Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Go Orange! Orange County, NY

Cromwell Inn
Brotherhood Winery

Harness Racing Hall of Fame

Purple Heart Hall of Fame
West Point
Boat Ride of the Hudson

Of eight counties named Orange in the United States, Orange County, NY, was the first. And, that is only one claim to fame for this county on the Hudson River. It is home to America’s oldest continuously operating winery, America's oldest continuously garrisoned Army installation, the oldest active harness racing track for trotters in North America, and Washington slept here.

From the vines
"Put on your drinking boots!" said Colleen Hughes of Brotherhood Winery at the beginning of the tour of Brotherhood Winery in Washingtonville. Established in 1839, it is the oldest continuously operating winery in the nation. John Jaques, a French immigrant, who produced the first commercial vintage, started the winery. The winery changed hands over the years and in 1886 the large stone building with underground cellars were added. The cellars are the largest in the U.S. Brotherhood, on the NY State and National Register of historic places, is just one of the six wineries in Orange County, most of which are included on the Shawangunk Wine Trail. Each Orange County winery has it’s own special flavor. Try Doc’s Hard Apple Cider at Warwick Winery tucked away on the country road south of Chester and Palaia Winery in Highland Mills serves up music with it’s wine several times a week.

Duty, Honor, Country
West Point is America's oldest continuously garrisoned Army installation, the nation's first engineering school, and the home of the United States Corps of Cadets since 1802. Built in January 1778 it was the first military post after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The motto of West Point "Duty, Honor, & Country" has not changed. The West Point Museum and bus tour of the Point is a trip through American history. At Trophy Point see a few links of the chain that crossed the Hudson River preventing the British from invading the rest of New York State. Pointing to the sports field, the guide shared, "Eisenhower was a member of the Century Club. This is where he had to walk off his demerits." In the West Point chapel is the world’s largest church organ with free concerts held at three on Sundays.

After Benedict Arnold’s act of treason there was no way to be sure that the security of West Point had not been breached so Washington set up his headquarters in nearby Newburgh. He spent more time at his Newburgh headquarters than anywhere else during the Revolutionary War and it is where he created and awarded the original purple heart badge. Not far away in New Windsor is the new, interactive National Purple Heart Hall of Honor remembering those who received the award throughout America’s wars.

Shop ‘til you drop

The village of Sugar Loaf has a rich and colorful history. It once served as the sacred burial ground for the Minisink Indians but the Wawayanda Patent and the building of King's Highway in the late 1730's led to the founding of Sugar Loaf by colonial settlers. Sugar Loaf became known as a craft and provision center for farmers and as a horse trading area. By 1830 the villagers of Sugar Loaf prospered providing the nearby farmers with supplies and services, boasting a wagon maker, cabinet maker, carpet factory, cheese factory, tannery, two coopers, a blacksmith, general store, a grist and sawmill. In the late 1960's, America experienced a craft revival. With a history of over two centuries as a center for handmade goods, Sugar Loaf symbolized this craft renaissance. New artisans moved in and the hamlet's population doubled. Now, in the 21st century many of these creative people still live and work at their crafts with the same commitment and skill as their predecessors. Wander the boardwalk, stroll down the alley, smell the aroma of scented candles being made, and chat with the artists. Most of the working studios are housed in quaint homes over 100 years old and are open to the public.

If a designer label not the personal signature of the designer is of more interest then head to Woodbury Common Premium Outlets in Central Valley where they claim to have the "world’s largest collection of luxury designer and name brand outlets." Looking for something old? No problem. In every quaint village, around every turn is a shop to thrill the antique hunter.

Get your heart racing
Before baseball, there was harness racing, the sport known as "American’s Original Pastime." Founded in 1838, Goshen is the oldest active harness racing track for trotters in North America. At the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in Goshen, Gail Cunard explained, "Harness racing has no boundaries. Drivers are black, white, male, female, and we have a driver in his 80s." Thanks to the world’s only 3-D Harness Racing Simulator even visitors can feel the thrill of being a driver – bumps, turns, and all – all except dirt actually flying in their face. Nearly all of the harness racing trotters today can trace their lineage back to Hambletonian 10 – a stallion bred on a farm in Sugar Loaf.

Need to rev up your engine to get your heart racing? Orange County Choppers is in New York not in California as many think. The custom motorcycle manufacturer opened their new international headquarters designed to combine their production and retail facilities in Newburgh in April 2008.

It’s natural
America’s smallest forest has only one tree, an eastern cottonwood that’s over three hundred years old. The Balmville tree outside of Newburgh is on the National Register of Historic Places. But, over 25 percent of Orange County is made up of parks, reservoirs, and nature preserves with trails for hiking and biking. It is home to the Shawangunks, low, undulating mountains that border the Hudson River. The area has been designated by The Nature Conservancy as one of the "75 Last Great Places on Earth." Nearby is The Storm King Art Center, a museum that celebrates the relationship between sculpture and nature. The five hundred acres of landscaped lawns, field, and woodlands are the gallery for over 100 post-World War II sculptures by internationally renowned artists. Take a sightseeing cruise through history and the majestic beauty of the Hudson River on the Pride of the Hudson. For more information on things to see and do check or call 800-CALL-NYS.

Lovely Lancaster County, PA

Welcoming Artist's Inn in Terre Hills
The subline country side
The amazing owner of the Cafe Chocolate in Lititz

"Living the Experience" - the story of the Underground Railroad
One of the covered bridges
Lace making at the Landis VAlley Museum

On our recent trip to Lancaster my husband, John, and I learned there are two Lancasters – the county and the city. This time we explored Lancaster County and fell in love with the countryside. We immediate felt at home when we checked into the Artist’s Inn in Terre Hill. The Victorian B&B is on a quiet street in a quiet town where the most common noise is the clip-clop of the horse and buggies. We arrived on Sunday in time to borrow two lawn chairs from Jan Garrabrandt, the innkeeper, and headed to Long Park where they have a free concert every Sunday. It was a beautiful evening to sit on the hillside and listen to some light jazz.

The next day, after a leisurely gourmet breakfast at the Artist’s Inn, we headed to Lititz, which quickly became our favorite town and the smell of chocolate in the air had a lot to do with it! The factory responsible for the delicious smell was Wilbur Chocolate where Wilbur Buds were the inspiration for the Hershey Kiss. The factory has a show kitchen where we watched the ladies who have the sweetest job in Lancaster County hand-dipping chocolate. We spent time in the museum featuring early chocolate making equipment and watched a great video that started with the discovery of the "Food of the Gods" by the Spanish explorers who then spread the love of chocolate across the world. The entire process from raising and harvesting the cocoa to the fermentation followed by the drying and shipping of the beans to the factory gave us a new appreciation for chocolate.

Next to Wilbur Chocolate is the Tourist Information Office where we picked up a brochure for a walking tour of Main Street, which is lined with 18th century buildings. Many, like the Moravian Congregational Store dating from 1762, have changed little. Our goal was the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery, the home of America’s first pretzel bakery. One of the wonderful things about the factory is that it was founded in 1861 in the same location and is maintained by the fifth generation of the Sturgis family. While we were waiting for the tour to start we read the wall posters and learned that in ancient Egypt if a baker was caught selling underweight or adulterated baked goods he was nailed by the ear to the door of his shop! Guess that kept them honest. We joined the tour where Carol, our guide, showed us how make the pretzels which symbolize hands at prayer. It was especially fun watching the children learn how to make the pretzels then proudly display their diplomas. We left with John’s favorite – cinnamon stick pretzels – and my favorite – caramel filled chocolate covered pretzels.

On the way back to the car we could not resist stopping for lunch at Café Chocolate. What a wise choice. John had toasted peanut butter & banana panini with dark chocolate while I opted for Chile Con Chocolate, Oaxacan style. But it was more than the great lunch it was the great conversation with Selina. Selina is an amazing woman who exudes happiness and energy. From Hong Kong to Toronto to Princeton to Lititz, her personal story is amazing. We wished we had more time to spend with her but she is always on the move and we, too, had to move along.
Just a bit south of Lititz is the Landis Valley Museum, a living history village and farm, depicting the Pennsylvania German rural community from 1740 to 1940. I was mesmerized by the display of scherenschnitte, the art of scissors cutting. How could anyone have the patience to make such intricate cuttings? But then we stopped in the textile building where a lady was making bobbin lace. Another example of amazing concentration and skill.

Before dinner at Good ‘N Plenty, an all-you-can eat family style restaurant featuring authentic Pennsylvania Dutch Cooking, we had just enough time to stop at Kitchen Kettle Village for some shopping. Kitchen Kettle is another one of those heartwarming stories. Kitchen Kettle was started in 1954 by the Burnley family and is still family owned where all the products are made on site except the apple butter and peach butter which are made by a local lady. They make about one million jars a year all by hand. We were back at the Artist’s Inn in time to watch the sun set from our porch while enjoying shoo-fly pie from Kitchen Kettle.

The next day after our divine breakfast we headed to Bird-in-Hand where we took a buggy ride with Aaron and Jessica and learned that Aaron was the name of Jessica’s horse! The gentle ride took us along country roads through a working Amish farm. Before leaving we visited the horse barn and watch a horse being shod – a common occurrence in Lancaster County.

The tolerance and acceptance that the people of Lancaster County have offered to the Amish was also extended to the slaves during the days of the Underground Railroad. At AME Cultural Center the performance of "Living the Experience" brought tears to my eyes as we learned about the Freedom Trail through Lancaster County.

In downtown Lancaster we visited art galleries, the Quilt and Textile Museum with brightly patterned Amish quilts, and a walked through America’s oldest farmers market. The Lancaster Central Market has been in continuously operated since the 1730’s.

Lancaster is home to many theatrical experiences and we wanted to attend one of the famed Bible presentations at the Sight and Sound Theater but there were no performances while we were there. That will give us a reason to visit again. Instead we went to the American Music Theater where we felt right at home recalling our youth with a performance of "Classic Crooners." Finally, a show where we knew all the songs!

The next morning we lingered over our gourmet breakfast and took time to look at some of the artwork of Jan’s husband, Bruce. We loved his out-of-the box humor. The cow on the swing was titled "Mood Swing." But our favorite was the picture of their cat sleeping on the back of a chair with parts of the fringed lampshade draped on his head titled, "Furry with the Fringe on Top!"
Wistfully, we said our "Good byes" and Jan pointed us in the direction of the covered bridges. The drive through the well cared for countryside and across the covered bridge made us wonder once again about the serene lifestyle left behind with the advent of technology. We were thankful that there was Lancaster County where we could get a glimpse into a simpler time.
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Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Jersey Shore

Monmouth Race Track
Jenkinson's Boardwalk
Allair State Park

Over 100 miles of beaches
The Laurita Winery
Show Place Ice Cream Parlour

There are many great places along the New Jersey Shore. One of our favorites is Long Beach Island. Most people have heard of Long Beach on the southern coast of California and New York’s Long Island, but few are familiar with New Jersey’s Long Beach Island. Fondly referred to as LBI by those who live and visit there, it is a barrier island off the coast of Jersey’s Ocean County connected to the mainland by the Manahawkin Bay Bridge. Approximately 20 miles in length and only a half-mile wide at the widest point. It a beach-lovers dream. But it is more than beaches, it is New Jersey at its very best.

The Beaches: On LBI the beach is the draw. The beaches are the widest at the northern end where reclamation has put about half a mile of sand and dune between houses that used on the beachfront. But all the beaches are wonderful. Beach passes are not necessary for seniors. Others can purchase day or season passes at a variety of places. Daily passes range from $3 to $5 a day.

Old Barney: Located at the north end of LBI, the Barnegat Light, the second tallest lighthouse in the United States, was commissioned January 1, 1859. No longer active the lighthouse is now part of a state park with a barrier-free walkway on the jetty, an interpretive center, and a self-guided maritime forest trail. Visitors can climb the 217 steps to the top for a panoramic view of the area. Even though the lighthouse is no longer operational the essence of the fishing community still remains. Mike, the tour guide, explained, "Barnegat was and is a small, close-knit community. It is necessary in a fishing community as the fishing ships were at sea for days on end so everyone looked out for each other."

Historic Viking Village: Viking Village is one of the largest suppliers of fish and seafood on the eastern seaboard. Each year the scallopers, longliners, and gillnet boats catch over five million pounds of seafood that are packed at the commercial dock and shipped worldwide. Every Friday at 10 a.m., the Viking Village offers a free one-hour guided tour of the commercial fishing dock explaining how the different types of fish and scallops are caught, how the product is prepared for shipping, and the current fish management programs. Several tiny fishing shacks have been revitalized as unique shops offering clothing, antiques, toys, and take-out seafood.

Beach Haven: The island is dotted with small towns from Loveladies in the north to Beach Haven in the south. Beach Haven is the busiest beach town on the island during the summer. This community is a bustling tourist center with many fine hotels, motels, and B&Bs. The town also boasts a historical district with Victorian seaside houses on streets leading to the bay and some of the islands' best beaches. Step back in time and savor the character of a late 19th century coastal resort town by taking a tour of buildings constructed before 1900. Each is marked with a white plaque inscribed in blue, "Bicentennial, Pre-1900."

Learn respect: The Alliance for a Living Ocean offers several programs to help people learn about the ecology of the area. Learn how poor water quality can affect the health of the creatures in the bay, and what people can do to protect the bay’s eco-system. Then sein (using hand nets) the bay and experience the sea creatures up close. Learn how baby clams are raised first in land-based nurseries and then in water-based upwellers. On Mondays during the summer they offer special Stories-by-the-Sea featuring stories and crafts for children 3-6.

Try it: No need to cart your bike or kayak as there are many rental places where bikes, kayaks, jet skis, body boards, para-sailing and other fun "toys" are available. The land is flat for easy bike riding and the bay is often calm making it a perfect place for novice sea kayakers. Scuba divers can explore WW I and WW II wrecks along with an 1890s passenger ship known as the "Spanish Wreak." Those with an artistic flair can take lessons at Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences in Loveladies. They offer a variety of workshops and classes for adults and children.

The big one: Visitors looking to hook the big one or those who just want to enjoy a day on the water L.B.I. Fishing Charters provides family fishing charters on the Pop's Pride and Sand Witch. They go offshore, inshore, or into the bays where it is possible to catch a wide variety of fish.

Live your fantasy: Fantasy Island Amusement Park is an old Victorian-style amusement park. Ride the turn-of-the-century carousel featuring the famous Bradley & Kaye molds of horses that date back to the early 1900's. There are children’s rides and clown shows. Adjacent is Thundering Surf, a large waterslide park. Fun for the young and young at heart.

Broadway at the Beach: They sing. They dance. They serve ice cream. At the Show Place Ice Cream Parlour the waitri belt out all 12 flavors to the tune of Handel's ''Hallelujah Chorus." Show Place entertains ice cream lovers with song, dance, and vaudeville comedy. The waitri are professional entertainers and any excuse is a good excuse for a cabaret performance. And it isn’t just the entertaining waitri that perform, customer participation is part of the show. Some of the entertainers also perform at the Surflight Theater where all the seats are "Isle" seats.

Dining: After a day at the beach nothing rounds out the day better than a relaxing dining experience. From fudge at Lucille’s to crab shacks to fine dining on the porch of The Gables - one of LBI’s beautiful "Painted Ladies." Or dine at trendy Daddy O’s or the for an island flavor – Caribbean Island, that is –check out Cinnamon Bay Caribbean Grill in Harvey Cedars.
For more information on fun things to do on New Jersey’s Long Beach Island check or

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Cape May

Mission Inn
The beach
Dolphin watching

Elegant tea
Physick House
Celtic festival at Cold Spring Village

In the 1800s, during the hot summer days before the advent of air conditioning people from the city resorted to cooler places like Cape May – and people still do. Cape May is America’s first seaside resort and reached its pinnacle of elegance during the Victorian era.

1. The history: Start with an overview of the history of the city on one of several narrated trolley tours. The tour is designed for the first-time visitor to Cape May who wants a quick introduction to the many cultural, historical, and natural attractions on the island.

2. The Victorian era: The Physick Estate offers a peek into the area’s Victorian past. The Physicks' distinctive home illustrates the changing tastes as well as the particulars of the Victorian lifestyle in Cape May. It is just one of the many Victorian houses that give Cape May its unique character.

3. Shopping: People who recall the days when towns had active Main Streets will love wandering Washington Street Mall. Most of the Mall's shops are privately or family owned. Looking for antiques? Antique shops are scattered throughout Cape May and the rest of the Jersey Cape.

4.The lighthouse: The newly restored 1859-vintage lighthouse is one of the oldest continually operating lighthouses in the United States. Climb the 199 steps to the watch gallery for a breathtaking panoramic view. For those who choose not to climb, the Oil House contains a fully-accessible visitors' orientation center with a video.

5.The beaches: The beach is the reason for the season and there is a lot of beach to enjoy. But it is more than tanning in the sand. Head to Sunset Beach to look for Cape May diamonds and beach glass. Each day at Sunset Beach they fly the flag from the casket of a veteran. At sunset the flag is retired in a special ceremony that concludes with Kate Smith’s stirring rendition of "God Bless America."

6. The water: The sunset boat trip aboard the Cape May Whale Watcher is a two-hour narrated sightseeing cruise around the island of Cape May out into Cape May Harbor, along the Victorian oceanfront, into Delaware Bay, and returning via the Cape May Canal. Sightings of dolphins, porpoises, or whales are quaranteed.

7. It’s natural: Cape May is on one of the great migratory flyways. From the wildlife viewing platform at Cape May Point State Park to osprey nests in the salt marshes to the eagles nest along the canal, Cape May is definitely for the birds. Other nature related activities include Beachcombing at the Cove, a Harbor Safari, and a Queen Victoria Gardens Tour.

8. The pre-Victorian era: In Cold Spring Village, an early American open-air living history museum, walk the clamshell lanes. Experience life before the Victorian era and learn about the day-to-day activities of villagers living in South Jersey during the "age of homespun." (1790-1840).

9.The theater: When the sun goes down the curtains go up on several stages. Cape May Stage is a professional equity theater offering a variety of presentations from "Private Lives" to "It’s a Wonderful Life."

10. The festivals: From strawberries to Celtic Festivals, from music to the Revolutionary War, there is always some special festival or fair. Any season is a reason to visit Cape May. Special themed weekends are offered year round.

For more information on more things to do, 800-275-4278, and/or, 800-227-2297