Finding Love in All the Right Places

A wedding proposal on a Bermuda beach. One of the most romantic places on the planet, Bermuda, once known as the honeymoon capital, has safety protocols in place to welcome lovers to the island nation, a 2 ½ hour flight from New York © Dave E. Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, New York State is permitting restaurants to reopen indoor dining at 25 percent capacity, and as of March 15, will allow venues to host weddings at 50% capacity up to 150 guests. Governor Cuomo proposed that couples get engaged on Valentine’s Day and tie the knot on March 15.

Romance is by nature an intimate experience and even in a pandemic, it is possible to find romantic places and experiences. From glamping in nature, to boutique inns, to grand resorts offering specially planned, socially-distanced venues, and from romance to proposal to marriage vows, the coronavirus has certainly reshaped romance and love, but where there is a will, there is a way.  Love conquers all.

Back to Nature

adVANturing in a Moterra camper van © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There is nothing more romantic than getting a camper van and following wanderlust, or renting a cabin or lodge or glamping on a lake or mountaintop, with that added spice of adventure and nature (as in, “let nature run its course” or “doing what comes naturally”). Glamping is also providing the setting for back-to-nature weddings and renewal of vows.

Kampgrounds of America (KOA) has a special section for glamping, cabins, and “unique camping options” (a teepee, a yurt, a train caboose, a Conestoga wagon, tree house, wall tent, a vintage airstream among them) that offer the atmosphere sure to get an “I will” or an “I do.” (See: https://koa.com/ways-to-stay/unique-accommodations/)

A glamping wedding in Montana (c) Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

GlampingHub, launched in 2013 as a booking platform for distinctive accommodations, sustainable tourism and  luxury camping, is where you can find glamping spots all over the world, ranging from pet-friendly hotels or eco-friendly hotels, glamping retreats & getaways. It devotes a portal to Romantic Glamping (https://glampinghub.com/portal/romantic-glamping/).

Romantic Getaways

The Daniel Webster Inn in the historic village of Sandwich on Cape Cod is inviting couples to celebrate Valentine’s Day with a Feb. 13-15 package that includes champagne, chocolates, roses; $60 toward lunch or dinner and $15 toward breakfast, and a special gift to take home. Also, a suite-deal package is a one-night escape in an elegant suite with fireplace and oversized whirlpool tub, and chocolates and massages, plus $50 toward dinner. (Dan’l Webster Inn & Spa, 149 Main Street, Sandwich, MA 02563, 800-444-3566, 833-361-4988, https://danlwebsterinn.com/)

What is more romantic than a sleigh ride at Mountaintop Inn & Resort, Chittenden, Vermont (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Mountain Top Inn & Resort has all the charm, the warmth, the cozy, intimate hospitality of a country inn, and all the luxury, amenities, activities and quality dining of a resort. The setting is breathtaking – 700 acres surrounded by open fields, a 740-acre lake and mountains beyond, and the Green Mountain National Forest. In addition to a lodge, it offers separate cabins, and a barn/event space. It is no wonder Mountain Top is so popular for weddings (elopements too!) – it exudes romance. (Mountain Top Inn & Resort, 195 Mountain Top Road, Chittenden, Vermont 05737, 802-483-2311, www.MountainTopInn.com).

With a secluded island setting and the beauty of the Adirondacks as your backdrop, the grand, historic Sagamore Resort is an enchanting destination for a Lake George wedding, proposal or romantic getaway. Besides the hotel, there are separate villa-style lodges. The AAA Four-Diamond resort offers a world-class spa, a Donald Ross-designed championship golf course, swimming and tennis and the Adirondacks.  (110 Sagamore Road, Bolton Landing, NY 12814, 518-644-9400, 866-384-1944, www.thesagamore.com)

Grand Historic Hotels Offer Special Ambiance

Historic Hotels offer ideal ambiance for a romantic proposal, a destination wedding, honeymoon, or special milestone.

The entire list of Historic Hotels of America members, in my book, are ideal for romantic getaways (historichotels.org), but here are a few of our favorites for your proposal:

Romantic gazebos placed along the lake’s edge are extremely popular for popping the question at Mohonk Mountain House, a Victorian jewel in New York’s Hudson Valley (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Mohonk Mountain House (1869) New Paltz, New York: Mohonk Mountain House is an enchanting Victorian Castle perched at the top of a mountain with a private lake. The hotel has 120 “summerhouses” which are rustic gazebos designed for two people to share special moments together; taking in stunning views during or after a hike on 85 miles of trails- all of which provide the perfect romantic backdrop for someone to get down on bended knee. The Sky Top Tower is a hiking destination with panoramic views of the Shawangunk Cliffs and Catskill Mountains and a popular engagement site, along with the boat dock, which provides amazing views of serene Lake Mohonk. This is a full-service grand resort with world-class spa, indoor pool.

The Otesaga Hotel and Cooper Inn (1909) Cooperstown, New York: With its majestic views, The Otesaga Resort Hotel sits on the southern shore of Lake Otsego, known as Glimmerglass in James Fenimore Cooper’s novels, which makes the lake a popular place to pop the question. The lake dock, with its quaint stillness and breathtaking views surrounded by century old oak trees is a perfect place to get down on bended knee. There are some who would rather propose in an old-fashioned boat with the resort as a backdrop and others that would prefer to be on a horse drawn carriage pulling up to the resort’s front portico. Moreover, being the home of the national pastime makes Cooperstown and the Otesaga a unique venue for a baseball themed engagement.

View from our cozy cottage at Basin Harbor Club, Vergennes, Vt., grand historic resort on the shore of Lake Champlain (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Basin Harbor (1886) Vergennes, Vermont: Basin Harbor is a grand yet rustic resort set on the stunning shores of Lake Champlain in Vermont. Steeped in tradition, this 700-acre resort has a variety of breathtaking settings that provide a perfect backdrop for engagements and weddings. From the Orchard Garden, filled with flowers and greenery to the Lodge Lawn with panoramic views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains, there are plenty of places for someone to get down on one knee. There’s just about every activity you could want, including golf course, boating, tennis. Besides hotel accommodations, there are charming cottages.

Jekyll Island Club Hotel (1887) Jekyll Island, Georgia: Built in the Queen Anne style, the Jekyll Island Club Resort is a castle surrounded by Southern charm. With sweeping Spanish moss and hundred years old live oaks, Jekyll Island is one of the most romantic spots in the South. The magic of the island will carry guests back in time to the grandeur of millionaires. From the top of the turret to quiet moments in Crane Garden, this little slice of heaven is perfect for any romantic proposal. Many couples who get engaged at the hotel have grown up coming to the Resort and wanted the destination to be a part of the proposal and eventually, the wedding. Besides the hotel accommodations, there are separate cottages. Jekyll Island also offers elopement packages.

With sweeping Spanish moss and hundred years old live oaks, Jekyll Island Club, Georgia, is one of the most romantic spots in the South (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Ledges Hotel (1890) Hawley, Pennsylvania: This hotel’s historic bluestone building and natural waterfall provide a dramatic backdrop for proposals. A life-long commitment made in the shadow of a historic landmark is symbolic of a relationship that will stand the test of time. The tiered decks overlooking Paupack High Falls are one of the most romantic spots to pop the question at Ledges Hotel. It’s a popular destination for engagements no matter the season. During winter, the frozen falls offer a stunning backdrop. Budding trees and rushing waters are a hallmark of spring. Summer by the waterfall is lush and cool, while fall foliage creates a vibrant landscape in autumn.

The Hotel Hershey (1933) Hershey, Pennsylvania: Known for its refined elegance, signature services and abundant amenities, The Hotel Hershey is a marvelous destination for a romantic getaway. The Hotel is rooted in its own romantic love story, between founder Milton S. Hershey and his wife, Catherine, and couples can spend time together in the beautiful Fountain Lobby, which was inspired by the couple’s travels and designed to look like a Spanish-style courtyard with palm trees, a beautiful fountain and a painted sky on the ceiling. The Formal Gardens behind the hotel are a popular spot for proposals. There, guests can find a quiet, romantic, picturesque area with beautiful flower beds, pergolas, fountains and reflecting pools.

See the full list of 2021 Top 25 Historic Hotels of America for a Romantic Proposal

See more suggestions; https://www.historichotels.org/us/experiences/honeymoon-romance.php. Historic Hotels of America, 800-678-8946, historichotels.org.

Micro Weddings

Micro weddings are all the rage. It’s all about keeping your special day small, but significant.

The courtyard of the historic St Francis Inn in the heart of historic St. Augustine, Florida, is a charming place for a small wedding. The couple can plan a private elopement for two or a micro-wedding in the four-season garden with up to 10 guests, flowers, champagne, house-made wedding cake and horse-drawn carriage ride (279 St. George St., St. Augustine FL, 800-824-6062, https://stfrancisinn.com/)

A micro-wedding in the garden of the historic St. Francis Inn, St. Augustine, FL

Then stay at either the St Francis Inn or the Casa de Suenos Bed and Breakfast (20 Cordova St., St Augustine, FL, 904-824-0887 dream@casadesuenos.com, https://casadesuenos.com/), or at a house on the beach.

Southampton Inn on Long Island has more than 20-years tradition of hosting “micro-weddings” – or the “minimony”. The inn has 3 acres of landscaped grounds, 2,300 sq. ft indoor ballroom for intimate but well-spaced wedding celebrations in a romantic setting (91 Hill Street, Southampton, NY, 11968, 631-283-6500, southamptoninn.comreservations@southamptoninn.com)

What may be a renewed old trend: elopement – it is said to date back to the 14th century, taken on new meaning in the 17th century, and was revived in popularity during the Great Depression when resources and money was scarce. Today, elopement packages are seeing new popularity because they have the benefit of catering to small, intimate ceremonies (as few as just the couple and witnesses) and minimizing the stress that typically comes with prolonged wedding planning Hotels also let the couple take advantage of windows of opportunity, compressing the time between “I will” to “I do.”

Hyatt Carmel Highlands Inn offers special wedding and elopement packages.

Hyatt Carmel Highlands Inn offers special wedding and elopement packages that keep intimacy and romance in mind. Designed for 2 to 20 people, the Highlands Elopement Package allows couples to exchange vows on a romantic gazebo overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Hyatt Carmel Highlights 120 Highlands Drive, Carmel, California, 93923, events specialist, 831-622-5461, 831-620-1234, hyatt.com.

See also: Top 25 Historic Hotels of America for a Romantic Proposal

_____________________

© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

ad-VAN-turing, Newest Travel Trend

adVANturing in a Moterra camper van © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Eric Leiberman and Sarah Falter,

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

The biggest travel trend to explode out of the time of Corona is ad-VAN-turing – basically a freewheeling adventure in a tricked out van (sleeker than an RV but with most if not all the comforts of a studio apartment on wheels). These high-tech, luxury mobile campers are designed to be self-sufficient, carrying their own water, electricity, toilet, galley kitchen, even solar panels for energy so you don’t have to plug in, but can still have enough power in reserve to run the heat at night so you have incredible mobility and freedom to explore.

In mid-December, we took off with an indefinite week-long itinerary from Sonoma, California, in a Moterra camper van which we picked up in San Francisco.

We spent our first day skiing at Heavenly Resort in Lake Tahoe, California (we stayed overnight a couple blocks away from the parking lot, which made getting first chair easy!).

In place for first chair at Heavenly Mountain Resort Base © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

From there, we drove down to Death Valley National Park, spending one night at the Panamint Springs RV park and another at the trailhead for Telescope Peak (fairly desolate this time of year).  We were really impressed with how our van got us safely to the base of mountain treks without issue, thanks to the four wheel drive.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Death Valley © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Summit of Telescope Peak Hike, Death Valley © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Gorgeous sunset on the drive from Death Valley to Zion © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Though the mid-December days were short and the nights were cold, we were cozy and comfortable in our van with round-the-clock heat and cooking amenities. And snuggling up on the roof of the van with wine in hand made for some glorious stargazing (we lucked out our first night in Death Valley with a mind-blowing Geminids meteor shower).

After Death Valley, we made our way to Zion National Park, Utah, stopping along the way in Las Vegas, Nevada, to pick-up a quick dinner. The Angels Landing & Narrows hikes are not to be missed. And being able to pull over at picturesque lookout points for homemade (van-made) lunches made the experience in the park all the more special.

Driving through the wintery scenery in Zion National Park © Sarah Falter/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Near the top of Angels Landing, Zion National Park © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Zion National Park © Sarah Falter/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Preparing lunch after a hike in Zion National Park © Sarah Falter/goingplacesfarandnear.com


On our way back from Zion, we spent a night in Valley of Fire State Park (about an hour east of Vegas). We were shocked we hadn’t heard of this Nevada state park before. The massive red rocks and scrambly canyons made us feel like we were exploring communities and dwellings straight out of The Flintstones! We spent the night at the spectacular Arch Rock Campground.

Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com
White Domes Trail, Valley of Fire State Park © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Arch Rock Campground, Valley of Fire State Park © Sarah Falter/goingplacesfarandnear.com
White Domes Trail, Valley of Fire State Park © Sarah Falter/goingplacesfarandnear.com

While making our way back towards the Bay Area (by way of Los Angeles), we already began planning our next adVANture for Summer 2021 – we’re thinking the Pacific Northwest. As fabulous as it was to explore the National Parks in the off-season (we hear Zion especially can get unbelievably crowded and Death Valley is known to have some of the most extreme temperatures in the world), we’re looking forward to our next trip with warmer weather and longer days for exploring.

Moterra Luxury Camper Vans Lets You Pave Your Own Path

You’ve probably now heard of glamping – luxury camping. Now Moterra Campervans offer a novel way to experience the national parks and wilderness by luxury camper van, which also provides amazing self-sufficiency.

With all the luxury of a 50-foot long RV, the Moterra camper vans, at 19-foot long,are  much less cumbersome to drive and park, and can even be used in easier-to-book tent camping spots in national parks, so you can stay away from the busy (and likely booked up) RV parks.

Arch Rock Campground, Valley of Fire State Park © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

You don’t even need to plug into electricity because the vans are powered with rooftop solar panels and auxiliary batteries (not noisy generators); or have to plug into a water supply, since they hold between 16 and 24 gallons of fresh water, or bathroom, since they have  their own sink, even their own bathroom facilities (port-o-potty; some actually have its own shower), and with their own galley for cooking and refrigerator, these camper vans provide a new level of mobility.

These camper vans come with bluetooth audio, cruise-control and touch-screen navigation. A backup camera, blind spot sensors and lane assist technology make maneuvering a breeze. You don’t have to stay in an RV park, but can go wherever tents are allowed.

The Moterra camper van is self-sufficient. You don’t need to plug in for electricity or water, so you can follow your wanderlust © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Moterra’s fleet of specially outfitted Mercedes Benz Sprinters, tricked out by Sportmobile, are outfitted with absolutely everything you need for camping, from sleeping stuff (memory foam pillow!), to cooking (marshmallow skewers) and dining, cleaning supplies, amenities like chairs and table, inflatable solar lights, even bear spray.

Enjoying a bottle of wine on the camper van roof and getting set for star-gazing; solar panels provide enough power to keep the heat going all night © Sarah Falter/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There are two models to choose from: The High Roof is perfect for couples – it includes a queen sized bed in the back, galley kitchen, sink, indoor shower and portable toilet. The Pop Top, which sleeps four, is perfect for families, with a double bed down below and a double bed up top in the Pop Top! While the Pop Top does not have an Indoor Shower, you can get as an add-on a solar shower that can be used outside, and has a sink and stove. Both models are rented for $339 a night.

Add-ons available include hammocks & bike racks, and services such as pre-bought groceries.

The Moterra fleet is positioned for adventuring in Yellowstone, Wyoming; the Grand Tetons; Utah; Glacier National Park (Montana); Las Vegas (great gateway for desert adventuring) and California.

Death Valley © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Moterra, which founded by Gabe Aufderheide and Trevor James who were formerly with Backroads, the renowned active travel company, also offers packaged and customized tour itineraries.

All-inclusive packages consist of:

Moterra Campervan Rental and cleaning fee

Day-by-day personalized Itinerary with directions and destination info.

Pre-booked campsites, handpicked and booked in advance where possible, or GPS locations for off-the-grid dispersed camping spots.

Scenic routes that take you to the heart of the action while minimizing road traffic.

Individualized suggestions depending on your preferences for hiking, scenic attractions, restaurants and activities.

A wide range of activities to make the trip your own, like white-water rafting, wildlife safaris, road biking, horseback-riding, kayaking and scenic floats.

Zion National Park is featured in Moterra’ pre-packaged 13-night/14 day Mighty 5+ Grand Canyon trip © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

For example, a 13-night/14 day Mighty 5+ Grand Canyon: featuring Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Bryce National Park, Zion National Park, Monument Valley and Grand Canyon National Park is priced from $5999.

A six-night/seven-day family-oriented Yellowstone Handpicked Highlights package features Yellowstone National Park and The Grand Tetons National Park (from $4699).

Moterra operates out of Jackson, WY, Whitefish, MT, Salt Lake City, UT and San Francisco, CA.

Check the website for deals, discounts on early bird bookings, extended trips, spring 2021 discounted add-on for one-ways, and gift cards.

Moterra Camper Vans, 1565 Berger Lane, Jackson, Wyoming 83001, 307-200-7220,

info@gomoterra.com, gomoterra.com.

__________________________

© 2021 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Plenty to Discover, Experience Exploring New York’s Adirondack Hamlets

By Laurie Millman and Martin Rubin,

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Idyllic Hudson River spot near North Creek, NY © Laurie Millman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Less than a half hour from Lake George Village, in upstate New York, you can discover cultural and artistic venues in smaller hamlets in the Adirondack State Park all year long without the crowds usually found in the Village. The draw to the small town shops and restaurants are in the quality of locally sourced products they sell and use in food preparation.

Check out some of the Adirondack State Park towns we discovered while driving around Lake George and following the Hudson River:

North Creek, NY – in addition to this town being the location of Gore Mountain ski resort, it is taking off as the art center of the Gore region in the State Park. To get to North Creek, we drove north of Lake George on Rte 9 and Rte 28 for about 35 minutes. The short journey took us along a shallow, yet scenic section of the Hudson River. We found glassblowing, mosaics, local artist exhibits, and regional foods – we spent a day here, but we could easily have stayed over at a local hotel to do more in town and in the surrounding mountains. 

  • Widlund Gallery at Tannery Pond Center – also called the Adirondacks Art Center (228 Main St, North Creek, NY 12853;  518-251-2505 x128; https://tannerypondcenter.org ), runs exhibits by local artists continuously throughout the year (even during ski season). Each exhibit runs for 6-7 weeks. Check out the Center’s site for upcoming exhibits. Socially distanced, outdoor events will begin early Spring, 2021.

    We toured the oil paintings of Elizabeth MacFarland whose art reflects local, natural settings. We purchased a beautiful poetry book for our granddaughter from the Center — Butterfly, Dragonfly – Poetry for Children, which was both written and illustrated by Ms. MacFarland – you can also find this book on Elizabeth’s website (https://www.elizabethmacfarland.com/).

The Center is handicap accessible, with parking spots across the street and a ramp leading up to the main entrance. The main floor contains the exhibits. A performance hall on the lower level can be reached by an elevator. Expect to wear masks while visiting. 

  • North Creek Mosaic Project just a couple of blocks from Tannery Pond Center, we found artist Kate Hartley working on the last major section of the 180-foot long mosaic relief along Main St. For the past 10 years, this project has been a labor of love for Hartley who conceptualized covering the retaining walls on this street with beautiful mosaic scenes representing activities in the Adirondacks. A project of this scale has drawn more than 2000 volunteers to help place pieces of tile, glass, and stone on the walls with Hartley’s guidance. Laurie is now one of those volunteers, by adding one of the last pieces to the mosaic that day. The Mosaic Project, now fully tiled, can be easily viewed from your car, but we recommend walking up to the walls to see close up the variety of materials used to build it. (For more information about this project follow https://www.facebook.com/northcreekmosaicproject/, or go to http://visitnorthcreek.org/project/the-north-creek-mosaic-project/.)
North Creek Mosaic Project © Laurie Millman/goingplacesfarandnear.com
  • Artist-in-residence, Gregory Tomb (https://www.gregorytglass.com) – Reserve a 1-2 hour glassblowing class when Gregory returns to the region as Artist-in-Residence from late spring through late September 2021. For a private class, contact Gregory at 530-318-9413 or info@gregorytglass.com. Gregory’s temporary studio is located at the North Creek Railroad Station Complex (21 Railroad Place, North Creek, NY 12853). Gregory helped Laurie learn to use glassmaking tools to create a beautiful paperweight; Marty learned to blow hot glass and shape it into a bud vase.  The building is handicap accessible with parking on a gravel lot, but no bathroom is located on premise.
Marty takes a glassblowing class in North Creek with artist-in-residence Gregory Tomb © Laurie Millman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Hudson River Trading Companyacross the street from the North Creek Mosaic Project, the 7,000 sq. foot, multi-level store (292 Main St., North Creek, NY; 518-251-4461) is filled with items for sale which represent Adirondack life and culture. The store has souvenirs distinctive of the region, including NY State maple-covered nuts and confections, accessories and wares for every room in your house, accessories for pets, and clothing for all ages.

As we toured the store, owner Laurie Prescott Arnheiter explained to us how she preserved the original 1898 walls and floors from its days as a livery and stables and later a butcher shop. Look for the posts and numbers where the horse’s yolks were hung on the walls of the lower room.  The retail store also has a kids’ section to keep them occupied while their parents shop – there is a puppet stage, a small piano, and a reading corner (note to us, bring our granddaughter next time). We purchased an Adirondack hoodie sweatshirt for our daughter, an apron for Laurie, some dog treats, local honey, and NY maple-coated peanuts and candies.

Arnheiter also owns the small gourmet shop next door — The Hungry Crow — which is also in a historic building, and offers all locally made shelf and refrigerated food, such as cheeses, ground coffee, chocolates, and pastas. She even scooped for us berry-infused ice cream freshly made from a local dairy. Check the website, https://hudsonrivertradingco.com, for spring reopening and hours.

Children’s Corner in Hudson River Trading Company, North Creek, NY © Laurie Millman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Gore Mountain – this Adirondack ski resort offers downhill and cross-country skiing and snowboarding. Gore Mountain remains open the rest of the year for activities such as scenic hiking trails, a mountain skyride, downhill mountain biking, and nine-hole disc golf. The 2020/2021 season pass packages start from $499/adult. The pass applies to some of the summer and fall activities, and includes an additional ticket for sharing a winter activity. (793 Peaceful Valley Rd, North Creek, NY 12853; 518-251-2411, https://goremountain.com)

Skiing Gore Mountain. Gore remains open after the snow melts for summer and fall activities, such as scenic hiking trails, a mountain skyride, downhill mountain biking, and nine-hole disc golf. (c) Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Bolton Landing, NYthis lakeside hamlet is just 15 minutes north of Lake George Village, as you drive along the lake.  Beautiful views of Lake George and shopping in small businesses with plenty of parking was a huge draw for us to stop and spend an afternoon here. Bolton Landing is also the home of the historic luxury hotel, The Sagamore Resort. 

  • Lake George Adirondack Wineryfor a fun and educational wine tasting experience for up to four people, book online or call any of their three locations in the region: Bolton Landing 518-708-6672; Lake George Village 518-203-2597; Queensbury 518-668-9463, https://www.adirondackwinery.com/. We opted for the Bolton Landing location.

This family-owned winery uses northern New York State and Canadian fresh grapes and fruit to create delicious red, pink, white, and ice wines. Adirondack Winery also effectively infuses semi-sweet red and white wines with seasonal fruit. The Adirondack Winery shops and production facility are open seven days a week for wine tasting and shopping – confirm hours online.

For the “Original Wine Tasting Experience” (just $8/person) we each selected seven different wine samples from a choice of 32 Adirondack Winery prepared wines. We added the  “Locavore Sampler” and the “Cheese Lover’s Sampler”  for an additional $10/person, which allowed us to sample local Adirondack cheeses along with the wines. Our  platter included a mild goat cheese, a champagne-infused cheddar which paired deliciously with Adirondack Winery’s very own “Berry Breeze wine-infused” jam,  locally made chocolate truffles, and crackers and pretzels to eat with them. We finished off the wine tasting with a refreshing wine slushy of the day (additional $5/person).   Masks and social distancing are still required in the wine-tasting room, even though masks may be removed when you are sitting for the tasting experience. Based on our sampling,  we chose four different, full-bodied wines to take home, a block of the champagne cheese and the “Berry Breeze” jam  — they were a big hit with our multi-generational family.

  • Adirondack Extreme Adventure Course is perfect for a multi-generational family with over 100 obstacle courses and 15 ziplines for adults and older kids, and two courses and a playground for younger children. Whether you are a newbie to ziplining, treetop climbing and swinging obstacle courses, or an experienced adventurer, this aerial park offers something for everyone to spend a thrilling day in the wonderful mountain air and beautiful views of the Lake (5 Westwood Forest Ln., Bolton Landing, NY; 518-494-7200, https://adirondackextreme.com)

The aerial adventure park reopens in April 2021. Check the website for hours of operation, pricing of course packages, and minimum age requirements. Reservations and payment in advance by phone or online are required. Masks are required at check-in, during harnessing procedures, and walking throughout the park; masks are not required while climbing the courses. Social distance between separate groups is expected. 

North River, NY – a small hamlet on the banks of the Hudson River, North River is the home of the world’s largest, commercial-grade garnet deposits found on Gore Mountain. In 1969, Governor Nelson Rockefeller officially named the ruby red Barton garnet as New York State’s gem stone.

  • Garnet Mine Tours – currently closed due to Covid-19 restrictions; check the web site (garnetminetours.com) to learn when they will reopen for tours of the historic Barton Mines (1126 Barton Mines Rd., North River, NY).  
  • Garnet Hill Lodge  just 15 minutes from the center of North Creek and around 45 minutes from Lake George, this rustic, Adirondack wood lodge, high up on a mountain, boasts a scenic canyon view of Thirteenth Lake from the resort’s meadow. 
Rustic Garnet Hill Lodge © Laurie Millman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Garnet Hill Lodge  is a perfect one-stop resort for four seasons of outdoor activities. During winter months, the Lodge offers 35 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails and six different snowshoe trails starting immediately outside the lodge and its Outdoor Center. Every stay at the lodge comes with complimentary trail passes.  The full service ski shop assists guests with equipment, clothing, repairs, rentals, and lessons.

Throughout the rest of the year, lodge guests can enjoy the mountain’s hiking trails, the resort’s tennis courts, sign out complimentary mountain bikes, canoes and kayaks, and enjoy the Lodge’s staff-attended private beach on Thirteenth Lake. While walking around the mountain, in addition to looking out at the beautiful Adirondack mountain scenery and looking up at the beautiful clean sky, try looking down – you just might find a rock with garnets! (garnet-hill.com; 39 Garnet Hill Road, North River, NY 12856; 518-636-1652)

With continued Covid-19 flying and quarantine restrictions continuing throughout the country and world, this secluded, Adirondack State Park lodge and resort is ideal for a destination wedding. Pre-Covid, Garnet Hill was able to accommodate up to 120 guests for an outdoor or indoor ceremony and reception from June through October, and up  to 80 guests between November and May.

A two-night minimum booking for guests at the Lodge included food and beverages in the lodge’s full-service restaurant and pub, the Bobcat Bar and Grill. Guests have complimentary use of the lodge’s outdoor equipment in all seasons, including the lake beach and well-marked hiking and mountain biking trails. Contact Nicole at 518-251-2444 to discuss current capacity limitations, to book a getaway, or a visit and tour of Garnet Hill Lodge for a potential wedding or other group event. Nicole will assist with planning all aspects of a destination wedding or event within state guidelines and restrictions.

Glens Falls, NY

Reclining in zero-gravity chairs, wearing street clothes and covered up with warm, fluffy throw covers, we took off our masks, closed our eyes, and breathed in the medical-grade salt that was being released into the room. Listening to relaxing music, we immediately fell into a deep sleep.  Forty-five minutes later, owner Dawn gently woke us. We walked out of the room feeling quite relaxed, with Laurie commenting that she no longer had the acid reflux cough she came in with, and Marty left with clear sinuses.  The experience was a success for both of us!  We have one recommendation: the room is cool even with the warm comforter, so be sure to wear layers: long-sleeved shirt, jacket, or sweater, socks or booties, long pants.

Halotherapy room at Adirondack Salt Cave Halotherapy and Wellness Center in Glens Falls, NY © Laurie Millman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Wellness Center is a holistic healing arts center which also offers Swedish massage, Shiatsu, Reiki, Esthetician services, therapeutic reflexology, and other massage therapy services.  Owners Dana and Greg Russell renovated a 123-year old collar and shirt mill, built out therapy rooms and the large “salt cave” room while preserving the original wood floors, brick walls, and tall windows for lots of natural light in the waiting area. Over 7,000 lbs of Himalayan salt blocks went into creating the long, beautiful, backlit wall that is the focal point of the man-made “salt cave” room. They also built out the front desk and the base of the benches with salt blocks. For pricing of services and packages and to make an appointment,  visit adirondacksaltcave.com, call Dana at 518-798-2343, or email her at dana@adirondacksaltcave.com. Please tell her that Laurie and Marty sent you! (11 Broad St., Glens Falls, NY 12801).

More information at https://visitadirondacks.com/.

__________________________

© 2021 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Honeymoon On Lake George In The Time of Corona

Samantha and Evan honeymoon on Lake George, NY © Samantha Mazzia-Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Evan Rubin & Samantha Mazzia-Rubin

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Our 2020 intimate July destination wedding and honeymoon in Maui were coming together perfectly by March, until our plans were completely squashed due to COVID-19 limitations. Every potential reception venue that was on our list closed abruptly. Since March, our fears filled our heads – not just with the stress any normal bride and groom would have months prior to the wedding, but now this deadly virus was spreading throughout the whole world!

July 22nd 2020 was our 10th anniversary of dating so getting married on that day was something we would not let be postponed. After having a little ceremony with the immediate family in our backyard (the rabbi on Zoom!), we decided to take a getaway honeymoon during the pandemic. Our focus was finding a place where we could discover beautiful and romantic scenery, night life, a cute town to walk around and to be near the water.

With a large lake surrounded by gorgeous views of the Adirondack Mountains, we found the perfect destination in Lake George Village and the Adirondack State Park, New York. Lake George is huge! It is 32 miles long with over 170 islands and home to 13 communities. 148 islands are state-owned and accessible by the public, with reserved camping allowed. This was our first visit to the Adirondack State Park region, as well as our first venture out after sheltering at home for months. With such a wide variety of attractions and activities to experience in the State Park, one trip did not give us enough time to do it all – we’re already planning future return visits.

A view of Lake George Village from Overlook 2 on Prospect Mountain ©Evan Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We knew we could stay busy while remaining socially distant. Businesses in Lake George Village and in other Adirondack State Park hamlets are mandated to follow the state’s strict COVID-19 requirements: all customers and staff must wear masks when not eating or drinking, and enforce social distancing by spacing apart sitting areas and limiting the number of occupants. As we walked around town, we saw visitors, businesses and venue staff adhering to the COVID guidelines. So we felt safe, too.

Lake George Village is expecting to be very active in 2021, primarily from April through October. Contact the Lake George Chamber of Commerce at 518-668–5755  or email  them at info@lakegeorgechamber.com for directions, maps, and customized itineraries and recommendations.

—————————————

Check out how we explored The Village of Lake George:

1.   Kayak or paddle board along the southern lake shore. Bring your own equipment, or reserve and rent equipment from local operators. Some of the hotels have private beaches and also offer equipment rentals.

  • On the private beach of the “Shore Meadows Lodge”, we rented kayaks from “Kayak Lake George”. Kayak Lake George offers hourly rentals for one- and two-person kayaks and paddle boards. Since this was our first time kayaking, the staff assisted us by giving us a demonstration. This short demo gave us the confidence to navigate along the bank of Lake George by ourselves without a guide.  Kayak Lake George is in an ideal spot, the dock’s location allows you to either go one direction and explore the active village docks, or go another direction to find a more peaceful setting and travel around a small island. For Spring 2021 pricing and to reserve your kayaks, go to http://www.kayaklakegeorge.com or call 518-302-6005.
  • Some hotels and resorts around the lake also offer guests lake amenities including lake equipment rentals. Surfside On The Lake Hotel & Suites where we stayed has kayak and pedal boat rentals as well as an outdoor pool and private sandy beach, perfect for launching kayaks.
Parasailing on Lake George © Samantha Mazzia-Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

2.    Parasail over the Lake – contact family-owned, local operators such as Parasail Joe’s (518-668-4013; https://parasailjoes.com/; 204 Canada St., Lake George) to reserve a 1-3 person parasail flight. Wear a bathing suit or casual comfortable clothes because you have the option to get dipped into the water. Parasailing is a thrill! Sailing up to 350 feet in the air, you have spectacular views of the lake. Parasail Joe’s operates annually from June through September, reservations are required. A regular parasail ride costs $80/person (5 years old and up; inquire about weight limits, and ask about daily specials).

Cruising Lake George ©Evan Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

3.    Cruise the Lake – there are many opportunities for enjoying a cruise around the lake while following Covid-19 guidelines. Short day and evening cruising run from early Spring through the end of October.

  • Lake George Steamboat Co. has three ships in their fleet for a wide variety of midday and sunset cruising options available to adults only or for families. The ships follow the beautiful shorelines of the lake, starting in the southern section from the docks in the Village of Lake George. During the summer months and for October fall foliage viewing, the ships offer themed, family-oriented dinner cruises, such as a pirate cruise or a pasta dinner. Cruise times range for 1-2 hours for historic narratives with or without food and drinks, to six hours of full-lake sightseeing.  Cruises with itineraries longer than one hour offer opportunities to see some of the 170 islands scattered across the large lake. Check online or call for available dates, pricing, and to reserve space: https://lakegeorgesteamboat.com/; 518-668-5777, ext.4.
Minne-Ha-Ha Steamboat in The Lake George Steamboat Co. Fleet © Samantha Mazzia-Rubin /goingplacesfarandnear.com

  • Lake George Shoreline Cruises – We gathered for an hour-long sunset cruise which offered two complimentary drinks (beer, wine, soda). Coffee, tea, liquors and light snacks were also available to purchase. It is highly recommended to make reservations. Everyone was masked and maintained a social distance as we lined up to set sail for our 6 pm departure. Once boarded, you are free to sit wherever you want, and during the ride, you are free to walk around the boat and sightsee from any of the three levels. You are not bound to a seat, so grab a drink and enjoy the lake from different perspectives. This is a great way to get the night started!  Once you return, you are right in the middle of town with a boardwalk area. Walk along the docks and restaurants that lead to the main Village streets featuring many stores, museums, parks and stunning views. Keep your Shoreline cruise ticket, as it offers a 10% discount for an entrée at the Lake George Shoreline Restaurant, across the parking lot from the dock. Call or check online for available cruise dates, pricing, and to reserve space: 518-668-4644; https://lakegeorgeshoreline.com. During peak season, you may also purchase and pick up tickets directly from the kiosk in front of the two ship’s docks at 2 Kurosaka Ln, Lake George.

4.   Eat a hearty meal overlooking the lake at one of the Village’s upscale, yet casual restaurants. Restaurants you can’t miss:

Dock viewing from the Shoreline Restaurant ©Evan Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
  • Lake George Shoreline Restaurant (4 Kurosaka Ln, Lake George; (518) 668-2875) – a casual, surf and turf restaurant with a covered deck that provides a view of the dock where the Shoreline cruise boats come in and out. The restaurant has a wide variety of food that is freshly cooked with distinctive flavors. We shared mussels, corn and crab chowder, the restaurant’s famous burger and pasta primavera. Remember to show your cruise ticket to receive a discount on an entrée.
View from our dinner table at The Boathouse Restaurant on Lake George ©Evan Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
  • The Boathouse Restaurant at The Lodges at Cresthaven (800-853-1632; 3210 Lake Shore Drive, Lake George). The restaurant opens in early Spring. We experienced superb service while sitting at a window table that was literally at the lake’s edge. The staff was warm and friendly, and many of them being locals who grew up in town, were very knowledgeable of the area. They were forthcoming to welcome tourists to explore all Lake George has to offer. They recommended their favorite local activities and tips on how to make our honeymoon memorable!

Our compliments to Chef Paul — the portions of both appetizers (Margarita grilled shrimp, warm rolls, clam chowder filled with fresh clams), and our entrées (chicken parmigiana, a huge Tomahawk steak with homemade steak sauce and lobster tails) were all cooked to perfection, with generous servings! We also ordered flavorful mixed drinks and what became our new favorite locally brewed beer on tap, Adirondack Bear Naked Amber Ale..Check out the restaurant’s Facebook page for photos and current hours of operation: https://www.facebook.com/lakegeorgeboathouse/about.

  • Pizza Jerks (518-668-4411; 59 Iroquois St., Lake George, NY) –  choose from over 25 specialty pizzas, including gluten-free crust, or build your own. Order hot or cold subs and wraps, and add an order or two of their garlic knots.  Their motto is “awesome food for awesome people”– we’re vouching for that. Make sure you order the Jamaican Jerk and Sesame Teriyaki chicken wings (just two of over 14 flavors). Pizza Jerks is open year-round for delivery and pickup.
  •  The Lagoon Bar & Grill (518-685-5009; lagoonlakegeorge.com; 204 Canada St., Lake George). This fun little establishment is all about over-the-top comfort food, such as the “Loaded Mac Grilled Cheese Sandwich” – sourdough grilled cheese stuffed with pulled pork and macaroni and cheese. The 8-oz. “French Mountain” Burger is piled with provolone cheese, grilled onions, mushrooms, and topped with bourbon glaze.
  •  Adirondack Pub & Brewery (518-668-0002; adkbrewery.com; 33 Canada St, Lake George, NY). Hand-crafted lagers and ales using local, Adirondack ingredients are brewed and bottled on-site in this Lake George rustic, log-style building.  The restaurant boasts a large, covered deck for outdoor seating. Menu options combine regular pub appetizers, with some rather interesting ones, such as: eggplant fries, East-ender fish and chips; Black and Blue burger with homemade gorgonzola horseradish creme sauce; and even craft-made, locally brewed root beer. Ask for their S’mores dessert! You can also enjoy their signature and seasonal beer at other restaurants around town and on the lake cruises.

5.    Play a round of mini-golf at one of the many themed, outdoor golf parks. Surrounded by lush landscaped waterfalls, streams, and structures representing an 18th-century town overrun by pirates, the 18-hole  Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf is a favorite activity for playing during the day or late into the evening (518-668-0493, 2115 U.S. 9, Lake George, https://www.piratescove.net/locations/new-york/lake-george/). Open daily from mid-April through late October, a round of golf costs $8.95/adult, $8.50/child 4-12 (kids 3 and under play for free).

6.    Stroll or drive around the center of Lake George Village – with wide, clean sidewalks! The large town center offers many lively bars, restaurants and shops geared towards visitors.  Each has its own unique souvenirs, clothes, antiques, novelties, and specialty treats like fudge, chocolates, local wines, even cotton candy and soft serve ice cream.

The Docks Area at Night ©Evan Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
  • Walk along the southern Lake George boardwalk and docks – the concrete paths wind alongside bars, restaurants, and pristine waterfront parks. At night, the paths around the docks are brightly lit and visitors can walk around enjoying the nightlife on the lake.
  • Visit  “The House of Frankenstein” Wax Museum (518-668-3377; 213 Canada Street, Lake George, NY).  The two-story attraction houses rooms with animated wax figures that portray historic and literary scenes of horror and torture. We recommend it for kids and adults who can handle walking along darkened hallways and fake gore. General admission is $10.75/adult; $9.81/student 13-17; $6.07/kids (6-12). This attraction is open daily from April through early November. Check the hours of operation in 2021 from the museum’s website (https://frankensteinwaxmuseum.com/tickets/).
The House of Frankenstein Wax Museum ©Evan Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
  • Travel back in time to the middle of the French and Indian War during the 1750s at  Fort William Henry Museum (518-964-6649; https://www.fwhmuseum.com; 48 Canada Street, Lake George). Take a self-guided tour to hear about the role of the fort during this pre-revolutionary period, or learn from a military guide dressed in 18th-century period uniform. Demonstrations of musket and cannon firing are scheduled throughout the day. It is strongly recommended to call or go online to reserve when you will visit as well as to purchase tickets in advance. Plan to come for the fort’s special events. General admission (and for ghost tours) is $19.95+NYS tax/adult; $15.95+NYS tax/Senior; $9+NYS tax/child (5-15; under 5 free); Military/Veterans are free with a valid ID.
  • Picnic on the grassy hills of the Lake George Battlefield near the Fort. Battlefield Park has a few interpretive signs, historic statues, and monuments. Enjoy a self-guided tour following the Tour Lake George Battlefield Brochure (PDF).
Panoramic view of Lake George Battlefield Park ©Evan Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

7. Explore the Adirondack State Park mountain roads above Lake George Village. One of our favorite drives is up the five-mile Prospect Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway which has a few overlooks to view the Village, the Lake George islands, and the beautiful, tree-lined mountains. Follow the road all the way up to the last overlook and park your car so you can walk up a rather steep but short hill to be 2,030 feet at the mountain’s summit. Here, you can view both local scenery of The Narrows, Lake George, and The Eagle’s Eye. Far in the distance on a clear day, you can also see mountain ranges in Vermont, New Hampshire and Canada – totally worth the trek up the mountain!  Prospect Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway is open from May through Veterans’ Day, weather permitting.

View Lake George from the summit of Prospect Mountain © Samantha Mazzia-Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

8. Book a campsite or reserve your own private island in Lake George by visiting https://www.lakegeorge.com/camping/reservations/.  There are plenty of ways to camp in the Adirondack State Park around Lake George, from tent camping, glamping, RV-rentals, or sleeping on a small docked boat! Kayak or boat to your private campsite on your very own island. Use the online resource, Lake George Camping Guide for tips, contact information and other ways to reserve these unique stays! Although we did not have the opportunity to stay at our own private island, we look forward to planning them for one of our future trips.

Lake George Battleground State Campground ©Evan Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

9. Rent a private boat for the day; Even if you do not own your own boat, you can still enjoy the day on the water! There are tons of vehicles you can rent while staying on the lake. Many boat marinas allow you to use rentals during spring months through fall. You need to be 21 years or older with a valid driver’s license in order to rent and drive a boat in New York. Visit https://www.visitlakegeorge.com/water/boat-rentals for more information on where to book your very own boat rental!

Watching the sun set over Lake George ©Evan Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

______________________

© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

New York’s 750-Mile Empire State Trail, Longest Multi-Use State Trail in Nation, Officially Opened!

Biking over the Rosendale Trestle, 150 feet above the Rondout Creek, on the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, part of the New York Empire State Trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

New York’s ambitious Empire State Trail, now the nation’s longest multi-use state trail, is now fully opened as of December 31. The trail network spans 750-miles total, 75 percent of which is off-road trails ideal for cyclists, hikers, runners, cross-country skiers and snow-shoers. The new recreational trail means you can go from New York City north-south through the Hudson and Champlain Valley to Canada, and east-west from Albany to Buffalo along the Erie Canal on a safe and incredibly scenic pathway, discovering fascinating historic and cultural sites along the way.

 The Empire State Trail is expected to draw 8.6 million residents and tourists annually and will be an economic boon to rural communities, in addition to providing opportunities for healthful activities promoting wellness among New Yorkers.

“Nearly four years ago, we announced plans to build the Empire State Trail and I am excited to announce it’s been completed on time and will open on New Year’s Eve,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “There’s no trail like it in the nation – 750 miles of multi-use trail literally from Manhattan to the Canadian Border, from Buffalo to Albany. Not only does it provide an opportunity to experience the natural beauty and history of New York, but it also gives New Yorkers from every corner of the state a safe outlet for recreation as we continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. As we approach the holiday weekend, there is no better time than now to put on your mask and experience it for yourself.”

“During this unprecedented year, the Empire State Trail has been a lifeline for many, as local residents explored recreational opportunities in their backyards while remaining safe during a global health pandemic,”Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said. “The completion of the 750-mile state trail not only makes physical connections between locations across the state, but it also continues to build on how we are reimagining our natural wonders and historic corridors as a source of recreation, economic development and tourism in New York State.”

Introduced in the Governor’s 2017 State of the State address, the Empire State Trail will be open year-round, including winter. It connects 20 regional trails to create a continuous statewide signed route. As part of the 58 distinct projects to complete the Trail on time, more than 180 miles of new off-road trail was created and 400 miles of previously disconnected, off-road trails were linked to eliminate gaps and ease engineering challenges such as railroad and water crossings in high traffic areas.

The New York State Department of Transportation improved 170 miles of on-road bicycle route sections to enhance safety and travel on low-speed rural roadways and city streets when possible. New York State also installed 45 gateways and trailheads along the route to welcome visitors and branded the trail with signage, interpretive panels, bike racks, and benches.

The Empire State Trail website provides quick and easy access to trail information including segment descriptions, access points, trail distances, parking areas, restrooms, and nearby amenities and attractions. The website’s responsive and user-friendly design allows users to access interactive maps from mobile devices, zoom in to specific location of interest, and download/print maps of trail segments. Cyclists can print “cue sheets” with highly detailed directions for following a selected trail segment. The site also features information about the variety of activities and destinations on or near the trail such as campgrounds, parks, historic sites, and popular stops among the local communities.

Recently completed projects that finalize the trail include:

Hudson Valley

Biking over the Springtown Truss Bridge over the Wallkill River, featured in the movie “A Quiet Place,” on the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, now part of the 750-mile Empire State Trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
  • Albany-Hudson Electric Trail: The Hudson River Valley Greenway constructed 36 miles of off-road and on road trails from the city of Rensselaer to the City of Hudson in Rensselaer and Columbia counties. The $45 million trail follows the historic route of an electric trolley which operated from 1900 to 1929. The corridor is owned by National Grid, which authorized New York State to build a trail on the route.
  • Maybrook Trailway: Metro-North Railroad constructed a new 23-mile rail-trail on its inactive “Beacon Line” corridor from Hopewell Junction in Dutchess County to Brewster in Putnam County passing through the towns of Pawling, Southeast, Paterson, Beekman and East Fishkill. Along the route, the trail winds through rural landscapes and wooded areas featuring seasonal waterfalls and crosses the Appalachian Trail. The $42 million Beacon Line was the first all-rail freight connection across the Hudson River north of New York City. It originally opened as a rail line in 1892 and served as a vital transportation link between New York and southern New England, carrying trains between Derby Junction and Maybrook, via the bridge over the Hudson River at Poughkeepsie that is now the Walkway Over the Hudson.
  • Hudson River Brickyard Trail: The City of Kingston constructed a new 1.5-mile Empire State Trail section along the Hudson River shoreline. The $1.4 million project was built with City of Kingston and Town of Ulster funds matched by state grants from the Department of State and Hudson River Valley Greenway.
  • Battery Park City Gateway: The $450,000 gateway marks the southern terminus of the trail in Lower Manhattan.
The completion of the New York Empire State Trail means you can bike from Hudson River Park in Manhattan, up to the Canada border © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Erie Canalway Trail

Cycle the Erie riders visit the historic Flight of Five Locks at Lockport, the engineering marvel that made the Erie Canal possible © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
  • The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Gateways: These four gateways in Western New York provide a welcoming connection for trail visitors at key access points in: Buffalo Harbor State Park in Buffalo; at the western entrance to the Erie Canal in Tonawanda; at Five Locks Park in Lockport; and in Genesee Valley Park in Rochester. The gateways include kiosks featuring local and statewide trail information, bicycle racks, and shaded granite block seating. Each gateway features a “Ralph C. Wilson, Jr.” memorial plaque honoring the late owner of the Buffalo Bills. The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation provided $2.6 million dollars for the gateways.
  • Macedon Bridge: NYSDOT restored a closed vehicle bridge over the Erie Canal. The $4.2 million investment created a bicycling and walking trail and created a local park.
  • Erie Blvd-Syracuse: NYSDOT constructed a 3-mile trail in the median of Erie Blvd, from East Syracuse to DeWitt. The project cost $23 million.
  • Loop the Lake Trail-Syracuse: Onondaga County constructed a new 1.5-mile trail on the south shore of Onondaga Lake, including a new bicycle/pedestrian bridge over CSX’s rail line. The project was funded with County and federal funds.
  • Utica: New York State Canal Corporation constructed a new 3.5-mile trail east of Utica for $9.3 million
  • Herkimer County: New York State Canal Corporation completed a new 2.2-mile trail section Lock E18 to Route 167, a new 1.3-mile trail section Frankfort to Ilion, and a new 2-mile trail from Ilion to Mohawk. These projects totaled $16.4 million.
Stopping off to visit the Erie Canal Museum in Syracuse during the Cycle the Erie bike tour © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Champlain Canalway

  • Fort Edward to Fort Ann: The New York State Canal Corporation constructed two adjacent trail sections. The $14.3 million investment created a 12-mile trail from Fort Edward to Fort Ann.
  • Fort Ann to Comstock: NYSDOT built a new 0.75-mile off-road trail in Washington County and designated a 7-mile route on local roads and cost $2 million.

“The Empire State Trail is a testament to Governor Cuomo’s vision to make New York State an unmatched destination for outdoor recreation,” New York State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said. “Everyone from the most experienced long-distance cyclists to family groups with children will enjoy this pathway. People can take a quick bike ride or walk close to home, or they can plan a multi-day adventure to take them from one end of the state to the other.”

“Governor Cuomo’s vision for the newly-completed Empire State Trail merges economic development with the beautiful views along the Canal system to create exceptional outdoor recreation opportunities, both for residents of canalside communities and for visitors from across New York and beyond,” New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton said. “The Erie Canalway and Champlain Canalway Trail segments of the Empire State Trail reintroduce New Yorkers to the historic towpaths of our state’s storied waterways and connect a new generation to the rich heritage of the New York Canal system.”

“Completion of the 750-mile Empire State Trail is a truly historic achievement for New York State that demonstrates the intricate connection between investments in transportation infrastructure and the vitality of our communities,” New York Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said. “This breathtaking trail will allow countless generations of New Yorkers and visitors to explore the world-renowned natural wonders and beauty of the Empire State and provide unparalleled recreational access to users of all ages and abilities – all while promoting environmental responsibility, tourism and economic development. The New York State Department of Transportation is proud to have played a significant role in fulfilling Governor Cuomo’s vision. Excelsior!”

“New York’s landscape offers extraordinary opportunities to explore the outdoors and experience the state’s world-class natural resources while still being able to recreate locally,” New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “This exciting milestone for the Empire State Trail enhances one of New York’s premier recreational opportunities and demonstrates Governor Cuomo’s commitment to showcasing our state’s diverse communities, boosting their local economies, and connecting more New Yorkers to our environment.”

“The completion of the Empire State Trail further demonstrates Governor Cuomo’s commitment to invest in canalside communities and compliments the Reimagine the Canals initiative,” New York Power Authority President and CEO Gil C. Quiniones said. “Together, these investments safeguard the Canal’s role as a driver of economic growth. The Empire State Trail also will improve the quality of life of New Yorkers while simultaneously showcasing the historic beauty that already exists in the landscape surrounding the canals.”

“I want to thank Governor Cuomo for his vision, and our talented and dedicated Metro-North project team for giving new life to this area along Metro-North’s Beacon Line,” President of Metropolitan Transportation Authority Metro-North Railroad Catherine Rinaldi said. “This project ensures that New Yorkers and outdoor enthusiasts alike will be able to enjoy the trailway for decades to come.”

“Governor Cuomo’s Empire State Trail announcement completes New York State’s vision to create a Greenway trail between New York City and the Erie Canal, and it caps the efforts of communities up and down the Hudson Valley to develop an iconic multi-use trail,” Hudson River Valley Greenway Executive Director Scott Keller said.

Empire State Trail Brewery Passport

In addition, a virtual passport program showcases the 200 craft breweries closely surrounding the Empire State Trail, in partnership with the New York State Brewers Association. The Empire State Trail Brewery Passport, made available through the NYSBA’s existing New York Craft Beer App, will encourage New Yorkers to visit breweries within 10 miles of the Empire State Trail.

Just off the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail and up the road from the River to Ridge Trail is Coppersea Distillery. In conjunction with the Empire State Trail, New York is has created a passport program and an app showcasing the 200 craft breweries closely surrounding the Empire State Trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

At each brewery along the Trail, visitors can digitally check-in on the app, earning a stamp on both of the app’s passport programs – the Think NY, Drink NY Passport and now the Empire State Trail Brewery Passport.

Exclusive rewards are awarded at levels determined by the number of stamps received on the Empire State Trail Brewery Passport, from neck gaiters, to shirts, to backpacks and more. By checking-in at 200 breweries and completing the Empire State Trail Brewery Passport, visitors will receive a branded cooler backpack and a t-shirt stating, “I completed the Empire State Trail Brewery Passport.”

The New York Craft Beer App is the first state-wide beer app in the country and is available for both Apple and Android devices. The app gives craft beer enthusiasts access to a map containing every brewery across New York State, searchable by region, and includes directions to breweries and allows users to build and save a personal tour of selected breweries. (https://thinknydrinkny.com/the-app/)

Parks & Trails NY’s Cycle the Erie Ride

Parks & Trails NY is hoping to offer the 23rd Annual 400-mile, 8-day Cycle the Erie biking/camping trip on July 11-18, 2021. The state has made improvements to complete the trail, from Buffalo to Albany, as part of the 750-mile Empire State Trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Meanwhile, Parks & Trails NY, a long-time advocate and activist for repurposing trails and byways for recreational use, is hoping to offer its 23rd annual 8-day 400-mile, Buffalo to Albany biking/camping Cycle the Erie trip July 11-18, 2021. PTNY is taking wait-and-see to offer the trip, which had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and is delaying registration until March 1.

“We continue to plan for a potential ‘in person’ 2021 CTEC event while remaining flexible in our options, given the uncertainty of the months ahead in terms of the pandemic and state regulations,” write the ride directors.

“2021 is going to be a great year for the cycling community and with so many new additions to the Erie Canalway Trail we cannot wait to share it with you.” (See https://www.ptny.org/cycle-the-erie-canal/annual-bike-tour for more.)

Details on the 750-mile Empire State Trail at https://empiretrail.ny.gov/.

See also:

NEW YORK’S EMPIRE STATE TRAIL COMES TOGETHER: BIKING THE WALLKILL VALLEY RAIL TRAIL IN HUDSON VALLEY

Cycle the Erie: 400 Miles & 400 Years of History Flow By on Canalway Bike Tour Across New York State

Cycle the Erie, Day 1: In Lockport, See Erie Canal Engineering Marvel, ‘Flight of Five’, Cruise Thru Double Locks, and Go Underground to Fathom Rise of Industrial Revolution

Cycle the Erie, Day 2-3: A Sequence of Charming Canaltowns, Pastoral Landscapes, Punctuated by City Birthed by ‘Mother of Cities’

Cycle the Erie, Day 4: Seneca Falls to Syracuse, Crossing Halfway Mark of 400-Mile Biketour

Cycle the Erie, Day 5: Deep Dive into The Erie Canal: ‘Mother of Cities’, Empire Builder, Wonder of the World

Cycle the Erie: At Fort Stanwix, Rome, Time Travel Back to America’s Colonial, Native American Past

Cycle the Erie, Days 6-7: Erie Canal Spurs Rise of America as Global Industrial Power

Cycle the Erie, Days 7-8: Schoharie Crossing, Mabee Farm, Cohoes Falls to Finish Line in Albany of 400-Mile BikeTour

__________________________

© 2021 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Holidays in NYC in Photos: Glad Tidings of Comfort and Joy

Holidays in New York City: Saks windows (c) Karen Rubin

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Take  a winter holiday stroll through mid-town Manhattan. There are many changes this year – mostly the absence of thick crowds, circles delineating social distancing for queues into shops, outdoor dining constructions bathed in warm light. The animated shop windows New York is so famous for – Macy’s, Saks (masks on the figures), Bergdorf Goodman– are more low key this year, themed around thanking all those who are getting us through this darkness and cheering on New Yorkers. Bergdorf Goodman, for many years in a row, getting my award for best, wins again this year with its stunning windows with dramatic messages of  Love, Hope, Goodness, Joy and Gratitude. And there are clever innovations to spread cheer: New York’s iconic symbols illuminated on the sidewalks, like a yellow cab. Saks still has its marvelous sound-and-light show illuminating its entire façade, just across the street from the Rockefeller Center tree, but it is pared down to just a few minutes so people don’t stand around too long. And there are security controls to minimize crowding and direct people to the entrance for ice skating or tree viewing. Even Atlas, the mighty ancient Greek Titan holding the heavens on his shoulders, is wearing a mask.

Come, walk with me:

Holidays in New York City: Macy’s famous windows with a simple universal message, “Thank You” (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City: Macy’s famous windows with a simple universal message, “Thank You” (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City: Sound and light show at Saks (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in NYC: Sound and light show at Saks (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City: Bergdorf Goodman (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City: Bergdorf Goodman (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City: Bergdorf Goodman (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City: Bergdorf Goodman (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City: Bergdorf Goodman (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City. Even Atlas, the mighty ancient Greek Titan holding the heavens on his shoulders, is wearing a mask. (The bronze statue, the largest at Rockefeller Center, was created by sculptor Lee Lawrie and Rene Paul Chambellan and installed in 1937. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in NYC: Rockefeller Center (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in NYC: Rockefeller Center (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

See also:

WHERE TO GO FOR HOLIDAY CHEER: NOTHING STOPS NYC’S TRADITIONS, ICONIC EVENTS

______________________

© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

New York’s Adirondacks: Driveable Winter Olympic Playground

Skiing Whiteface, Lake Placid, NY and feeling like an Olympian © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Three of the best ski areas in New York are actually owned by New York State and operated by the Olympic Regional Development Authority – Whiteface and Gore Mountain in the Adirondacks and Belleayre in the Catskills. (Among the improvements ORDA has made is  new RFID technology for direct-to-lift access and online purchasing so you can go directly from your car to the slopes; the ticket can be renewed online.)

Whiteface

Top of the list for ski areas with a world-class reputation is Whiteface, site of the 1932 and 1980 Olympics, where in addition to skiing, you can visit Olympic venues and even participate (biathalon, anyone? skate on the Olympic Oval, drive a coaster down the bobsled track).

Whiteface offers the greatest vertical, 3430 ft. from the summit at 4867 ft, of any lift-serviced mountain in the Northeast. This is a serious mountain – actually three mountains, Whiteface summit is a 4,867 ft.; Lookout Mountain tops at 4,000 ft.; Little Whiteface at 3,676 ft. – with more expert terrain, more long, rolling groomers (including the longest single intermediate run in the Northeast, the 2.1 mile-long Wilmington Trail) in the East. It offers 300 skiable acres: 89 runs (24% beginner, 44% intermediate, 33% advanced) and 53 acres of glades and 5 terrain parks, serviced by 13 lifts, including the gorgeous Cloudsplitter Gondola Ride that cuts an aerial path through the Adirondack Mountains on its way to the peak of Little Whiteface.

Skating on the Olympic Oval in Lake Placid © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Whiteface is my favorite ski destination in New York, largely because of Lake Placid, the ambiance and the extraordinary activities.

Experience the thrill of what it was like to be an Olympic Bobsledder during the 1980 Winter Games on the new Cliffside Mountain Coaster at Mt. Van Hoevenberg, which boasts being the longest year-round mountain coaster in the USA. You control the ride – you have the ability to go as slow or as fast as you’d like. Race your family & friends alongside the 1980 bobsled track to the bottom. During the scenic ride to the top of the Cliffside Coaster you learn about the inspiring Olympic history of the Lake Placid Sliding Center.

Other attractions and recent upgrades to the Olympic Sites include the new Sky Flyer Zipline at the Lake Placid Olympic Jumping Complex, the new SkyRide Experience, an 8-person gondola that brings guests from the Olympic Jumping Complex’s base lodge to the 90-meter and 120-meter ski jump towers, a new glass-enclosed elevator ride to the top of the ski jumps for a panoramic vista of the Adirondack High Peaks (and to experience what the jumpers see as they start to accelerate towards the end of the ramp!), new Nordic trails at Mt. Van Hovenberg (where you can try your hand at the biathalon).

In Lake Placid village, visit the Olympic Center, skate at the Herb Brooks Arena and on the Olympic oval, and visit the Lake Placid Olympic Museum.

Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort, Lake Placid © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There is no lodging on the mountain (it’s a wilderness area, after all), but many lovely inns, bnbs, hotels and resorts nearby, including the Whiteface Lodge Resort & Spa and Mirror Lake Inn Resort & Spa.  We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort, conveniently located in Lake Placid village, walking distance to everything, and accessible to a convenient shuttle bus to the mountain (www.golden-arrow.com).

Also High Peaks Resort which offers three unique lodging experiences overlooking Mirror Lake and the Adirondacks: The Resort, a traditional hotel featuring 105 guest rooms and suites (newly renovated in March 2020); the modern retro-vibe Lake House with 44 guest rooms; and the private and serene Waterfront Collection, featuring 28 guest rooms including 10 suites on the shores of Mirror Lake. Amenities available to all guests include the Spa & Salon at High Peaks Resort, two indoor and two outdoor heated pools, an indoor Jacuzzi, an on-site fully-equipped fitness center, and a full-service restaurant, Dancing Bears, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Guests also enjoy private access to Mirror Lake with complimentary use of skates, along with admission to Lake Placid’s full-service Nordic Center, Cascade Ski Center, with more than 12 miles of groomed trails for cross country skiing and snowshoeing (complimentary use of showshoes).  Dogs are welcome, with special canine-friendly treats and amenities. (High Peaks Resort, 2384 Saranac Avenue, Lake Placid, NY 12946, 518-523-4411, 800-755-5598, www.highpeaksresort.com

The newest additions are The Lake Placid Inn (opened July 2020) and the Saranac Waterfront Lodge, an eco-luxe independent boutique hotel that opened Nov. 1, 2020.

Whiteface, Lake Placid, 800-462-6236, 518-946-2223; Olympic Center, 518-523-1655; vacation planning assistance at  whitefacenewyork.comlakeplacid.com, whiteface.com.

Gore Mountain

As a perennial blue-trail/intermediate skier, Gore Mountain is one of my favorite places to ski. Nestled in the Adirondacks, it offers expansive views of a real wilderness. You actually feel as if you were in the Rockies.

Gore Mountain is New York State’s largest ski and ride resort with. 439 skiable acres, it spans four mountains, including Gore, Bear Mountain, Burnt Ridge Mountain and Little Gore Mountain, a vertical drop of 2,537 feet from the summit at 3,600 ft,  121 trails (10% beginner, 50% intermediate and 40% advanced), including 110 alpine trails (longest is 4.4 miles), with 28 glades, 8 freestyle areas and 11 cross-country and snowshoe trails, all serviced by 14 lifts.

Skiing Gore Mountain, in the Adirondacks © Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com

This season, Gore is unveiling two new lifts: a new quad replaces the High Peaks chair to deliver skiers toGore’s true summit, opening up fresh access to all four peaks and the entire Straight Brook Valley; and the Sunway Chair has been upgraded to a quad. The Cutoff trail in the Northwoods Area has been lengthened and redesigned to become an easier-rated trail. “Pete’s Paradise” now is an additional beginner option. There is also a significant increase in snowmaking capacity.

There is no on-mountain lodging, but there is the delightful Copperfield Inn (www.copperfieldinn.com/) in nearby North Creek which we enjoyed one Christmas; for a grand, luxurious stay, The Sagamore, in Bolton Landing on Lake George is 45 minutes away (www.thesagamore.com).

Gore Mountain, 793 Peaceful Valley Road, North Creek, NY 12853, Snow Phone: 518-251-5026, info 518-251-2411, info@goremountain.com,  goremountain.com.

More Winter Adirondack Activities

In addition to skiing and snowboarding at Whiteface in Lake Placid and Gore Mountain in North Creek, there are plenty of other ways to embrace the cold in the Adirondacks: hiking (including five fire tower trails in Hamilton County that travelers can visit and climb even in the winter!), cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, dogsledding, pond hockey, ice skating and ice fishing. 

Winter hike through Ausable Chasm, the Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Mirror Lake has plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy on the ice, including skating, cross country skiing, toboggan rides, dog sledding and skating on the Olympic Oval, just as the Olympians did. The Wild Center in Tupper Lake transforms into a winter playground once the snow hits – Winter Wild Walk, a learn-to ice-fish program, snowshoeing, and some other outdoor winter programming and activities. Oak Mountain (about 2 hours from Lake Placid) is a small family-friendly ski resort ideal for avoiding crowds and offers skiing, snowboarding and tubing along with disc golf and free snowshoeing. Ausable Chasm, the Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks, offers winter tours of frozen waterfalls and spectacular sights, less than an hour from Lake Placid. And at the end of the day, Main Street Lake Placid has plenty of boutique shops and restaurants to welcome visitors in from the cold.

The Adirondack Wayfinder, a new virtual service that showcases the park through thematic road trip itineraries, takes the guesswork out of planning where to go by allowing users to search through a variety of curated itineraries that appeal to different interests, from outdoor recreation, wide-open spaces and family-friendly itineraries to dining, brewery tours, and more. (www.adirondackwayfinder.com)

______________________

© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Driveable Winter Destinations: Ski New York’s Catskill Mountains

Ski Windham Mountain in the Catskills, NY © Dave E. Leiberman/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

New York State is not only home to the most ski areas of any state (50), but also some of the best, which makes them particularly desirable this year when being outdoors – skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing –are some of the most healthful activities you can do, are driving distance accessible, and because you are staying within New York State, you don’t have to quarantine for 14 days on returning.

New York has been intense about COVID-19 protections, and has instituted regulations governing reduced capacity to afford social-distancing, mask-wearing (except for actively skiing or eating), instituting such things as cashless transactions, rules for riding the lifts, and limiting time in lodges and restaurants, and in some instances advance ticketing and reservations. But it also has meant pleasant modifications – more outdoor dining with heat, for example, plus cashless transactions.

But with the great demand for New York skiing, Scott Brandi, president of the NY Ski Areas Association recommends “Know before you go.” Check the sites in advance to check conditions and availability and book lift tickets and rental equipment in advance – for example, most holidays and weekends as well as season passes are sold out for ORDA areas but there may be availability for midweek visits (ISkiNY.com).

In just a few hours, downstate New Yorkers can be on the slopes in the Catskill Mountains, where three of the state’s most popular ski resorts are located:

Windham Mountain

Windham Mountain Resort, which began as a private club and preserves much of that same feeling, is a year-round destination in the Great Northern Catskills of Greene County, NY, less than three hours north of New York City, and now is part of Alterra Mountain’s IKON Pass program, which means passholders get priority in reservations during this period of on-mountain capacity restrictions.

Windham offers 1,600 vertical feet from a summit of 3,100 feet. Its 54 trails and six terrain parks provide 285 skiable acres, accessed by 12 lifts including a new high speed six-passenger detachable lift and two high-speed quads. Windham also offers night skiing on six trails (45 acres). In the last 3 years, the resort has spent $12 million to improve the guest experience and offers beginner packages, lodging, dining options, an Adventure Park, and full-service Alpine Spa.

Ski Windham Mountain in the Catskills, NY © Dave E. Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Among the improvements this season:

  • Lift capacity out of the base area continues to increase at Windham. C Lift, a fixed grip triple chair serving beginner and intermediate terrain on the lower half of the West Peak has been upgraded with the relocation of the high speed quad.
  • A portion of Wildcat, a trail in the Wilderness Bowl area added in 2015, has been widened.
  • Improved snowmaking and grooming
  • new European-inspired “Umbrella Bar” with room for 125 guests in enclosed, heated comfort is the centerpiece of a reenergized patio area.
  • A new a ski and snowboard simulator that offers guests the chance to ski or ride downhill race venues from around the world virtually while supporting the Adaptive Sports Foundation. This building will also house a new equipment valet and quick tune up station.
  • An upgraded booking system with new software that will allow guests to bundle lodging stays with lift tickets, lessons and rentals in one easy transaction.
  • An expanded Guest Services department and on-site call center.

Accommodations are plentiful in the area: Windham has renovated rooms at The Winwood Inna quaint lodging property in the village of Windham owned and operated by the mountain. The restaurant, Tavern 23, has also been “renovated and reinvented” and features classic American comfort food.

New: Whisper Creek condominiums, high-end ski-in/ski-out lodging located steps away from Whisper Run on Windham Mountain. Building amenities include heated pool and hot tubs, club room and fitness center, ski locker-room with boot dryers and heated parking. Units comfortably accommodate 8 – 10 people and are perfect for extended family gatherings, wedding parties and special events. Whisper Creek is a short stroll away from the Alpine Spa and the Windham Mountain base lodge and within walking distance of the Mountain Bike Park and Scenic Skyride in the summer.  (518-734-3000)

Also, the historic Thompson House, literally around the corner, where we enjoyed our stay, has the charm of an inn with amenities of a resort (The Thompson House, 19 Route 296, Windham NY 12496, 518-734-4510, info@ThompsonHouse, www.ThompsonHouse.com).

Windham Mountain, 19 Resort Drive, Windham, NY 12496, 800-754-9463; to check conditions, call the Snow Report Hoteline 800-729-4766, info@windhammountain.comwindhammountain.com.

Hunter Mountain

Now part of Vail Resorts, Hunter Mountain, a legendary New York State ski resort and the closest major full-service resort to New York City, is also part of the EPIC pass, and among the COVID-19 precautions and protocols that limit capacity on the mountain, EPIC Pass holders get priority in making reservations.

Four separate mountain faces encompass a wide variety of terrain which caters to skiers and riders of all ability levels.

Fairlawn Inn bed-and-breakfast, Hunter, NY, the Catskills (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Hunter rises from 1600 ft base to 3200 summit, a 1600-ft vertical drop, 320 skiable acres (expanded from 240), 67 runs (up from 59; 25% beginner, 30% intermediate, 30% advanced and 15% expert) ) serviced by 13 lifts (increased from 12). It offers 4 gladed areas, 4 terrain parks.

Hunter also has a 1000-ft long tubing hill, one of the longest in NY, with its own Magic Carpet surface lift.

In response to COVID-19, Hunter has “reimagined” the resort experience, consistent with the policies and programs across the Vail Resorts brand.

Skiers are encouraged to use their own vehicles as their personal base lodge, since capacity is restricted. Transactions will be cashless; face coverings required at all times except when actively eating (EpicMix app makes it easier to manage Time to Dine). On-mountain restaurants are open but not bars. The equipment rental process has been streamlined, with seamless online booking, complimentary delivery service (so you skip the rental shop altogether).

On-mountain accommodations include The Kaatskill Mountain Club at Hunter Mountain (condos) and Liftside and Pinnacle condos in the village. There are many nearby bnbs, inns, lodges.

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Fairlawn Inn, just a quarter-mile away from Hunter’s entrance. The historic, Victorian inn has been restored with modern amenities while keeping the charm and character of the original property. It is operating now with strict COVID-19 safety protocols. (7872 Main St (Hwy 23A), Hunter NY 12442, 518-263-5025, fairlawninn.com).

Hunter Mountain, Hunter, NY, 800-486-8376, huinfo@vailresorts.com, www.huntermtn.com

Belleayre Mountain

About three-hours drive from New York City, Belleayre Mountain is the nearest of three ski areas owned and operated by New York State’s Olympic Regional Development Authority, and included on ORDA’s pass programs. The ski area has been dramatically improved, turned into a four-season mountain destination. Among the improvements, the first gondola in the Catskills.

Catskill Thunder Gondola at Belleayre.

What I love best about Belleayre is its natural separation of beginners (from the mid-mountain to the base, with long beginner trails) and more advanced skiers. It affords a 1404 ft vertical drop from a 3429 ft summit, 51 runs on 175 skiable acres (longest is 2.2 miles; 22% beginner, 58% intermediate, 10% advanced, 10% expert), serviced by 8 lifts. Intermediates will enjoy Deer Run, which meanders through a beautiful part of the mountain. The ski resort also features five glades, one terrain park, one progression park and one X-course. Cross-country skiers can enjoy 9.2 kilometers of ungroomed, unpatrolled trails.

There is no on-mountain lodging, but quaint inns and lodges nearby in Fleischmann’s, Pine Hill, Big Indian, Phoenicia, Shandaken and Margaretville (see www.belleayre.com/plan-your-visit/lodging/)

(Belleayre, Highmount, NY 12441, 800-942-6904, 845-254,5600, www.belleayre.com).

See:  

A BLUEBIRD DAY OF SPRING SKIING AT WINDHAM MOUNTAIN

3-DAY FALL GETAWAY IN THE CATSKILLS: FAIRLAWN INN IS SUPERB HUB FOR EXPLORING THE HUDSON RIVER VALLEY

______________________

© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Surging Demand, Limited Capacity Encourages Skiers to Discover New York’s Lesser Known Areas (There are 50)

Family enjoys expanded outdoor dining at Greek Peak. The strong desire for outdoor activities like skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, coupled with capacity restrictions, is encouraging visitors to discover more of New York State’s 50 ski areas. Areas have found innovative, pleasurable ways to adapt to the state’s COVID-19 requirements (photo provided by Greek Peak).

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing in the brisk fresh air of greater outdoors will be salvation to get through this dark winter of isolation. Fortunately, New York State, with 50 ski areas (more than any other state), is gearing up, putting in the protocols to keep everyone safe and healthy, doing what will be the safest and healthiest way to be active this winter. Just being outdoors will be a tonic for body and soul.

ISkiNY.com (Ski Areas of New York) is a sort of one-stop online place to learn about the various mountain resorts and ski areas and overall New York State policies to address (and contain) COVID-19. All areas are under capacity constraints (50% of their busiest day last season) and visitors must follow rules for wearing masks (an actual mask, not a gaiter) at all times except when actively skiing or eating. Most require or strongly recommend purchasing tickets online in advance (and are selling out because of limits) – even season pass holders, who have priority, may be required to make advance reservations. Also, areas are limiting time that can be spent indoors in the lodges (recommending using your own vehicle as a kind of base lodge), and with limited après-ski opportunities, are promoting day-trips to ski areas within driving distance. Fortunately, with 50 areas throughout the state, just about everyone lives within 2 ½ hours of a ski area and staying in-state means that New Yorkers won’t have to quarantine after returning from a long-haul ski trip. (See more at ISkiNY.com).

Because of reduced capacity and super-charged demand the best known, most popular full-service resorts like Whiteface (Lake Placid), Gore Mountain, Belleayre, Hunter (now part of Vail, on the Epic pass) and Windham (part of IKON pass), may well be at capacity especially for the holidays and weekends. So this will certainly be the season to explore some new ski destinations – areas, often that have been operating for decades, that are wildly popular with locals.  

And with this incredible blizzard that dumped a huge base of snow, just about everywhere in the state has great conditions, in time for opening day.

All but the three ski resorts that are owned by New York State’s Olympic Regional Development Authority (Whiteface, Gore, Belleayre) and Hunter (now owned by Vail Resorts) are independently owned, many going back decades, and offer their own particular personality, character and sense of community. Most are ski areas, not full-service resorts, but that may be just the ticket this year, for a quick day’s getaway on the slopes, no need to hang around for après-ski.

All have made accommodations to keep as much outside as possible – ticketing (many are cashless, and require advance reservations), setting up outside warmers, limiting time inside for dining, encouraging people to use their own vehicles as their base lodge. But all of the areas have made marvelous accommodations and innovations to bring more activities outdoors, continue to offer ski school, snow tubing, added firepits and grab n’go food, to preserve the spirit and joy of schussing down the slopes.

“While our number one goal is to run a safe operation this season, it is also our goal to ensure that our guests do not incur any additional stress or inconvenience when they visit West Mountain”, said Spencer Montgomery, Co-Owner and Managing Member of West Mountain in Queensbury.

“Sure, things will be a little different operationally this year, but our staff is here to provide an enjoyable and stress-free environment. People have already been through so much this year; skiing and riding is a chance to simply enjoy being outdoors with friends and family.”

“We are looking forward to welcoming our guests this winter to enjoy the outdoors”, said Sara Montgomery, General Manager of West Mountain. “With so many families at home doing virtual learning this year, getting on the mountain and getting exercise will be a much-needed activity and escape!”

“Know before you go,” Scott Brandi, President Ski Areas of New York, recommends. Check ahead for conditions and availability.

Here are just a few of the ski resorts and areas to explore:

Greek Peak

Greek Peak’s night skiing. The resort has a 6,000 sq. ft. deck off its Trax Pub & Grill for outdoor dining (photo by Drew Broderick, Greek Peak)

The Greek Peak Ski Resort is a full-service, four-season resort and the largest ski area in Central New York. It has a 952 ft. vertical drop from a 2100 ft summit. It’s varied terrain (220 skiable acres) offers 56 runs (35% beginner, 29% intermediate, 27% advanced, 9% double-black diamond, 4 terrain parks and half pipe), serviced by six chair lifts and two carpet lifts; the longest run is 1.5 miles, plus night skiing.  There’s also 8 km of Nordic terrain (natural, so depends on conditions) and snowshoeing.

The Adventure Center has a mountain coaster, guided zipline tours even in winter (by reservation), snowtubing (10-12 lanes).

Located in the Finger Lakes, Greek Peak offers an Adirondack-style lodge, Hope Lake Lodge (151 rooms, sleeping 4-10 people) as well as log home (sleeps 14, across from slopes), outdoor heated pool,  indoor water park with wave pool (water slides and hot tubs are currently closed under COVID-19 regulations).

Open, all year, Greek Peak is already compliant with COVID-19 restrictions and made the adaptations.

Dining inside is limited to 50% capacity. Children’s programs are exclusively outside (no nursery); there are new family lessons

“We are already seeing new people, who want to get outside and want to learn to ski,” says Drew Broderick, VP of sales & marketing.

They’ve added food and beverage service outside, “fresh tracks” which is a ski  in/out grab n go, adding menu items to the waffle shack and may add food carts.

Since being acquired in 2015 by John and Christine Meier, the resort has made more than $1.5 million improvements including adding a high-speed detachable quad, new groomers, snowmaking (78 guns added this year), the “Big Bear Activity Zone” at Cascades Indoor Waterpark, a 41,000 sq. ft. park with 500 ft. of slides, wavepool and hot tubs, open year round.

Greek Peak Mountain Resort, 2000 NYS Rte 392, Cortland, NY 13045, 800-955-2754, greekpeak.net

Plattekill Mountain

Privately owned and operated by the Vajtay family, Plattekill Mountain in the northwestern Catskills, with 38 trails and terrain, offers “authentic mountain experience.” Powder Magazine (Dec. 2018), described Plattekill as “The Alta of the Catskills.” It offers wide variety for skiers and snowboarders: 38 runs ranging from 2-mile long beginner cruisers to steep double black diamonds with 1100’ vertical from its 3500 ft. high summit, accessed by 4 lifts (20% easier, 40% intermediate, 20% black, 20% double black), a “natural terrain park” nestled in the woods between the Lower Face and Shredded Mozzarella trails.  “Big mountain terrain, small mountain charm.”

New this season: widening, clearing beginner and intermediate trails; installation of new snowmaking pump to improve snowmaking; new wireless technology; new “Platty Shack” with outdoor deck for quick grab and go items; new ‘order online’ option in cafeteria; new online shopping for tickets and rentals eliminating lines at rental shop.

Plattekill Mountain, 469 Plattekill Road, Roxbury, NY 12474, 607-326-3500, info@plattekill.com, plattekill.com

Catamount Mountain Resort

Catamount Mountain Resort is a four-season resort straddling the NY/Massachusetts border just about 2 hours from NYC. “With its sister resort, Berkshire East, Catamount is one fun mountain with some of the best steeps in southern New England and some of the best beginner and intermediate terrain.” Catamount has undergone a stunning transformation since the summer of 2018: new lift, new lodge, hundreds of new snow guns, four snow making ponds, miles of pipe, and countless other upgrades which make Catamount one of the best small ski areas on the East coast. 

It has a 1,000 ft vertical from the 2000 ft summit, 38 runs on 133 skiable acres (40% beginner, 35% intermediate, 15% advanced, 10% expert); longest run is 2 miles, and intermediates get to ski 1.25 miles from summit to base on turnpike Upper and Lower Sidewinder; for advanced, the double black Catapult is the steepest trail in the Berkshires and  its Upper/Lower Glade to Off Stage provides a half-mile of moguls; night skiing on 15 trails (more than 4 miles worth)

Catamount also boasts North America’s longest zip line, one of the largest aerial adventure parks on the East Coast. 

Tickets must be purchased in advance.

Catamount, Hillsdale, NY, 518-325-3200, info@catamountski.com, https://catamountski.com/

West Mountain

Nestled at the foot of the Adirondack Mountains, conveniently accessed just off I-87,  West Mountain towers over Glens Falls in Albany’s backyard, and with night skiing, is popular with people getting in a few runs after work.

Family-owned and operated, West Mountain continues to evolve to meet the needs of families as well as skiing and riding loyalists and year-round outdoor enthusiasts.

West Mountain offers a 1010 vertical drop from the 1470 ft. summit, 31 trails on 124 skiable acres (36% beginner, 55% intermediate, 9% advanced, one terrain park), accessed by four lifts, with night skiing on 105 acres. Also a tubing park with 10 lanes of tubing for all ages and abilities. 6-packs are for sale now that provide 6 tubing tickets, lift tickets or aerial treetop adventure tickets for the price of 5.  

The mountain staff has been focused on creating new, safe and innovative operations and programs to run this season including: a new Freestyle Development Program; a new Alpine Racing Academy for U12+ athletes; Learn to Ski and Snowboard packages for youth and adult first-time beginners. During non-holiday periods, West Mountain will offer popular ticket promotions such as Monday and Tuesday 4-hour ticket specials and breakfast or lunch plus lift ticket specials.

West Mountain has introduced new programs this year including freestyle skiing (photo by FreesrideMedia for West Mountain)

The resort has been open throughout COVID-19 pandemic offering safe, outdoor and socially distanced activities. For this season, there are additional outdoor eating and seating areas, warming tents, grab-n-go food and beverage windows, additional outdoor restrooms and controlled capacity at the two separate base-lodge areas (Main Base Lodge and Northwest Base Lodge).

West Mountain, 59 West Mountain Road, Queensbury, NY 12804, 518.636.3699, WestMountain.com

Mount Peter

Mount Peter, set in picturesque Warwick Valley, is the oldest operating ski area in New York State, and one of only a few remaining family-operated ski areas in America. For more than 80 years, Mount Peter has been a wintertime destination for skiing or snowboarding on 14 expertly groomed trails, 600-foot tubing run (separate Little Tikes tubing for kids under 42”), and night skiing.

Booking online is highly recommended.

Mount Peter, 51 Old Mt. Peter Road, Warwick, NY 10990T: (845) 986-4940, info@mtpeter.com, mtpeter.com

Bristol Mountain

Bristol Mountain, in Canandaigua, opened for their 56th season of operation. Located in the Western Finger Lakes Region, it offers 38 trails on 138 acres of skiable terrain and a 1200’ vertical drop from a 2200 ft. summit, accessed by six lifts including two high-speed quads. The terrain accommodates all ages and ability levels with 32% reserved for beginner, 50% intermediate and 18% advanced, including 97% lighted for night skiing terrain and 97% snowmaking coverage; the longest run is 2 miles.

Bristol Mountain has a top notch learning center, as well as two terrain parks that cater to all ability levels and 3 km of Nordic trails.

Bristol Mountain’s North Star Village Townhouses offer affordable ski-in/ski-out lodging with built in deals with their Ski & Stay programs.

Located in the Western Finger Lakes Region, Bristol Mountain offers 38 trails on 138 acres of skiable terrain and a 1200’ vertical drop from a 2200 ft. summit, accessed by six lifts including two high-speed quads (photo provided by Bristol Mountain)

Capacity at the mountain will be monitored and limited on busy days or when the mountain has limited terrain (i.e. early season). Reservations will be required for card products and lift ticket sales but currently will not be required for season pass products that allow direct- to-lift access (picture passes).

Lodge capacity will be limited this winter. Guests are asked to limit their time in the lodges to 15-30 minutes to warm up and use the restrooms. The mountain requests that guests arrive prepared and use their vehicle as their base lodge.                                                     

Bristol Mountain, 5662 Route 64, Canandaigua, NY 14424, 585-374-6000, fun@bristolmt.com, bristolmt.com.

Thunder Ridge Ski Area

Thunder Ridge Ski Area, located in Patterson, NY, may be the closest and easiest ski areas to reach from NYC, just 60 minutes drive from and accessible on Metro North (shuttle from Patterson train station). Thunder Ridge offers 100 percent snowmaking coverage on its 22 trails on 100 acres (40% beginner, 40% intermediate, 20% advanced, the longest run is 0.4 miles). A gentle mountain, it has a 500 ft drop from the summit at 1270 ft. Night skiing.

Thunder Ridge, 12563 Patterson, NY, 845-878-4100, thunderridge@cyburban.com. https://thunderridgeski.com/

Holiday Valley

Holiday Valley, Ellicottville, NY (50 miles south of Buffalo) is Western New York’s largest year ‘round resort featuring 60 slopes and trails and features a mountain coaster (photo provided by Holiday Valley).

Holiday Valley, Ellicottville, NY (50 miles south of Buffalo) is Western New York’s largest year ‘round resort featuring 60 slopes and trails, 13 lifts, 3 base lodges, slope side lodging and dining, conference facilities, a tree top aerial adventure park and a mountain coaster, and 18 hole golf course. 

Holiday Valley is in compliance with New York State’s COVID restrictions on operating the ski terrain and indoor services. Masks are required at all times except when skiing down the slope or while seated to eat or drink. Reduced capacity in the lodges and eating areas, as well as spacing in the lift lines and on the chairlifts will allow for proper social distancing. Advanced purchase of lift tickets online is encouraged, especially on holidays and busy weekends. Cleaning and sanitizing practices have been stepped up in the lodges, in the food service areas and in the restrooms. Guests are encouraged to limit their time spent indoors.

Holiday Valley, 6557 Holiday Valley Road, Route 219, Ellicottville, NY 14731, 716-699-2345, www.holidayvalley.com

Holimont Ski Area

Holimont, nestled in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains, is a private ski area with member families from the United States and Canada. Non-members may use the facilities on non-holiday weekdays, and new members are welcome. It offers a 700 ft. drop from 2260 ft. summit, 55 trails on 135 skiable acres (25% beginner, 31% intermediate, 44% advanced, ), 3 terrain parks, longest run is 1.5 miles,  (100% snowmaking)

Holimont, Ellicottville NY 14731, 716-699-2320, info@holimont.com, holimont.com

Hunt Hollow Ski Club

Located near Naples, New York (near Rochester), Hunt Hollow Ski Club offers 400 acres of accessible winter recreation space. With an 825-foot vertical drop from a 2030 ft. summit, it offers 19 trails over 400 skiable acres (32% beginner, 21% intermediate, 37% advanced, 11% expert), accessed by a triple-chair, double-chair, T-bar and a surface lift service (100% snowmaking). There is night skiing. Also, 2.5 miles of Nordic trails and a terrain park.

Hunt Hollow Ski Club, 7532 County Road 36, Naples NY 14512, 585-374-5428, info@hunthollow.com, hunthollow.com.

An excellent source: https://www.onthesnow.com/new-york/ski-resorts.html.

For more information, contact ISkiNY.com.

______________________

© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Where Holiday Lights Shine Brightest this Season

Bronx Zoo Holiday Lights, offering five lantern safaris, entertainment and more, takes place over select dates through January 10 (photo by Julie Larsen Maher, WCS).

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

There is special emphasis on bringing light, warmth and cheer this holiday season. Destinations that have offered lighting displays and holiday events have taken special care to adapt them to meet health protocols. Here is a sampling:

Holiday Lights Safaris at The Bronx Zoo

Bronx, NY – The Bronx Zoo has officially flipped the switch on Holiday Lights 2020 which runs on select dates through January 10, bringing New Yorkers much-needed joy for the winter season. Tickets for Holiday Lights must be purchased in advance and are now available online.

This year’s experience encompasses a larger area of the zoo and be organized to accommodate social distancing. With dozens more animal lanterns than last year, the zoo has created five geographically representative lantern safaris that include species from different regions of the world.

In addition to the wildlife lantern safaris and sprawling holiday illuminations, the new Luminous Garden features larger-than-life plants and animals unlike any other garden in New York including flowers, mushrooms, butterflies and other insects.

Entertainment includes ice carving demonstrations, costumed characters, stilt walkers, souvenirs, and seasonal treats. Of course, s’mores have been so popular, there are 12 fire pits where people can make their own s’mores or try one of the contest winners.

While celebrating the holiday season, all events and activities have been modified to meet all safety guidelines as directed by the State of New York. All guests over 3 years old are required to socially distance and wear face coverings, and all tickets are date-specific and must be purchased in advance online. For a full list of COVID-19 protocols, visit the zoo’s Know Before You Go page.

Visit the website for information, tickets and the full schedule of activities.

Palm Beach Zoo Lights is ‘Wild’ Holiday Celebration

Zoo Lights presented by FPL SolarNow, illuminates Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society with more than one-million eco-friendly LED lights this holiday season (photo courtesy Palm Beach Zoo)

West Palm Beach, Fla. – Zoo Lights presented by FPL SolarNow, illuminates Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society with more than one-million eco-friendly LED lights this holiday season. Starting November 27, the Zoo is open after regular hours on select nights from 6- 9 PM for a WILD holiday celebration featuring family fun, Santa, decadent treats, music and holiday charm.

“We can all use some holiday magic to shine through this season,” said Margo McKnight, president and CEO of Palm Beach Zoo. “The premiere of Zoo Lights last year was a huge holiday hit with our community. This year it is even more important to offer visitors a safe celebration where families can be outside in nature, enjoy great weather and embrace the spirit of the holidays.”

Zoo Lights visitors can expect to have a safe, socially distanced and enjoyable experience including photos with Santa, a DJ playing holiday tunes, sweet treats and more including:

  • An evening stroll through the Zoo surrounded by one-million holiday lights and lighted displays.
  • A unique theme for each area of the Zoo. New for 2020, the Asia section will dazzle in golden hues as lighted animals sparkle, adding more square footage to the vast event.
  • The Florida Wetlands section features traditional holiday cheer and Santa’s workshop. Families can have their portraits made with Santa, and children can share their holiday wishes through December 23.
  • The Fountain Plaza transforms into a North Pole dance floor where a DJ spins family-friendly holiday hits each evening.
  • While the jaguars sleep, the Mayan Plaza shines with blue lights and dripping icicles.
  • The Tropics Cafe features festive holiday fare, and food stations around the Zoo offer seasonal treats, beverages and cocktails, as well as a s’mores fire pit.
  • The gift shop offers lighted merchandise sure to be your children’s favorite.

For the second consecutive year, Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) is sponsoring Zoo Lights with its FPL SolarNow program. “It’s fitting for Florida Power & Light Company to illuminate the holiday season in this special way, with energy-efficient LED lights that brightens the Zoo’s pathways and gives families a safe place to celebrate,” said Matt Valle, vice president, FPL Development at NextEra Energy, Inc. and Zoo board member. “Having the ability to bring your family to a world-class destination that represents conservation is a benefit that many parents, such as myself, find invaluable now more than ever.”

Tickets for Zoo Lights are $14.95 for adults and $12.95 for children. Palm Beach Zoo Annual Members receive special pricing. Pre-sale tickets are available at www.palmbeachzoo.org/zoolights

This year, Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society is the official non-profit community partner of Sandi and the City of West Palm Beach Holidays in Paradise annual downtown campaign. In addition to taking part in Zoo Lights, plan on visiting Sandi and her flamingo friend Hope as Sandi Brings Hope to West Palm Beach. Learn more at wpb.org/events 

For more than 50 years, Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society has provided visitors with up-close and personal animal encounters that connect people to wildlife. Palm Beach Zoo guests explore a WILD ecosystem thriving on 23 lush, tropical acres while discovering hundreds of exotic animals. Visitors enjoy interactive animal experiences, nature and water play, and a lakeside cafe. Palm Beach Zoo participates in AZA Species Survival Plan® programs, ensuring healthy animal populations for rare and endangered species. The impact of a visit to Palm Beach Zoo extends beyond the gates, inspiring people to take action and save wildlife in wild places. For more information, visit www.palmbeachzoo.org.

Have a Colonial Christmas in Williamsburg, Virginia

Christmas in Busch Gardens-Williamsburg has been adapted for 2020.

Williamsburg, VA – In Colonial Williamsburg, in addition to Grand Illumination, enjoy special holiday events throughout December include caroling at the Courthouse, walking tours highlighting colonial Christmas decorations and the galleries of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, visits with Father Christmas, ice skating at the Liberty Ice Pavilion, the community Christmas Tree lighting with special readings of “The Night Before Christmas,” the Lighting of the Cressets on historic Duke of Gloucester Street with strolling musicians and tidings of good cheer Dec. 17 – 24, holiday feasts and meals, and opportunities to shop for colonial gifts such as wreaths and centerpieces. The living history attraction remains open for daily holiday programs with special health protocols in place.

Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area is fully decorated and holiday-themed programming is being presented daily ― mostly outdoors ― through New Year’s Day, along with a range of new exhibitions, seasonal programming and the famous Folk Art Christmas Tree at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, which this year completed a $41.7-million donor-funded expansion.

In Merchants Square, a variety of shopping and dining options await, along with Liberty Ice Pavilion, now open daily on Duke of Gloucester Street. A new Christmas Market opens Fridays through Sundays, Dec. 4-19, at the corner of South Boundary Street and Francis Street, hosted in partnership with the City and CultureFixVA.

Event schedules and admission information is available at colonialwilliamsburg.org/holidays. Details on Colonial Williamsburg Resorts getaways, plus tavern and contemporary dining information are available at colonialwilliamsburghotels.com.

The Busch Gardens Christmas Celebration runs on select dates through Jan. 3, featuring new village entertainment, fifteen coasters and rides, a Gingerbread Scavenger Hunt, festive holiday shopping, sweet culinary offerings, and meeting Santa in his Workshop.

In Yorktown, catch the Yorktown Christmas Tree Lighting, a community tradition that goes back to 1945, on Dec. 4. The Christmas Market on Main Street, Dec. 5-6, features 60 vendors for holiday gift shopping along with holiday music, The Fifes and Drums of Yorktown, festive food and drink, and an appearance by Santa on York County’s first fire truck. On Dec. 6, enjoy Cookies with Santa at the Gallery at York Hall and learn about ancient Norse influences on modern Christmas culture at the Viking Yuletide Celebration at the Watermen’s Museum. Shop for holiday gifts while enjoying chowders, soups, baked goods and other treats at the Mistletoe Market at Riverwalk Landing, Dec. 12, also featuring a live ice carving demonstration and a Toyland Parade. From Dec. 19-31, Christmastide in Virginia at Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown recalls 17th- and 18th-century holiday traditions through special interpretive programs and musical entertainment of the period. At the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, hear accounts of Christmas and winter in military encampments during the American Revolution and glimpse holiday preparations on a Revolution-era farm. A Jamestown Settlement, compare and contrast English Christmas customs of the period with how the season may have been observed in the difficult early years of the Jamestown colony. 

At Berkeley Plantation, enjoy Centuries of Christmas, Dec. 5 – Jan. 1, when the elegant 1726 mansion will be beautifully decorated with fresh greenery from Berkley’s gardens. Highlights include costumed guides sharing four centuries of stories, tours, workshops, teas and other special events.

Holidays in the Brandywine Valley

Christmas at Longwood Gardens (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Wilmington and the Brandywine Valley is one of the most picturesque and historic places especially during the holiday season. Here are highlights:

Longwood Christmas at Longwood Gardens, one of America’s most lauded holidays light displays shines brightly in the Brandywine Valley through Jan. 10, with more than 500,000 sparkling lights, dancing fountains, an illuminated light show set to yuletide music and the 100-foot tunnel of light that pulses with changing colors.  spreading holiday cheer throughout the gardens every night. Walk through this winter wonderland, stop into the conservatory for a dazzling display of holiday colors in every corner. Time your visit to sing along with Christmas carols as they’re played on the 10,010-pipe Aeolian organ, the largest ever constructed in a residential setting. To make a reservation and for more details, visit www.longwoodgardens.org.

Decking the halls is a full-time job for whoever decorates Henry Francis du Pont’s 175-room home for Yuletide at Winterthur. This premier museum of the American decorative arts, each room on the Yuletide Tour tells a story of how Americans have celebrated the holidays, starting back in the days when our nation was still young. There are sparkling trees, magical dollhouses, visits from Dickens and a number of holiday events (like the Yuletide Brunch with Santa) that tend to sell out early.

Holiday Magic at the Brandywine River Museum of Art, through Jan. 10, is highlighted by the Brandywine Railroad O-gauge model train that travels nearly 2,000 feet of track, passing through factories, a farm, a small town, and even a carnival setting. Kids programs run all month long, including the Polar Express Read-Aloud Pajama Night and sensory-friendly mornings with the trains. Exciting new additions this season are two model train sets once owned by Nicky and Jamie Wyeth, the sons of the renowned American artist Andrew Wyeth.

Visit https://www.visitwilmingtonde.com/plan/ to find all the events, plan a stay and learn about COVID-19 safety protocols in place.

Cape May MAC’s 47th Annual Christmas Candlelight House Tour Goes Virtual But Holiday Tours of Physick Estate Continue

Cape May’s Candlelight House Tour will be virtual this year, but other traditional tours and events go on (photo courtesy Cape May MAC)

Cape May, NJ –Cape May MAC (Museums+Arts+Culture) announces its 2020 Cape May Christmas Candlelight House Tour is available for purchase to experience virtually this year, but other Cape May traditional holiday programs, focused around the historic Emlen Physick Estate, with health protocols firmly in place, continue over the six weeks of the season.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions and protocols this year, Cape May MAC made the difficult decision that these annual holiday tours, usually offered on three nights in December, must be cancelled in 2020. Cape May’s Christmas Candlelight House Tours have been a beloved annual tradition for nearly half a century. Cape May MAC launched this tour in 1973 and ever since it has been a highlight of the Christmas season in Cape May, America’s only National Historic Landmark City. Thousands of people on three nights in December travel to more than a dozen homes, inns, B&Bs, churches and hotels, stepping across the thresholds to take in interiors beautifully decorated for the holidays. It is one of Cape May MAC’s largest fund-raisers.

“This year, it was decided to create a video that will bring the joy and excitement of these Cape May Christmas tours directly into people’s homes, to continue this tradition unbroken. With enthusiastic participation from Cape May innkeepers, B&B owners and homeowners, planning began this summer and production is nearly complete.”

“Of course, we look forward to when we can offer these self-guided tours in person once again, but we could not have Christmas in Cape May without them in 2020,” said Cape May MAC Director and CEO Jody Alessandrine.

For the first time, the tour will be entirely virtual, via a video available for purchase through Vimeo On Demand ($30). Featured are 10 Cape May homes, B&Bs and inns decorated for the holidays including interviews with owners and innkeepers. Participating properties include: The John B. McCreary House (“The Abbey”), Angel of the Sea Bed & Breakfast, The Bedford Inn, The Cherry House, The Emlen Physick Estate, Franklin at 721, The Henry Sawyer Inn, The Mainstay Inn, The Mason Cottage and The Mission Inn.

(Watch the Trailer, https://vimeo.com/ondemand/capemaychristmastour. The video can be purchased to watch after its release on Monday, Dec. 21 at 9 a.m.)

This presentation is sponsored by Sturdy Savings Bank and Brown & Brown Insurance. Proceeds benefit Cape May MAC, a not-for-profit organization committed to promoting the preservation, interpretation and cultural enrichment of the Cape May region for its residents and visitors since 1970. Cape May MAC membership is open to all. Visit capemaymac.org/support/membership to learn more.

While the candlelight tour is virtual, the rest of Cape May’s traditional holiday tours are taking place daily:

The Emlen Physick Estate is open daily (except Thanksgiving and Christmas) for holiday tours. Designed by American architect Frank Furness, the Physick House is Cape May’s Victorian House Museum. Its restoration began Cape May’s 50-year renaissance that continues to this day.

New in 2020! Winter Wonderwalk this season at the Physick Estate.

Open-air trolley tours are offered throughout this holiday season in Cape May. Bring a blanket!

Vintage restaurant is open during the holidays with heated, outdoor dining under the patio tent on the grounds of the Emlen Physick Estate, for both brunch and dinner.

An Old-fashioned Christmas Exhibit features a huge indoor Christmas Tree and Dept. 56 Dickens Village collection. Free admission to this popular annual display.

For information about Cape May MAC’s year-round schedule of tours, festivals and special events, visit capemaymac.org. For information about historic accommodations, contact Cape May Historic Accommodations at capemaylodging.com. For information about restaurants, accommodations and shopping, call the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cape May at 609-884-5508. For information on the city’s COVID-19 response, visit capemaystrong.org.

Drive-Through Holiday Lights Display at Jones Beach State Park, Long Island

Holiday lights at Jones Beach State Park, Long Island , from years ago, continues this year as Magic of Lights (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Long Island, NY – The Magic of Lights 2.5-mile long drive-through holiday display at Jones Beach State Park, presented by New York Community Bank, takes place through Jan. 2. It features themed light displays using the latest LED technology and digital animations, including the drive-through Blizzard Tunnel as well as other returning favorites including 12 Days of Christmas, Winter Wonderland and The Night Before Christmas. The popular Toyota Mega Tree Spectacular also returns this season, featuring favorite holiday programming displayed across 240 feet of LED Christmas trees.

Magic of Lights is open daily day from dusk and run through 10pm Sunday through Thursday and until 11pm on Friday and Saturday.

Limited early bird tickets are available for a reduced price of $20 with a code while supplies last at www.Ticketmaster.com. Admission is $25 per vehicle in advance and $30 at the gate on Monday through Thursday and $35 Friday through Sunday. Buy tickets in advance for a contactless experience on-site. Receive $3 off weekday admission when you bring at least two non-perishable food items benefiting Long Island food banks.

Some of the evenings are designated as charity nights. Last year Magic of Lights’ philanthropy made a meaningful impact in local communities by raising more than $150,000 for local organizations in addition to collecting non-perishable food items, toys, books, coats and more for those who need it most.

For more information and a complete schedule visit www.magicoflights.com.

_____________________

© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Because travel is a life-enhancing, relationship building, world-changing experience

%d bloggers like this: