Byron is a fount of knowledge about every single one of the plants he grows. He points out the lemons, limes, oranges, tangerines, and grapefruit all growing from the same tree, a result of his early experimentation in “top grafting.”

Come to see the extremely rare Red Medinilla, a waxlike sculptural hanging plant now just for show, and stunning Hanging Jade Plants, and of course fragrant Passion Flowers from Hawaii. Even if you don’t buy a thing, a visit here is like going to a wonderful (but very humid) art museum. You’ll be swept away.

SHOP: ARTicles, Killingly/Danielson. For some reason – call it Yankee Ingenuity with a healthy appreciation for nature’s beauty – many artists in this region march to their own beat and create beautiful often-functional objects that you won’t find anywhere else. Owner/Artist, Lynn Herklots, has an eye for the unique and stunning – and features the work of over 30 local craftspeople in a charming 4-room gallery within a renovated 1930’s home.

SHOP: Tunk City Revival, Killingly/Danielson. This huge shop has been described as “Etsy without the shipping costs,” “what it would look like if Pinterest and Etsy had a baby,” and “the never ending craft show.” Owner/artist Rena Masson champions 108 local crafts people – who upcycle everything from jewelry to soap to photos and paintings. It will take a few moments to acclimate yourself once inside, but it’s a lot of fun to hunt for just the right (reasonably price) thing.

VISIT: Creamery Brook Bison, Brooklyn. Debbi and Austin Tanner bought an old dairy farm in 1981 and purchased their first five bison in 1990. They now have over ninety head and offer tours, a petting zoo, and fresh buffalo meat in a small gift shop. The farm’s slaughterhouse of choice—no joke—is the nearby E. L. Blood and Son. There are plenty of animals to see and feed on Tanner’s farm, though of course the stars of the show are the grunting buffalo that roam inside a fenced-in pasture. Open for Special Events April – Nov. – check website for details.

Where to Eat/Snack/Drink in Northeast Corner of Connecticut

EAT/BREAKFAST: Zip’s Diner, Killingly/Dayville. Originally opened on Route 6 in 1946, Zip’s (named for original owner a CT State Trooper, Henry “Zip” Zehrer) moved to its current location in 1954 and is now run by its 3rd generation. Though the food is basic, the building’s shiny aluminum shell is a beacon for 50’s- diner fans.

ICE-CREAM: Riverview Landscape Supply, Putnam. This is a first: an ice-cream shop, the Quiet Corner Creamery, in a landscape supply store! But this is why you should come: the creamy cold stuff is homemade and delicious, and you can take your cone across the street to the walkway along the river and stroll while you eat. Or – stay right at point of purchase, and play some putt-putt. It’s the perfect summer pastime combo.

TEA: Mrs. Bridges’ Pantry, Woodstock. Take afternoon tea in this authentic English Tea Room (complete with “British-style” scones) behind the one antique store in Woodstock. This is not quite “high-tea” – more like the casual kind that the two British women who established this place would serve in front of a fireplace at home. Try the most requested tea, Cream Earl Grey, for a twist on the original.

EAT/LUNCH: Vanilla Bean Café, Pomfret. Owned by Barry and Brian Jessurum (who also own Dog Lane Café at UConn and 85 Main in Putnam) the Vanilla Bean Café was the forerunner of foodie-approved, locally sourced restaurants, when it opened 28 years ago. Established on this bucolic corner of Pomfret, just after Route 169 was declared one of the nation’s “Top Scenic Byways” in the 1980’s, the Vanilla Bean Café is known for soups, sandwiches, and its friendly wait-staff. But don’t discount the daily specials, which tend to be more innovative and creative than the daily fare. The Moroccan Lamb Stew ($13, lamb sourced from the bordering town of Woodstock) is a knockout, and indicative of the surprisingly varied cuisine you’ll find in this out of the way place.

EAT/LUNCH or DINNER: Golden Lamb Buttery, Brooklyn. This remote, farmland-set restaurant celebrated its 50th anniversary four years ago, and remains an iconic Quiet Corner CT dining experience. In the early 1960’s, well-heeled New Yorkers would make the trek up to Brooklyn CT for fine hand-loomed clothing from Hillandale Handweavers (at Hillandale Farms), owned by Bob and Virginia “Jimmie” Booth. Once here, however, customers were faced with a dearth of dining options. So, the Booths had an idea. As Jimmie and Bob mused, resident lambs gamboled about in the honey-golden sunset; and so the name “Golden Lamb” popped into their minds. Jimmie, a buyer for Lord and Taylor (and before that, an Engineer at Pratt and Whitney – a wonder-woman way before her time), had spent time in Ireland where specialty restaurants were called “Butteries.” And so, the Golden Lamb Buttery was conceived.

The Booths began serving lunch in 1963 in Hillandale Farm’s big red barn – the original “Barn Chic” restaurant. Ten years later, they added a price fixe dinner that included drinks on the patio overlooking a pond and pasture dotted with horses, miniature donkeys, and sheep, a hayride around the property, and a dinner, that included soup or salad, an entrée, a fresh veggie casserole, and dessert inside a set of intimate country-fine rooms. The New York Times got word of Golden Lamb Buttery and reviewed it shortly afterwards, catapulting this sweet place into national fame.

Current owner, Katie Bogert (whose Mother married Jimmie and Bob’s son, Jim) instituted some changes: the Golden Lamb Buttery now uses cloth napkins, it takes credit cards, and C.I.A- trained chef, Eric Marrish, now presides over the kitchen. The full experience dinner is still a relative bargain at $75 per person (does not include drinks, tax, and tip).

An a la carte lunch will provide you with a taste of the experience – at least to get a sense of the chef’s skills (extraordinary, in a tiny kitchen), and exquisite farm setting. Start with a unique or traditional soup (I opted for the creamy, satisfying Sunchoke Chowder $7) and then order an entrée right out of the family cookbook – like the Hillandale Hash – made of beef, garlic and mushrooms, served with tiny roasted potatoes and snappy al dente green beans ($16), or go for the more contemporary option, such as the Turkey-Cheddar Panini ($14.50). Everything is tasty and hearty, and of course, goes down well with those astounding views. As the barn is not insulated, the Golden Lamb Buttery is open in season only – from April until New Years Eve.

EAT/DINNER: 85 Main, Putnam. Known for its oysters, sushi, and excellent innovative cuisine, 85 Main still draws a crowd, even on a cold Wednesday night, after 13 years. Chef James Martin opened restaurants up and down the East Coast and came home to roost (he grew up in Woodstock CT; his 96 year old Grandfather still has a farm there). Mentored by “art of the grill” Boston Chef Chris Schlesinger, Martin also commands stove and oven as well. The Grouper Fish Cake (2 for $20) is as spectacularly flavorful as your favorite cup of seafood chowder condensed into a patty, and the innovative Monster sushi dish ($14), spicy tuna within crunchy tempura, is a perennial favorite for a reason. In fact there is nary a miss on the menu, and this consistency has kept 85 Main in business all these years.

Where to Stay in Connecticut Northeast Corner

STAY/DINE: Mansion on Bald Hill, Woodstock. Built in 1892 by Clarence Bowen, son of Henry and Lucy Bowen, who owned Roseland Cottage a mile away, the 90-acre Mansion on Bald Hill, opened in 2008 as a 6-room B&B, is better known for its acclaimed restaurant and as a wedding venue than status as an inn.

Those who dine downstairs and book a room above, however, are in for a treat: though not overly lush, some bed chambers still have original fixtures (from the 1920’s most likely) down to the servant call buttons embedded in the walls.

I stayed in the roomy and elegant Mrs. Bowen’s room. In hues of gold and cream, with carved four-poster bed, marble-topped side tables, and heavy clubfoot writing desk, the room harks back to the early 1900’s and is so authentically Victorian, I half-expected a dressing gown to be laid out for me. The bed and bedding, I might add, was deliciously soft and cloudlike.

The bathroom features an antique double marble sink, a claw foot tub/shower and a “baby bathtub” kept for aesthetics, but “not plumbed.”

All six rooms are furnished as they might have been when the home was built, but of course have modern conveniences: TV’s, DVD players, and wi-fi. Rooms from $140 – $230 includes hot breakfast, wi-fi, parking.STAY: Inn at Woodstock Hill. This 21 room inn is the grand dame of Woodstock accommodations – dressed in traditional New England fashion, rooms are country-fine.

Inn @ Ragged Edge, Chambersburg PA

The Inn at Ragged Edge is a wonder of woodwork, the stream-view out of the massive picture window, breathtaking, but it’s the 1901 Steinway piano – commissioned by Harrods’s of London now sitting in the stately parlor – that beckons World Class musicians and romantics of all kinds to this rural area of Chambersburg PA halfway between Gettysburg and Antietam.

Ken and Barb Kipe purchased the 8-room Luxury Inn in 2015. (Yes, they’ve heard all the Ken and Barbie jokes). Ken, who grew up in Zimbabwe as the son of a Missionary, was a construction consultant, Russian translator, and a world traveled jack-of-all-trades. Barb, from Belarus, is an avid piano player. Neither had a background in hospitality per se, but both came from “hospitality cultures.” They originally had no intention to run an inn, but one of their sons went to school nearby, so basically on a whim, they purchased the property as a newly renovated (in 2010) running concern (before 2010 it was the over-decorated Angelic Inn). “We kept all future guests on the books, read Running B&B’s for Dummies, and opened for business,” says Barb.

Conceived by well-known architect, Frank Furness in 1900 as a summer cottage for Pennsylvania Railroad VP, Moorhead Kennedy, the building itself is a draw. Some guests come just to stay in a Furness-designed home, focusing on the carved chestnut banisters, rich wood paneling, and other architectural elements that would later influence Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright.

Other guests book a stay here based on a Catfish episode, filmed on the premises, which aired in August 2016.

Still others come for the concerts. “We’re in cow and farm territory,” says Ken, “not exactly classical piano country.” And oh, that piano. Ken purchased the burnished golden Steinway, the “crown jewel of furniture in the house,” from PianoCraft, experts in refurbishing pedigreed pianos. He went so far as to ask an acoustical expert to clap around the inn’s main floor to find its perfect placement. At a cost of $100,000, the piano is not the most expensive musical instrument to come through the inn’s doors, however. Just recently, a celebrated cellist brought his $7 million Stradivarius to play.   Well-known concert Pianist, Eric Himy, who has performed all over the world and at Carnegie Hall, has been here twice already, and raves about the quality of piano sound and room acoustics. In fact, The Inn At Ragged Edge has become quite the Music Salon, opening its doors to the community for free, and creating a new rural classical music fan base.

Rooms at Inn & Ragged Edge

All eight rooms have been renovated with cloudlike bedding, deeply colored walls, flat-screen TV, and a traditional-contemporary feel.

Pedestal sink bathrooms are bright and clean, with white tiled floor. Opulent without being over the top stylized.

Breakfast at Inn at Ragged Edge

Breakfast is right out of the “How to Run A B&B Right” book – banana bread, yogurt/berry/oats compote, and stuffed French Toast, served with locally roasted (Abednego Roasters) privately labled Inn & Ragged Edge coffee.

Weddings

The Inn does a brisk Wedding business: There are 24 weddings booked already for 2017. The property can accommodate up to 125 guests per event, with the cost of renting the whole place (including 8 rooms for up to 24 overnight guests) for $6,000 for the whole weekend – a bargain. The wedding party is responsible for food (staging here only, no prep kitchen), and décor.

Just the Facts

Room rates from $99-$179 per night include full gourmet breakfast, parking, wi-fi, bottled water in rooms.

 

Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay, Cambridge MD

After a $7 million redo, the 400 room Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay, on 342 acres of Maryland’s Eastern Shore is back in luxe-lodging form. Step inside the lobby, now sporting a ship-shape polished wood floor, and you’ll see the difference right away. During the school year, this Hyatt is mostly filled with business and government conferences, but come summer, it swarms with families hoping to reconnect and have fun. According to those who stay here, it delivers big time. There are three pools (one with water slides, another featuring a nightly movie), award-winning Golf Course, a wildlife sanctuary, auditorium-size well-stocked game room, kayaking, cruising, and, splurgy spa: everything a family needs for a complete vacation in one place. To top it off, the waterfront setting is gorgeous.

Rooms at Hyatt Chesapeake Bay

 

Gone is the basket-weave furniture of yore, the outdated color scheme, the faded carpeting.

All rooms, newly clad in grays and Navy Blue, with updated design-forward furnishings and double Queen Beds (replacing the “Double” double beds), are refreshingly au courant.

Dining at Hyatt Chesapeake Bay

There are several dining options here, so you really don’t have to (ever) leave: Water’s Edge Grill serves three meals a day, Blue Point by the Marina (fantastic views, fresh seafood) dinner only, Dock’s Poolside is self-explanatory, Eagles Nest – by the golf course, and Michener’s Library, at the foot of the lobby stairs, for cocktails by the fireplace, some live music, and a game of billiards on one of two tables.

Sago Spa

The Sago Spa was renovated in 2012 and even locals book treatments here. Try the Signature Hot Stone Massage, and your whole outlook on life will change, at least for a few relaxed hours. Massage therapists are professional, attentive and capable of turning those shoulder knots to mush. Sago Spa also has dry and wet sauna’s and a quiet “Relaxation Room” with snacks, tea, and infused water. Open 10-6 off season and 9-7 in season.

Amenities at Hyatt Chesapeake Bay

It’s a major Hyatt property right on a celebrated body of water, so of course there are amenities aplenty:

18 Hole Keith Foster Golf Course that traverses the Choptank River

150-slip Marina – boaters have full use of the Hyatt amenities

Large Fitness Center with updated cardio and free weights.

The huge and hugely popular Game Room – coined “Captain’s Parlor”- has both Arcade and Table Games.

S’Mores by the outdoor “Grand Fireplace” every evening at 6pm.

Yoga on Saturdays in the summer – at 9am.

3 Pools – the massive indoor pool screens a movie every night when darkness falls and hosts lots of other fun events for kids including token dives and races. The outside Crescent (infinity) and Waterslide pools are jam packed in the summer season.

18-Acre Blue-Heron Wildlife Refuge

Other amenities include Putt Putt, a Frisbee Golf Course, Tennis, Basketball, Beach Volleyball, and jogging/walking trails.

From Memorial Day to Labor Day; Blackwater Paddle and Pedal offers on-site jet ski, SUP, kayak rentals and cruises on the Choptank River on their 46’ Charter Boat.

Just the Facts

Room rates $179 per night midweek off season to $500 per night weekend peak season. Packages that include golf or breakfast available.

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