James NoMad NY: Four Bodies Wellness

James NoMad, the flagship of the James Hotel brand, opened in the Flatiron District of NYC (29th and Madison) in August 2017. Originally built in 1904 as the Seville Hotel and then, in 1987, rebranded as the Carlton, the space was gut renovated in 2017, keeping its elegant Beaux Arts exterior, and re-imagined inside as the boutique James NoMad.

Reception James NoMad NY: The curvy hardwood reception desk is as polished and sleek as the stern of a yacht, and is nicely juxtaposed by soft deep-mauve suede-like wall panels behind it.

The James NoMad, however, is just one of countless chic boutique hotels in New York City to crop up lately. So what sets it apart? In a nutshell, a proprietary program called Four Bodies Wellness, designed to ease your city-clobbered physique and psyche.

#FourBodiesWellness at James NoMad

According to its Press Release: “The James Hotels has launched the Four Bodies Wellness – in-room programming curated exclusively for guests of the James Hotels. In partnership with consultant Ruby Warrington of The Numinous, the in-room programming has been designed to help balance all four bodies: Physical, Mental, Spiritual, and Emotional, in pursuit of total wellbeing.”

To this end, the James has enlisted exemplars in the areas of Fitness, Yoga, Meditation, and even the mystical arts of Astrological Chart and Tarot Card reading. Aerospace Co-Founder, Michael Olajide, Jr. – he of the rockin’ gunmetal eye patch – takes care of the Physical. Guru Jagat, founder of the RA MA Institute for Applied Yogic Science and Technology in Manhattan, leads the Spiritual. INSCAPE Meditation studio and app founder, Khajak Keledjian, oversees the Mental, and The Numinous founder, Ruby Warrington, was the mastermind behind #FourBodiesWellness, and offers “Readers on Room Service” with one on one in-room astrology chart and tarot readings for the Emotional piece. Each is prominent in his or her chosen field; with blazing, passionate auras to match.

Guru Jagat Four Bodies Wellness James NoMad NY

Kundalini Yoga teacher, Guru Jagat, swathed in white, her long blond locks often encased in a high white turban, is the CEO of her own brand. As founder of RA MA TV, RA MA Records, and the RA MA Foundation with Institutes in LA, NY and Mallorca, Spain, Jagat explains what makes this type of Yoga so compelling. “There’s no barrier to entry,” Jagat says. “Kundalini Yoga involves a lot of breath work that anyone can do.” Which actually makes it perfect for in-room practice. Two several-minute sessions with Guru Jagat are programmed on the large flat screen TV’s in each James Hotel guest room – and they are easy to follow, and surprisingly effective in reducing stress in a very short time.

INSCAPE Guided Meditation Four Bodies Wellness James NoMad NY

Khajak Keledjian, founder of the Meditation Studio and App, INSCAPE NYC, knows firsthand the toll that a high-pressure career can take on the mind and body. Thirty years ago, he left war-ravaged Lebanon to come to New York and, at age 19, with his brother, launched the women’s fashion brand, INTERMIX (which he recently sold to Gap, Inc. for $130 million). Keledjian discovered meditation during the 2008 recession, when the stressors of owning a business in a sinking economy was making him ill. “Meditation was the only thing that helped.” After selling Intermix, Keledjian realized that though the city was crammed with Fitness and Yoga studios, there were no brick and mortar places dedicated to Meditation. Seeing a void in the wellness market, he partnered with Coach founder, Lew Frankfort (who had already invested in Flywheel), to open INSCAPE. “People want to feel more fulfilled – they might be wealthy, but are less happy.” Though you can certainly access beautifully produced guided meditations on your smart phone through the user-friendly INSCAPE App (free for one month for guests, then $12.99/month or $58.99 per year) the Studio is just a 10 minute walk from the James NoMad. Put on a headset in a dark, comfortable room, listen to the soothing Australian voice of “Skye” and all else melts away. (You can do this via app, as well, even on a plane.) “Enter mindfully. Travel Gently.”

Aeroscape Workout Four Bodies Wellness James NoMad NY

You can’t miss Michael “Silk” Olajide, Jr., with his intensely bad-ass gunmetal eye patch: one he calls the Eye of Horus – an Egyptian god that symbolizes positivity, health, and wealth. Olajide has certainly achieved all three, as a former championship boxer turned cardio workout guru to the stars. After an eye injury in 1991 ended his prizefighting career, Olajide managed to transform his misfortune into a profession training others at AEROSPACE NYC, a machine-free performance fitness center. But success didn’t come fast or easy. In the 90’s, Olajide taught shadow boxing and jump roping in an unused church, and in 2004, opened the first boutique boxing gym in NY’s Meatpacking District. After he trained Victoria Secret model, Adriana Lima, and was covered by Entertainment Tonight, “every single model wanted to box.” Since then, Olajide opened a studio in L.A. and has trained Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weis, Jake Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Spike Lee and others, prepping them for the Big Screen. Olajide calls his cardio workouts “aggressive meditation,” as you must focus on movements and timing. “It’s the Western Hemisphere’s marshal art; you get fit without getting hit.” Join a complimentary pre-programmed workout session on a James Hotel guestroom TV (ask downstairs for resistance bands), or walk two blocks to Aerospace NYC.

Astological Chart Four Bodies Wellness James NoMad NY

Ruby Warrington, a fashion journalist who wrote for the Sunday Times in the UK in the Lifestyle and Fitness category, is privy to the cutting edge in spirituality, fashion, wellness and the mystical. In 2013, she launched The Numinous website, which features weekly horoscopes and personal stories, coined the term Four Bodies Wellness, and contacted all the top people in each segment to partner with James Hotels. From experience, Warrington knows that people don’t look up random Astrologists and Tarot readers online: they want personal recommendations. And so she handpicks those she recommends for her “Readers On Room Service.” According to my Astrological Chart reader, Bess Matassa, I’m a “wonderer, though I’m not lost at all.” A truth seeker with “wild bareback pony energy,” my challenges in 2018 surround “embracing my intensity,” “facing my fears,” and “channeling the beast within.”  Roar.

First Impressions of James NoMad

Beaux Arts Facade James NoMad NY

You’ll recognize The James, on the corner of Madison and 29th, by its intricate and stunning façade of terra cotta, limestone, and sculptural wrought iron. Take a moment to look up and appreciate the workmanship of a lost era. Inside, all has changed. The curvy hardwood reception desk is as polished and sleek as the stern of a yacht, and is nicely juxtaposed by soft deep-mauve suede-like wall panels behind it.

Lobby James NoMad NY

The lobby area is long and narrow – with ample seating, including conversation nooks nestled within several high arched windows.

Window Nook James NoMad NY

Couches are clustered around cocktail tables with contemporary Chess sets and other knickknacks. It’s warm and inviting, and seems to be full of friends, groups, and strangers meeting up at all times of day.

Rooms at James NoMad

Guest Room James NoMad NY

Guest rooms are spacious and Designs Within Reach modern, with pleated hanging lamps and voluminous white duvets on beds punched up by large pillows in shades of turquoise, sunshine, and cantaloupe.

King Room James NoMad NY

A conversation piece 20’s style stand-alone mini-bar features pin lights on its top glass shelf that illuminate full bottles of Grey Goose Vodka, Don Julio Tequila and more, while cabinets below hide a small fridge and dry goods for purchase.

Bathroom James NoMad NY

But bathrooms here are the stars, with grey veined marble tiles on the floor and in a large glass shower. The centerpiece is the sink: a carved and smooth oval basin in the shape of an enormous worry stone. Just running my hands over its cool, curved surface was a soothing Zen exercise.

Bar Bathroom James NoMad NY

There are no chocolates on your pillow at turndown, but you will find a small “Sleep Well” tube of therapy balm. Applied to my pulse points, this stick of essential oils helped me relax and sleep.

Amenities at James NoMad

In Room Yoga Meditation James NoMad NY

The opportunity to do Yoga, Meditation, and a cardio workout in the privacy of your own room is a nice perk here (with Astrological Chart or Tarot Card reader to come to your room for a fee).

Fill up a guest room water bottle at any tap: the NYC water is triple filtered here.

Fitness Room James NoMad NY

Fitness Center is small but has everything you need – and if this doesn’t suffice, Aerospace is 10 minutes away.

Coffee Muffins James NoMad NY

Coffee and fresh-baked muffins from 6-8 every morning in the lobby.

At 5pm every night, the low-lit lobby turns into a wine and cheese (complimentary) gathering space where young media types sip Chardonnay, nibble Smoked Gouda, peck on laptops, make quiet phone calls, have intimate conversations, and interview for new jobs. Though the opposite of rollicking, it’s a much-appreciated social aspect to what could otherwise be a solitary stay.

Just the Facts

Room rates at James NoMad start at $189 per night in January for 195-235 sq ft. room, up to $792 for 640 sq ft. 2-room suite in high season. Includes coffee/muffin in morning, wine hour in afternoon, use of fitness center, in-room Yoga, Workout, Meditation.

Nearby Attractions

80s Disco Museum of Sex NY

GO: Museum of Sex, two blocks away. Though not an all out porn fest, if you do take the kiddos, be prepared to answer lots of questions. There are sex toys, dildos, inflatable anatomically correct dolls, S&M devices, and tons of risqué candies, plus temporary art installations. Up now, the wild years of Studio 54 and other 70’s/80’s discos, where naughty things happened in full view. Open Mon-Thurs 10-9, Fri/Sat 10-11, Sun 11-9, $20.50. 

Morgan Library Museum Atrium NY

GO: Morgan Library and Museum, six blocks away. Most tourists don’t know about this terrific museum and the exquisitely preserved library designed by Charles McKim of McKim, Meade and White, and commissioned by John Pierpont Morgan – founder of J.P. Morgan. The 2006 expansion by Renzo Piano – a magnificent glass box atrium – connects a lovely restaurant and other galleries to the incredible 4-room Library, restored in 2010 to its original 1906 splendor.

Morgan Library Ceiling NY

If you do nothing else here, make a beeline to the East Room, North Room, West Room and Rotunda of Morgan’s Library – to find yourself in a kind of Harry Potter meets Renaissance-European world of rare books, tapestries, mosaics, handwritten manuscripts, and historic letters, with a good dollop of wonder thrown in. Though these treasures rotate on view, you may see Robert Louis Stevenson’s notebook scribbled with the first draft of what he originally called a “Fine Bogey Tale,” and became The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Morgan Library NY

After his death in 1913, much of JP Morgan’s vast art collection was purchased Henry Clay Frick – and is part of the Frick Collection, another small but worthy NYC Museum. But plenty is left, and a visit to NYC would not be complete without a visit to the Morgan Library and Museum. Open Tuesday through Thursday: 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday: 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. $20 adults, $13 kids.

Beacon NY; A Former Mill Town Built for Romance

** Post updated 11-22- 2017

WHY GO: Beacon NY grew up a mill town. Hunched at the foot of mountains and wedged between waterfalls and the navigable Hudson River, factories harnessing raging water eroded beauty from the landscape. Industrial waste turned the Hudson into “a sewer,” according to Beacon’s most famous resident, the late Pete Seeger.

When fortunes and industry fell, so did Beacon.  But then Seeger helped clean up the Hudson, and a contemporary art museum built to house installations too large for MoMa or the Guggenheim, carved from the closed Nabisco Box Printing factory, put Beacon back on the map. Opened in 2003, DIA:Beacon gave culture hounds a reason to come upriver for the day. The boutique hotel, Roundhouse at Beacon Falls, gave them a reason to stay. As more people came, artists, chefs and aspiring retailers did, too, creating the perfect overnight arts, shopping, and wine and beer-sipping Getaway.

Symmetrical grove of trees outside contemporary art museum in Beacon NY

Things To Do In Beacon NY

VISIT: Dia: Beacon. Visit the 300,000 square foot Dia: Beacon on the banks of the Hudson River, and you will be forced to face the question – What exactly constitutes “art”?  This former paper factory, glossed up and renovated for massive contemporary art installations opened in May 2003 and is drawing art students, historians and the merely curious to its soaring halls. Over two dozen masters of visual art from the 1960’s and 1970’s are featured in a space so vast it will take a relatively athletic person a couple of hours just to sprint through.  Mansion-sized galleries highlight Andy Warhol’s Shadows, minimalist Donald Judd’s simple wooden boxes, Sol LeWitt’s weblike drawings, Dan Flavin’s fluorescent light works and the macabre body parts and spiders from Louise Bourgeois tortured imagination. Thurs – Mon. 11am-6pm, $12 adults, kids under 12 free.

Bannerman Castle

TOUR: Bannerman Castle. What’s this ruin of a Scottish castle doing in the middle of the Hudson River? Take a hard-hat tour offered by the Bannerman Castle Trust, Inc. to find out. Oh, all right. I’ll give you some background. It was the “storage shed” of America’s first Army/Navy Store. As a pre-teen in the 1860’s an enterprising Francis Bannerman looked for ways to make money. Utilizing a grappling hook to dredge rope and scrap metal from the Brooklyn Navy Yard, he learned that he could resell these government supplies.  In just a few years, young Bannerman had amassed a mountain of Civil War surplus, including bugles, buttons, swords, scabbards and uniforms in addition to military ordinance – so much, in fact, he opened up a very successful store in Brooklyn.

Guided tours of Bannerman Island on The Estuary Steward. Bannerman Island Tour Poster, Beacon NY

But Bannerman required a remote location to house his ever-growing collection of explosive materials.  In 1900, he discovered an island on one of his trips on the Day Liner up the Hudson and bought it for $1,600. Originally from Scotland and a lover of castles,  Bannerman had this organic-styled warehouse built from a variety of local bricks, cobblestones and boulders; a series of six buildings that ended up looking like a Scottish king’s abode. When Francis passed away in 1916, Bannerman Island passed down to his children. Two years after New York State purchased the island from the Bannerman family, in 1969, the castle caught fire and was engulfed in flames that reached 260 feet above the warehouse roof.  The wooden floors, old ships’ planks impregnated with highly flammable creosote, created an inferno that burned for three days, leaving the castle an empty, weed-choked shell. Plans are afoot to stabilize what’s left of the warehouse and restore the main residence. Take a 2 ½ hour tour aboard the Estuary Steward, a tour boat that shuttles you to the island and drops you off for a fascinating walk around the ruins. Boat leaves Beacon dock Sat. and Sunday May-October 12:30, $35 adults, $30 children. RSVP Necessary, tickets sell out quickly. See Bannerman Island article for tour details.

AIA Award for this Kayak shed on the Hudson River, Beacon NY

SEE: Kayak Pavilion at Long Dock Park. How many kayak storage sheds have won architectural awards?  I assume not many.  But this Hudson River kayak-port has won the AIA (American Institute of Architects) 2013 Honor Award and is as snazzy as they come. From the Pavilion, stroll out to the tip of the formerly industrial 15-acre Long Dock Park to scramble around George Trakas’s steel stair-step sculpture. Park open daily dusk to dawn.

Boardwalk to Hudson River in Beacon NY

DO/SUMMER: Kayak on the Hudson With Mountain Tops Outdoors. If it’s a nice day or evening, squiggle into your own craft with Mountain Tops Outdoors. You can rent by the hour or day – just stop in to the shop on Main Street. Or sign up for one of a few dozen group paddles organized throughout the summer.  Check website for dates and fees.  Kayak rentals $20 per hour, $50 per day;  2-hour Wed night Sunset paddles $20, Bannerman Castle Paddles $100. Check website for others.

DO/YEAR ROUND: Climb Mount Beacon. It’s a mile practically straight up and a nice lung expanding workout. But the views of the Hudson River and Valley are so worth it from the platform up top. Free, Open Dawn To Dusk. 

Glass blown ornaments in window of Hudson Beach Glass, Beacon NY

DO/WINTER: Hudson Beach Glass; Make Your Own Blown Glass Christmas Ornament. Occupying an 1890 repurposed firehouse, Hudson Beach Glass shop/studio/glassworks is a wonderland of color. Blown right on site, pieces can be pricey, but be assured that they are one of a kind. If you visit in November or December, resident glassblowers put a special extension on blowpipes so that you can make a custom Christmas ornament with some assistance.  Choose a color and texture, then make your very own orb in 15 minutes.  Pick it up the next day, or have it shipped home.  $35 from early November to New Years. Ages 6 and up. This DIY activity is becoming very popular so, RSVPs a MUST.

SHOP/WORKSHOP: Knot Too Shabby. Purchase something crafty from this upscale craft shop, or make something yourself. You can sign up for a Annie Sloan Chalk Painting Class, offered five times a month. 3 hours $120. 

SHOP: Beacon Talents. You’ll find jewelry, clothing, handbags, and other “event wear” you won’t find anywhere else at this very funky and fun boutique, including the bold-statement “Light Up” skirts, that, yes, light up ($180).

SHOP: reMADE. This “upcycle” shop will make you want to rethink your own trash. You’ll find functional items made from repurposed vacuum hose, license plates, driftwood, old birdcages, anything really. Plus, there’s a selection of “Beard Oil” for your favorite Brooklynite.

Play, Beacon NY

SHOP: Play. “Play” basically says it all. This is one fantastically awesome store, where Boomer nostalgia meets nods to Millennials, and is not in the least bit “politically correct.”  You’ll find everything from rock-climber earrings to Moomin Valley coin banks, adult coloring books, and even Vincent Van Gogh ear erasers. Plan to spend awhile here: you won’t believe what you’ll find.

Shelves of bar tools and selection of bitters at a shop in Beacon NY

SHOP: More Good. You won’t find a better selection of unusual “Bitters,” bar tools, house-made soda syrups, or loose leaf tea at better prices than this tiny shop on Main St.  Owned by a bartender who couldn’t find decent tools of his trade, he solved the problem by opening his own store. And what’s better than a bevy of bitters? Beneficence! More Good donates 10% of net profits to Generosity Water – an organization dedicated to ending the clean water crisis in developing countries.

Displays of fun plastic products at Dream in Plastic, Beacon NY

SHOP: Dream In Plastic. It figures this “Designer Vinyl Art Store” began online out of Brooklyn, NY.  You’ll find mini works of plastic art (starting at $4.95), stationary and paper goods like a “Decomposition Book” made with recycle materials ($8),  a shelf-full of vintage cameras, including the original Kodak Brownie, and a slew of Polaroid’s among a plethora of colorful plasticine paraphernalia.

Where To Eat and Drink In Beacon NY

DRINK/EAT: Two Way Brewing Co. A bit over 2 years ago, entrepreneurial Michael O’Herron took his Engineering degree and turned it into his passion: beer-making. Discovering a yeast strain on local black berries, he employed this newfound strain in the making of his signature, Saison-ish Confusion. You can down a pint of Confusion, or Farmhouse IPA or any number of brews from this small craft brewery named for the Hudson River – the tidal river, right outside the Brewery’s window, that flows two ways. Come in for great pub food and beer, and bring the kids (juice and healthy drinks for them). O’Herron stocks games for families who just want to hang out together at the end of the day. Open Thurs-Sunday – check website for hours. 

Dennings Point Distillery Beacon NY

TASTE: Denning’s Point Distillery. At Denning’s Point, New York State grains become Viskill and Maid of the Meadow Vodkas, Beacon Bourbon, Great 9 Gin, and Denning’s White Rye Whiskey. Come watch the process, take a tour (and a few sips), and enjoy live Blues Jam sessions the 2nd Saturday of each month from 4-7pm. Tasting room open Fri./Sat, 2-8pm (tours at 2pm, 3pm, 4pm), Sun 2-6. 

DRINK/EAT/MUSIC: Towne Crier. You’ll find blues, soul, rock, World Music, Open Mic, and more at this restaurant/performance venue smack in the middle of Maine St. Beacon. There’s something going on almost every night – just check the website for the latest.

EAT: Pandorica. When “Who-vians come through the door, there are squeals of delight,” says Pandorica owner, Shirley Hot, who closed down her “cup and saucer tea room” in this space and, in 2014, opened up a restaurant devoted to everything Doctor Who. Fans from all over the globe converge on Beacon NY for this restaurant alone: It’s the only Dr. Who themed restaurant in the world. On TV off and on since 1963, Doctor Who has a fan base aged 7-70, and it’s not unusual to see whole fan families gathered together to dine on Fish Fingers and Custard (Who’s favorite meal). “Art, silverware, furniture, menu items are all Who related,” says Hot.

Zora Dora's Natural Popsicles, Beacon NY

SNACK: Zora Dora All Natural Gourmet Popsicles.  This little hole in the wall sells only ice-pops – in flavors you never knew existed.  Try the “Mount Beacon” – a blend of pureed bananas, peanut butter, dark chocolate and Oreos.  Just $3 a pop!

SNACK/EAT: Tito Santana Taqueria. This place, at the foot of Main Street closest to the Hudson River, gets “crazy busy” in the summer. But on a Sunday at 4pm offseason, you don’t have to wait too long for one of the best (and best value) taco’s in the land. Ask for the incredible BBQ Smoked Brisket Taco ($3), stuffed with shredded beef and chopped onions, cloaked in sweet/tangy sauce, and you won’t be able to stop at just one.

Exterior shot of Homespun Foods restaurant in Beacon NY

EAT/LUNCH: Homespun Foods. So good, owners were offered the concession at DIA:Beacon, this adorable 50’s Formica-kitchen-kitsch café serves up the best fresh food in town.  Lines form out the door for meals like the Vegetarian “Meatloaf” – nutty and enhanced by a dollop of homemade smoky ketchup – with a large side-salad for $9.95.

Dining by window overlooking waterfall and Fishkill Creek, Beacon, NY

EAT: Roundhouse by Terrance Brennan. Star chef, Terrance Brennan recently took over the Roundhouse restaurant, and his Nose to Tail, aka “Whole Farm Cuisine,” with most ingredients sourced from the Hudson Valley, befits the stunning David Rockwell-designed dining room overlooking Fishkill Creek. Try for a table next to the curved bank of floor to ceiling windows with an ever-delightful view of the wild water, at night bathed in violet light. There are plenty of craft cocktails and beers on tap, but if you’re a hard-cider hound, you’re in luck: the Roundhouse offers 12 different kinds, including the “Naked Flock Citrus Cider,” with a local back-story worth hearing (ask your server).

For now, Brennan’s Nose to Tail offerings revolve around pork products and so on the Charcuterie Plate you’ll find Fig Ears, Pig Trotters and Bone Marrow among other meat offerings ($32 for 3).   But Chef is not only about meat – there are at least three Vegetarian options on the menu each night, and he tweaks fish like no-one’s business. The signature Ramen’s are deeply flavored and lip-smacking ($16), and the Day Boat Skate “Pastrami” turns Skate into a fish dish brined, smoked and spiced just like its cured beef version, and served with Cabbage and Rye Crumbs ($18 on Lounge Menu, $24 on Dining Room menu). Even if you don’t have room, go for the Lemon Diplomat – a thin disk of crisp meringue over lemon custard dusted with candied olives. Heavenly.

Where To Stay In Beacon NY

STAY: Roundhouse At Beacon Falls. A “Maven Favorite” – you can find the full write-up HERE. Opened in 2012 in a former dye-works (and then lawnmower) factory, The Roundhouse brought boutique cred to Beacon NY. Perched right over cascading waterfalls and boulder-strewn rapids, its crisp, industrial-luxe design drew urbane guests from NYC, giving them a reason to stay in town after visiting DIA:Beacon. Since November 2016, there’s another reason to stay or at least eat at the Roundhouse: Michelin-starred chef, Terrance Brennan has taken over the kitchen. Rooms and suites from $189-$750.

Hyatt House Fishkill NY

STAY: Hyatt House, Fishkill, NY. For those on a relative budget who still require the creature comforts of a stylish,friendly and comfortable hotel, the Hyatt House a few miles up Route 9 (just on the north side of I-84) is a great alternative. Large suites include a sitting room and bedroom, and are equipped with kitchen and pull-out couch.  A hot breakfast buffet is included in room rates  $95 – $160 per night.

Chester, CT to Haddam, CT – Charming Towns Just Six Miles Apart on the Connecticut River

WHY GO: Performing, fine and culinary artists, as well as clothing and building designers, have been drawn to the mesmerizing Connecticut River for centuries, and after indulging in this Getaway – to Chester, Haddam and East Haddam –  you’ll see why. Some of the best artists and chefs in the region create in local kitchens and studios, and since it reopened in 1968, the Victorian confection that is the Goodspeed Opera House has sent 19 productions to Broadway. See a musical, shop in one-of-a-kind (inexpensive) designer boutiques, and end the day with an exquisite meal on this show-stopping Connecticut Getaway.

Things To Do Along The Connecticut River

Downtown Chester CT

BEGIN in the tiny Artist Colony of Chester, CT. Contemporary artist Sol LeWitt, whose work can be found in most world-class modern art museums (and who died in 2007) made his home here, and many others have followed. It’s the perfect place to pick up handcrafted jewelry, art, clothing, and crafts directly from the artist for a lot less than you’d pay in New York.

Harvest Moon Chester CT

SHOP: Harvest MoonFormerly Elle Design, Harvest Moon, owned by the brightly named Erica Sunshine and Adam Pipkin, excels in modern design, using organic and salvaged materials. Furniture and home accessories are both unique and refreshingly moderately priced. You’ll find things here you won’t find anywhere else, like “guilt-free vegan antlers.”

Lark, Chester CT

SHOP: Lark. Lark’s tag line, “A Spirited Adventure,” remarks on the ’round the world aspect of this gift/jewelry/clothing/home goods shop that has expanded to nearly a block long. It’s lots of fun just to browse.

C & G, Chester CT

SHOP: C&G. Short for Cummings & Good, this unique clothing store focuses on neutral, subdued colors and interesting, unusual textures.  For both men and women, accessories and clothes are comfortable and, just as important, reasonably priced.

The French Hen, Chester CT

SHOP: The French HenYou’ll find eclectic home decor, jewelry, clothes, and gifts in this cute, artsy, feel good, independently owned shop.

impressionist painting of flowers with main street Chester CT - oil painting by Leif Nilsson - Spring Street Gallery

MEET: Impressionist Artist, Leif (pronounced like waif) Nilsson, who interprets the beauty of the Connecticut River and Chester in confetti-like brushstrokes, grew up in Old Lyme and was steeped in the special magic of its salt-marshes, sea views and the particular “Lyme” light that spawned the birth of American Impressionist Art. Full beard, sun-bleached blond hair and tanned sinewy body, Nilsson is the Nordic (and sane) version of Vincent Van Gogh – two ears intact.   He studied art all over the world, and then came back to the area to open The Spring Street Gallery (and make his home) in the former Greek-Revival 1830 Chester Hotel (no longer in operation) with his wife, photographer Caryn Davis (©Caryn B Davis Photography), whose latest photography book, A Connecticut Christmas, quickly sold out of its first printing and is fast becoming a coveted gift for the holidays.

Chester-Hadlyme Ferry

DRIVE: on Route 154 N. to Ferry Road (about ½ mile) to the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry (April 1- Nov. 30, $5 per vehicle). On the National Historic Register, this CT River crossing was established in 1769 (it’s the second oldest operating ferry in the country. The the oldest, in Glastonberry, is just upriver) and truly takes you back in time. The short, several minute trip will bring you to  Gillette Castle, the rough-hewn granite home of eccentric Sherlock Holmes actor, William Gillette.

Gillette Castle

VISIT: Gillette CastleEast Haddam. This eccentric, jaggedly organic medieval structure was conceived in 1919 by William Gillette – who made his fortune portraying Sherlock Holmes on stage. Though the majestic 184-acre grounds are open year round, you can tour the home only from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend ($6 adult, $2 child). It’s worth it to see the quirky interior, carvings and hardware.

DRIVE: Either cross back on the ferry, or drive 4 ½ miles to East Haddam on River Rd. N and take a left onto Route 84. This brings you to the Goodspeed Opera House and historic Steel Truss Swing Bridge.

WATCH FOR: American Bald Eagles. By the mid 1900’s, industrialization had taken its toll on most water bodies in the United States.  Lakes were aflame with combustible chemicals and sewage, toilets flushed directly into rivers and the Connecticut River Valley was loosing one of its most recognizable inhabitants – the Bald Eagle. DDT made Eagle eggshells weak, and breeding diminished to near extinction.   Only when the water was cleaned up, and after a 50-year absence (the last Eagle’s nest was documented in 1948 in Hamburg Cove) did the noble birds began to return.  These days, Eagle Cruises are the most popular attraction during the winter months, though you’re likely to see these symbols of America throughout the year.

DO: Cruise on Riverquest East Haddam. Under the Swing Bridge; Captain Mark Yuknat and his wife Mindy, provide a one and a half hour annotated ride on their 54’, 50-person vessel, Riverquest, with its mission to educate groups about the history, ecology and use of Connecticut’s mightiest river. Much of the land fronting the Connecticut River belongs to the Nature Conservancy, Lyme Land Trust or other wealthy landholders, and as such looks the way it must have looked when old Clippers got caught up on the ubiquitous sandbars that make the entrance to the Connecticut River so treacherous. The rare Virginia Rail bird still breeds here, and Ospreys find comfy accommodations in mid-river day markers. Cruise times and dates vary throughout seasons, $20pp for 90-minute day cruise. 

SEE: A Musical at Goodspeed Opera House. Built in 1876, marked for demolition in 1958, and saved at the 11th hour to be reborn in 1963, this beaut of a building right on the river (with dock space, even) is “dedicated to the preservation and advancement of musical theater.” On the docket for 2018: The Will Roger’s Follies, Oliver!, and Woody Allen’s Bullet’s Over Broadway.

Whitewashed Victorian building on banks of Connecticut River - Broadway Show House - East Haddam CT

Where To Eat Along The Connecticut River

Dining room of modern farm to table restaurant - white linen tablecloth - open kitchen. - River Tavern - Chester CT

EAT: River Tavern, Chester. Polished wood floors in a room fit for Yoga class, a teak and zinc bar set off by bright red stools and vibrant local art set the stage for tantalizing from-the-ground- fresh cuisine.

Grano, Chester CT

EAT: Grano Arso Chester. To say that the advanced buzz about this just opened (Nov. 2017)”locally inspired, seasonal, all natural” Italian restaurant, helmed by chef/owner Joel Gargano, has been extremely positive is an understatement. Locals are raving about this new kid on the block. Chef Gargano is particularly proud of using house-milled flour for his scratch as it gets Whole Grain Pasta.

EAT LUNCH: Simon’s Market, Chester; The heartbeat of Chester is Simon’s Market, a family owned breakfast/sandwich/gift shop that has become the de facto meeting place for locals.  “A lot of great ideas that have been implemented in town are dreamed up here,” locals admit.  Along with coffee and Morning Glory muffins, you can pick up some Meyers cleaning products, a Sigmund Freud Action Figure, pour-your-own olive-oil, and an ice-cream cone, among a bounty of other knickknacks.

EAT: Blue Oar. Haddam. From Mother’s Day to Labor Day, this Caribbean-yellow spot, ample decks filled with colorful tables and chairs, sparking lights, far from any downtown, overlooking the Connecticut River, is full to bursting. Great food and perfect setting for a night of bliss, it’s where river rats go when they grow up.  BYOB, Cash only.

Pattaconk Bar and Grill, Chester CT

DRINK: Pattaconk, Chester. In the mood for a Dogfish Head, Anchor Steam Beer or Sierra Nevada? Join the jolly crowd at the 1850 Pattaconk; where the outside patio generally throngs with serious lager drinkers till 2am.

Where To Stay Along The Connecticut River

Nehemiah Brainerd House, Haddam CT

STAY: Nehemiah Brainerd House. Haddam, CT.  It’s just six miles from Chester and three from the Goodspeed Opera House, run by the kind of people who say, “Our guests are either really nice, or really, really nice.”

Katharine Brush, Nehemiah Brainerd House, Haddam CT

Once owned by New York writer and glamour-girl, Katherine Brush, this stately 4 room, one-cottage B&B on a bluff overlooking the Connecticut River had “gone to seed” by 2002 when Maryan and Jeff Muthersbaugh discovered it.  They worked on the home – part of it built in the 1700’s and two wings added in the 1920’s – every weekend for nearly seven years, then began taking guests in 2009. Since then, the Brainerd House has been featured on the HGTV show “If Walls Could Talk” and in 2011,Yankee Magazine bestowed its “Best Hilltop Cottage” in New England on the B&B’s separate honeymoon cottage.

Tea Set at Nehemiah Brainerd House, Haddam CT

Ask Maryan or Jeff to crank up the 1904 Columbia Records Graphaphone in the dining room (it still works; just missing a Fox Terrier) while you feast on a candlelit breakfast that includes Maryan’s sinful signature baked apple.

STAY: Two inns are just steps from the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam.  Stay in opulent luxury at the Boardman House or welcoming comfort at the sweet Bishops Gate Inn, where “an expansive start-your-day breakfast” emerges from the “4-star kitchen.”

STAY: Chatfield Hollow Inn, Killingworth. Just 15 minutes from the CT River, Chatfield Hollow Inn is a trend-setting in the woods 5-room B&B – and another Maven Favorite with its own write-up HERE.

Easy Getaway From: New York City (107 miles); Boston (130 miles)

Hidden Killingworth CT and the Adorably Hip Chatfield Hollow Inn

Late Fall Chatfield Hollow State Park Killingworth CT

WHY GO: Not many people outside – and even within – Connecticut have ever heard of Killingworth CT. In a wedge of land equidistant from Long Island Sound and the Connecticut River, this rural town is about as “hidden gem” as it gets. Several years ago, there wasn’t much here but farmland and the woodsy swimming hole of Chatfield Hollow State Park. But now, you’ll find a hip and tranquil 5-bedroom Inn, a lavender farm that’s become one of the most visited attractions in Connecticut, a can’t miss wetlands boardwalk, several good restaurants, and country stores galore.

Boardwalk Chatfield Hollow SP Killingworth CT

WANDER/HIKE/WALK: Boardwalk at Chatfield Hollow State Park. If you do nothing else in this wildlife rich 400-acre State Park, traipse across an inland swamp on the 825 foot long Paul F. Wildermann Boardwalk at Chatfield Hollow State Park. In late fall, Mother Nature displays her own preparation for the holidays with red berries and green leaves of the Winterberry Holly against bare trees.

Winterberry Holly Chatfield Hollow SP Killingworth CT

The park itself is a diverse topography of rock ledges and outcroppings, waterfalls, forest, swamp, and ponds (the largest a popular swimming area) – and worth a few hours for some soul-healing “Forest Therapy” (yes, that’s a real thing).

Lavender Pond Farm Killingworth CT

VISIT: Lavender Pond Farm. Just two miles from Clinton Crossing Premium Outlets and Chamard Vineyards, this peaceful, plant-based place is located on a country lane named, incongruously, Roast Meat Hill Rd. Tourists seemed to have discovered this very tucked away 25 acres of serenity, as Lavender Pond Farm was named “Number 1 Attraction in Connecticut” in the 2017 USA Top 10 Reader’s Poll. Lavender has been used as a sleep aid and bug repellent for eons, and lately as a natural way to calm mild anxiety and restlessness, so it makes sense that travelers are seeking this pretty little purple plant out at its source.  Over 20,000 people visit New England’s largest lavender farm in season.

Shop at Lavender Pond Farm Killingworth CT

Lavender Pond Farm owners, Chris and Denise Salafia, opened the property to the public in 2014. Denise, a dance teacher, and Chris, a “software guy” who “rode a desk for 25 years” and now get’s to ride a tractor, tend to 10,000 lavender plants and a gift shop featuring plant-based products made from lavender blooms and oil on site – including essential oil, teas, sachets, jewelry, candles, soaps, lotions, gels, and jellies. Their Smart Flower ™ solar system – solar panels in the shape of a flower – generates 97% of the farm’s energy needs. The Farm is also available as a wedding venue – where the lucky wedding party gets a lift to the altar in a restored red Ford Truck. But you don’t have to get married or buy anything to visit Lavender Hill Farm. “Most people come here just to hang out, it’s so beautiful.” Open daily 10-4.

The Cooking Company Killingworth CT

EAT: Killingworth has several restaurants very close to each other on Route 81, each with its own distinct personality – and each with its champions. The most recommended, Cooking Company, is an upscale artisanal food market (sharing a driveway with a pharmacy, bake shop, and Feed Store) that gets bustling-busy mid-day, with its offerings of custom sandwiches (mine: Maple Smoked Turkey on Baguette), salads, soups, and other choices from heaping ready-made platters in a glass case – to take out or eat in on a few tables. Locals out for a fancy Italian dinner, or who just want a glass of wine and small bite at the large wrap-around bar, go to La Foresta, just down the road a few hundred yards from the Cooking Co. The Copper Skillet Family Restaurant is that “Cheers” kind of local un-fancy spot where everyone knows your kid’s names. (In the multi-purpose Killingworth Village, a shopping center that encompasses a package store, bank, the New Great Wall Chinese Restaurant, Pizzeria Davinci, and June’s Outback Pub, the Copper Skillet is right next door to the resourcefully named Nerds To Go – “the guys who fix your IPhone”). The Country Clover Leaf Store – a general store attached to the gas station around the central rotary – sells deli sandwiches – a great on the go alternative. Also on the rotary, you’ll also find Killingworth Café – home style cuisine in a rambling white farmhouse.

Chatfield Hollow Inn Killingworth CT

STAY: Chatfield Hollow Inn. Mitch and Tema run this upscale guesthouse like a fine machine – with a heart. Set beside a small pond on a farm known for its culinary mushrooms, the Chatfield Hollow Inn experience begins with Tema’s warm greeting right outside the front door, and then into a fragrant, candlelit two-story living room straight out of Dwell Magazine. The quirky-modern-country Chatfield Hollow Inn is the antithesis to the typical doll & doily chintz B&B, with an aesthetic best described as “Mid-Century Modern meets Daniel Boone.”

Manhattan couple, Ken Metz and Forrest King, purchased the property, just a couple of hours from the City, as a country place to bring their young kids on weekends. Chatfield Hollow morphed into a retreat for weary city-folk when, in late 2013, the original 1974 cabin was expanded to five guest rooms. Metz and King hired Tema and his partner, Mitch to run the inn and farm. In short order, Chatfield Hollow Inn has attracted New Yorkers, some Bold Face Names, even, looking for a hideaway, locals in need of a place to sneak away, and countless girlfriend groups for shopping (at nearby Clinton Crossing) and wine-infused weekends.

Hungry Heron Chatfield Hollow Inn Killingworth CT

Pull into the drive of Chatfield Hollow Farm and you’ll pass the Metz/King mid-century-modern home, fruit trees, penned foul, and, farmer-types in flannel shirts and wellies. Continue to the end of the driveway, near the triple garage, and park. If you’re lucky, you may see a sly Blue Heron who has taken to pilfering the goldfish and Koi from ponds and fountains on the property. Tema will help you with your bags, and welcome you into a design forward living room; leather sling chairs, petrified wood accent tables on faux animal pelt rug, large brick fireplace, sculptural wire animal heads, funky table knick-knacks – an eye catching and surprisingly cozy montage.

Kitchen Chatfield Hollow Inn Killingworth CT

The small kitchen, says Tema, is always open for guests – with a coffee and tea machine, and fridge for wine or leftovers.

Sunroom Chatfield Hollow Inn Killingworth CT

The breakfast sunroom, with unobstructed pond and back-patio views, is also a favorite gathering spot at all hours with its dramatic barn wood topped I-beam table. The steel beams, interestingly enough,  are  from road and exit signs discarded during a recent upgrading of the nearby Interstate.

Fitness Cabin Chatfield Hollow Inn Killingworth CT

And outside, in its own building, the nicely equipped fitness center might be small but “it has everything” – including a view into the woods. Those woods, it should be mentioned, border Chatfield Hollow State Park (see above). Tema and Mitch will be happy to point you in the direction of the dirt roads and trails that lead from the property, past waterfalls and ponds, on a terrific hike into the State Park.

Over the years, Metz and King have added creatures, crops, and gardens to their land, and you’re encouraged to walk around. There’s a fire pit and bee hives (used to pollinate flowers, not for honey). There are vegetable, fruit and flower gardens and newly planted fruit trees, which provide fresh produce, and chickens who lay the best and freshest eggs for breakfast. There are buildings for the 1,000 logs used to grow shitake mushrooms. Mitch and other farmhands learned to grow both those and Oyster Mushrooms, which they sell them at local farmer’s markets, from experts at Cornell University.

Budha at Chatfield Hollow Inn

One small pond is overrun with lotus plants, and apparently, over 7,000 goldfish – the descendants of several pet goldfish dumped in the water years ago that obviously proliferated like bunnies. A sitting Buddha overlooks the pond in a small meditation nook.

Peacock Viewing Chatfield Hollow Inn Killingworth CT

The fifteen or so peacocks in the Peacock Aviary are a constant source of fascination for guests – so several chairs have been placed right by the enclosure so you can sip wine and watch these birds as long as you’d like. Two Black Swans had to be sequestered from the other foul due to nasty behavior, so you’ll find those near the veg garden.

Rooms at Chatfield Hollow Inn

Madison Suite Chatfield Hollow Inn Killingworth CT

Knotty pine walls have never looked so chic. It’s country gone Brooklyn here, and, in the much requested Madison Suite you’ll find a bold teal accent wall, dark wood floors, contemporary quilt – in Dijon, grey, and white hues – on a comfy bed, oversize flokati pillow, upcycled multi-colored chest of many drawers, modern lighting, and art on walls: Simple, pleasing to the eye and not overly “done.”  Bathrooms are spa-quality, with stone tiled walls and floor, frosted glass shower and lots of storage room for toiletries. Stone tiles continue into a double-sized shower, providing the semblance of an outdoor experience – with Kiehl products.

Breakfast at Chatfield Hollow

Cheesy Eggs Chatfield Hollow Inn Killingworth CT

At 8:30 or 9:30, a “Continental Breakfast” – plates of crisp croissants, tiny banana pancakes, Yogurt-fresh-fruit-granola bowl, sliced cantaloupe, and other morning delights –  are set out in the sunroom. Tema is known for his cheesy eggs made and served in a mini cast iron crock-pot, so, unless you’re allergic, don’t leave before eating this most delectable morning treat.

Just the Facts

Room rates from $109 (for 50 sq. foot Twin) to $259 (500 sq ft suite in season), include hot Continental Breakfast, fitness center, wifi. The Inn is closed mid Jan. to Mid March.

Carroll County MD: Zen Peaceful Between Baltimore and Gettysburg

WHY GO: In contrast to the sometimes frenetic surrounding areas, particularly the District of Columbia, Carroll County MD is “Zen Peaceful” – in only the way that an agricultural region can be. But what puts this Maryland county on this Maven’s Go List is a phenomenal inn whose owners are so humble, they’ve kept news of their superb establishment a secret, at least to regions beyond the Mid-Atlantic. But here’s the thing: Carroll County, which encompasses the towns of Westminster, Taneytown, Hampstead, Mt. Airy, and more, has some pretty quirky and compelling aspects, as well – including a world-renowned PEEPshow, a funky, Woodstock-esque pottery compound, remnants of a civilized way to care for poor families, a young trio of siblings making a splash in the winemaking world, great food, and of course, an ultra luxurious overnight.

Things to Do in Carroll County MD

Carroll County MD Visitor Center

STOP: Carroll County Visitor’s Center, Westminster. As the County Seat, Westminster, founded by William Winchester, is smack on the route from Baltimore to Gettysburg PA (about 1 ½ hour drive), and the perfect place to stop for a few hours or a few days. The Visitor’s Center is located in beautiful Emerald Hill: a whitewashed brick Pennsylvania farmhouse meets Georgian mansion that previously served as Town Hall. Come in for a chat, or to pick up some information and brochures. Open Mon-Sat. 9-4, Holidays 10-2.

Carroll County Farm Museum, Westminster MD

TOUR: Carroll County Farm Museum, Westminster. Let me preface this by saying that this is not your typical Living History Farm Museum. From 1852 until 1965, this was the county Alms House and 300 acre farm – where families and individuals who “lost everything” could work the land and live free – a most dignified and sensible way to take care of the destitute and homeless. Touring it, and its outbuildings and barns, is remarkably compelling.

Alms House Carroll County MD Farm Museum

The main home housed women and children. Men and older boys stayed in what we’d now consider dorm rooms in a separate building. Girls, beginning at age 13, and young men of 21 would be taught a trade, and work as indentured servants for room and board. At its height, about 90 people lived and labored here.

Bank Barn, Carroll County Farm Museum

When the Alms House closed in 1965, the buildings were in such good repair, they needed very little restoration. The Carroll County Farm Museum was opened in 1966 with the mission to foster “the preservation and proper appreciation of the rural culture of Carroll County and the spirit and the values which this culture typifies.”

Brick Oven, Carroll County Farm Museum

To that end, the dozen or so buildings on 160 remaining acres stand as they were. The home is decorated as it would have looked in the 1890’s for upper middle class caretakers who made $400 a year, and lived on the 2nd floor while the poor lived on the 3rd floor.

Mens Dorm Carroll County Farm Museum MD

The Men’s building has been converted into a showcase for different crafts and service jobs. There’s a blacksmith, and tinsmith, a large-animal veterinarian office, hearth kitchen with brick oven – and on weekends, lots of demonstrations. In outbuildings, there are farm implements and exhibits about the crops grown here. In the 20th century, this area of Maryland was rich in wormseed, a very labor intensive crop whose oil was used for myriad reasons: to rid the body of intestinal parasites, as an additive in women’s perfumes, and on ships’ hulls to repel barnacles. Locals could produce ten to fifteen gallons a day (synthetics killed the industry, however).

One barn displays Mail Wagons from the late 1890’s, when Westminster became an RFD. This newfangled personal delivery service faced resistance from local residents who looked forward to daily social interaction while picking up their mail from the General Store.

Hoff Barn interior Carroll County Farm Museum MD

The Hoff Log Barn, a 1794 Bank Barn, was built, as it blares on a large sign, “when George Washington was President.” Visitors learn that the largest animals were positioned near the door to prevent predators from entering, and kids love to test their strength against their 18th century counterparts by hoisting hay via a pulley system. This generally sparks discussions about the fact that farmers had to grow their own hay and grains for the livestock – as there were no feed stores. Open Mon-Fri 9-4:30, Sat 9-4, Sun. noon-4, $5 adults, $10 families, free Jan-March.

Carroll Arts Center, Westminster MD

GO: Carroll Arts Center, Westminster. Have you heard of the PEEPshow? That yearly extravaganza of art made entirely from the little yellow (and now multi-colored) marshmallow chicks associated with Easter Season? If so, you already know about the Carroll Arts Center in this small Maryland town. The original 1937 movie theater was beautifully renovated and reinvigorated in the early 2000’s, and is a vibrant place at all times – what with a constant stream of art shows, book talks, vintage movies, lectures, and theatrical performances. The annual ten day PEEPshow, however, is by far the Carroll Arts Center’s biggest event.

Carroll County Arts Council 2017 PEEPshow – A Display of Marshmallow Masterpieces! Featuring more than 150 sculptures, dioramas, graphic arts, oversized characters and mosaics created and inspired by Peeps®!

It all began ten years ago, after Executive Director, Sandy Oxx, submitted her “Peep With A Pearl Earring” diorama into the Washington Post Peeps Diorama Contest and was rejected. Undeterred, Oxx decided to launch her own competition, widening it to include sculptures and PEEPs art of all sizes (e.g Game of Thrones Dragon was made up of 5,000 Peeps). Over the past decade the PEEPshow has turned into a major happening, bringing upwards of 27,000 of people from all over the world who line up around the block to see the latest creations every late March or early April (2018 dates; March 29-April 10). This is Carroll Arts Center’s biggest fundraiser, and helps cover its annual operating costs. However, according to Oxx, “we’re much more than marshmallows.”

HIstorical Society of Carroll County Westminster MD

VISIT: Historical Society of Carroll County, Westminster. Still in a bit of flux, pop in to the 1800 Kimmey House to see vignettes of the area from centuries ago. I bet you didn’t know that venetian blinds were used in fancy 1700’s homes! Open 9-5 Tues-Fri.

Off Track Art Gallery, Westminster MD

SHOP: Off Track Art Gallery, Westminster. This seven-partner art gallery, across from The Cup Café, and right beside the railroad tracks (hence the name), features unusual and eye catching wall art, home goods, and jewelry.

Ken and Marty Hankins, Shiloh Pottery, Hampstead MD

TOUR/SHOP: Shiloh Pottery, Hampstead. Shiloh Pottery owner, Ken Hankins, looks (and acts) like Santa Claus as rendered by Mad Magazine. A clay-master for decades, his creations tend toward the whimsical – such as serving bowls stamped with a dozen white sheep and one black. His latest – funky chickens – are flying off the shelf. “I just can’t make them fast enough.”

Chickens, Shiloh Pottery, Hampstead MD

If you’ve ever wondered where Woodstock went, it packed up and moved to this jumble of buildings, playground, chickens, woodworking and ceramic shops on land that used to be a “Kosher Jewish Summer Camp” – with pond, pool, and recreational opportunities for Baltimore kids from 1967-1976.

Sink Dragons Shiloh Pottery Hampstead MD

Ken, who has a Masters in Ceramics Education and his wife, Marty, took over and ran Shiloh as a Pottery Camp. The Hankins were educators (Ken has been teaching at McDaniel College for 45 years), and in their semi-retirement, now offer workshops and classes for kids and adults onsite. Ask Ken to show you the Rube-Goldberg-esque faucet system in his studio-classroom sink – with clay dragons spitting out water from a multitude of hoses.

Addirondack Chairs, Shiloh Pottery Hampstead MD

If clay is not your thing, sign up for a four hour make and take Adirondack Chair workshop – on a select few Sundays for now. For just $150 (includes materials), you can make your own outdoor chair, and take it away.

Union Mills MD

TOUR: Union Mills Homestead, Union Mills – 7 miles west of Westminster. A gem of a home in the middle of nowhere, you’ll travel on undulating back roads, traversing farmland with split rail fences, to get to the Shriver homestead, Union Mills – both domicile and business center for B.F. Shriver Company, which operated Union Mills as merchant millers from 1870’s – 1940’s.

Front porch, Union Mills Shriver Homestead MD

In 1797, brothers Andrew and David Shriver built two 14 x 17 ft homes side by side near a creek and set up their gristmill, sawmill, tannery and other shops. Andrew arrived with his wife and six children; David was a bachelor at the time. The home’s last occupant was the artistic and quirky Bessie Shriver Kemp, who planted the property’s beautiful gardens and passed away in 1957. A tour brings you through the two homes, linked together and expanded over 160 years – six generations – of the Shriver family. And yes, this is the same family that eventually merged with the Kennedy Family when Sergeant Shriver, Jr. married Eunice Kennedy. A wonderful tour weaves together tales of both branches of the family, and ends at the still operational gristmill.

Andrew’s side of the house grew faster by necessity, as he and his wife arrived with six children, who originally slept in a loft upstairs. Andrew eventually became Postmaster of Union Mills, and so his living room became the Post Office.

Gristmill exterior, Union Mills MD

In 1824, Thomas Jefferson appointed David Superintendant of Roads (you can see a copy of Jefferson’s missive on Monticello letterhead), so Shriver established a toll road that led to his house and multiple businesses. Union Mills became an important “whistle stop” for celebrities of the day. Francis Scott Key addressed a crowd from the home’s balcony, Washington Irving stayed overnight. James Audubon watched a Baltimore Oriel build a nest in a nearby willow tree, and we all know what he did with that observation.

Wooden machinery, Union Mills MD

In the early days, furniture, like the feather-painted corner hutch, was made on site and much of those pieces are still here. Though the sawmill is gone, the gristmill has been brought back to life. It’s original millstones and recreated wooden shafts and gears provide an accurate depiction of how grain was milled 200 years ago. It is quite thrilling to see how the gears move and hear the rumbling of the completely wooden apparatus, put together with dowels rather than nails. “There are no other mills in Maryland quite like this,” says a docent. Open May and Sept. weekends only noon-4, June-August Tues-Fri. 10-4, Sat/Sun noon-4, $5 for house and gristmill tour.

Taneytown Historical Museum MD

VISIT: Taneytown Historical Society, Taneytown. You’ll often discover the essence of a small town at its Historical Society Museum, and Taneytown MD is case in point. On display are two Taneytown-made Eli Bentley clocks; one made exclusively in the late 1700’s for Michael Waggoner, a Revolutionary War hero whose name graces the clock face. That one was purchased at Sotheby’s and donated to the Historical Society, as Bentley lived in Taneytown, the other donated after serving time in a nearby funeral home for decades.

Mason-Dixon Marker, Taneytown Historical Museum MD

Also exhibited is a rare Mason/Dickson Line marker stone– emblazoned with an M (Maryland) on one side and P (Pennsylvania) on the other. There are artifacts and papers from when Taneytown was a thriving cultural and business center – after the railroad arrived in 1872 folks from all around would come here to shop in department stores, and see traveling shows at the Opera House.

Entrance, Antrim 1844, Taneytown MD

And then, there’s beloved Antrim – a summer home built in 1844, owned by the Clabaugh Family for 100 years, and sold to George Crouse, Sr in 1961. Crouse, who never moved in, saw to it that Antrim wasn’t vandalized. Though it sat vacant for nearly 75 years, thanks to a very protective community the original windows were intact when Richard and Dorothy (Dort) Mollett purchased it in 1987 and opened it up as a B&B the following year. Antrim 1844 is now among the most beautiful inns in the country and the place to stay for a romantic getaway (see below under Where to Stay). Open Fri. 10-2, Sat/Sun 1-4, Spring through Fall.

Drew Baker, Old Westminster Vineyards MD

TASTE: Old Westminster Winery, Westminster. Owned by young couple Drew and Casey Baker, and Drew’s two sisters, Old Westminster Winery is the answer to “What do we do with a family farm when our parents don’t want to farm it?” To that end, Drew and his wife Casey, along with Lisa – a Chemistry major turned winemaker, and Ashley, who, with Drew, was a Business major, banded together to create this up and coming family winery. They hired a French Vineyard consultant, planted their first 7,600 vines in Spring 2011, and bottled the first vintage in Spring 2013.

Hand picked grapes, Old Westminster Winery MD

Experimentation, says Drew, is a core Old Westminster principal. “We make delicious unadulterated Maryland grown wine.” Many blends are “no-makeup-wines,” in other words, authentic vintages without any additives. “Everything is done by hand: powered by sweat, not oil.”

250 year old oak tables, Old Wesminster Winery MD

Though their classic red blends are popular, including the deep, dark, mostly Merlot and Cabernet Franc Black, Old Westminster is known for its unique “pet nat” blends – in the bottle within a month of harvest. An ancient, now resurging method of sparkling winemaking, most of the fermentation happens in the wine bottle. What Drew calls a “dancing wine,” pet-nat is more effervescent than the hard-core bubbly-ness of Champagne, and seems to be the drink of choice for Millennials. Old Westminster was among the first in the county to employ pet-nat in the making of wines, and after releasing its first, The Daily Meal ranked Old Westminster among the Top 101 wineries in the USA.

The Baker sibs are now in the midst of expanding. Adding to their 17 Clarksburg acres, they’ve purchased 117 acres on Burnt Hill in Montgomery County, and will soon be releasing wines under the Burnt Hill label. For now, come to the lovely tasting cottage outside of Westminster for a tasting flight – and sit at 250-year-old-oak topped tables, milled from a tree that fell on the property. Tasting Room open Sat/Sun noon-5.


Hal Roche Serpent Ridge Vineyard, Westminster MD

TASTE: Serpent Ridge Vineyard, Westminster. This very small two person Mom and Pop vineyard is owned by Hal Roche and Karen Smith – who moved here in Feb ’14 and produce some easy drinking reds and whites. Serpent Ridge is such a small operation, Roche and Smith cork bottles by hand using the newfangled “Zork” – a bottle sealing device that’s a snap to remove and reseals easily after opening. Open Wed-Fri 12-5, Sat/Sun 10:30-6.

Devilbiss Store, Uniontown MD

EXPLORE: Uniontown. So small, it will take only a minute to drive through, Uniontown is historically significant in that so many Civil War era homes line Main Street (a toll road that originally cost 3 cents to traverse), the whole district is on the National Historic Register. Uniontown Academy (no longer there) was the first school to teach German immigrants English in the 1700’s. The first telephone in town was installed in the still-standing Devilbiss Store in 1908. And, on a somber note, as Uniontown was on the road to Gettysburg, many soldiers marching through took time to pen letters to loved ones, some sending their very last sentiments postmarked from the Uniontown Post Office.

COLLEGE: McDaniel College, Westminster. Formerly Western Maryland College, (which was confusing because it wasn’t in Western MD), this was the first co-ed university south of the Mason-Dixon line. Now, McDaniel College is world renowned for its Masters in Deaf Education.

Where to Eat and Drink in Carroll County MD

Gypsys Tea Room Westminster MD

LUNCH/TEA: Gypsy’s Tea Room, Westminster. It makes sense to enjoy this most English of rituals in William Winchester’s home, built in 1760, when the US was still a British colony. Owner Gypsy Jo Flack provides that elusive “personal touch,” welcoming every guest warmly into her gift shop, though a warren of intimate rooms – and even into the kitchen to make scones with her on select dates. Though not ostentatious, this is a complete Tea with all the bells and whistles – scones and clotted cream, cucumber sandwiches, baked goods, and of course, you choice of tea. You will not leave hungry. Afternoon Tea available daily 11-3, $26 pp.

Cup Tea Bar Cafe Westminster MD

EAT/LUNCH: Cup Tea Bar Cafe, Westminster. There’s an assortment of grilled cheese, from classic to gourmet, at this funky soup, salad, and sandwich shop on Westminster’s Main St., with live music on weekends and a decidedly college-town vibe.

Fratelli’s, Hampstead MD

EAT/DINNER: Fratelli’s, Hampstead. “People come here just for the crab cakes,” says the waiter, which is strange, since this is your basic, casual, neighborhood-choice Italian restaurant. The pastas and other Italian specials are good, too. But, yes, it’s the huge all-meat crab cakes (one $18, 2 for $29) that shine here.

Baugher Farms Westminster MD

ICE CREAM/FARM MARKET: Baugher’s Family Farm. Baugher’s is widely known in the region as a “pick-your-own” farm as well as farm-stand and homemade ice-cream parlor. In the fall, you’re bound to see crates upon crates of apples.

EAT: Locals love Brick Ridge Restaurant in Mt. Airy – a “farm-to-table” eatery before its time, Rock Salt Grill in Westminster for great burgers and shrimp, and Maryland Mallett also in Westminster for steamed crabs and BBQ,

Where to Stay in Carroll County MD

Guest Room, Antrim 1844, Taneytown MD

STAY: Antrim 1844, Taneytown. For luxury travelers, there really is only one place to stay in Carroll County – and actually the reason that many people come here, though it’s virtually unknown outside of the Mid-Atlantic. As a strongly recommended Maven Favorite, the complete write-up can be found HERE.

Falmouth MA: Your First Beach Stop on Cape Cod

Sunset at Sea Crest Beach Hotel Falmouth MA

WHY GO: Falmouth MA, in the extreme southwest corner of Cape Cod, encompasses the tiny burg of Woods Hole – a Getaway Maven hot spot – and the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard – another Maven fave. But there are things to see in Falmouth as well, including a recently renovated Victorian mansion turned art museum, waterfront gardens with antique anchors as central features, and some of the country’s most awesome sunsets. What to do and where to stay in Falmouth? We tell you here….

Things to Do in Falmouth MA

Highfield Hall Exterior Falmouth MA

VISIT: Highfield Hall and Gardens, Falmouth. If ever there was a Demo Diva* story, it’s this one. In 1994, a permit was granted to demolish Highfield Hall, an ornate “Stick-Style” Queen Anne mansion built in 1878 by the heirs of Boston Dry Goods titan, James Beebe. Three Beebe brothers, Pierson, Franklin and J. Arthur, and their sister Emily, purchased acreage in what was then scrublands, and built the 17,800 sq ft. Victorian Highfield Hall and the Colonial Revival Tanglewood next door, establishing one of the first summer retreats on Cape Cod. When Franklin, the last Beebe, died in 1932 leaving no heirs, both homes and the property cycled through a succession of owners.

Highfield Hall – Mirror Stained Glass  – Falmouth MA

By the 1970’s, the summer homes were abandoned and remained vacant over the next two decades. Tanglewood succumbed to the wrecking ball, but in 1994, under threat of demolition, a group of concerned citizens formed Historic Highfield to save the crumbling structure. They ultimately raised $8.5 million and restored Highfield Hall to its original splendor in September 2006, completing the grounds and gardens – including the Ice House – in 2010.

Highfield Hall Art Exhibit, Falmouth MA

Now, the mansion is open to the public as an art museum/gallery/cultural center, where paintings and sculptures mesh harmoniously with graceful architectural elements like floral and geometric stained glass, Majolica tiled fireplaces, crown molding, wainscoting, picture windows, and oriental carpets on hardwood floors. Highfield presents three art shows a year throughout a number of rooms on two floors – so you will experience something different each time you visit. Begin in the Museum Room next to the admission desk to learn about the Beebe Family (some of it quite tragic, with a history of suicide), and then continue on to ogle the artwork in the mansion’s interior. End your visit in the gardens outside.

Highfield Hall Ice House, Falmouth MA

The grounds – which encompass the West Garden (a popular venue for weddings), a Sunken Garden, the 387-acre Beebe Woods, the stunning renovated Ice House, and a good number of dramatic Beach Trees – oblige visitors to meander and stay awhile longer. Highfield Hall also offers world-class music programs, culinary classes and gardening workshops, so check the website for calendar events. Open daily mid-April through October, Mon-Fri 10-4, Sat/Sun 10-2, $5. Free Fridays July and August 4pm-7pm

*Demo Diva – A stunning building saved from the wrecking ball at the 11th hour.

Welcome to Spohr Gardens, Falmouth MA

WALK: Spohr Gardens, Falmouth. The central collection of this very tucked away 5-acre waterfront garden is a quirky and surprising one – antique anchors. And the most prized among them; the 14 ft long, 2,465 pound 1760 English anchor intended for use by the H.M.S. Bounty, but found to be defective, and left aside for repairs. By the 1950’s, Charles Spohr had amassed a large collection of these nautical artifacts – it was his “thing” – and came to the conclusion that his own property was the perfect place to display them. Spohr designed the garden surrounding his home, laying the anchors in an array along a bulwark wall at the water’s edge.

Anchors at Spohr Gardens, Falmouth MA

As friends and then friends of friends found out about the anchor, rock, and flower gardens, Charles and his wife, Margaret, decided to open their property to the public. The Spohr’s arranged for a Charitable Trust to manage the gardens after their deaths (Charles in 1997, Margaret in 2001), so this local treasure, with the help of Friends of Spohr Gardens, remains open daily year round from 8am-8pm.

Falmouth Museums on the Green MA

GO: Museums on the Green. Two 18th Century homes hold a “treasure trove” of artifacts reminiscent of Falmouth life in Colonial times. Open early June- Mid Oct, Mon-Fri 10-3, Sat 10-1, $5.

Where to Stay and Eat in Falmouth

Sea Crest Beach Hotel Falmouth MA

STAY: Sea Crest Beach Hotel. This beachfront, sand in your toes hotel is a favorite of many for a reason. Like Mallory Square in Key West, humans are drawn the Sea Crest Beach Hotel for the breathtaking sunset over Buzzard’s Bay. Late afternoon, they float in the outdoor pool. They lean over the boardwalk railings or grab a lounge chair, with a glass of wine, by the lapping waves. Or, they reserve a seat at Red’s Restaurant, facing outward, to see the marvelous show that Mother Nature puts on nightly.

Romantic Sunset Sea Crest Beach Hotel Falmouth MA

The Sea Crest Beach Hotel is not a luxury property, per se, but it is upscale, and getting more so as guest rooms are refreshed. Renovated lobby and rooms – in one and two story buildings circling a central parking lot – are decked out in either mellow earth tones or nautical hues (depending on room block) with back doors that open onto a courtyard or ocean-view patio. Reception is in the lovingly landscaped main building – which also features a snack/coffee/gift shop, Red’s Restaurant, and several conference rooms. Staff is friendly, with ultimate patience, as the property is large and sprawling and requires a map to find your way (at first). But all that initial confusion melts away at first glance of the beach and bay as you make your way to your room.


Sea Crest Beach Hotel Bayfront Rooms Falmouth MA

In a nutshell, the best rooms for dead-on views of the bay and magnificent sunset will be the most expensive. But no matter where you book, you’re within only a few steps of the beach. Though some chambers are muted, colorwise, others have been refreshed with bright nautical blues and greens, so if you have a preference, ask first.

Guest Room in Yankee Girl Building, Sea Crest Beach Hotel, Falmouth MA

My room in Yankee Girl featured earth tones in both the bedroom and small bathroom. Pillowtop bedding is soft, comfy, and high-end, and even though not right on the water, the sound of wind and nearby surf lulled me to sleep. There’s a small galley kitchen, and back door to a large cement courtyard (the other side of the building fronts a sandy quadrant extending to the bayfront beach), just a few paces from a boardwalk that leads out to the beach.

Courtyard view from Yankee Girl Building, Sea Crest Beach Hotel Falmouth MA

In-house restaurant, Red’s, is the place to be at sunset: as you can dine on burgers, steak, and fish while watching the sun go down. Food is good enough to stay on campus– as downtown Falmouth is several miles away – and draws even locals and folks staying in other hotels for its views alone. In the morning, you can enjoy a buffet breakfast ($19), served in the Ocean View Room – and, again, those vistas! Alternately, grab a coffee and pastry at the gift/coffee shop, which opens at the early-to-riser’s preferred hour of 6am.

Amenities at Sea Crest Beach Hotel

Sea Crest Beach Hotel Indoor Pool Falmouth MA

Indoor Saltwater Pool shares a building with an arcade and fitness center.

Sea Crest Beach Hotel Outdoor Pool Falmouth MA

The Outdoor Saltwater Pool is but one exceptional sunset vantage point, as it’s located right off the beach boardwalk.

Plus: Oasis By the Sea Spa, Cabana Rentals on the Beach, Kayak, Paddle Boards, Paddle Boat, and Bike Rentals on Site

Rooms $123-$629 per night, depending on view (oceanfront most expensive) and season, include complimentary wi-fi, parking, and beach access.

Queen Anne’s County MD: An Upper Chesapeake Bay Sweet Spot

Sunset through Chesapeake Bay Bridge

WHY GO: Queen Anne’s County has the distinction of sitting almost within reach of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, offering one chief reason to stay: a sunset the likes you’ve never seen before. But of course, there’s so much more.

Queen Annes County MD Bay View

Queen Anne’s County is carved out of the easternmost part of the Delmarva Peninsula, and includes the 7 miles long and 4 miles wide Kent Island (which is not in Kent County, as would be assumed). Kent Island is often overlooked (and driven over) by travelers heading to the ocean on the western side of Delmarva. For a mellow, quick escape, stop, stay a night at a lovely new boutique hotel, check out one of the region’s last oyster shucking houses, meet a very French turtle, kayak through unusual sea grass, and of course, dine on crab cakes overlooking the Chesapeake Bridge at sunset. Discover Queen Anne’s secrets on this low-key but glorious Getaway.

Things to Do in Queen Anne’s County MD

View from Chesapeake Heritage Center Chester MD

VISIT: Chesapeake Heritage and Visitor’s Center, Chester. Get your bearings, grab some brochures, peruse the small museum where you’ll meet Francois the Terrapin, and climb the observation tower for a bird’s eye view of Ferry Point Park.

Francois the Turtle Chesapeake Heritage and Visitor’s Center MD

First, Francois – named for his very French “mustache” – is the most social turtle you will ever meet. In fact, if ever a Terrapin deserved his own Instagram account, it’s this one. François is just one of several cool things to see in this tiny exhibit that highlights a rare collection of Duck Stamps, decoys, and the products that put this area on the map: pumpkins, corn, crabs, oysters, sea turtles, ducks, tobacco, and rockfish.

Chesapeake Bounty Chesapeake Heritage Center Chester MD

Next, climb the spiral staircase to the observation platform for great views of Chester River, which separates Kent Island (in an area called The Narrows) from the Delmarva Peninsula, Grasonsville, and Ferry Point Park. Open daily 10-4, free.

Waterman Soft Shell Clams Harris Seafood Grasonville MD

TOUR: Harris Seafood, Grasonville. (Next door to Harris Crab House). A tour of wholesaler, Harris Seafood, is an under the radar and unscheduled, but educational, few minute traipse though a working seafood processing and distribution facility. This unofficial “tour” (if owner, Jason Ruth, is around, he’ll take you around), is really a behind the scenes look at people working hard, and a hard look at how we get our crabs, oysters, and soft shell clams.

Jason Ruth started hop-to-ing here when he was 13 years old – when it was W.H Harris Seafood – and purchased the wholesale business (but not the property, which also extends next door to Harris Crab House) when W.H. retired in 2004. Since then, Ruth has expanded the business; buying oysters from companies all over the East Coast, shucking, and selling them to grocery stores and restaurants. In fact, his is one of the very last “shucking houses” in Maryland – and watching dozens of these master shuckers in action is something to see.

Clam Shuckers Harris Seafood Grasonville MD

“There are only two native oyster species in the United States,” says Ruth. “It’s the salinity levels of the water that makes them different.” For instance, Ruth purchases Blue Point Oysters from Bloom Brothers in Norwalk CT for customers who prefer a mid-level of salinity (Chincoteague Oysters are the saltiest, Mid-Chesapeake Bay,the least.). About 65 watermen deliver a total of between 300-400 bushels a day to the back dock, where chairs are provided for tourists who want to watch the boats. Along with oysters, Harris Seafood also sells crabs (some cooked, to grocery stores like Wegman’s), and soft shell clams. Even if Ruth is not here, find your way to the back deck and watch the watermen at work.

Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center (CBEC), Grasonville MD

HIKE/KAYAK: Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center (CBEC), Grasonville. With 510 acres on a migratory route, CBEC turns into a waterfowl wonderland in the fall – a magnet for wildlife photographers. (In fact, the Wildfowl Trust of North America is CBEC’s governing agency). Taking up the whole of a peninsula “in the shape of a horse head,” CBEC used to be Horse Head Environmental Center but was renamed to better reflect its location. Primarily an educational research and restoration organization, CBEC also features a new “Green” Classroom and Visitor’s Center and acres of land open to the public.

There are four miles of flat, though muddy, hiking trails, with observation towers and duck blinds and a Raptor Rehabilitation Center on site, but if you really want to experience “Marshy Creek” – plan to rent a kayak ($20 per day, some hauling involved) or take a guided kayak tour ($20 for about 2 hours). Marshy Creek is brackish, inviting both salt water loving jellyfish, and fresh water ducks and geese to feed and float among its unique water grasses. With no development around, this is a tranquil paddle.

Post Office Historic Stevensville MD

VISIT: Historic Stevensville. Enter the circa 1877 Stevensville MD Post Office, now owned by the Kent Island Heritage Society, and you’ll receive a letter from a P.O box, set up as it would have looked when the post office was in operation. The letter highlights the history of this mini-town, which you can also learn on a walking tour, led by the sprightly Nancy Cook, on request. Most people come to Historic Stevensville to dine Italian at  Rustico, or for the adorable bakery, Peace of Cake, but stay a bit to learn something.

Nancy Cook at Cray House Stevensville MD

After the Post Office, you’ll head over a couple of blocks to the “Cray House,” built in 1809 by a ship’s carpenter named Denny (Cray was the last to live here). When the preservationists took over the Cray House, they discovered that termites had demolished most of the wood. So, in 2003, the home was rebuilt exactly as it had been the first time – with unique Post and Plank construction specific to the Tidewater Region.

Historic 1880 Christ Church Stevensville MD

The Historic 1880 Christ Church served a community of immigrants, many from Germany and Spain. Its mish-mash of Queen Ann and other architectural styles is worth seeing, and though no longer operating as a church, it can be used as such for weddings.

EXPLORE: The Kent Narrows. This is the name given to the ribbon of water that separates Kent Island from the Delmarva Peninsula, and where you’ll find a concentration of chain hotels and restaurants (see below for both).

HIKE: Terrapin Nature Area. There are three miles of trails in this 450 acre park on the Bayfront – taking you through tidal marsh and beach front – where you’re likely to see waterfowl, muskrats, and other marine life. The view of the Bay Bridge from here is stunning.

Centreville MD Courthouse

STOP/PHOTO OP: Queen Anne’s County Courthouse, Centreville. The oldest Maryland courthouse in continuous use sits on a pleasant town green surrounded by historic buildings, and is worth a stop on your way out of town.

Where to Eat in Queene Anne’s County MD

Photographer Kent Island MD

EAT: Hemingway’s Restaurant. It’s the first building you see as you cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and therein lies its popularity. Yes, dishes like Grilled Sweet and Spicy Mango BBQ Salmon ($24), Pan Seared Rockfish ($33), and the Chef’s Famous Seafood Alexandra ($27) are good and tasty, but it’s the sunset that will knock your socks off. When that ball of fire descends down through the bridge girders, the whole Bay seems aflame. No wonder photographers come here just for this reason.

Decanter Room Knoxies Table Inn at Chesapeake Bay Beach Club Kent Island MD

EAT: Knoxie’s Table. Located at the Inn at Chesapeake Bay Beach Club, Knoxie’s is the haut-cuisine standout in a crab shack world. With patrons coming from DC and Annapolis, it’s a destination restaurant on it own, with innovative, well-plated dishes like Baked Wild Rockfish with Crab Risotto ($28), Free Bird Chicken Picatta over Spinach Linguine ($22), and great craft cocktails. If you’re a large group, you can fit 24 in the stunning “Decanter Room” at no extra cost.

EAT: Kent Narrow Restaurants: Annie’s Steak and Seafood House, Red Eye’s Dock Bar, Harris Crab House, Big Owls Tiki Bar, The Narrows Restaurant, Fisherman’s Crab Deck, Fisherman’s Inn Restaurant, Bridges Restaurant and the Jetty Restaurant and Dock Bar all offer variations of crab-dining in a popular boating and marina area of Kent Island.

Where to Stay in Queen Anne’s County MD

STAY: The Inn at Chesapeake Bay Beach Club. A destination luxury boutique hotel in a busy wedding venue? Yes. And don’t scoff. It’s the real deal, with upscale witty décor, 54 rooms, an innovative house-garden-to-plate restaurant, great Market for both gifts and meals, full service spa, and cruising bikes for use while there. It’s such a great place, it’s a Maven Favorite, with its own write up HERE

STAY: Kent Narrows – Holiday Inn Express, Best Western, and Hilton Garden Inn are all located there.

Omni Bedford Springs Resort, Bedford PA With Flight 93 Memorial Excursion

In the late 1700’s, Dr. John Anderson learned that Native Americans used the water emanating from the springs at what is now the Omni Bedford Springs Resort in Bedford PA, for healing. Believing the springs to have curative properties, Anderson purchased over 2,000 acres and began to bring patients to this western area of Pennsylvania. Word spread, and when wealthy people started making the pilgrimage here, in 1806 Anderson built the Stone House as a sanatorium where weary patients could drink and swim in the restorative water. Thomas Jefferson stayed a few weeks in 1819, James Buchanan considered this his “summer home,” and other US Presidents have visited since then. As a favorite mid 1800’s vacation spot for Southerners, Bedford Springs was one of the only northern resorts not burned down by Confederates during the Civil War.

Over the years, the property morphed into a summer resort for the rich and famous, and more and more buildings were added on, lending a unique asymmetrical multi-architectural style to the meandering building. Bedford Springs resort featured one of the first golf courses and one of the first indoor pools in the United States. The property remained a popular hotel until the 1980’s when resort travel the world over declined. In 1984, the Bedford Springs Resort was named a National Historic Landmark, and in 1986 it closed. Enter new owners in the 1990’s who sunk $120 million into renovations, reopening the hotel as the luxury 216-room Omni Bedford Springs Resort in 2007. Renovations were cleverly and appealingly done – using fixtures and colors matching the hues and period amenities of each distinct building.

First Impressions of Omni Bedford Springs Resort


Even on a dreary, grey, and drizzly day, eye-catching landscaping and gardens brighten up this imposing place. The Colonial-style lobby is large and appealing, with a fire in the fireplace, lots of windows and natural light, period décor, and a double split staircase leading to ballrooms on higher floors. There’s a rare 1889, 39-star US Flag behind the reception desk – one of just several in existence worldwide.Each room and corridor throughout several buildings serve as museum galleries showcasing photos, art, and artifacts from the resort’s early years to present. There’s so much to take in, I recommend taking a $10 hour-long tour of the property offered daily at 10am, and additionally on Friday and Saturday at 1pm.

Rooms at Omni Bedford Springs

Guestrooms are designed to best represent the time period in which each corresponding building was constructed. The new Spa Rooms exemplify an atmosphere of serenity, in a pastel palette of whisper blues and greens. The wood sleigh bed is topped with cloudlike bedding and the softest of sheets. A balcony with several chairs overlooks hills and hiking trails. Bright French Doors enter onto a Carrera marble and subway tile bathroom. Understated opulence.

Dining At Omni Bedford Springs

There are four full time restaurants on site, including the upscale steak house, 1796 (referencing the year Anderson purchased the property), the casual Frontier Tavern, Tillie’s at the Golf Clubhouse, and my favorite, the Crystal Dining Room, a fantasia of white, with black and white portrait photographs blanketing the walls, and glittery crystal chandeliers. It’s like dining within a 1920’s movie.


One of the Top 100 Golf Courses in the USA, the 18 hole Bedford Springs course was first designed by Spencer Oldham, and then redesigned by A.w. Tillingast and Donald Ross.

Indoor Pool



Built in 1905, this indoor mineral spring-fed pool was one of the first in the country, originally 9 feet deep from end to end: just the right depth to inspire guests to swan dive from the overhead balcony. The pool has since been reconstructed with a shallow area, but remains spring fed and crystal clear.

Outdoor Pool

Hiking and Biking

There are miles of footpaths from easy to difficult ranging from half a mile to 4.5 miles, as well as 2 dedicated mountain bike paths – one moderate, one difficult – on the property.

Other Amenities

In addition to a full-service Spa, An on-site outfitter arranges Segway Tours, Archery, Fly-Fishing, UTV, horseback rides, and trap shooting.

Just the Facts

Rooms from $239 per night include parking.

Venture Out: Things to Do in or Near Bedford PA

Bedford PA has significant frontier history, best explored at the Fort Bedford Museum – a 1958 recreation of a 1758 French and Indian War Era fort right on site – and the Espy House – President George Washington’s headquarters during the 1794 Whiskey Rebellion (which caused nearly as much agitation as the earlier British tax on tea).

VISIT: National Museum of the American Coverlet, Bedford. But the best and quirkiest use of your time away from the Omni Hotel would have to be a visit to the National Museum of the American Coverlet – situated in the 1859 Bedford Primary School. Weird and wonderful enough to warrant mention on the Atlas Obscura website, antique coverlets earn their stripes, so to speak, as an American art form here, displayed in all their magnificence throughout a labyrinth of old classrooms that now serve as soaring galleries.

“People know about quilts, but not about coverlets, which are made on a loom,” says Melinda Zongor, who, with her husband, Lazlo, founded the museum in 2006. All 500-600 coverlets, dating from 1771 to 1889, have been donated and are in beautiful shape. Most have the owner’s name and date woven into the design, and some of the more dramatic ones feature silhouettes of buildings and nature scenes. All coverlets are juxtaposed with complex looms of the day. The Museum also offers classes in weaving and spinning – and is gaining aficionados – though if you come midweek on a summer’s day, the place may seem closed. Even if you don’t see a car in the parking lot, if within stated operating hours, go to the front door. The museum will most likely be open. Open daily, Mon – Sat 10-5, Sun 12-4, $10.

VISIT: Flight 93 National Memorial, near Shanksville. On a much more somber note – if you are heading West to Pittsburgh, or even if you are not, drive 30 minutes to the place where, on September 11, 2001, heroes on board Flight 93 forced down a hijacked plane heading to the US Capitol building. The Memorial – now a National Park – is composed of several structures, including the Visitor’s Center and Memorial Plaza, within the crash site bounded by the hilly Allegheny Mountains.

You’ll likely encounter groups of sobbing people entering the Visitor’s Center, which tells the story of the 33 passengers and 7 crew members who deliberately thwarted a terrorist attack, knowingly risking their own lives.

According to Park Rangers, like Thomas Burnett, Jr., who give talks several times a day, the fact that Flight 93 took off 24 minutes late made all the difference in the world, allowing passengers, in contact with loved ones, to know what was happening that morning. Travelers on board made a total of 37 calls – some leaving tearful messages on answering machines, now part of the heartbreaking multi-media exhibit.

Flight 93 crashed at a 40-degree angle at 563 MPH with a full tank of fuel, leaving a 40 acres debris field and an impact crater 30 feet wide and 15 feet deep. It missed Shanksville’s Elementary School, with kids just back from summer break, by three seconds. The footprint of Memorial Plaza runs along the debris field, and extends to a Wall of Names at the impact site. Come to pay tribute to those who lost their lives to save others. Open daily 9-5 (except for New Years, Thanksgiving and Christmas), free.

Raystown Lake Region PA: Historic Huntingdon and Watersports Galore

WHY GO: Rimmed by mountains, the stunning Raystown Lake in Midwestern PA is 30 miles long with 118 miles of shoreline – nearly all of it managed by the Army Corps of Engineers. As the least developed, most pristine and dramatic of all the water bodies in the state, Raystown Lake is the only Pennsylvania State Recreation area where you can rent a houseboat to explore all “8,300 acres of fun.” But this region, which attracts a million visitors a year, mostly between Memorial Day and Labor Day, also includes the County Seat and Juniata College-town of Huntingdon, a humble burg that’s regaining its vibrancy by attracting artists with a low cost of living and access to gorgeous lakes and rivers (it was considered America’s Coolest Small Town by Budget Magazine in 2009). Read on for the best things to do, best places to eat, and our recommendations for a terrific and historic overnight stay.

Things to Do in the Raystown Lake Region

VISIT: Isett Heritage Museum, Huntingdon. Plan two hours or more to see 40,000 objects on display, organized by era, at the surprisingly engaging Isett Heritage Museum. Referred to as the “Smithsonian of Huntingdon PA,” the Isett Museum is a tourist favorite nostalgia trip where part of the joy is getting there. On top of Stone Creek Ridge, 2 ½ miles from town, views while driving to this rather remote but incredible three-building collection of Americana, are unsurpassed. This is not your typical dusty arrangement of stuff: every display is spotless.

Founder Mel Isett is still very much involved at age 95. A prescient businessman, who started out “in TV” (he owned the region’s first tower – 100 ft tall), Isett brought Cable to this part of PA in 1960 (with 5 channels: he sold out to Adelphia in 1999). Over the years, Isett collected a progression of agricultural tools, electronics, machines, toys, kitchen and home appliances, utensils, complete rooms, and other memorabilia that are now arranged by historic era. The modest Isett started his life of hard work making milkshakes in Fouse’s Dairy. He was so nostalgic about his first job that when Fouse’s closed, he purchased most of its interior – now on display in the first building you’ll enter on a self-guided tour.

Among the artifacts in the three warehouse-sized exhibit spaces, you’ll find a letterpress with cases of typeface, underground wooden water pipes that once served as the local sewer system (some still remain), Abraham Megahan’s 1850’s Gunsmith Shop, complete Victorian Parlors (with fainting couches!), the Vincent R. Brown Photographic Collection of cameras and pictures (Brown worked for Kodak), a 1930’s Dentist office – which required the EPA to measure radiation in the equipment before it was installed in the museum – a mannequin used in the J.C. Blair School of Nursing, an interactive model train set with trolley and baseball game in process, old projector TV’s, and even a plastic doll with “Sticky Doll Disease” – the breakdown of Cellulose Acetate found in toys made in the 1930’s – 1950’s.

This well-tended and obviously well loved museum sparks memories in Baby Boomers and is a source of fascination for children as well. Open Mon-Sat 8-5, Sun 12-5, free, but donations to this worthwhile non-profit gratefully accepted.

TOUR: Lincoln Caverns. Discovered while building Route 22 in the 1930’s, this limestone cave system was once teeming with bats – a drawing card for visitors interested in those fascinating nocturnal flying rodents. But most of the bats have died off or left mysteriously, and that story, along with incredible formations and features, like massive flowstones, pure white calcite, sparkling crystals and of course stalagmites and stalactites, renders a visit here important as well as enjoyable. There are two caves to see: the original Lincoln Cavern and Whisper Rocks, which got its name from the spooky sound the wind makes as it blows over the cave’s airways.

Cavern owner, Ann Dunlavy, is a fount of knowledge about caves and caverns, determined to educate the public about their history and importance. To that end, she runs a multitude of programs for kids and adults, and of course daily I hour tours through two cave systems on property. Open daily Memorial Day to Labor Day 9-5 or 6, check website for other times of year. $16 for two cave tours.

VISIT: Raystown Lake Visitor’s Center. Raystown Lake is actually a Flood Control reservoir, created in 1973 by damming up the Juanita River for the second time (first in 1905). Managed by the Army Corp of Engineers, which oversees 8,300 acres of lake and 30,000 acres surrounding the Lake, Raystown differs from other regional lakes in that the water stays level as flood control for the area. The Visitor’s Center features worthwhile exhibits on hydro-power, the Dam’s history, geology, and archeology. Before flooding the lake by expanding the older dam, a Native American dwelling with the skeletal remains of a woman and child was found at a place called Sheep Rock. The site is now submerged under 85 feet of water, but the cliffs above are still imposing.

From mid-June to mid August, the Visitor’s Center hosts a Tuesday morning “Wake Up Reception” from 9:30-10:30 every week, with free cookies and refreshments (from Cassville Country Store) and information on attractions and events in the area. If you’re lucky, you might even meet Lincoln Cavern’s T-Rex!

VISIT: Swigart Antique Automobile Museum, Huntingdon. Antique car collector, William E. Swigart had his 15 minutes of fame after proffering the winning bid, against Jay Leno, on a 1936 Duesenberg Speedster. Leno complained on air that he had lost the sports car to a Pennsylvania “hick” – which was not quite fair to Swigart, an insurance agent with a penchant for suits and antique autos. His collection of 150 notable cars (35 of which are on display at any given time) includes the original Herbie the Love Bug, two Tuckers (the only auto museum in the world with two, one used in the movie starring Jeff Bridges: Tucker: The Man and His Dream), and an 1899 Winton. Open daily 9-5, $8.

DO: Hawn’s Overlook. You can best see Raystown Lake from up here – a favorite spot for selfies and photographers seeking the best lake vistas. In summer, you’ll witness an abundance of watercraft (no size or hp. restrictions), hidden coves and forested property that rings the lake.

DO: Hike the 80-Mile Standing Stone Trail. This moderate to strenuous 80 miles of ridge-top hiking includes the punishing 1,000 Steps – each stone marked by a number. Should you just wish to tackle the Thousand Steps – it’s a strenuous 3.5 miles up and back, and “equivalent to an hour workout on Stairmaster” according to AllTrails.com.

DO: Mountain Bike on Allegrippis Trail. Less technical than other trails, mountain bikers drive 8 hours just to cruise along this 36 mile single-track, fast and flowy roller coaster-like path, considered by Singletracks.com as one of the top 25 in the world.

BOAT/TOUR: 7 Points Marina. Owned by Pam Prosser and her family since 1975 (her parents owned the lake’s first marina in 1946, which had to relocate after the new dam was built in 1973), 7 Points is the largest marina in Pennsylvania, with 947 boats, most stored on easy to acess racks. Rent a Pontoon or Speed Boat for the day (or a Houseboat for a few nights – see below). Rates start at $600 for a weekend day for a Tritoon ’24 that can hold 12 people and comes with waterskis and tubes.

GO FISHING: Sparky Price – Trophy Guide Service. Raystown Lake is the Freshwater Striped Bass Capitol of the Northeast USA. A few years back, Sparky Price landed a 53 lb Striped Bass, and still holds the record PA Freshwater Lake catch. He obviously knows where to find the fish.

LOCAL OUTFITTERS: Rent canoes and kayaks at Arnold’s Marine, and on the southern end of the lake, find everything you need for the outdoorsman-woman at Saxton Outdoor Supply.

LAKE TOUR: Proud Mary Tour Boat out of Lake Raystown Resort, or The Princess out of 7 Points Marina.

WALKING TOUR: Huntingdon. Every Thursday from mid-June to mid-August – you can take a historic walking tour of the town that gave us the “Blair Tablet” – Mark Twain’s favorite writing paper. J.C. Blair, founded in the 1870’s, made notebooks with pages adhered together by wallpaper glue. By 1882, the tablets were so popular, they could be found in every state in the Union and internationally. The Blairs donated the land and funding for the local hospital that still bears their name today. Lately, artists have been moving here – from as far away as Arizona.

VISIT: Huntingdon County Historical Society. See a copy of the letter that Mark Twain sent to the J.C. Blair Company, singing the writing tablet’s praises, at this local History Museum, which also has an abundance of other important artifacts and documents.

PHOTO OP: Standing Stone, Huntingdon.  This tall thin rock in the center of town is a recreation of the Native American landmark for which this area was originally named. It was described by explorer John Harris as measuring 14’ tall and 8” square.

SHOP: Thompson’s Candle Company, Huntingdon. Twenty years ago, Angie Thompson started making “super scented” candles in her garage. Now these fragrant flickering beauties, some in the shape of frosted cakes, are sold all over the world. Based right in Huntingdon, Thompson’s can be found right behind the Gage Mansion B&B – also owned by the Thompson family.

SEE: The Playhouse @ McConnelstown. Now in its 35th year, this is regional theater at its best. See a revival, comedy, and music.

Where to Eat in Raystown Lake Region

EAT: Mimi’s Restaurant, Huntingdon. This delightful, art-filled restaurant is Huntingdon’s go-to for fine dining – and artisanal martini’s, with over 50 on the drink menu. Entrees, such as Chicken Milanese and Chicken Picatta ($22.95), Chesapeake Seafood Bake ($28.95), and Veal Oscar ($26.95) come with salad and sides and are toothsome, expertly prepared, and beautifully plated.

EAT: Stone Town Café and Gallery, Huntingdon. How about a bit of stained glass and ceramic whimsy with your afternoon crepes? This fun and innovative eatery-slash-art gallery, owned by glass artist, Deb Tumlin, and her life partner, Caroline Gillich, provides lots to look at, inside and out – in art galleries and a funky back yard that includes hammocks for chillin’. Order the Chicken Cordon Bleu Crepe ($6.95), a ½ Soup and ½ Crepe combo ($7.95), or fun snacks like Caprese on Pretzel Roll, while taking in the works of over sixty local artists or reveling in live music every week. When Tumlin and Gillrich took over this vacant building, they turned it into a real community; now encompassing  a frame shop, beauty salon, massage therapist, and a violin teacher’s studio.

EAT: Marina Café at Lake Raystown Resort, Entriken. Even if you don’t stay here, it’s fun to chow down on casual fare like Apple Peacan Salad ($11.95), the hearty Signature Boca Sandwich ($14.95) and more while overlooking private boats at dock at this resort and marina.

EAT: Locals recommend Top’s Diner for breakfast all day, and Boxer’s – a hit with the biking/kayaking crowd and a good place to carb up – both in Huntingdon.

Where to Stay in Raystown Lake Region

STAY: Gage Mansion B&B, Huntingdon. If you want to stay in Victorian-age grandeur, without the clutter and frou-frou that are hallmarks of the era, choose this beautifully restored brick and multi-colored trimmed Queen Ann Victorian right in downtown Huntingdon PA. A Maven Favorite – you can find a complete review HERERooms from $129-$209 (top floor “Billiard Suite,” sleeps 4, $300) per night includes hot gourmet breakfast, parking, wi-fi.

STAY: Rent a Houseboat from 7 Points Marina on Raystown Lake. According to those in the know, there is nothing better than sitting on the top deck hot tub in the middle of Raystown Lake on a moonlit night. “It is heaven on earth,” says one fan, who calls these vessels “beach houses on the water.” Take a kayak and/or bike on board and head out to paddle on the lake or pedal on the adjacent Alligrippis Bike Trail. Rates range from $895-$3,595 per session, depending on time of the week and size of boat. Rent 4 nights (Mon-Fri) or 3 nights (Fri-Mon) – the largest boat is 60 ft and can accommodate 10 people. Service is over the top – the marina sends a pilot to your houseboat to assist in docking.

STAY: Inn @ Solvang. Another luxury inn – this one like a Southern plantation – a bit out of town in tranquil surroundings.

STAY: Lake Raystown Resort, Entriken. A gated community and RVC Outdoors Resort, this lakeside resort offers beachfront bungalows, yurts, lodge rooms, and campground accommodations. Yurts, $75-$119, Lodge Rooms $85-$224.

CAMP OUT: Raystown Lake Campgrounds. There are 3,000 campsites for both tent and RV throughout the wilderness that rims Raystown Lake. Obviously very in demand in the summer. Ranges from $50-$85 per night in peak season.

Gage Mansion B&B, Huntingdon PA

If you want to stay in Victorian-age grandeur, without the clutter and frou-frou that are hallmarks of the era, choose the Gage Mansion Bed & Breakfast, a beautifully restored brick and multi-colored trimmed Queen Ann Victorian right in downtown Huntingdon PA. Built by Colonel George Gage, inventor and railroad man who was hired in the mid-1800’s to oversee the Huntingdon and Bread Top Short Line, as the railroad succeeded, so did the house; expanding in stages with ever-growing panache. Purchased a couple of years ago by candle moguls, Angie and John Thompson, Gage Mansion has been lovingly restored as a luxury B&B.

First Impressions of Gage Mansion B&B

Parking is in the back, right behind the Thompson Candle Factory Store, which is in the Gage Mansion B&B’s backyard. Park, and if the store is open, walk though for a wonderfully scented few minutes.

The interior of the mansion is magnificent. Full of grey-grained white Carrera marble, stained glass by Ann Dorris Chisholm, striking wood details, Italian Delft Tiled fireplaces, ornate lamps – all original to the home – and high ceilings throughout, Gage Mansion is a marvel of Victorian finery mixed with contemporary features.

Guestrooms at Gage Mansion B&B

Each of the 7 rooms and suites are individually decorated, with paneled wood walls and carved beds, flat screen TV’s, and brand new contemporary bedding. Some rooms feature small crystal chandeliers.

Bathrooms are small but newly renovated, with glistening tiles and pedestal sinks.

Breakfast at Gage Mansion B&B

Thanks to Angie’s laying hens, the hot gourmet breakfast (complementary with the room) includes one of the freshest egg dishes you’ll ever eat. The meal begins with fresh fruit and most likely will be something along the lines of Eggs Hollandaise over wilted greens and garlic from the local Farmer’s Market. Mouthwatering.

Just the Facts

Rooms from $129-$209 (top floor “Billiard Suite,” sleeps 4, $300) per night includes hot gourmet breakfast, parking, wi-fi.

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