By Jennifer Leba
New York has the Plaza, Paris has the Ritz, the Hudson Valley is home to the grand old Mohonk Mountain House — and upstate New York? Well, luckily there is the Otesaga Hotel in Cooperstown. Perched on the southern shore of Lake Otsego in this genteel old town, this three-story brick masterpiece with its telltale cupola — which could easily be mistaken as the centerpiece of a New England college — is celebrating its 100th birthday this year.
But it’s almost as though time has stood still. Well, yes, the rooms have been updated — there are currently 135 newly decorated rooms or suites that would make Martha Stewart proud. But the same quiet, old-world charm can still be found in every corner of the resort.
Besides offering spectacular views of Lake Otsego, the Otesaga in Cooperstown provides guests with five-course dinners, tennis courts, and an 18-hole golf course
When you first pull up to the Federal-style structure you can’t help but be awed by the grand front portico, complete with massive 30-foot columns. But from here, you can’t even see the real draw. And that, my friends, is the lakefront. So, the thing to do is to parade yourself through this grand old lobby and right out to the curved porch at the back where you can sit in an old-fashioned rocker, iced tea in hand, and gaze out over the perfectly coiffed lawn, the heated swimming pool, and out to the oh-so-pretty lake.
Here, life remains slow-paced and the kind of place where old college pals meet up for big anniversaries. Well-dressed men and women still spend the morning playing tennis or golfing at the famous 72-par Leatherstocking Golf Course (**** ½ stars by Golf Digest) and then happily don dinner jackets and finery to head to the Main Dining Room where piano music accompanies the day’s final meal. Of course, there may well have been a quick stop at the Lobby Bar for a cocktail. Although it’s rare, one almost expects to see the ladies in their finest millinery. And the famous Sunday brunch? As magnificent as to be expected.
National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
The holiest of American sports sanctuaries, the Hall of Fame isn’t just where the game’s most legendary players are enshrined — it’s a tribute to baseball itself, with an ever-changing mix of exhibits. From Sept. 26-27, the museum hosts Vintage Baseball Weekend, an in-depth look at how the game was played in the 19th century. The following weekend (Oct. 2-4) brings the Baseball Film Festival, a cinematic study of America’s pastime.
Fenimore Art Museum
The museum, located on the former property of celebrated novelist James Fenimore Cooper, is known for its American folk art, Native American art, and 19th-century works. Its current exhibitions include America’s Rome: Artists in the Eternal City, 1800-1900, a look at 19th-century American artists’ depictions of the Eternal City, and Bits of Home, a display of selections from the museum’s extensive artifact collection.
Located 30 miles east of Cooperstown, this underground attraction is worth the drive, especially if you have kids in tow. Visitors take an 80-minute walking tour and boat ride through the cave’s unique formations. There’s also a museum, gift shop, and water sluice for gemstone mining.
Howes Cave; 518-296-8900
This hip, Belgian-style brewery offers daily tours and free tastings of their five award-winning ales. Ommefest, a festival featuring local beers, foods, and crafts, takes place Sept. 12. On Oct. 10, the brewery throws itself a birthday bash. With a tagline like “Waffles and puppets and beer — oh my!” the event promises to be equal parts wacky and jovial.
By Greg Olear
New Yorkers often delight in thumbing their nose at all things Jersey — even transplanted New Yorkers who grew up in the Garden State, like me. After all, what’s the purpose of crossing the border when we have so much natural beauty and culture here? But there are certain spots in my native state sufficiently charming to warrant a two-hour road trip. One of these is a town called Hope, located in the mountainous Northwest Skylands region of New Jersey. First settled in 1769 by Moravians, a Protestant sect founded 500 years ago in the mountains of what is now the Czech Republic, the town retains its historic character — lots of limestone houses with herringbone doors, all organized around a millstream — and has a distinctly New England feel.
Here, on the fringes of a wood, not ten miles from the Delaware River, sits the Inn at Millrace Pond (908-459-4884). The rustic bed-and-breakfast, whose centerpice is an old stone gristmill — once the center of town — was lovingly constructed out of gorgeous gray stone by Moravians who had first settled in nearby Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. (Unlike the Puritans of New England, Moravians held the arts in high esteem.) A charming mix of 18th-century aesthetics and 21st-century amenities, the inn now comprises 17 rooms in three buildings: the gristmill itself, a stone cottage, and a farmhouse built in 1808.
The 18th-century Inn at Millrace Pond provides up-to-date amenities in a historic setting. The former gristmill offers 17 rooms, plus a cozy dining room to enjoy a fireside drink or relaxing meal
It’s true — it doesn’t get much more romantic than an 18th-century gristmill. But the layout makes the Inn at Millrace Pond ideal for both families on vacation, who usually stay in the farmhouse or the mill, and couples on romantic getaways, who sometimes repair to the stone cottage that looks like the set from a bodice-ripping romance novel.
Each building has a different feel, but all eschew the busy, precious style of some B&Bs for a simpler, more understated look: exposed beams, white walls, dark wooden furniture, hardwood floors with braided rugs. If you could somehow transport some of the original Moravian missionaries who settled here in 1769 into the inn, they’d feel right at home — although you’d have to explain how to work the TV and the Wi-Fi. “So many B&Bs are frilly, like sleeping inside a jewelry box,” says Bill Kirkhuff, who owns the inn with his partner Jonathan Teed. “Our rooms lean toward fully colonial — the rooms are not overdone.”
Visitors can wander around trails on 23 rolling acres, play a game of tennis, or simply contemplate the inn’s fascinating history: Powered solely by water from Millrace Pond, the gristmill operated continuously for almost 200 years before being taken off-line in 1956, when a newer facility rendered it obsolete. By then, the missionaries were long gone — they’d abandoned the village in 1808, consolidating their forces in Bethlehem. For several decades, the gristmill sat untouched. Then, in 1996, a discriminating entrepreneur realized that the lovely stone buildings, in a bucolic setting but less than a mile off Interstate 80, would make a lovely bed-and-breakfast. And the Inn at Millrace Pond was born.
When it’s time to eat, the dining room (also open to the public), with its rough-hewn beams and historic character, does not disappoint. Kirkhuff and Teed have gone for “more traditional” fare, but Teed reports that one of their signature dishes is their take on lobster pie: four ounces of lobster tail, four more ounces of lobster, all chunked together in a sherry sauce. You can also enjoy a glass of wine by the gorgeous fireplace in the Fireside Lounge. And, although in some of their printed materials they call their breakfast “continental,” fear not. Teed says he is known as the “omelet king” and will whip up whatever you desire; lots of homebaked breads, yogurt, cereal, and more ensure that you are really treated to a “full breakfast” each morning.
FALL SPECIAL: $249 per couple per night includes two welcome cocktails and a $60 credit toward the dining room.
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
September is an ideal time to enjoy the park’s 67,000 acres and 100 miles of trails, or to simply bask in the visual glow of the autumn foliage along the Delaware River. Check out the park’s Web site for up-to-date foliage reports and to find particularly scenic routes.
One of a plethora of pick-your-own farms in the area. Come for the jack-o’-lanterns. Stay for the apple pie. Opens Labor Day weekend.
Hope, NJ; 908-459-5351
Land of Make Believe & Pirates Cove
With its old-school rides and games — plus top-notch water slides and rides (including the famous Black Hole) — this throwback amusement park, built in 1954, is the ideal day trip for families with young children.
The Forstmann Castle is full of fun antiques to peek at
By Greg Olear
The renown of the Frost Valley YMCA extends throughout our part of New York, as every middle schooler in the Hudson Valley seemingly visits at some point — on field trips during the school year and at camp during the summer.
What is less known is that Frost Valley (845-985-2291) is open year-round, and that on weekends, the camp opens its doors — and there are a variety of doors, leading to rustic cabins and more hotel-style rooms — to families. For a reasonable price, families can come to Frost Valley on Friday afternoon and not worry about a thing until lunch is cleared away on Sunday. If you’re looking for ways to spend a fun weekend with the kids now that the pools are closed, this is an attractive — and affordable — option.
“They come here, they sign in, and everything’s taken care of. All lodging, all meals, and all activities,” emphasizes Karen Rauter, the camp’s marketing and communications director. “That’s good for moms to hear.”
Activities abound in autumn: hiking, climbing, apple-picking, horseback riding, and the customary campground ritual of sitting around a campfire, roasting marshmallows, and staring dreamily at the stars.
Adventures in vacationland: A 50-foot climbing tower (right) is just one of the resort’s adventure elements, which also include ropes courses and a zip line
“It’s a camp,” Rauter says. “You come here for camp activities — but you don’t have to sleep in a tent.” Although you can if you want to. But there are many options for lodging, ranging from a cabin in the woods to Forstmann Castle, former vacation home of the German wool manufacturer whose rambling estate this once was, and one of Frost Valley’s — and the Hudson Valley’s — best-kept secrets. (It’s not something you’d find in the Loire Valley, but it is, indubitably, a castle.)
If communion with Mother Nature is what you seek, Frost Valley is an ideal idyll. Perched on the highest peaks of the Catskills, in the town of Denning in rural northwestern Ulster County — not far from Slide Mountain and the Red Hill Fire Tower — the camp is known for its scenic beauty. And it’s not exactly the Poughkeepsie Galleria when it comes to iPhone reception.
“Once people come here, they’re in a different world,” Rauter says. “They’re away from cell phones, away from the computer. It’s back to basics — a cabin in the woods.”
Fall might be the best time to visit Frost Valley, as the Catskill trees achieve peak foliage, and the chilly nights seem made for huddling in front of a bonfire, waiting for chocolate bars to melt onto a graham cracker.
“It’s camp,” says Rauter. “You’re seeing the stars. You’re sitting around a campfire. You’re doing things kids do at camp that parents don’t usually get to do.”
By Jennifer Leba
Fall used to be the off-season in Lake Placid. No more. “There used to be a real dip between summer and the busy winter season, but those days are mostly gone,” says Jennifer Holdereid, whose family owns the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort (518-523-3353), located right in the center of the village. “We get lots of hikers and leaf-peepers and older people without kids. Midweek, it is a little less crowded, so our prices do go down a bit then. We’re able to offer some great golf and mountain-biking packages in the fall.”
If you’ve never traveled to this pristine Adirondack outpost about an hour south of the Canadian border, you may be surprised to learn that it is much more than an old skiing town that twice hosted the Winter Olympics (1932 and 1980). It’s a vibrant village that celebrates the great outdoors with gusto — and also with a certain international flair. Due to the town’s omnipresent Olympics facilities, there is a constant influx of world-class athletes — and when they’re not training, they parade about the village in cheerful groups, chattering away in a variety of tongues.
And while the Golden Arrow certainly hosts its fair share of athletes, the high level of repeat customers are likely showing up for the one-of-a-kind location — within walking distance of everything and on the shores of beautiful Mirror Lake — the comfortable family feeling, and the very cool eco-friendly vibe.
Holdereid and her brother and sister now run the resort that their parents first bought as a 36-room, exterior-entrance motel in 1974. They’ve transformed it into a sleek property with an assortment of luxury rooms and suites (some with fireplaces), an indoor pool, an attractive sandy beach, their very own gondola (named Lucia) to squire you around the lake, and an oversized lobby with a huge picture window to take in the sites. When it is time to munch, stop right into Charlie’s Restaurant, attached to the resort. The innovative American cuisine is good, but make sure that you don’t miss one of the fancy-schmancy cocktails at the T-Bar — they’re the real stars of the show.
But it’s probably the Valued Guests discount program for repeat visitors and its pet-friendly policy that most helps the resort retain its “Aw, shucks,” friendly feeling. “We have this black Great Dane that comes two or three times a year. His name is Jake, but I don’t know what his parents’ names are,” says Holdereid. “We’re lucky to have an animal-crazy staff that will watch a little dog at the front desk when people go out to dinner.” And it’s not just canines. “Birds, ferrets, rabbits. One woman comes every year for a few weeks in the off-season. Her cat sits with her in the lobby while she does work and then just goes back to the room by himself.”
Holdereid believes the inn’s guest loyalty is also enhanced by its green initiatives. The resort is one of only a dozen properties in North America to have been granted four leaves by the Audubon Society International. Some of their programs? In 2008, they installed a 3,400-square-foot green roof that “was blooming like crazy this summer,” says Holdereid. They truck in tons of limestone each year to make up the sand at the beach because it helps counteract the effects of acid rain. They use CFL light bulbs, 100-percent recycled paper products, and low-flow toilets and showerheads. And their famous green quiz — where you have to trek around the resort looking for answers — is a favorite with all generations.
Holdereid’s picks for the best autumn activities? “I like to head up to one of the ski jumps because you can really get a fantastic view from there, or drive up to the top of Whiteface Mountain. Of course, the view from our lobby window is pretty nice, too.”
The Olympic Center contains one indoor and four outdoor skating rinks and offers classes, events, and sports camps. (You might just catch a glimpse of the world-class speed skaters, skiers, and hockey players who train here, too.) A museum on-site exhibits athletes’ equipment and uniforms. Activities at the center abound: Take a chairlift or elevator to the top of the 90- and 120-meter ski lifts at the Olympic Ski Jumping complex or watch Nordic and freestyle competitions year-round. You can even take a thrilling, once-in-a-lifetime ride with a pro aboard a bobsled — or go it alone on a luge.
Lake Placid; 518-523-1655
Flaming Leaves Festival
This two-day festival (Oct. 10-11) features live blues bands, barbecue, craft vendors, games, and a front-row seat to the annual ski jump competition, where skiers from all over North America show off their skills. You can enjoy the fall foliage at its prime and even travel to the top of the ski jump on the chairlift to view the Adirondacks.
Lake Placid; 518-523-1655
By Greg Olear
With its craggy shoreline of gray stone, its muted ash-blue sky, and its lonely houses perched at the end of breakwaters, Rockland, Maine looks like something from an Andrew Wyeth painting. And well it should — the artist spent his summers in nearby Cushing, and the Wyeth Center at the Farnsworth Art Museum, in downtown Rockland, boasts one of the world’s largest collections of work by N.C., Andrew, and James Wyeth.
Situated halfway between Portland and Bar Harbor, this scenic harbor town — hailed locally as “The Real Maine” and “The Lobster Capital of the World”— is a hot attraction in the summer, but autumn may be the best time to visit. The crowds thin out, the evenings cool down, and Rockland’s renowned quartet of historic inns — “the” places to stay in town — offer a “Quiet Season Romance and Museum” discount package, which includes tickets to three museums and a $50 gift certificate valid at several local restaurants.
Berry Manor Inn
Your hosts: Cheryl Michaelsen, Mike LaPosta and family
Dubbed “The Wow House” by Down East magazine, this Victorian manse, built in 1898 in the shingle style, was a wedding present given by Charles H. Berry, a wealthy merchant and nephew of Civil War general Hiram Berry, to his bride. It remained in the family for four generations and was converted to a bed-and-breakfast in 1998. Renowned for its bend-over-backwards hospitality, sumptuous rooms, and unusual collection of dancing hamster toys (!), the Berry Manor Inn is one of the most romantic redoubts in the state.
Captain Lindsey House
800-523-2145 or 207-596-7950
Your hosts: Captains Ken and Ellen Barnes
Built on the seaport by the eponymous captain in 1835, this bed-and-breakfast — thought to be Rockland’s first inn — is a nautical nirvana. Owners Ken and Ellen Barnes, retired captains of the windjammer Stephen Taber, purchased the building in 1995 to save it from the wrecking ball. Their experiences at sea permeate everything here, from the décor (cozy coastal suites) to the menu (Ellen Barnes wrote a cookbook and has appeared on the Food Network) to the yarns spun at breakfast. Oh, and it’s not called the Captain Lindsey House for nothing — according to a study by the Paranormal Association of Maine, the captain’s spirit still inhabits the place, along with 35 other ghosts. What better place to spend Halloween (on a Saturday this year) than the home of a really ancient mariner?
Your hosts: Ed and Joan Hantz
A house in the Federal Colonial style that dates to 1840 — the only one in Rockland with a granite façade — this is the only harborside B&B in town. The room décor is sleek and modern, more suggestive of a hip hotel in New York than a quaint bed-and-breakfast in Midcoast Maine — but hip New York hotels don’t have front porches overlooking the picturesque Rockland harbor.
800-546-3762 or 207-594-2257
Your hosts: Frank Isganitis and PJ Walter
A stunning example of Queen Anne architecture, this Victorian masterpiece was built in 1892 by a prominent politician. In 1950, a physician, Oram Lawry, bought the house, using it as his home and office for half a century — longtime Rocklanders still call the place “Dr. Lawry’s house.” Converted to a B&B in 1994, the LimeRock Inn was beautifully restored with careful attention to period detail and is well-lauded in the press. Located in downtown Rockland, it is just a promenade away from the Farnsworth Museum of Art.
Farnsworth Art Museum
Among the more than 10,000 works in the collection are many by Andrew, N.C., and Jamie Wyeth, as well as the world’s second-largest collection of pieces by sculptor Louise Nevelson. In October, check out the exhibition of works by famed sculptor Robert Indiana (known for his LOVE sculptures featured in cities around the world), who lives on nearby Vinalhaven Island.
Rockland, ME; 207-596-6457.
Bugeye Schooner Jenny Norman
Enjoy a two-hour moonrise dessert cruise around the harbor aboard this sturdy sea vessel. $30, $20 for children under 12.
Rockland, ME; 207-542-3695
Maine Lighthouse Museum
What would the coast of Maine be without lighthouses? Learn more about them at this museum, which features large collections of lighthouse models, buoys, photos, fog horns, and bells. Exhibits highlight different aspects of the lighthouse service.
Rockland, ME; 207-594-3301